Friday, December 28, 2012

Manzanillo- Decision Point

Written by Ken

We are anchored in Manzanillo right off of the Las Hadas resort. We are growing a bit weary of sharing the anchorage with jet skis and water skiers. Fortunately, we have nearly survived Christmas week in Mexico and hopefully the festivities will taper off soon.

Life Aboard
When we decided to try living aboard we agreed we would try it for a year and see how it went. We also agreed that we would cruise the Mexican Riviera and then decide what to do next. We have been aboard for more than a year now and are in Manzanillo at the end of the Mexican Riviera. We have been at anchor for the past month and have enjoyed it. Now it is time to consider what to do from here.

As far as life aboard, we have all enjoyed it. Christina does get frustrated with our small living space and with the small galley. She says that many of the cruising women she knows wish for a stable floor.

Christina still has angst about not being a productive, wage earning member of society. I look at it a bit differently and suggest that she misses being a cog in the machine. Don’t get me wrong, we have really enjoyed living aboard but Christina wants to feel more relevant.

Someone told me that there are blue jobs and pink jobs on a boat. As you can imagine Christina chafes at this. The problem is it really does turn out that I do the blue jobs and a few of the pink jobs with Christina doing most of the pink jobs. Remember, we don’t have a dishwasher. At times it is like a time machine has transported us back to the 1950’s. Spending so much time on cooking and cleaning, the pink jobs, leaves her feeling less than fulfilled. Her father used to call this ”squaw work” and it always stings a bit.  

Christina’s biggest challenges are the isolation of so much time on the boat with two other human beings and home schooling Kyle. While for the most part she likes the homeschooling, she would prefer to be a productive member of society with the education of our son handled by professionals.

Whenever the topic of what to do next comes up, Kyle wants to go home to see his dog, Truck. Or he lobbies to have Truck come and live with us on the boat or on land – wherever that may be. In between his homesickness for Truck, Kyle is really enjoying life aboard. Of course, Ken really likes living aboard.

La Cruz might work for a while. However it was really hot there last summer and it’s hard to say if Christina would do it for another summer. Hmmm.

What Happens South of Here
Manzanillo is the end of the easy cruising, the end of the milk run. South of here there are few anchorages and the ones that do exist are not protected and are open to the Pacific swell. Mostly cruisers hop from one harbor to another. From here, our next passage would be 142 nm to Zihuatanejo. We should plan for two days and nights. After that it is 112 nm to Acapulco, then another 342 nm to Huatulco. We would like to see Zihuatanejo and Huatulco but are not very interested in Acapulco. So, it is about 500 nm to see two more places. 

We really want to see Ecuador. We recently met Robert and Virginia on Harmony at Tenecatita. They had been to Ecuador some years ago. They had a rough go of the Tehuantepec and the Papagallos. Robert’s advice was to stay in this area and enjoy the Mexican Riviera-the Costa Allegre. He said it does not get any better than this.
If we head south, after Huatulco we would come to the infamously windy Gulf of Tehuantepec where winds are often gale force. It is about 250 nm across the Gulf. Cruisers wait for a weather window in Huatulco and then stay a few hundred yards offshore of the breaking surf at about ¼ nm off the coast in 30 to 40 feet of water for 250 nm. For us this is a good two days of sailing or motoring close to shore. The idea is that if an unpredicted wind does kick up you don’t have much fetch to build waves. The Tehuantepec can breed really big, short, steep waves. Hmmm… Yes, it gives us pause.

After the Tehuantepec come the Papagallos, ferocious winds that can be present from El Salvador through the northern part of Costa Rica.  Apparently, they can blow up without warning. Robert said he sailed in 50 knot winds with one hand on the sheet (ready to let it go) for two days. He did not have a good time. Of course, we knew of these hazards before we left La Cruz, but now we are here trying to decide what to do next.

Other considerations- We especially want to see Huatulco. We would like to spend some time at anchor in Costa Rica and in the Panamanian islands. However, our real motivation for going south was to spend time in Ecuador. On the other hand, Ecuador is not a real cruising destination. The coast of Ecuador does not have a lot of draw for cruisers. So, is it the best place to take Sea Biscuit? Should we travel to Ecuador by plane sometime in the future instead of by boat? If we love Ecuador and want to settle there, then we would have to sail the boat back to North America to sell Sea Biscuit. Going back the winds and current are against us. Are we up to that much more travelling, some of it quite challenging?

Travel North or travel South – that’s what is on our minds. Do we stay and enjoy the Mexican Riviera or go for the gusto?

What are our alternatives? Return to New Mexico?  I don’t think we’re ready to do that. 
Return to La Cruz for a while? We really enjoyed La Cruz. It is not a bad place to go back to. Kyle really liked his school there.

We still want to see Ecuador. But Ecuador might not have to be this Spring. By not sailing, of course we would miss seeing some things. Hmm. To be continued…

There is a “Comments” section below if you have any words of wisdom to share. 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ode to Colegio Salzmann

Now that Kyle is busy with homeschooling I am once again amazed at how much patience and work goes into teaching kids. Kyle's teachers at Colegio Salzmann did a wonderful job. He is doing well in English, he knows his math, his penmanship is greatly improved, his Spanish is better and better. His English teacher, Teacher Heidi, was his favorite.
She and the class created a huge Bon Voyage card for Kyle before he left. 

Maestra Heidi and Kyle 
Kyle showing his card to friends
With his friend Aline.

What a great card! 

His science and environment teacher, Maestra Celina, did an excellent job keeping him interested in the world around us. Kyle enjoyed Art and Music class with his teacher, Edgar (outside of school we had fun listening to Edgar play his guitar at Philo's). Kyle also found out that Maestra Yadira, his Spanish teacher, was one of the nicest teachers in the whole school. He even started to like French toward the end.  

Kyle had quite a few different teachers, so those I didn't mention, please know we appreciate each of your efforts. Muchas Gracias!  

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Swinging from the mast

A quick post - This last summer we bought Kyle a full harness so he could swing from the halyards. I had read about the kids on a boat named Kamaya having fun swinging from a rope attached to the mast of their boat and thought we should give it a try. Up until recently Kyle didn't seem very interested in the whole idea and had a healthy fear of going up the mast. But two days ago he decided he'd try it and now he's hooked. He wants his homeschooling to include three sessions of PE per day with swinging as the main attraction.  

Note - Luckily he doesn't want to go all the way to the top of the mast. 

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Chamela Bay

Clear water!  So awesome! Swimming with your spear gun is so cool.  Looking for the giant yellow fin fish. -  by Kyle 

Chamela Bay 

We made it! The overnight crossing was a success. We rounded the cape, Cabo Corrientes, in the middle of the night and made our way to Chamela Bay on Sunday, December 2nd. We raised the sails but left the motor running the whole time. There was very little wind and only small waves, so the sailing was comfortable but slow. We averaged around 4 knots and covered our 100 miles in about 24 hours.  

Before we write a post about Chamela Bay, we want to say how much we enjoyed La Cruz and Banderas Bay. Since we left, over dinners we have been talking about our friends we miss in La Cruz and Kyle talks about how much he misses his friends and teachers from Colegio Salzmann (a blog post with pictures from his last day last at school is coming soon). We miss our family and friends in the US too, especially now during the holiday season.  

A few pictures of the bay below - that of course don't do it justice. There is a flat,golden sand beach that goes completely around the bay. A small river flows into the bay at the North end and is a favorite spot for Kyle to play and swim. Parts of this area are part of a biopreserve and it's not hard to understand why -
-by Christina 

From Ken-
Arriving in Chamela Bay is a major milestone for me. I began coming to Chamela in the early 90s. We would stay in beach front palapas and cook on our camping stove. I always thought this was the most beautiful place I had ever been. I used to look up the coast to see the sailboats bobbing in the anchorage and thought how wonderful it would be to be here on my own boat. I finally made it.

The water is clear and blue. It is so clear we can see fish swimming around our boat. There is a nice yellow fin tuna that likes to hang out under the boat. I keep trying to figure out how to spear it but it is pretty smart and leaves and the first hint of danger. 

A couple days ago I got out for a long walk down the beach. The beach is beautiful, wide and flat with lovely soft sand. The air and water temperatures were perfect. The warm, golden sand squished up between my toes. I could look back and see Sea Biscuit quietly lying at anchor. What a moment!

The anchorage has been comfortable and we are mastering beach landings in our dingy. The trick is not to get your dingy flipped over in the breaking waves with your nice outboard going for a swim and filling with salt water. So far so good.

I have really enjoyed the town of Punta Perula. It is a peaceful little town with a few small abbarotes (grocery stores). Yesterday I thought I should get some chicken to supplement our diet. I asked around and was directed to a small taco stand. Out back the woman was cutting up chickens that had clearly been alive a few hours ago. The remnants of cleaning them were in a bucket alongside the table she was cutting them up on. This is one of the things I love about Mexico. It can be so different from our lives in our cars, houses, and malls in the States. Sometimes life in the States seems so sterile to me. In Mexico there are always people out doing things. In the US it seemed like you did not see many people. People drive from their office to the store and then home where the sequester themselves inside their house or at least out of sight of their neighbors.

Enough. As you can tell I am enjoying our travels. Best to all of you.

The town of Punta Perula

Stationary bike?  

Kyle has been asking when we are going to take his bicycle in on the dinghy so he can ride on shore. Since it already knows salt water, we'll probably take the bike in one of these days. But for now it's safely tied onto the lifelines. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Zoo Visit Number Two

One or two more blog posts before we leave La Cruz. 

The plan is to go out to dinner with friends tonight at Tacos on the Street (Tacos en la Calle), untie from the marina slip tomorrow, stay in the anchorage for one night, and then leave Saturday morning - December 1st, 2012 for Chamela (see the new Map page - the most southerly blue marker). 

Today is Kyle's last day at Colegio Salzmann. We were worried he'd be sad saying goodbye to his friends and he is a little bit, but his sadness seems to be far outweighed by his enthusiasm to go see new places.  

Back when we still had Ken's truck here in Mexico, every time we talked about going somewhere on the weekends, Kyle would ask if we couldn't go to the zoo again. We were waiting for the weather to cool off a bit and it finally has (although we are still running our air conditioner most days). So a couple weekends ago we headed to the other side Puerto Vallarta near Mismaloya to visit the zoo. It is about an hour's drive from La Cruz. 

This was my first visit to the zoo. It was definitely unlike a visit to the Albuquerque zoo. Here you are actively encouraged to feed the animals. We bought one snack box which comes with many different snacks for the animals - bread, corn, carrots, etc. in little brown paper bags. The animals love the snack bags and come over to see you. I enjoyed giving them snacks, but hated to see them fighting with each other over the snacks. 

Feed me first!  

Snacks for the dromedaries

Kyle and the giraffe. 

These llamas remind me of the early Dr. Doolittle movie

Pigs, goats, and bunnies all in one cage

This gray baboon very carefully took the snacks out of our hands.
He even has freckles. Seems like he must get sunburned.  

Beating the heat. 

Most of the cage areas and the walking paths were nicely shaded and the animals seemed to have ample water and be well fed. It felt a bit like walking through a subtropical jungle.   

Tiger watching Kyle as he walked by. Uninterested in adults. 
As cute as they were, we didn't pay extra to play with the tiger cubs. The cost is something like $20.00 per person to go into the tiger cub cage.  

Suggestion for anyone going to visit the Puerto Vallarta Zoo - buy at least two boxes of snacks. 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Wind Generator - Installed

When we are not in the marina and are spending time at anchor or sailing we have to charge up our batteries by running the diesel generator (the genset) or by running the engine. If we aren't motoring somewhere, this usually means running the genset for a few hours every few days. Now that we have a wind generator we are hoping to run the generator less while we are at anchor. 

Close-up of the wind generator
Ken finished installing the wind generator about three weeks ago. It's a Superwind generator - high quality and known for being quiet. There were quite a few steps involved in installing it. To make it solid Ken wanted a backing plate underneath the hull and a teak block to above decks to spread the load appropriately. Ken had to have a 3/8" stainless steel backing plate made for it in Puerto Vallarta and then had a special piece of teak cut by our neighbor and master teak carpenter, Ron. Then he carefully sanded away the teak block until it fit the curved hull perfectly and still allowed water to drain around it. You do not want the strains of supporting a significant load on a nine foot lever arm to damage the deck or to leak. Drilling a bunch of holes in the deck always makes a boat owner nervous. Not to mention, patching up a mistake would be ugly (we didn't have any mistakes). The mounting does not look like much but a lot of work went into it. 

The teak base plate and the electrical wiring
After the wind generator was securely mounted, Ken ran the wires under the cockpit and down to the batteries. It is always fun to wiggle around all the stuff under the deck in hot weather. Ken said it makes him feel like Houdini. It's good he's not a 6'2" linebacker.

Then he installed the charge regulator so as not to over charge the batteries. The charge regulator is supposed to be close to the batteries to sense their temperature. Of course there is no easy place to install it near the batteries so he had to wedge it in. Ken had to use his special Dremel right angle head to drill the mounting holes in the tiny space. Dremel tools are a must on a boat. This reminds me of the Car Talk guys - Click and Clack. They liked to say, "Each project is an opportunity to buy new tools!" Luckily Ken already had all the necessary tools.  

Waiting for wind

The machine shop guys who made the backing plate and some pieces for the hatches.

The on/off switch inside the boat 

Since the wind generator generates power whenever there is enough wind (more than 11 knots) Ken also had to install and wire the dump resistors. When the batteries are full the charge controller sends the energy to the dump resistors where it is turned into heat. 

Now that the wind generator project is done, hopefully it will stay together and minimize our use of the noisy, smelly genset so we can live at anchor in tranquility and still be able to power our computers and all that other stuff. We are very pleased with how quiet it is. 

Of course right now we are still pretty happy to be in the marina where we can use shore power to run the air conditioner on hot days and easily get in and out of La Cruz to take Kyle to school. 

Our schedule - Ken just sold the truck in Arizona and is flying back to Puerto Vallarta on Monday. Within two weeks we hope to be packed up and will set sail. First stop, about 70 miles South of La Cruz - Mexico's Costa Alegre - Tenacatita, Bara de Navidad, and other great spots.  

Thursday, November 15, 2012

First Lost Tooth

Kyle's first tooth came out last week.  He waited very patiently for about two weeks while it loosened up and was finally ready to come out.  

Kyle got his tooth out to show Ken after dinner. We had a near crisis as I swept up the crumbs off the kitchen table and tossed the crumbs and the tooth in the sink. Luckily I found it and the tooth fairy came, or maybe it was El Raton. In Mexico it's a ratoncito, a mouse, that comes and takes your tooth, leaves a gold coin, and apparently eats the tooth!    

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fishing Tournament

Each day we drive by large posters in La Cruz advertising the fishing contest that happened in October and Kyle asks, "When are they going to take those posters down!?"    

Marina La Cruz hosted a sport fishing contest in mid October. The fisherman competed to see who could catch the largest Sailfish (Pez Vela), Marlin, and Tuna. Kyle was not happy to see the posters and threatened to unfriend Emiliano if he partook in it. Luckily Emiliano didn’t have a power boat to go out in, but he certainly would have liked to have joined in. 

167 kg (368 lbs) on the left and 52 kg (115 lbs) for the prize winning fish
The size of the winning fish was staggering, at least for those of us who don’t usually go to fishing contests. The first place winners each took home a small economy car. Compare this to the $2.4 million dollar prize for the biggest fish at the Bisbees Black & Blue Marlin fishing tournament in Cabo San Lucas in October (winning fish size - somewhere north of 400 lbs). The entrance fee? A mere $60,000 to be in all the tournament levels each day. Another version of high stakes gambling. Our marina neighbors on the boat Journeyman told me about the Cabo San Lucas tournament. While they didn't win at the Bisbees in Cabo San Lucas, they did win a truck in a fishing tournament earlier in the summer.   

I wonder how much fishing Banderas Bay can sustain? There are some limits on the the number of fish that each person can catch, but I'm not sure how well it's enforced. 

When will they take the posters down? We tell Kyle the posters will probably be up for a long time since people will look at them and think about going out fishing while they are here in La Cruz. It's good advertising.  

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Salty Bike

We had a big event just a few days ago. Right next to the boat Kyle tipped his bike over into the water. He lay down on the dock and cried for a minute or two. He said it was the worst day of his life and listed off all the things he wouldn't be able to do on his bike anymore, no more riding his bike up to the truck each morning before school, no more riding around with his friends, and no more riding his bike with us on chores. A huge tragedy!  

I tried to swim down to rescue it (it sank very quickly) but didn't have the lungs for it (probably 10 ft down in murky water). Ken came home shortly after the disaster. He put on some fins and a diving mask, dove down and managed to rescue the bike. 

Ken was a hero! Kyle wanted to pay him all the money he had in his little bank. We suggested a simple "Thanks."  

Let's hope the bike lasts while we are here in La Cruz despite the saltwater treatment.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October Birthday Party

Kyle went to another birthday party a few weeks ago (October 20th). His friend Kenny turned 6 and had a pool party at another friend’s house in Nuevo Vallarta.

Kenny and Kyle - Jump on the count of three!

Happy swimmer

The favorite swim toy - motorcycles with built in water guns
The kids had a great time playing in the pool, eating hamburgers, and sharing cake with Kenny.  Kenny was born in California and both he and his mother speak perfect English. I think Kenny sometimes helps Kyle at school by translating for him. The couple hosting the party were from the Yukon (the wife) and from Mexico (the husband). Other folks at the party were Spanish speakers, so I had a chance to practice some Spanish and also chat in English. 

written by Christina 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

At the Fish Market

Next to the marina is the La Cruz Fish Market. Every few days we go there to buy fish.  The other morning I was buying tuna and saw the most beautiful blue fish laying on the sales counter. From what I understood of the fishmonger's Spanish, these are parrot fish. One of these days maybe we should try eating one, but Kyle says he wouldn't want to eat one because they are too beautiful. We have obviously moved away from being totally vegan and now eat quite a bit of fish (even Kyle).   

I am adding this comment I got from a friend of my Mom's - Jerry Sue -
"Yes, those are parrot fish. We've seen (and heard) lots of them while SCUBA diving and snorkeling. They chew on the coral - make quite a racket crunching away - and then poop lots and lots of sand. That's where many of the white sand beaches come from. No joke!"  

Thanks Jerry Sue - How cool!  

p.s. We love hearing comments from you. If there are any, you can see the comments by clicking on them at the bottom of each post.  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A Weekend Away from the Heat - Mascota, Jalisco

The weekend of October 5-7th, 2012 we escaped from the heat of La Cruz and drove up into the mountains East of Puerto Vallarta. We left from Kyle's school in Bucerias and sixty miles/two hours later we arrived in Mascota. Mascota lies at 1,268 meters (4160 ft) where we found the temperatures very comfortable. 

While the name Mascota in Spanish means "pet", the town's name is actually a combination of two Teco words, one meaning snake and one meaning deer. The area around Mascota is agricultural and forested. We didn't encounter any snakes, but we were warned by the locals not to hike in the dryer parts of the forest where the scorpions were out in force - it's their mating season and apparently they are very aggressive.  

Ken found a nice hotel on the internet - Meson de Santa Elena.

The patio gardens at Meson Santa Elena 

Hotel patio area with lovely blooming flowers.

The church in Mascota.

Up the road from our hotel the church bells rang every quarter of an hour during the day, starting at 6AM. Luckily they didn't seem to ring all night long. We liked the red, neon lights illuminating the cross at night.  

View out into the hills from the second floor of the hotel. 

The temperatures were chilly enough that we even wore our jackets as we drank our coffee outside our hotel room. 

Saturday morning we visited the energy vortex in Yerbabuena, a small town outside of Mascota. We read that the energy vortex in Yerbabuena, the Centro Magnetico - Tubo de Luz, can cure your aches and pains and each of us did as directed - standing in the center of the vortex with eyes closed, channeling the sun's energy. I think Ken did the best job of all of us. Kyle and I didn't seem to have the same patience that Ken had. 

Ken channeling the energy

Kyle channeling

Christina channeling the sun - it was starting to get pretty hot.
The directions.

Later on Saturday Kyle found another boy from a neighboring room at the hotel to play with - Daniel. We invited Daniel to join us on our visit to a museum and on a walk up to the cross.  

The Raul Rodriguez museum paid tribute to Mascota's history. One room was dedicated to Mascota's Esther Fernandez, a star of the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema. The other rooms had paintings from a Mascota artist, farming equipment, and display cases full of old artifacts. Kyle and his friend Daniel liked the old guns and money on display best. 

Ken, Kyle and Daniel at the cross. 
After the museum visit we walked about 20 minutes up to the cross for a view of the valley. 
View of the valley from the cross. 

We also visited an archaeological site where the ruins of an old church stand next to a modern church

Christina "inside" the church.

Archway filled in with rocks

Small rocks fill the spaces between the large rocks in the walls. 

Ken and Kyle 
As we left Mascota we had an interesting discussion with Kyle about cock fighting spurred on (no pun intended) by the acre or two of tentlike houses and roosters at the cock farm located on the road to Mascota. I didn't manage to get a picture of it, but I found quite a few on the web like this one