Saturday, June 29, 2013

Our new Sea Biscuit

We have a new family addition to announce - Sea Biscuit the dog. He is a welsh terrier puppy. Ken and Kyle picked him up last week. So far he is a great puppy. 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Barra and Biking

Even though Sea Biscuit now has new owners and we are settling back into life on land, I am continuing to (slowly) catch up on pictures and stories from our time aboard. This post is about Barra de Navidad, on the Costa Alegre of Mexico (the red marker on the map below). 

Below are pictures from our first visit to Barra de Navidad when we stayed in the lagoon (Where we were eaten by mosquitoes and tortured by the local fisherman out fishing at 5:00AM right next to our boat) and also from the time we had Sea Biscuit in the Barra Marina (late January, February and March 2013). 

One highlight of our time in Barra was being able to take Kyle's bike on land. We explored the Grand Bay Hotel's golf course (respecting the golfers, of course). 

Riding along the golf course path.

Our friends from Harmony, Robert and Virginia, were also in Barra de Navidad right before Christmas picking up kids and grandkids for a visit. We all went across the golf course to the beach. Kyle had a great time playing with Coco and Toby.  

Kyle and Coco 

Kyle, Coco, and Toby

If you look closely you'll see the staircase leading to "Hidden Beach."

The map below shows you the general location of the hidden beach (green arrow) and the Barra de Navidad Lagoon.

View SV Sea Biscuit Map in a larger map  
The Green Arrow and dot in the map above show where the hidden beach is. The Blue marker to the East is where we started our walk along the beach after crossing the golf course (green line). The sailboat in the lagoon was our approximate location when we anchored in the Barra Lagoon.  And the blue marker near the sailboat is the little dinghy dock we used to get to the golf course.     

Pictures from February and March 2012.  

Taking the water taxi to Barra 
Banking around a turn 

Avoiding another water taxi 

Bike aboard 

Playing Star Wars in Barra de Navidad 

Kyle - enjoying the sunset 

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Best Airport Art

written by Christina 

In our travels we visited a number of airports but not that many museums or art galleries. Lucky for us it seems like every airport has an art installation of some sort. Some have photography exhibits, others have sculptures and paintings. I found my favorite piece of art was the Indian Head in the Mexico City airport. It is an example of Huichol art made from beads carefully laid out in the designs of centuries old symbols. We came to recognize some of these symbols from the art we saw in and around La Cruz and Barra de Navidad in Mexico.  

Huichol Art Head 

Side view 

Closeup picture of the Huichol Sun-Moon symbol. 
The Sun is considered the father and the Earth is considered the mother. According to the 

Huichol myths, the Sun is coming close to the Earth to purify it. The Moon is supposed 

to become brighter than the Sun when the world ends. Source: yahoo.answers 

Friday, May 24, 2013

Back on land

written by Christina 

The best news of late is that Ken and Kyle made it back from La Cruz last week. And all nine bags made it too. 

This was a day that the SmartCart just couldn't do the job
Unfortunately somewhere along the line a few things were removed from one or more of the bags. Like what? Ken's camera, a phone charger, and a few other things. A bit disappointing. At least the items were replaceable and there were only a few pictures on the camera.  UPDATE, June 16, 2013 - We have found everything, it was just a matter of digging through all the bags. We have been back in our house a little over a week and are slowly unpacking everything. American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, and TSA get a 5 star score for bringing us and all our bags back! 

And, like last year, Kyle made it back just in time for his friend Seamus' birthday party. Kyle and Seamus got along great - as if only a week instead of a year had passed since they'd seen each other. Ken and I were pleased to get a chance to see some of our adult friends too!  

Blowing out the candles 

Enjoying a cupcake 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


written by Christina

What is the best way to migrate all your things, carefully stowed away on a 43 ft boat, back to life on land?  
Some of our bags packed up on Sea Biscuit
First, while still in the marina, we packed and packed as much of our things as we could. We paid for two taxi rides with bags from the marina to the condo we have rented for the month. Then over about 10 days we visited Sea Biscuit in the La Cruz shipyard and packed and carried bag after bag. The bags would gain weight exponentially as we carried them up the moderate hill to the condo.    

Ken and I explored many options for getting our things back to NM - ranging from storing everything in Puerto Vallarta and returning within a year to fetch it, to renting a minivan in Mexico and then changing to a second rental minivan at the border, to flying with it all. After much consideration we decided flying is the way we will move everything back. I was allowed three checked bags, Ken and Kyle will take five or six checked bags each (they are flying on Alaska Airlines).  

Bags migrated to the condo for repacking 

 Staging area where we are stacking all the bags (maybe you can see the red arrow?)
I was lucky enough to line up a job interview and have returned to New Mexico before Ken and Kyle. I flew on American with frequent flyer miles and was allowed three checked bags each weighing 70 lbs or less. We chose to bring the weight up to just under 70 lbs on each bag. This was a test of American Airlines' baggage handling abilities. All three bags made it fine to Dallas, but somewhere between Dallas and Albuquerque the inexpensive duffle bag had a blow out. I bought the bag hoping it could make this one trip and amazingly enough, it did make it, with a little help.  

Two of my bags, one sustained injuries.

Completely encased in TSA inspection tape. 
After the zipper blew out, TSA did an excellent job wrapping up my bag and keeping anything from being lost.  

Notice of TSA inspection 

The tools 
The bag was packed to capacity and weighted down with plenty of tools - no wonder it failed.    

Now we just hope all of Ken and Kyle's bags make the trip when they fly back at the end of May from La Cruz/Puerto Vallarta.

And to end - I have to say, it is great to be back in New Mexico!     

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

A Toast to New Adventures

In one short month in La Cruz, Sea Biscuit has gone from belonging to us to now belonging to Tom and Chris from Vancouver, WA. While the survey was completed last week, it took a few more days to finish all the paperwork, go to the US consulate in Nuevo Vallarta to have the bill of sale notarized, and send it up to Washington state. Yesterday, on Tuesday April 30th, 2013, the closing took place.   

Last night we had our friends Merle and Allison and their two boys, Shandro and Matero from Kenta Anae over to help us celebrate with fish tacos for dinner. 

Whew! Somehow the stars must have been aligned perfectly to allow the process of selling Sea Biscuit to go so smoothly.   

Toasting the sale

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Favorite Hotels in Ecuador

First - for an update on our progress selling Sea Biscuit - see the Sea Biscuit For Sale page. 

A few more posts on Ecuador - This one on hotels. 
Of the different hotels we stayed in, we had two favorites that deserve mention in a blog post. The first was Cantaelmar(A) near Puerto Lopez along the coast and the second hotel was the Canoa Beach Hotel (B), just outside of Canoa, north of Bahia de Caraquez, also on the coast. 
Cantaelmar - used to be the called the Andaluz and recently changed its name under new owners. It is an eco-hotel with excellent food prepared from their farm at Cantalepiedra, which is located inland near the National Park Machalilla.  

View from the balcony 

The gardens surrounding the hotel buildings

The garden area near the pool
Canoa Beach Hotel 

We visited the Canoa Beach Hotel three different times for short stays.The owner, Greg, treated us and all the other hotel guests like old friends. He is from Tennessee and has that classic southern hospitality. Greg lives and works as an architect in Quito. His hotel manager, Maureen, also made us feel very welcome and provided advice on places to eat and things to do. We hope she hasn't had any more surfing accidents. She had cut her head surfing before we came and had been forbidden by her doctor to get back in the water until the stitches had healed. 

No, we didn't take any surfing lessons. It looked a bit rough, not like the best place for beginners. 

Kyle leaping from the rum pot. 

Kyle and some new friends - Greg's kids

Garden, pool, and beach 

Another view of the pool 
View looking south along the beach

Honorable Mention goes to the Hosteria Farallon Dillon near Ballenita (about 9 km north of Salinas, due east of Guayaquil on the coast). The museum with the relics of the sunken Spanish Galleon "Capitan" and other antiquities collected over 30 yrs was worth a visit. Captain Dillon was at the hotel when we visited, he had been doing his morning Tai Chi. He is of Irish descent, but seems to be full Ecuadorian and had served in the Ecuadorian navy.  

The light house 

Birds on the beach - we didn't see a lot, unfortunately

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hacienda Uzhupud and Horses

While we were in Ecuador during Carnival week (in February - still catching up on the blog) we decided to book a few days in a hotel up in the hills, far away from the hustle and bustle and water throwing in the bigger cities. Ken found Hacienda Uzhupud on the internet and it came with good reviews. Google maps said it should take about 40 minutes to get from Cuenca to Uzhupud. Little did we know that everyone in Cuenca would be driving to Gualaceo for Carnival celebrations on that same day and Uzhupud was on the way to Gualaceo. So the trip took around 1 ½ hour, not to mention the time we spent being lost looking for Hacienda Uzhupud. The signage to this hotel was a bit limited until you got off the main highway, then there were ample signs to show us where to turn. 

The rest of the hotel guests seemed to have the same idea we had – stay somewhere quiet without the chaos of Carnival. We met a wonderful family from Quito who we became friends with. They had a 9 yr old daughter who Kyle had fun playing with. We regret not travelling to Quito to visit them.  

The highlight of the stay in Uzhupud for Kyle was getting a chance to ride one of the horses. The hotel had half a dozen horses available for riding around the grounds. Unfortunately, the first horse Kyle got on was quite unhappy and would not walk quietly. It had a sore under its girth and was constantly reaching back trying to figure out what was giving it so much pain and to try to alleviate the sore. When he wasn’t doing that he was trying to buck and run. After just a few minutes Kyle was begging to get off and get another horse.

The unhappy horse
Kyle got a turn on a calmer horse and loved having some time riding around. He hadn't ridden a horse for a couple years, since visiting our friends Lee and Candie to ride Weed in Nambe or visiting Joey and his girlfriend to ride their horses in Albuquerque. 

At this same time we were in the middle of reading the book Sea Biscuit to Kyle, so it was good timing to have a horseback ride. Before we left for Ecuador, Kyle took "Sea Biscuit" as his nickname and every where we went in Ecuador he would gallop around, whipping an imaginary steed, and ask if we wanted to race him.    

Blackie (as we called her) - the calmer mount

The horse trainer who was supervising all the riding decided to ride the unhappy horse, as if he would work off some of his oats. The trainer promptly fell off at the first corner, in part because the saddle wasn’t on tight enough and it slid off! 

The unhappy horse after its saddle fell off  

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Driving in Ecuador

We read horror stories about driving Ecuador, but Ken, being the overconfident traveler, wanted to rent a car anyway. After driving a lot in Mexico he thought he could handle Ecuador. As it turns out, the driving wasn't bad - except in Guayaquil.  

We rented a $30/day car from Avis. It was the tiniest thing imaginable, it's in the micro-car category. 

Chevy Spark 
We managed to stuff all of our luggage and ourselves into the car many times. It was great to have the car. It meant we could go anywhere we wanted without trying to drag all of our stuff onto a bus with a plan for where to stop. We found our best places to stay because we drove around and could stop anywhere that looked interesting.

We found the roads to be excellent. Ecuador has definitely spent a lot of money recently on improving the roads. The signage was also very good. Someone said if you can drive in Guayaquil you can drive anywhere. Driving in Guayaquil was the most stressful part of the whole trip, at least for me (Christina). At the end of our trip we found ourselves stuck in traffic for more than an hour on our way to the airport. It should have taken 15 minutes.

Sharing the road

Like many other travelers, we are now complete converts to computer assisted navigation. We used Ecuador GPS, created by Kaart Data ($9.99) to find our way throughout Ecuador. Ecuador GPS is an iPad app with maps and navigation features. It helped us find our way through all but the smallest towns in Ecuador. Without it, we would have been miserable. 

It was nice to be able to tell where you were on the map and whether you had missed your turn or that your turn was still ahead. In addition, the ability to navigate without requiring a wireless connection was a huge plus - the program relies on the iPad’s GPS to determine your location.

Screenshot from Ecuador GPS 
Ecuador GPS excelled at showing us where we were on the map and where the next intersection was, but it does not excel on the map annotation side. For example, it would be nice if you could figure out what city you are approaching by glancing at the map. Instead you had to find the city symbol, often in the midst of many other symbols, and click on it. Nonetheless, we recommend Ecuador GPS (it also seemed to be the only Ecuador iPad driving app available). 

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

More thoughts on Ecuador - Climate and Food

Beach sunshades in Canoa on Carnival weekend

We found the climate in Ecuador to be excellent. Not too hot on the coast and trips inland could provide cool escapes to interesting cities and ecological areas. At its hottest, Ecuador was still pleasant in the towns we visited. In the coastal cities people told us that February and March were the hottest months. While we were there, we would turn on the air conditioner in the evenings to keep our hotel room comfortable, but it was nowhere near as hot as we have found La Cruz/Puerto Vallarta, Mexico to be in May (not to mention June, July, August, September, October, and November). The temperatures in Ecuador's coastal towns were warm enough to swim in the ocean, but not so hot we had to hide inside during the daytime. 

Ecuadorianos enjoying the beach in Canoa

We wrote in an earlier post about comida tipico - fried fish, beef, or chicken with rice and menestra (or beans) or a small salad. Menestra is lentil stew. It is the typical Ecuadoran lunch. Encebollado is a soup, usually with a chunk of chicken in it. This is also popular. We had these lunches many times. The comida tipico was inexpensive, ranging in price from $4 each on the beach to $3.50 total for the three of us in the market in Cuenca. Bottles of beer were usually about $1.50.

We grew tired of comida tipico and found that it was mostly what is available. There were only a few places where we found anything else to eat. When we did find something else the price would typically be close to US prices. Our best meal was at the Puerto Amistad restaurant in Bahia de Caraquez. The dinner we had at Puerto Amistad was reasonably priced with entrees for less than $10. A burger was $5.  

Puerto Amistad's mooring balls and the new bridge in Bahia de Caraquez

Simply for a change, we ate at Pizza Hut in Guayaquil on our last night in Ecuador. It wasn’t that good and was US prices- maybe higher. The place was packed. I guess Ecuadorianos get tired of comida tipico too. 

In all the beach communities there are about 20 beach side restaurants and several others off the beach selling comida tipico. They all seem to sell the same thing at the same price. We wondered how they could all make a living.