Thursday, May 16, 2013

Huatulco


We arrived after a downwind sail from Acapulco.  Our friend on Blue Jacket made it in 36 hours motoring.  We made it in 3 days (May 6-9) sailing with our spinnaker the whole way, other than a 4 hour motor for our final approach.  Quite nice overall.  We saw a fair number of sea turtles, many of them casual and staying above surface as we came by, some diving as we approached.  Often you can spot a sea turtle in the distance because they each seem to have a token bird riding on their back.  Funny combo.  The water was glassy and made for great turtle viewing. 



When we hit a very calm time (and warm time of day), we pulled the sails down, lowered the front ladder and jumped in from the bow tube for a much needed refreshing!  Even Intrepid jumped in from the bow tube (and got a whole pack of cookies for the bravery).  Innocence was going to, but couldn’t bring herself to do it.  She did come swimming though off the back swim step.  I tried to swim with a turtle, there was one not too far in the distance, but as you swim toward it in the open ocean, it is more of a distance than you realize.  While I would have made it, he would have been gone and we were under way, so didn’t have that kind of time.  It’s surprising also how much the boat moves (or you move, there is no fixed reference point) out there.  I would float, then suddenly be way in front of the boat, or off to the side, requiring a swim back.  It made all the difference in my day, I was getting a bit muggy hot, but after about a 30 minute swim I was refreshed and good to go.

Huatulco is a large area with many national preserves.  There are almost 30 bays over a 10 mile stretch.  Lots of great places to tuck in and explore.  We first arrived in Sacrifico Bay.  A cute little bay with many rock outcroppings in it and palm tree palapas lining the shore.  The reef was protected by a buoy line. We went snorkeling on the west side, with both Intrepid and Innocence also, but neither had gear with them.  I bought all the kids junior snorkeling gear, but in the plastic packages you can’t try them on.  They are too big for the kids faces and don’t make a seal.  The reef was beautiful, but the water sometimes murky.  We came across some large schools of yellow tailed fish, gorgeous little bright blue fish, some needle nose fish, parrot fish, etc.  I tried out my new underwater camera too and got some great pictures I’ll try to include. 

The next morning Intrepid earned his 10th sticker on the “Helper Chart” for doing things to help the big people out.  He got to have his pick of a pair of new goggles and we went to dive on the other side of the reef.  There was a pufferfish that was stuck with an air bubble in it’s tail section.  It was floating at the surface upside down and couldn’t get down or right itself.  The boys helped him even out his air pocket and he was able to swim off.  What a nice experience for Intrepid!!









We went to town, which was tiny, and found two small markets.  At the first we got some fresh baked bread rolls.


      That evening we went down to explore the next few bays.  Our friends on Blue Jacket were tucked into a cute little private bay.  We joined them to explore the shore which was filled with hermit crabs, then made a campfire and roasted some marshmellows.  Very nice evening, then we headed back at dusk to check in for the net of southbound cruisers, which occurs every evening at 7:30.

             The net is a nice little network of people who have met along the way and they check in on the ham radio.  We have check-ins from as far south as Costa Rica  and we are the north most.  The net is run by Blue Jacket and is relatively small.  It’s also hard to hear often times.  But it’s interesting when and what you can hear.  We seem to have been named “Little Wanderers” on the net.  Integrity also refers to Blue Jacket as “Blue Life Jacket.”
The following day Blue Jacket left it’s cute little cove Jicaral and we headed in. It was very protected, had a nice big reef for diving on, and a private beach.  That is, a private beach in the off hours.  At about 11 am a couple of pongas arrived and went to the beach to set up 5 umbrellas and chairs under them and one different umbrella where they had a table and drinks.  We couldn’t figure out why they needed so much shade until the double decker catamaran arrived full of tourists to dive the reef and play on shore.  We then realized it was the grown up version of a lemonade stand.  They stayed for a few hours during the heat of the day when we didn’t want to be out anyway, then left.  Before they left, they had a little ?show/competition of the guests jumping off of a high dive from the second story of the cat that the boys enjoyed watching.  They left the beach impressively clean and nice and were overall minimal impact and made for good entertainment.  Then once again we had our cute little private cove. 
Vitality had her third birthday in Jicaral.  We brought her up a baby puffer fish to play with in a bucket.  She thought that was a great birthday present.  We swam in the morning, but by noon there was a huge bloom of jellyfish.  They were so thick you couldn’t see through water.  There was just no way to get a picture of it, not for lack of trying!  It was so amazing how many there were all of a sudden and apparently out of nowhere!  Unfortunately it kept us out of the water, but it was so great to watch and a neat experience.  We also brought up a clear pitcher full of water and watched the jelly’s swim.  Another great birthday present for Vitality. 
Because of all the jelly’s and the fact that we’ve explored this cove, we headed out the next morning to Mangillo, a really cute, tucked in bay with a beach and a dive area.  On our arrival we went to the beach.  Very nice, had a great time, but it was getting warm, so we went for a snorkel.  It appeared that they were in the beginning of a jelly bloom so we headed out fast.  As we began to snorkel the reef, the water became more and more murky.  I began looking closer and sure enough, it was baby jelly’s as far deep as you could see.  You couldn’t even see the reef sometimes because they were so thick.  Maybe I imagined it, but I began feeling tingling on my back and in my face.  The visibility wasn’t great with all the jelly’s, so we headed back in. 
We left and rounded the cove to a huge and beautiful beach, again all to ourselves, in Chachacual.  We could see turtle tracks on the beach and went to check it out.  On landing at the beach, there were hundreds of huge hermit crabs.   It was a long walk around the cove to the turtle tracks and we could see where two turtles had gone up and holes they had dug which appeared to be empty.  We also saw what appeared to be raccoon tracks leading to dug out holes of crabs.  Great beach to explore.  Again, the same tourist boats would come to snorkel here, but leave it clean and nice within a few hours.  We seemed to be free of jelly’s here and the reef was gorgeous with crystal clear waters.  This time we were able to get Integrity in snorkeling also after watching our home videos of all the fish we’ve seen out there the day before.  He loves fish and fishing, but isn’t such a fan of eating the fish.  I’m thinking he’s more of a SCUBA/snorkeling kind of guy once he gets the feel for it. 
            After a few excellent days here, we headed to the Chahue marina in Huatulco.  It was just over an hour of motoring down the coast, we saw tons of dolphins.  While watching the dolphins, there was a funny white mark in the water, not swimming like a dolphin.  As we came closer, we saw a HUGE manta ray!!!  Coolest thing EVER!!  Wing span was maybe 10 feet.  Again I am reminded that every time I’m thinking we’ve seen a vast variety of sea creatures, another amazing encounter occurs.  That was the only one we saw and not everyone on board was lucky enough to be out to see it, but it was awesome!  We saw a feeding frenzy so turned into it and brought in a nice bonita for lunch.

          The boys did and passed a challenge also.  If they could swim around the boat without a life jacket, they wouldn't have to wear their life jackets while in the harbor and would get all the ice cream they could eat in one sitting.  If they did it twice without stopping, they also got a free week of games on Uncle Loyal's iPad.  Needless to say, they did it twice!!  Very well done, wasn't totally flat, they were getting splashed in the face, etc.





       
 Coming into the marina was interesting, this marina is tucked way in behind a rocky entrance.  We could not have passed another boat our size coming out for sure and it would have been bumper to bumper with a monohull.  There was no room to turn around, I was glad to have Courage as our helmsman as I wouldn’t have even made the entrance into the marina, let alone trying to negotiate inside the marina and dock.  Fortunately our friends from Blue Jacket were out there and had “reserved” a spot for us, so the dock attendants were waving us in and down the pier so we didn’t have to do any crazy maneuvers.
         

   Chris, a Canadian on Misty Michael, has been here for 5 years and has a car on shore.  He 
took us to refill propane, which was really great to get done!! then a tour of the town.  So nice to have a local's tour!  He showed us where to get some mosquito netting for over our hatches, where to get a good meal, where to get fresh fruits/veggies, nice surfing bays, where the archaeological ruins park is, etc.  After our tour we set out to get the netting, some 12V fans to counter the humidity, some fresh rolls from the bakery, and a date lunch.  We then hit a Super Che grocery store for a few items and I got a little 3 ring pool to put on the back swim step to clean and cool the kids.  Very productive and fun/useful day.  In the evening we met with a few groups of cruisers in the marina for snacks and socializing.  There was another couple that came also who have lived here for a year on land.  People seem to really like this community, say it's very safe.  Any criminals are chased off fairly swiftly and it's not tolerated.  Chris said the jail was pure concrete floor, no beds, no facilities, a dirty cardboard box to lay on if you're lucky.  That's a deterrent.

With all the baby puffers and all the baby jelly’s and all of our birthdays, Huatulco has now been named the “Bay of the Birthdays.”  Fitting place to celebrate Mother’s day also. 











We are now awaiting fair sailing weather across the Teuhanepec Bay.  Time it right, it's a nice 2 day passage, time it wrong, it can be a boat eater.  This time of year it's not such big stuff, but the advisory told us to wait until at least today.  There is the makings of a hurricane in the Pacific, but too high to affect us.

 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Acapulco






I rejoined the adventure in Acapulco almost exactly 2 weeks later.  I missed a town that everyone loved, Zihuatenejo.  I would love to see it sometime if I get a chance, very clean, great fresh fruit/veggies, clean bay, etc.  I was pretty excited to see Acapulco after having grown up watching “The Love Boat” stop there.  I don’t remember any details or attractions, just that it was great!
The boat met me in Puerto Marquez since this was closer to the airport.  We took a cab that dropped us off at the pier.  I could see the boat, but they couldn’t see us.  They were planning meeting us at 6 pm and it was only 4:30, so we walked the coast, then went to a beachfront restaurant for dinner while we watched the luggage and boat and could see when the dinghy headed in.  It was nice to see everyone again when we finally got back together. 
We had a nice beach to play on in the morning and evening, it was pretty hot in the afternoons.  I flew back with a tarp to cover our back cockpit area – WOW what a great difference that makes.

The air flows through there and with the shade it’s such a great usable space.  It doubled our living space for sure!  We now have hammocks hanging in there and spend a fair amount of every day out there, including most lunches and dinners.
There were many tourists here and the beaches were pretty crowded.  The kids met up with a couple of local girls who were gathering shells, starfish and sea urchins.  In my limited Spanish I gathered that they were collecting them to sell.  They shared the sea urchins with the kids, which they loved.  Language was no issue to them, they figured out a way to play anyway. 
There was a new marina being built in the bay.  The outermost pier was built.  Apparently when the drudger came to dig out the marina, the beach sand backfilled it.  This made the beaches more narrow and caused the sea wall to collapse in front of the many restaurants that were beachfront.  The drudging ceased, so now they have no marina, minimal beach, and a collapsed sea wall.  They have some figuring to do.  With Acapulco so full – 2.5 million people, it seems a marina would do well there if they could put it in and maintain what they have already.
                  We went into Acapulco proper.  It is a huge bay filled with high rises all along the beach.  Initially there was a red tide where we anchored, so we moved to the midway along the bay.  There was a beautiful rock island with stairs up to the top.  Gorgeous rock formations along the shore.  We would come in in the dinghy to land between the rocks.  Nice swimming, lots of people along the beach though, and there was garbage floating in the water.  Could be such a beautiful and neat spot, but definitely some issues of population. 
Courage and I aimed to go out on date night in Acapulco on Cinco de Mayo.  We walked and walked and walked.  We were let off at the marina dock, but security tried to walk us back out since we weren’t docked there.  The dinghy had already left and was nowhere to be seen.  He finally let us pass.  Then we walked a long way to town.  We never saw a restaurant that looked appealing.  We walked through the flea market, past some older couples dancing in the street with a crowd watching, up a very long hill until we saw a crowd.  We stopped to see the excitement.  Apparently we had come to the famous “cliff divers of Acapulco” show.  Just in time.  You could pay to be closer, but you’d be in the back of that crowd, so we walked down to the far side of the mountain along a winding road and watched what we could.  There were even busses parked here that came for the show.  It is quite a production to watch 4 dives.  There are vendors as far as the eye can see selling ceramics, ships made of string, flan, donuts, and everything you can make out of seashells.  There were 3 boats hovering just outside of the landing zone.  That was by far the best seat in the house.  Most other seats were hard to see the landing in the water.  The divers then came and worked the crowd that didn’t pay for the show for tips.  We then walked down the hill and stopped at a restaurant that was acceptable by the time we were starving!  The entire kitchen was in a small storage locker sized room that during the off hours was closed behind a garage door (Mexican strip malls are small cubicles with garage doors, not unlike a mini-storage).  The tables were plastic set out on the sidewalk, again, not unusual.  Our table with right next to the cook, so we watched him prepare all the meals.  Didn’t look like a great work environment, hot, no space to even lay out the plates he was preparing, dishes hand washed in a sink, etc.  But the “waiter” also came and helped him laying out the food on the plates to help keep things going quickly and they spent a little extra time on each making sure the presentation was good.  Food was OK, we left a nice tip, definitely good effort.  I was surprised at how hard it was to find a good place to eat in Acapulco.  Maybe we were in a more local neighborhood, which would be fine, we didn’t want chain restaurant or something, but wanted clean and good food.
We then went and anchored near the marina.  There is a nice resort, but they wanted $30/day for day use of their facilities without even a docking.  This seems very overpriced for the use of a pool that was empty.  We went and played at the beach with the kids while others looked for provisions.  The tiny beach was surrounded by industrialization.  We had just passed Cinco de Mayo, but that beach was covered with bottle caps and freshly broken glass.  Not at all pleasant.  The water was dirty and filled with people, then they wanted to rent you an umbrella for $4./day to sit on that beach.  Just not welcoming or great.  But it was a day in Acapulco with the family, not a day at the office!!!

Our week in Barra de Navidad



             Barra de Navidad is a large lagoon.  As you come in, the right side of the harbor entrance is a large hotel and marina.  To the left is a cute little town on a peninsula.  The lagoon has a beautiful anchorage, glassy calm water, but you do have to be very careful not to run aground.  The first night we anchored in the bay in front of a town called Melaque in order to come in at high tide.  That went very smooth for us.
       We met a boat named “Eyes of the World” who were heading back up from Panama and told us some wonderful stories about the nice people and country.  They also gave us some nice advice about provisioning at a “Mega” store, if you spend $300, they will deliver it to the dock and even help you load it into your dinghy.  That’s huge when you have no vehicle and are shopping for 10 people for weeks at a time. 
                     In this estuary is where the spoonbill birds breed.  Courage and I headed out in a kayak to explore the estuary.  We had a great downwind paddle, got out and hiked in ankle deep soft mud to get closer to the birds.  We got some pictures, then headed on our way.  The winds had picked up to 20-25 miles per hour.  We tried to paddle up wind and against the current.  We were taking on a fair amount of water, but we were making ground.  It was a relief though to see the dinghy with Loyal coming to our rescue.
                  We then explored the shore and gathered up coconuts that had fallen from the plentiful coconut palms.  We chose a couple with juice in them and worked for a while to get them broken open.  The first was a bit rotten, which was a disappointment after all the work we’d put into breaking it open.  The second was great, with good milk and meat. 
In the lagoon also were oyster farms.  The town was cute and moderately sized.  Their ocean side had some evident ruins.  Apparently in around 1999 a tsunami did a fair amount of damage to the shore.  In 2011, a hurricane hit.  I asked why they hadn’t rebuilt or if they planned to, they said no,

that most owners were waiting for another hurricane to clear the rubble.  There is no government support for natural disasters and no such thing as a construction loan.  There was a hotel there that after the tsunami bought both neighboring lots.  It’s got a gorgeous lobby and pool overlooking the ocean, but apparently it’s been under construction now for 14 years.  They have rentable rooms, and only do the heavy construction when no one is there.  We also met a shop owner who said that tourist season is mostly Feb. – Easter.  In July/August you get a little bit of Mexican tourists who come to the beach.  We were her first sale of the day at 4 pm.  After checking out prices and other shops and items, I went back to her because I liked her and wanted to bring some trinkets back for friends in CA.
              Since we were in need of fresh water for drinking and washing the salt off of our stainless, we headed into the marina.  What a beautiful place!  And we were in off season, so rates were very reasonable!  We had access to all the hotel amenities.  We stayed there for a week.  The kids and I spent almost all day every day at the pool.  There were 3 pools connected by 2 water slides and even a lazy river section.  There was also a Jacuzzi for the cooler mornings.  It was beach front, so we went and swung on the hammocks by the beach as well as dug in the sand sometimes.  There was a mini-golf course, but it was just a lawn with holes, so we didn’t do it.  Cassidy and I took an afternoon to play some tennis.  On a couple of occasions we played volleyball in the pool as a family.  We also had ping pong by the pool.  As you can see, we were OK!!  They also had internet at the marina office, but I rarely used it until after the kids were in bed, there were just so many GREAT activities to do during the day. 
We were impressed with the amount of wildlife in the marina.  There were pufferfish almost all the time.  There was also a large red snapper that we saw a couple of times.  Also, we saw three beautiful fish that were swimming around in the marina with huge blue tails like streamers.  A local told us it was a “gallo” (guy-oh) fish.  The little fish had a hard time swimming with those cumbersome long streamers, but they sure were pretty.  They must lure in prey with them or something because they aren’t fast.




       Loved, loved Barra and we were late season so they had great rates, in off season, starting May 1st, they go down to $.25/linear foot for a marina slip.  Incredible vacation resort that we can pack into our little repertoire for another time if and when.
From Barra, Valiant and I headed back to California to tend to some affairs.  A  6 hour bus ride to Puerto Vallarta, shoulder to shoulder every seat filled plane ride, then Liberty picked us up at LAX.  Great to see a familiar and friendly face after that trip.  Full day of travel, but he did great!

La Cruz to Barra de Navidad


We left La Cruz in the evening and had a nice sail out of the bay into the sunset.  We rounded the point and headed south again.  We got to Chamela the next day.  We briefly encountered “the sailing vessel Sunday with no mast.”  Sunday is a cross trimaran who was heading out as we were heading in and was on the radio on a couple occasions as we were coming in.  Each time noting that he was a sailing vessel, but had no mast.  He was on his way to motor up the coast to Mazatlan to get a new mast.  His boom was on his roof.  Not sure the story behind the missing mast, but it was ever present in his mind and communications. 
Chamela is a nice bay and initially we anchored off the tourist corridor while we headed out to explore.  Our explorations found a gorgeous private beach with soft rolling waves and a long shallow approach.  We swam and snorkeled, then brought the boat around to our new private haven.  That evening we went to shore to have a campfire.  Integrity asked if we could roast marshmellows, but we told him that we didn’t have any.  He said he did and proceeded to go get them out from under the cockpit stairs where he had stowed them to hide them on our launch.  We told him we’d need a firestick (a lighter), well he had one of those too!!  A little background.  Integrity loves lighters and collects them whenever he can get his hands on them.  He has had many taken away from him since moving onto the boat.  He is only allowed to collect the rusty ones he finds on the beach.  Courage is sensitive to this since his boat burned when he was 9 years old.  When we asked Integrity if it worked, he said, “it did last night.”  As it was, we had a great campfire and he had a working lighter in his possession that he had been playing with in his bunk.
We sailed down to Tenacatita to an anchorage deep in the bay, bypassing the first , more popular anchorage.  While our location wasn’t identified or established as an anchorage, about 5 boats were here when we arrived, including another 44 foot catamaran.  Onboard was a lovely family from Tasmania who have been out cruising for the past 7 years and have 6 and 3 year old boys.
Tenacatita has a nice mangrove estuary that leads way back with pongas parked in little cut out areas along the way.  There was a great entrance with long shallow rolling waves that were perfect for learning to surf.  When I couldn’t paddle to get myself started, I could just stand on the bottom and jump onto to board when the waves came.  They were gentle enough to try turning, but long enough to get your balance and get a decent ride. 
There were also 2 relatively large dolphins in this bay that were going between the boats.  Occasionally you’d here a loud noise on your anchor chain.  One of the other boats heard that they were rubbing off on the anchors to clear their skin. 
I was sad to leave the great surfing of Tenacantita ‘cause it really made you feel like it was possible, but we had other great things in store for ourselves.  We headed out for Barra de Navidad.