Hi Everyone! Well we’ve moved into a new chapter of our journey. We’ve stopped moving for a while and settled into life in Banderas Bay, using the town of La Cruz as our home base. It’s a great place to stay while hosting guests: it’s 15 miles north of Puerto Vallarta, it’s an easy taxi ride and there’s good bus service. Up until just recently it was “just” a small fishing village – in a great location for anchoring. But a large marina was built here just a few years ago and it now hosts a large ex-pat cruising community, mostly during the “high season” (i.e. when it’s cold in the U.S. and it’s not hurricane season!). Lots of businesses have sprung up to support this community, and in turn be supported by its cash. There are tons of restaurants, many of which offer live music daily. There are also lots of events and services, such as Spanish classes and refilling of propane tanks. It’s a “sticky” town, in that lots of cruisers find themselves passing through La Cruz and getting “stuck” for much longer than they expected. 🙂
We’ve hosted two rounds of guests (so far) since our arrival in early January. Kathy’s mom came for a week in late January, and some friends from Portland came out in early February. Both visits were full and fun!
The first visit turned out to be quite different from what was originally envisioned. We’d invited the whole family out for what’s been an annual gathering, and were prepared for a group of 11. That’s a *lot* of people for this boat, but what the hell, they’re family! Unfortunately, for various reasons, everyone but Mom ended up unable to come on the week we’d chosen. The week before, when we still thought we’d have 3 guests, we were busily trying to make the forward stateroom habitable. (We tore up the two tiny rooms up front with two bunk beds each to make room for a chain locker and a single larger stateroom with a double bed. The framing has been complete for quite a while, but the finish-work is still a work in progress, slow progress!) We pulled off the portion of the ceiling that we’d paneled in oak plywood before leaving Oregon, because the material that we had on board to finish it had gotten wet and damaged while we were en route. We rented a car for a number of errands, including a trip to Home Depot to find a suitable alternative. After lots of hemming and hawing, we found some sheets of a fiberglass stuff that we thought would do the trick, and with a bit of ingenuity got them rolled up and somehow stuffed into an impossibly small back seat, then out of the back seat and down the dock onto the dinghy. We puttered across the anchorage and pulled up to Lungta’s side. As we struggled to heave the awkward roll over Lungta’s gunwales and onto the deck, though, the dinghy slid sideways away from Lungta and the whole roll of material fell into the gap between – just moments after Dan had pondered aloud “I wonder if this stuff floats”. It didn’t. We were unable to hold onto it and get it back in the dinghy. 🙁 Although Kathy tried to retrieve it by diving later in the afternoon (after the rental car was returned), she couldn’t find it. How frustrating! So the next day we took a bus back to Home Depot, returning in a taxi. Now it’s up and looks good, but sometimes the path to progress is frustratingly bumpy.
The week with Mom was far more laid-back and relaxed than it might have been with a crowd. We enjoyed flamenco music over brunch at a charming garden restaurant called “The Octopus’ Garden” and visited the Sunday market which has lots of high-quality crafts and delicious food! We took a tour up into the hill-country, visiting an old mining town called San Sebastian. Along the way we stopped at a coffee co-op and a B&B that was originally a facility for processing the silver ore that came out of the mines. John Huston and Elizabeth Taylor had visited this place “back in the day”. The last day Mom was with us, we went for a sail out & back into the bay. We couldn’t have asked for a prettier day! Although Banderas Bay is well-known for its whale sightings, we didn’t spot any that day. Fortunately, Mom got a little taste of the excitement of witnessing these giant creatures, because that night we heard whale song through the hull of the boat as we all fell to sleep. It was a lovely way to end the visit!
Rich and Francine are experienced eco-travelers, and we enjoyed a little bit of adventuring with them. We considered taking another tour, this time of a beautiful hike down the coast between cliffs and sea, but the timing wasn’t right. So we thought about renting a car or catching a bus and doing it ourselves. As it turned out, we just sailed directly to Quimixto, the town at the south end of the hike. We got lucky and spotted a number of whales on the way, including a group of 4 or 5 and a pair that dove less than 100 feet in front of the boat! We spent a very rolly night anchored in Quimixto and spent a leisurely day in town and hiking up to their pretty, but commercialized waterfall. You can rent horses here instead of hiking, so the trail was badly eroded: at times it felt like we were traveling through one of the Utah’s slot canyons. We spent a little bit of time on the beach watching pelicans and snowy egrets fishing, and got some tourist-photos holding a pair of iguanas that were some guy’s pet. 🙂
At the end of the day we decided to move on to Yelapa, but had some unexpected excitement when we tried to raise the anchor but the wheel wouldn’t turn. We had known that it was starting to have troubles, but this was a total failure. We ended up hoisting it using one of the manual winches that are used for the jib sheets. With a 230-lb anchor and probably the same amount in chain, it was a heavy load – hooray for self-tailing winches! We all worked up a sweat, taking turns cranking, but managed to raise it all up with enough time to make it to Yelapa just as thee sun was setting. Like Quimixto, but more so, Yelapa has a narrow shelf just off the shore and it drops off rapidly, rather like a wall actually, making anchoring a challenge. However unlike Quimixto, enterprising locals in Yelapa have set up mooring balls for traveling boats. They float a ball to a line attached to a big weight, such as a refrigerator filled with cement, and as you pull into the bay they come out to offer their mooring ball for rent. Easy! Fortunately, this worked out just as we’d hoped – otherwise we would have had to turn around and head back to La Cruz, since we wouldn’t have been able to anchor without our windlass. We spent three nights and two delightful days at Yelapa. We saw scores of butterflies, at least a dozen varieties of all colors including brilliant white, butter-yellow and neon blue. Rich documented about 20 different types of birds, taking beautiful photos of many of them. We visited the waterfall in town, but were much more excited at discovering that there was a more remote falls (una cascada) an hour’s hike from town. The hike to the Upper Cascada was pretty easy, but surprisingly off the beaten path. Fifteen minutes after we arrived, we had the place to ourselves, a beautiful waterfall into a large pool with a soft sandy bottom. It was heaven! When we got back to town, though, we were puzzled to see that the boat was in a different place than we’d started. Apparently some wind had kicked up and our heavy boat dragged the mooring ball to a new place in the bay, some 100 feet away. Although it appears that there were no ill effects, this is a good learning situation for us! The sail back from Yelapa to La Cruz was pleasant and uneventful. We lowered our anchor with a sense of finality, knowing that we weren’t going to lift it again until we’d repaired the windlass. Their last day and a half with us were spent kayaking near the anchorage and visiting the town of Sayulita, a 30 minute bus ride north of La Cruz. Sayulita is a big surfing town, but we enjoyed the sun and sand, wading out into the surf and watching a few people try their luck at riding a wave.
Both of our visitors were conscripted into being couriers, which was much appreciated! This turns out to be a wonderful way to get small parts that are hard to find in Mexico, so we’ll almost certainly continue to ask friends & family to help us out in this way.
Now we are in between guests for a little over a month. We’re hoping to strike a magical balance between socializing, working on the boat and playing (reading, playing music, etc). So far, so good. 🙂 We got the windlass repaired. It turned out to be a sheared piece of brass that’s a key between the motor and the chain-wheel. We tracked down a machine shop in the nearby town of Bucerias, and they made us 3 (just in case there’s a “next time”!) As we were talking with the machinist, we learned that he had quite a history with boats and was dreaming of traveling by sail some time in the near future. He offered to make another item that we’ve been looking for (a swivel for our anchor chain), so we invited him out to the boat to see the details of our situation. When Pete came that evening he brought his Mexican fiance, Montse, and the four of us talked late into the night. We’ve asked her to give us some Spanish lessons, so it looks like we’re going to be seeing more of them. We’ve also made some friends in the local music scene, and a budding author who’s down here working on a graphic novel because there are fewer distractions than back home in New York. 🙂 So, you know, life goes on much the same as it always has, except different. We expect to be in this region until early April, and then north into the largely deserted Sea of Cortez.
By the way, for those who don’t already know, we’ve created a Yahoo group called Lungta_Lives to use as a mailing list. Whenever we make a posting to the blog, we send an email to that list to alert interested people that there’s news. If you find yourself sometimes frustrated to find nothing new when you check for new blog entries, this might help. Feel free to join by going to http://groups.yahoo.com/group/lungta_lives/ and clicking the “join this group” link which is in the middle of the page, next to the “Home” title.
Sunny skies and fresh breezes to all of you, and please stay in touch.
>> Kathy & Dan