Somehow more than a month has come and gone. Although our last blog was posted from Zihuatanejo, that is now a distant memory in our rear-view mirrors. (Can I mix metaphors or what?) We had a slow but relatively uneventful return journey up the coast from Zihuat to La Cruz. There was a persistent bloom of red tide in Zihuatanejo Bay, and we were reluctant to dive into the discolored water to clean the bottom of the boat. Unfortunately that meant that we left with a lot of growth on the bottom, slowing our movement through the water significantly. Although we tried to choose a favorable weather window, the prevailing winds at this time of year are from the north, heading down the coast, and there’s a regular ocean current of more than a knot that pushes down the coast as well. The net result is that we traveled *very* slowly, and occasionally backwards! In those circumstances we either bobbed around hoping for a change or we fired the engine up and motored for a few hours until conditions changed. We pulled out of the wind and current for the night several times and anchored in some marginal places just to prevent negative movement. As we left Caleta de Campos one morning, we noticed an unusual sight. The big cliff near the town is called Bufadora Bluff, and we saw the blowhole for which it was named spouting. It sends up a huge plume of water, but only when the conditions are right. Pretty cool! We were also pleased and surprised at the sheer quantity of turtles that we saw on this passage. We surmised that this is a different species than we see further north, and that the egg-laying season is a bit later. We probably saw a dozen turtles each day of this week! Once we passed Manzanillo, though, we didn’t see another.
We took about a week to travel that first 200 miles to the Manzanillo area, where we pulled into an anchorage that our book talks about but was new to us. Ensenada Carrizal sounded quite lovely, small but secure. As we pulled in late in the afternoon it looked perfect, but by dusk the red tide had washed in and along with it were a million jellyfish (well, we might have miscounted one or two). We went to bed feeling less than enthusiastic about cleaning the hull first thing in the morning, which had been our intention in selecting this anchorage. Fortunately when we got up in the morning, both red tide and jellyfish had been flushed out. We grabbed our gear and spent a busy but rewarding couple of hours scraping growth off of our hull, inviting the sea life to find another home. 🙂
When we left, our boat moved much more quickly and smoothly – and we felt lighter too, just knowing that we’d done some good work. We stopped briefly in Barra de Navidad, to reprovision and enjoy one last visit from the French Baker, then traveled the remaining 400 miles to Cabo Corrientes relatively uneventfully (albeit still slowly due to the prevailing winds and currents). We turned the corner of Cabo Corrientes very early in the morning, and began tacking our way back and forth towards the far end of the Bay, where La Cruz is located. We expected it would take all day, but at least the destination was in sight. After an hour or two of trying to sail without much wind, with the sun still low on the horizon and the world just waking up, we heard our name paged on the radio – a bit of a surprise since we were still too far from La Cruz for radio traffic, and no one would have seen us yet anyhow! It turned out to be Libra, a boat that we had just recently met when we stopped in Barra de Navidad a week earlier. They’d left roughly at the same time we had, but they were in a faster boat and had a schedule to keep so we didn’t expect to see them again. Coincidentally we were heading into the bay at the same time! Well, not such a happy coincidence. They had developed transmission troubles shortly after leaving Barra and had been sailing continuously since then, going backwards or even waaay out to sea at nighttime when the winds changed direction or died off, and then eking their way back nearer shore when the winds were more cooperative. They were calling to see whether we had good winds yet, and whether they could hope that they’d be blown into the bay sometime soon. When we learned their plight, we offered to tow them into the bay, at least as far as the favorable winds we were both seeking. We motored towards where they were bobbing away, heading out to sea (again). An hour or so later, we reached them, tossed them a heavy line, and we each tied our ends to a sturdy cleat. We carefully turned the train around and headed back into the bay under power. With Lungta’s engine running slightly above an idle we were soon towing this 51 foot boat at better than 5 knots – Lungta barely noticed they were there! In the early afternoon, a fresh wind blew up, as it typically does in this area, enough for each of us to be able to sail independently the rest of the way. Hooray – Lungta saved the day again! 🙂 At one point in the afternoon, we saw a whale breaching – not just once but over and over again. Each time he surfaced his leap was somewhat lower than the previous time. He was clearly tiring himself out. Altogether we counted a dozen breaches, but there may have been a few more. It was even on a regular cadence, so Kathy was able to get a photo that wasn’t terrible. 🙂
We arrived in La Cruz a few days before we needed to begin our preparations for our next journey, (two weeks in Denver and Atlanta visiting some of our amazing family) so we spent a little time catching up with friends who had gathered in the area and putting the boat back in order after our long travels. We were pleased to learn that our friends on Velella Velella would be moving into the Paradise Village Marina the day after us. They are going to leave their boat for the whole summer while they go back to Washington State to work (and have a baby!). After a very pleasant dinner with Velella Velella, the family from a neighboring sailboat, Fluenta came over to Lungta and we got to know them better – it’s not unusual to cross paths with another boat a few times before both schedules align and you get to really meet, even though you feel like you’ve known them for a while. Fluenta had been instrumental in organizing the successful effort to haul Flying Dragon off the beach a year ago and they were just days from setting off across the Pacific with their three small children. Although we had moved in the same circles for the last couple of years, this was the first time we found the time to get together. They are a wonderful family with really cool kids. To cap off a wonderful evening, it was the night of the full lunar eclipse. We stayed up until 2am (well, most of us) watching the moon rise and then grow a flat spot and then a bite and then disappear altogether. None of us was up for watching the reverse process, though, so we woke the kids, pointed out the eclipse, and said our goodbyes. Another bittersweet parting, but with hopes that our paths will cross again.
The next morning we gathered our bags and hopped our plane to Denver. United offered us a crazy itinerary that was too good to be missed. We were going from Puerto Vallarta to Atlanta, and they offered us a flight that included a layover in Denver – of almost 24 hours! Since Kathy’s wonderful sister lives in Denver, we grabbed that itinerary without hesitation, and got two family visits in one! We arrived late at night and drove around town looking for a post office that was open until midnight, because it was tax day and we were carrying a few stamped letters from other boaters that looked like tax returns. It’s a nice convention that’s been established among the boating community in this area, whenever someone takes a trip to the States or Canada, they offer to bring mail up with them. We dropped our mail in the box at 12:09am; we sure hope it was in time! We had a pleasant morning with Jean, including brunch and a quick stop at the county courthouse to get married, before catching our next flight to Atlanta where Dan’s father was waiting to meet us (although it took some cell-phone coordination to figure out just where!). 🙂
David and Shlomit were wonderful, generous hosts, and we had an amazing time with them! Shlomit described Atlanta in June as being like a bride on her wedding day, a turn of phrase that seemed very poetic before we arrived. Although she demurs and says it’s a stock Israeli expression, it is quite apropos – there were flowering bushes and trees everywhere and the weather was almost perfect, even including the couple of days of sporadic rain. We arrived during the second half of Passover, and enjoyed a number of meals that are traditional at this time of year, including matzoh-brie and gefillte-fish. We also enjoyed several meals at different ethnic restaurants, including Thai and Indian. Although we love Mexican food, we do miss the variety of cuisines that are available in the States, and we take the opportunity to sample them again whenever we go visiting. We also took advantage of the local shopping – from shorts at Goodwill to storage containers at The Container Store, we enjoyed our visit to the Land of Plenty. 🙂 Last year during a storm, we lost the beloved Tibetan singing bowl which we had purchased in Sausalito as we traveled down the California coast. We’ve been mourning that loss, and hoping to find a comparable replacement. We looked unsuccessfully in New York during our Thanksgiving visit, and we’ve looked online a few times but it’s pretty difficult to choose a work of art online. So we resumed our search on this trip, visiting 4 different places. Although we found a number of beautiful options, none of them spoke to us quite like our original – except for the one that David and Shlomit had purchased several years ago on a trip to Dharamsala, India (while visiting the Dalai Lama and setting up a program to teach the monks physics). They left us dumbfounded when they oh-so-generously offered us their bowl. It’s a little smaller than our previous one, so we will need to tailor the padded ring for it to sit on, but it has a beautiful and accessible tone, it’s got attractive styling, including a few symbols that are familiar to us, and it comes with more love than any other purchase could possibly bring. Wow!
While we were in Atlanta, we also helped out on a few home projects, the most significant of which was to refinish the top of a huge dining table that was greatly in need. We removed the sliding glass doors to the back deck and set up shop on the deck just outside. Dan spent a full afternoon sanding, with a little help from David and Kathy. The next three days we put on 6 coats of clear varnish, and the grain just glowed through! We were all quite pleased with the results. We were also pleased to get to spend a good bit of time with Dan’s half-sister Aria (who had joined us for the first two months of our travels up to Alaska). She is preparing to move from Atlanta up to Boston this summer to begin grad school. Rather than pay the painfully high local rents, she’s decided that she would prefer to own her own place – a boat! She’s currently in the throes of a search for the perfect starter boat, and we spent hours engaged in what-if discussions about various possibilities. Together we all fell in love with a couple of different boats during our visit, but nothing has worked out yet. One of them was located in New York’s Finger Lakes, and we schemed about joining Aria and David on the trip to bring it from there to Boston Harbor via the Erie Canal, the Hudson River and Long Island Sound.
The day before we were scheduled to return, Kathy got sick (a fever and some digestive upset too). She was doing enough better the day of our departure that we decided not to change our flight, but by the time we got to Denver she was miserable again. We entertained the notion that it was a recurrence of the illness the previous month which we thought might be dengue fever, but decided it was something different when Dan got ill the afternoon we were with Jean. She was a sweet host, thoughtful to the core, and if you have to be sick while traveling you couldn’t ask for a better place to do it, but it was a real disappointment to have missed out on the quality time with her that we’d looked forward to. The next morning we were both moving pretty slowly, but we hucked up our 150lb packs and made it to the plane on time. When we arrived in Puerto Vallarta, we treated ourselves to a taxi ride home to the marina (rather than taking the city bus which would be our usual mode of transportation), and fell into bed for the afternoon. Over the next few days we slowly improved, Dan more quickly than Kathy. During that time, we did a few boat projects, but tried to do so at a measured pace. Now we’re back to normal, but still feeling concerned about the string of illnesses that we’ve experienced. It may be that we’re living enough away from population centers that when we do go back to the States we are more at risk than usual. Still thinking about this… We did visit a local doctor, mostly for Dan’s lingering cough, and while there Kathy asked about getting tested for exposure to dengue fever. He said that an antibody test is not readily available (in Mexico?), but that the symptoms sounded exactly like dengue fever. So that’s where things stand: a confirmed diagnostic opinion, and a course for any potential future encounters. Of course, the best course here will be to avoid getting bitten by mosquitoes! And one of the purchases we made in Atlanta was some mosquito netting to make a screen for our main entrance. We just have to be diligent about using it.
Back at home, we’re getting lots of small projects accomplished, and a few larger ones as well. But we’re also spending some time enjoying ourselves. One day as we went into to town on some errands, we saw the start of a kite-surfing competition on the beach. So we stopped and hung out, observing the participants set up and launch their kites. There were nearly 100 competitors, and it was quite a sight to behold, all the colorful wings laid out on the sand, and then later all of them swooping and swerving around in the air. It got us excited about pulling ours out and learning how to use it! 🙂
All towns in Mexico have a patron saint, and all saints have a unique day of celebration. In La Cruz, the patron saint is Santa Cruz, whose day is in early May. From an outsider’s perspective there was hardly a break between the celebrations leading up to Easter week and this week of local festivities. The Fiesta de Patronales lasts nine days, with music and food, carnival rides and parades. The festivities last well into the wee hours of the morning, with some partyers continuing their merrymaking until 7am on the last night. There are fireworks of various levels throughout the week, leading up to the piece-de-resistance at midnight on the last night. It was a tower of sparklers and bottle rockets that had spinning pinwheels and various colors and sounds going off in succession, with a “crown” that ejected itself into the night sky at the very end. There was a bandstand where many acts performed over the course of the week. We saw some local children give a recital of some Hawaiian dances they’d been learning, and some very professional folklorico dancers with the women dressed in frilly skirts and the men in leather tasseled jackets. The local farmers/ranchers ride in on their horses and show off how they’ve taught them to “dance” on command – but Dan was disappointed that the horses seemed to have very little sense of rhythm. 🙂 We wandered around the town square, where all the booths were set up and the townspeople were strolling in their finest, 2 of the last 3 nights. We stayed out until 1am the last night, well past our usual bedtime, but for many the party was just getting started. This was a totally authentic local Mexican event, and it felt very exotic to us gringos. A fun time was certainly had by all.
Now we’re working on the last few projects that we want to finish up before heading up towards our summer haunting grounds. We’re thinking we might stop along the way to haul the boat out for a bottom paint refresh, but that plan is still in the making. Whatever happens, though, we’ll share it with you next month. 🙂 Hope you are all enjoying life at least half as much as we are!