Last month was a period full of social interactions and boat work. We left our guests, Wayne and Keith, at the taxi stand to get to the airport, where they caught a flight to Puerto Vallarta for a week’s resort visit with family. We all had such a good time together, that we suggested they return to Lungta afterwards for another week – and they did! They took a bus back to Barra, spent a fraction of the price for the previous week’s airline ticket, and enjoyed the journey every bit as much. In the meantime, we got another CouchSurfing request, from Alan, an older guy who was also visiting family at a resort in Manzanillo. He wanted to take a side trip, and go kayaking in the lagoon of Barra de Navidad. Since we haven’t ever seen anyone kayak there, we suggested that he spend a few days with us, sail back around to Tenacatita, and kayak there. He was thrilled at the opportunity and showed up at 8:00 the next morning. 🙂 We had a full house for a couple of days, but it was fun to see how everyone got along. The day Alan joined us, though, there was a big storm. The wind howled and it rained buckets. We decided to delay our journey to Tenacatita by a day. They learned about the fluidity of plans on a cruising boat, and that holes in a roof are not always water-tight. We had a number of leaks around the boat, and put out towels and containers to catch the drips. The worst location for this leakage was right over the bed in the forward stateroom – where Keith and Wayne were staying. We managed to keep the mattress minimally damp, but these energetic men decided to track down and eliminate that leak the next day. They disassembled the doors of the butterfly hatch, removed the bronze grates and the glass windows below. In removing the grates, they found some holes underneath that hadn’t been properly plugged, so we believe that the leak has been resolved. But they weren’t satisfied with just that. They all set in to refinishing the wood and polishing the bronze. Alan was a cabinet maker in a previous life, and he offered lots of good advice on how to do the plugging and refinishing. Wayne in particular was unstoppable on this project – not that we tried to stop him! It was amazing what a few days of intense focus and effort brought about! Alan did indeed spend an afternoon kayaking around the Tenacatita Bay before heading back to Manzanillo, but Wayne and Keith and Dan all continued to work on sanding and varnishing the trim work around the windows and polishing a few other exterior pieces of bronze. We’ve arranged for some lacquer to be brought down, and the plan now is to coat the bronze once it’s blindingly shiny, hopefully preventing the salt air and sea spray from doing its best to restore the celadon patina to these surfaces.
Our relationship with Keith and Wayne has continued to flourish, so we invited them to spend another week with us, and then some more. They returned to Massachusetts in mid-February, to wrap up some loose ends at home. At first it looked like they were going to miss the latest winter storm, but then another queued up in the barrel so they got a deep appreciation of winter after all. 🙂 The current plan is that they will join up with us again in mid-March, and travel down to El Salvador. Things have become quite open-ended: as long as things continue to go well, we will continue to travel together. We expect to do some land travel together through Central America, perhaps we will spend some time trading off being on the boat while the others foray out, and then there are bigger passages after that: perhaps the islands of Panama, perhaps directly across to the South Pacific. Looks like we found ourselves some house-mates!
The last week we were in Barra, we noticed a new sound that we have yet to figure out. It has a similar character to the snapping shrimp that we learned about in southern California, and which in fact are also present in the Barra lagoon. But this new sound is longer, almost like a frog croaking – except that it’s underwater. We hear the sounds through the hull, and they virtually disappear when we go up on deck to investigate. It sounds like there are several “voices”, perhaps responding to one another. There’s another sound, probably related, which Kathy has compared to woodpeckers, a series of sharper raps, not quite as fast as a real woodpecker however. The frog sound seems to happen in alternation with the woodpecker sound. We’ve spent perhaps 20 nights in Barra lagoon and never heard this before, but we’ve now heard it 4 or 5 nights running. Perhaps it’s related to the new moon? We would love to learn what this is, if anyone reading this blog has figured it out!
We spent a few days in Barra after Wayne and Keith left while we prepared for more guests. One day while we were running errands during the week of Mardi Gras, we noticed a number of kids around town carrying baby chicks dyed some outrageous colors. Later we saw the vendor who was selling them, along with some ducklings. They were amazingly cute – and Dan offered the notion that they might grow up to lay Easter eggs!
During this period we made several new friends, which is somewhat frustrating since it is likely that we will not see them again. The first was the crew of Bliss: Tod and Jolanda and their delightful and precocious 2.5 year old daughter Tessa. We spent an afternoon at the pool together, had them over for dinner, and had a couple other short encounters. We paid a visit together to Chacho, a spider monkey kept in a cage behind the restaurant at the Sands Hotel. Tessa was fascinated by Chacho (and we were too!), and excited to hand him a banana and watch him eat it hungrily while hanging on the wall from his tail. They are hoping to cross the Pacific in a couple of years, and perhaps we will meet up with them again there, but for the time being we are heading different directions. We also met the crew of Azul, a young couple that had gotten some bad advice when they entered the Barra channel. We first noticed them because they were aground, and we dinghied over to help pull them off the sandbar. Fortunately it was at low tide, so the rising waters also helped. We had dinner together that night with Nia and Mike along with their friend Richard on Sea Urchin, who came in the same day but did not get the same misdirection. We enjoyed papas rellenas (stuffed potatos) and vibrant conversation, swapped movie files, and when they came by to see us off the next morning we shared breakfast after a visit by the French baker. Alas, they are also starting to head north and we probably won’t see them any time soon either.
On Saturday our next friends arrived, and we made plans to leave Sunday mid-morning just before high tide. Two years ago, 11-year-old Noah and his father Adam spent a week with us in the Loreto area, just in time to experience the diminishing hurricane Paul. We first met them as we rounded the bottom of Baja for the first time in late 2011. We were pinned down in the Los Frailes anchorage by the first Norther we’d experienced, and they were traveling by car from Colorado, but equally stuck by the strong winds making beach time unpleasant. Now Noah is in high school, on spring break, and visiting with both of his parents while his sister is off at college. Once again we’ve shown him an unusual situation that is often stressful. Just after we pulled up our very muddy anchor and started to motor away from our shallow anchor spot, we ran aground. It was soft (so soft in fact that none of our guests were aware that anything unusual had happened), but distinctive, and the boat was firmly stuck in the soft muddy bottom of the lagoon. We tried putting the boat in reverse, and at first thought it might be moving, but then realized that we had only turned a bit but not really budged. So Dan hopped in the dinghy and pulled on a line tied off to a cleat. No dice. A few other dinghies from neighboring boats turned up to help the effort, nudging from the front, pulling from the back. The tide had peaked and was starting to fall. Tomorrow’s tide would be lower, and lower still the next day. If we didn’t get off the bottom now, the tightly made plans we were marching to would unravel. We attached the “lunch” anchor to a long line and dropped it in the direction that we wanted the boat to move, then tightened up the line using a winch. We continued to run the motor in reverse while our mini-fleet of dinghies continued to push and pull. In fairly short order, the boat began to inch backwards. Cries of celebration echoed from around us as it became clear we were back in the channel. We quickly straightened up the boat, pulled in all the gear, thanked all our helpers, raised the dinghy, and motored down the channel while the tidal current pushed us out the entrance. Whew! What a way to start the day!
Fortunately, the rest of the day offered up a beautiful sail. At one point we were sailing along with a few degrees of heel and when Noah opened the refrigerator all of its contents spilled out onto the floor! As we were picking things up, one of the fishing lines whirred with a big bite. Unfortunately, that bite turned out to be a booby bird – an unhappy bird indeed. While Adam and Noah cleaned up the rest of the berries that had spilled in the galley and Kathy reeled in the line, Valerie held a towel at the ready to cover the bird’s eyes as soon as he was within reach. Dan grabbed a pair of pliers and removed the hook, then we all stepped back while the stunned bird stood on deck and looked around himself dazedly for a short while before flying off. The Silverstein family had a full day of unusual events.
We stopped twice on the way, at two places that we’d seen before but wanted to share. We love Maruata because of the unusual rock features just off-shore, where the swell comes in and bounces around, and a huge breaking wave eventually emerges along with a big growl. After exploring these sights we wandered up the road a ways and disovered that there is more town here than we knew about previously. We hung out in the sleepy town square for a little while before buying some fresh tortillas and some frozen fruit bars from a small shop nearby. The second stop was Caleta de Campos, where we still remember arriving two years ago with our sails in tatters after a strong wind event caught us by surprise. This time the journey was uneventful, and we enjoyed a day of wandering the town’s streets, a lunch of pizza served by a British ex-pat, and a small shop with some nice produce.
We enjoyed listening to Adam’s mbira music along the way. The mbira is a musical instrument from Zimbabwe that he learned to play many years ago. It has a pleasant sound similar to a marimba, but is extremely portable. He was teaching Valerie to play a song, and it was nice to hear their voices discussing the notes and occasionally singing the song that went along with the tune. Although Adam offered, neither of us ended up sitting down with him to learn how to play – an opportunity missed, that perhaps we will be able to redress the next time, whenever that may be. Valerie had found a recipe for an El Salvadoran meal in a magazine that she brought along. She made the side dish first, a pickled cabbage dish called curtido, but when we went to make the main dish, a fried corn patty stuffed with cheese, we were all disappointed to find that we were out of the masa flour required. Another missed opportunity! But we’re told the masa dumplings are an El Salvadoran standard, so we’ll probably get another chance to try them. It was hard to see the Silverstein family leave after we arrived in Zihuatanejo. Fortunately they stayed in town another few days, and we were able to have dinner together a couple of times.
Kathy’s mother and sister Margie arrived 36 hours after the Silversteins left, and we spent most of that time doing laundry and other housekeeping activities in preparation. 🙂 We found a combi (a collectively owned and run van service) out to the airport and met them there. It cost us less than a dollar for the 20 minute ride! We had a fairly lazy week, wandering into town most days for errands or a restaurant meal. We found a sewing machine repair shop, and brought the broken machine in for repair, then picked it up the next day. The shop owner worked on a bench facing the sidewalk. He had a number of machines on the table next to him that it turned out were for sale. There were a few chairs out on the sidewalk, including a rocking chair. One evening we passed by the basketball court that doubles as a town gathering place. Sometimes there are musical events there, or movies, or lectures, but this night there was an actual basketball game going on! We watched the players for a bit, then were drawn to the crowd. There were small children happily running around and older kids flirting under tall palm trees. There were a few food vendors, including an ice cream cart powered by a flashy motorcycle. Their last evening with us we took a bus to Ixtapa. This town was built in the 80’s to nurture the tourism trade. It was a coconut plantation, but is now full of high-end resorts and restaurants. It stands in juxtaposition with Zihuatanejo, which is more traditionally Mexican in character, with a produce market and small streets lined with artisan shops. We went there to see a free concert on the beach which was a preview of a couple of the Guitar Fest performers. The view was spectacular, with a wide beach covered in clean white sand and a blood red sunset. The music was good and we all enjoyed ourselves. Another day we did an “arts and crafts” project; we weaved a doormat using an old rope. Since it uses the other half of the rope that Kathy used a few years ago to make our first one, the two complement each other nicely! It was good to see the family, which just doesn’t happen often. We’re lucky that Kathy’s mom is healthy enough and adventurous enough to come visit us periodically, about once a year. It was a little disconcerting to see her slightly less agile this time than on previous visits, though, and a reminder that we need to enjoy what today brings since tomorrow has no guarantees.
Now we have begun to focus on our preparations for our passage south. We have also attended a few of the Guitar Fest concerts and done a bit of socializing, but most of our days now include one or more of the boat projects that have been put off until needed parts were brought down by either the Silversteins or Kathy’s family. The first project on the list was to replace the landing wheels on our dinghy with some larger ones that allow us to come ashore without having to tilt the engine up. That was a great improvement! We’ve already traded them to a friend on another boat who had no wheels at all. We’ve done some more work on the exhaust system of our generator and the house main water pump. We’ve brought our bowthruster motor into a shop for repair, and are expecting our new main sail to be delivered from La Cruz on Monday. Keith and Wayne will arrive that same day, and we expect to leave either Tuesday or Wednesday. We’re getting excited about seeing new territory!