Friday, January 28, 2011

Sounds like...

Another overnight passage (101 nautical miles south) on our way from Puerto Vallarta to a small fishing village, Chamela.   We set off in the late afternoon to a red stairway sunset to heaven.  

The next morning, Henry set the fishing lines and we pulled in a whopper Dorado.   In a pinch Ann gaffed it and pulled it on board, much to her own dismay! 

After fresh fish tacos, the rocks and island entrance to Chamela appeared.

Chamela – Does surf make sound if no one is there to listen?

A nice, low mountain backdrop; a couple close islands like pearl drops.   A long, yellow stretch of beach sand and friendly surf like kids like.   One row of palapa restaurants were stamped along the shore; and two or three 2-3 story hotels were hidden behind palms.   A warm climate; great setting.   What industry do the people do here?   It seems like if there is a beautifully developed area along the beach front in Mexico, it is built up only for the northern tourists.   The locals’ life styles don’t develop the area.  Panga fishing boats line the beach.

I remember Newport Beach pier in the 60’s and the panga-like fishing boats on weekends that pulled up on the beach and sold fish.  Their holds filled with ice, and tarps or umbrellas shading the catch.   Instead of buying fish though, we’d usually go to “Hank’s Fish-N-Chips” across the beachfront parking lot and order a plate of more-than-you-can-eat for 50 cents.   But even then there were shops, paved roads, working people’s homes that lined the boardwalks and streets.   Newport Beach was moving on regardless of tourism.   In ten years the fish was gone.

It was Sunday in Chamela.  Several families sat at the palapas or in the shade of the pangas under the tunes of the horns and singing on the radios.   Kids gathered in the surf.   We cut through some pangas and similar looking palapas to a dirt road for some provisions.  It was the quiet that stood out.   Maybe it was the contrast to the steady surf sound or constant music at each palapa, but even a little boy pushing a plastic cart in his side yard seemed to be moving soundlessly.   A dog wandered over without a bark; no one was around to call him back.   Henry and I returned to the beach to play catch with a football; Chandler and Ann walked on for provisions.  They found eggs, and some vegetables and fruit, boxed juices, tortillas.   Then we ran around; played more catch -- played in the surf with a pretty back drop of low mountains, a couple of close-by islands, on a long, yellow stretch of sandy beach like kids and families like.    Sounds nice.

A few small islands lie in the bay off the coast of Chamela.  We explored the tide pools and beach.  Another great afternoon.

We found hermit crabs both with and without shells.  Henry made a rock fort to contain his but most of them climbed out anyway.

That evening dinner was served in the cockpit and we spent the night anchored off an island in Bahia Chamela.  

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Turtle walk

One afternoon at sunset we participated in a wonderful activity that gave us the opportunity to help baby turtles walk from the shore where they had recently hatched, to the water, where they would begin their ocean life.  I'll let the pictures speak for themselves...
A bucket of baby turtles

Abigail, Christian, Chandler, and Henry ready to launch their turtles

Henry connected with a local lady and helped bring slower turtles back to the protection area since they didn't make it to the water themselves.  They'll be released another day when they are stronger. 
It's always good to see the children use their Spanish to engage with locals!

Chores onboard

Chores...they don't go away when one casts the dock lines ashore and heads out to sea.  Doug's a stickler for keeping the boat in good shape and I appreciate that.  His list of ongoing maintenance items is endless and too long to note here.  The daily tasks are what ultimately keep the boat in tip-top shape so we have chores we each do to contribute to that effort.

I particularly admire Chandler and Henry for their diligence in getting chores done daily and doing the additional chore or two before we leave a port for the open water.  They take a section of the boat and sweep the floors daily, they take turns flaking the anchor chain when we leave an anchorage, and they switch off doing dishes every other day.  Their help is invaluable!  

Here are a few photos that show only some of the work that we do on HanaCrew.

Washing out Webkins after salty water snuck into the V-berth port hole
Sail covers back on sails during a port stay
Washing down the windows
When at sea we wash dishes in salt water to conserve fresh water.
Washing dishes in salt water and rinsing them with a quick fresh water rinse off the stern of the boat. 
Even at night!

Doug waxing the hull

...and cleaning the bottom.

Chandler and Henry cleaning seat cushions after the southern crossing from Mazatlan to La Paz

 As for mom's chores you say?  Aside from multiple ongoing chores I am in charge of cleaning the head...and you don't want to see a photo of that. :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Beaded fingernail in Puerto Vallarta

Back in early January when we were in Puerto Vallarta we were fortunate to connect with friends who took a true cruise ship into Banderas Bay.  Marilyn and Vito are dear friends from our Coronado, CA days.  We sailed into a marina and they arrived the next morning. They came to our boat; Marilyn checked out what Chandler had been designing with her Klutz "My Style" kit and Vito taught Henry and Doug how to tie knots for fishing lures.

We spent the day together exploring some sights and shops in PV followed by a wonderful meal.  

As we strolled the shops along the malecon we found an art gallery showing stunning artwork of the Huichol people.  This indigenous group of people live in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains in the states of Jalisco, Nayarit, Zacatecas, and Durango, MX.  There was a demonstration being done by a Huichol artisan.  He offered to add his artwork to Chandler's nail!  After putting a clay-like substance on her nail and quickly put the beads in place over the clay the design hardened enough and didn't fall off until late that evening.  The beaded sculptures these artists make are amazingly intricate and beautiful to say the least.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Hand made gifts for a B-day celebration

The enormity (20 miles across) of Banderas Bay, where Punta Mita, La Cruz, Yelapa, Nueve Vallarta, and Puerto Vallarta are located, offers numerous places to drop anchor or pull into a marina. Long before we arrived here Chandler and Henry, having heard about the place from cruiser kids who had been there, enthusiastically told us about Paradise Village Marina and all it had to satisfy their "cruiser kid needs".  Huge swimming pools, crocodile slides, beaches, land showers, restaurants, super markets, and more!  So Doug and I figured we could splurge on the dock fees for one week and give Chandler a b-day to remember.  As good as the crocodile slides were, the best part of Chandler's special day was the friends who celebrated with her.  Three girls joined in the fun and three hand made gifts arrived with them.  Talented, sweet, generous, and fun-loving girls out here!

Crocodile slide
Chandler, Maia, Isabelle, and Carolyne
Maia made a velvet purse

Isabelle crocheted Chandler a matching necklace and barrette

Carolyne made earrings
                    Cake followed...


...and later a few gifts at home (not hand made but still appreciated!).

Chandler's big day

Dear Chandler,

You'll remember this birthday as, well...different.  What did you call turning 11, snake eyes?  Something you had learned from other cruiser kids?

Well, despite the fact that for last year's Christmas a pineapple stood in as our Christmas tree, and despite that Henry's 9th birthday at sea was a spontaneous pot-luck with other cruisers on the back of a huge catamaran with complimentary "toilet seat" diving rides and a beach bon fire, you're b-day stars, well...all lined up.  Check your wish list, you got: land-based luxury loot and lots of friends.  Welcome, Chandler, to "Paradise Village".  This Puerto Vallarta resort came complete with bilingual parrots and Bengal tigers, 70' crocodile slides - port and starboard with underwater caves, plus a mini US-like mall with Domino's, Mac-y D's, 31 Flavors, and gift shops.  And you moaned that you wouldn't have friends, location, or anything special to do.  Well, your day came with all these and still included a touch of cruiser magic and your flare for making new friends.

After leaving your Baja boat buddies in no time you were reunited with two previous pals and made a new friend here on the mainland; Maia, Carolyne, and Bella.  Within a week, you four looked like bosom buddies, and you even got a sleepover on Maia's boat the night before "the big day".  Friends - #1 criteria met on your check list.  #2: location...Okay?  Marina, resort, and mall all in one?  Is that delivery?  Pizza party, play structure, pool, mom's custom cake.  Check, check, check, check.  #3: gifts?  Nothing is impossible (or more impressive) - Your three friends brought hand made gifts. Maia, a hand sewn velvet and satin shoulder purse; Carolyne, hand made earrings; Bella, a crocheted necklace and hair clip.  Of particular interest was the creative wrapping paper...shiny silver foil accented with blue painters tape.  And mom of course came through (and you thought there's no place to hide presents on a boat) with three books, lip gloss, and flip flops out of the bilge, I mean her sleeve.  How was that, Chandler, for your 11th b-day?

We love you,

Mom and Dad XOXO

Friday, January 21, 2011

No End to Learning On-Board:

Cruising and sailing don’t even sound alike.   What was Doug thinking?   Ann and he owned a Cal 40 for a couple years in Sausalito in the era BK (Before Kids).  Sails were raised as soon as the slip was aft.   There was an anchor for stops.   The engine briefly rumbled to slip back into the dock.  Hook up power and water, and life goes on.

With cruising, not so.   Life starts with “Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual” by Nigel Calder.   School is now in for the day-sailor:   Diesel mechanics (fix that fuel pump, bleed those lines, change those filters).   At the bell go to the next class on electronics (replace the alternator, fix the regulator, rewire the running lights, wire the anchor light, hook up fans, replace windlass switch).   At recess, you can visit the toilet “head”, but rebuild it 3 times first.  Time is up, back to class – two electives: meteorology, and varnishing.   Lunch time – great!  This is just short of gathering and hunting – take all luggage and backpacks available.   Gather the kids (sherpas).  Take a bus or hoof it to town.   Schlep parcels back and find places to wedge items on-board.   Put perishables in refrigerator box starting at the core layer of the earth’s surface until you reach the mantel.  Back to class:  pick up manuals on water maker, wind generator, auto-pilot, radar, GPS plotting, Single Side band radio, inverter, and steering mechanics.   At the end of the day, everyone’s favorite – P.E.    Get on your back and fix leaks in the water hoses and replace the kitchen faucet.   This is called P.E. (Plumbing Elective).  

Then one day, what was imagined comes to life.   The boat floats away from the slip.  There is an island and a cove with a sandy beach.   Your children find other children to romp with.   There are hikes, snorkeling, beach bonfires, potlucks, steady progress through a novel, starry nights and grand vistas of mountains, hills, cliffs and cactus.   You are “cruising”… and even at times, sailing.    

Thursday, January 13, 2011

San Sebastian

While in the Santa Cruz/Puerto Vallarta area we decided to take an overnight land cruise and check out the town of San Sebastian in the hills above the port.  We rented a car and headed straight for San Sebastian?  No, we saw a McDonald's along the way and stopped there first! American fast food always tastes better outside the US.

Along the route and close to San Sebastian, we found a beautiful winery and stopped in to look around. They harvest blue agave (a sweet syrup with the consistency of honey) and saw their fermenting process.   New puppies were a treat for Henry Wyatt and Chandler to find there too.

As we arrived in San Sebastian and as we looked around for a place to stay we saw kids dressed up in church clothes and costumes as well as musicians heading toward a building off to the side of town.  Curious, we followed.  Sooner than not we found ourselves in the midst of a parade celebrating a holy day.  This town "trades" their patron saint (Sebastian) with another nearby town each year and holds a festival, parades, and concerts for two weeks in each year in January.

Procession through town

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


The morning after we arrived into Chacala, Doug and I dinghy-ed to shore while the kids stayed onboard to do home school.  We found Chacala to basically be a one road town with friendly locals and surprisingly quite a few Americans who preferred the small town and get-away feel to the largeness of Puerto Vallarta which sits three hours south.

While wandering around town, Doug and I picked up a few provisions.  We saw this lovely display of fruits and vegetables in a restaurant/tienda and put them in our bag before asking how much we owed.  The shop keepers told us those items were to serve at their restaurant. Whoops! We put everything back and continued on our way.

At the end of town we noticed a campground that offered hot showers for 10 pesos (about .80 cents). I was thrilled.  It didn’t matter that it was in a free-standing M*A*S*H* - like outdoor stall.  The sign said, “Caliente aqua”…“Hot water”.  When I returned to the boat and told Chandler she was as excited as I was so we packed our shower gear and headed to shore.  As I walked Chandler up to the stall, pointing to it and saying, “There it is” she stopped and said, “That’s it?  That’s where we’ll take hot showers? I thought it would at least be in a building!” (sorry, no photo)

Long story short, the “hot” must have been dependent on the sun and time of day because we didn’t experience anything close to hot.  As we left the campground, informing the people who ran the place that there wasn’t any hot water, they just smiled and said, in Spanish, “No, no hot water.”  We heard them chuckle a bit as we left.  Not in a mean way but in a “You should have known better” way.  After living in Mexico for 3+ years I guess we could have been a bit less gullible.  We did however find another hot shower place that was located at the back of an open-air restaurant.  Although the showers were still basically outdoors, Chandler got a hot shower and I got a semi-warm shower. It felt divine!  We were clean again.
Later that night we cruised town with the kids and tasted coconut milk, although it was more like clear juice and the meat inside, which was slimy versus crisp and chunky like what we were used to.