On August 7th, 2010 we set sail on our "No Itinerary" world cruise and enjoying the "Cruising Life" very much! It's a wonderful adventure!!
Saturday, January 29, 2011
We sailed into this beautiful new marina only a couple hours from Bahia Jacaral. Captain Nancy brought the boat i
nto the slip as I handed our docklines to four helpful dock hands and welcomed us to the marina. This is a lovely place!
We’ve met some of our cruiser “neighbors” who stopped here only for a week… but they said that was two years ago and they haven’t left yet! Another couple has been here since April, also intending to stay only a few days. We even met “Crazy George,” a recluse who lives aboard and admittedly is a bit strange…but we did learn something about satellite radio while taking with “Crazy George”. Satellite radio is supposedly available only a short distance into Mexico, but here we are a couple hundred miles from Guatemala and “Crazy George” is listening to it. He placed the antenna into a aluminum colander (for straining salads) and strapped this outside his boat, the colander acts like a miniature satellite dish and brings in his signal absolutely perfect. There’s a very fine line between being “crazy” and being an “eccentric”, but how do you know the difference? I’ll ask George!
We jumped on our folding bicycles for a trip to the harbor master to pay for our slip for a couple weeks, then to the Puerto de Capitán at Santa Cruz (1 mile away) and check in. Santa Cruz is where the cruise ships dock.
This city is a real treat for any cruiser to visit and wait for a good weather forecast for the much feared Gulf of Tehuantepec. This is where we’ll wait for a good weather window to cross the Gulf of Tehuantepec (in a week or so ), do necessary repairs, and get Windfall battened down for a serious sea crossing. Nancy wants to start sewing a shade cover to cover the topside that will reach from the mast to the stern and provide us with cool shade and rain protection while in the hotter tropic areas ahead. Taxis are about 300 pesos (under $3.00) to take you anywhere around town, laundry is available from the marina and delivered to your boat, free WiFi is available from the marina, large grocery stores are close by, and the produce vendors (with wonderful fresh produce) are located at the town square just a mile away. Sounds nice!
Oaxaca - We took an 8 hour bus trip to Oaxaca (pronounced wa-ha-ca) and it was great! What a wonderful and cultural place to visit! We stayed three full days and didn’t see it all where we met people from Denmark, Russia, Canada, and the US too. Friday we walked around the town, checked out the local produce stands, and visited some very old and beautiful churches, complete with real gold ceilings, reaching several stories high and one larger than a shopping mall! Oh those Catholics, they do know how to build big beautiful churches.
We went to interesting places including ancient ruins, old churches, mescal distilleries, handmade carpet weaving factory, wood carvers, and visited a “frozen” waterfall that is actually the minerals left from a huge waterfall and pools cascading from the top of a 10,000’ mountain. Very nice!
Saturday morning we went with our guides to the Monte Alban Ruins that were founded in 500 BC! Yes…that’s right, 500 BC! The sheer size and craftsmanship of these ruins were amazing! The ruins included a palace, a ball courtyard (for sports), temples, alters, and even some tombs! How cool! We felt like we were in an Indiana Jones movie! Although I forgot my hat and whip (used only to help keep the crew in line)!
From the Monte Alban we traveled to a woodcarver. This area is famous for their colorful and detailed wooden fantasy and zoological creations. We watched as the master carver started chopping his machete on a green Copal branch, transforming it to a matched pair of 16” high animal legs he will use for his next colorful creation. The Copal wood is very soft to carve while green, but after 30 days it dries to a very hard wood lasting for generations. The colorful details are incredible! They use needles to make tiny dots and form the painted detailed patterns covering the wood. From here we had lunch at a local Mexican buffet where the food was heated in large ceramic pots sitting over hot charcoal embers, then onward for a tour a 16th century monastery that was amazing!
After all this we visited the world’s largest diameter tree… “The Arbol de Tule” that’s over 14 meters thick and still growing! Because the water table has lowered dramatically over the last few decades, they now must pump water to the roots of the tree to keep it alive…5,000 liters each day! That’s a LOT of water!
Saturday night we went to the town square called the “Zocalo”, this is where everything happens… cafés, entertainers, vendors selling everything from balloons to blankets, and more people than you can imagine! As we walked past an outdoor café we were called over to a table where our guides from the tour were sitting! Before long we had guitar players at our table playing and singing traditional songs, Nancy even knew the words to one particular song and was an instant hit by everyone as she sang along… the enormous beers helped! Nancy bargained (in Spanish) for items offered by the local vendors coming to the table. I told her NOT to make “eye contact” and to keep her hands in her pockets…apparently this didn’t too work too well as the vendors scored nicely that night.
The next morning we were to meet our guides for another tour…apparently they weren’t feeling too well from the last night’s activities and called in “sick”. But, we jumped into the tour van and headed off for a wonderful day filled with adventures. We started at a mescal distillery…made with 12 year old Agave plants that are trimmed into pineapple looking shapes the size of a microwave, smoked in a huge hand-dug pit for 14 days, then chopped into smaller parts and placed on a large stone surface where a 1500 pound stone wheel is revolved by a horse walking endless circles to crush from the agave before they pack it into large vats and add hot water to ferment.
The juice is distilled for alcohol, then distilled twice again and made to the very best mescal and fruity mescals available; some of the mescal is aged 8 years in barrels. And what is the difference between mescal and tequila??? Mainly it’s the methods of production and the agave varieties from which both are made. Only will you find mescal is made in Oaxaca...and it’s mescal that has “the worm” in the bottles. And, along with the mescal is a special mescal salt made with salt, chili peppers, and ground up worms that live in the agave plants! (It’s actually pretty tasty!...and after several shots of mescal you’ll start praising the bottled worm!) We purchased a bottle of Passion Fruit Mescal that is sweet and delicious! (They get about 2 liters of mescal from one large “pineapple”).
Our next stop was at a Rug Weaver who hand-makes beautiful traditional woolen rugs …with dyes made from traditional plants and insects. The vivid red colors come from the “cochineal” bug that lives on a cactus. The bug is scraped from the cactus, hand ground with a stone mortar, and then mixed with water. This makes the most beautiful deep red color imaginable. Lime juice is added to turn the red to orange, and then baking soda added to the orange to make purple. Green color comes from a specific moss; Blue from the indigo plant (of which he used 3 TONS each year), yellow comes from marigold flower peddle, and black from the mesquite tree.
Our next stop was at the Doña Rosa’s Pottery Shop where she developed the process to make the famous Black pottery. It was also here where Doña Rosa discovered that if she polished the ceramic with crystal stones it made the black ceramic shine – now a standard practice in their pottery making. Even Jimmy and Roslyn Carter visited here to see her beautiful black ceramic works of art.
After a full day of touring, our bus from Oaxaca back to the marina was available only at night. We got the last two seats available on the 9:30pm bus, and arrived back in town to our boat at 5:30am to crawl into our soft comfy bed for a few hours restful sleep.
A couple nights later we went out for dinner with four cruiser “neighbors” to one of their favorite spots where we got 5 tacos and 2 beers for $500 peso…that’s about than $4.16!! Wow!!! They were delicious! Then, we went for ice cream at a great little place next to the zocalo (town square)… a great place to people watch. They pointed across the street to a favorite pizza place where they cook the pizzas in a HUGE old brick oven…we can’t wait to try their pizzas!!
They say some marinas are like Velcro and won’t let you go…Now we know what they mean,we’ve decided to stay a month here at Marina Chahu’e. Plus it’s very beautiful, warm, and sunny here to say the least….now about those cheap tacos and beers……
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
January 9th 2011 - Puerto Angel – We were heading into Puerto Escondido Bay when a sailboat was just leaving called us on the VHF… They had a very rough night with very uncomfortable rolly seas and they were leaving… we didn’t like the sounds of that, so we plotted a new course 37 miles south to Puerto Angel.
We arrived here at 3pm, it’s a very small bay and there were already 4 sailboats in it, so getting a spot was a little difficult to find an anchorage with all the pangas taking the prime spots. After we got the anchor dropped and a few cold drinks down, we were boarded by the Harbor Master and four machine gun toting solders to do the “check in inspection”. First thing I did…I asked if they would like some ice cold Pepsi drinks….”Si”! (Always best to get off on a good note with these guys). All is great, didn’t even go below, stayed in the cockpit and enjoyed the drinks and conversations. Tomorrow “Manaña” come to my office and I’ll have your papers stamped and ready for you. Nice!
We jumped into the 80° water…Ohhhhh it felt nice! Later, Nancy made a great noodle dinner, and now we are sitting in the cockpit enjoying the cool evening breeze… of course it’s still 81° at 8pm, but that breeze sure feels nice.
Tomorrow we will dinghy into “town” and explore. This is a pretty cool place with two small beaches and palapas (beachside cafés) to enjoy fresh food and cold beverages.
We have now logged over 4300 miles since leaving Portland Oregon! WoW! We have used our watermaker so much we can’t imagine not having it. We made about 90 gallons while we were sailing here, so fresh water showers are not something we have to “plan” ahead for (many cruisers take saltwater showers then rinse with a spray bottle of freshwater). “No thanks,” says Admiral Nancy!
We needed to go to an ATM or bank and an internet café. Our stop at the ATM told us our card would not work and to call our bank. Hmmmm… so we went across the street to the “Banco” …”No, we have no ATM and cannot give you money”. Ok, so off to the internet café to call our bank….”Nope, your card is good, there must have been a problem with the ATM machine”. Ok, so now we’re finding a taxi to take us to a nearby Banco Santander (since we have a Bank of America this bank doesn’t charge extra fees to use their ATM). Turns out all is good, and now with money in hand it’s time for a cold one!
Today we took a taxi to Playa Zipolite…come to find out it’s a very long, beautiful, and NUDE beach! After (slowly) walking the beach, we stopped at a beachside palapa and had a pitcher of Lim’onada (lemonade but made with limes…delicious!). Yes, lots of topless beauties on the beach…it takes a long time to drink a pitcher of Lim’onada with such great views….our eyes still hurt! Ha Ha
January 13th Jicaral (37 miles south of Puerto Angel)
This is part of the Bahias de Huatulco Natural Park, (pronounced wah-tool-co) that includes 36 beaches and several bays. With so many beaches and bays, you can imagine how difficult it was to decide which to choose. We chose Jicaral and have this beautiful little bay all to ourselves - complete with a private beach and great coral snorkeling. The “bay” is about 300 yards in diameter with rocks on two sides, beach behind us, and open water in front. Last night we watched a cruise ship pass by!
Oh, and talk about great snorkeling! WOW! We voted this as our second best snorkeling area (snorkeling at Los Islotes with sea lions is defiantly our #1 choice). We have a huge area of coral in 3’ to 20’ depths… it’s like swimming in a saltwater aquarium filled with fish, lobster, and a sea turtle too!
That 80° water feels even better than it looks! I got a little sunburned as we swam so many hours and walked the sandy beach, but “Florida Nancy” is beginning to look like a blond native who should be walking the beaches selling t-shirts to tourists! Hmmm…..If I got her a few cheap t shirts and….Uhh, hmmm, on second thought, best not to mention this idea to her…. just yet.
We anchored in 50 feet of clear warm water (no coral was harmed in this anchoring), later we put a short stern anchor but during the night the wind changed direction and the boat drug it around and into our anchor chain, so this morning we put on 250’ of line and reset the stern anchor….without the stern anchor the winds turn the boat sideways to some swells remnant of a storm from the Gulf of a Tehuantepec . The swells gave an uncomfortable night trying to sleep. So, this morning we’re both a little tired…but the bay is so beautiful we’ll stay here a couple more days...no rush to leave
January 14th We decided to stay a few more days here because we like it so much. The swells calmed down last night providing us with a smooth bay, a good night sleep, and our reset stern anchor did a wonderful job keeping us pointed to the reducing swells.
I had an idea to alert the tourist panga boats that we have a stern line out (so they don’t drive over it). I tied a big Orange float with a six foot sliding line that slides up and down our stern line. This works great! They can see the stern line from the boat leading to the Orange buoy, then continuing down to the stern anchor. Any distance beyond the 6 foot level (at the buoy), their outboard propeller will pass will easily pass over. The pangas like to pass close by so all the tourist can wave and see the “Americana’s Velero” (American’s Sailboat)- We do look pretty good as many have been taking pictures of Windfall at anchor.
Yesterday we met, Linden and Jeanette, a couple that were snorkeling nearby with a tourist panga, and we invited them to come aboard. We learned they were from Australia, purchased two motorcycles in Seattle, and plan to ride all the way to the end of South America! They left Seattle about the same time we left Portland and we may meet with them again in Panama. They‘re tent camping along the way, and only have what they can carry on the two motorcycles. Wow! What an adventure they will have to tell.
Next stop... Marina Chahue (pronounced Cha-way - 20 miles further south in Santa Cruz), where we will do a few repair projects and get the boat ready for the BIG crossing of the Gulf of Tehuantepec (more on this later). From here we will take a bus trip to Oaxaca (pronounced wah-ha-ca) and spend a few days as it's supposed to be a "Can't miss" destination - Stay tuned, more adventures to come!
Friday, January 7, 2011
Arriving 8am we began searching for an anchorage…well, the cruising books are not completely up to date and there are basically not many places in Acapulco Bay to drop anchor. Petty theft is a problem in Acapulco and we were advised to not leave the boat unattended if not at a safe (guarded) marina.
While I stayed at the boat, Nancy, Jeff, and Denielle went on a hunt to secure a mooring ball. They managed to find a mooring ball at Marina Acapulco for $350 pesos per day (about $30 US). The Yacht Club Marina was $180 US dollars per DAY!...No thanks!
New Years Even in Acapulco is unforgettable with the largest fireworks display we’ve ever seen...except for Nancy who slept through it all! I counted huge firework displays being shot from over 12 different places along the huge Acapulco Bay…and folks, this is one continuous fireworks show you’ll never forget.
At 10am New Year’s Day we went to see the famous Acapulco cliff divers…but as it is New Years Day, special times were scheduled and to have many more divers than normal for a spectacular show, so we had to come back later for the show. Let me just say, these young boys are crazy! They climb straight up the steep rocky cliff, give a prayer, then leap FAR below into the 12’ deep narrow channel below. One of the most famous divers dove 37, 348 times from the cliff…But, of course, no mention of how number 37,349 turned out for him.
There is a restaurant at the top of the cli\ff where you can enjoy cold drinks, great food, and watch the divers. Inside the restaurant is an old wooden wall covered with photos and autographs of famous people who have watched the divers as we did…Bob Hope, Roy Rogers, Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor, Nancy Cockrell (well she WAS there!)…and the list goes on and on.
We did have an “incident” that needs to be mentioned, especially for our cruising friends…while Nancy and I were at the cliff diver show, Denielle and Jeff were late meeting up with us…and for good reason…Windfall broke free of the mooring ball just as they were leaving and rowing the dinghy back to shore! One of the dock employees yelled and pointed at Windfall heading toward the rocky shoreline and they sprang into action to save the day! Jeff dove into the water, lost his sunglasses, and got his wallet wet. He and Denielle stood at the rocks and pushed Windfall’s heavy 18 tons to the dock, and with the help of Acapulco Marina’s employees Windfall was secured to the nearby dock. Whew! A BIG BIG “Thank You” to Jeff and Denielle! Way to go CREW!!! And a special thank you to our friend Luis Ramirez Magdaleno, Harbor Master at Marina Acapulco, for his generous help in getting us a place to moor Windfall. The beautiful Marina Acapulco is currently being built and will be a great place for our cruising friends to stay while in Acapulco. Thank you, Luis.
Upon inspection of the mooring attachment, which at the time was a jumbled-up mess of chain and large diameter rope, it was noted we had tied to an improper attachment point and not to the correct point. Learning experience #100,276! We now check, double check, and put a secondary safety line for mooring attachments.
With Windfall now SECURED to the dock, the four of us took a 5 hour bus trip to Taxco (sounds like Cosco with a T) . The bus station is clean and busy as Portland’s airport terminals, and the bus are very clean, air-conditioned, and have very comfortable seating. I must say the five hour bus ride was very relaxed and I enjoyed watching the mountainous and scenic countryside pass by.
We stayed in Taxco 3 nights, it has over 300 silver stores to choose from, so if it’s silver you like this is the place for you. The town, with it’s silver mines and churches, date back to the 1600’s and has a European feel when you first arrive and view the buildings and architecture. The cobblestone roads are very steep, very narrow, and are defiantly NOT the place you want to rent a car for the day…use one the approximately 300 white Volkswagen Taxis that zoom around the town for about $2 fares. We could only feel sorry for the poor burrows who once carted goods up these steep windy roads.
While at Taxco we took a bus to the Grutas de Cacahuamilpa Caverns, this was a treat and should defiantly be seen. The cavern was a very comfortable 70 degrees, I couldn’t talk Nancy into riding the zip-line that went across a canyon…Hmmm, maybe next time.
Denielle and Jeff caught a 6am bus for the Mexico City airport, while Nancy and I took the 10am bus back to Acapulco. We sat in the front seats for a “better view”, and after seeing how the bus driver surely raced cars on weekends Nancy kept her eyes shut. At first I thought she was sleeping, but I’m sure she was whispering a few Hail Mary’s and confessing to sins that I couldn’t quite hear well enough!
With only a couple days remaining of our Acapulco adventure, it was time to finally check-in AND check-out with the Port Captain, we tried to check in earlier…but with holidays and Mexican “Manaña” attitude….why rush.
With our new course set for Puerto Escondido, 175 miles south, it’s time to fuel up and kick the tires…. See you there!
Welcome to Papanoa!
We arrived late afternoon from spending a few days in Zihuatanejo and Ixtapa. Just before arriving into the tiny bay Jeff managed to catch a fine Bonita on a hand-line, and it made a delicious dinner….the Bonita, not the handline! We spotted a sailboat from Eugene, Oregon (Go Ducks!) who called on the VHF radio and accused us of catching “their” fish!
Papanoa is not usually on the highlights of places to stop on the way to Acapulco, but we can tell you it’s a wonderful little place with a well protected bay, great food, warm water, and very nice palapas on the beach to enjoy a cold beer and relax…which we’re becoming very proficient at! Jeff summoned some energy and joined a game of beach volleyball with the locals, I watched from the cool shade and comfortable hammock with cold beverage in hand.
One morning, before breakfast, Nancy and Denielle swam with a huge turtle slowly passing our boat at anchor, they just couldn’t resist jumping into the warm water and playing with the old turtle. Poor fellow thought nobody would see him being “fully camouflaged” with a stick he was swimming under.
Zihuatanejo / Ixtapa
Whew! It’s HOT! We had a very smooth 35 hour motorsail, very light winds and very calm seas... so calm in fact we took showers while sailing! And we’ve never done that! We watched a perfect total lunar eclipse with completely clear skies.
We dropped anchor at 8am. Then we took a nap! We’re anchored in 20’ of clear water 200’ from the beach, and there are a LOT a fishermen pangas ready to take tourists fishing.
I see several people walking the beaches, before long we’ll have the dinghy in the water, motor mounted, and we’re ready to begin exploring. The simple old town is built on the beach front and surrounding hillsides that circle the little bay without big high-rise condos here…which I like. I spend one morning trouble shooting the motor issue, rewiring, testing, soldering wires… to find it was a corroded connection at the solenoid….and now the motor starts immediately! Yeah!!!!!
We haven’t checked in with the port captain yet, tried the day we got here…too close to closing time (3 pm), then again yesterday (2pm) closed, so we’ll try today! Hey…manaña!
Denielle and Jeff got a great hotel room with a HUGE balcony...actually like a HUGE open living room complete with two hanging hammocks, lounge chairs, tables, and an incredible view of the whole bay. We played Trivial Pursuit which we’re SURE Nancy and Denielle cheated, but Jeff and I couldn’t prove it! - Of course Denielle being a College Geography Professor and Teacher sure helped them out...But we still think they cheated!
We sat at a beachside café and drank Pacifico beers for a few hours. It’s HOT here! Sheesh! Last night Nancy and I watched “Christmas Vacation” with Chevy Chase – We sat in the cockpit, popped popcorn, and enjoyed the warm evening breeze. I watch this movie every year and it has become a tradition for us you could say.
It sure doesn’t feel like Christmas, being so hot, and not having to fight all the traffic, shoppers, parking lots, etc… it’s kind of nice. The town is festive for the Holidays with lights, music, and decorated with colorful lights.
Yesterday we all went snorkeling near a beach and seen a HUGE iron anchor from an old galleon ship… probably placed there for tourists…but, still very nice! The assorted colorful tropical fish are amazing to see as we snorkel the rocky areas where they hang out, it’s like swimming in an aquarium…it’s just missing the bubbling charcoal filter, ferns, and plastic sunken ship! We swam to shore and sat on the beach drinking cold beer while lobster tacos were being made to order. No problem, take all the time you need to prepare the tacos….”Amigo, dose cervices por farvor.”
We went to Ixtapa to check fuel prices and see the city…too big, too expenxive, and too many tourists for Nancy and I to enjo, but if big high rise hotels and great views are your thing…this is your place!
Next anchorage….Papanoa! (Sounds cool, eh?)