March 2009: Bandaras Bay, La Cruz, Puerto Vallarta

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I'm really good at catching puffer fish. I used to *like* these guys, since they're so cute. They always look like they're smiling. Well, they're smiling because they're nibbling away at your soft lures and chomping on anything in the water. Nowadays I bounce them off the water like a basketball a few times before setting them loose.

This pic makes a good windows wallpaper picture, so click on the pic to download a high resolution image that you can edit to fit your screen.
I have it as my own wallpaper, and after a month it still makes me giggle.

but, anyway...

Feb. 9, 2010

We left La Paz with some light winds and rain, heading to Los Muertos to watch the weather. A mild "northern" was forecast, with breezes to 20 knots and square 6 by 6 waves. We were going to sit in Muertos and then decide what to do.

Mark flew down from California to join the crew, so we'd have three on board for the 300 mile run to La Cruz.

After a day at Los Muertos, we said "heck with it" and headed out into the weather. With the wind from the north, and us heading south, it seemed like it should be a wild but fun ride. That's what we had. The first 150 miles flew by in a little over 24 hours, and Stella Blue hit a new Speed-Over-Ground record of 11.3 knots, surfing downwind with only a reefed main. The monitor worked great, as usual.

Then the breeze died -- completely -- and we had to turn on the engine.


There was enough water to throw a bunch of squid up on deck, so we had some free fishing bait. However, it really wasn't fishing weather. Those square waves make for some sloppy conditions.

In fact, we didn't catch a single fish the whole way from La Paz to Banderas Bay.


I did get Mark to take a "shipboard shower," where you jump overboard, climb back up and get soapy, then jump overboard again.

Doesn't he look happy? Hey, the water is 78 degrees F.

Hey Mark, thanks for joining us on the passage.




Feb. 18, 2009

We are actually staying in La Cruz, about 10 miles northwest of Puerto
Vallarta. It's where most of the cruisers stay, because it has a good, big, protected, free anchorage. They recently completed a new marina, so if you want to do the marina thing you can. It's nice to come in for a week and scrub the boat, do laundry, and take care of some chores.

But I prefer living on the hook when possible. Okay, I'm cheap.

La Cruz is changing, and the new marina is driving it. Part of me wishes they hadn't built the marina, but just left it as a good anchorage with a nice dinghy dock. Right now, it still has the small town feel.



With apologies to "Meet the Fockers," I've come to depend on the little "Circle of Trust" on my GPS. I leave the GPS on all the time. It's a standalone system and doesn't draw much power. Over time, as we swing around the anchor, the track creates a little ball of string, and as long as I stay within the "Circle of Trust" I know the anchor isn't dragging and the boat is safe.




We did have to spend a couple of days being tourists in Puerto Vallarta. Really, just one day in old town. A front came over, and we spent a few hours sitting in this bar waiting for the rain to stop. The tacos were good.

Um, so we did party a bit.

Puerto Vallarta has changed a lot since my last visit in the 1980's, and with the cruise ship terminal dumping thousands of gringos onto the town each day, it's difficult to find the real Mexico. It's like Cabo San Lucas. You can find Mexico if you look for it, but many folks prefer to have the stereotype served up on a sanitized plate.


As part of being a tourist, we got out of town and went as far up the Rio Cuale as we could go. Just when the road and river part ways, there's a little restaurant and bar. Getting there was an adventure, and we never did find the right bus. Finally, in frustration, I just hired a taxi for the afternoon.


We just wanted to munch down a taco,
and have a cocktail by the river,
and go take a walk upstream.




Fortunately for this guy, Tacos de Pollo (chicken) or Tacos de Abogado were not on the menu. Just Carne Asada.


For some reason, the shot glasses had a religious symbol in the bottom.

Since we tied up the taxi for the afternoon, we bought our driver lunch and told him to have as many cervesas as he wanted. Heck, we weren't going to make him sit in the taxi and wait while we ate lunch and took a long walk up the river. So he had about eight cervesas and got thoroughly smashed. Well, I guess we made his day.




La Cruz is a small town, and has some small tiendas for basic groceries, but no banks or larger stores. For most services and groceries, you can hop on a local bus for about 12 pesos and get up to Buceria. That's about two miles away.

But I still like to walk away from the town center and walk around where the gringos don't go. That's where you find the best 6 peso tacos, and the best prices in the stores.

A lot of folks probably couldn't handle traveling with me.
I like to get my feet dirty.


February 25, 2010

So, anyway, back to sailing and cruising stuff. We wanted to go explore the south shore of Banderas Bay, and stopped at the Punta Mita anchorage (20.7641 N, 105.5210W) to wait for the winds to shift around to the SouthWest. It's a great big huge anchorage, and protected from the NorthWest breezes. Anchoring on the south shore of the bay can be rocky and uncomfortable when the breezes are from the NNW, since you can catch the ocean swell from the pacific.


We had a few battles with birds.

My crew was sunbathing in the cockpit, reading a book, when a Frigate bird settled up on the mast and just cut loose.

I didn't know that she knew those kind of words.


I stood there laughing, and got some instant karma.

We got out the "Super Soaker" toy, which can shoot a stream of water 40 feet, and let the bird have it.




Fishing luck continues to be poor. Our boat was surrounded by little grunts and other bait fish. I suppose I could use them for bait, but I just toss them back. I don't have a bait well on the boat, anyway, so unless we're ready to head out, they'd just die.

Actually, I have a fish trap, that doesn't seem to trap any fish. I suppose I could sew up the entrance/exit in the trap, and just store bait fish in it while waiting to sail out, then stick them in a bucket. Hmm. That's an idea.

We did catch this cool Orange Banded Trigger fish. The book said they didn't taste good, so I let him go.

Later on, someone we met in Yelapa said they're *great* eating. Oh.

They feed on little crustaceans that live on the bottom. Serious teeth, for cracking shells and stuff.


Really, though, this cruising life is tough.

Waiting for the wind to shift around...




Finally we took off for the south shore.

I really like Yelapa. Most folks we talked to said it's only good for a day visit, but if you do that you're really missing the whole town and only seeing the tourist beach with the expensive food and drink.

The *real* Yelapa is the old town, on the west shore of the cove. You can only get here by boat, and everything except for rock is brought in by boat. So, there are no cars. People still ride burros and horses to get around.

There is no anchorage. Where once you could drop an anchor, private businesses have sunk moorings that cost 200 pesos a night. If you try and anchor outside the mooring area, you're in 150 feet of water. So, what the heck. We're on a mooring for a few days. It took a while to trust it, since you don't know what they're using to hold the mooring in place. It could just be a big cement brick!


Climbing the hill towards the real old town of Yelapa. Here's a view of the beach, which is littered with tourist traps. They bring boatloads of tourists in from nearby resorts for day trips, and then boat them out again in the evening. It's sorta weird. Folks spend money to take a panga trip from one beach resort to another beach, and all they do is sit on the beach and eat the same food and drink the same beers that they had back at the resort.

You can sorta see Stella Blue out there, mixed in with the moored pangas.


Here's the main street of Yelapa. No kidding.

This is the kind of place where you can just show up, get a cheap hotel room, and spend the entire winter. The whole town is just a bunch of foot paths that wind around the hillside.

Some folks would be bored to tears, but there are a few artist and writer groups that hang out here, working on stuff.



Anyway, we turned the other way, and took the main path out of town. After a pleasant 3.5 mile hike, we reached the waterfall.

No one was there, so we had the place to ourselves, and took a nice swim in the pool under the waterfall.

I hear there's another one further upstream, but didn't know about it at the time.



March 7, 2010

Back in La Cruz, we checked into the marina to clean up the boat and fix a few things.

My foredeck hatch leaks really badly, which is annoying since I spent a lot of money to have it refurbished before leaving California. They used a 1/2 inch gasket, and it just wasn't big enough to create a watertight seal when water washes a foot deep over the bows.

I ordered some 3/4 inch EDPM foam, with a hollow core, from McMaster-Carr, and had it delivered to Mark. He brought it to La Paz, along with some other outboard parts and stuff. Thanks, Mark!

After cleaning out the old gasket, this one was glued in with contact cement. It's actually a bit *too* big, and it takes all my strength to close the hatch. Hopefully the gasket will crush down over time. In the meantime, it really seals well and doesn't leak.



March 9, 2010

In search of adventure again.

We caught a bus and rode it to the end of the line, through Ixtapa and then to a little village called Las Palmas.

It was cool to walk around a tiny village, and not see any other gringos.

When you get out of the tourist centers, where a gringo is a walking piece of dollar meat, you find the real Mexico.

The Mexican people are so nice.

I really love to visit the town squares, where you can get a real sense of community pride based around the square and the church.

It's rather like the rural U.S. world was, once upon a time.




March 18, 2010

So, anyway. here's a picture of dinner on board. We're really getting into fixing local cuisine.

Life is good, we're hanging out at anchor off of La Cruz, and over the next few days will sail out to take pictures of some friends who are heading across the Pacific Ocean to the French Polynesia, the Marquesas, and other cool places.

Maybe someday.


For the next couple of years, Mexico still has a lot to offer.

Right now, we're going to hang in La Cruz for a little longer, then check out the south shore of Banderas Bay again, and then mosey up to San Blas.

I'll try not to take so long to update this blog thing next time.

Stella Blue, signing off.
March 18, 2010

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Okay, so I'm about a month late updating the web site.
We've been busy.
So this will cover the trip to Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta) and the time in La Cruz.