Thursday, December 29, 2011

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

By Aaron

We’re in La Cruz, Marina Riviera Nayarit,  for an extended stay of over a month.  (At least I am.)  We splurged on a marina for the whole time since they were giving us a good monthly rate which was further discounted as El Salvador Rally participants. 

DSC_1504Dock 4, home for the next month

Nicole is heading back to Seattle for a couple weeks in the middle of January in order to visit friends and family and use up a free plane ticket that she earned from miles accumulated with business travel. The ticket needs to be used from Mexico, and Puerto Vallarta (just 45 minutes from here) is a convenient place to depart from.  She’ll be leaving with a small bag, but coming back with a large suitcase full of filters, parts, spares, and probably some food items that we’ve been missing.  I will hopefully make some progress on the project list!

Fortunately La Cruz is going to be a cool place to hang out and we’ve already been having a good time.

IMG_7479The Christmas Eve potluck party on dock 4

Dock 4 is known as the “kids dock” and most of the boats with kids picked up a slip here for the Christmas Festivities.  The youngins’ all seem to be having a great time living the cruising life.

DSC_1544Ruby from SV Convivia stopped by to let us know she’d lost a tooth that had been wiggling around for several days.  This was Christmas Eve, so she got the el Ratón and Santa Claus double whammy.  (In Mexico it’s a mouse that delivers the cash for teeth.)  The magical rodent pays out 50 pesos for a tooth down here!

IMG_7535The Convivia kids invited us to their dock picnic

We spent Christmas Day lounging around and visited the weekly market they have near the marina with crafts and food.


For our Christmas Lunch we had delicious hot tamales from the market.  It was my first ever tamale and I thought they were fantastic!  Suspicious that something could be so good, Nicole got online to see how they were made.  They use lard to make them.  I don’t care.

We’ve been eating a LOT of tortillas in Mexico.  Nicole makes them up in all kinds of different ways and we don’t ever seem to get tired of them since you can always change up the filling.  Even though we’ve been eating them almost every day, it’s still hard for the two of us to get through a whole 1 kilo package and they’re best when you get them fresh.  So it’s nice when you get them direct from the tortilleria and can get any fraction of a kilo you want. 


DSC_1525For about 35 cents US we get several days worth of tortillas.  We reoload every 3 days or so.

DSC_1532Grabbing some produce from the local market.  We also load up on limes whenever we get the chance.  They have vitamin C to prevent scurvy.  We don’t like eating the limes directly, so we cut them into wedges and drop them into our beers.  Beer is an excellent delivery system for the scurvy fighting vitamins our bodies need.

Fruits and vegetable prices here are very reasonable.  We’re even starting to see bananas growing wild right along side the street.

DSC_1524Sooner or later we’ll have a stalk like this hanging off the stern and then eat nothing but bananas for a few days when they ripen all at once.

Speaking of reasonable prices, Nicole and I were both due for our dental cleanings.  We noticed a dentist office in town so we stopped in to inquire about getting an appointment.  Well they could do it right then, but we had plans.  Tomorrow?  No problema!  We showed up the next day and the dentist herself does the cleaning.  I couldn’t tell the difference from the care we  got in the states and everything was clean and modern inside the office.  Total cost?  $42 US for both of us. 

In the evening we went out for drinks at Ana Bananas with Keith and Olina from SV Anon and Erlin and Jenn from SV Ventured.

IMG_7486The cover band did a great job!

IMG_7494Early on nobody was dancing except this guy and his wiener dogs.  The wiener dogs were amazing dancers!

IMG_7506But Nicole was getting ready to unleash her dance moves

IMG_7519And once the bar started giving away free shots of tequila there was no holding back.  Erlin was justifiably skeptical, but apparently redheads can’t say no to free tequila.

IMG_7516And so we danced like wiener dogs for a few hours

IMG_7490Ana Bananas is the second Mexican establishment we’ve visited that encourages cruiser graffiti

We’d been out for beers and fantastic quesadillas at La Silla Roja with SV Nyon when we got here and had a great time talking with them.  We’ve followed their blog for quite some time and it was fun to finally meet them in person.  The bar they took us to was called The Octopus’ Garden and it also had a native art gallery. 

IMG_7540The Octopus’ Garden

IMG_7538The restaurant is also equipped with a turtle pond

IMG_7542The Huichol art gallery at Octopus’ Garden

We went back a few days later to pick up a couple T shirts that we’d seen.  I got one with a deer on it.  The deer appears to be on fire. 


Wednesday we went out for quesadillas at La Silla Roja again (I doubt it will be the last time) with Anon and Ventured.  Then it was open mike night at a place called Philo’s.  Keith was a little apprehensive about going up but eventually he went and strummed along.

IMG_7555Nice work Keith!

IMG_7554This guy did some awesome percussion with his washboard instrument!

So that’s the first week or so of our stay in La Cruz de Hunacaxtle.  It’s pretty laid back here and we really like it. Now if we can just figure out what to do for New Year’s Eve…

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Neatly folded

By Nicole

Before we left Seattle, a number of my friends expressed concern over how we’d do laundry while cruising.  I figured I’d find Laundromats along the way or, if all else failed, I’d resort to my old-school hand-operated washing machine (really just a glorified plunger) and a bucket.

But since arriving in La Paz, I haven’t had to do my own laundry at all!  For about $3-4US per load, I can have one of many lavanderías wash, dry and neatly fold (even the undies) our laundry.  I’m a decent folder (even the undies), but they have the art of folding dialed in here.  They even pack everything into large plastic bags, perfect for transporting back to the boat via notoriously wet dinghies.  Love it.   I’m feeling pretty spoiled…

Bella Star’s perfectly packaged and super clean laundry

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Happy Holidays

By Nicole

From Banderas Bay, Mexico, we wish our family and friends – both far and near – a very merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah and fabulous 2012.

Last winter – latitude 47°40’N winter 2010
Snow at Shilshole Bay Marina in Seattle

This winter – latitude 20°44’N:DSC_1539
Sunshine at Marina Riviera Nayarit in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Mexico

Of course I had to bring the tree!  Notice the guy-wires at the top to keep it from tipping over when we’re underway.  The tree made it all the way from La Paz (in 25 knots of wind with 8-9’ seas on a beam reach) without losing even one ornament or tipping over… nice!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


By Aaron

We made the overnight passage from Mazatlan to Chacala without incident.  Chacala is a small resort town with some palapas, restaurants, and a few little shops all shaded by palm trees.  It caters to Mexican tourists and is a super relaxing and fun place to stay.  If  you want to go somewhere with a lot of character that’s off the beaten path, this is it. 

We’ve always had trouble answering when people ask us what our favorite stop has been.  It’s still difficult, but Chacala is now at the top of the list.  This is the place that you dream up in your mind when you think about cruising Mexico.  It actually exists!

Paul and Pam on SV Tug Tub invited us over for drinks the same day we arrived.  They own a company that made these floating hot tubs… They’re insulated and float above the water and even have seats.  The water is heated by a propane heater to 104 degrees and the whole thing is cast off on a long line to float about the anchorage.  Apparently they didn’t get the memo about sacrificing some creature comforts when you’re out cruising.

DSCN0937Getting ready to float away with Keith and Olina from SV Anon.  We’ve seen some awesome sunsets in Mexico, but that evening it was fantastic.  Because we were watching it from a frigin hot tub. 

The next day Nicole did yoga on the beach with ladies from several boats while I enjoyed my coffee.  Then we headed to shore to make our way to the port captain’s office to check in.

DSC_1493Path from the dinghy landing

DSC_1421The road up from the port captain’s office

DSC_1477Downtown Chacala.  This is the most charming little town we’ve visited since we left Seattle.  It’s truly laid back and friendly. 

In Mexico you do a lot of paperwork.  In many places you need to check in with the port captain for arrival and departure.  First you have to find the port captain’s office.  Then, if the office is open and the port captain is there you can check in.  This involves filling out some forms, reviewing our boat papers (insurance, registration, etc) and then many copies are enthusiastically stamped and made official after 4 or 5 signatures. 

DSC_1416Nicole taking care of business

DSC_1417Check-in complete! 

After we checked in we went on a hike with Brian and Deidre of SV Cat 2 Fold.  The hill to the south is volcanic in origin and you can hike up to the rim for a view down into the caldera.

DSC_1458Nicole and Deidre from Cat 2 Fold

DSC_1469Brian of Cat 2 Fold.  At 6’7” he is the tallest cruiser in all of Mexico.

DSC_1436The catamaran contraption in the foreground is Cat 2 Fold.  It can fold in half so it will fit on a large trailer.  Bella Star is in the background (and has no folding capabilities)

DSC_1445On the way to the trail we passed a tree with a rope ladder.  We all gave it a shot climbing up.  It’s harder than it looks!  Nicole did the best climb.

DSC_1447On our way

DSC_1464There were lots of flowers

DSC_1462And these things were hanging all over the place

DSC_1474We got to the top after a fairly easy hike.  I was hoping for a lake of fiery lava inside the caldera but it was filled with mud and grass

DSC_1472Looking south down the coast

DSC_1475And north over the anchorage

Hiking in the heat made us quite thirsty.  We headed back into town for a drink.

DSC_1482There were lots of restaurants and palapas to choose from

DSC_1484In the end we stopped at a place that had coconut drinks.  The young bartender chops off the top of a coconut and then adds gin or rum to the juice inside. 

DSC_1485The coconuts grow wild, so they don’t have to pay for those.  No glasses to buy or wash.  It’s a cocktail with very low overhead and they pass the savings onto you.  Only 20 pesos each for these. ($1.44 US).  Not bad!  Also I like knowing my containers are environmentally friendly and biodegradable.  Everybody wins here.

Well, it was getting late and Cat 2 Fold was hosting a get together so back to the boats we went.

DSC_1490Cat 2 Fold bringing some ice back for the party

DSC_1430Chacala is truly a special place and we already miss it dearly

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mazatlan and Bob Marley

By Aaron

We departed Ensenada de los Muertos at 0330 to cross the Sea of Cortez bound for Mazatlan.  We were hoping to arrive before nightfall the following day.  Fortunately the wind was a steady 17-22 knots on the beam with waves on the port quarter allowing us to occasionally do a bit of surfing.  Seeing our speed hit 7.4 knots is a rare event for us when there’s no current helping out. 

IMG_7442A nice beam reach the whole way

We ended up making the 196 mile crossing in 32 hours. 

IMG_7447Sunrise during Nicole’s watch

W e arrived in Mazatlan in the morning and dodged some fishing nets heading for the anchorage at Stone Island.  The fishing nets are a long line type, marked with a black flag at one end (one hopes) and a milk just or some such thing on the other end.  They’re quite long and if you cut between the two markers you’re likely to end up going for a swim.  Friends on SV Ventured experienced this first hand and we thank them for the warning. 

IMG_7452Want to see a picture of the world’s highest lighthouse?  Well you’ll have to Google it because this is the world’s second highest lighthouse. 

What a difference a day makes… With a single hop we’ve traded in cacti for palm trees, and it’s amazing how much more green it is on the mainland side. 

DSC_1365Beach view from the anchorage

We went to shore to grab some lunch and do a little sightseeing.  A dog greeted us on the beach as we pulled the dinghy up.


We were pretty hungry and Benji’s Pizza was right there so we decided to grab a table.  Benji’s also offers some cruiser-friendly services like garbage disposal and fresh water.  Also we’re pretty sure they’ll deliver pizza out to the boat if you ask.

DSC_1333Benji’s Pizza

DSC_1403The sign out around back, complete with an anatomically correct surfing donkey.  I do love beer camping! 

DSC_1327This is Nic.  A really nice guy to talk to.  Well, Nicole did all the talking since the conversation was in Spanish.  Nicole asked what the dog that greeted us was named…  The dog’s name is Bob Marley.

DSC_1334Our favorite!  Vegetarian pizza but add pepperoni.  The cook came out to confirm. 

DSC_1316Bob Marley stayed politely off to the side while we ate.  I hooked him up with a couple pieces of pepperoni though. 

After lunch we decided to head into town and look around Old Mazatlan for a bit.  Nic showed us to where the pangas ferry people across the channel to the main harbor.  The ride was much cheaper than the water taxis in Cabo and only set us back 50 pesos for the two of us to make a round trip.

We made a point of visiting the beautiful Catedral Basilica de la Inmaculada Concepcion

DSC_1339Nicole and Coca-Cola wish you a merry Christmas

DSC_1342Hey Hon, a baby donkey!  You better pet that.

We went to the Mercado Central… it had everything there!



DSC_1355The market had vast amounts of beef and pork bits

After spending the afternoon walking around town we decided to head back over to the anchorage and hike to the top of Isla de los Chivos.  Why?  Because there are goats there.

DSC_1367Isla de los Chivos is the one on the left

DSC_1372Bob Marley was waiting for us when we got back and joined us for the hike up the mountain

DSC_1392Looking north out over the commercial harbor

DSC_1384We found the goats about half way up.  I wanted to get closer but there were some mean looking ones with big horns.

DSC_1389I went down to take the goat picture.  Nicole had to stay and hold back Bob Marley since he was really interested in going after the goats.  His English sucks so it was hard to convince him that it would be a bad idea.

DSC_1377Bella Star at anchor

DSC_1396I got to the very tippy top where I had a staredown with some kind of vulture.  Nicole had to stay back again, because as unafraid of angry goats as Bob Marley is, he was even less afraid of sheer 300’ cliffs.  That dog had no problem going right to the edge to sniff the breeze, scaring the bejeezus out of us.

DSC_1405I gave Bob Marley a little scratch or three before we headed back to the boat.  Seems like he’s got it pretty good.  We do too.