Wednesday, February 29, 2012

San Blas and the Birds

We sailed Indigo from Bandaras Bay to San Blas last Sunday, with wind on the beam. The Captain also landed a beautiful small Sierra, the first fish we have caught that was good for eating. We topped that great day of sailing and sunshine with Sierra with Mango Salsa.

Since then, we have been in San Blas, walking the city, researching expeditions, and catching up on various chores.  Today we hired a panga driven by Oscar Partida for a tour of the San Cristobal river. From the saltwater mouth at San Blas, we headed upriver through the mangroves, gradually transitioning to freshwater, which gushes from large, underground springs.  We saw dozens of bird species, including at least eight that were entirely new to us.  This river is well known for offering views of the Boat-Billed Heron, shown above.

There were a host of ibis and cormarants, including this pair: a White-Faced Ibis and an Anhinga.

No jungle boat ride along this coast would be complete without crocodiles, but we were impressed that large animals like this one were lazing on the river bank within several yards of the boat.  A crocodile this size is likely thirty or forty years old, old enough to know that skinny gringos aren’t good eating.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Eight Horsepower Demon

Here in Mexico, inanimate things come alive, and animate beings are constantly giving over their control to the fates. We are in the same boat, so to say, and our fates seem to be given over to a very stubborn eight horsepower Yamaha outboard engine.

This little demon is supposed to be powering our dinghy, so that we can go ashore from an anchorage, or explore the coastline. But for the past two months, it has been running on one cylinder only. Three Mexican mechanics, each highly recommended, have tried in vain to repair it - one in Mazatlan, a second in Barra Navidad, and a third in Puerto Vallarta. No luck. The demon refuses to run properly.  Tomorrow we will head back to La Paz, where we will either find a mechanic or arrange an exorcism - or both!

Our friend Christina suggests that the goddess (mother earth) is our punishing us for purchasing a two stroke motor. These lightweight, easy-starting motors are no longer manufactured in the United States, because they run on gas and oil mixed, and are a significant source of pollution.  After years of handling the much heavier four stroke engines, we opted for the little two stroke to make our boat life easier.  The little 8hp demon is laughing away on the stern.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Markets and Gardens

The Captain has gone to Montana for a family visit, leaving the Mate in the very capable hands of friends Chris and Paul. Armed with rental car and guidebook, we have been exploring some of the attractions beyond the shores of Bandaras Bay.  We traveled north along the coast of the state of Nayarit, past the surfing town of Sayulita, to the community of La Peñita. Every Thursday morning the streets there are converted into the kind of  sprawling open air market known as a tianguis.  There are local artisans, as well as some from distant Mexican states, with pottery, textiles, and jewelry. Then there are the stalls that sell hardware, electronics, clothing - almost anything you can imagine, in every color and shape and size. It's like a Walmart on steroids, but infused with the entrepreneur's eye for display and promotion.

Another day, we headed instead to the south, and visited the Vallarta Botanical Gardens, in the mountains about fifteen miles beyond old Puerta Vallarta.  The setting is spectacular, laid out among steep slopes; the restaurant was excellent. The gardens, although not yet ten years old, are promising; orchids are a specialty.


We were eager to go to Yelapa, a village tucked into the mountainous southern shore of Bandaras Bay, accessible only by boat.  Because there are no roads, there are supposedly many trails, and hiking in a quiet, sunny location sounded great to us.

We ended up making two trips to Yelapa. The first involved taking a bus the twenty or so miles into Puerto Vallarta, then a 45 minute ride on a panga to Yelapa.  We settled into a oceanside, thatched roofed cabin, and stayed the night. Rain began about sunset, and continued all night. The electricity failed, and the morning was damp and drizzling. We beat a retreat, wet and chilly enough for a sauna once back at the boat.

Our second trip to Yelapa was more successful. We sailed across Bandaras Bay from La Cruz, and tied up to a mooring offered by a local restaurant owner, who also took us ashore in his panga. The photo above shows the Captain with our friends Chris and Paul, with Indigo moored in the bay beyond.

We had only an hour or so to explore onshore, but got the feel of the town, which is built on the steep shoreline. Stairs and steep cobblestone paths wind among the buildings on the slopes. Trails wind back into the hills, to waterfalls and viewpoints.

And then there is the beach to enjoy. We will return to Yelapa sometime in the future - in the hopes that we can encounter sunshine and blue skies!

The Skies of Bandaras Bay

We returned to Bandaras Bay ten days ago on a beautiful, clear day. The skies were a deep blue, and the winds favorable for great sailing from Cabo Corrientes across to La Cruz. I was mesmorized by the odd formations of isolated, high clouds, making patterns of lines and grids. Maybe this was a portent of a change in the weather.

By the following day, the skies had turned gray, and rain showers swept through now and then. We had spectacular cloud formations, and even a double rainbow over the anchorage at La Cruz.

Our friends Chris and Paul came to visit, and they weren't daunted by the gray skies. We went into old Puerto Vallarta to walk the city center, the malacon, and visit galleries.  The damp air got heavier, and thunder threaded. When rain started we sheltered under un overhang on a street corner. For the better part of an hour, we waited and watched as torrential rain fell, and the streets began to run like rivers with muddy water.

Eventually the rain stopped, and we waded ankle deep to a bar to drink a beer while the water level dropped. And that's the weather report from beautiful Bandaras Bay.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Sweaty, Sandy, Salty....

We've been anchored for nearly a week at Tenacatita, a large, shallow bay embraced by a perfectly curved beach, and protected from the northwest swell by rocky islands and headlands. We've fallen into a daily routine. Daytime exertions include kayak trips into mangroves (green herons, reddish egrets) and around rocks where the surf crashes (oyster catchers, black vultures), rowing ashore for beach walks (outboard motor not working), and swimming off the boat. Mid afternoon we are melting with the heat, and hose off with fresh water on the stern steps. Naps happen; how still can you stay, what tiny breezes can you find.
Evenings are blessedly cooler, providing time and energy for ambitious cooking. Breezes, a near-full moon, a bottle of wine. The occasional get together with other boaters.

Mornings are best. At first light the local fishermen are all around us, throwing out nets for the small bait fish that hide under our boats. Bottle-nosed dolphins surface, breathe, and dive again and again, weaving through the anchorage. Gradually we rouse ourselves, and gear up for another day, becoming steadily more sticky, sweaty, sandy, salty.