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Puerto Vallarta to Zihuatenejo

19˚ 44.3 N

105˚ 20.9 W

Underway to Chamela from Ipala 12/6/03

 We left the beautiful little cove behind Punta Ipala this morning at sunrise, after two very relaxing days enjoying the scenery and gracious hospitality offered by the friendly residents there.  It’s a fishing village with three restaurants and three tiny tiendas (small convenience stores), a few houses, and that’s about it.  We tried all three restaurants and discovered they all serve basically the same thing- guess what- seafood.  You could get it cooked several ways or raw (cocktail, they called it).  It was great.  Yesterday we shared a late lunch/early dinner with Sparky and Janet from Independence, a Sparkman/Stephens designed pre-Catalina 38 and Miff and Carol from Los Quartros Vientos a big Hudson Force 50.  The restaurant, Casa Cande, like the other two, had the menu painted on the wall and outdoor seating.  Most of us had lobster plates that consisted of one and a half lobsters, rice, salad, and papaya slices for about five bucks.  Of course, after a few Pacificos and shots of Reposado it got more expensive, but we walked away for about $15 each.  God I love this place.

(continued 12/9/03, on the hook at Tenecatita)

So we made it into Chamela (from Ipala) about 1600 after about a 10 hour run, found only two boats anchored in the head of the bay by the little village, dropped the hook, took the dog ashore, and chilled out.  We soon were joined by Four Winds (it’s what Miff and Carol call her, so…) who had sailed a bit after we did and caught up to us just outside.  Spent the next day there at Chamela, cruising around the bay islands and just relaxing, then were joined by Independence later on, raw water pump problem solved by substituting the saltwater washdown pump!  Chamela is a very rustic little place, at least the village where we were, but the people were as charming as (we have found to be) usual, and the anchorage was very good.  The following day, after a leisurely breakfast and a thorough boat cleaning, we set sail southward once more, headed for Tenacatita.  On the way we decided to check out the little cove called Careyes, which was as beautiful (and small) as the cruising guides had indicated.  It had been a possibility to stay there, but we decided to save it for our return journey north in February.  Tenacatita was an easy 12 miles further down the coast, and we were glad we made the decision when we got in here!  This place rocks!  It’s a huge deep bay, guarded by some nasty rocks and reefs, but no problemo if you read your cruising guide.  As usual, the Mexican chart is extremely lacking in detail.  The good anchorage is at the very end of the bay, tucked behind a hill, and it’s beautiful, tropical, calm, and did I say beautiful?  There were about a dozen boats anchored when we pulled in, and a few have left, but more have come in just now (1630).  Let me tell you what we did today.  There is a tidal river that empties into the bay right here by the anchorage, next to the remains of the movie set from the 1987 remake of McHale’s Navy.  This little river is navigable by dinghy, and you can follow it for about 4 or 5 miles through some stretches where there is just barely room for the inflatable to fit between the mangroves.  These things actually join together overhead and block out the sun in places, and it’s pretty surreal.  Anyway, it finally comes out into a larger lagoon, you beach the dink, walk about 200 yards, and you’re suddenly at this great beachfront area lined with palapas selling (what else) great seafood lunches and cervesas.  Margaritas too.  This beach is at the entrance part of the bay, and there is supposed to be great snorkeling there.  Of course we forgot our snorkeling gear, but had a great lunch and enjoyed the view.  The return trip was a little on the hairy side, since we were running with about a four knot current by then (we had entered on the high tide) and there were lots of twists and turns that were a bit challenging.  The challenge was not to crash into the mangroves, some of which had sharp edges that could have popped our dink.  Somehow we survived the trip, only to find the little bar at the mouth shallowed down to a few inches…  We only took one little wave directly over our bow…  It was easily a “G” ticket adventure, all in all, and we’ll never forget it.

Continued in Barra de Navidad 12/12/03

We came around the point yesterday, a short 12 mile run to yet another great spot.  We just had the idea that it might be a good time, and it turned out to be a good decision.  Our friend Joe Engoglia has been here for three weeks, but was just packing to go back to California for the holidays and to help a friend drive back from Chicago after the holidays.  We almost missed him.  As it was, after checking into this great marina at Puerto de Navidad, we were treated to a guided tour of the quaint little town across the way called Barra.  First stop after the panga dropped us off was the Sands Hotel, where Lana served us some great drinks at the poolside bar.  Next we went to the Sunset bar (motto: best sunsets in the world), where we enjoyed huge margaritas and watched the best sunset we’d ever seen, complete with green flash.  Next we enjoyed a great dinner at Seamaster, then did the internet thing and topped off the night with a nightcap at still another spot.  The panga ride home is a little fuzzy in my memory, but what a night.

Anyway, today we got checked in with the port captain, did laundry, and had our alternator diagnosed by Dave the alternator guy.  Turns out when it was rebuilt in the back yard of the shop in Cabo on our northbound trip last spring, the guy used some wimpy diodes and didn’t replace a capacitor, along with some other less than perfect stuff. I don’t begrudge the guy for it, what the hell, he got us on our way and we made it home for 50 bucks or so.  Problem is, it wasn’t putting out enough current to charge out batteries in a reasonable amount of time, which we discovered in our last week away from marina power.  So Dave is going to really get it humming with new stator, bearings, brushes, capacitor, diodes, etc, etc. for about 300 bucks.  A brand new one would be more once we paid import duty, and wouldn't be as good as what we'll have when Dave's done.  He’s only charging about 70 for labor; the rest is parts and shipping.  Oh darn, we’re stuck here at this beautiful resort for a week…

Tomorrow we’re going to do some exploring around here, put this stuff on the website, and try a few more bars and restaurants.  Oh well, someone has to do the dirty work…

Enjoying the heck out of life,

Mike, Barb, and the Budmeister

12/28/03 Still in Barra.....

We seem to have found another very comfortable marina here in Barra, and I’m starting to see a real danger in getting too comfortable in marinas!  Next thing you know a bunch of time has gone by and you’re still in one place!

I’m only halfway complaining, because we had decided at the beginning of this cruise that we wouldn’t just rush off from nice places just for the sake of covering lots of water, and if we found places we liked we’d hang as long as we still liked them.  Here are some more pictures of this beautiful town and beaches here.  I’m getting itchy feet though, as much as I like this place, and at the very least we will head back to Tenecatita soon for a week or so on the hook.

I guess you may have deduced by now that the alternator parts came in, it got rebuilt and reinstalled, and in addition the conduit that was banging around inside our mast has been (at least temporarily) secured.  We should be ready to rock and roll, so to speak.  If you’re interested in the saga of the alternator, you can click here for the whole story.

We have been making lots of great friends here, and had a very nice Christmas with some of them.  There is actually a feeling of being part of a big family here, but we really missed our loved ones back home on Christmas.  We sure wished everyone could have been here with us. 

Anyway, we hope everyone had a Merry Christmas, and we wish you all fair winds and smooth sailing throughout the New Year.

Mike, Barbie, and Buddster


Our First Storm

Funny how fast things can go south.  We’d been at Tenacatita for three days again enjoying the unique ambiance of the place: snorkeling, swimming, watching sunsets complete with live saxophone accompaniment and and of course sampling the seafood offered at the beachfront palapa restaurants.  We had a nice couple, Therese and Gary, from Wichita, Kansas aboard, and met a fun family, Bill, Pam and daughter Maggie from Ohio who were land cruising in their 29’ motor home.  The plan had originally been for an overnight in Tenacatita but was quickly extended due to the exceptional amount of fun we were having.  Our plan was to return to Barra Saturday morning, but Friday night our new Ohio friend Bill Clark suggested we have birria (goat meat) for breakfast the next morning, which meant riding over to Melaque in the motor home.  There was also a plan to buy snorkel gear there, since Tenacatita is famous for great snorkeling; they needed gear and Barb still didn’t have her own stuff.


Anyway, we had been admiring the big beautiful thunderheads the day before, but hadn’t made the association with our local weather, and the morning dawned grey and rather ugly but non-threatening.  When I returned from the goat breakfast about 2:00 pm, Barb, who had stayed behind, had Arabella’s engine running and was feeling pretty nervous.  The wind had shifted to a 12 knot Southeasterly, which put us in a classic lee shore position.  The boat was about 50 yards off the beach, stern to in about 12 feet of water.  The anchor was holding well as evidenced by Barb’s half hourly GPS observations, but it didn’t feel comfortable to either one of us.  The weather looked like it would get really ugly very soon.


It was decision time.   We opted to leave our guests ashore since the bus service back to Barra was pretty good,  we didn’t want them to get scared, and the building chop made it problematical getting them off the beach at all.


The next decision was where to go.  The back bay seemed like a viable option due to it’s slightly better Southerly protection, but La Manzanilla seemed like the best option with full Southerly protection.  These were both within a couple of miles, just across the bay, so we didn’t bring the dinghy aboard or do much in the way of preparing for rough seas.


As we pulled out however, the weather deteriorated quickly.  The winds built to 20+ knots, and the area we were heading for looked as black as the inside of a cow.  Then the lightning started, with most of the strikes hitting in the area we were planning to anchor in.  We hove to for a while hoping this system would move on.  That was when we noticed the engine wouldn’t come out of forward gear.  No neutral and no reverse.  This would make anchoring a challenge.  Plus the blackness (and lightening) wasn’t moving.  From listening to the radio we thought it sounded like a lot of boats were dragging anchor, and playing “bumper boats” didn’t sound fun at all. 


Out to sea and south toward Barra the weather looked clear and sunny, so we turned out of the bay hoping we could make it to Barra before the sun was down.  It’s only 16 miles or so after all.  With luck we’d be safe in the harbor by dinner time.  OK, decision made.


We motor sailed out of the bay under a reefed head sail and full mizzen.  The wind out on the big water was a sustained low 20’s and the seas were a bit lumpy but not huge.  We were sailing conservatively, but Arabella romped south with us enjoying the ride and feeling smug about our decision to return to Barra.  Turning the corner into Bahia de Navidad our “new toy” Raymarine GPS/chart plotter decided it couldn’t get a fix, our engine began to overheat, and the sky over Barra turned the same color of black as in the bay we had fled from.  Oops, maybe not such a great decision after all.  The lightening and rain came next.  We tried to feel Ok and hopeful for ourselves, but things continued to deteriorate.  The wind was climbing into the 30’s and 40’s so we tried to slow down and heave to but the engine died as we throttled down.  It acted like it wasn’t going to start, really overheated.  We dropped sail and lay ahull in the screaming wet increasing darkness, trying to troubleshoot the engine.  The 40 knot wind wasn’t nearly as scary as the lightening.  It was all around us and sometimes close enough to smell the burned air molecules.  The sound and sight of several strikes in as many minutes was an awesome experience we won’t soon forget.  Just to add to the mix we couldn’t see anything due to the horizontal rain and sleet mixed with salt spray that felt like BB’s hitting your face.  Both of us were licking our lips testing for what was hitting us, sea water or fresh rain.  We had a lot of both.  Gee, sailing sure is fun, we kept reminding ourselves.


Finally the engine started and we guesstimated the course to steer for the harbor.  About then we dug out the hand held GPS and got a fix on our waypoint.  Wow!  We were exactly spot on for the perfect course to the marina entrance.  The fact that we couldn’t see it was still a bit chilling but a quick prayer for help to find our way produced a great flash of lightening showing us the break water and entrance to the marina.  As we entered the channel we were amazed at how calm it was, just a couple hundred yards and we went from the middle of a washing machine to gliding on glass.  Keeping in mind that we had no neutral or reverse, we cut the engine as we rounded the corner into the marina and ever so slowly we came to a stop at the first end tie.  Whew, we made it.  Next morning, the GPS worked fine and the transmission too.  The engine wasn’t overheating anymore, it must have been strained from motoring into the big winds.  Go figure.   


Moral of the story: No matter how crummy it looks, when the weather goes dirty, staying put is a really good option.  Moral #2: Expect everything to go south at the same time and be prepared with a backup plan, and backup gear.  Moral #3: Sometimes prayer really works!  It’s better than complete panic for sure, just ask Barb.  There are more morals and lessons learned, but these are a good sampler.


The above account was a joint writing project by both of us, and the main thing we don’t want is for it to scare anyone.  Remember we did make it through, and learned a lot.  Especially that our boat can handle such conditions in fine style, and so can we.  This storm system has been dumping rain for 4 days now, and nobody predicted it, at least on the cruiser nets.  So much for weather reports.


Still having Big Fun,

Mike, Barb, and Buddy the Wonder Dog


Down the Road Apiece

We apologize for the long gap in between updates, there were several reasons for it.  After we went through the scary storm, we decided to take Spanish lessons from Bonny Gibson in Barra.  She has a special technique to give you a quick start making simple sentences using a few key verbs.  Anyway, that was one reason we were occupied.  The next thing to happen was our friend Joe decided to move his boat up to PV from Barra, and needed some crewing  help.  Since my friends Don and Sheila were in Yelapa, just south of PV, I decided to catch a ride with Joe and give him a hand.  That trip north took just 22 hours, but I stayed in Yelapa for a few days to visit.  That place is really something else.  I can’t describe it quickly or easily, but if you’ve ever been to the Oregon Country Fair, imagine what it would be like if it were a permanent village, located in Mexico.  Think way too much beauty and fun, with no roads connecting it to the real world, so no government presence of any kind…yet electricity and phone service, and internet access if you can afford $5/hour.

Anyway, besides these distractions, our friend Ann from Cassiopeia (sp?) gave us some books to read.  Three 1000+ page very absorbing books I thought were a trilogy, but after finishing the third one last night, now know otherwise.  I’ve always been a Sci Fi fan, but this was the first time I’ve been caught up in a fantasy story since the Lord of the Rings, which I guess started the genre.  If you like that kind of stuff, the author is George R. R. Martin, and the books are called A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, and A Storm of Swords.  I am very grateful to get my life back, as it were, because I’ve been lost in that world for several weeks now, but at the same time can’t wait for the next one to come out!

A little side story about Buddy the Wonder Dog

We had gone into town for our normal evening outing, a Margarita at the Sunset bar, dinner at one of Barra’s fine eateries with friends, then dancing and a night cap at Piper Lover’s.  Upon our return to the anchorage, we noticed Buddy wasn’t on deck where we’d left him, and assumed he’d jumped down below (as he’d done before).  We always put him below before we leave if we’re tied up at the dock, because we know he can jump off (and back on, amazingly enough). Well… we called him and looked everywhere, and the little guy was nowhere to be found.  Gulp.  If he’s not on the boat, that means… oh shit….better get in the dinghy and start looking for a little floating body.  We noticed the spreader lights were on over at Lifee P. Baker so we went over to see if they had heard anything on the radio about a drowning dog, and guess what, there was a wet and shivering Buddy.  Turned out he had swum the 300 yards or so from our boat to there (where his good dog buddy Juno lives) and lucky for him, Pat was aboard and heard Buddy whimpering as he splashed around Lifee.  Just then, Buddy ran out of gas and sank beneath the surface.  Pat dove into that funky lagoon water and, due to the phosphorescence, was able to locate Bud, grab him by his snout and pull him up.  We got there about a half hour after this drama, and Buddy was still shivering and veeerrry tired.  We sat up with him until 4:00 am, taking turns holding him and talking to him because we were afraid he’d die from shock and exposure.  But he didn’t, he’s fine, and we’ll never leave him on deck when we’re at anchor again!

So, to continue the travelogue:

We finally decided we’d be remiss not to venture the 28 miles south to explore Manzanillo, so we pulled our muddy anchor up last Tuesday (Feb.10) and headed down here.  People had told us we didn’t have to check out of Barra, or check in here, as long as we stayed out of the main harbor, so we are hanging on the hook in Santiago Bay, in front of a gated community called Club Santiago.  Our friends Miff and Carol from Los Quatros Vientos are here, as are Dale and Jane from Magic, and Mike and Pat from Lifee P. Baker.  We’ve been having a very jolly time enjoying each other’s company and just kicking back in this well protected anchorage.  It’s very tempting to head further south, now that we’ve finally broken free of Barra, but our pal John Higbie is due to arrive on the 22nd, and we’ll probably just hang out and wait for him here.  There are several anchorages we can visit, including the one at Las Hades Resort, where the movie “10” was filmed.  Barb will need to get her hair braided and beaded, and we will run in slow motion on the beach there!

Well, that’s about all I have for you now.  Our plan is to pick up John in a week or so, head back to Barra and Tenecatita for a week or so, then slowly work our way back up the coast to PV, where John will fly home on the 15th of March.  At that point we’ll most likely head back up to San Blas and Mazatlan, and from there head across the Sea to La Paz and begin to explore to the north.  I know it sounds like a sucky life, but someone has to live it!

Hasta later, Dudes and Dudettes,

Miguel, Lady Sailor, and Budmeister

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