Sailing away with Nikk and Jan

Archive for February, 2013

What We Do While Soaking up the Sun

How is it that almost another two weeks has flown by since the last blog? Nikk and I sailed up to Punta de Mita yesterday, getting in a little more sailing before I leave on Wednesday for ten days in Portland. The Humpback Whales are in abundance now, the mothers and newborns hanging out close to shore. We saw a baby breach over and over yesterday on the way up, and then this morning as we motored into the rising sun, the bay so calm there were almost no ripples, I luckily saw whale spume just slightly ahead of us. Sometimes the whales just stay at the surface, breathing and relaxing, we steered away from it, and then it blew and dove, flicking it’s huge flukes.
A week ago Nikk and I hiked at extreme low tide along the beach about two miles to a beautiful sandy beach with overhanging trees that we’d seen often from out on the water. It was about 3pm, and the rocks were baking hot. There were big and small rounded granite boulders, and layers of red and cream sandstone, interlaid with big fingers of basalt sticking up out of the other rocks. We needed a geologist! The rocks are further colored by the brilliant white and stinky pelican poop that gets deposited when the pelicans roost on the rocks or in the trees above the rocks. We finally reached the beach after some scrambling over the last rocky obstacle, and avoiding of the spiny sea urchins exposed by the low tide.

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After a boiling hot hike it is great to shed the clothes and swim in the warm, salty water, watching out for sting rays on the bottom. Last week a swimmer stepped on a sting ray as he was entering the water for a swim. As we were drying off on the beach a mother whale and calf came swimming by right offshore, the calf breeching and cavorting. Suddenly a small boat with two guys and a dog came zooming up right next to the whales. The mother rolled and flapped her pectoral fins at the boat, as the dog stood on the bow and barked crazily. The boat followed the whales staying about 25-50 feet away, which I think is illegal. Nikk took a lot of pictures.
So here are two for those of you who like to see whales; Nikk had to zoom in to get details, so the pictures are not as crisp as they could be with a bigger camera.

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We also went on a three hour hike up into the hills on Valentine’s Day, and found two medium-sized dogs who hiked with us up and back, a herd of goats, and a little stream with a spillway, a pond, and lots of irrigation hoses. It was another hot day, the shade provided by huge trees all along the dirt road was really welcome.

Another thing that we do on a hot day like today is take two huge bags of laundry into town to the Lavanderia, walking along the cobblestones and practicing our greetings en espanol. My Spanish is improving each week we’re here, thanks to mi professora Anna who teaches Mon and Wed mornings. If I don’t go birdwatching tomorrow morning to an estuary about 8 miles south of here, I’ll be learning more about the past, present and future tenses of verbs. Someday maybe I’ll be able to write a blog in Spanish. Someday way in the future, I think. But I have found several apps for iPad to learn Spanish, and practice while I’m away from the marina. This blog will be continued in March when I return from Portland!

The Byways and Birds of San Blas

Nikk’s dream for this two week sailing trip was “One Particular Harbor”, my dream was birdwatching in San Blas.

San Blas is a town of about 12,000 people located two hours north of Puerto Vallarta by car, and about 75 miles by sailboat, which in our case took us from La Cruz to Punta de Mita, Sayulita, La Laguna de las Cuevas, Matenchen Bay, and then the little marina on the river in San Blas.

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The view of San Blas from the hill above town

The first morning in San Blas found us hiking all the way across town and up the hill to the ruins of the cathedral and fort built by the Spanish while they occupied San Blas, building ships to take away the loot the conquistadores and others plundered from Mexico. In 1768 ships also left from San Blas to take Fr. Junipero Serra to Baja California and then California itself to establish missions. After this the beaches receded, the trees were gone from the hills, and the cathedral and its bells fell into ruin. The poet Longfellow, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, read an article about the ruins and wrote his poem, “The Bells of San Blas” right before his death in 1872.

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The cathedral as it was

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The chapel that once looked down/On the little seaport town/Has crumbled into the dust

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As you can see, the chapel has not quite “crumbled into the dust”

The major reason that San Blas is not now another Mazatlan or Puerto Vallarta rests on the tiny shoulders of the miniscule sand fly, the jejene (hay HAY nay). The jejene has saved San Blas from hordes of tourists, by inflicting its blood-sucking bites. Especially at the full and new moon (we arrived on the day of the full moon), at sunrise and right before sunset, the jejenes come out in force. One internet article said research indicates that only about one in four people produce a reaction to the protein injected by the jejene to keep blood from coagulating. Nikk and I are definitely in the one in four category, and we itched for days at the sites of red welts left by jejenes. I think insect repellent was somewhat helpful, as was wearing long sleeves and pants, or we might have been even more miserable. However, the Mexican government is now supposedly injecting about 10 million dollars (125 million pesos) to improve San Blas, including dredging the river to allow small cruise ships access. In other words, go to San Blas now, if you want to experience it before the hordes arrive.

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Street improvements

Oh yes, birdwatching. When we returned to town we went to Wala Wala for a delicious lunch (and later a wonderful breakfast, and then a dinner too). A man who had moved to San Blas the previous fall, after visiting for about eighteen years, sat next to us. We visited, then he introduced us to Francisco, a birdwatching guide (SafarisSanBlas), and we engaged Francisco to guide us on a trip on the river and mangrove estuary to Tovara Springs that afternoon and evening, and then to go up to Tecuitata, in the hills above San Blas, to a coffee plantation, lunch at a local house, then on to tour Capulin Coffee, birdwatching all the while. Francisco is one of those extremely knowledgable guides who can instantly recognize, call, and point out hundreds of birds. There are about 500 species of birds in San Blas during the year, we saw way over 100. Anyone who is interested in a list of the birds we saw can send a reply to this post asking for that information and giving an email address. (I will not publish the reply so no email address will show up on the blog)

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Our guide Francisco calling a bird, and the panga driver, Jose

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Great Blue Heron with fish, jealous Yellow-Crowned Night Heron in the background

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Tropical Kingbird

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Golden-Cheeked Woodpecker

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Coffee Beans

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Drying Coffee Beans (yes, that’s a yin/yang symbol in the center)

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Daniel, the owner of Capulin Coffee, http://www.capulin.com, who has a philosophy of growing,
processing, and marketing which results in healthful, locally-produced coffee.

And speaking of healthful, I’ll leave you with a picture from San Blas, which shows how the people of San Blas get around town and market their produce.

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Now we’re back in the La Cruz marina, with enough sailing and birdwatching to last us for a few days while we catch up on tasks here. I’m flying to Portland Feb. 20, for ten days with family and friends, and many, many appointments and shopping ventures before I return to Mexico for at least six months.

One Particular Harbor

But there’s this one particular harbor
So far but yet so near
Where I see the days as they fade away
And finally disappear.
Jimmy Buffett 1983

Do you have a favorite place in the world? Nikk does, and we visited there in January while on “vacation” from the marina in La Cruz. Imagine a little lagoon, La Laguna de Las Cuevas, the lagoon of the caves, turquoise water, golden sand, tropical palm trees and sunny skies. We anchored bow and stern in fifteen feet of water, paddled ashore to join some gringos and mexicans on the beach, explored by foot on cobbled roads and sketchy trails up into the forest, and then enjoyed two days of paddling, snorkeling and relaxing, mostly with the lagoon all to ourselves. I did get to keep a Mexican guard from drowning when I towed him back to shore with the kayak after he swam out too far for his swimming ability. The plantation that owns the beach posts two guards there at the plantation house and beach, complete with rifles, pistols and knives, and they collect money from the people that come through the plantation to go to the beach. Everyone leaves after sunset, and then In the evenings, mangrove swallows fly into the caves at sea level, and fly out again right at dawn. Nikk discovered the lagoon twenty-eight years ago, and we were both happy to find that there were no houses, condos, hotels or resorts on this one unspoiled section of Pacific Coast. The town of San Blas has also escaped most tourist development, and we headed there next.

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