Sailing away with Nikk and Jan

Posts tagged ‘La Cruz de Huanacaxtle’

Vagabonding Once Again: La Cruz to Barra de Navidad

 

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Chamela Bay looking across to Balance anchored at the tip of Isla Pajarara.

The lure of warm emerald water and isolated anchorages pulled us out of La Cruz on December 14, 2015, and south to Chamela Bay.  Balance would have sailed out two days earlier but the remnants of a tropical storm pounded La Cruz with three days of rain.  It was a final example of the weird weather of November and December – unseasonably hot and humid with apparent temperatures of 100 degrees F many days, or unseasonably cloudy and rainy.  We splashed around the cobblestoned streets doing last-minute errands and saying goodbye to our many friends.  Six weeks in La Cruz seemed like a long time at the beginning of November, and not nearly enough when mid-December came too fast.  Three friends visited for a week in early November, and my brother and his wife came for a week at the end of the month.  The advent of visitors created good times eating and drinking in our favorite restaurants in the evening, and kayaking, hiking, sailing on the Bay, walking the beaches and birdwatching during the day.  I wound up leading some yoga classes again, taking Spanish classes twice a week, exploring  the world of science on Science Fridays with the marina kids, and taking part in a stimulating Writer’s Group at the marina on Saturdays.  Nikk kept at the boat projects so Balance would be ready to head south after almost a year in Marina Riviera Nayarit.  She weathered the six hot months from May to October tied to the dock and watched over by Gonzalo, Richard, and the wonderful guards.

Finally the day came to cast off our lines and motor sail at sunrise across the Bay of Banderas 24 miles to Cabo Corrientes, around the corner with only mild chop in the usually rough area outside the Bay, and then halleluia! we turned off the engine and sailed for four hours on to our first night in tiny Ipala Bay.  Small Spinner Dolphins accompanied us for about fifteen minutes, and they really do leap out of the water and spin like a drill in the air.  That first night in Ipala Bay we didn’t even want to get off the boat and go ashore.  Balance rocked her two tired sailors to sleep that night, with brilliant stars shining above, soon it was time to make coffee and sail south with the morning sun.

Hurricane Patricia in late October spared Puerto Vallarta and La Cruz, because the Sierra Madre mountains east and south deflected the 200 mph monster hurricane.  It came ashore about twenty miles south of Chamela Bay, and we expected to see massive damage all along the coast and in the bays.  Instead many trees, cacti, and buildings miraculously survived with only some damage.  We heard that the destruction inland was much more extensive, with many people losing all of their banana or papaya crops.

Isla Pajarara lies in the middle of Chamela Bay, and there Balance dropped anchor so we could spend four days snorkeling, kayaking, and relaxing aboard our boat.

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Sunset as we paddled around Isla Pajarara

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Balance with Zoe B

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Immature Brown Booby with Heerman’s Gulls.

More fun and friends old and new awaited us in Tenecatita Bay.  Robert (the Mayor of Tenecatita anchorage)and his wife Virginia on Harmony kindly invited us to sail across the bay with them and two other couples to visit La Manzanilla (a small town in the SW corner of the bay).

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The dinghy shortly before being swamped during the La Manzanilla landing.

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Nikk with a little Crocodile buddy at the large Crocodile Refuge in La Manzanilla.

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Gordo, the 70-80 year old crocodile at the refuge.

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The Mexican who called Gordo to the bridge so we could get a good photo.

During Hurricane Patricia wave surge about ten feet high came ashore and flooded homes on the beach whose windows had been blasted out by the high winds.  We heard sad stories of homes losing their roof, or having foundations washed away.  Seven weeks later the damage was still being repaired, and one of the first places in town to be repaired was the Crocodile Refuge, because the fences had been washed away and large crocs were wandering the streets of La Manzanilla, wanting a tasty meal of cat, dog or chicken.  Luckily for us by the time we arrived they had all been rounded up and returned to the refuge (at least we didn’t see any in town!).

Tenecatita is a cruiser’s paradise.  Swimming, snorkeling, games of bocce ball on the beach, tasty meals at the beach palapa restaurant, and a two mile long estuary to paddle in our kayaks.  Robert and Virginia on Harmony organize much of the fun.  Virginia published Harmony on the High Seas:  When Your Mate Becomes Your Matey in 2011, tales and advice about the cruising life, and how to stay in harmony with your cruising partner despite the lack of space and the dire and dangerous moments.  I read the book two years ago (and read parts of it to Nikk) and I recommend it to all, even non-cruisers, for its sage advice, philosophies of love and living, and the fascinating details of how to build a harmonious cruising life.

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The Tenecatita anchorage, seen from the beachside palapa restaurant.

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Surprise! Moonshadow and Janna Banana arrive in the dinghy.

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Nick wrestling mangroves trying to get us a way through to the lagoon we visited two years ago. Sadly, he was defeated.

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Denizens of the estuary: White Ibis in a hurricane-denuded mangrove.

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A Green Heron whose relatives we see when paddling the Tualatin River west of Portland.

After four days anchored in Tenecatita Balance carefully motorsailed through the rocks and reefs to spend a week tied to the dock in Marina Isla Navidad, next to the Grand Bay Hotel across the channel from Barra de Navidad.  It’s been our goal to spend Navidad in Barra de Navidad again after the wonderful time we had two years ago.  Unfortunately I must have been very bad this last year, because Santa brought me sciatica for Christmas and I hobbled for three days.   I did manage to take a few photos of this spectacular hotel and the view of the Xmas Eve almost-full-moon.  There will not be another full moon on Christmas Day until 2034, and I wonder if I will see that one too?

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The almost Full Moon of Xmas Eve .

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Moorish architecture at Hotel Grand Bay.

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The spectacular Grand Bay Hotel from the marina.

 

50 cruisers attended the Christmas Day Potluck and the wild White Elephant Gift Exchange at the Time Out Bar overlooking the bay.  I was too busy being an elf for the gift exchange, trying to keep track of how many times a gift was stolen, and who received which gift.  Fun and hectic and no time for photos.  I can say our cruiser buddies know how to have a good time, and it was fun to see all the folks dressed up instead of in shorts and flip flops.  We did get one picture of us at the bar, so I will end with that, and with our wishes for a happy, healthy and more peaceful 2016 for all.

We are sailing south today to spend New Year’s Eve in some secluded anchorage, if all goes well, and then Manzanillo for my birthday in early January.

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Happy New Year and Prospero Ano Nuevo to all!

Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence

As some of you know, I have another blog where I post to the WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge.
For those of you interested, it’s http://www.curiositycafe.wordpress.com. A site called 61 Musings “liked” my recent post, and I went to see what they had posted. What luck, it’s a wonderful site with musings on introversion. I learned a lot, and I am definitely in an introverted state of mind at present, I call it my “hermit phase”. The site had a link to another site, with a Character Strength quiz, http://www.viame.org.
Many fellow introverts scored highest with Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence, as I did. The natural world is a constant source of inspiration and connection for me, as is art, music and writing. So here are some images from the past six weeks since I returned to La Cruz from Portland.

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A broad-billed hummingbird with two baby birds in the nest

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Koi at the Vallarta Botanical Gardens

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Two gringos cooling off in the river at Vallarta Botanical Gardens

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Four-foot long Green Iguana in a tree at the marina

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Peg admiring the local “art” at Ana Banana’s Restaurant

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The Happy Girls, happy because we’re in Mexico on the beach

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A fisherman returning in his panga right before the full moon came up

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The Full Moon from the marina Mar. 16, looking across the anchorage to Bucerias.

Tomorrow we leave for a week-long adventure to visit Copper Canyon in Chihuahua, a canyon deeper than the Grand Canyon, home to the reclusive Tarahumara Indians, two bus rides and a spectacular train ride away from La Cruz. With luck we will come back with pictures and many stories to share.

We’re Still Here

Now it’s Saturday and we’re still in Punta de Mita. Everything was ready on the boat, including Nikk and Jan, so last Tuesday we set sail and then listened to the Cruiser’s Net broadcast at 8:30am. Strong winds from the south were predicted, with swells of 4-7 feet, and since our first anchorage would be facing south, we changed course and headed for the Mariettas to do some snorkeling and kayaking before seeking a calm dock back at La Cruz for the night. We kayaked around the rocks by the little cove we anchored in, found a beautiful white sand beach, only to have eight guys dropped off there with their large cooler. The waves were breaking about three feet high right before the beach, so we paddled back to the boat and snorkeled from there. Lucky for us we did, because the snorkeling was fabulous. Over one hundred fish about a foot long, grey with yellow tails, were swarming over some rocks ten feet below us. I think that another kind of fish had just laid eggs there, because the other fish, black with a blue head (I really do need to start learning the names of fish here) was trying to chase off the marauding yellow tails. Caviar on the rocks?

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Ahab in a kayak? This is not the beach with the dudes with cooler full of beer.

Balance sailed easily back to La Cruz, Jan took a nap after all the kayaking and snorkeling, and we docked almost in our old spot, and right in the middle of a red tide blooming in the east bay and marina. The stench of rotting algae that cause the red tide, and the sight of hundreds of dead fish in the marina due to the algae using up all the oxygen in the water, was really sickening.

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A dead puffer fish.

The next day it seemed to take forever until we could leave the marina, we were gagging on the smell all morning. Once again we anchored off Punta de Mita, expecting to leave the next day to sail south, when we saw the forecast for yet another storm moving right up from southern Mexico and aiming straight at us in a couple of days. So we changed our plans once again, and went bird watching, invited friends over for dinner on the boat, met another friend at the Hotel Coral restaurant on the beach for breakfast, and both of us finished the books we were reading. The advancing clouds Thursday night at the forefront of the storm made for one of the most photogenic sunsets we’ve had in Mexico.

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A lemony sea. To get this shot I had to focus on the water, then raise the camera to frame the shot. Once again, the line of the sea is not quite horizontal, even with the sea that calm it’s hard to keep the camera level while shooting from the deck.

Friday night it rained, then poured, the winds blew, and the wind waves from the east kept us hobby horsing up and down so much I had to get the Sea Bands for my wrists, which press a magnet against an acupressure point on the inside of the wrist to alleviate seasickness. Of course the boat started leaking in a few places down in the cabin, despite a canopy and several tarps over the deck. By morning we could see whitecaps all around us, and we canceled our plans to take the bus into La Cruz for the swap meet so we could stay and monitor the boat. Now at 1pm the rain has stopped, we’ve mopped up the patches of water on the floor and settee, and I can put the books back into their “book nook”. Our third try to sail out will probably be Monday, wish us luck!

WXYZ: Witches, Xocolatl, Yelapa, and Zoology

Witchy Woman scared a few kids and maybe grownups too in La Cruz on Halloween night. About a hundred kids showed up at Philo’s to get candy from the patrons. Nikk and I were two of four winners of the costume contest, my thanks to Allison for painting my face and loaning me a costume!

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Philo said that Nikk wasn’t really wearing a costume, since he dresses like that every day.

The kids were adorable.

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I could (and might) do a whole post for the blog about the restaurants of La Cruz, but I’ll just mention four. First is Xocolatl, located on a hill above the town, with the best view of the bay and the marina. By the time you’ve hiked up from the marina, and then climbed about a hundred steps, you’re really ready for food. Xocolatl provides huge platters of seafood or traditional Mexican dishes and we’ve always been too full to sample any desserts. Back in town, Philo’s serves pizzas, spaghetti, and on Tuesday’s Nikk’s favorite, all-you-can-eat-ribs with coleslaw and baked beans. Just a few doors down from Philo’s is Los Sillas Rojas (The Red Chairs), named for the red plastic tables and chairs set out in the street. I absolutely love their quesadilla, with beans, onions, cilantro, four different sauces, and a little plate of radishes and limes, and only 30 pesos, about $2.20 US. Finally, for breakfast once or twice a week we head over to Ana Banana’s to visit with other folks who live in La Cruz, on boats or in condos or homes. The breakfast enchiladas are sometimes really spicy, but delicious. These are some of the restaurants that we will miss, and I’ll mention one more that just opened, Gecko Rojo, where we’ve had clam chowder, chinese food, and fish and chips, something different is served each night.

Ana Banana’s hosted The Day of the Dead holiday ceremony Nov. 2. This is a Mexican holiday, Nov. 1 the Mexicans honor children that have passed, and Nov. 2 is dedicated to adults. One corner of the restaurant had a huge altar that stretched out along the floor in front, with pictures, flowers, foods or items that the deceased friends or relatives liked while they were alive, and lots of candles. There was a ceremony remembering and blessing the ones who are no longer with us, then a performance by a local troop of young people dancing traditional Mexican dances.
Many people have their faces painted to look like the Katrinas.

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Ana Banana’s has another tradition I discovered the second time I ate there. I asked about the Seagram’s bags hanging from the rafters and was told they contained the ashes of former relatives and friends, especially friends who spent a lot of time hanging out at Ana Banana’s. I was shocked speechless. Now I understand that it is a way to honor and remember the ones who have passed on, but then all I could think of was the fact I was sitting and eating my enchiladas underneath the remnants of a corpse.

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On a cheerier note, Nov. 7 we took a party boat from Nuevo Vallarta to Yelapa and back. Nikk won this trip last July in a raffle, about two days after we returned from celebrating Nikk’s birthday in Yelapa. It was a really fun Vallarta Adventures trip, with a stop to snorkel and kayak in some clear waters, then on to Yelapa, a small isolated village on the southern shore of the Bay of Banderas, that caters to tourists. From our guide, Davd, we learned local history, botany and zoology as we walked up and up through the town to the waterfall high above.
It had just rained, so the water was a shade of brownish-orange, and a lot of people on the trip swam.

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Back down through the jungle we hiked, across a muddy, shallow river (luckily there are no piranhas here), and plopped ourselves down on beach chairs to have drinks and be solicited by local vendors. I did buy a bracelet of green stones from Miguelito, who has eight children, several of them are studying at the university at Puerto Vallarta (at least I think that’s what he said).

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I should mention that on the way back to Nuevo Vallarta, part of the crew dressed up in long wigs and seventies rock costumes, then entertained us out on the deck with rock and roll oldies until we ran into a rain squall. Good food, beautiful scenery, all the drinks we could drink, and a friendly bunch of crew and passengers made it a great trip.

Now for the rest of the zoology in the title. Turtles returned to the marina right before we left and swam around in the marina, sometimes for days. I am wondering if these turtles were hatched in La Cruz before the marina was built in 2007, and have returned, looking for the sands they came from. Several rescue organizations exist here in the bay that collect the eggs laid by the turtles, then when they hatch, protect them as they slowly crawl to the water.

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Today, Nov. 11, we’re anchored once again in Punta de Mita, but with almost no other boats. The weather has turned, the monsoon season seems to be over (although it’s still 90 degrees during the day, but cooling down into the mid-70’s at night, which is a LOT cooler than 82 or 83) and we are ready to sail down south tomorrow to Ipala, terra incognita for us. We paddled in to grab some drinks and guacamole at a beach palapa restaurant, Coral, and were serenaded by chortling Great-tailed Grackles perching at the next table.

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Nikk is ready to jump naked into the water and clean off the propeller so the knot log will work tomorrow, and I’m ready to make marlin tacos with salad for dinner, and watch the sun go down.

Just a Note Before We Go

Nikk and I are back on Balance in the Marina Riviera Nayarit, after living in a house here in La Cruz for four months, and taking care of two cats and too many plants in pots. We do miss the air conditioning, here in La Cruz in October the sun is still high in the sky, and the temperatures in the afternoon, when the sun beats down most mercilessly, are in the low nineties but feel like one hundred degrees. I’m writing this in the air conditioned marina lounge, where all the cruisers without air conditioning, like us, hang out in the afternoon to read, work, chat, and sleep. Yesterday at five I tried another way to cool off and met a friend to take a dip in the bay at the little beach right here by the marina. We waded into 95-degree water, with two or three foot swells that lifted us right off the sandy/rocky bottom. The wave action stirred up the sand so much that we couldn’t see our feet on the bottom, but when we swam around with our masks and snorkels we were immersed in swirling gold mica flecks from the sand.

It seems like the monsoonal weather is now over, the last big storm was about two weeks ago. While we walked to dinner the air was sizzling, right before the simultaneous crack and boom of the lightning and thunder, then the skies cut loose with a downpour. The open-air restaurant was soon flooded, luckily the palapa roof of thatch kept the water off our heads, so we ate with our feet propped up away from the inch of water on the floor, and watched the beauty of the storm.
Here are some pictures of the monsoon in September.

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For nine months of the year this is a dry riverbed that we walk up to go birdwatching.

Even though La Cruz didn’t get any huge thunderstorms like they had three years ago when it rained 30 inches in five days, all that water picked up a lot of debris; trees, branches, fence posts with barbed wire, and a lot of plastic and styrofoam, which then flowed out into the bay and washed up on the beaches. Some of us here at the marina picked up bags of plastic litter on the beach one morning, to prevent it from going back into the water. The pool at the house would overflow all over the deck from all the rain, and unfortunately, even though the house was only five years old, the ceiling would leak. The worst leak was right over the stove.

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Here I am trying to cook while holding a tupperware bowl to catch the leaks.

One day at the house I kept hearing a strange sound, almost like a tap tap tapping. No, it wasn’t a raven (think Edgar Allen Poe here), finally I found the source, a Yellow Warbler attacking its reflection in the kitchen window. The strange thing was that it was a female, the males have orange streaks on their breasts, and it had no streaks. She persisted for several hours, and a Golden-Cheeked Woodpecker came by to watch her for a while, maybe it was thinking she was pecking at a meal of tasty grubs?

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For birdwatching news, besides the Yellow Warbler, we’ve seen a Blue-black Grassquit, immature Grey Hawk, Golden Vireo, and a flock of Black-throated Magpie Jays. Even though we’ve seen these jays many times, it’s hard to believe that they can fly with their two-foot long tails.

Now that the clouds have given way to sunny days, we have taken two sailing trips out to the Tres Mariettas, islands at the mouth of the Bay of Banderas near Punta de Mita. On the first trip we were joined by a fabulous group of Estonian women, one woman, Crystal, lives here, and the others came on vacation. At one spot where we anchored, it’s possible to snorkel over to the rocky shore, watch the wildly-colored fish in the rocks, then swim underneath a rocky opening and into a hidden beach. Nikk took Sophie, who was six years old, in through the opening in our kayak, she laid prone in the kayak, and Nikk pushed her through. She was really brave! The Estonian women were such delightful companions.

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Every week for the past five weeks I’ve been meeting with two boys, ages 11 and 8, and their mother, and doing chemistry. They live on a boat and are home-schooled, and are so excited to do chemistry. We’ve done bottle rockets, made indicators and tested acids and bases, dissolved pennies in hydrochloric acid, made hydrogen gas and exploded it, dipped a dollar bill in rubbing alcohol, lit it, and saw it survive, cleaned tarnished silver with a hot solution of baking soda in a pan with aluminum foil, and much more. Alison has been trading Reiki treatments for my back and shoulders, so I’ve been getting tuned up and unloosened.

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Here they’re mixing corn starch and water, it feels solid, and then it turns into goop, and back again.

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Getting ready to ignite a bill dipped in rubbing alcohol.

Now we’re getting the boat ready for another journey. Next week will be time for a trip to Costco and some local stores, storing provisions and water, then celebrating Halloween here at the marina, and two Days of the Dead Nov. 1 and 2, the first day for departed children, the second for departed adults. Many of the restaurants here will have altars for displaying pictures of departed loved ones. One restaurant here, Anna Banana’s, has bags of cremated ashes of the former patrons hanging from the ceiling. A bit of a shock when we were first here and found out what the bags were. We are going to do two or three short trips to locations here in the Bay of Banderas, then head south for a couple of months. We’ll be anchoring at some remote beaches, exploring, and winding up at Barra de Navidad where we’ll be joined by Rob and Stephi on Red Witch II. They have been up in the Sea of Cortez all summer and I am really looking forward to seeing them again. And at the end of December I fly to Portland to spend January helping Deva with the boys and the new baby girl, who is due Dec. 14. For now, we’re enjoying the music and food of La Cruz, and hanging out with our friends here until we again sail away.

ZIGGY

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There’s that light again. Not the moon, too many clouds. Not in the sky, either, down on the ground, moving around. Here I am, laying out on my branch, a bit sluggish now that the nights are getting colder and my juices are not flowing so well. Just barely opened my eye and BLAM, there’s that big light down there. I’m up here almost at the top of the tree, trying to get some sleep before morning when it’s time to get up and munch some leaves. Got to get my calcium balanced, a big boy like me needs strong bones to move this two feet of body and three feet of tail around in the trees.

Seven years ago this whole place changed, my tree was right at the edge of the beach, and down below some big ponds to splash around in when I wanted a change from hanging out in the branches of this huge tree. Man, did the tree shake when all those big machines went by every day, bringing in rocks, and strange looking rocks they were, dumping them all over the place. Then they pushed the sand onto the land and covered up the ponds, made all these weird places for the two-legged creatures to walk out on the water, and planted so many palm trees. I wanted them to plant more of the trees with leaves I like to eat, but our youngsters like hanging out in those palms, so it’s all right. Now there’s many, many two-leggeds and most of them don’t even know I’m up here. I can’t complain too much though, the relatives in other places like Fiji and the Caribbean are losing all their trees, pretty soon there might not be any more iguanas there. The two-leggeds don’t know that we animals can communicate with pictures we send to each other, along with feelings, even over long distances.

We iguanas pretty much stay in the same place, I’ve been here for about fourteen years now, we just lost a lot of branches on one of my favorite trees this summer, but I’m staying unless this tree falls over or gets cut down. I went over to the plaza to check out some of the trees over there, just in case I needed a new home, but those trees don’t have as many good hiding places. A few years ago some of my relatives got grabbed by humans and taken far away. Those humans didn’t know they needed special leaves to eat, they fed them all sorts of ridiculous stuff like melons and dog food, and then the poor iguanas got that bone disease and died. I just hope I get to live here until I die. By the way, my name is Ziggy, and the two-legged with the light is gone, so now I’m going to wriggle around on this branch, arrange my tail, get comfy, and go back to sleep before morning..

Clouds

Bows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way

Joni Mitchell “Both Sides Now”

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Cloud art and cloud poetry with a rainbow (can you find it?)

That huge cloud is a cumulonimbus, from the Latin cumulo (heap) and nimbus (rainstorm). They are associated with atmospheric instability, as warm and cold air collide.
Looking at the beauty of this cloud, it would be easy to forget that inside is a maelstrom of air currents being thrust upwards, cold air causing water vapor to condense and increase the cloud size, swirling gusts, and tops that go from 20,000 feet to occasional 70,000 foot monsters. In nature exists beauty and chaos together. After sunset the clouds begin the nightly light show, with lightening bolts sometimes blasting out of clouds in a 360 degree circle all around us. Last year two boats were struck by lightening in the marina, luckily none this year.
Down here it’s still the monsoon season, and hurricane season, although after a few hurricanes off the west coast of Mexico in July, I think August was pretty quiet, and then last week a tropical storm hit the Baja Peninsula, far away. We can get two inches of rain in two hours here, as we did two nights ago, and fantastic displays of lightening. Last night I was up until a little after midnight, enjoying the quiet (we are staying on a cobblestone street that is very busy during the day, with advertisements blaring from trucks, loud music from cars, lots of teenagers going to and from the schools across the street, and all the vehicles bouncing over the speed bump right outside the house). I happened to look out to the north and saw gigantic flashes of lightening in the clouds, with the occasional thunderbolts shooting out into view. And then twice there was a ball of lightening moving from left to right. Was I seeing a lightening bolt head on? So much electricity that it got together and made a ball instead of a bolt? Mysterious.

We’ve been looking at clouds this past week, enjoying a break from the oppressive heat and humidity. The humidity is still there, but when the temperatures are ten to fifteen degrees cooler (F)
the relief is significant. When we returned from two weeks in the Pacific Northwest we thought that we’d be suffering and sweating buckets, but luckily the temperatures over 90 waited a week to appear. Today the sun is out, the temperature here will be 93 degrees, and apparent temperature 103, due to the 85% humidity. I’m in the dining room, with the air conditioner on, and it’s a comfortable 84 degrees. One of the reasons that it’s been two months since I wrote a blog is the heat and humidity. My brain cells go into sloth mode when it’s this hot and humid. The soaking pool is heaven, it’s about 88 degrees and cools our core temperatures back to normal, but after that it’s time to read or nap. I think I’ve read about thirty books this summer!

The first two months here we were only using the air conditioner in the bedroom at night to avoid lying in a puddle of sweat while trying to sleep. Then the electricity bills suddenly went from $900 pesos (about $75 dollars US) to $90 pesos. The solar panels that Dick and Mary Ann put up on the palapa roof were sending excess electricity to the grid, and the electrical company started giving credit. This month the bill was $45 pesos, so we are using the air conditioner in the dining room during the day which is so lovely, and allows me to “do my homework” for the Writer’s Group which meets on Saturday at the marina.

There is still morning yoga at the marina at 8am, and two days a week Stretch Dance in the Ocean (Bay of Banderas) at 10am. Crystal leads the Stretch Dance class, she is a wonderful, powerfully positive woman that I was lucky to meet here this summer. Those of you on FB, go to my page and you can see some beautiful, fun pictures of the class. Nikk and I are also going to the marina at night to feed the three marina cats. One was abandoned last winter, the other two Siamese were abandoned about two years ago at the marina when they were part of a litter of four kittens.
The veterinarian here in town is Dr. Dunia, so one female Siamese was named after her when she spayed and neutered the kittens and the abandoned adult cat.

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This is Dunia, she is beautiful, and loves to be petted. We heard rumors in May when we took over feeding the two marina cats, the Siamese and the Grey Tabby, that there was another Siamese in the marina, the brother of Dunia. Sure enough, after a couple of weeks we were feeding Dunia one night on the steps leading to the boat ramp, and suddenly there was another Siamese slinking alongside the wall about fifteen feet away. We left him a little pile of food. By August he decided that he wanted to be fed, and started running along with us as we walked up to the malecon (the paved, bricked walkway on the top of the berm). He hasn’t gotten close enough to be petted, and probably never will, but last night he was only two feet away from me as I put down his food. Chulita, the Grey Tabby, is very friendly and sweet, and loves to be petted. I am hoping that someone will adopt her this winter when the cruisers and sun-seekers who own or rent homes here return. The cats all hunt lizards and rodents in the rocks, too. And one night while we were feeding the two Siamese cats, a small raccoon appeared.

The big change at the marina is the closure of the restaurant and the store at the beginning of August. Now all the cruisers have to go up into town to eat, buy beer, pop and snacks, get returnable ten gallon bottles of filtered water, and there is no longer a place with umbrellas and tables outside the tienda where we often met our fellow cruisers in the morning to chat. The waiters and waitresses and clerks all lost their jobs, which made us sad. The restaurant and tienda are owned by a time share company, not the marina, so their profit margin must have been suffering in some way, and now lots of workers are suffering. However, several of the waiters were hired as marina guards. One of the live-aboards, Lynn on La Vita, wanted to help a lovely waitress named Marisol, so she organized a Sunday morning opportunity for Marisol to come to our house and do some barbering on four sailors, then manicure Lynn and Jan. Nikk’s hair had been growing for about five months, and was curling behind his ears when she took the electric clipper and shears to it.

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That’s all the news from La Cruz for now. Here’s one more beautiful view of sunset clouds from the rooftop, the “cloud illusions”.

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The News from La Cruz

Took a month-long break from writing the rainbowspinnaker blog, and made the mistake during that time of updating many of the apps on the iPad, including WordPress. They changed the format for the screen, so now it only works while the iPad is turned on its side while entering text. Unfortunately, they didn’t think about the people like me who have a Belkin keyboard attached to a folder which holds the iPad horizontal while typing. So now I’m up here in the Sky Bar, with the iPad balanced against my pack and the Belkin keyboard sitting on the table. The wind is blowing about 15-20 knots from the north, and I’m trying to sit where the iPad won’t get blown off the table. That said, it’s a beautifully brilliant day of sun and wind. Across the bay there’s marine haze hovering over the water, but here the air is clear, the water is sparkling, and the only haze is coming from one of the constant fires down by the beach, where they’re burning piles of vegetation slashed from the too abundant growth of trees, bushes and creepers.
Here in La Cruz the vegetation is getting extremely dry in the last few months before the summer rains. A couple of times it was cloudy and sprinkled, but that’s it for any precipitation since Jan 1.

Mostly days here in La Cruz begin with rising at a little after 7am, heating water to make green tea, and grabbing the yoga mat, clock, and hair tie to head up to the VIP Lounge at the marina to teach yoga for an hour. I’m substituting again for the regular yoga teacher who needed to go back to the States for a few weeks. Monday and Wednesday is Spanish class after yoga, and then it’s reading, shopping, taking a walk, planning for dinner, cooking dinner (unless we go out to eat), and more reading. My mobility has been a little compromised for the past ten days because I tripped on the edge of a platform and twisted the top of my left foot AFTER a salsa dancing class. Been gimping around ever since. Probably walking three miles down the beach two days after the accident didn’t help. Ni modo (“oh well” en espanol).

Before heading to Portland February 20 Nikk and I and our friend Jane from Midnight Blue finally took the bus over to the Mezcales estuary to bird watch. Following the directions gleaned from the internet we walked to the main plaza, and then headed down the road away from the plaza that Nikk was sure led to the estuary. Luckily Jane speaks Spanish pretty well, and after asking directions to the estuary we were sent to a path down into the mud and mangroves. Soon it was time to spray on lots of insecticide, and we continued to follow the trail, seeing and hearing very few birds, but unfortunately finally hearing the highway nearby, which was totally wrong for the map I’d found on the internet. During that time I managed to slip while trying to see if the lagoon was nearby, and impaled two big thorns from a palm branch into my shin. I still have a little lump under the skin a month later, but no infection luckily.

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Mud and Mangroves

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Sighting a Groove-Billed Ani

At that point retracing our path seemed like a pretty good idea, and after again asking directions we found out that it was the road away from the plaza that Jan wanted to take in the first place. Crowing about being right just didn’t seem like a productive thing to do, so I kept my mouth shut and we walked a mile or so down a dusty road and found the estuary, complete with lots of birds, little crocodiles, and one rather large about ten foot long crocodile sunning itself on the bank by a pond. Jane and I were stalking some snowy egrets in the trees by the pond, and walked right by Mr. Way Too Large Crocodile. Nikk yelled at us, scared the croc, and he launched himself into the pond. Jane and I gasped and agreed it was a close call.

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The crocodile whose name we later found out was Pancho

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Wood Stork perched on a mangrove tree

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Black-bellied Whistling Ducks, Black-necked Stilts and Coots

Spending ten days in Portland wasn’t as much of a shock to my body as I thought it might be. I’d stashed a whole big suitcase of clothing and boots at my daughter’s house, every day involved putting on a whole lot more layers than I wear here in Mexico, and going out to take care of numerous appointments, spend time with family and friends, and get used to driving in Portland traffic. I rented a little Mazda2, it was a great little car, in ten days of driving all over the place it used just a little over ten gallons of fuel, about a gallon a day. There were four birthdays to celebrate, my friend Matt’s (the 20th), Serena’s 1st (the 24th), Bridger’s 7th (the 26th) and Jesse’s (I won’t tell his age because I have a hard time believing I have a son that old) on the 28th.
Here is a picture of the four grandchildren at Serena’s birthday party.

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Nikk had to go to Portland right after I returned, so we didn’t see much of each other for three weeks. While I was gone Nikk was visited by his godson Matt and wife Laurie, and a surprise visit from his daughter Tobie and family. So here’s a picture of Nikk’s grandchildren out sailing on Balance.

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We’re getting ready to sail off tomorrow or Thursday for Mazatlan and then across the Sea of Cortez to explore the desert islands off the coast of Baja Caifornia Sur. We’ll be gone for over a month and we’ll miss La Cruz, so I’ll end with a scene captured by Nikk while he was out walking on the cobblestone streets.

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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 Mountains, the Forest, and the Musical Life of La Cruz

Over two weeks have flown by since the last post, the sunshine is back after a rainy beginning to 2013 here in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, followed by alternating sunny and overcast days, and much cooler temperatures, sometimes only into the low 70’s.

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The plaza in La Cruz during the rain, with a large, spreading Huanacaxtle tree.

The Mexican state of Nayarit includes beaches fronted by mangroves, estuaries, and palms, tropical deciduous forests spreading mostly lush and green up the mountains, except at the end of the dry season in the spring, when brown becomes a more common color, and then the mountains, rising up to 7000 feet above sea level inland, with deep gorges. Jan’s birthday week found us exploring all these ecological areas in Nayarit, getting away from the marina, and more in tune with the world of rocks and plants and animals. Since childhood a connection with the natural world on a regular basis is a necessity for me, like being on the water sailing, or in the water swimming is a necessity for Nikk. John Muir and many others extoll the healing, rejuvenating aspects of the natural world, especially wilderness. Even though we were seldom in true wilderness during these two weeks, we were off “the beaten path” on many occasions. We traveled by tour bus up to San Sebastian del Oeste, a 400-year-old silver-mining town at 4600′ in the mountains above Puerto Vallarta. The cobblestoned streets led to little hotels, restaurants, stores, schools, and many residences marching up the hillsides in this town of about 800 people, with the church and town square at the center.

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Walking along the terrace of the hotel in the square early one morning.

San Sebastian’s elevation is high enough for pines which resemble Ponderosa Pines to grow and flourish. We were surprised to see colorful Western Tanagers in the trees, with their red heads, yellow breasts, and black and white wings. We’re used to seeing them all throughout the west in summer. After a walk up into the piney woods, we headed down a barely visible path along a stream, finding fenced plantations of banana and papaya trees. At the end of the path about 2 miles from town we found the Hacienda Jalisco, on the site of a silver mine. A brilliant red male summer tanager with his dull yellow female perched high in a tree, giving us birdwatching excitement and stiff necks. A friendly large dog followed us back up the airstrip while we spotted many Social Flycatchers (that’s really their name) and other birds perching in trees and bushes.
That night the seventy plus people gathered in a hotel courtyard for dinner followed by rock and blues music from ten musicians gathered for the occasion by Philo (see the previous blog). Even after hiking for several hours we still didn’t have much appetite for dinner because we found the Paraise Restaurant next to our hotel earlier in the day. The proprietor, Isaac Cueto Pena, not only provided us with two absolutely delicious meals, but gave us gratis an avocado/shrimp appetizer, two shots of tequila, and one shot of ricea, the local drink made from agave, which is about 180 proof. I think I was too inebriated to take a picture of the meal, so here is a picture of a trimmed agave root (?) from the ricea factory near San Sebastian

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Birdwatching at San Sebastian was surprisingly sparse, but two days later we went on a tour with April of Wave House to the Pureto Vallarta Botanical Gardens, 20 acres and 3000 plants species, including many orchids, bromeliads and gigantic strangler fig trees. Here are some of the birds we viewed while there: Varied Bunting, Grayish Saltator, San Blas Jay, Yellow-Winged Cacique, Boat-billed Flycatcher, Russet-crowned Motmot, Black-throated Gray Warbler, Golden-naped Woodpecker, Cinnamon Hummingbird, and a Jalisco Hermit Hummingbird. The latter bird was nowhere to be found in any bird book until I went to www.pvbotancalgardens.com and saw a picture and name of the hummingbird we saw. Our friend Jane from Midnight Blue went along, and couldn’t find the hummer in her book either. These particular Hermits live only in the neighboring states of Jalisco, Nayarit and Colima.

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Yellow-winged Cacique and San Blas Jay at the fruit feeder

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Altar with orchids in the greenhouse

The exploring continued after our return We decided to see what we could see from the hill above “downtown” La Cruz, and walked up and up to the top, passing many large homes in various states of interrupted construction. I think perhaps many Americans and Canadians began their construction projects and then did not have the funds to continue, since many houses looked like the construction ended several years ago. Because of the rainy season here in the summer, concrete construction that is unprotected starts to rapidly deteriorate. At the end of the road a trail plunged down a hillside with just enough trees to hold onto as we skied down the trail in our sandals back to a dirt road that led to a few Mexican casas with families sitting in the yards. I think they were surprised to see us as we walked by. Back on a paved road we found three generations of women selling pastries from a roadside cart. So we bought two slices of a flan/cheesecake dessert to replenish all the calories we’d burned on the hike, and give us enough energy to make it back another mile or more to the boat in the marina. There are many roads to explore here that go way back up into the hills, with waterfalls and hidden pools, according to locals.

La Cruz has an amazing music scene. Nikk won a dinner at the Black Forest Restaurant when he was in a paddle race with his kayak. Here is a picture of Nikk goofing off after paddling hard:

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The Black Forest Restaurant serves delicious German food, and the Friday night we were there it was packed, because Latcho and Andrea were playing their samba/flamenco music, music which “comes from the soul, goes to the heart”. Check them out at www.latchoandrea.com. Every other Saturday we go to The Octopus’s Garden restaurant and gallery of Huichol Art to hear our friends Alfredo and Zoe, the Mango Duo. You can find them at www.myspace.com/alfredoandzoe They play flamenco music that makes you want to get up and dance, plus samba and even original, dreamy tunes like “Blue Star”. On You Tube you can type in Alfredo and Zoe, and find a video of them playing with Bryan Savage, a local flute and sax player who is a favorite here and for miles around.

Last Saturday Bryan put together a band to play at The Taste of La Cruz, held up on the malecon of the marina. Art, crafts, food, music, and some very entertaining folks. Of course I have to include a picture taken that night of Nikk and some new friends, who perform at La Lunes, in Bucerias on Wednesday nights.

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We said goodbye to a good cruising friend, Greg on Foreign Affair, a 1975 Valiant 40, down from B.C. He and another friend Chuck from Vancouver Island are headed south to El Salvador. Greg had been in the marina for about a month, just two boats down from our slip, so we had many dinners together up in town at the curbside restaurant, Los Sillas Rojas (The Red Chairs), named for the red plastic tables and chairs out on the cobblestones. They have some of the best quesadillas we’ve ever eaten. When you meet fellow cruisers you can bond very quickly, finding common ground from the specialized rigors, tests, and repairs necessary for cruising, and sharing the knowledge of boats, ports, dangers and places that have to be experienced.

I’ve been helping lead a yoga class here at the marina which meets six days a week at 8am. After nine sessions I’m ready to turn the class back over to Lee and take off on a two week sailing trip with Nikk. Even with all the traveling and hiking, restaurants and visiting with friends, we have sailed on at least four occasions the past two weeks. When we took people out sailing last week we’d just said “I hope we get to see some whales….” when 20 feet off our port side a mature humpback whale appeared, and seemed to be diving right under the boat. “Hang on, everyone” I yelled, but it turned 90 degrees and swam by right beside the boat. A very exciting close call.
We’ve seen dolphins several times as well as lots of boobies, frigatebirds, pelicans and numerous fish of all sizes.

We’re going to sail north up the coast if the weather and winds cooperate, so the next blog might be from San Blas or Chacala depending on internet connection. The new TELCEL chip in the iPad is working wonderfully, so my internet connection gives me pleasure instead of headaches. Thanks for reading this long blog!

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