Paradise Village, Banderas Bay

The lack of clean clear water along the Central American coast left us longing for the resorts.  Paradise Village was the ultimate promise to the kids for water fun.  Eric, Teak and I first experienced this place in 1998 and 2000 on old Makai, then returned to visit Joan and Blair on Capricorn Cat when Roy was an infant and again later Eric and Roy returned when he was still a toddler.

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The resort is a combination of hotel rooms, time shares, and resident villas as well as the marina.  Mayan themed art is everywhere.

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The pools are fantastic.  Climb up the stairs in the tower in the center, cross the swing bridge and choose which crocodile to slide down.

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We hung out at the pool with our friends on Cat2Fold.  Ordering pool side food and drinks, playing on the slides and swimming through the tunnels and caves under the island. It’s like going on vacation with your friends, great fun.

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At the other end of the resort is another pool with the hot tub in the cave behind the water fall and more bridges and tunnels in the pool.

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This pool has a snake slide as well.

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In front of the pools are rows of palapa umbrellas and beach seats.  You can buy jewelry from vendors cruising by, how about a beach massage? maybe get your hair braided? check out surfboards, boogie boards, or paddle boards? take a parasail ride or stroll to the end of the beach and visit with Topaz.

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Topaz was quite a celebrity playing at the end of the beach.  She met all kinds of nice people who came to watch her play in the surf. One of her favorite tricks is to pounce on little fish and floating sticks and then when she got out to belly deep water she grabs her collar and brings herself back to shore.  After that she turns around and does it all again, over and over and over again.

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For all the freedom Topaz has at the beach, there are two tigers who don’t get out much. A breeding pair of Bengal Tigers have produced 3 litters accounting for 11 cubs to share with other zoos around Mexico. I’m sure these Tigers would be happier on some free range preserve, but at Paradise Village they are well fed and have good veterinary care and are safe from poachers that threaten the 7,000 Tigers still in the wild.

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A collection of parrots also live here.

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Marie and I got to watch a fun bird show and learned that all the parrots spoke Spanish except for one who is from Brazil and speaks Portuguese.  Our last visit here was before all the buildings were finished.  At that time there was a big vacant lot with Ostriches and peacocks roamed freely.

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The property also includes a mall with a laundry, food court, trinket shops, clothes stores, a few restaurants and a grocery store.  Everything is sold at tourist prices but very convenient.

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We also had access to the Hospitality suite.

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During the day, visitors whose transportation and accommodations didn’t coincide, could relax here and wait.  But in the evenings, marina visitors who are looking to enjoy the air conditioning, cable TV, hot showers, and high speed internet would congregate up here.  A half wall divides the room so the kids can relax on one side while the adults visit on the other side.

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The grounds are very clean with well kept grass and flowers along the paths that wind along the water and through the buildings.

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The waterfront in Nuevo Vallarta is now lined with resorts.  They are all beautiful, but Paradise Village offers the best facilities and includes the boaters with their top notch marina.

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Years ago when visiting here we used to trek to Jarretaderas for more reasonable grocery shopping outside the resort.  We had a bit of a late start and by the time we arrived in town, most tiendas were shutting down for the day, but it was nice to see real Mexican towns still exist outside the resort.

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Then there is the trip into Puerto Vallarta.  While the distance isn’t much more than 10 miles, the bus trip could take nearly an hour stopping at the other resorts transport workers and the few tourists like us too cheap to hire a taxi.

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One of the attractions for the cruisers here is Walmart, Sam’s Club and of course Costco. Hey, we have a Costco card, lets go.  We decided not to have lunch so we can enjoy Costco Pizza and hot dogs.  When they swiped our membership card at the food court, we found that the card was expired.  Then we found that we couldn’t renew at their membership desk because the Mexican computer system doesn’t update our cards. By now everyone is starving and I’m trying to renew online with very slow cell phone data.  Ahhhh, what a nightmare.  Finally someone at membership decided that even if I renew online, my card wouldn’t be updated for 24 – 48 hours so he decided to just give me a day pass.  What a pain.  In the end our ‘day pass’ got everyone filled up on pizza and hot dogs, frozen yogurt and churros and we spent a few hundred dollars on stuff we didn’t really need.  Ahh, life is good at Costco and a cab transported us with all our stuff back to the marina.

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Another day we joined our friends on Cat2Fold (yes it’s a catamaran you can fold up and trailer around) and Yolo (stands for You Only Live Once) for a stroll along the Malecon.  The waterfront walkway offered plenty of places to part us with our pesos.

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We have seen some great sculptures in Mexico.  There are dozens to enjoy along Puerto Vallarta’s Malecon.

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Who thinks up this stuff?

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How about this sand sculpture!  What a shame to have it blow away with the next storm.

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Now lets get to business with treats.  Genny and Georgie have mangos on a stick and Marie has a cup of watermelon.

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Meanwhile Roy spots moving statues across the way.

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Which banditos are statues and which are real?

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How about hair braids?  Marie and Georgie got their hair done while the rest of us browsed in the trinket shop.

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As with most Mexican towns, a Catholic Church is located at the city’s center.  Our Lady of Guadeloupe has been at the center of Puerto Vallarta since its construction that started in 1915 with the main project completed in the 1940s.  We visited on a week end and got to peak at many pretty ladies in gowns and men in suits waiting for a bride and groom to walk down the isle.

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Mexico has quite a few Volkswagens and many of them are classic beetles.

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After spending our money on hair braids, bathing suits, tips to the sand castle people, live statues and other street snacks we went off in search of a cheap taco restaurant.   This is difficult with so many places catering to tourists. Most of the places along the water front offer entrees for $10 – $15 each which is too rich for our budget.  Finally we found a place with tacos for about 75 cents, cheap sodas and they let us bring in beer we bought from the store across the street. Seven kids and five adults got stuffed on tacos, sodas and beer for about $45 plus a hefty $10 tip and off we went, back to the bus stop.

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Everyone was quiet on the way home with bellies full of tacos and this guy and his little buddy singing for a tip.  Yes, be sure to have small money available for tipping performers.

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Back at the resort we went to the Sunday night welcome party.  The resort provided entertainment, vendors, a few snacks and raffle drawings. Genny scored this pretty dress.

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The spa and salon had a booth there and Eric signed me up for most every treatment they have to offer.

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The dancers performed colorful native numbers, then the MC drew raffle tickets for dinners and spa treatments.  Everyone in our group gave their tickets to Genny and she won a dinner ticket for the Mexican Fiesta.  Next she traded her dinner ticket to me plus baby sitting duty for our friends on Yolo for a spa manicure and pedicure.

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What a great day for Jackie!  I started out the morning with a soak in the spa hot tub while sipping lemon water, then a  90 minute massage followed by a 90 minute facial and massage.  After all that I could barely think straight enough to do any more chores.  Later that day I enjoyed visiting with my Genny while we had our nails done.

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In the evening Eric and I went to the Mexican Fiesta with Courtney and Matt.  We were greeted with tequila shots and a poolside seat.  The buffet was fabulous, we tried to sample a little of everything but couldn’t make through all dishes before being to stuffed to go on.

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The entertainment was fantastic.  The dancers did several costume changes plus there was a guy who performed with his lariet or lasso and an 11 piece mariachi band.

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After the show a small band and singer entertained for the rest of the evening.

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The MC organized a game for people to walk a beam out over the pool for a bottle of tequila.

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The evening finale was fireworks.  It’s great to be on vacation in Paradise Village!

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Easter

Yeowch, Eric is lighting a fire under me, I’m so far behind on blog posts.  Between days at sea and days filled with chores, wanderings in town, killer margaritas and marina internet that keeps the computers squirreled away in the kids’ rooms I can’t ever seem to get myself to sit down with the blog.

Every cruiser know about ‘getting stuck’.  When you pull into a sweet place that offers all the resort amenities, easy laundry, groceries, power and water.  How about cheap restaurants and friends too, it’s nearly impossible to leave.  Eric works a bit to earn our daily expenses then we head to the pool and slides, charge a few killer margaritas to our room (slip) and head off to meet friends for dinner or a dock party.  What nut case would want to leave?

The season is wearing on and we have to get up to the beautiful waters of the Sea of Cortez, so off we go.

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The last time we were in this area we spent New Year 2000 in Tenacatita Bay.  Yep, we Partied like it was 1999.  This time we’re considerably later in the season and got to celebrate Easter in the bay.

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Genny and Marie did a fantastic job coloring eggs with sharpie markers.

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We met up with our pals on Cat2Fold for an egg hunt on Makai.  This is getting to be quite a tradition.  Our first Easter in BVI we searched for eggs with the Pimentel Family who passed this great boat on to us after their trip through the Caribbean and the Mediterranean sea. The second Easter was with the Hill family one of our oldest friends in CA, when they visited us in the Bahamas.

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We’re on slightly different schedules with Cat2Fold, so we said, “see you up the road”, as they left.

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The rest of the weekend we shared with Chris and Lorry on Hiolani. We shared many great times at this anchorage with them all those years ago and have had a wonderful visit this year.  The Hobie had great bay sails, there was a bit of surfing and beach, but between the jelly fish and red tide, we mostly wanted to stay out of the water. These are seasonal hazards that we didn’t experience on previous visits earlier in the season.

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Everyone got into the cooking. Roy made a lemon cake, Genny made lemon squares and then helped fry pinwheel snacks and the empanadas I assembled. Easter dinner was a Mexican Fiesta.

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But before dinner we took the jungle cruise.  On the way into the river mouth we smacked another rock to even out the banged up dinghy propeller by snipping off a chunk of the third blade. In the old days we would tour up this river and at the end the reward was a beautiful sandy beach lined with Palapa restaurants serving Mexican delicacies and cold beer at a prices that will keep you sampling another taco.

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On several occasions these palapas, that are actually squatters on private land, were mowed down and rebuilt until guards were posted to keep the great times away.

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The Pangas still come through and a few days later we heard Palapa restaurants opened for business once again.  We saw a few birds and crabs but even though we were told about crocodiles, we didn’t see any.

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The next day Chris and Lorry gave us all their produce for our ride north and went home to water their plants. We really had a great time with them and will miss this area.

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Makai headed north to Chemala in search of surf.  On the way there Roy dragged a line with his new the lure he made with Chris. When he went to check his line he was surprised to find a tired fish dragging through the water.  He didn’t take any line or bend the rod to indicate his desire to join the Makai crew.  We never caught a fish like this one, but the book called it a Sierra or Spanish Mackerel. Cool our pals on Dream Catcher always said it is one of their favorites.  The Sierra is in the Tuna and Wahoo family but the meat is definitely lighter and delicious on the BBQ with butter and garlic. The book also said they are plentiful and almost considered a nuisance by anglers because they are so easily caught.  We did catch another  a week later.

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The surf was fun.  Waves were small with a sandy bottom you can stand up in with bare feet.  Eric and the kids caught plenty of waves then made me catch a few, I’m more of a diver than a surfer.

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I guess when we go home I’ll be making trips to the surfing beaches.

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These great surfboards came from Costco back home.  Eric packed them in his luggage to transport them to Grenada in 2012. A few months ago, one got away and he managed to find it like a needle in a haystack.  Now, they are finally in the anchorages that Eric envisioned he would use them.  Next stop Bandaras Bay.

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Barra De Navidad

Another easy passage, two nights.  Nothing going on, we cooked, ate read, watched movies and even had a cold Pacifico. We arrived at the entrance around 4am, too dark to enter the marina.  There was absolutely no wind, Eric turned off the engine and Makai floated in place one mile off shore until after our breakfast of cherry and apple crepes.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This beautiful display reminds us that the Spanish missionaries spread the word of God throughout central and south America.  I know they spread plenty of other less desirable things here as well but at least Jesus remains important to the people here.

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Barra de Navidad was first recorded in 1535, then on Christmas Day in 1540 New Spain’s first Viceroy sailed in and crossed the sand bar, naming the port Barra de Navidad. The little port was used for a shipyard and in 1564 four ships set off to discover a route to and from the Philippine Islands.  They all arrived safely but unfortunately only one ship returned the following year.  This voyage began the 250 year trade route connecting Asia with New Spain. Barra de Navidad didn’t necessarily become a busy thriving port for traders, but has maintained a quaint small town atmosphere frequented by tourists who enjoy the beach here.

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For most of our trip we tried to avoid marinas, but the ones we’ve encountered along this coast are reasonably priced with fabulous amenities. Here the slip rate if you spend 5 nights is 70 cents a foot.  That’s less than the price of a night at a Motel 6 .  Here we enjoyed beautiful pools with slides, a swim up bar that serves killer margaritas, activities for the kids like ping pong, Foosball, and water volley ball.  The marina was clean with floating docks, free water and inexpensive power.

 

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Everything was quiet when we arrived early, but as the day wore on things picked up and the place was down right lively.  Apparently the Mexicans celebrate Semana Santos for two weeks around Easter.  Families from big cities like Guadalajara flock to the beach resorts.

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Each morning we were treated to the French Baker.  We could give him an order for the next morning or just choose from what ever was available when he came around to our dock.

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Some of our favorites were the ham and cheese croissants and berry pie.

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Roy loved the chocolate croissant.  We also sampled coconut pie, key lime pie, chocolate pie, and  jalapeno baguette.

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Eric spotted Regardless here in the marina.  Sheldon Gebb confirmed that this is a boat he once owned with a partner and did the Transpac race to Hawaii on many years ago.

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As always we keep our eyes open for critters.  This puffer fish got spooked and we watched him bob around forever trying to deflate himself.

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Beautiful, but scary to me are the jelly fish.  I’m very sensitive to things that sting in the water and one look at those long flowing tentacles keeps me dry.

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We were used to seeing iguanas in the Bahamas, but they were always in a big colony at the beach where tourist boats would come and flip them a few heads of lettuce.  Here the iguanas are all over the place living like any other lizard in you back yard.

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We met up with our old friends Chris and Lorry on Hiolani right away.  They cruised their boat down here more than 20 years ago and found a little piece of land on a canal and started building their home.  Soon after it was finished it was destroyed in an earthquake.  But hey, now they know how to build houses so they started over again. We originally met Chris and Lorry while they were visiting and working summers  in California and then again when we cruised down here in 1997 and 1999.

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Their house is beautiful decorated with plants they found while hiking in the jungles outside of town.

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They also do some amazing wood work.  They made all the cabinets, and tables, many of the chairs and decorations like these brief cases. Everything has a story.  Lorry tells about the names she’s given the animals and often includes their boat, Hiolani in the scenes.

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Just when you don’t think their wooden projects could get any better, they throw the cover off of one of their first projects, Woody, car with a wooden body.

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Many of our days in town were shared with Chris and Lorry.  The girls decorated eggs with sharpies and made the most beautiful eggs I’ve ever seen them decorate.

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It will be a shame to crack open these intricate pieces of art.

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Out in the garage the guys worked on fishing lures.

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After Topaz thoroughly searched the house and we put the dangerous things up high they way you would for a toddler, she settled in for a nap on the couch where she could keep an eye on the household activities.

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Not only are they masters with wood working, Chris is also a master marine engine mechanic by trade.

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Our new outboard engine has always been difficult to start.  After advising Eric where to lube and change oil, they developed a plan to prime the engine before starting and amazingly it now starts with the first pull.

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Thursday was market day in the streets.  Lorry took us into town to look for provisions and trinkets we just couldn’t live without.   How about a pregnant Barbie?

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How about intricate bead work from indigenous craftsmen. Well, maybe we don’t really need all that, but we did find a berry stand and loaded up with blueberries, black berries and strawberries.  I cleaned them all and everyone scarfed them up.  The leftovers were whipped into smoothies in our new blender.

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Chris and Lorry tilled, planted the soil in the vacant lot across their little street. We were treated to a tour of the garden.  There is a big sweet potato patch as well as stevia, with super sweet leaves that are processed into sugar substitute.

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They also have sunflowers that they steamed up for dinner and nasturtium, edible flowers. I was surprised that the kids tried every interesting leaf that Chris passed out to them, including the flower.

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This is a great use for a lot perpetually for sale.

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The marlin and sailfish sculpture greets visitors coming into Barra de Navidad. The sculpture is more than 5 meters high, is considered to be the largest Marlin sculpture anywhere and was placed in the Guinness Book of World records in 2011.

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Chris and Lorry seem to know everyone in town. They stopped by one shop to say hi and the owner was feeding this little baby.  She said she found five of them abandoned and had distributed them to friends for round the clock feedings.  This little guy is about 10 days old and doesn’t even have his eyes open.

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Down on the Malecon, sea wall, is the Nereida and Triton sculpture.  It was erected to commemorate the 400 anniversary of the Philippine Island voyage in 1554. While at the ice cream store we met up with Georgie and Bao who wandered around town with us the rest of the day.

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Don’t look up, we’re crossing the street.

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Marina Isla Navidad was really comfortable with slips the right size for a catamaran.

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Eric went out for a sail with Brian and his friend from back home Josh on Cat2Fold while I spent the day at the pool with all the kids.  Cat2Fold is a is a light weight catamaran with freestanding side by side masts.  Brian can fold it up and trailer the boat back to Jackson, WY for lake sailing.

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The pool was relaxing but the 4pm dock party was moving into Makai’s cockpit, so I better get home.

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Sailing friends come and go and come back again.  Our Cat2Fold friends left today but Marie quickly made friends with Nadia at the pool.

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The resort is an all inclusive if you have a wrist band and a popular destination for Canadians, Americans and Mexicans on spring break.  there are three levels of pools with slides connecting each pool and a hot tub near by.

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Between the great food and company in town and the easy life of a resort marina, it was really hard to throw off the dock lines and leave.  But two fun anchorages and another resort marina are next in our schedule.

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Zihuatanejo

Here we are!  When I was sad about leaving the Bahamas I consoled myself knowing that we would be going to Zihuatanejo, for shopping and eating.  Eric, Teak and I were here 17 years ago and spent many happy days enjoying this bay and town.

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Topaz has been dry for weeks and weeks, anchored here off of La Ropa beach she gets to swim all day.

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This beach is popular with tourists for walking, swimming, playing in the waves, taking parasail rides, renting Hobie Cats, paddle boards, kayaks, and rides on the inflatable banana through the anchorage.

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We’re also half way between town and Las Gatas beach so the Coca Cola delivery boat stopped by to see if they could sell us a few bottles.

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The other side of the bay is the town of Zihuatanejo.  The beach is lined with the panga fishing fleet and the fish market, a few restaurants and shops.

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The first order of business is shopping.  The map located the market.  We expected the central municipal market but instead we ended up at Commercial Mexicana, similar to a Walmart and not what we expected, but we did fill up our carts with groceries and had a good tour of town. Mango trees are found in many yards.

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This cool clock tower is near the traffic circle.  I haven’t had much luck finding the name of the church or it’s history.  I did find that this tower overlooks the Juan Pablo II school.

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Apparently the locals believe it’s good luck to stroke blonde hair.  The girls were targeted with their goldie locks.  This nice man worked directing traffic near the central market as well as answering questions and giving directions to tourists.

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Most, many, not quite all the buildings look like they are ready to build a top floor, but abandoned the project. We’ve been told the real reason is that taxes are paid upon completion of the building, but if they never finish the project, they don’t have to pay the taxes. This area has all types of uses.  We saw that some houses use it as a patio or a place to hang the laundry.

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The police are everywhere, not one or two, but a whole bunch of them with combat uniforms and major artillery. It’s hard to get used to their presence, but these guys were friendly enough to wave and smile.

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Flowers grow everywhere especially bougainvillea which thrives like a weed.

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The artisan market stretches several blocks.  The booths are loaded with trinkets, blankets, t-shirts, jewelry, carvings, and anything that might catch a tourist’s eye.  We supported the local economy and everyone walked away with something shiny.  We got jewelry, a magnet, a mirror, a fish mobile, stone chess board, and a plaque with for Makai made out of license plates. Can’t live without any of it!

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Like my necklace?

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Now that we know where the Municipal Mercado is we’re off seeking lunch.

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Oh yes, just as I remember.  The produce is much more beautiful at this market than the supermarket. I couldn’t believe how wilted, over ripe, and bruised the produce was at the supermarket, this is more like it.

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The market is divided up into sections.  The meat section wasn’t exactly as appetizing as the produce.

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Everything was clean and iced in the fish market.

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How about lunch. The waterfront offers several open air restaurants, but nothing is like street tacos.  The first place we sampled was on an empty lot on a busy street corner.  They had a little shade, a cooler of cold drinks, a lady pressing tortillas, and a guy grilling and chopping steak for tacos. The choices were bistek or al pastor. Bistek is simply chopped steak, but the girls were sold on the al pastor.  This is marinated pork on a vertical spit with pineapple.  Oh, yea! We’re eating in Mexico now!

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The plates are covered in plastic for easy dish washing.  We each ordered two tacos and then they were so tasty, everyone wanted uno mas por favor. We ate something like 15 tacos and 5 cokes, plus a side of rice and beans, everyone was full and happy.  The bill made us even happier.  $12 how can you beat that.

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The next day’s lunch was at the municipal mercardo.  I was looking for Carnitas and we found it.  This yummy roast pork is served on a fresh tortilla with a tray of fixings. You know, cheese is not typically a taco condiment.  Marie refused to eat, she just couldn’t handle walking past the chicken heads draped over the counter or big piles of fish and then eat lunch.  The rest of us enjoyed everything and once again, the bill was $12.

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Today’s lunch was at Tamale Any, a place Eric remembered from the t-shirt he bought here many years ago.  This time we had a huge spread at this beautiful restaurant.

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Everyone had tacos or tamales but I was torn between tortilla soup and pozole. Pozole is a stew of meat and hominy served with a tray of condiments like onions, cheese, avocado, radish, etc. Today I went for the Tortilla soup which is a pepper broth over chicken and cheese, tortilla chips and served with a tray of condiments as well. This place is much fancier, more food, two drinks for each of us, left overs for snacks later and the bill was $40.

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After lunch each day we would get heated up on the walk back to the beach.  Better cool off in the shade with some ice cream. Even though we’re full, we’re not done eating Mexican food.  Comida de Mexico es muy bien!

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Critters are everywhere.  Walking along the canal we saw a large iguana scurry by.  There are plenty of dogs laying around.  I was pleased that they all looked healthy and well fed.  This is surely a dog’s life.  No collar, no neutering, plenty of snacks around the restaurants and shade to sleep the day away.

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Cats must hide, because we don’t see too many.  This one smelled our left overs and followed us around for awhile

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How about the Chihuahua.  This one looks a bit nervous, but then I guess they all do.

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Now everyone wants a bird.  I keep saying we already have a pet, but the kids think another one is in order.

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To relax and cool off after town we go to the beach.  This is the very beach our pal Mike rented a hobie wave, maybe this one, when he visited us all those years ago.  After we all had such a good time, he went home and found one for us to share.  All that Hobie sailing prompted us to find the Hobie wave the Makai carries around.  We sailed our Hobie around the bay to blend in with the tourists.

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A nice swell rolls in the bay creating waves on the soft beach.  The girls played in the waves with and without boogie boards. We managed to get sand in our hair, bathing suit, and anywhere else it could find to hide. My favorite way to get rid of this sand is to swim back out to Makai.  Yesterday on my swim back a school of small fish came jumping by and one hit me in the chin.  It was nuts, I got hit by a fish and had a very tiny but very bloody wound that wouldn’t stop.  Marie put a band aid on it and then everyone chuckled at me.

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It’s nice to be on the beach again, but we haven’t found one that compares to the Bahamas beaches.  There we could go for miles on white sand and clear water and never see another person.  Here the sand is darker, the water is cloudy and we have to share with tourists.  I guess we’re ruined.

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One more passage

This is our last big passage to get us to the Mexican cruising grounds Eric and I visited with Teak on our Old Makai 17 years ago.   Here we go, 500nm+ and 5 nights.

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Mexico is serious about their homeland security.  Now that we’re officially checked into the country and have a temporary import permit for Makai we only have to check in and out with the Port Captain in each town.  The day we were to leave, the Navy and Port Captain arrived with armed guards and a search dog. Topaz wasn’t so happy about the working dog sniffing around on her boat, so we went for a walk.

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In the Atlantic the wind came out of the north in the fall and winter, propelling us into warmer cruising grounds, and out of the South in the spring and summer pushing us back to the Chesapeake Bay.  When it wasn’t blowing out of the north or south, we could get good wind out of the east.  This wind was predictable, steady and would switch often enough we could wait for the next wind shift to take us where we want to go.

In the Pacific our wind choices are too much out of the north, not enough out of the north or too much around a cape or in the gulf of Papagayo or Tehuantepec.  We’ve been very lucky that our timing has been coinciding with the weather nicely.  Today we’re ready to leave and the Gulf Of Tehuantepec has calmed down from a nasty 30+kts of wind to zero.  The safe path across this bay is to hug the beach in case the wind comes up, but the marina manager said with the long windless weather window we should have no problem motoring straight across the bay.  All that motoring requires diesel and lots of it.  With no fuel dock, the marina loaned Eric oil jugs and gave him a ride to the gas station.

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Finally, by evening we set off.  All morning long the land heats up and the air above it rises sucking in a breeze from the ocean in the evening, so we get to start the passage with a little sail.  We noticed that as soon as the big orange ball in the sky dips below the water, the wind stops and we have to motor until the next afternoon.

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We saw plenty of life crossing the Gulf of Tehuantepec.  The water was glassy smooth with occasional disturbances from flocks of birds, schools of bait fish and scattered turtle shells.  At first we were nervous about floating obstacles but then realized that the sleeping turtles would wake up when Makai is right upon them so they can swim out of the way.

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After crossing the gulf there was the added complication of fishermen.  They would string long floating nets on the water and spend the day tending them.  It’s hard to avoid running over the net because is snakes around on the surface for quite a distance and we’ve been unable to figure out where it begins and where it ends.  These fishermen called us over so they could push the net down for us to go over it.  Unfortunately, we still grabbed a piece with our outside rudder.  Eric had the engine in neutral the whole time so the fishermen just needed to push the line down to free it.   Another ponga we met on the trip waved and asked for water.  We filled their jug with cold water but declined the little tuna they offered in return.

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We had more dolphins visit us in one day than the whole time in the Atlantic.  Several times a day 5-10 dolphins would come jumping, splashing and speeding up to Makai’s bow.  One night I saw them come with glowing trails of phosphorescence.

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Topaz always alerts us when her friends come to visit. She goes from her Topaz dream land to full on alert mode.  Woof Woof Woof, in a high pitched alarm voice.  Scrambling and skidding as she races them to the bow.  How does she know they’re here if she’s sleeping?  You can smell them.  We’re used to sailing around deserted islands, but here on the mainland of Central America, you can really pick out smells. The dolphins smell like fish, reminds me of the smell when Roy is cleaning his catch out back.  On land they also burn trash and brush. One day Roy and I noticed that it smelled like vanilla.  This is crazy because we’re usually several miles off shore but can still enjoy the smell of burning refuse.

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Eric thinks the dolphins hang out extra long because they’re interested in Topaz.  When she’s tied off in the cockpit and can’t go all the way up front, dolphins often swim along the back of the boat while she barks her furry little head off.

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This passage has been quite uneventful.  In the evening after 18 hours of motoring we would often change course a bit and sail for a few hours.  This always resulted in tacking up wind. The current was against us the whole way and if the evening wind blew hard enough we could barely make 4kts with the engines.

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The days were spent cooking and eating, sleeping and reading, and of course searching through our extensive movie library.  In the morning we would all compare notes on what movies were watched looking for recommendations.  It’s hard to select a good movie when all you have is a title and possibly a recommendation from the crew.  I watched the first 10 minutes of dozens of movies.  Many had too much violence, too much sex, were too boring, or I had already seen before.  I was surprised at how many movies I watched that starred famous actors and I had never heard of.

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You have to feel sorry for Topaz.  Of all those fun activities we all enjoyed, she only had eating, sleeping, barking and getting schmoogled on ( that is pets, hugs, scratches, cuddles, & sweet talk).  Passages like this are very relaxing and give us a chance to relax.

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Passage to Mexico

While our stay in Golfito, Costa Rica was short, we had fun visiting with Tim and Kate, the owners, and all the other cruisers who came through the anchorage.  The upstairs is the cruisers lounge with a cool patio, shower and bathroom, TV, and honor system refrigerator, and walls decorated by boaters passing through.

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We recognized a few acquaintances from the last time we cruised in Mexico, so Genny was tasked with adding Makai to the wall.

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Roy lowered the Costa Rican courtesy flag.  We fly a similar flag for each country we visit. A quick stop at the fuel dock and off we go.  The passage is well over 600 nm, should take 5 days and pass by Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and then enter Mexico.  Except for the Gulf of Papagayo, there isn’t much wind predicted so we’ll be using the engine quite a bit.

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Our first 24 hours was motoring along on glassy water. Roy put out a fishing line, it’s always exciting to hear the zing of the reel when a fish takes off with the lure.  Today when the reel sounded off everyone sprang into action.  I was sitting on the back step giving Topaz a hair cut so all I could do was yell, “Fish ON!”, the line was going fast, Eric stopped the boat, and that’s when we saw it.  A huge Marlin was out at the end of the line.  Leaping into the air, thrashing about and taking more line.  Roy knew we were unprepared for this guy and then started calling for scissors to cut the line.  It all happened so fast there was nothing we could do except stare out there at this beast.  Within half a minute he took all the line and then broke it to our relief.  Roy reeled in what line he had left and assessed the damage to the reel while the fish was still out there jumping. The guys found one broken part and one adjustment to make.  Some new line and the replacement part and we’ll be back in business.

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We finished up Topaz’s haircut, both of us get all hairy and itchy, we’ll have to swim next.  I bought these clippers many years ago to trim Teak while we were cruising in 1997 and 1999.  Each year I get new blades, my favorite is size 3F, and Topaz his styling in her tropical brush cut.

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Turning off the engines left us stopped in the water and ready for a dip.  The water around Golfito was really mucky and it’s been awhile since we swam in clean fresh water so this was fun.  Marie wasn’t taking any chances with this offshore dip, she has her life vest, fins, goggles and a float.  Topaz loved it, she’s been hot and dry for weeks, too bad we have to start up the motor and press on.

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Marie saved a few buckets of fresh water for her cockpit bath.  Very refreshing since it has been so steaming hot lately.

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The gulf of Papagayo is one of the crossings we had to watch the weather for.  The timing worked out nicely where we started to cross at daybreak and finished at sunset.  Yes, there was a lot of wind and choppy seas, but all reefed down Makai was happy to race across the gulf at a comfortable 7-8 knots.  The challenge was that it was gusty at times.  The wind would die down and we would have to put on the motor.  Within a half hour the motor would go off, the jib would come out, then the wind would increase and prompt us to roll the jib in half way then the cycle would start again. Once on the other side we saw plenty of shrimp boats.

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Even though the wind was light we had good sailing from 1 pm to sunset.  As the land heats up, the air heats and rises leaving a space to fill with new air from the ocean.  I think of it as the land is inhaling and giving us a free ride.

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With five days to do nothing but read and nap, the boredom starts to set in and we start to do chores.  Last summer I made a new cover for the mainsail with straps to gather the sail when we lower it.  These lazy jacks can have quite a load on them with our heavy mainsail.  I’m not sure if I didn’t reinforce the areas with the most load properly or if my thread is too light but most of the straps that tie off to the lazy jacks were tearing away from the stack pack.  While on watch I sat there and looked at the repair job and thought about wrestling with the main sail in the hot marina to get the cover off for repairs.  With the sail up, this looked a lot easier, so with no excuses why I can’t sew underway, we took it off and made the repairs.   What a relief, that job is done.

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We saw many turtles resting on the surface, dolphins came to play in our bow wake and these birds circled Makai for hours.  They would swoop in and bicker among themselves. When they landed, they walked really funny on their bellies. Maybe it’s nice to have guests, but these guests aren’t potty trained so we set Topaz off to clear the decks.

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Just before arriving at the Marina entrance in Mexico we had a bee problem.  First there was one or two, then there was a swarm.  Hundreds of bees swarming around the radar and the helm.  Topaz and the kids ran inside and closed up all the hatches while Eric got our salt water hose out and blasted them.  In the past we’ve been attacked by Love Bugs in Florida and Flies in Delaware, but nothing that will hurt us. Eric and I each got one small sting, but luckily Makai got rid of the bees. We remembered experiencing these Africanized agressive bees from last time we cruised in Mexico.

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Finally we arrived in Marina Chiapas, tied up, cleaned up and got a full night sleep.

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I scrubbed all the foot prints from people boarding at the Panama Canal, dirt and ash from Costa Rica, and salt from the passage off of poor Makai, then buffed and waxed the starboard hull.  The kids are doing school work and Eric is working to keep up with our spending.

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Our friend who spent many years cruising in Mexico sent us an envelope of pesos last summer.  We’ve been waiting patiently to arrive so he can buy us our first ice cream and beer treat.

The neighbors have been directing us to the nearest shopping plaza, so we packed up and walked up to the street and waited for the bus.  There aren’t any bus stops or schedules, just wait for the next one to come by.  First a taxi came sailing down the street, flashed his lights and kept going. That must be the signal, so when a mini bus came by and did the same we flagged it down. The bus was very nice, more like a 15 person van. We experienced these buses in other places where there is a driver and a conductor who loads and unloads passengers filling every nook and cranny and collects the fare. When the seats were full we thought it was going to be an express bus to the market. HA! They picked up like 10 more people.  Lots of squishing and standing, even though the bus isn’t designed to stand.  There is no isle, just rows of seats.  Soon enough we arrived at our destination, Walmart.  We were surprised to find the plaza is actually an indoor, air-conditioned mall.  There were a few clothes stores and gift shops, but also a high percentage of the stores sold shoes.  Not just sneakers and such, but those super high heel, platform, how do you walk in those things, style shoes.  Also, there were several barber shops.  So Roy got a haircut.  Across from the barber was a video store with a rifle carrying guard.  We later learned they are the Brinks guys with an armored car out front somewhere.

 

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It was a successful day.  Besides Roy’s haircut, Eric got a SIM card to power up our phone and data for email, we had lunch at the food court, Dominos pizza for Eric and Marie, Chinese for the rest of us, we peaked at the movie theater and considered a movie but decided we didn’t have time.  Instead we went for the main event, Walmart.  Oh, yea, Eric got a few new pairs of shorts (old ones were in tatters), Roy got head phones (old ones disintegrating), the girls got ear buds because they look cool, I got a new shirt for a treat.  Now that fruits are plentiful, we got a blender to make smoothies and margaritas and then a few groceries and that’s all we can carry.  Heading back to the curb for a bus, the taxi drivers bargained with us.  That’s the last straw, we’re now certain our Spanish totally sucks.  We’ll have to take classes when we get home and then bring Makai back to Mexico again to test out any new skills.

In the end we paid $14 for a taxi instead of $7.50 for the bus.  Marie had to sit on my lap, but we had air conditioning and the driver played loud music.  When he took curves we all squealed in the back as we squished from side to side.  We also noticed that the lines on the road seem to be more of a guideline instead of a rule because no one obeys them.  The bus and the taxi pass on double yellow lines, squeeze between on coming traffic and the guy they are passing, drive on the shoulder, all kinds of scary things. The driver kept fiddling with his phone and music, Marie said he was driving with no hands and kept drifting into the oncoming lane. In the end we survived.  Eric closed up the boat, put on the air conditioning and spent the evening doing our taxes.  I made yummy tacos and smoothies for dinner and we watched Herbie the Love Bug.

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Yesterday we spent much of the day getting our paperwork together.  The Marina manager who speaks, Spanish, English and French took us and the people from a French boat to Immigration and the Port Captain.  Ushered us around for forms and payments.  Roy made a new friend.  Gaston is 14 and has lived his whole life sailing from France to the Caribbean, Cape Horn, Alaska, via the Marquesas and Hawaii and down the coast on their way to Panama. Now we’re just about ready to leave.  We should arrive in Zihuatenajo on Sunday.
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Yahoo, we made it to Mexico!

This was a great five day passage. We had wind from every direction in a range of zero to 27 knots. We sailed past five countries with a challenging sail across Nicaragua. We passed many shrimp boats and pangas in the night. Now we’re in Chiapas Mexico checking in with the Port Captain, the Navy, Customs and immigration. I hear there is a Walmart in town so we have a list going. One more passage, hopefully we will be able to leave on Wednesday for another 5 days to Zihuatenjo . Sent from my iPhone

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Gulf of Papagayo

We made it. This is one of the feared gap wind, wild and crazy places to watch out for. Last night at sunset we got just enough wind to put out the jib. Hugging the shore, the choppy seas really flattened out. By first light Eric headed out into the gulf to start the crossing. The Gulf of Papagayo is the border between Costa Rica and Nicaragua. A 10 mile strip of land separates Lake Nicaragua from the ocean and the Continental Divide has a low spot here. This allows the wind in the Caribbean to shoot over the isthmus picking up speed and creating nasty conditions in the Pacific. Eric observed a trend where the wind would blow over 20kts at night and 15 during the day. We were busy all day today with gusty winds. In the morning the wind would go from 5kts (roll the flapping jib in and use the engines to keep us moving along) to 12kts (turning off the engine and letting the jib out) to 22kts (rolling the jib in half way and hold on tight) every half hour or so. By afternoon we were crossing the second half of the gulf and the wind was steady 15 – 20 with gusts over 20. We still did a fair amount of jib reefing in and out, but Makai had a great time sailing. We saw many turtles on the surface with a bird sitting on their backs. A few rays with their wings sticking up out of the water. And of course, dolphins. Now we’re back to hugging the coast. There is still a fair amount of wind coming behind us, but the seas are low and everything is manageable for a quiet night. I defrosted the freezer and took stuff out to cook tomorrow. We didn’t eat much more than cheese and crackers or cereal today, everyone will be hungry tomorrow. We have 400 miles to Chiapas, Mexico, maybe we’ll arrive on Sunday.

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Passages

Chores are minimal, no errands, no internet, life takes on a new routine. I haven’t made any bread in at least a week. We enjoyed restaurants on our mountain vacation, and then at the boat it was so hot we could barely get the energy to eat. With no wind, this passage is starting out as a drippy hot motor boat ride. I made bread, little sausages rolled in bread, and tortillas. That should provide snacks for the crew for a few days. We met some really experienced sailors recently and they all do longer watches. We normally only do two hours at a time, but last night I finished my book and watched a few movies to keep awake and six hours flew by. Genny, Marie and I enjoyed chick flix when we were visiting Buffalo in their first snow storm of the season, so I decided on 27 Dresses, about a perpetual bridesmaid and after that I watched Proof of Life about a kidnapping and ransom in Colombia, very exciting. There were quite a few fishing boats out to avoid, but the seas were flat and not a breath of wind, the moon was bright and stars filled the sky. This morning everyone did a little math homework, I wrangled Topaz onto the back deck for a hair cut, Roy put out a line. Not sure what he’ll catch since I’ve heard that there are only bill fish here. When ZIGGGGGgggggg, off goes the line. In a split second a HUGE Marlin was leaping into the air and taking all the line at a record speed. Roy was screaming for someone to bring scissors to cut the line, when at the last minute, with no line left on the pole, the line broke. Wowsie wowsie. This all happened so fast. The poor fish still had the lure and was out there jumping long after the line broke. Afterwards Eric and Roy took the reel apart and found several broken pieces and this is on his heavy reel too. I guess we better not fish if we’re not prepared for a sea monster. Today we are surrounded by sport fisher boats, so maybe someone will catch this guy and relieve him of Roy’s lure. Whew, it’s still hot. Eric has the water maker going, so we turned off the engines, clipped Topaz to her swim line and jumped in for a swim and then a shower. The top two inches of the water is like bath water and below that it’s only slightly refreshing but clean, clear and blue. Our next way point is set for an anchorage inside the Gulf of Papagayo. Right on the edge of where the strong winds shoot across the peninsula. The seem to decrease during the day and blast through at night. If our timing is right we can keep going tomorrow, otherwise we’ll be able to pause at the anchorage and wait for the wind and seas to settle a bit.

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Adios Golfito

Our last morning at Golfito, Roy and I went for a few groceries. Ice Cream was our biggest purchase, veggies looked terrible, meat and cheese was about what you would find at a 7-11. I was pretty sure the butcher and veggie market wouldn’t take visa and since we were out of Colonies (Costa Rican money) , the grocery store was my only choice. Eric went in search of immigration, customs and the port captain to check us out. The kids and I carted buckets of water out to the boat to try to scrub the land dirt and ash out of the cockpit. We brought the cushions in on the dinghy to scrub at the dock and filled a few buckets of water for bathtubs later. Topaz got soaped up and washed with the hose too. We collected our laundry from Tim laundry service. This is typical up through Mexico too, no self serve laundry. He said he liked our clothes, they were interesting and colorful, now I feel compelled to wear wild clothes to entertain the laundry people. Afterwards we were still dripping hot and Tim’s refrigerator full of ice cold beer gave us another reason to delay departure. But that was all 24 hours ago, now were on a passage. ===== This message was sent using Winlink, a free radio email system provided by the Amateur Radio Safety Foundation and volunteers worldwide. Replies to this message should be brief using plain text format and any attachments kept small. Commercial use or use of this email system for monetary gain is strictly forbidden. See www.winlink.org/help for additional information.

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