Thursday, December 9, 2010

Nuevo Vallarta

The days were slipping by way too fast in La Cruz and we had to get out of there. There are more than a few people who set out on an ambitious voyage...until they got to La Cruz, where there are many reasons to stay and few reasons to get up off your anchor and move along. The Honcho is now in Nuevo Vallarta, about 6 miles closer to downtown Puerto Vallarta. We didn't even hoist a sail to get here. We're in a slip in the Paradise Village Marina. Paradise Village is a destination resort with hotels, marina, yacht club, all manner of restaurants and shops, and plenty of traffic. Reminds me a bit of Marina Del Rey. Being one of the smallest boats here, we were assigned a slip way back at the far end of the marina, up a long and narrow estuary far from the center of things. Way back here the sounds we hear are a curious mixture of wildlife and auto traffic, but we are spared the throbbing beat of the nightclubs that serenaded us all night long in Cabo. The "Please Don't Feed The Crocodiles" signs have made Lisa a bit nervous, though.

The plan is to hang out here for a few days, reprovision, then head south. Yesterday we took a bus into downtown PV and wandered down the Malecon and up Cuale Island, which is located at the mouth of the Cuale river and is in many ways the cultural center of the city. We found the Museum of Mexican Naval History and entered a world that most Americans don't think much about, the Mexican Navy. Among the many exhibits we saw scale models of the Manila galleons that brought treasure across the Pacific Ocean from the Philippines in the 1500's. The ships used Banderas Bay as a refuge from storms and pirates and by the mid 16th century permanent settlements had been established. Later, when gold and silver were discovered in the Sierra Madre mountains inland from the bay, a thriving business in salt was established. Apparently salt was necessary to extract the precious metals from the ore that was mined up in the hills. Later a town was established, called Las Penas. The surrounding countryside was fertile and soon ranching and farming also became important parts of the local economy. This was lucky for the people of the area because when gold was discovered in California in 1849, the mining industry here collapsed. By the early 20th century there was a thriving agrarian community in the area. The place was doing so well that around 1915, the town was renamed Puerto Vallarta in honor of Don Ignacio L. Vallarta. Senor Vallarta was a big time lawyer in the area who eventually became governor of the Mexican state of Jalisco, and so got the city renamed for himself. We learned all this and more at the museum. I especially liked the photos and models of the Mexican Navy in action apprehending narco traficantes and protecting the territorial waters from threats of all kinds.

All that museum work made us thirsty so we found a beachfront bar nearby. The Spanish Merlot was pretty good and the Italian Pinot Bianco was so-so, but the view was spectacular. Banderas Bay is the largest natural bay on the west coast of North America. For you yacht racers out there watching the billionaires bicker over where to host the next Americas Cup, this bay makes San Francisco Bay look like...not much. It's roughly 12 miles east-west by roughly 20 miles north-south and is blessed with reliable northwesterly winds. With the near perfect sailing conditions along with excellent facilities and many thousands of hotel rooms, my vote is to have the next AC regatta right here in PV.

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