Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Month in Banderas Bay

Banderas Bay Sunrise

Finisterra has been in Banderas Bay for about a month, and it looks like we'll be here a few more weeks. We've decided to spend the season cruising in Mexico instead of hurrying south to Panama this spring. Reasons for this are multiple, but the primary cause is that we had planned to leave California in November but were delayed a couple of months due to health issues. We considered various schedules for getting to Panama before the wet season starts, but they all would leave us without enough time to explore southern Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Costa Rica. So instead, we'll hang out here a bit longer, then head north into the beautiful Sea of Cortez. When hurricane season begins in late spring, Finisterra will be safely tucked into a slip in La Cruz and we'll go back to the States for a couple of months.

In the meantime, life here could scarcely be more relaxing and tranquil. We loved having guests aboard Finisterra and enjoy the friendly hustle and bustle of life ashore, but out here on the hook we have time to relax. You might think cruising in Mexico is one big vacation, but believe it or not, there is always work to be done, people to see, and places to go. But here in the anchorage on a peaceful morning all of that seems faraway, at least for a while. Here is typical morning aboard Finisterra:

I woke up around 6:00am. Sunrise isn't until well after 7:00. I fix a cup of coffee and go on deck and look around. The first streaks of dawn appear over the mountains to the east and I settle down in the cockpit to watch the show. The boat is gently rocking and the only sound is a few gulls in the distance. A few minutes pass and the sky is brightening, sending streaks of light through the morning clouds that are reflected in the water. I hear what sounds like a sigh and look over to see a couple of dolphins lazily passing by less than 40 feet away. Off in the distance I hear the sound of an outboard motor and see a panga with a couple of fishermen heading out for a day of fishing. By now the sun is about to burst over the mountains and the dinghy traffic begins as people aboard the sixty or so boats in the anchorage head for shore. A few minutes later, Lisa emerges on deck with a plate full of sliced fruit, and the day is in full swing.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Plenty of Excitement in La Cruz

We stayed in Marina Riviera about three weeks, which is a week longer than planned. My first priority was to get all the maintenance and repair items on the boat finished. There was not a lot to do, but here in the land of Manana, simple things can take longer than you expect. For example, I needed a replacement belt for the alternator on the engine, a simple part that should be available anywhere.  But after visiting about a dozen refaccionarias (auto parts stores), it had become more like a treasure hunt. I finally located one with the help of my Bolivian/American buddy Ed, in an Autozone store just outside of Puerto Vallarta. You may be wondering why I didn't bring my own spares with me from the US. Well, I did but it turned out that the belt specified in the engine manual does not fit on my particular engine because the standard alternator was replaced with a high output unit.

Lisa updating her Facebook page in her new Bumfuzzle shirt. For more info go to www.bumfuzzle.com

La Cruz is a gathering point for boats waiting out winter storms before heading north to the Sea of Cortez or the US. Boats heading south to Central America or the South Pacific also gather here. It is a perfect place to reprovision, repair and upgrade your boat before heading out to more remote destinations so it's a great meeting place for friends, old and new. Of course winter brings lots of Canadians, some by boat but many by plane. Among them are our good friends Judy and Wolf, who we have met in various Mexican ports in the past. They invited us to join them for the Southside Shuffle in Puerto Vallarta. This is a bi-weekly art walk in the heart of the "Zona Romantica". We wandered through the many shops and galleries, sipping free wine and marveling at the surprisingly (to me) high quality art on display.

Map of the Shuffle

A few days later friends from the States, Tom and Mary Ellen flew into town. Veterans of Mexico cruising themselves, they were ready to party and visit old haunts in town. In the evenings we listened to Latin Jazz at Philos and Sax virtuoso Bryan Savage at Oso's or played Mexican Train aboard Finisterra. One day we drove into the town of Bucerias for a horse show. The Mexicans do them with lots of pageantry, LOUD music and Big Sombreros. We wandered around the grounds and watched the pageant that preceded the actual competition. Unfortunately, the event was delayed and we had to leave well before it was over.

Young Girl with proud Poppa. She was one of about a dozen girls in the show. Notice she is wearing a spur on her left boot. This is because she and the rest of the girls in the show rode side-saddle.
The show began with a pageant of sorts, when a dozen or so girls ranging in age from about 6 to 16 rode to the center of the ring and each was called out by name and awarded a big sombrero and a bouquet. Later the men rode out but were not rewarded with any gifts.
Young rider with a brand new sombrero and a bouquet.
Mexican horsemen are called Charros. Notice the young rider on the far left, his hat is almost as big as him. In Mexico, kids learn to ride early in life.
The youngest female rider's horse was led by her mom.

Another day we went out for a sail on a friend's sailboat and got dismasted. A dismasting is always a lot of work but we had a good, experienced crew and quickly secured the broken mast and rigging and got back into the marina in time for cocktails.
A dismasting is always serious, but this time there were no injuries and quick work by the crew prevented more serious damage to the boat.

A couple of days later we took a cruise out to Islas Tres Marietas aboard Finisterra and were treated to lots of up-close sightings of whales. Before we knew it, another week had flown by and it was time to say goodbye to our friends.

A few weeks ago the autofocus on my trusty Olympus C-740 camera stopped working properly. It would only focus on things it wanted to instead of what I wanted. I'm not sure if it's fixable, but it was time for a new camera anyway. I've had the Oly for over ten years and during that time it has traveled over three continents and many thousands of miles with me. Some of the hardest on it were the sea miles, where it occasionally got hit with salt spray or worse. So I ordered a new Olympus Stylus 1 to replace it. The photos you see here were taken with it. As you can see, I'm still on the steep part of the learning curve with it.

A double-ender slipped out of La Cruz at sunset

Yesterday we moved to the anchorage outside of La Cruz. We'll hang out here a few more days before moving out to Punta de Mita.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Market Day in La Cruz

Every Sunday local growers, artisans, musicians and vendors of all sorts of foods and clothing gather on the malecon in front of the La Cruz fish market to sell their wares. It's a festive and colorful occasion that really brings out the eclectic culture of this pretty little town. In the years since I was last here, the town has grown and prospered. When it started, the open air market was a small affair, but now it's a pretty big deal, and people come from miles around to sample and buy fruits and vegetables, breads and exotic sauces, clothing and art. It's a lot of fun to wander among them and enjoy it all.

The bread girl sells delicious baguettes.
Fresh foods abound
Basketry made of pine needles
Dolls are a big deal in Mexico
This dancer looks pensive before the start of her routine....
Her partner looked more confident.

Cats in La Cruz

We spent a couple of days anchored outside of the harbor before moving into the Marina Riviera Nayarit. As soon as we got into the slip I started on boat projects, one of which was to have the hull and deck polished and waxed. Another was to have the teak cap rails sanded and re-varnished.  Finisterra is all bright and shiny now.
 I also had a refrigeration specialist take a look at our freezer system. Ironically, it's been working flawlessly since we got here so there was little he could do to diagnose the intermittent problem. We checked all the basics, which I had already done...all good. He did leave me with some ideas about what to do if the problem recurs. The engine also needed servicing and it now has fresh oil and filters, and is ready for the next adventure.

Now that the chores are done, I've had some time to cruise around the marina, renew old acquaintances, and check out all the boats that are here. There is no shortage of cruising cats in the harbor. They range from Profligate, Richard Spindler's venerable 63 foot cruising cat to the beautiful new Sig 45, Vamonos.

Note the big daggerboards on Profligate (pronounced PRO-fliget)

Profligate was one of the boats that were "embargoed" by the Mexican government. A couple of days ago it, along with most of the other embargoed boats, was released by the Mexican government. So it appears that this controversy is coming to an end.  Profligate is a modified 63' Kurt Hughes design. Perhaps not the prettiest cat in the harbor, it is a functional and practical boat that gets sailed a lot.

Another interesting design is the 50 foot "Kalewa". This boat has a successful racing record and I believe it has also done at least one Pacific crossing. I'll leave it to you to judge the aesthetics of this boat.

Racy, spacy Kalewa

Extended transoms with what appear to be kick up rudders on Kalewa. Notice the swoopy contours of the deck house and lack of lifelines. A very interesting boat.

This Sunreef 70, Blue Guru, is the queen of the local multihull fleet here in La Cruz. Sunreef Yachts has established itself as a leader in the luxury multihull market.

 Blue Guru

Note the massive proportions of the S-70 and the composite boom.  

This Lagoon 470 is much better looking than the brochure suggests. 
Lagoon is well represented in La Cruz with at least three of them in the harbor. The 470 is the best looking of them.
This Lagoon 420 isn't quite as pretty as its big sister. Yellow for the sunscreens probably wasn't the best choice of colors.

Tigress is a Prout 50. 
The most interesting boat in the harbor is the SIG 45, Vamonos.
Sig 45 at speed. Courtesy of Yachtworld.com
Concave bow on the Sig. 
Sig catamarans are designed in France and are usually built there, but Vamonos was built in California by Westerly Marine. With tiller steering and a wide open bridge deck, this boat stands out from the more cruising-oriented boats in the harbor.
The paint scheme on this meticulously maintained 45 qualifies as art.

With accommodations limited to the hulls, the bridgedeck is wide open. This photo courtesy of Yachtworld.com