Stop and Smell the Cactus

Ok, ok, I know it has been a very long time since the last post and I would really like to think it was because we were so busy but the Mexican inertia finally took hold.  Let's face it, we were just too damn lazy, pure and simple.
We arrived back in Mazatlan after a busy summer doing major renovations to various properties and immediately set about getting the boat back in order.  We spent about 2 weeks (thankfully not on the boat since it was on the hard) replacing the prop, fitting a new seacock for the watermaker, new waterline (raised it again), rebuilt the steering pedestal, new fittings for the solar panels and a load of other things.  The list just never seems to end.  We carried all this new equipment with us and  wondered if we would get through customs with the big duffle bag full of boat parts, but  no one even batted an eye.  We even had time for the timeshare scene.
After the whirlwind mini refit and securing the boat in the El Cid marina,  it was a quick trip back home for Christmas to (need I say) frozen, snowy Alberta.  We stayed away last year and the kids were not impressed, Christmas is still pretty important, especially now with young grandchildren.
After a couple of weeks in the snow Mazatlan looked pretty darn good.  Before we left for Christmas Rueben, the local upholsterer, came by and took our boat cushions for recovering.  Jackie wanted leather again and we were shown some pretty nice samples.  They were promised for January 10, I must admit that I sure that it would be sometime in March before we saw them again.  On return we phoned Rueben and he came through with flying colours, not only did they look great but were done on time and for a price that was at least 75% less than up north.  A big thank you to Rueben.
While we were home we Skyped our friends in England, who informed us that they were coming to Mexico.  In Mexico I spoke almost daily to Ian (when we had internet) about boaty things and had been on his case to come for a visit.  We had only 2 days after our return to get ourselves back together before our friends, Diana and Ian, were due to arrive.  It was a mad scramble to try and get organized, but Jackie is a real trooper and pulled it off with time to spare. 
It was such a treat to have them aboard, both are hard core sailors, and we are neophytes by comparison.  Jackie and I got to play tourist guide and really enjoyed showing them the sights of Mazatlan.  Of course this included Diego's and The Brentster, the El Faro Lighthouse and Stone Island, Machado Square and a side trip to Copola but the highlight was the Palapa del Mar and the copious amount of margarita's consumed.  Needless to say we took a cab back to the boat as no one was fit to walk.  There is some truth in the "T" shirt saying, "One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor!"
Our first sail took us to Isla Isabel which is an overnighter.  During the night the wind piped up a bit and Leif, true to course, did not have the reefing lines run so it was a bit exciting hanging off the end of the boom in the dark trying to get things in order.  Lesson learned!
Isabel is known as the Galapagos of Mexico and Diana and Ian were amazed at the bird life.  They were particularly impressed with the blue footed boobies.  They have a very similar bird (sans the blue feet) in England, the Gannet.  The frigate birds were out in force and there were many downy babies in the nests.
Baby Frigate

Mr and Mrs Frigate

Wanna dance?

Diana trekking on Isabel
The following day was an easy sail over to Matanchen Bay and we dropped the hook and enjoyed a very nice sundowner in the cockpit as we marvelled at the orange sunset.  The following day we went around to San Blas marina and were well received.  I want to add here that the much maligned jejenes were not out in force and I would dearly like to say that the only bite I received was from Jackie in a passionate mood but alas that is not so!  She says "Dream on Sunshine!"
It was the obligatory trip up the river on the Jungle tour and Diana even had a swim in the freshwater pool next to the crocodiles.  There is not a hope in hell that I would do that, fence or no fence.  We bought some of the great banana bread from the vendors and after a cerveza from Ismael on the beach it was back to the boat.
The following day we managed to take in the fort and see the church that inspired Longfellow's the Bells of San Blas.  Did you know he never actually went to San Blas?  After the fort we splurged for a lobster/shrimp dinner out and had a very good meal at a roadside restaurant that we had spotted previously.

The Bells of San Blas

Diana and Ian
Remains of the church

Roadside diner

The Cook

San Blas fort
Up early the next morning and on the water to Chacala.  This day trip was one of the best we have had for wild life, and I don't mean because of the tequila.  There were plenty of BOTS (birds on turtles), dolphins and many whales breaching.  We didn't let on to our visitors that it was the best we had seen, we chose to let them think it was an everyday experience.
At Chacala, the archetypical tropical anchorage, you anchor off the beach in some swell and it is advisable to set a stern anchor.  So it was out with the chain and the 33# Bruce and into the dink, good thing I am such a he-man (not), otherwise it would have been a struggle.
We were fortunate to get a good dose of Banda music under one of the many palapas but somehow I think that Ian was not impressed.  Oh well, the beer was cold, the lunch great, the sun shone and all was well.  Diana got to swim again, she loves the water, and swam almost every day until the jellyfish changed her mind.
Capn Ian

San Blas jungle tour

After Chacala it was off to La Cruz and back to civilization.  There was a pretty good swell running and the breakers off Punta de Mita were just short of spectacular, I wouldn't like to get it wrong going around there.  We did consider anchoring off Mita but looking at the other boats rolling decided that it was preferable to be comfortable at La Cruz.  We really are wimps.
La Cruz is a great place with a first class marina.  The town itself at first appears a bit dowdy but appearances are deceptive.  There is a very active music scene and the gastronomie is terrific, from Tacos on the Street to the decidedly upmarket Masala.  We hauled our poor unsuspecting visitors off to Phylos for an evening of food and music, made an abortive attempt to find the "109" restaurant (left you idiot not right) and another evening enjoyed a great pizza at Falcones.  No trip to Puerto Vallarta would be complete without a visit to Pipi's and we duly hauled Diana and Ian off to sample the fare.  Needless to say we were all a bit more conservative on the intake of tequila, having learned our lessons the hard way!  We lost our companions on 1 Feb. when they had to fly home to the UK, confident they had a good time, even if some of it may be lost in an alcoholic blur!
Hard on the heels of Diana and Ian's departure came Carol, Jackie's sister.
Carol had been on the boat previously up north, but this was a first when she could get rid of the fleece and lounge in the cockpit with a muy frio cerveza!  Since Carol has very limited sailing experience we confined our excursions to a trip to Chacala, anchoring for a couple of nights.  We did the shore side palapas and now consider ourselves minor authorities on them, which has the cheapest beer, who has the best tacos or the best ceviche.  We went ashore to the fisherman's shack and bought a very nice Spanish mackerel for 50 pesos, this fish did us for 2 meals and was delicious.
Back at La Cruz we were treated to Mexican Train lessons by Ted and Pam on Roundabout.  We had often seen people playing but never had the courage to actually try it.  I can attest that there is indeed a strategy but a good dose of luck goes a long way in winning.
While Jackie and Carol were off playing tourist Leif got his teeth cleaned ($30) and whitened ($150).  It seems that if the materials have to be imported the price differential is not that great even if the labour is much less. 
The Banderas Bay Regatta is a big deal for the local sailing fleets and many international sailors also turn up.  Leif was lucky to secure a position as gorilla on 40 Love, my thanks to Joel for his patience and understanding.  We were a man down the second day so Dick from Full and By was pressed into service and acquitted himself admirably.  Cruising is one thing but racing is quite another.  In spite of one rather feeble crew member (Leif) we managed to place second in our class and came in 1-2-2 in the heats.
Mexico is so much more than beaches and bars, there is a whole different world just over the mountain range, so we set off to Guanajuato with Bob and Karyn from Realtime.  The bus service is very good with large luxury coaches running to all the major cities.  We piled onto the Primera Plus coach and hit the road. 
Guanajuato is a medium sized city, famous in the past for it's silver mines but more recently for it's university.  Consequently the city is full of students, very lively, with many fine coffee houses and restaurants.  The architecture is much more reminiscent of Spain than the usual white washed stucco of Mexico, in fact other than the flags you would be forgiven for thinking you were dropped somewhere on the Spanish mainland.
We stayed in, what we suspect, was an old nunnery which dated from the late 1600's.  It had been refurbished and was spotlessly clean.  The location was perfect being just steps from the main square which is fronted by the very beautiful Angela Peralta Theatre (every major city has an Angela Peralta Theatre).
We did a city tour, Karyn had found the guide via the internet, and he did a great job of shepherding us around the city.  We got to go down one of the mine shafts, there was a mini museum set up showing some of the conditions that the local Indians laboured in under the Spanish.  Pretty abysmal conditions and the Indians were expendable.
Most evenings just adjacent to the square groups form for a small tour of the back streets.  These are conducted by troubadours dressed in period costumes and there could be as many as a dozen singers and musicians in the group.  Once assembled we were led through the streets with song and music, stopping occasionally to be mentored on an important site or callejones.   It is such a pity that we could not understand what was being said, true we had the Lonely Planet  so were not completely in the dark, but missed so much.  The troubadours sang quite a few songs and those following seemed to know all the words and made us feel even more that we were missing something due to our lack of Spanish.  Somehow "dos cervezas por favor" and "donde est el bano" just does not cut it!
Bob and Karyn had to go back to get Realtime prepared for their Pacific crossing so Jackie and Leif pressed on to San Miguel de Allende, the site of the Mexican uprising in 1809 against the Spanish.
Anyone got a tooth brush?

The Great Mismaloya bones tournament

The eventual victors!

Tequila factory

San Sebastian

San Sebastian miner

Guanajuato hotel room

Hotel courtyard


Great for corn lovers


Mexican scouts

All this for me?
San Miguel de Allende

Jackie with troubadour

She brings out the beast in me!

Tugs at your heartstrings

San Miguel

San Miguel movers

Even more churches
We returned to La Cruz and made our way back to Mazatlan in company with Dick and Ann on Full and By.  The trip was uneventful and we had an easy entrance into the marina at El Cid.  We spent the remainder of our time doing a few boat jobs and getting ready to put her to bed for the summer (still sounds funny not saying winter).  We volunteered to drive a van back from Puerto Vallarta to Seattle for Jeff and Melody on Double Diamond.  They didn't tell us that it was a maxi van and it seemed like I was driving a Greyhound!  Our trip back was another adventure with only had a couple of check stops at various Mexican army posts.
The crossing at Nogales was also a non event, all that fretting was for nothing thank goodness.  We drove up Hwy 1 as far as Astoria and then hit the super slab.  We did make a side trip into Salem where Jackie bought a new SUV so we could have something to drive home in.
All in all it was a great season, even if we did not sail very much.  The inland trip whetted our appetite for more Mexican travels and we are already preparing a list for next year.

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