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Puerto Vallarta - March 29

The new generator made it from Florida to San Diego, and apparently across the border without mishap. It arrives here in PV tomorrow, supposedly, though we are warned that the Mexican propensity for optimism usually means a few days later.

Meanwhile, we've moved from La Cruz into Marina Vallarta for the last week of prep. There's still a long list, but daily becoming manageable. Dave is working through all the boat systems. We will repack our offshore ditch bag, eflate the dinghy, recheck the rigging, clean the hull one last time, charge the refrigeration freon, fill water, fuel, gas and propane tanks, do final laundry and provisioning, stow all below and secure all for going to sea. The passage will take 25-30 days if all goes well. In the evenings we listen to boats checking in on the ham radio net. Most are having fast passages in easy conditions. One boat has lost his shrouds (wire that secure the mast side-to-side) and had to shorten sail to relieve the stress on the mast. They are limping along at 2 knots, making for a long trip the last 1000 miles.

The great news for us is that son Joel will be joining us. He had not been sure he could come, but the generator problem became a hidden blessing, allowing his timing to work into ours. Joel arrives Thursday. We will obtain our exit visa (zarpe) on Friday, and hopefully cast off April 7, if the weather is favorable. Boats usually wait for a Sea of Cortez "norther" to be blowing so they don't have to motor the first 300 miles in calm.

La Cruz, Banderas Bay - March 9

Yippee! The generator comes out of the hole.

And is lifted by the Opequimar boom truck.

Last week we backed into the dock at Opequimar and had the boom truck extract our Westerbeke 8kw generator. Dave had spent a couple days chiseling the rusty bolts off that held it down, and took off enough bits to allow it to come out of the sternseat opening, a tight fit.

Teapot Tony, local engine expert, took it to his shop for diagnosis. Early prognosis was hopeful, maybe just bad diodes. But late yesterday we got a call and Tony advises even if he can get it going, he could not trust it. The raw water pump leak had saturated the innards with corrosion.

So we are biting the bullet and looking for a replacement. Dave is crawling the internet looking for best prices and availability. We will know more in a few days.

Meanwhile, Jan visited the spanking new PV Costco. Columbian coffee! Walnuts! Real cheddar cheese! What great timing, just as I gear up for major provisioning. I am making Dave give up one of his 38 engine spares/tools lockers for food. I exaggerate. But not by much...

We are working down the to-do list, and except for the unknown generator solution, it is feeling manageable. Dave has started participating in the radio nets for the passage. A few boats have already left. We are enjoying these last days at a dock, with power, water, showers, wi-fi, and a steady boat, luxuries that will soon be fading memories.

La Cruz, Banderas Bay - March 5

We are once again back in Banderas Bay. This will be our final stop in Mexico before puddlejumping to French Polynesia later this month.

We enjoyed an easy trip up from Barra with longtime friends Mary and Step, especially nice as experienced boaters, they stood night watches. And Step could intelligently converse with Dave on boat systems, something Jan does not do well (eyes cross and brain halts). We enjoyed the last of the french baker and a final jungle river trip at Tenacatita, and an easy overnight run around Cabo Corrientes.

Now we are busy! Yesterday we ran over to Opequimar marine yard and had the generator extracted. Teapot Tony has it in his shop and can hopefully diagnose and repair it. The generator repair is the single show stopper item on our 80+ list that could prevent our making the crossing this year.

We are tied up in the new Marina at La Cruz. The PV Costco opens today, yippee, just in time for heavy provisioning.

Barra de Navidad - Feb 22

Dave's sister Malinda and niece Kelly flew into Manzanillo for a week. We rented a car and drove up to over 7000 feet inland, to visit the pretty colonial town of Patzcuaro. The drive was long and torturous - would have been far better to take the bus from Zihua to Uruapan, then to Patzcuaro - in about half the time and distance. But we enjoyed the destination - staying in Meson de San Antonio, really lovely small hotel with a fireplace in the room. The second night the hotel was full, so Malinda and Kelly moved around the corner the the Mandala Hotel.

The church across from Malinda and Kelly's hotel.

Kelly climbs the spiral stairs to her room.

Patzcuaro is a picturesque town with lots of craft shopping.

We also visited the 800 year old ruins at Tzintzantzun.

Tzintzantzun above Lado Patzcuaro.

Back in Barra, Dave got out the hookah and scuba tank to dive for the anchor windlass handle. It had slipped out of my hand while we were anchoring, dropping at the same moment as the anchor. Barra lagoon water is murky, and is rumored to host crocodiles though we have yet to see them. Dave could not see his fingers in front of his mask in the silty lagoon water, so he felt his way down to the anchor, tied a short line and fed it out in a widening radius while he swam in circles. He felt around in the muck, and found it within a half hour!

We enjoyed the French baker, and took an quick overnight trip to Tenacatita. The week passed too quickly, and it was soon time to say goodbye to Malinda and Kelly.

Zihuatanejo - Feb 7

We leave today for Isla Grande aka Isla Ixtapa for 2 nights. Assuming we can haul the anchors up... The stern anchor rode looks like a mossy anaconda, and we understand it is hard to see the chain links of the bow anchor. We have some scrubbing to do. At Isla Grande we will dive under and scrub the growth off the hull.

One bonus of the Mexican coastal towns has been wi-fi internet access in the anchorages - great for troubleshooting boat problems, ordering parts, and communicating with friends and family. Here Dave is talking to Balmar tech support vis Skype, while testing the resistance of wires.

Dave talks to Balmar tech support via Skype while checking wiring.

Water technique

Our last minute chores included delivery of diesel, water, laundry, a grocery run, the final garbage drop, and a last minute dash to the ferreteria (hardware store) to look for a spring to match the one that broke last night on the head foot pump.

Another cruiser told me how to fill our water tanks from the 19-liter jugs delivered to the boat by Hilda. I punched two holes in the cap, and inserted a fill hose, and also a second short segment of hose. A quick blow down the short hose is enough to start the siphon down the longer hose into the tank opening. Neat trick.

Zihuatanejo - Feb 3

Sailfest is a big deal - lots of activities, all designed to raise money for local schools. Dave made a circuit of merchants soliciting donated items that were then auctioned or raffled off, raising thousands of dollars. Several individuals provide matching funds, so each dollar/peso raised snowballs into significant money.

Dave crewed on Niki Wiki in the Sail Parade, a day cruise of 25 boats out to Isla Grande with paying customers aboard, which raised several thousands more.

Boats queuing up to load passengers for the Sail Parade.

Local wench services the main halyard winch.

Zihuatanejo has also given us a chance to get a lot of boat projects done, including many on our Puddle Jump preparation list. For every two steps forward it seems we take one back. The generator died and will need to be rebuilt in PV (stator rewound we hope). But we are making forward progress!

Zihuatanejo - Jan 19

We are anchored with several dozen other cruising boats in Bahia Zihuatanejo. Every few days a cruise ship arrives, disgorging several thousand pink vacationers who flood the shops buying souvenirs. Then they leave, and the town resumes its slightly-above-comatose pace.

We meet dozens of other cruisers and ex-pats in local hangout, Rick's Bar. Dave has volunteered to work for Sailfest, an annual party/charity event aimed at raising funds to build a new school. In meeting local merchants, he has learned of their opposition to the government's plan to build a new dock for the cruise ships. His volunteering is proving fun and enlightening.

Nathanial parks and watches your dinghy all day for 10 pesos. Note the dinghy wheels, a Mexican mainland necessity if you have a heavy outboard.

Zihuatanejo has fun shops. This one sells hammocks in every rainbow color.

Fresh chickens for sale, just under $5 a bird.

We are anchored in front of this palapa/condo on the cliffside. The massive big resorts are a few miles away in upscale Ixtapa.

The local municipal dock is surrounded by small fishing boats. The pelicans are helping this fisherman dispose of spare bait.

I got into the kayak yesterday to explore the bay, remembering my sunhat, towel to cover legs (from sun), camera and water bottle. Got all settled and realized I'd forgotten to untie the kayak from the boat. Sigh. Climbed back up, and liberated the line, settled in again, now adrift, and realized I'd forgotten the paddle. I was able to dogpaddle back to the boat and grab the paddle. It seems I can't even monotask! How did I ever hold down a job? No matter, the kayaking was lovely.

Pelican guards the Mexican Navy's buoy.

Every night we lift the dinghy.

Although we have heard of very little theft in Mexico, we are in the habit of lifting the dinghy every night. This keeps the barnacles from growing on the bottom. The exquisite boat in the background is Astor from Kailua, Hawaii.

Zihuatanejo - Jan 16

Our friend Brett flew in from chilly Portland, bringing welcome boat parts. We finally tore ourselves away from Barra (and ze french baker), and drifted south to Santiago where we got to explore a new place. Our helpful guides from Niki Wiki showed us how to motor into the estuary to land our dinghy, and took us to town for grocery shopping and lunch. Then we motor-sailed overnight in light winds down the coast to Isla Ixtapa, in company with several other boats. The Mexican Navy boarded two of our flotilla for inspections. This is a drug runners coast, and there are no good anchorages anyway, so we skipped along without stopping. It was great to have Brett along as third crew, giving us more sleep than we normally get on a passage.

Isla Ixtapa is a nature preserve, so we enjoyed 2 days of snorkeling and kayaking. The coral reef and its fishes reminded us of Hanauma Bay. After one rolly night we laid out a stern anchor and slept better the 2nd night. The island fills up during the day with vacationers, but empties out at dusk, leaving just the handful of anchored boats.

We sailed a little more to Zihuatanejo, which will be home for the next few weeks as we want to travel inland a bit and also attend Sailfest, a party/charitable event at the end of January. There will be meetings to discuss the upcoming puddle jump where we hope to meet more boats jumping to the south pacific this year.

Zihua is a bustling town, packed full when the big cruise ships are in port. It has an interesting market and beautiful shore walk, and is know as a cruisers mecca. We are running into many boaters we met in other ports.

Hilda and Ismael deliver beer, water, fuel, pickup laundry and refill propane bottles.

Barra de Navidad - Jan 03

We listen carefully to Don's (Summer Passage) daily weather reports on the Amigo Net. Usually he is on the mark. I wrote a poem about strong winds forecast here in Barra:

We battened down the hatches
Stowed everything loose below
Took down all the awnings
Cause Don says "It's gonna blow!"

We wrapped a line around the main
Secured the furling with a rope
Hid our dinghy in the mangroves
And paid out extra scope

Then we stood our anxious anchor watch
And listened for the gale to blow
But all that came in the long dark night
Was the buzz of a mosquito

The white crane and pelican are hopeful this Barra fisherman will share his catch.

Barra de Navidad - Dec 24

We are anchored in the lagoon at Barra de Navidad with 25 other boats. On Christmas day there will be a huge potluck at the Sands Hotel. Some of the boaters went into Manzanillo to get turkeys and hams, so we will have a traditional dinner. Angel Fish is organizing the potluck. Usually a cruisers potluck is disorganized - everyone brings whatever. But this time Angel Fish is making sure we don't have all desserts and no vegetables.

Opal knows what she wants for Christmas. But has she been good enough?

Dave is installing Jan's Christmas present.

It seems odd to celebrate this holiday in hot weather and far from family. We will string lights on the boat today and dig out Dave's santa hat. If I can't find that, I know where the toilet plunger is and will improvise.

For my gift, Dave is installing a wash down pump for the anchor chain, so I can wash it as I bring it up from mucky bottoms. The install required some hours wedged in the chain locker, reaching up into a nearly inaccessible corner. Santa is very good to me.

Barra de Navidad - Dec 21

Longtime friends Dave and Barbara joined us in Puerto Vallarta, bringing welcome boat parts and goodies (dark chocolate!!!) from Seattle. They had visited us 18 years ago in the Sea of Cortez on our previous cruise. This time we would work south along the mainland to share another part of Mexico.

We motor-sailed to La Cruz where we tied up in the new marina for the first time, next to Fandango. La Cruz is a fun stop, but we stayed only one night, deciding to catch favorable conditions around Cabo Corrientes (cape of currents) and head south. Corrientes was a little bumpy, but we made good time to lovely Chamela, where Dave and Barb got to enjoy a surf landing.

Dave and Barb enjoy the Tenacatita jungle trip, a break from engine repair.

The next day we drifted further south to Tenacatita. On the way, the engine began overheating. Fortunately, favorable winds let us glide almost into the anchorage, and we could set the hook running the engine only briefly.

The next morning the 2 Daves, both engineers, troubleshot the problem, replacing the fresh water coolant pump with a used spare, fortunately purchased just 4 days before from Teapot Tony in PV. The engine continued to run hot, so the Daves replaced the thermostat, then removed it entirely. Still running hot, so we took a break and did the jungle trip, a 45 minute dinghy ride through twisty mangroves to the village at the end of the river. We enjoyed a specialty of this village, rollos del mar, at a beach palapa.

After returning to Tenacatita anchorage, we enjoyed a special dinner aboard Emily B, celebrating our reunion and Dean and Jennifer's 25th anniversary.

The following morning the two Daves again worked on the engine while Jan and Barbara kayaked ashore to walk the beach. Barb then swam back to the boat, roughly 1/2 mile. There we heard welcome news: the engine had burped free an airlock, probably introduced when the pump was replaced. All is well!

We pulled anchor and sailed down to Barra, arriving late afternoon. On the way a huge pod of dolphins swam past, leaping out of the water around us. We snaked into Barra lagoon, past the lurking shoals, in time to anchor and run into town for a dinner at Felix's.

The next day, after a welcome croissant delivery from Ze French Baker, we caught the water taxi to town, visited the local market, and caught the bus to explore nearby Melaque.

This morning Dave and Barb left, promising to return again somewhere across the Pacific. Maybe when we need boat parts... We love having visitors aboard. It is way fun to share these experiences with good friends.

Barb is not training for the triathalon in this lagoon at Melaque.

We are having fun here in Barra de Navidad, anchored in the quiet lagoon and catching up with cruising friends. On Christmas Day there will be a cruisers potluck. We feel far away from home and family, but fortunate to be having this experience. We wish all our friends and loved ones a wonderful holiday season, full of family and fun.

Puerto Vallarta Marina - Dec 11

I (Jan) was experiencing some eye trouble, with the left eye that had surgery a year ago, and flew up to California. Dave's sister Malinda met me in LA, and we drove (Thelma and Louise!) to Encinitas just north of San Diego to visit the eye doctor who did the macular hole surgery. A bonus was a chance to visit my Aunt Marion, recently moved into assisted living. This is the aunt who took such good care of me (including ice cream) a year ago when I had the original surgery and had to lay face down for 2 weeks.

The doctor said I had a macular edema forming, which blurred my vision. He promptly remedied this with an outpatient shot of steriods. I think this means I can't compete in the next Olympics.

A run to San Diego also means a chance to pick up lots of boat parts unavailable in Mexico. Malinda and I did the Shelter Island Scavanger Hunt, locating plumbing, electrical and rigging parts, and still managed to have a good visit. I was very glad to have this time with her, and with Aunt Marion, and as a bonus ran into Lynn from La Vita, who was casting off that night for Mexico.

Puerto Vallarta Marina - Nov 26

We are presently moored again in Puerto Vallarta while we fix assorted prblems, including a broken shaft on the raw water pump for the engine. We have located a rebuilt one, coming this week. This failed while at the dock (big whew!) rather than while motoring back from Isla Isabella in light winds last week.

Rolfe and Bev on Isabella.

Jan's brother Rolfe and his wife, Bev visited us last week. We anchored at La Cruz, then motored overnight in very light winds to Isla Isabella. Dolphins played off the bow through the night.

At Isabella we enjoyed some good snorkling, then landed at the fishing village to hike through the frigate forest up the steep hill to boobie-land. The frigates are nesting, no evidence of chicks yet, the males sporting huge inflated red gular sacs to attract a mate.

On the lighthouse hill, thousands of blue and yellow footed boobies nested, some with single eggs or chicks, and a few with two eggs. We watched a pair of blue foots perform a little dance showing off their feet. Bev filmed the dance.

We watched one frigate attack a boobie mom and chick, apparently after the dinner the mom was regurgitating into the chick's mouth! Frigates are opportunists, rarely hunting their own food when they can steal it.

Blue footed boobies, Isla Isabella

Alfred Hitchcock's mightmare

Hiking back to the fishcamp. Bev turned around and saw a swarm of frigates hovering in the air just over her head, within arm's reach. They were so dense at times, wings collided. Some did a touch and go landing on the bush next to her.

We love having guests aboard Baraka, especially when they are so appreciative of the country we are visiting. Rolfe worked with Dave on a number of boat systems, and brought some much needed parts. Our last day together, we had a beach hike into Bucerias to watch the Mexicans dance and party in the main square.

Earlier Mexico journal entries.

Our recent Peru trip.

And Chile, too.

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