What's in her name?

What's in her name (Salish Aire)?

Salish
from her new home the Salish Sea

Aire as in a melody of song.

Salish + Aire = The melody of the Salish Sea.

Salish Sea:
In the late 1700's Captain George Vancouver wandered around the waters of what are now known as British Columbia, Canada and Washington State, USA. He did the usual 1700's explorer thing and put names he chose on everything he saw. The names stuck and are recognized and used to this day.

New lines were added to Captain Vancouver's charts in 1872 (after a near war with Great Britain over a pig) which made waters on one side of the line Canadian and those on the other side of the line American.

It wasn't until 1988 (officiated in 2009) that someone finally realized that fish and various critters, (to say nothing of the water itself) were never involved in the boundary treaties and really ignored them completely. (This is best illustrated by the problems that Homeland Security has with Canadian Canada Geese and American Canadian Geese - it seems they refuse to carry passports and have been known to poop on the head of any border patrol person who tries to challenge their right to cross the border when and where they choose!) In reality the waters from Olympia to the well up the East side of Vancouver Island are pretty much one ecosystem.

The Coast Salish are the indigenous peoples who live in southwest British Columbia and northwest Washington state along the Salish Sea and share a common linguistic and cultural origin. The Salish Sea is named in honor of the earliest recorded peoples who plied her waters and learned to live in harmony with her.


Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Northbound back to the USA


December 17, 2019

Clarice has written about the specifics of our travels since we left Puerto Vallarta about 10 days ago so I will wax philosophical and you can read her travelogue notes below.  We are currently holed up in Bahia Tortuga (Turtle Bay) waiting for high winds to abate.  We had hoped they would settle by noon today but since we just clocked a 40+ knot gust we think we are here until at least tomorrow.  Our thought was that we are next to a small village with phone service on the boat and Wi-Fi service at cafes in town we should have plenty to explore but instead we didn’t get off the boat after Jarvis’ morning walk yesterday and today may be the same as the choppy water doesn’t make it likely we would get to shore without a good dousing.


Boats waiting in Turtle Bay for the winds to calm so they can continue north or south 
Turtle Bay Village

 
Most boat fuel in Turtle Bay is delivered by this boat.
The owner charges anywhere from 8-11 US$ / gallon as the market will bear

If all goes according to plan we will leave Mexico for good after January 1st the date when California collects property taxes on all boats in its waters (no matter if they have paid taxes in another state or not).  I look forward to being back where I am culturally comfortable and can get things like boat parts without having to order the item to be sent to someone who can then send it to the next person we know heading south or looking for weeks in poorly stocked Mexican marine stores.  I’m really really glad I’ve got a smattering of Spanish under my belt but it will be nice to quit trying to think in two languages (although Clarice and I now find that we are more and more spontaneously thinking in Spanish with our internal voices). Perhaps most it will be nice to be in the USA for at least one day of the Christmas season as I am a bit of a “Christmas Nutcase”.  I’m the one who goes to the busy malls just to people watch (while Clarice starts shopping on January 1st for the following year so she doesn’t have to deal with crowds and gets the after Christmas specials).  This has been our second Christmas season in Mexico and it just isn’t the same – even Christmas in San Diego will not be likely to have snow on evergreen (as in fir – not palm) trees but I will take what I can get. Clarice did put up our traditional Christmas garland today with most of the Christmas balls hanging from it (she left off the ones that might get broken in high seas yet to come).

So what about spending a year in Mexico?  What was good, and yes, what was bad (I often have to remind people that no matter how interesting the adventure there is likely never a year in your life where everything is “perfect”).  On the good side the scenery has been spectacular – I’m one who grew up in the Evergreen State on the green side of the Cascade Mountains where evergreen forests abound so I always need to get back to the smells of a rain forest but I love the shear geologic nakedness of deserts.  Here we watch as Earth shows her colors ranging from red sandstone to dark black lava flows while we float past.  The ever changing sunrises and sunsets will always stick in my memory.  The Sea itself has become a friend and a foe.  She can be lovely to swim in with her 90 degree F water full of amazing creatures.  I hope to get an artist to paint my memories of nights with phosphorescent waters as my cameras could not capture the magic.  Nights of no moon with stars from horizon to horizon and nights with full moons casting shadows on the deck.  She provides us with a highway in any direction we want to go with our floating home. As a foe she cares not how much she bounces us when we head into her steep sided, short, short period waves whenever the wind goes much over 10 knots.   On one hand the Mexican concept of “un minuta” meaning anything from “in one minute” to “a week from now” grates on my cultural baggage of “timeliness is Godliness” but it reminds us that relationships are more important than hurry.  And that hurry only leads to always feeling rushed – why would we do that to ourselves?  Walking with family on the Malecon in the evening and saying “buenes tarde” to strangers passing by brings me back to a more people and family centered time than we usually experience in the USA nowadays. I had hoped to make close friends among the Mexican people but can’t say we really did, likely because they don’t expect us to stay long enough to become implanted in the community with the links of friends and extended family that small town life encourages and expects.  On the other hand we seldom met Mexican folks who were not friendly and happy to tell us about their country and families. Generally taxi and Uber rides led to long discussions in broken English as the drivers practiced their language skills, and Spanish as we practiced our language skills along the way.  I’m just now getting comfortable with the Mexican cultural expectation that a “hola” or “buenes tarde” should be accompanied by a firm handshake (and possibly a hug and an air kiss) and an “adios” by a handshake and pat on the shoulder but I will miss these human touches that have been lost in our current culture afraid of “offending” everyone.

We were both disappointed that we didn’t find the incredible scuba diving we had been told to expect (but when you measure all of your warm water diving against Bonaire – are you being fair?)  The day we had a whale shark come to swim among the boats and folks in the water and eventually bumped into me was amazing. Watching hundreds of rays swim by in formation at 1 AM through phosphorescent water was like watching a Disney animation only in real life.  Even the mundane task of cleaning the boat is kind of enjoyable in 90 deg F water and if we got bored we could look down at all of the fish enjoying the bounty of whatever scraps we were sending their way.

The mission churches from the 1800s are almost worth a driving trip on their own. I missed singing in a group, on the other hand when I would sing full voice in the old stone buildings they would resonate so that it sounded like they had joined me in song.

Our trip from Mazatlan up into the mountains to Durango was a highlight of the year both for the natural scenery and for the adventure of driving on one of mans’ recent engineering marvels.  The other jungle trip was our recent trek along a trail alternating between tropical rain forest and private pocket beaches.

On the negative side I will never forget the heat of August and September when our thermometer reached 110 deg F and our only hope for comfort was to get into the water or stay in a marina with power to run the air conditioners.  I really look forward to walking in the hills around the anchorages but after 9 AM it was simply too hot and I felt trapped in the boat.  I missed spring, fall, and winter as to me even though it is December 70 – 80 deg is still summer (and the summer heat described above was just this side of hades).  I know I will be singing a different tune soon as we get further north (Jarvis is already shivering in the morning and is now sleeping on his heated pad) but for now the idea of a thick sweater sounds like another winter tradition I am missing.

There is also the reality of the practices of other cultures and climates that feel very wrong and leave a bad taste.  Garbage left on otherwise pristine islands and on streets in villages.  Bumpy, dusty roads that never seem to get fixed. Disabled folks having to put their wheelchair in the middle of an intersection begging for money until the light turns green not because they can’t get by on what the system offers but rather because there is no system (I believe – maybe I’m wrong). 

We are both saddened that the police feel obligated to always carry automatic weapons because the cartels are very real.  We are also saddened that even though we found the streets here to be as safe for us we were frequently asked about safety as our own government actively works to create a perception of all Mexicans as “rapist and murderers”.

What would we change in hindsight?  I don’t know about Clarice but I would NOT be in the country for the months of July – September but instead would join the multitude of boaters who leave their boats and go north.  Insurance is a challenge in that the requirements of our underwriter affected our decisions of where to be when and I’m not sure that the decisions they forced us into (if we wanted to have the coverage we had paid for) were the best for us nor kept us safer.  Clarice might have left Jarvis behind as traveling with him can be a hassle with mandatory vet checks, challenges in leaving him alone in the heat, dog hair everywhere, etc..  On the other hand his personality has been perfect for me as I need something to cuddle with, laugh with, and run with.  He has helped us be welcomed by strangers with his smiling face and constantly wagging tail and in reality I think he entertains Clarice a lot more than “farmgirl Clarice” likes to admit.

We would NOT change the boat.  As we found in Alaska, Salish Aire is made for adventures and does well in both northern and southern waters.  I don’t know how many times we looked at each other in times of calm and stormy waters and commented to each other how glad we are that we have a stout ship that we know won’t let us down.

One thing I think we both will miss is almost daily visits by dolphins.  It is seldom that we are underway that we don’t see at least on pod ranging from 3 animals to a couple hundred.  Today we are waiting in a bay for a storm to pass and sure enough 3 large dolphins just swam next to the boat.  I am also amused for hours watching the antics of pelicans.

So are we glad we came – YES!  Will we come again – likely but possibly by land rather than sea but then again we now are much more comfortable with long passages and we never know what the future holds until it happens.

January 8, 2020

After the last note we finally left Turtle Bay on December 18th.  Looking back at our tracking notes (https://share.garmin.com/NormanGregory )  we had a pretty rough ride again as we continued to “bash” north.  We arrived in Ensenada at daybreak on the 20th in smooth seas.  We settled in to Cruise Port Marina which was pretty nice by our standards.  We were concerned about the published daily price for moorage but the staff pointed out that if we stayed over 5 days it worked out the same to pay for the month so we did that and it was quite reasonable.  The nice thing was that since we were in a shared port with the cruise ship terminal anyone wanting to come into the port area had to pass through a security check station about 1 block before our marina.  The result was that we didn’t have any noisy local traffic.  The cruise ships had loud announcements and horn honking periodically but in general the marina was a nice place to stay with a number of long term cruisers to visit with.
On our arrival in Ensenada we learned we didn’t need to prepare dinner as the marina management had provided a turkey and fixings to go with a cruisers’ potluck for a Christmas celebration.  It was a pleasant surprise as I was really hungry after doing light foods for 2 days to avoid sea sickness and we had time to meet the other cruisers. 
 
Christmas Cruisers' Potluck (thank you Marina Cruise Port for the Turkey!)
We spent the next day doing some final work on our windlass that was refusing to lift our many hundreds of pounds combination of anchor and chain except when it felt like it.  (We found that the nuts holding the wires to the motor had vibrated loose making for bad connections that were getting worse AND it looked like a factory assembly issue with the motor had caused it to overheat and melt some plastic parts.) The sad part is that it was a brand new motor several years ago that we purchased and installed thinking it would last as long as we owned the boat.  The good news was that I did some refurbishment on the original motor and had it on board as a spare so it was ready to be installed and should work until we get another new motor and time to install it. We made a trip to get food supplies to hold us until we went north (after a night of hard rain and flooding) and went to Advent services at the local cathedral.

4th Sunday of Advent in the Ensenada Cathedral 
   
Finding a road to the grocery store that wasn't flooded was a challenge after a night of hard rain

Christmas was lovely as we drove a rental car the final distance to San Diego where we made a mad dash to get some supplies before stores closed for Christmas Eve and then headed to our motel for the night where we gorged on Hallmark Channel Christmas special shows. For Christmas we joined our friends Jerry and Holly Gray in church (where the service was in English!) and then enjoyed feeling like part of their extended family for Christmas dinner.  We even caught up with our Christmas gifts from our kids (along with some supplies we had ordered) that had been sent to Grays in anticipation of our arrival. We headed across the border on the 26th of December and once again were not even stopped for a passport check at the Mexico border
We continued to hang around Ensenada until January 3 (after New Year’s AKA California tax day) when we headed the last 10 hours on calm seas into San Diego and brought Salish Aire and Jarvis back to the USA.  This was the first time we had used the border patrol’s ROAM application on our phones to check in and thus everything was cleared over the phone (after some tech issues on Border Patrol’s end).  This is a nice feature if they can smooth out the bumps in the system. 
Our current issue is weather.  We are have been looking at a number of different scenarios to get the boat to Moss Landing in Monterey Bay but frequent high winds are providing only short periods of smooth travel opportunities.  At this moment we are making our first jump to Dana Point where the Nordhavn headquarters has made a slip available for tonight.

CLARICE’S NOTES:

December 7. 2019

We departed Puerto Vallarta around 10 or 1030 and headed west. Around 2 pm I saw the back and tail of a large whale, then we started seeing turtles. Norman had put the fish line in and around 3 pm I looked in the back camera picture and saw we were dragging something. AT  LAST, I got the Dorado I’d been trying for. Beautiful fish and not too large. Managed to figure out how to filet it out and ended up with 3 large packages of fish in the freezer. We’ll have to try that again.

December 9, 2019

After an afternoon with higher than predicted winds and moderate bashing for a few hours ( to the point that I’m bouncing off the V Berth mattress thus not sleeping) we decided to head to Cabo and anchor for the night. We anchored further away from the marina area and between that and fewer people, we ended up with a pleasant anchorage and slept like rocks all night. This morning we departed as two huge cruise ships are anchoring. Perfect time to get out of Dodge ( alias Cabo).

12/13/19

The Ham nets are great to access for information. We were trying to figure out how to manage “the Baja Bash” and the participants on the Chubasco net were so helpful. Helped up figure out if we were reading the weather files incorrectly (NOPE, we weren’t) and gave us suggestions for anchorages that would be suitable for the north, northwesterly winds that are coming our way. Spent last night in San Juanico, on the Baja side, which interestingly enough  is west of the San Juanico on the sea of Cortez side of Baja.

It had a main drag that was paved, a fair tienda and so much greenery ( trees, Palms, flowers). Pretty amazing for a Baja village. We got an offer to purchase lobsters, but were still working on the lobsters we bought the other day in a village further south. Guess it’s lobster season. Hopefully we’ll get a few more offers before we hit Ensenada. We managed to get lots of sleep yesterday during the day and night last night so feel refreshed and ready to deal with the next 25 hr or so run to Turtle Bay ( Bahia Tortuga). We’ll need to hole up there for a few days as a front is heading this way and we should get there at the beginning of the winds. Its pretty sheltered so we’ll do some things like make water, rinse off some layers of salt, housekeeping and maybe some baking. I am beginning to put the back cockpit canvas surround back up as it’s very moist and cool at night. With the wind, it should make us a little warmer. I snorkeled the boat yesterday and with my 3 ml suit, the initial shock of the water was BRRRR. It’s down into the 70’s already. I scrubbed the beard off the water line and checked the underside. Looks pretty clean, but if we can, in Turtle bay it would be great to do a quick all over scrape to stay ahead of the barnacles that love to attach themselves to the hull. We keep dragging the fishing line in hopes of more Dorado or maybe some tuna. I’ll figure out how to store it if we get too much!!

12/16/19

Headed out of San Juanico to get to Turtle Bay on another overnight run. It was just getting dusk and we snagged a pot ( it did have a large bouy, however it was half black and dusk). Thought we had pushed the line out of the way, but I realized we were only going 4 knots once we powered up again so we were still dragging the darn thing. We stopped again and managed to see the floating polypro line but couldn’t get it pushed down under whatever it was hung up on. Decided we needed to cut the line, which we did in pretty short order. Thankfully, the buoy went one direction and the line to the pot another. Relief…we had NOT wrapped the line around the prop shaft. Diving in the dark out in the little bit choppy water was not our idea of fun. We powered up again and headed on our way. The next day we managed to catch a yellow fin, but the wind was picking up so it had to be dealt with once we managed to get into Turtle bay and securely anchored. Also managed to break our fish dip net in this process.

A quick dinghy ride into town for lunch…a few groceries and a good dog run. Came back to the boat and repaired the net and slept off and on for the next day or so.

There are 4 cruisers in the anchorage as of the 16th, waiting out some very windy weather. One of the sailboats is a delivery and the delivery crew are from Vashon Island. Had an afternoon visit with them and discussed the weather among other things. A trawler came in last night with alternator failure issues. We happened to have a brand new spare so sold them our spare and will pick up a new one in San Diego.

Decided to make water and top off batteries this morning. We found some leaks on the high pressure side of the membranes. Cleaned connections, checked for cracks, replaced sealant and it still leaked. Finally decided to try joint tape instead of the sealant and guess what, we solved the leaks. The sealant is a Mexican brand and obviously was not doing a good job of sealing the joints. We now have a happy watermaker and no leaks. The wind continues to build with gusts in the high 20’s so we are just doing household things and puttering for now. Hoping to leave on Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday if the current predictions still hold tomorrow.

12/18/19

Opted to Head out of Turtle Bay this morning. Yesterday Norman needed to get off the boat so we managed to get the dinghy to shore and walk into town with Celia from the delivery boat in the anchorage. When we came back to the dinghy, it was upside down resting on the motor cowling, everything tossed out and the motor leaking oil. The wind was so strong it just flipped the dinghy over. Oddly, it flipped into the wind, and we couldn’t explain that one. Managed to get the motor started and got back to the boat, but it’s out of commission until the motor gets a once over.

We had tried to leave yesterday afternoon after the delivery boat took off. However, our windlass decided to not lift the anchor- no power at all. Managed to get it up, only to find out the conditions were too bad outside the bay and the delivery boat was turning around and coming back in for another night. We worked on the Windlass and thought we had it fixed. That’s the key word here, “thought”.

Next morning wind and waves were down so we decided to run for it. Got the anchor almost all the way up and the windlass failed again. Managed to manhandle the gargantuan anchor aboard and secure it. Norman is tearing apart the motor and trying to figure out what’s going on. Good news is he had rebuilt the old motor we replaced and we can bolt it in place and keep on keeping on.

We expect a lumpy trip, but it’s tolerable so will just do the two day run to Ensenada and get this over with.

12/19

Last night was pretty lumpy. Swells of 10 ft or more and high winds in the high 20’s. Neither of us slept much. This morning the wind finally started dying down. Opted to get the paravanes out of the water and get some more speed. Most of the day was in 10 kn or so of wind and long swells. This morning we noted the deposit of a number of squid that must have been tossed aboard with all the waves that crashed over the rails all night. Got them removed and headed to San Quintin, but the water kept improving so we opted to continue all night and arrival in Ensendad is for early morning, after day break.

Some friends from Mukilteo Yacht Club just made it south to Ensenada so we’ll get to meet up before we head in opposite directions.


The first time we are aware of Mukilteo Yacht Club members meeting in Mexico


In Ensenada we ran into friends from our yacht club in Everett.  We were both happy to meet up with friends from home.  They were glad to get information about what to expect as they headed south and we were pleased that they offered to dog sit when we drove north for Christmas.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta



December  6, 2019

Norman here.  Usually I am the primary author of our blogs but I’ve been in a bit of a rut lately (I think a bit of culture shock plus the heat is only beginning to let up and this will be our second year in the tropics for Christmas – not even a sliver of a chance of snow here).  Thankfully Clarice took up the electronic pen and wrote this month’s narrative and we should still be in internet range long enough to get it posted.  I will say that the past couple of days have helped me get back to feeling better as 1) we started gathering photos we might use for our talk at the Seattle Boat Show on January 24th which forced me to go back and review all of the wonderful places and experiences we have had in the past year in Mexico; 2) Feeling a bit more of the spirit of the season with attending Sunday Mass at the cathedral (which was overflowing for the first day of Advent AND the first day of the celebration of the Virgin of Guadelupe and this is her designated “official” cathedral) where I was finally able to follow enough Spanish in a printed missal to follow the service; 3) enjoying the beauty of the hike Clarice describes below; 3) enjoying a true fiesta atmosphere as we watched the procession of the Virgin on day 4 of 12 celebrations; 4) and finally finding a way to carry out a personal Christmas tradition of mine when I realized that the local Woolworths (yes it even smells like the Woolworths of our youth) does a major layaway business for Christmas – I used the opportunity to play “Christmas Angel” after much explaining to the manager.

We left La Paz after Dia Las Muertos. 

A young girl dressed as a Catrina

Catrinas take the role very seriously, one must never smile and must walk as if in a fog

Numbers are for the contest that all of the Catrinas are part of

 Jarvis got into the act by dressing up as Dante from the movie Coco for the celebration.


Jarvis' friends Autumn and Michelle help him with his makup

A doggy version of a Catrina 

Jarvis poses next to a traditional Dia Las Muertos altar

A woman and her dog in dressed up together


So with that, I will gleefully let Clarice carry on with our story:

Before leaving La Paz, Norman had met a Finnish woman who was biking on Baja. (This is the time of year when the Cruceros Cruisers Club has bikers requesting rides over to the mainland from boaters. We have been reluctant to take on strangers as even 46 ft can be too cozy if the people are not a great fit).Norman asked the woman if she was looking for a ride to Mazatlan and she said she was not, but a Dutch cyclist was hoping to catch a ride across the sea. We contacted Rinskje and said we were leaving La Paz in the next couple of days and heard she may need a ride. Norman asked her to come to the boat so we could meet each other and see if this might work for both of us. Long story short, Rinskje was a great fit. She has been cycling for the past few years ( Asia, Europe, etc) and her current trek has brought her from Anchorage Alaska. She was a joy to spend 36 hours with. She was very independent, so pitched right in to help with daily chores…she did a night watch with me. We all had the opportunity to learn about each other and their cultures.

Rinskje joins the crew for the crossing from La Paz to Mazatlan

We left La Paz on 11/03/2019 with the ultimate goal of crossing to Mazatlan. We decided since we need to not reach California prior to January 1, 2020 and the weather is starting to moderate we may as well go see some of the mainland while we are in Mexico. We had a fairly smooth 36 +/- hour run to get to Mazatlan. We decided to stop at the first marina, El Cid. It’s a resort complex north of town and close to the entry channel to the Mazatlan Marina district. Two rivers empty out of this channel and there’s quite a current, so moderate amount of surge at tide changes. Part way through our stay, the sailboat next to us discovered they were resting on the bottom at low tide and we then realized what the “Thumps” we’d heard were… we were hitting bottom at low tide. After doing some reconnoitering with the portable depth gauge, both boats moved to the next docks further inland to give some breathing room under the keels. We were in the lap of luxury with a pool at our disposal, so totally enjoyed it.

We did a bike tour of Mazatlan the day after we arrived…or tried to.  The drivers weren’t too good about giving bicyclists room in the lanes..it was very crowded. We ended up going over a grated road without success. Norman shredded an inner tube; I managed to fly over the handlebars. Thank goodness no bodily harm, but we ended up taking a taxi truck back to the boat. Next we opted to hike to the top of Lighthouse hill ( El Faro in Spanish). Grabbed an open air taxi to the bottom of the hill and slowly worked our way up to the top. We definitely live at sea level, but the workout was worth it. Great views of Mazatlan and the surrounding area. 
El Faro lighthouse at the entrance to Mazatlan Harbor

Mazatlan from the top of El Faro hill 
El Faro is the world's highest lighthouse based on a hill


One day I decided to try and find the quilt shop that I had found on line. I was so excited to find true quilting quality fabrics. Great shop run by an expat. It’s a training venue for local women to learn how to become business women. She gets 10-20 women together for a period of time. They get sewing machines, learn to sew and quilt and take classes in business management. They also make items to sell in the shop. As I checked out, I asked the cashier what I should see since I was downtown. She mentioned the Cathedral and then said there was a new little shop of weavings from Oaxaca. I was the Cathedral and then came across the weaving shop. Luis, the shop owner, proudly showed me the small wooden loom his grandmother had given to him to use in the shop. He showed me a weaving he was working on and what it represented. He has larger looms at his home that the family all use to produce beautifully woven goods. I ended up purchasing a bedspread that I will convert to a Duvet cover once we get back to colder climates. Later we purchased a hand woven wool rug to go at the foot of the bed. The story of the weaver of the rug and his extended family are told here: Wool weavers of Oaxaca part I ... Wool weavers of Oaxaca part II  .
Hand woven bedspread by Luis

Hand woven rug by Evencio Vicente

Norman jumping in for a moment: Clarice forgot to mention our amazing overnight trip to the town of Durango high in the mountains east of Mazatlan.  We were asking some other long-term resident cruisers over breakfast about renting a car and driving to Durango and one couple suggested we borrow their Chevy Suburban for the trip but pointed out that we should plan to stay the night in Durango and suggested a pet friendly hotel.  Durango is a lovely old Mexican town with narrow cobblestone streets and the requisite amazing cathedral but the real eye candy for this trip was the drive to and from the mountaintop.  The original road was a winding two lane mountain road requiring a 6 – 8 hour drive.  That road is lovely in its own right and due to a serendipitous missed turnoff we drove on it for about 3 hours. The road surface was well maintained but like many mountain roads it followed every crook and curve of the hills as it wove its way up and down through valleys and over ridges while passing slowly through very small villages along the way.  We eventually got back onto the main toll road which required some phenomenal engineering and construction (all proudly Mexican) to create continuous grades that go on for miles rather than following the natural terrain up and down and up and up and down again.  To achieve that goal required 88 tunnels (several over a kilometer long) and 115 bridges including two cable bridges one of which is the tallest in the world. As a side note we are often asked about travelling through Mexico with the “Cartels everywhere” – this route definitely took us through historically active drug production areas but as tourists the only thing that might have been related was that our large vehicle (which could have carried a lot of contraband) was stopped by the State Police.  The two officers checked my driver’s license and were completely polite and professional.  After practicing their bit of English vs our poor Spanish they sent us on our way with a “buenas dias”.

New road to Durango (from old road) 1 of 88 tunnels and 115 bridges

Old road to Durango
The mountains that need to be crossed and climbed to get to Durango

A corn field clings to a hillside along the old road while a horse munches below

On the old road looking at the new road where it crosses over a village

Scenery along the way reminded of the Black Hills of SD

Hay being stored in shucks

The Chevy Suburban stopped for a photo op on the way back down the mountain

Mountain Scenery

Tallest cable stayed bridge in the world

View crossing the tallest cable stayed bridge in the world

Smaller of the two cable stayed bridges followed by another tunnel
Inside the Durango cathedral


Durango cathedral from the village square

We left Mazatlan on 11/13/19 with the plan to spend the afternoon anchored at Isla Venado, just outside the Old Port of Mazatlan, until about 4 pm. This would allow us an overnight passage to Isla Isabela with an arrival at daybreak (We prefer to not enter new places in the dark the first time, especially with the charts being inaccurate at times for Mexican waters). We arrived at Isla Isabela as the sun broke over the horizon. We opted to anchor at the south bay due to the direction of the winds. Its not a very protected bay and the underwater area is filled with boulders ( some are huge). Jarvis was not allowed on the island, much to his dismay, as it’s a sanctuary for frigates and boobies. Norman and I went ashore and watched the frigates doing their mating rituals. Quite elaborate with the males inflating a bright red pouch on the front of their neck and of course making some noise along with this demonstration of virility. We then walked to an area where boobies were nesting on the ground. We saw eggs under the adults, newly hatched chicks and goofy looking teenagers. However, none of these were the elusive blue footed boobies that we were supposed to be able to see. We looked with the binoculars on the cliffs surrounding the anchorage and managed to locate the blue footed birds. The island is also home to LOTS of Iguanas. The number of birds was pretty amazing.
The next item of business was a good cleaning of the hull, including the keel cooler, props, etc. We both were down 1-2 hours and got the job done. We also had some air left in our tanks so decided to check the anchor since the guide book states and anchor trip line was recommended to hopefully prevent getting stuck in the boulders. Since we knew we were leaving at oh dark thirty the next morning, we wanted to avoid a night dive if possible to unstick a stuck anchor. The anchor was situated in such a way that we weren’t going anywhere and we now knew the angles to try if we got stuck. Unfortunately we were too tired to grab another tank and do a pleasure dive. Lots of beautiful fish were around us and it would have been fun to explore the rocks.

Moonlit crossing to Isla Isabele
Boobies are not at all shy about checking out the boat
Thousands of frigate birds inhabit Isla Isabele


Iguanas by the hundreds live on the island as well

A lady frigate can't get any rest from suitors even while she is on the nest

A brown footed booby shows off her egg

A teenage booby taking a stroll

Salish Aire at anchor on Isla Isabele

On 11/14 at 330 am we pulled anchor without a hitch and headed towards La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. It is called this due to a living cross on the hill carved from the Huanacaxtle tree, but most people just refer to the village as La Cruz. The Huanacaxtle tree is a huge tree that would be fantastic for tree houses.

As we made our way to La Cruz, we discovered the fishing lines we’d been warned about as we approached La Cruz. These are yellow polypropylene lines that are very very long. It appears they are long line fishing. They are inconspicuously marked with 250 ml ( 1 pint approximately) clear soda pop bottles – yep not really easy to see until you are on top of them. Most of the time there’s a panga at one end of the line and in the dark they even sometimes have a light on the panga. We slow down, maybe honk if the panga fishermen are asleep, and wait until they show us where the end of the line is to allow safe passage without damaging their fishing set up. We got a little cocky and thought we were through the gauntlet at one point when to our dismay a line was right under out bow. We discovered if we went over them at a right angle, they just rolled under our full keel without any problem. FINALLY, as we saw La Cruz come into view we were out of the gauntlet of fishermen.
We are now on the jungle looking side of Mexico after spending the past year in the desert side.  La Cruz is a small village with cobblestone streets for the most part. NOT conducive to bike riding in the least. We attended the market that is held on Sundays the day after we arrived. It is huge…not really a farmers market as there is little in the way of produce. However, lots of food ( Indian, Mexican, bread, jams, paella, sausages, meat pies, etc.) and you can literally eat your way through the market. There are lots of arts and crafts booths as well. This is all along the malecon on the side opposite  of where we are moored. And then there is more in the town square. Pretty amazing.

The La Cruz fishing pangas bring in their catch (including tuna 4 feet long!)

We also had some boat projects – these never end, you just go down the list from high to low priority. There is a fairly large “high end” chandlery in Puerto Vallarta, so we took the bus or taxis in a couple of times. Of course “high end” means something different here than in the states, but all in all it was pretty fun to see some quality products and a fair assortment of items. After a week in La Cruz, we were ready to move on to Puerto Vallarta, which we did on 11/29/19.

It’s only a few hour cruise ( the Gilligan’s Island theme is playing in the background) to Puerto Vallarta. There’s no real anchorage here, so we are in a marina. This would be an awesome Hurricane hole. It is in a little keyhole and everyone in this marina, pangas included understand the concept of hull speed. We don’t rock and roll at all. It’s an experience that we’ve not had for a long, long time.
Puerto Vallarta is big, but not as noisy as Mazatlan. Cruise ships ( humongous ones) come in regularly and lots of tourists abound. Lots of busses and Uber to get around with, as well as taxi’s. We spend the first few days meeting up with friends, checking out the marina district and relaxing. Again, we had access to a pool. This is such luxury!!! We explored Sam’s club and Walmart and a few other close by places. Ate some great food.

December 1-12th Puerto Vallarta commemorates Las Senora de Guadelupe. There is a cathedral by this name in downtown. Each of the twelve days there is a procession from 5 pm to midnight of the religious faithful that participate in that leads to the cathedral. We decided to go watch one evening for a few hours. True to manana time, the procession started very slowly with 2 groups passing us in an hour…then it started picking up. The procession is a mix of Catholicism and native cultures. Young girls were given the honor to portray the Senora on floats ( thankfully they were tied to the trailers as the floats were quite wiggly), Women in white culturally appropriate clothing walked while carrying candles and flowers, groups of children processed while singing , there was a band and a group of dancers that appeared to be Aztec ( or native group) in nature. LOTS of street food that was great tasting. We proceeded to the cathedral and it was overflowing with flowers.



A stand in for the Virgin de Guadelupe (tied to the float for safety but she still looked pretty nervous)
All of the floats and groups have a sponsor and come with gifts - this group was sponsored by Oxxo (think Mexican 7-11)


An indigenous dance troupe
 
Enjoying the plentiful street food

Inside of the cathedral of the Virgin of Guadelupe

The cathedral of the Virgin of Guadelupe has a very unique stone carved crown

Fiesta street scene

There is an every Thursday night market at the marina that included dancing by these VERY talented young folk

One day we opted to try a hike we had read about. We took and Uber about 1 to 1.5 hours to Boca de Tomatlan. Once there, you find the bridge across the river and proceed to follow a trail around the ocean edge towards Las Animas. We were drenched in sweat within a half hour, but the hike was beautiful through the jungle, past secluded beaches with  beautiful views of Banderas Bay. Lots of stone steps as we climbed up into the jungle and clambered    over areas that are in need of some maintenance. Just before Las Animas was a jungle resort where we stopped and had a fruit plate and some Limonada. We placed our order and the waiter asks if we need ice for Norman’s head. We both couldn’t figure out what he was referring to and said no. I then looked at Normans head to discover that the tree he had whacked his head on near the beginning of the hike had left quite a sore spot. He had blood running down the side of his face, but we hadn’t noticed. The nice young man brought some first aid supplies for me to clean up the wound and then we rested as we ate and drank  our order.

A pocket beach and stream along the trail offered a nice rest stop

Clarice trying to control the sweat from the rain forest humidity while hiking

Amazing beach near the end of the trail
We were told we were only 10 minutes from Las Animas at this point so we headed onward. Las Animas was a beautiful little indent in the shoreline. We headed to the pier to wait for a panga to give us a ride back to Boca. The first person said 250 pesos so we declined. A boy in a panga came up and we asked his fee : 50 pesos each . SOLD.. we  boarded and headed back to the beginning of the days adventure. We arrived back at the boat very tired, a little sore and very happy we had spent our day doing this.

We are getting ready to leave P.V. tomorrow, December 7th. Norman checked engine room fluids yesterday. We topped off water, secured the topsides (tender, bikes), rigged paravanes for easy deployment and went on a provisioning trip. Probably the last provisions until Ensenada or San Diego ( since we cannot take fresh stuff back into the states, we’ll need to use it all up before San Diego). I have learned however that to not waste food ()when we are approaching another country, I boil eggs up, make all the vegetables into a salad, or stew/soup and clean and process all remaining fruit.

I think we are both getting dock fever and ready to get moving again. I prefer anchoring and will enjoy being away from the hub bub that towns bring. I long for the peace and tranquility of remote bays so am excited to be out of here, even though it’s been a fun week.