Sunday, January 24, 2010

What we did over winter break and beyond...

Our internet has been down, I've been sick, and we've had guests. Excuses, excuses, excuses. But so be it - it's good to be back! Here's a recap of what's been going on since mid-December.

When last I wrote about our day to day life, we had our friends Natsuko and Kenji on board and were making our way from Mazatlan to Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta area), with some stops in San Blas and Chacala.

San Blas (21 degrees 32.617 minutes North, 105 degrees 17.612 minutes West) was a cute little town where we spent two overnights at a marina. Many cruisers bypass this town as it is known for the jejenes (known as the 'no-see-ums'). True to its reputation, we got eaten alive and were still recovering from several of the bug bites several weeks later. Nonetheless, we were there during a town Christmas celebration which took place at the central plaza with jumpees, sparklers and poppers, food and local artisans selling their wares. It was a lot of fun participating in the festivies with the locals. We visited the cathedrals - there are two side by side - one much older than the other and which was made famous in a Longfellow poem about the town and its church bells, only days before the poet died (another useless fact you may be interested in).
Next stop: Chacala - photos of this beautiful spot (21 degrees 9.819 minutes North, 105 degrees 12.615 minutes West):

We anchored in Chacala Bay (photos above) and it was so beautiful that we decided to stay there a couple of nights. Only two small issues arose while we were there. The first is that the bay is only about a half-mile inland so the waves roll in when the seas have even a bit of swell. This made getting into and out of the dinghy a bit tricky at times - when there are waves, the boat is up when the dinghy is down, and vice versa. It's a lesson in patience to get the timing just so. The second issue arose as a result of the first: I thought I broke my toe getting into the dinghy on our first day there in order to get to shore. By the time I got to shore, a fisherman had to help me get to a rock where I could put on my shoe, and Michael had to carry me the rest of the way. It turns out that my toe is not broken, but I had a tough time walking for several days.

Back to Chacala. It's another little out of the way fishing village with a beautiful beach lined with palapa restaurants. The town itself has only a couple of streets. Our friends the Bernsteins from San Francisco happened to be vacationing down the coast and took a taxi there to meet us for the day. The kids enjoyed swimming to/from the boat, boogie boarding, and playing in the sand. The ice cream was pretty good too. I remained pretty stationary with ice packs on my toe (see broken toe story above).

Photos of the Bernstein visit:

Next stop: La Cruz de Huanacaxtle (20 degrees 44.92 minutes North, 105 degrees 22.83 minutes West), where we made our home base for several weeks. We arrived at the marina by mid-afternoon on December 24 to a fabulous greeting from both old and new friends. It was an incredible feeling seeing the Rebitzer/Arfin family waiting for us on the dock - coming all the way from Palo Alto, CA to visit with us. In addition, we learned that our friends from Gypsy Wind and from Meshach had also arrived that day. We had a happy reunion with them as well.

We said goodbye to Natsuko and Kenji, who were joined by Jonathan and Tomo (Kenji's dad and brother) after a couple of days, and spent the remainder of the week with the Rebitzer/Arfins. We went into Puerto Vallarta to walk around the old city, the malecon (boardwalk), watched some dare devil acts of sea worship by 4 local men in traditional dress swinging from a pole, and had possibly the best seafood we've had to date at Joe Jack's Fish Shack (our waiter was from Toronto). The highlight of the week, however, was our 3 day trip to Punta Mita. As you read from the kids' blogs, the kids/dads enjoyed surfing lessons while Mimi and I had a leisurely breakfast on shore. It was such a treat to spend uninterrupted time together.
What the kids didn't mention in their blog was the excitement getting back to our boat after the day of surfing on the biggest surf day of the year. Our boat was anchored off the beach in what normally would have been a safe distance out. However, the waves had gotten so big that they had started breaking right under our boat. Had we not left when we did, the waves would have swamped our boat (the big one, not the dinghy). We needed to get back to the boat as soon as possible and lift our anchor, otherwise, in these conditions, the strain on the anchor chain could knock it loose and the boat would quickly be on shore (again, that's the big boat, the mother ship, not the dinghy). And so, as we noticed how close the break of the waves was getting to the boat, we hurried to get back. Michael had to dinghy us back in two trips, and for several nights afterwards I had nightmares of the experience: Think Poseiden Adventure. Okay, the waves were not that high, but they rose up around 8 feet high, and our dinghy had to get through them. You must know that this is not an easy task. In fact it takes much skill. You have to ride up the front of the wave and through it, but if you see it's about to break, you must turn around, head back toward shore and try to outrun it or surely get swamped, or worse yet, have your dinghy capsize. Our small 8 horsepower motor served us well and got us through several huge waves, and although a lot of water got in, the dinghy did not capsize. Michael's skill was truly impressive in running those waves, although at times I wasn't sure we'd make it. It got to a point that the surfers themselves were cheering him on each time he actually made it over the waves. It was truly exhilirating, but at the same time, incredibly scarey. Not sure I'd ever want to repeat that again.
Of course, as Danielle mentioned in her blog, on the way back we saw several whales and dolphins, and had a close encounter with one large whale only a few feet from our boat. Between our dinghy trip back to the boat, together with the whale incident, this was surely the highest level of adrenalin flow of our trip so far.

We were so sad to see Mimi, Bobby, Elana and Maya go. They were much quicker than we have been and have already posted their photos at their website. Here are a few of ours:

New Year's Eve was spent with our friends from Mesach and Gypsy Wind at Philo's Bar, a local cruiser's hangout in La Cruz. Harrison spent the evening playing pool, while Danielle hung out with the adults. Here's another Mexico-ism: Puerto Vallarta is on Central Time, but just north, across the river in Nuevo Vallarta, the time is one hour earlier, on Mountain Time. In La Cruz, we were on Mountain Time. However, the marina and boating community go by PV time. Making appointments is often a hilarious exchange about what time the meeting is really going to take place. In any case, we celebrated New Year's first on PV time with other boaters at the bar, and then walking home had a second wonderful show of fireworks an hour later for La Cruz time.
We also had a great time shooting off our own expired flares. For those not familiar with flares, they are a must-have emergency supply - you shoot them off when you think a possible rescuer is close by (another boat or plane) if you get into trouble. It's a good thing we have current flares on board, however, because only 2 of our 3 expired ones actually went off.

More about Philo's Bar. Loads of cruisers hang out here, and the owner, another expat, does a tremendous amount to help the local communities, by hosting fundraising events, being a collection spot for donations of clothes, and so on. The 20 pesos it costs for our Spanish classes that we take there Tuesday and Thursday mornings all goes to charity. The other great thing about Philo's bar is that Harrison has befriended Alex, the almost-9-year old son of the concierge that works there and lives in the back of the bar. Harrison will have great stories to tell about how, at 8-years-old, he hung out at a bar playing pool and working the soda fountain.

Harrison and Danielle with Alex behind the bar at Philo's:

The first week of January was a bit challenging for us. We all got sick and got stuck on the boat, a very smaaaaaalllll space. After day four, we clearly needed some personal space. Michael took Danielle to shore to run some errands and Harrison and I stayed on the boat. Good decompression time. Took me well into last week week to feel 100% again due to my asthma that seems to crop up after a cold, and is much worse in the humidity. And it wasn't until the second full week of January that I felt well enough even to begin homeschooling again. Now that we have, however, it really feels good to be back in the routine.

In one of my next posts, I'll write about my mother and step-dad's visit, which sadly is coming to an end tomorrow. And we are expecting more visitors this and next month. Given the number of guests needing to make plans, we decided to stay put in the Banderas Bay area until mid to late February - there's a ton to do around here, and several different places to anchor or dock, so we certainly won't be bored. It's actually so wonderful to share our experiences with family and friends, to allow them to experience first hand what we do, how we live, what we see and experience.
Wishing you all a wonderful 2010 full of adventures and good health!

Signing off from Nuevo Vallarta (20 degrees 40.429 minutes North, 105 degrees 17.607 minutes West),


  1. Hi Everyone Can't believe I'm the first reply.
    What interesting experiences but I liked the way the kids wrote because I didn't think I had anything to be worried about!! Now I know to read between the lines.
    Glad to hear you are feeling better--surely the sunshine helps-we sure need some here. Today it is dull, raining but too mild-crazy winter!
    I am getting VERY excited--but I hope the winds die down a little!! Maybe Harrison &/or Danielle can make me a Marguerita at Philo's!!
    Can't wait to see you all.
    Loads of love with hugs & kisses

  2. Hello Adventerous Sailers!
    I am so impressed reading all about your adventures and experiences! You each doing a fabulous job of blogging. It's been fabulous to read!! It's clear that your family has adapted very well to the sailing life

    I was amazed reading the story about the waves and the whales.

    I cannot get over how you deal the challenges. Having a family sick in a house feels tough, never mind on a boat! It's clear that it's your remarkable attitude towards the adventure and experience that is making it all work so well.

    I have great admiration for what your family has embarked on. Wishing you all the absolute best for a very Happy 2010 - filled with good winds and great mazel! Hugs, Phyllis

  3. "Is San Blas cuter than me? When are you coming home?"

  4. "Dear Mitgangs,
    I hope you have fun. We are at mommy's office today cuz we have a PD day. Does Auntie Barb give PD days? Now we're going to see Alvin and the Chipmunks Squeakle. I did my homework at the office. I'm wearing my new shirt my mom got me from Florida. It has a scarf attached to it. Bubie took good care of us while they were away but I'm glad they're home.
    I hope you enjoy your holiday.

  5. Great blogs, I miss you all. Love the photos, I agree that Danielle looks like she is 16 and Harrison needs a haircut. :-) Not sure I will recognize you when we see you next... Everyone here is well, two were sick last week but back to "normal" this week. Speak to you soon I hope.