Saturday, February 27, 2010

It Takes a Tsunami to Leave Tenacatita

Well, at 7 am this morning we woke up to a "Sécurité, Sécurité, Sécurité" warning regarding the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that hit the coast of Chile this morning. NOAA issued a tsunami warning for the entire Pacific coast including Mexico and California. According to the warning:

Tsunamis can be dangerous waves that are not survivable. Wave heights are amplified by irregular shoreline and are difficult to forecast. Tsunamis often appear as a strong surge and may be preceded by a receding water level. Mariners in water deeper than 600 feet should not be affected by a tsunami. Wave heights will increase rapidly as water shallows. Tsunamis are a series of ocean waves which can be dangerous for several hours after the initial wave arrival.

Now, we always sleep with the VHF radio on, "just in case" and this morning was one of those "just in cases." We woke to the Sécurité, logged on to the internet to check the NOAA warnings, talked among the other boats in the Tenacatita anchorage – we even had to dinghy over to some of the 30 plus boats anchored there in order to wake them up because they do not sleep with their VHF on, -- prepared our boat, raised anchor and made our way out to sea. Now, in 600+ feet of water we are enjoying a beautiful morning sail. Since Tenacatita is such an awesome anchorage (one of our friends has been there for over four weeks) and the dolphins were swimming all around the anchorage this morning, it took a tsunami warning to get us (and them) to raise anchor and head out. We have now decided to make our way to Melaque (19 degrees 12 minutes north by 104 degrees 41.4 minutes west) for a few days. We will pick up provisions and do laundry and then make our way back to Tenacatita. It is too nice an anchorage!

Always some sort of excitement.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

A Different Type of Zoo

Last week, we went to a zoo in Mismaloya called the Vallarta Zoo. When you enter, you get a bag of food with a list of what you can feed each animal. We fed camels, zebras, giraffes, monkeys, bears, and other animals out of our bare hands!

Even though that might sound very interesting, the highlight of this day trip was when we got to hold a baby panther! We had the choice of holding a tiger cub or a panther. The tiger was stronger, so we chose the panther. It had light blue eyes and little faint brown dots on it’s black fur. She had the softest fur I’ve ever felt and was the cutest cat I’ve ever seen. She didn’t bite but did lightly scratch.

I held her almost the entire time and wasn’t scared. Harrison held her but was kind of scared. She kept on trying to run away, but most of the time we just held her. She wasn’t scared-at least I don’t think she was- but she didn’t bite, so I guess she didn’t feel like she needed to protect herself. It was the best zoo I’d ever been to!

We will post pictures and video when we next have good internet connection.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

On Our Way Again

Well, after being in Banderas Bay since December 24th, we've finally raised anchor and are currently en route to Bahia Tenacatita (19 degrees, 16.17 minutes N by 104 degrees, 52.40 minutes W). We've had a lot of fun in Banderas Bay and also a lot of guests, including Harrison's friend Kenji and his family, the Bernsteins, the Arfin/Rebitzers, the Saal-Dalmas as well as my mother- and father-in-law and my mother. We even had Berly Willow and her partner Jerry join us for Friday night dinner this week. So, its been great to have so many share a part of what we are doing. Yesterday, as a farewell activity we went to the Puerto Vallarta Zoo where Danielle and Harrison got to play with a one-month old black panther. Very cool and I am sure they will blog about it in the next few days.
But now it is time to be on our way to what is called Mexico's Gold Coast and includes Tenacatita, Barra Navidad and Manzanillo. Tenacatita, our first stop, is about 100 miles south of Banderas Bay and apparently has a very cool jungle river dinghy trip which we will definitely do. It is now 11:50 pm, we have about 22 knots of wind, clear skies (no rain!) and a half full moon to light our way. We are doing about 7.5 knots and should make Tenacatita by mid-morning tomorrow, February 22nd, which is also Harrison's birthday. He will be nine! Unfortunately, this evening he was feeling a little seasick so, hopefully by morning he will be feeling a lot better and ready to enjoy his birthday. Barb busied herself during her last "watch" making carrot cake for Harrison, as that is one of his favorites, and, along with Danielle, decorated the boat with streamers. I am sure Harrison will wake up very excited.
Signing off from 19 degrees 55.0 minutes N by 105 degrees 42.96 minutes W.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Spelling Test

See if you can find the three spelling errors on this sign, which appeared in the main square in Bucerias. Warning: the first one is not for young children.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What's with this weather!

So, I have been meaning to write a blog about the weather we've been experiencing but between repairing a head (boat toilet), replacing the filters on our water maker and making water, recharging our batteries and a continuous flow of guests, its been somewhat hard to find the time.

Banderas Bay, where we have been since December 24th, has been experiencing some bizarre weather the last few weeks. When my in-laws were here, you should have seen the storm. No, not a storm about having them here, but rather a water spout (otherwise known as a tornado over water). Fortunately, because my in-laws were arriving, Barb and I decided to move the boat from the anchorage to the La Cruz marina to make it easier to get off and on. The day after they arrived, the morning cruisers' net was talking about the weird weather that we were experiencing and the distant squalls in the bay. I decided to take the kids over to the break water to see the weather and the distant squalls. While returning to get Barb and my in-laws, I saw a "finger" growing down from the sky. I quickly headed back to the kids as what we were watching grow was a tornado coming down from the sky and making its way to the marina. It felt like Danielle and Harrison were Dorothy and Toto! Barb quickly snugged up our lines in the event that the tornado hit the marina. Thankfully, it changed direction, lost its force and dissipated.

About a week and half later, my mother came to visit. Again, we started out at a marina (this time Paradise Village) and decided to make our way to Yelapa (see Barb's post on this very cool town which is only accessible by boat or horse (no roads)). Again, we had weird weather. We got to Yelapa and it started to rain. Understand, last year, there was no rain from November until April! We've had more rainy days than I'd care to count! Anyhow, after hanging around Yelapa, hoping the weather would clear so that we could do a hike up to a spectacular waterfall (we came back and did it with our friends the Saal-Dalmas) we decided to head back to Paradise Village Marina. With a break in the weather, we powered to the marina and luckily got a spot at the dock even though it was the most exposed to the weather and the bay. We had a spectacular seared tuna dinner on the boat and, after getting the kids to bed and getting ready for bed ourselves, all hell broke loose. With no prior warning, the sky lit up with lightning like the Fourth of July and the wind went from 0 to over 50 knots (or a Force 10 on the Beaufort Scale) which is considered Storm or "Whole Gale" force winds and lasted for about 45 minutes. Our boat felt like it had been lifted out of the water and shaken violently by the wind. The lightening was like out of a scary movie. Believe it or not, our kids slept through the whole thing. The weather folks here in Banderas Bay called it a "weather bomb" -- a most appropriate name!

We feel very fortunate to have headed to Paradise Village marina. We could have just as easily headed to the anchorage off of La Cruz. They were hit with hurricane force winds of over 88 knots (Force 12 on the Beaufort Scale), while some claimed over 100 knots (to convert to miles per hour multiply by 1.15), and nearly all of the 30 plus boats in the anchorage dragged their anchors. Many were hit by other boats and one even ended up on the beach but a big wave brought them back into deeper water. The following link gives that boat's experience that night. Another boat's blog gives an excellent first hand perspective of what it was like in the pitch black, yet lightening filled, night with huricane force winds. You can read about it in their February 4 posting. All we lost was a bowl and a pair of flip flops.

Last week there was a threat of another "weather incident" coincidentally while our next set of guests were arriving. We moved into the marina (with substantially all the other boats that were at anchor) and went through a hurricane preparation drill. We took off all our canvas, lashed down our main sail, put extra straps on our solar panels to make sure they would not blow away, used every spare line we had to tie the boat to the dock and made other preparations. Fortunately, the storm did not materialize and we only experienced about 30 knots of wind for just a few minutes.

So, what gives with all this weather? People that live here year round have said they have never seen anything like this during the winter season. Waterspouts and hurricane force winds this time of year? Is this what global warming is causing or is it just because it is an El Nino year?

Oh, by the way, its been raining all day today!


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Releasing the Turtles

One day, when we were at Paradise Village Marina, we went to release one day old turtles into the ocean. Environmentalists go up and down the beach waiting for mothers with eggs to save them from extinction. Then they gather the eggs until they hatch. One or two of the turtles from every nest will grow to be 8 years old (that's when they start to lay eggs). Predators will eat the rest of them.

If you hold the turtles, you have to wash your hands in sand. When a volunteer says: "1, 2, 3", you put them down and watch them go into the ocean. I felt sad because I wanted to keep one turtle but I knew it wasn't the right thing to do.

Saving turtles is a great thing for the environment. What did you do today to help the environment?


A Different Life Cycle

About two years ago, I was in Costa Rica with my Dad's side of the family. We went to go see Leatherback turtles lay eggs. Now, a few years later, I saw a different type of sea turtle, the Olive Ridleys, set out to sea for their first time, completing a turtle's life cycle.

A few weeks ago, we walked along the beach until we came to a small palapa. This palapa, in case you didn't already guess, was an institute where they dig up turtle eggs that have been laid on the beach that runs from Bucerias to Paradise Village in Banderas Bay. The institute then digs a similar hole in a protected area to let the eggs hatch, protecting the eggs from birds and other predators.

You get to the institute at sunset and if turtles have hatched within the last 24 hours, you can let them free. You walk to the beach and stand behind a line, and then you take a turtle in your hand and, on the count of three, put it on the ground. The turtle will stand there for a moment, imprinting on the sand so that it knows where to come back to lay their eggs when they get older. They'll walk down to the ocean, and, just before they hit the water, they'll stick up their heads for two reasons: (1) to tell what temperature it is (to remember the place to come back to), and (2) to hold their breath since it will be their first time in the water.

You learn to understand what it could be like to be a turtle, how the things we do could be killing one, and what we can do to help. For example, Leatherback turtles only eat jelly fish. A plastic bag could look like jelly fish to a turtle. If you see a bag, pick it up, as you could be saving the life of a Leatherback turtle. Some types of turtles eat everything. They like seaweed and jelly fish, as well. A straw could look like white kelp. Pick one up if you see it laying around. We'll be saving turtles if we just remember to pick up trash we see lying around on the beach!


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Things I wish I'd brought

Considering that we had 6 weeks to move aboard the boat and prepare to set sail for Mexico, we did quite well. Checklist after checklist, we managed to be one of the more prepared of the boats we've come across. Many spend years getting ready.

Preparing the boat with food was relatively easy. When we set sail, I knew I needed two weeks' worth of food for the four of us plus our two crew members. I calculated this by planning meal by meal. The only thing I calculated incorrectly was bread - I figured on one loaf per day, and we ate less than half of that. In addition to the food for the two weeks, I only needed to stock up on brands of food that I liked. After all, they eat in Mexico, so I knew we wouldn't starve. I stocked up on some Trader Joe's items, and other things that several boaters' guides say you can't get in Mexico (maple syrup, good chocolate chips, almond butter, jam - you can get these items, but not the same quality). In fact, it has been surprisingly easy to find foods we normally eat in Mexican grocery stores.

In addition to food, there was a first aid and medications checklist. That was easy enough to follow but was time-consuming organizing into the various categories for quick access. For example, all the burn items go together in one large zip-lock bag; all the cold remedies in another; all the pain meds in another; and so on. We had to remember over-the-counter meds like lice treatment, yeast infection meds and splints - in case we're in the middle of no where. Epi-pens, strong pain meds, antibiotics were part of the prescription drugs. But we got it all together.

Michael took care of boat spares - an extra head macerator (the 'blender' that chews up the stuff that goes in the toities) has already come in handy (a blog post in and of itself). He brought extra parts for motors, rigging, electronics, and so on. Parts that have names like flopper stoppers and gaskets. Of course, it's impossible to have an extra part for everything, and ultimately you just have to hope that you have the part that needs replacing. Or that some other boater decided to bring that particular part and is willing to give it away or trade it.

You need to make sure you have all the cosmetic brands and cleaning supplies you are tied to. There's only so much Charmin Ultra I could fit onto the boat, and we are now using Mexican TP. Same with Brawny paper towels. We're almost through our stores of Kleenex Cold Care. But all the large Mexican stores sell biodegradable cleaning supplies.

We bought the boat with almost all the kitchen equipment we needed as far as pots and dishes go. We added a hand blender, a blender, a food processor and a toaster oven (all only to be used when on shore power). We also added more cutlery, dishes, plastic cups (I blogged about those some time ago) and plastic wine glasses. A lot of our food is stored in tupperware (we cannot have any cardboard on the boat as the cockroaches love those). A great piece of advice that I got about cooking and food prep on the boat: you'll cook and eat the same way as you do on land. And we do exactly that.

We managed to get our games/toys down to a small load - everything fits under the kids' beds. We've got tons of books - travel books, fishing books, boating books, Mexico/Central America books, school books, cookbooks, pleasure reading, and so on. We have all the linens we need (we ask guests to bring their own towels though). We've got the basic office supplies - even stamps as there are always boaters traveling back to the US who are willing to carry mail for you (always announced on the morning boaters' network on the VHF radio). We've got our music, our computers, even a printer/scanner/fax machine.

So what, you may ask, could we be lacking??

There are two categories of items that I wish I'd brought more of. The first one was an area in which I was steered in the wrong direction. All the boating books and information I got about clothing said that you'll dress very casually so bring only bathing suits and shorts/t-shirts. The trouble is, I don't wear just plain shorts and t-shirts at home. I like to wear dresses and skirts in hot weather. And I do like to look semi-presentable, even as a boater. Okay, so I love clothes. In addition, there have been opportunities for date nights, and I've needed something funky to wear. But as I was trying to fulfill my goal of living minimally, I failed to bring clothes I like to wear and that I feel good in. I did not bring any date night clothing. After some time, though, I got smart and did do a bit of shopping. Piece of advice #1: If you are to set sail anytime soon, don't alter your wardrobe. Bring your favorite clothes - except perhaps anything that needs dry cleaning as we've not seen any dry cleaners (not that we've looked). Even for my delicates, hand washing is in fact way easier on the boat in 5-gallon buckets than it is on land in my small laundry room. I have certainly not needed the number of shoes I wear on land. Heels as a boater are practically impossible. But I'm sure glad I brought some nice flats...

Second area I wish I had thought about: greeting cards. Sounds silly, but I wish I had gone through my calendar of birthdays, anniversaries, holidays etc. and picked out cards for everyone for the entire year. Our friend and former crew member Caren Edwards advised us to prepare a holiday box which has come in so handy. We have put in it a menorah for Chanukah, a Haggadah for Passover, a birthday book I like to read my kids on their birthdays, some birthday candles and streamers, and so on. However, given how easy it is to send mail to the States, and given that I even have 'forever' stamps, I do miss not having English greeting cards. Somehow, I managed to have Valentine's cards for my kids, but not for Michael (he still brought me flowers - I love that man). So ends my stash of greeting cards. Our anniversary is coming up in two days and we don't have cards for each other. I don't even have a card for my son's 9th birthday in 6 days. Piece of advice #2 to those planning to set sail imminently: stock up on greeting cards for the entire year before you depart.

I'd better go to begin writing out a poem for hubby for our 14th anniversary, and some cutesy handmade card for Harrison. I hope they'll appreciate the effort from an otherwise uncreative, non-artistic wife/mom.

Signing off from the anchorage in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle,

Thursday, February 11, 2010

A Palapa in Yelapa

Yelapa is one of the coolest towns we've come across yet. It is located in the south end of Banderas Bay and accessible only by boat. There are no cars in this town - NONE. We spent three lovely days there last week with my mother-in-law who was here visiting and had a blast.

When you arrive at the anchorage at Yelapa, a panga approaches your boat and brings you to one of its mooring balls for a nightly fee. For all we know, Bully, the panga driver doesn't even 'own' the mooring ball, but just takes your money, attaches your boat to the mooring, and laughs all the way to the bank. Either way, he also gave us free rides to/from shore as this town was no place for a dinghy beach landing (too steep). Bully promised us a ride back to our boat each night but only up to 5 p.m. as he then goes home to his family. One evening, after dark (and well after 5 p.m.), we bumped into him in the 'street' and he said he could take us back to our boat. Apparently, at night, he himself moors his boat out, so he had to send his cousin swimming out to get the panga in order to drive us back to our boat. It is little experiences of Mexican hospitality like this that make Mexico such an incredible place to be. We have found that most will go out of their way for you in an instant.

Back to Yelapa. The town is located at the mouth of a river, and built almost vertically up the mountain. What is so surprising is that there is so much more to the town than you see from the water. You could spend days there exploring and still find new things of interest. The path-streets wind through the town up and down the hillside without much order (or street signs, for that matter - it's one of those "take a right at the house with the three windows" kind of a town). Some of the paths run so steep that even the donkeys that carry heavy loads seem to slip down every few steps. On the steepest of the hillside paths, Harrison was invited by a couple of town boys to sit with them on an upside-down milk crate covered with cardboard and slide down treacherously heading for a huge rock that acted as a ramp to take them airborne. They were slowed down only by hanging onto the branches hanging over the path just before the path takes a sharp twist to the left. Quite a site. There's no way we would have ever permitted Harrison to do this at home, but here, well, it's all part of the experience, no?

There are several good Mexican and seafood restaurants. Thanks to my mother-in-law's keen ability to talk to just about anyone, we befriended Susan, the proprietor of Cafe Bahia right on the shore at the end of a broken down concrete dock. Being an expat, she appreciates good freshly baked bread which she bakes daily along with amazing desserts (like homemade cinnamon ice cream, homemade lime bars, homemade granola, trail mix cookies, etc). In addition, she serves delicious fresh and mostly organic food. We spent two afternoons there, as it was like visiting her and her family at their own home - the waitresses would serve you a cookie and take one for themselves as well. She also provided us with shelter (and pretzels) one evening when it started to rain. They provide internet, but only after 3 p.m. as it is dial-up and they have to turn off their phones to let you have it.
We purchased amazing banana bread and Mexican wedding cookies at a 'bakery' called Brisas which is essentially a bake sale run out of someone's kitchen. This was a great experience going into their home and their colorful large kitchen, and watching the mother of the family cook chile rellenos in a huge skillet over a large old fashioned stove. When we had to use the bathroom, they sent us into their own personal bathroom in their home - toothpaste cap still off the tube and all.

We had another wonderful encounter there as well. Walking down the path along the shore, we came across an American gentleman, John Van Winkle, who invited us up to see his vacation rental where he and his wife, Margy, stay for 2 weeks every year. Up we followed him - at least 250 stairs carved into the rock - to his open air home - no walls - just a roof with the mountain side acted as a back wall. They shower outside in complete privacy in the jungle facing a waterfall. This was certainly heaven on earth. The person who runs the five or so similar rental homes called Casa Isabel is Judy, a lovely classy lady with whom we spent much time chatting as well. Apparently, THE Isabel passed away last year after living in the area for about 40 years and establishing these beautiful homes, while helping the locals and having a romance with the son of the Mexican president. Anyone who spoke of her did so with much admiration and love. The stories were fascinating.

And then the heavens opened up and it rained and rained. We were hoping to stay another day, in order to hike up the river to what is supposed to be a spectacular waterfall but instead headed for Nuevo Vallarta and the comforts of the marina. More on the weather later - it's been weird, to say the least.

And by the way, we never did sit under a palapa while in Yelapa, but what other word do you know that rhymes with palapa???

Signing off until next time,

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Why we are doing this...

I've come across a book entitled "Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost At Sea" by Steven Callahan. Haven't read much of it, but in the opening pages, he has aptly stated (and in better words than I ever could) why we took off on this adventure.

"I wish I could describe the feeling of being at sea, the anguish, frustration, and fear, the beauty that accompanies threatening spectacles, the spiritual communion with creatures in whose domain I sail. There is a magnificent intensity in life that comes when we are not in control but are only reacting, living, surviving.... [F]or me, to go to sea is to get a glimpse of the face of God. At sea I am reminded of my insignificance - of all men's insignificance. It is a wonderful feeling to be so humbled."

I have found this quote particularly compelling. As part of my own coaching training, I put together a Life Purpose Statement, and interestingly it begins:

"I am inspired and alive, completely aware of the wonders and awe of everything around me. I am deeply connected to the past as well as to the future, fully aware of my place in this universe (both great and small; both physically and in time). My inner voice is strong and clear, and guides me to live life fully. I move through life with a sense of purpose. I receive abundant blessings."

And boy, do I ever. So far, so good.

Signing off from Nuevo Vallarta,

How the Parrot Learned to Dance

Harrison has been working on creating a story with a beginning (sets the scene), the middle (with details that are important to the story), and an ending. Harrison wrote the first draft, and then Danielle worked with him beautifully asking him relevant questions that helped him add interesting details. This story goes with the video at the bottom of this post - you'll have a good laugh.

Once upon a time, there was a beautiful parrot that lived on a power boat with his owner, Jake. Jake and the parrot both liked each other very much and thought of each other as best friends. One day, Jake decided to bring his friend, Tim, with him and the parrot to the Antarctic.

The next day, they were ready to go. During the journey, every night when Tim went to bed, the parrot started chirping. Tim was annoyed! He couldn’t sleep at all. He got very upset with the parrot. When they anchored in the Antarctic, Tim was so fed up with the parrot that he threw it far into the cold water! The last thing the parrot heard was Jake screaming “No! Don’t go!”

The parrot swam and swam, looking for the boat, but he couldn’t find it anywhere. He kept on looking, and the next thing he noticed, he was in the middle of the ocean. He thought he knew which way the boat was, so he swam in that direction. He kept swimming, and somehow, he made a wrong turn and ended up in Australia.

The parrot was shivering a lot because he was cold from being in the freezing Antarctic water. Even when he got out of the water, he kept on shivering.

All of a sudden, many parrots jumped down from the trees to greet the parrot. They all thought he was dancing because he was happy to be alive, not that he was shivering. When all the parrots heard what happened to the parrot, they all started dancing just like him!

Then, all the parrots heard a roaring motor! Jake had just pulled his jet ski up onto shore! When he saw all the dancing parrots, he laughed and started to dance with them!

Ever since then, parrots start dancing whenever they see anyone, people or parrots, dancing. If you ever see a dancing parrot, think of this story and dance along with him.

A Cinquain about our Blog

A cinquain is a poem that is five lines long; the first line has one word, the second line has two, the third line has three, the fourth line has four, and the fifth line has one word.

What's happening
Tells our story
Happy about our trip

Written by Harrison
Feb. 1, 2010