Friday, February 15, 2013

Grand Bay Resort - secret jacuzzi

Gotta get off the dock in one hour so this one will be a quick one...

We've really enjoyed our stay at the Grand Bay Resort ...and marina.  As a marina guest you have the run of the hotel and resort.  This week the marina has a Valentines special rate of 50 cents a foot so that makes for pretty cheap moorage for Traveler, somewhere about thirty dollars a day.  Once we found out we could use the hotel facilities we went on a search for the perks.  Here is what we found.

Connie and Ezrah found out there is free Yoga each morning and afternoon so they went for it while I went on a reconnaissance mission.
We heard there was a fourth pool and a second jacuzzi up on the 10th floor somewhere, so we set out to find it. After wandering around for a while we cracked the code and found the secret spot. Actually, some fellow cruisers tipped us off to many of these perks.
You go past the pool, there are three of these connected by water slides. Note the thatch covered sunken bar in the swimming pool.  Swim up, have a drink.

Through the patio restaurant and around this nondescript corner
and down this medieval tunnel

Up the elevators to floor 7, then around the corner past this guy.
Down the hall
That's the overhead walkway we are looking for.

And this is that overhead walkway that goes up to floor 10
And Voila!  you arrive at the 10 floor penthouse pool. Notice the fresh towels
And there is the little wonderful hot jacuzzi, our own little private place.

Later on we crashed a private dinner with a full Mexican marachi band playing.  Great music.  Yes, we danced.

Connie on first slide
And we all used the multiple pools, starting at the top pool and moving down to the other pools via water slides.
Connie on second slide
But it is almost 3:00 PM and I better get the boat ready to move out to the lagoon anchorage..which is free.  But we will come back to this marina, and the hotel on occasion.  Hey, I've got a few internet access codes left.  We'll just have to sneak over in the dinghy and take showers, swim in the pools, go to the lobby, and do some internet surfing.   Maybe we'll find some free music to boot!

Connie in the lobby
Having a grand time at the Grand Bay Resort, and Marina.
Looking out on the bay from the hotel

Sneaking Through the Estuary

On the Pacific coast of Mexico where fresh water streams enter the ocean there is often a mangrove estuary.  Some of these are quite extensive.  While some have been "developed" for marinas or upscale waterfront housing many estuaries are left close to their natural state.  For instance, in Mazatlan, the whole marina complex there was an estuary.  Now the riparian zones are stone bulkheads for docks or landings. 

In Tenacatita the estuary is left fairly natural and can be an exciting dinghy trip for those who dare.  We heard rumors that a developer had chained off the river and posted armed guards to keep cruisers from getting in there.  We've learned to take information passed along with a grain of salt because everyone has their own opinion and their own experience. 
Tunnel through the estuary

The Tenacatita estuary starts right there in the bay.  Most of the local pangas are kept near the mouth of the river, the fishermen walking their boats over the sandy bar at high tide and tying them shore side within the river itself.  We joined Rick and Brenda from Dad's Dreams for a two dinghy excursion up the river, approaching just after high tide and motoring right over the bar with ease.  On board our dinghy was Connie, Scott, Ezrah, and Mary. 
Rick and Brenda Strickley

As we motored against the building current we saw lots of birds and passed by numerous pangas moored in their mangrove tunnels that their owners had carved out on the bank.  The river narrowed and we wound our way inland.  At a branch we saw some development so we took the left hand channel to continue up a very narrow stream.  Being just after high tide, the canopy was quite low making it difficult at times to get through the close mangrove.  The mangrove roots stood many feet high and were covered with wonderful little crabs.  The river wound it's way west and finally opened up in a fairly large body of water.  At the south end of this pond was a decrepit dock where we disembarked and found a locked fence.  No armed guards yet!
Note that the outboard is tipped up for the shallow water.

Connie looked right and found a little path that led right around the fence where it just stopped in the sparse woods.  We walked south over a sand berm and came out at Playa Tenacatita and a place they call "The Aquarium."  There we saw a guard.  "Buenos dias, SeƱor"  and he replied in kind.  No guns, no police action, just a beautiful beach with a few tourists lounging under beach umbrellas. 

Our ride back was a little more difficult as the current had picked up and the dinghy had much less steerage as it floated with the current instead of powering against it.  Connie took the port side oar and Mary the starboard with Ezrah fending off branches as we flew down the channel back towards Tenacatita.  At the bar, the tide had dropped so we portaged the dinghy over the beach and had a surf exit back to the boat. 
Net Fisherman

All in all a nice excursion and a good setup for an afternoon of napping, swimming, and reading.
Connie and Ezrah
Oh yea, and Connie cleaned the dirty bottom of Traveler.
Scrub it!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Mayor of Tenacatita

Google up these words "The Mayor of Tenacatita" and you will come up with a surprising number of sailboat blogs talking about the anchorage at BahiaTenacatita, a day south of Bandaras Bay and just north of Barra de Navidad.  These wonderful anchorages and harbors are on the Mexico Pacific coast in an area referred to as Costalegre, The Happy Coast.  This bay has the distinction of having an on-the-water "Mayor".  We met a former Tenacatita mayor when we were in Mazatlan. Don of the Islander 36 Windward Love held the mayor's office down there for many years before he relocated north to Mazatlan where he holds court there at the dock in his power boat Wazoo. 

Robert and Virginia with Chris Stockard (former Mayor) looking on.
We had looked forward to the anchorage at Tenacatita as it has quite a reputation as being a quiet, friendly bay, a cruiser's haven.  We  met Robert and Virginia Gleser on the ketch "Harmony" at Los Muertos in December.  Virginia is the author of the book "Harmony on the High Seas, When Your Mate Becomes Your Matey".

Robert and Virginia were heading south to Tenacatita and we were heading north to LaPaz.  We didn't know it at the time but they were headed south because Robert had some mayoral duties to fulfill.

On the way down, Robert took stints as the Sonrisa net controller.  Once at Tenacatita his duties as Mayor began in earnest.  He's been doing this for quite a few years, and before him there was another mayor, and before him, another.... etc... since time began.  The mayor is an unpaid position, involves no courthouse or building whatsoever and might be described as a type of social director gig.  Robert fills it well, directing the local VHF net, helping out other boaters with questions about life, and giving advice on matters of a nautical nature.  But the most important duty is the Friday night dinghy raft up where the Mayor holds court, resolving issues, introducing boaters to each other, sharing stories, and encouraging the passing around of Hors d'oeuvres. On our Friday night we had about 20 dinghies all rafted up in a circle with Robert pontificating in the center.  Note that Robert is authorized to perform marriages or divorces (in effect while at sea).

The Mayor tells a little story.  In the background is Heather Stockard who has published "A Cruising Cook's Guide to Mexico".

He begins with a short speech addressing the, "Citizens of Tenacatita" then starts a round robin where each boater introduces their crew and gives their well thought reply to the Mayor's Friday night topic.   When our turn came, I introduced our crew and told our short story.  The topic of the evening happened to be "How you met your spouse."  That's a story I love to tell... about our first date when Scott Voltz fell head over heels in love with Connie Bunyer.

I'll tell it now, just because it is Valentines day.

Connie and I met online on Plenty of Fish, a free internet dating service.  We chatted a little, had some phone calls and after a while I decided to drive to Olympia to meet her for tea.  I fought the I-5 traffic for a couple of hours and arrived at her workplace, the Olympia Food Co-op and found her in the produce department with a cash drawer full of money in her hand.  She finished her shift and we drove to a nearby Mexican restaurant for tacos instead of tea.  With the food in front of us, she would look left then right but not into my eyes.  So I worked on her for awhile with my glib tongue and pleasant demeanor until finally she looked me in the eye. She then broke out in that wonderful smile she has and I knew that we were going to get along just fine, very fine.

Just when I thought it was time to go back to Seattle, she asked me a favor.  Her son Ezrah had her car and would I give her a ride home please?  No Problem, I'm always up for helping out a beautiful woman.  So to her house we went.  No keys?  No Problem.  I hoisted her up and she flew through the kitchen window to appear in an instant at the front door.  We talked, she showed me some Yoga moves then she asked me another favor.  Could I give her a ride now to her second job?
Classic photo of Ocho Pies

No problem.  Then we loaded some musical instruments into my van and off we went to the Waterstreet Cafe and Bar where I helped her bring in her kit, met the band, and had myself a glass of wine.  Her band, Ocho Pies, was playing two sets that evening.  Now I'm getting really impressed by this time.  The lights dimmed, Connie stepped into the light wearing a glittering full length dress that accentuated her slim physique.

And then she started singing.  Wow.

She looked me in the eye and sang love song after love song, in Spanish.  I was a gonner.  I felt like Humphrey Bogart standing in the back of the cabaret watching Lauren Bacall up on stage.

After the first set Connie came straight up to me and we walked around the place a little.  There was a back door to the alley, we fell through it and came face to face, inches apart, centimeters apart, millimeters apart. Our lips brushed.  Then we heard the band tuning up, clearly a hint for Connie to come back onstage.  They started their second set, and it being Sunday night I realized that my one hour tea with Connie had turned out to be an all afternoon and into the night affair and I had better get home before it got too late.  After a couple more songs I slipped out the back and headed home.  On stage, Connie saw me leave and her wonderful smile lessened a bit but when the next song came up she gave it all she was worth.  That was three years ago and we've been constant companions ever since.

That's the story I told at the Mayor of Tenacatita's raft up February 8, 2013.

Connie and our neighbors Richard and Brian from S/V Osprey

After everyone told their stories of how they met, we ate and drank, and Connie played a few songs for the raft up participants.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Stopping the Flop

Warning:  This post contains some technical nautical detail that many readers might choose to skip.  If so, just look at the pictures and go back to surfing through your Facebook page.

I’m sitting down below in the cabin on the computer for the first time in a week while Connie makes coleslaw.  It’s 82 degrees down here and I’m in a pair of nylon shorts and nothing else.  My old man’s rule about wearing a shirt at the dinner table has gone by the way side as have many other of those civilized manners I was taught from youth.  I’ve got a small wardrobe now consisting of two pairs of nylon shorts and two short sleeve cotton shirts.  When we take the dinghy to shore I get my shorts wet and my shirt, if I wear one. The only reason for a shirt now is to keep my back from getting too sunburned. Once back aboard I retrieve the second pair of shorts that I left there from the last wet dinghy trip.  So with constant salt water rinsing, my wardrobe stays in pretty good shape and the shorts can stand up on their own.

Our last shower was in the cockpit of the boat with two small buckets of fresh water.  Connie and I washed each others hair and backs and came away feeling all clean and shiny.. and frisky.   

Just look at all the crap hanging off our boat.  Got the awning up, the wind vane deployed, the two flopper stoppers rigged, extra lines in the water to help us when we are swimming and cleaning the bottom, the swim ladder down, and a bunch of inflatable kayaks on deck.
Flopper stoppers were the topic of conversation last night so I thought they deserved to be discussed here for everyone’s entertainment and enlightenment.   A flopper stopper is a device that you lower into the water, boomed out on one side of the boat with a long pole.   The stoppers I have consist of three bright orange wide-brimmed cones set one atop another about two feet apart.  A stout rope runs through the three devices and comes out the bottom where there are numerous heavy fishing weights attached.   To deploy this device you run the boom out to the side of the boat and attach this thing at the end, lowering it down into the depths.  We use the spinnaker pole deployed out the other side for the second set of flopper stoppers.  Both the boom and the spinnaker pole are held aloft with a halyard and secured fore and aft with guy lines so the poles cannot swing. 

Note the boom out to one side and the spinnaker pole out to the other.
Here on the Pacific coast of Mexico the swell usually comes in from the northwest.  This is because the dominant weather system in Arizona and New Mexico is a strong high that sends constant high winds roaring down the Sea of Cortez.  These winds whip up generous wave trains that gain momentum as they head south.  By the time they get down here the wind might have dissipated but the rolling swell is still there.  Our weather reports sometimes give swell height and timing.  For instance we might hear four foot seas at twelve seconds.  The higher the swell the more rocking of the boat, the shorter timing the more violent the roll becomes.

At anchor the boat sometimes comes sideways to these rolling waves.  Traveler has a rounded hull shape and she rolls easily like many single hull boats.  These rolling waves can toss the plates off the table, put your salad in your lap, or spill your precious glass of wine.  And at bedtime sleep cannot come if you spend your time digging your fingernails into the mattress trying not to get dumped onto the floor.  The flopper stopper is rumored to dampen the rolling effect.  I say “Rumored.”

I’ve seen flopper stoppers in the marine stores that are built like a square box where the lid opens one way but not the other, kinda like a valve. So you can drop it into the water it will sink easily but then when you try to pull it back up, the top of the box clamps shut and it is much more difficult to move it upwards.   The cones do a similar thing; easy to drop down but hard to pull upward.

Traveler heading south under full gennaker with a four foot swell .
After making our way south from Bandaras Bay we stopped in a little anchorage at Punta Ipala. The guide book says, “ This anchorage can be swept by waves” during periods of NW wind and swell.  When we anchored the wind was light from the northwest and the swell was coming in from the same direction. An anchored boat usually points into the wind.  Thus the bow of the boat rose and fell with the swell and while it was a little rolly inside the boat we were able to cook and eat and play cards just fine.  Then at bed time the wind fell and the current started to pull the boat southward.  Soon the boat pointed South and we were beam on to the rolling waves coming out of the west.  We rocked and rolled foolishly for hours until the land breeze came in and got the boat pointed to the east where we would be aft on to the rollers.  Sea breeze during the day, land breeze at night, is the rule down here.

After a good run south the next day we came to Bahia Chamela where Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer, the creators of the wonderful book, “Pacific Mexico A Cruiser’s Guidebook”, say “some northerly swell can bend around the point and enter the anchorage.”  As usual, when I enter an anchorage, I cruise around looking for boats I know and pretty much terrify everyone as I come much too close to their anchor lines.   We saw the sailing vessel Mystique in there and as I scraped by his bow sprit he yelled out to watch out for his stern anchor line as most people in the anchorage had both bow and stern anchors deployed to keep the boats pointed out to sea and directly into the swell.

Taking the good advice we decided to set both a bow and stern anchor to reduce the roll.  Connie dropped the heavy main anchor, a Bruce, off the bow and I backed down on 200 foot of chain before dropping the aluminum Danforth  off the stern.  I then pulled forward to set the stern anchor.  But by the time I got the chain and rope rode out we were right on top of the forward anchor.  We had not set them far enough apart. 

So Connie pulled up the Bruce and we pulled way, way forward and reset it properly.  When done Traveler was facing out to sea just like all the boats in the anchorage except one.  And that evening we enjoyed watching that one boat turn sideways to the swell and have its mast sweep great arches in the sky as, no doubt, the contents of their cabin started working their way down to the cabin sole.   The next morning we watched them relocate, setting out both a bow and stern anchor.

Mary introducing the flopper stopper
Having learned the lesson of bow and stern anchoring in swell prone anchorages, we proceeded down the coast a short hop to the beautiful little anchorage of Paraiso that our friend aboard, Mary, wanted to visit.  Shawn and Heather advised that “Waves and swell wrap around the islands…” so we knew we were in for a rolly night.  We set bow and stern anchors but the waves were refracting off the cliff sides and rolling us still   So we grubbed around below decks and found the old flopper stoppers that came with the boat and which we have never used.  With the Boom out to port and the spinnaker pole out to starboard, we deployed the flopper stoppers.  After hours of work with chain, anchors, rope, poles, weights and other stuff we had our little home rigged to battle the swell. 

Did the flopper stoppers help? We think they did.  They didn’t stop the rolling but they dampened it.  Did the stern anchor help?  We think it did because it kept the swell from setting directly on our beam.  And more importantly, it made poor traveler look much like an old fishing boat with all sorts of things sticking out.  We enjoyed the anchorage, staying two days and had the place to ourselves the second night.  Nice.

I woke this morning to a slight roll of the boat and the sound of coconuts rolling around on the coach roof.  Ezrah had harvested a half dozen in expectation of drinking the coconut water for an electrolyte boost.  Then Connie brought me in a cup of hot tea and I got to sit in bed, drinking my tea, listening to the coconuts rolling about and watching my nylon shorts standing up on their own on the cabin floor where I dropped them the night before.

The marina where we are presently staying in
Barra de Navidad,Jalisco
 pretty posh huh?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Bahia de Banderas and south

From Chalaca we sailed south for a day and rounded Punta Mita just in time to find the anchorage there, get the anchor set and have a glass while watching the sun set in the west. We came very close to multiple pods of Humpback whales, having to cut the engine and drift while they passed.  We found that while you can see them easily with the naked eye, getting a good photo of a whale is difficult so I’m including here a stock photo.

Punta Mita is a lovely anchorage at the northern entrance to Banderas Bay where you can sit and watch the amazing surf break on the beach.  The anchorage there is a favorite of sailors who also surf and we were surrounded by youngish sailors on boards paddling around the bay.  Tight abs abound.

We moved the next day to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle which is a very popular hangout for boaters.  I counted 45 boats at anchor, most of them sailboats.  The marina there is nice also, charging about $30 for a slip or 30 Pesos to land the dinghy.  We stayed on the hook a couple of nights and then moved into the marina to get a better night’s sleep and to provision.  Mary and Ezrah flew into Puerto Vallarta and took a taxi to La Cruz and met us there.  We are now finishing out provisioning and getting ready to move back out to Punta Mita for the night so we can get an early morning start to head south.

Bandaras Bay is 20 miles across.  We’ll get across the bay in the early morning then round Cabo Corrienties, staying about 5 miles offshore.  The cape there juts out into the ocean quite a bit and has strong currents and rough seas. It is best to round the cape in the early morning or at night.

Once past the cape we have the option of a marginal moorage just south of the tip or to keep on another 16 hours to Chamela Bay.  From there we have nothing but delightful little anchorages with small towns all the way to Barra de Navidad.   

So, not much to report here. We are just taking our time, meandering down the coast and finding comfortable anchorages and warm water to swim in. Ezrah and Mary and slowly shedding the city life influence and are slowing down a bit as they should.  By the time they get off the boat we'll have them so very mellow that they will have culture shock.  Mary is with us two weeks. Ezrah has no set schedule and we hope he will hang with us for quite a while.

Gotta go get the dinghy up on the deck and secure all loose items aboard.  We've got a little crossing to do!