Sunday, March 17, 2013

Mazatlan…home for the summer

March 17th already… yikes !  Can’t believe how quickly we’ve arrived back at the start of our cruising circle. I know they say time flies faster as you get older… but ‘wow’ here we are looking at the list of things to do to get the good ship Shannon ready for abandonment (for 6 months) again…  The good news is that I think the list might just be a wee bit shorter this year as we’re going to leave her in the water instead of up on the hard (in a shipyard).  We’ve reserved a single slip (meaning she’ll be strung out between two small docks so she won’t be banging and rubbing against her fenders) at Marina Mazatlan.  That’s the marina that is inside the estuary, mostly free of surge, and hopefully somewhat protected from the worst of the winds.  We’ll also be hiring a fellow (Tony’s Boat Management) to watch over her and care for her while we’re away.  It’s not cheap (nothing is) but it’s pretty necessary here, especially since she’ll be afloat.
We arrived back at Marina El Cid (love these pools and hot tub!) on Thursday, March 14th.  Had a very interesting motor-sail up from San Blas which Kathy is going to tell you about.  We’re here, at El Cid, until the 24th… at which time we’ll move Shannon down the estuary to Marina Mazatlan.  Unfortunately the washroom facilities at Marina Maz are.. well… to use a word… ‘awful’; and the evening ‘music’ is pretty loud, and Shannon’s interior will be all stirred up as we empty, re-sort and re-pack everything… so, we’ll be moving in to a small bungalow for the last week and while we prep Shannon. There’s also Chuck the Truck….  waiting patiently in La Paz.  I fly to La Paz on Wednesday to pick him up and bring him back on the ferry… yet another adventure. We hope to leave here April 1st to begin our drive home. We’ll be stopping in Yuma and Cathedral City on our way north and then we’ll be barreling up the highway to Vancouver for some family business. We hope to be home on the Island no later than the 19th.
This has been a whirlwind season, and it’s not done yet…  AND, we’ve lots of things still to share with you, and photos too.  So, what we’re going to do is make submissions to the Blog as we have time between chores…  They won’t be in any particular order but at least we’ll be able to share.
I will take this opportunity to thank all of you who have kept in touch. While we continue to meet good people at every anchorage, and we’ve made many new cruising friends, we continually think of, and miss, those we’ve left at home.  We’re looking forward to catching up with most of you this summer and to hanging out in our beloved Maple Bay. 
So to all of you from all of us…. have a wonderful day… a great St. Patrick’s Day… and take good care of yourselves.  Collect lots of hugs, and dish a few out too.  Charlotte Diamond says we each need at least 5 a day… so get started. :-)      So, until we write again… and until we see you (soon)
Adios…  CJ

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

San Blas… a step into the past

Who knew that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Bells of San Blas” was about the bells from THIS San Blas? We didn’t, but we do now. 
We skipped San Blas on the way south… too many reports of troubles with Jejenes; too many questions regarding crossing the bar safely; and if Matanchen Bay was unsafe…. so too was San Blas just by association… or so we thought.  Well, the Jejenes aren’t bad (if you get your nets and screens up before they come out at dusk… and leave them up until after the sun warms the air in the morning; the bar crossing went well, although we did check in with the Capitana de Puerto  (Port Captain) to seek his assurance it was safe to cross and enter. The Marina Fonatur is as clean and safe as the rest of them, although this one appears to be suffering from lack of funding as evidenced by the empty swimming pool and no longer present store, laundry and restaurant.  But… there is TP in the washrooms and that’s better than most.
Once arrived, and after the dust had settled, we began to look around and explore the parts of town we could reach on foot.  It’s definitely Mexican and not very affluent, but the folks we’ve met are still smiling and most helpful answering our questions.  There’s a morning market of sorts along the main street each morning and there are several ferreterias (hardware stores) within a few blocks of the marina.  How good is that?? This is a port, one of the (if not the) oldest ports on the Pacific coast of Mexico. This place used to be the naval port for New Spain with a population of over 30,000 people.  Today, it is much less populated and much less busy, and much less of a port.  But there are still fishing boats coming and going as well as recreational boats stopping on their way north or south. There is also a Naval Base here which is helping to keep the organized criminals at bay, or so we’ve been told (that the organized crime syndicates have by-passed this place). There is also a long and beautiful beach running south from the bar entrance and supporting several palapa restaurants as well as a growing community of surfing folks. We had planned on visiting here for a few days only and leaving on Tuesday morning, but Mother Nature has stepped in and tossed some extra wind and waves in our direction so we may dally a day or two longer.  We’ve participated in a few things whilst getting to know the town and, as reputations and addresses in Mexico change faster than the winds, I thought I’d pass on a few tidbits for the use of cruisers who follow.
La Tovara (Tobara) Jungle Tour:
We’d read of this tour and then been told by other cruisers how good it was; a “not to be missed” kind of an experience.  We’d also been told to go early, ask the panga driver to go slowly and tip well;  so we did and it was fabulous. We connected with a guide named Afro.  He spoke English fairly well and he agreed to an early start.  Four of us met him at 0700 hrs. and took off into the chilly morning (bring a sweater) for a terrific tour.  Afro did go slowly, and he stopped and backed up sometimes to help us get better photos of the birds and crocodiles we saw. He also knew the names of most if not all of the birds we saw and helped us to find even the most camoflauged. He was great.  We took the longer choice of two tours (the one that goes all the way up to the crocodile Zoo – a bit depressing but interesting none the less – and then, on the way back, stops at La Tobara Spring for some very tasty food at the restaurant and a dip in the nicely warm water (bring your bathing suits and a towel). We picked up speed on the way back, to make up for the time we’d taken hunting with our cameras.. but even then Afro stopped and backed up for us to take photos of a pair of huge crocs on the river bank.  We were so glad we went early and were the first panga on the route.  Those that followed (just coming up as we were returning) were roaring up the waterways, jammed full of people. I doubt anyone had time to see anything; anything left that is after the roar of their outboards and major wakes shook the birds away and the crocodiles into hiding.  Our “3 hour tour” lasted for 4 1/2 hours and we’re still sorting through hundreds of photos of birds, crocodiles, iguanas, turtles and fish…. oh, and of Kathy swinging off a trapeze into the water at the spring (brave girl!). (Cost? for the boat and the long tour, $560 pesos, divided between the four of us).
Taxi ride and tour of San Blas:
We called upon Jose (Jose Roberto Carbajal), a fellow recommended to us by another cruiser.  His English is quite good and he was willing to spend a couple of hours showing us around town.  He drove us through areas explaining what they were as we went and then he drove us up to the hilltop fort at La Contaduria.  It was interesting and had a view of all of San Blas and well out to sea.  Then we drove down to the ‘surfing beach’ which runs south from the bar entrance, and had a great lunch at the palapa restaurant called Alicia’s.  Kathy and Jose had the tostada’s - one pescado (fish) ceviche and one camarone (prawn) ceviche – while I had my ensalada naturelle camarones (peeled prawns with slices of cucumber and tomato).  They were all good.  On the way back to the boat we asked Jose to stop at a good place to buy one of the grilled chickens. He took us to Roman’s Pollo Asados.  The chickens looked and smelled declicous and for 80 pesos we got the whole cooked chicken along with rice, corn tortillas and a sauce.  That’ll be dinner – after the 4 o’clock get together on the dock with the two other cruising boats tied up beside us.
Should you wish to set up a tour - Jose, our taxi driver and impromptu tour guide, can be reached at (c) 323-106-4703.
I’ve mentioned that the beach is popular with local surfers.  Good news for the rest of you surfers is that Jose and his brother (who is already running a surfing school in Chacala) are planning to open a surfing school here in San Blas.  Their new website is and is under construction.
While there are many restaurants in San Blas, a very nice shop keeper advised us that the two best (and cleanest ) in town were La Isla (an excellent seafood restaurant that has been in business for years and has a very interesting display of seashells, artistically set up and displayed by the Chef and owner Tony; and McDonald’s (not the arches), a family run restaurant and bar with good clean food.  We’ve tried La Isla and it was great.  Kathy had Tony’s special pescado and said it was the best she’d ever had.
Weather watching… is an imperfect art. There are dozens of various ‘sources’ we cruisers check every day, sometimes twice or more times a day. None are perfect and most are just ‘best guesses’ by persons who have studied the science for many years and/or unedited results of computer models.  We’ve been relying a fair amount on a site called BouyWeather and it’s done us quite well. Today, however, as we were getting ready to leave tomorrow morning (due to a calm winds and low seas kind of a weather window forecast by BouyWeather) Kathy happened to notice a bulletin tacked to the Security office door. It was in Spanish but she recognized enough words to realize it was a weather warning and she purloined a copy of it and brought it to our computer’s translator.  Seems all is not what it appears to be and Mother Nature is throwing a bit more stuff our way… at least for the next two days anyway.  8 foot seas and winds up to 27 knots (all against us if we were to head north) are just not that comfortable on the good ship Shannon and so we shall take a bit more time getting up close and friendly with San Blas.   As they always say… the best cruising plans are written with a stick in the sand… just below high water mark.
The source of this recent weather forecast is the Maritime Meteorlogical Bulletins for the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts of Mexico ( ) It is posted every day (365) at 1000 and 1600 hrs. We used to translate the information into English.
Guess that’s enough information for now. We are well, missing our friends, and looking forward to continuing our journey when the winds and seas allow us.  Until then we shall enjoy the local seafood, chip away at some boat chores, and sip tequila in a most lady-like fashion :0-)
Adios amigas y amigos…  CJ

Saturday, March 9, 2013


There’s something unnerving about the feel of your boat, anchored securely fore an aft, rising up and up as a huge swell passes beneath, and then sinking into the trough as the swell thunders ashore in a tumultuous and astounding display of force and water smashing into the beach…  quite unnerving to the uninitiated.  Especially after dark, when your imagination runs wild.. and you keep running out to assure yourself the boats you were parallel with at dusk.. are still exactly where they’re supposed to be…

Welcome to Chacala.. the bay of rolly-polly.. We’re here and just as soon as we get our rolly-polly legs and balance back.. we’ll be lovin’ it. We had a great sail across Banderas Bay.. and then an energetic motor-sail up the coast to Chacala.. arrived here at 5 PM (PV time) which is 4 PM (everyone else’s time)..  Got both our bow and stern anchors hooked and working….  Kathy had a quick dip and we spent the late afternoon and early evening enjoying the view from the cockpit.  Sophie obliged us by using the mat and all was good.  We cooked up our last piece of fish (remember ‘Diamond Jimmy”?) and then hit the sack early (or late depending on whose watch you looked at).  Tomorrow we plan to visit the town in the morning and be back at the boat for swimming, etc. by early afternoon… and before the winds and seas pick up again.  That’s the plan for now, anyway. We expect to spend Wed/Thur here and then push on up to San Blas on Friday… where we’ll spend the weekend. They say the Jejenes (pronounced hay-hay-nays – tiny no-see-ums that bite) are bad and may drive us crazy there.  We’ll let you know.  We’re going anyway as there’s a Jungle Tour we’d like to take… and friends of ours had their boat painted there for a phenomenal price… gotta check that out :-)  Shannon’s been overdue since before we bought her. 

Guess that’s it for now…. no internet here (in Chacala) but this will send once we have a connection somewhere…Hope all is well with all of you.   Adios, CJ

Saturday, March 9th…  Arrived San Blas yesterday…  motor-boat ride up.. but caught a small Dorado along the way…sashimi for dinner.  Jejenes not bad at all…  More info later….

Hope all is well with all of you…. ttfn.. CJ

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Making as if…in PV

Saturday, March 2nd: Today, we sit in what is surely the ‘lap of luxury’ or so it’s called….  We’re moored at the marina in Paradise Village Resort, Nuevo Vallarta.  Oh my how they do live… It’s just beautiful; reminds me of Maui with the lush and vibrant foliage of the lawns and manicured gardens.  There’s a place of peace around every corner, and there’s lots of corners.  The property is huge; a small city  unto itself. There are several grand ‘hotel’ buildings, one building that is a conference centre and spa (with showers and washrooms for us cruisers), restaurants (at least 3), pools (one for kids, one for adults with a hot tub, and one lap pool), tennis courts, shuffle board and bocce courts, a zoo (well, actually two tigers and a dozen large parrots), and access to all kinds of water sports.  The beach is very large and has palapas and lounges and wet bars and snack bars and lots of staff to help out.

Many folks said dogs weren’t welcome.. but we’ve found that as long as we respect the rule about not dragging puppy through the resort grounds, and we stick to the nice sidewalk that runs from Dock A where we’re moored – right up to the beach.. where Miss Sophie is welcome, it’s all good… and she’s lovin’ it.  Each morning we’ve taken her for a long walk on the beautiful, miles long beach.  Seems she’s certain that those yellow floaty things….attached to land by long, slimy ropes (you know the ones… they’re for the pangas to use).. anyway, seems the princess has decided the yellow floats are organic and very possibly alive. She’s absolutely fascinated by them… to the point where she totally forgets she’s shy of big waves and just blasts on through them… even stands on two feet for a better view as they churn past her…it’s quite fun to watch and she draws a small crowd while she ‘hunts’.

So, we’re here… enjoying the rest… and just plain relaxing… taking a vacation from life as it were. We plan to start heading north on Tuesday.  Plans remain to try for a day or so in Chacala on the way by.. and then a short stop in San Blas (Kathy really wants to do the jungle tour). Hope to be back in Mazatlan by March 16th.   


Before we left La Cruz, Kathy entered into a paddle race….  As you can see, she represented Canada well.  While she didn’t win the race, she did win a prize… a tour with a local guide… who has kindly allowed her to hang on to the coupon until we visit next season…

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