December 24, 2007

Escape from Paradise

We did it.

We actually cast off our lines and headed out at 4AM yesterday, Dec 23rd. Leaving our home slip in Paradise Village until our planned return on Feb 15th.

We rounded Cabo Corrientes at 9 am with light wind and lumpy seas and motored all the way down to Bahia de Chamela. The seas continued lumpy, with 6-8 foot swells, mainly from behind. Their period was pretty short, so we could only make about 6 knots.

Further dampening our spirits, it was overcast with a light fog, so visibility was only about 4 miles. Cool too, courtesy of a "Pineapple Express": high level clouds that blow up from the Intertropical Convergence Zone, the ICTZ. So we were sitting there grumbling all day in light jackets. Granted in was still in the 60s and low 70s, but hey, this is Mexico, not Canada!

We arrived in Chamela just after dark and anchored 350 yards offshore in 25 feet of water (at low tide). This morning in Chamela, the clouds have parted and are making their exit. It's warming up too, in the 70s already at 830 AM (CST).

Chamela is on of our favorite anchorages, especially for Christmas Day. Hundreds of Mexican families descend on the bay for the week, with their kids, grandparents... sisters and their cousins, who they recon up by dozens, and their aunts (with apologies to Gilbert and Sullivan)...

Many of the palapa restaurants on the beach have Mariachis. Cart vendors are on the beach too selling everything from beach toys, we especially like the cocodrilo (inflatable crocodile) to elote (corn on the cob on a stick).

Right now, there are only 4 boats in this anchorage that could easily hold 50 or more.

We find it hard to understand why most of our cruising friends try to get to a port with a major gathering of boaters to go to a Christmas potluck with other (mostly) Canadians and Americans - when they could experience this fantastic cultural fiesta!

You can see our pictures from past years (2004 and 2006) on our website at

You can also get our current position and our track for the last 90 days on our site too, click on the "Position" and "Last 90d" links on the menu bar just below our homepage pictures to pull these up.

We're away from the Internet until we get to our next port (Barra de Navidad), just after New Years - so our Winlink or Sailmail addresses are the best way to reach us for the next week or so.

I'm sending this from my Winlink address which is slow speed radio email so PLEASE DO NOT REPLY TO THIS MESSAGE AND SEND OUR MESSAGE BACK TO US. Either send us a new message or delete the text of our message in your reply.

We love hearing from you all, so don't hesitate to drop us a note, but just send us what you personally type. No photos, other attachments and no forwards please!

Warmest Regards and Happy Holidays!
Bill and Mary

December 20, 2007

Happy Holidays!

We have had a good year, complete with family visits, sailing, traveling to new areas, gardening and nesting at home and meeting many new and old friends.

We wish you all the best that the Holidays can be.

May the New Year bring all you wish for.

Since we got back to Puerto Vallarta we've been busy with boat projects and the social scene. We did have a chance to do a land trip which we shared with you.

Having a car in Mexico has made it a lot easier to get around. Just last Sunday, we took the car to a lovely village "La Disembocada" and hiked up the Rio Mascota a few miles to a natural hot springs. Very relaxing!

We getting ready to head off this weekend to spend the 25th anchored out in Chamela Bay.

We'll continue to share our more interesting adventures with you via our Friends and Family list.

Warmest Regards,
Bill & Mary

December 3, 2007

Raptor Red Chili - Version 2.0 - The Winner in Paradise

This recipe won at the December 1, 2007 Charity Chili Cook Off at the Vallarta Yacht Club in Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit, Mexico.

So far, we've entered three Chili Cook Offs in the last year and won all three!

This recipe is an update of our winner from Zihuatanejo (see that recipe). We lightened the chili up a bit and adapted to the greater volume (5 gal) needed for this competition.

This recipe is fairly complex and should be prepared at least a day ahead to allow the flavors to blend. It freezes and reheats well. Serve with a dollop of Toasted Cumin Crema (recipe below).

You will need to do a lot of tasting as you go along to get the best results.

The pot is important. It should be big enough to hold the whole batch. The pot should also have a thick bottom to spread the heat so the chili doesn't burn.

We don't have a big pot on board, so we used one supplied by the Yacht Club. That pot was non-reactive stainless steel (it's important to not use uncoated aluminum). It had a capacity of nearly 6 gallons, but it was thin metal and had a warped bottom and would not heat properly on the stove. We mitigated the issue by heating the whole put in the oven at just over 325° F, stirring at least every hour.

On the day of the contest, we put the pot over 3 concrete blocks and used Sterno to keep it hot - then stirring every few minutes while we dished out the samples.

The following makes approximately 5 gallons of Chili.



The Meat:

The meat is very important. You want a flavorful cut of beef with some connective tissue. We prefer skirt steak or flank steak. We used 7.5+ Kilos (about 16 pounds) of un-marinated Arrachara, Mexican skirt steak.

Cut the meat into cubes (do not use ground meat). For meal or side dish sized servings, cut into 1/2 inch cubes. For competition sized (tiny) servings, cut into 3/8 inch cubes. Season the beef with salt and pepper.

The Chili Molé (gravy):

We selected a variety of dried and fresh chilies at the local market. If you're not familiar with the chilies, you should taste a sliver of each (after toasting and rehydration of the dried ones) to help you balance the flavor. You may need to use more or less of each based on their size and flavor.

A good guide to identifying chilies can be found on the web at

You can also substitute canned chipotlés in adobo sauce for the dried. Just skip the soaking and skinning step and include the adobo with the chipotlés in the blender, more chipotlés will yield a smokier product.

Dried Chilies (possibly more of each if small, buy extras):
4 Chipotlé
6 Ancho
8 Pasilla
5 Cascabel
8 New Mexican
6 Guajillo

Remove the seeds and stems from the dried chilies. Then toast the dried chilies (except the chipotlés) in a dry pan until fragrant, be careful not to burn.

Pour boiling water over the toasted chilies and allow to rehydrate 30 minutes.

Scrape the meat off the skin of the chipotlés and cascabeles (or any other thick skinned chilies) and put in a blender. Do not use their skins. Thin skin chilies can be added directly to the blender.

Add water to the blender to cover. Taste the chili soaking water and use it if not bitter. Blend until smooth.

Strain through a sieve to produce around 2 liters of a very thick sauce.

The Aromatics:

8 Poblano chilies, seeded and diced
10 Jalapeño chilies, seeded and diced
9 Large Red and/or White Onions, finely diced
1 1/2 cup of chopped garlic

Other Ingredients:

* Olive Oil
6 bottles of dark beer, we used Indio
1 bottle red wine (750ml)
3 Oz Mexican Hot Chocolate (they come in pucks about an oz. each) chopped
8 14 1/2 oz cans of chopped tomatoes
2 6 oz can of tomato paste
8 14 1/2 cans of black beans, drained and rinsed
8 Tbsp ground cumin (or more to taste)
3 Tbsp ground arbol chilies (more for hotter chili)
6 Tbsp ground ancho chilies
6 Tbsp ground pasilla chilies

Ingredients to balance taste and consistency:

* Beef Broth (we used concentrated bullion and added the equivalent of 1 liter without the liquid)
* Fresh lime juice (we added the juice of 6 large limes)
* Salt and pepper
* Additional ground chilies (or your favorite chili powder)
* Hot Sauce or Salsa
* Thickener as needed - we used 1 part corn starch to 2 parts water. You could also use Masa or even crushed tortilla chips.



Add approximately 1 Tsp Olive Oil in your frying pan (we had 2 pans going at the same time) and brown the beef in small batches.

Do not crowd the pan. You want to brown the beef not steam it, do not burn the beef. When the surface of the beef cubes has a deep brown color, Add the batch of beef to your pot.

Between batches, deglaze the frying pan with some of the beer, reduce slightly and add to the pot.

When all the beef is done, sweat the aromatics in batches. For each batch add 1 Tsp of olive oil to the pan and season each with salt. Add each to the pot when done.

Sweat the fresh chilies, sweat 3 or 4 minutes until fragrant (be careful of the fumes).

Sweat the onions 4 to 6 minutes until translucent.

Sweat the garlic for 1 minute.

Add a little olive oil to your empty fry pan and add the can of tomato paste. Cook, stirring frequently until the paste takes on a rust color (1 to 2 minutes). Add to the pot, use beer to get all the tomato paste out of the pan and add to the pot.

Now add the chili molé, chocolate, chopped tomatoes, remaining beer, wine, ground cumin, other ground chilies and black beans to the pot.

Note - REAL Chili does not have beans in it! You can omit them and have a heartier chili. We added them to extend the recipe for the contest and because we like the taste.

If cooking on a stove top, bring the pot up to a gentle simmer, uncovered. Stir frequently to prevent burning and to blend completely. Simmer at least 3 hours until the meat is tender, but still has a little bite to it.

If you cook the chili in a covered pot in a 325°F oven (as we did), it will need to cook at least 4 to 6 hours. Stir at least hourly. The liquid will not reduce as much in the covered pot in the oven as it does uncovered on the stove top, so you will need to use a thickener.

During the cooking, you should taste the chili and add the following ingredients if needed:

* Beef Broth - if needed to reduce thickness
* Thickener - if using corn starch you must bring the chili back to a boil to activate the thickener
* Sweetener (maple syrup, honey or Agave nectar) - if needed to balance the flavor
* Additional chili powder or cayenne to increase flavor and/or heat
* Salt and pepper - to taste
* Hot Sauce or Salsa to increase heat
* Fresh lime juice - at the end of cooking as needed to increase the brightness of the chili

When plating, add a dollop of Toasted Cumin Crema to each serving.


Toasted Cumin Crema (also prepare a day ahead to meld flavors):

1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 Cup Mexican crema or creme fraiche
* salt and pepper to taste

Place the cumin seeds in a dry sauté or fry pan over medium heat. Toast until lightly golden brown and fragrant, do not burn.

Place in a small bowl, stir in the crema and season with salt and pepper to taste. To dispense, put in a squeeze bottle with a big enough nozzle to not clog with the seeds.

November 27, 2007

Using Wireless Internet - WiFi - While Cruising - Update

Summary of Current Recommendations:
October 20, 2009 (scroll down for earlier postings)

Technology continues to advance.  We now recommend the ALFA AWUS050NH is an updated 500 MW model which supports all the WiFi protocols 802.11 a/b/g/n.  This can give you a much faster and longer range connection for those hotspots that support the newer "n" protocol or the dual band "a" and "n" protocols.  It's available for around $70 US at

If you are staying in one particular country for a while, and they have reasonably good 3G cell phone coverage (surprise!  the coverage is much better in Mexico than in the US!), you might also consider a cellular modem.  These can run a good high speed connection (often faster than WiFi), at anchorages and miles offshore.  You can get a pay-as-you-go monthly plan (with no cancellation fees) for about $50US/ Month (plus or minus) in many countries.  The adapter itself hooks up via USB (I recommend USB over PC Card) and costs between $100 and $200 US.

If you do move to another country and you get an unlocked USB adapter, you can just buy a plan in your new country and swap SIM cards.  SIM cards are unique to the carrier.

Interestingly ALFA is claiming that my prior recommendation, the AWUS036H, now is rated at 1000 MW (which is 1 watt).  Others have tested this and say they only improved the output around 7%.  In any case the increase from 500 MW to 1000 MW in my opinion is diminishing returns and not worth the bother.  Remember too that your power is only half the puzzle, you have to have the receiver sensitivity to hear the WiFi access point.  It doesn't help if the access point can hear you, but you can't hear them!

Also, Vista SP 2 and Windows 7 appear to now have built in drivers for the Alfa models which work fine.  You no longer have to worry about downloading special drivers.

Note, Netgate no longer appears to carry the AWUS036H model.  I now recommend the one above instead

We are also playing around with client bridges and found that the Ubiquiti NanoStation models seem to overcome many of the earlier drawbacks of this technology.  You still need to be at least a "geek in training" (but at least not an "alpha geek") to get it working, however.  They come with a standard directional antenna - which works best in marinas and not on the hook.

We have ours hooked up to the Power over Ethernet Injector, on to an Ethernet hub and then our multiple computers are connected to the hub.

January 1, 2009 (scroll down for earlier postings)

We have update our current recommendation to the ALFA AWUS036H. It sells at Netgate for $54.95. See

Netgate also has 7db and 9db RP-SMA antennas for under $20.

You may also want to pick up a USB extension cable if you don't already have one.

This unit has higher power and greater range than our prior Engenius pick. It also has an Apple MacIntosh driver.

December 20, 2007 update (scroll down for earlier postings)

Engenius EUB 362-EXT High power USB adapter, available as a kit with a high gain antenna from Netgate. See:

We suggest the "Standard RV Kit PLUS" if you already have a USB extension cable or the "Extended RV Kit PLUS" if you don't.

Be sure to download the updated drivers - see below.

As we continue cruising, helping folks, experimenting and the as technology evolves - our recommendations evolve.

After our last articles were published in the SSCA bulletin and Latitude 38, we were contacted by Bill Hallett of Netgate and who sent us a case of EUB-362 EXTs with their 7 db high gain omni-directional antenna. These units have been working great for the cruisers down here in Mexico.

We're now thinking that this unit, plus an additional antenna or two, such as a directional antenna for use in radio packed marinas, would eliminate the need for a separate unit (such as the Hawkings) for such purposes. Directional antennas are available from Netgate and other sources.

You can even make one yourself if you're feeling adventurous. You can Google "making WiFi antenna" for a great list of all kinds of antennas made from discarded Pringle's and soup cans, a Wok Spider (that's the large screened spoon used to fish out tempura) and other odds and ends.
Some of the more interesting ones are:
The Microsoft Vista Operating System is proving to be a bit of a challenge. If you have an EUB-362 and Vista, you will need the Vista driver at: and there are instructions at:

Also, there is a new driver for windows XP. You can download it at:

If you're using the server (64bit) version of Vista, or Windows 98/ME, you'll need to go to the Engenius website to download those drivers:

April 21, 2007 update

Since we went cruising, we've seen all kinds of WiFi set ups on board cruising boats. We help fix many of them.

In my opinion, some people have been seduced into spending a lot more money on equipment that they're not able to keep running once they're away from the geek who set it up for them.

My recommendation is to keep things very simple. We now have and use both of the following (we also have our original HWU54D which still works fine. We're keeping it for backup. This model is no longer manufactured).

The Hawking Technologies, $60, HWU8DD see It comes with a 6 foot USB cable. I recommend getting a 10 foot extension cable, putting it in a zip lock baggie and put it on top of your cabin or better yet, on top of your boom. If it's windy, put a soft SCUBA weight (or something similar) in the baggie to keep it from blowing around. Also, take the unit in when you're not using it and over night to keep it out of the dew.

If you're going to be at anchor a lot, consider the Netgate's: $200, EUB-362-EXT Marine Kit this comes with a higher power (200mw) USB adapter, USB Cable, Coax Cable and an omni-directional external marine antenna. With this set up, you can run the antenna outside and keep the adapter down below out of the elements. You can mount the antenna permanently if you want, but we just run ours up a halyard when we're at anchor. We used this set up when we were anchored in Tenacatita and we could occasionally hit an open access point in La Manzanita about 4 miles away.

We found the combination of the two adapters works best in the variety of circumstances we've seen. We have yet to find a place where a permanent installation with a client bridge works and either the Hawking or Netgate doesn't. In San Diego, for instance, there were too many access points around Shelter Island for the omni-directional Netgate setup to work. We saw over 40 access points online, half were on WiFi channel 6! We had to use the Hawking and aim it at the access point we were using to have any success at all. At anchor away from it all, however, where we're swinging around, the Netgate works great and the Hawking is troublesome as it won't stay aimed in the right direction.

By the way, I don't own stock or have any interest in any of the companies mentioned.

One attractive option that has seduced some is a unit called a client bridge. This unit would let you network all the computers on your boat, either via Ethernet or WiFi. So if you have more than one computer, you could use them all at the same time and ideally share files and peripherals (like printers and scanners). My advise is that unless you're a geek, forget it!

I've seen quite a few boats with permanent installations with Ethernet client bridges that just plain don't work in the real world of cruising. Remember that you will be moving from place to place. You will need to be able to connect to a wide range of shore WiFi access points - all set up differently! This also means a dealing with a wide range of methods used to control access.

Most client bridges have problems with some or all of the access control methods, some also just plain don't play well with strange access points. Remember that every time you change locations, you will probably have to reconfigure the unit to roam to the new service provider's access point(s). There are a few totally open and free access points, but not enough to rely on. I would go so far to say that of all the client bridge installations I've seen, most don't work (anecdotal evidence only)!

Some examples of the wide range of access control methods:
  1. The Vallarta Yacht Club in Paradise Village Nuevo Vallarta uses the MAC address of the WiFi adapter as it's access control method (this is the hardware address unique to every WiFi adapter made. The easiest way to get it right is to look at the printed sticker on the adapter - folks who try to look it up on the computer often give the club the wrong address!. This same approach is used by Rick's Bar in Zihuatanejo.
  2. At the Isla Navidad Marina in Barra de Navidad, you get a "ticket" with a secret code at the concierge desk at the Grand Bay Hotel. These tickets are good for a specific time frame like 1 hour, 24 hours, or a full month - from the time you first connect. This requires that you go through a curious logon process with your computer. Similar techniques were used at Marina Palmyra in La Paz last time we visited.
  3. Other locations use secret encryption keys that you need to set in your WiFi adapter's configuration.
I strongly recommend avoiding the investment in a boat wide Internet access Ethernet client bridge and other complex gear - unless you're geek enough to thoroughly understand it, reconfigure it, figure out how to connect to strange access points and generally keep it running. This gear can also cost quite a lot. I've seen installations cost well over $1,000.

Original Posting
October 10, 2005

Wireless Internet "WiFi" - is becoming available in more and more marinas and anchorages, worldwide. WiFi adapters are now also a standard feature in many computers.

WiFi can be used not just for email and web surfing, but also for very inexpensive telephone service, using a voice over Internet protocol (VoIP) service like Skype (which we love and highly recommend).

In many of the Marinas we've been in, the service is free. In most, though, you'll need to sign up for the service or pay on a daily basis. We're currently cruising the Pacific Northwest and up here a company, Broad Band Express has wired many of the marinas and anchorages. So it made sense for us to sign up for their annual plan.

Hawking HWU54DThe biggest challenge to successfully using the service has been getting good reception. WiFi uses radio communications at 2.4 gigahertz, which is quite finicky. We've had little luck using the WiFi adapters built into our PCs, so we've found a good solution in a combination WiFi adapter and antenna from Hawking Technology their HWU54D. This unit attaches to your PC via a serial USB cable, which also supplies it's power.

We bought ours online at for $50 US.

There are also WiFi antennas on the market that you could try, but there are a couple of issues with external antennas:

1. Most computers have no antenna jack to connect the antenna to, and

2. The cable loss at WiFi frequencies (2.4 Giga Hertz) is so high that the cable loses a lot of power.

You could also buy a marine grade external antenna and a high power PC Card, but this costs a lot more money (well over $100 US).

All our PCs have a built-in WiFi adapter. We don't use the built-ins when we using the Hawking HWU54D.

It's easy to disable the built-in adapter. Just right click on "My Network Neighborhood" (in Windows XP), select properties. All your network adapters will pop up in a window. Right click on the built-in adapter and select "Disable". When the adapter is disabled, this menu will allow you to "Enable" it - for when you take your laptop to a hotspot.

When we use the HWU54D, we run in with a 10 foot USB extension cable and put it on top of our boom. I use a high tech enclosure to weather proof it.... A zip lock baggie ;-}

I use another baggie and twist tie to weather proof the connection between the two USB cables.

If you need more than 16 feet USB cable length, You'll need to buy an "Active" USB extension cable. These amplify the USB signal and will let you cascade cables to extend a greater distance.

Hawking HWU8DDRecently, Hawking has announced a new unit, the HWU8DD. It looks interesting and I'll have to give it a try. It's listed for around $60 US.

This unit uses a small dish, and is advertised as having an 8 decibel gain vs. the HWU54D's 6 decibel gain, which should yield slightly better performance.

Keep in mind, however that generally the more gain an antenna provides, the more "directional" it is. That means that you must aim the antenna at the access point you are trying to hit to maximize your performance. It also means that if you are swinging at anchor, your signal may drop out if the swing is enough to aim your antenna away from the access point.

One particularly blustery day, that happened to us in Gorge Harbour on Cortez Island in British Columbia.

November 3, 2007

Copper Canyon - Barranca del Cobre

Hi Everyone!

We got safely back to Raptor Dance on Oct 13th and We've been swept up in boat maintenance and the social life here since. So we're just getting to our much delayed report on Copper Canyon. Accompanying pictures are on our website at

The Copper Canyon (Spanish: Barranca del Cobre) is a group of canyons consisting of 6 distinct canyons in the Sierra Tarahumara in the southwestern part of the state of Chihuahua in Mexico.

The overall canyon system is about 6 times larger and half again deeper than the Grand Canyon. Copper Canyon also straddles the continental divide, so the rivers flow out to either the Pacific (Sea of Cortez) or Atlantic.

The canyon system is transversed by the Chihuahua al Pacífico railroad, known by the nickname "Chepe". It is both an important transportation system for locals as well as tourists. The train runs from Topolobampo on the Sea of Cortez to Chihuahua. The train took 90 years to build because of the extremely rugged terrain, which also results in great sightseeing from the train. see and

We started our visit at the Hotel Posada del Hidalgo, a beautiful restored colonial mansion, built in 1890 by the Mayor of the town. Part of the original structure was the original home of Don Diego de la Vega, origin of the Zorro legend and the hotel has a fun appearance by El Zorro at the bar's happy hour with musicians. see

Since we were traveling on our own and not in a group, we got to know the hotel staff pretty well and had a great time joking around with them during our visit. We had a great time and highly recommend the hotel.

The hotel also had some of the best food we had during the trip, especially the Huevos Rancheros at breakfast and they langostinas (crayfish) and shrimp at dinner.

After a two nights stay (Oct 3 & 4) we caught the train to Creel - 8 hours up the line. The train goes very slow as the engineer has to keep an eye out for rocks, cattle and other stuff on the tracks. The scenery was every bit as fantastic as advertised.

At Creel we stayed at the Sierra Lodge just outside of town. Early October (Oct 5) is just before the start of the high season and we were the only guests in the 22 room lodge.

Sierra Lodge is very rustic with no electricity - only kerosene lamps. Great hiking in the area - we did a great 4 mile round trip hike to Cuzarare Falls. The food in the lodge was very tasty.

We recommend the Sierra Lodge particularly for the hiking. It's at 7,000 feet and we didn't have any problems at that altitude. later at Posada Barranca, we were at 8,000 feet and noticed a quite a difference.

That night we were treated to a great light show as a thunderstorm passed through dropping probably an inch or two of rain.

The next morning, our guide for the next 3 days, Pedro picked us up in his Chevy Sierra to take us down to the silver mining town of Batopilas at the bottom of the canyon. The trip took 7 hours: 75 km on paved roads and the last 65 km on dirt roads. At the end of the rainy season there were lots of rocks on the road and near washouts. The prior nights rain also fortunately kept the dust down. It was an exciting trip. The last 40 km we rode on top of the Sierra in seats welded to a strong framework with full harness/seat belts to keep us on board - it was breathtaking and exciting. The scenery was fantastic.

Batopilas was founded by the Spanish in 1632, but the road was only finished to in 1977. Before that the only way in and out was via burro or hiking. Still it was a very interesting town. It was the second town in Mexico (after Mexico City) to be wired for electricity due to its mining wealth. Today the town is quieter, with the economy based primarily on agriculture, tourism and some residual mining.

We spent 2 nights (Oct 6 & 7) in the Riverside Lodge, a beautifully restored silver barons town residence. It took up a rambling city block in downtown Batopilas. The town itself is only about 3 blocks wide but over 1 mile long, alongside the Batopilas river at the bottom of Batopilas Canyon. Our room was very comfortable, but quite funky with the main entrance through the bath.

We toured the town on our day in Batopilas and hiked the 4 miles to the Satevo mission, now in the process of restoration. Pedro picked us up in the Sierra at the mission and we rode back to town, touring the castle-like home that Alexander Robey Shepherd, the last governor of Washington, D.C., built after leaving the United States in 1875. It stands across the river from the center of the village and has long been in ruins. A new small hotel building is almost complete in the midst of the ruins.

The food we had in Batopilas was basic rustic. OK, not fantastic. An area specialty is a preserved dried meat - Machaca - see We didn't find it as flavorful as many of the dishes we enjoyed throughout Mexico.

The two restaurants we experienced in Batopilas were Dona Micas and Restaurant Carolinas. Dona Micas has no sign but it's just across a small plaza from Carolinas. Dona serves a dish of the day. When we visited she served a nice Chicken Mole. Carolinas as a more extensive menu with Machaca specialties as well as a selection of other dishes.

After breakfast on Oct 8th Pedro picked us up at the Lodge to head back up to Creel. We gave a lift to a Tarahumara friend of Pedros who rode most of the way back on top of the Sierra. We rode inside. In contrast to the ride down, the ride up was quite dusty and we were glad to be in the car.

On our way back we were delayed about an hour as the bridge across the Batopilas River was blocked about 15 KM up from Batopilas by a fellow who had too much tequila and drove his truck into the side of the bridge. We worked with some other folks who were also stuck to push the truck over enough to get by. We heard that an Army truck got there a few hours later and towed the truck off the bridge.

Once back up the canyon, we toured another village and a Tarahumara cave home. Once our eyes got used to the dark, it was quite interesting with a number of room areas with furniture a kitchen area with ladies cooking. A very rustic way to live.

That night (Oct 8) we stayed at the Best Western Lodge in Creel. We walked around the town and would suggest giving it a pass - if we were to do the trip over, we'd go directly from Batopilas to our next stop, the Hotel Mirador at Posada Barranca.

We took the train from Creel, a few stops down the line to Posada Barranca, but you could just as well take the road this short distance. You would miss the Divisidero stop on this part of the trip, but we stopped there on the train on the way up. It's fantastic with a great overlook of the canyon so you should plan on stopping there sometime on your trip.

Divisidero also has a number of very interesting Tarahumara craft and food stalls.

We highly recommend the Hotel Mirador see: It's perched right on the edge of a spectacular part of the canyon. The balcony of our room was right on the edge with a fantastic view. As the sunlight changes throughout the day the colors in the canyon morph through a series of fantastic colors. The hotel faces the South East and the sunrise over the canyon was truly majestic (It was still daylight savings time, so sunrise wasn't too early).

That afternoon, Oct 10th, we caught the train to head back down to El Fuerte. The Canyon was just as amazing heading down, with different views as we were headed in the opposite direction and the afternoon light dramatized the colors of the canyon.

We again stayed in the Posada Hidalgo hotel for the next two nights before heading down to Mazatlan for the night (Oct 12th) then back to Raptor Dance in Paradise Village, Nuevo Vallarta.

We especially want to thank Sue Stilwell, the owner of S & S Tours who arranged our independent tour of the canyon. Reservations are vital in this area as accommodations and guides are limited and often booked in advance by tour groups. We also needed to make sure that we had a safe place to leave our car while we were off on this side trip. We recommend her services. See:

October 1, 2007

On the Road Again!

Hi Everyone -

Just want to give you all a quick update. We're on our way back to Raptor Dance.

We left our vacation home in Sonoma County on the 24th - visited Bill's Dad and Brother in Northridge, CA for a few days, then cousins Helene and Frank in San Diego.

We just checked into the Holiday Inn Express in Nogales, AZ for the night and will cross the border into Mexico tomorrow morning.

After stopping at the checkpoint at KM 21 to get the Import Permit for our car, we'll continue on down to San Carlos for the night.

Then on Wednesday the 3rd we'll drive to Los Moches to start our tour of Copper Canyon. We'll leave the car at the Hotel Posada Hidalgo and continue on by train on the 5th.

The Itinerary for this trip is:

Oct. 3, 4— El Fuerte
Oct. 5— Creel
Oct. 6, 7— Batopilas (the remote town at the bottom of Copper Canyon)
Oct. 8— Creel
Oct. 9— Hotel Mirador on the Rim
Oct. 10, 11— El Fuerte

On Oct. 12 We'll Depart El Fuerte for Mazatlan for the night then arriving in Puerto Vallarta on the 13th.

We'll prepare the boat on the 14th and haul in PV on the 15th to get our bottom painted.

We'll update you all as soon as the dust settles in PV - post pictures and stories.

I don't think we'll have much connectivity between now and our arrival in PV - so you may not be able to reach us during this period.

We arrange our trip through S&S Tours and so far they've done a fine job. We'll give you a full review after.

You can see pictures and info on where we're going on their website at

Hope you all have a great October!

Warmest Regards,
Bill & Mary

September 19, 2007

Tips for Getting Ready to Ha-Ha, 2007 - Cruising to Mexico and Beyond

There have been a lot of changes in Mexico in the last three years, so an update to our article in Latitude 38 in 2006 is in order.

We've been actively cruising on our Valiant 50, Raptor Dance, since we headed out the Golden Gate and turned left in Sept 2004. We'd like to share with you some of our more offbeat observations and recommendations on from the Ha-Ha's XI and XIII We would like to stress that these are our opinions, based on what we've learned along the way. Your mileage may vary!

Whether your just doing the Ha-Ha as a vacation experience or as the start of long term cruising, we hope you find this information useful. You can find more information about some of these topics on the links in the article or on our website at

There's lots of information out there on how to prepare for the Baja Ha-Ha and your escape to the cruising life . One of the best is Latitude 38's own "First Timer's Guide To Mexico" - available online at the Baja Ha-Ha website:

What's New: Provisioning in Mexico is even easier!
Many of the Super Mercados have a much greater range of ingredients than before. We've even found previously hard to find ingredients such as high quality Washington State Apples, good quality lamb, Balsamic vinegar, Asian sesame oil and chop sticks. US products and brands are available, but may be a tad more expensive. Some markets such as Commercial, Soriana and
Gigante have displays of goods from Costco!

Crackers, other than the basic saltines and Ritz, are still very expensive if you can find them at all. US cereal brands are available, but pricey.

Provisioning is a challenge up in the Sea of Cortez, so be sure to stock up in La Paz or Mazatlan before heading up.

Don't overlook the local markets! You'll find both weekly markets, such as the Tuesday market in Jarretaderas (near Nuevo Vallarta) to the huge public markets open daily in Mazatlan, La Paz and other cities these offer interesting and sometimes exotic foods at low prices.

Great wine is still hard to find, so bring it with you, enjoy the "drinkable" Mexican or Chilean wines – they're still much better than $2 you-know-who or better yet, enjoy the beer and margaritas!

Entering Mexico
In 2006, only frozen Beef was confiscated in Cabo. In 2004 chicken and fresh eggs were also taken. This mainly only happened to boats who pulled into the Marina – sometimes just to get fuel. To be safe, all beef should be gone from your freezer before arriving in Cabo. We don't have any reports of food being confiscated in Ensenada - but enforcement varies widely in Mexico.

Mexican Charts are way off
Both paper and electronic charts of Mexico are unreliable. They're generally at least 1 to 3 miles off - except in busy harbors, where they're pretty accurate. We recommend relying on the wisdom in Raines Cruising Guides or the Cunningham Guides to the Sea of Cortez. Charlie's Charts are a good supplement to the above, but a little dated.

What is pretty good and free of charge is Google Earth! We often download and print a chart of a new anchorage with the lat/lon grid turned on for a spot-on aerial chart of the area. Google Earth is so good, you can use it to plot the narrow channel into the Lagoon at Barra de Navidad. We posted the Google Earth channel boundaries, course in and anchorage boundaries for the Barra Lagoon from SV Legacy on our website at: See their website at for other waypoints and a writeup on the area. All the usual disclaimers apply, not for navigation - if you run aground it's your own fault, etc...

Maps of Mexico are also improving. In mid-September 2007, Google added free street maps for 54 countries, among them Mexico!

"Boat Cards" are a great idea!
When you meet all your new friends on the Ha-Ha and later while cruising, you will want to exchange contact information. You'll make so many new friends that you'll wish everyone put their pictures on their cards rather than a picture of their boat!

A few weeks after meeting a bunch of new friends, the pictures are extremely valuable in remembering who's who.

Boat cards are like business cards and should supply information about you, your boat and contact info, We suggest including your picture, name(s), boat name, boat type, email addresses (Sailmail, Winlink, etc.), mailing address, cell/sat phone, and any other information you'd like to share that fits on the card.

You can print your cards yourself on your computer printer using business card paper from an office supply store or you can use a commercial printer. We've found that some of the Internet printing companies do a really great job at a fairly low cost. We use Vistaprint they have great service, low prices, high quality and rapid turn around.

Buy an appetizer/potluck cookbook and use it!
You will be going to a lot of cruisers potlucks in Mexico. Your first will likely be during the Ha-ha at Turtle Bay.

After awhile, you will get very tired of the same old contributions. Come on folks, bring something more than chips and dip or a bag of carrots!

It's not very hard to make very tasty finger foods or even entrees! Fresh ingredients are very little trouble to find and use in Mexico – so let your tastes run wild!

Enjoy the Local Culture
You are in a fascinating country with a rich family oriented culture full of great traditions, music, dance and interesting quirks. Lot's of cruisers never get away from the cruisers' culture (yes, we have one) to sample what our great host country has in store. It will also help you learn Spanish.

Look around, enjoy what the locals enjoy! For example, on a local Puerto Vallarta bus last year we saw a poster (in Spanish) for a match at the local Lucha Libre school gymnasium. We went, it was so much fun, we took some other cruisers to a larger match later in the season – everyone had a fantastic time.

Radios are your lifeline
Marine VHF and SSB are the primary means of communicating in Mexico and beyond. Make sure your radios work and you know how to use them. Check them out completely before you leave!

If you have a Uniden VHF, see the August 2007 issue of Latitude for information. You'll probably have to send it in to be updated to not have problems in Mexico or elsewhere in the world. Most Uniden VHF radios are not set up to function outside the US. Send me an email if you want more information.

Marine SSB is highly recommended
Yes, you can do the Ha-Ha and cruise with just a Marine VHF radio, but in Mexico and the South Pacific, Marine SSB and Ham Radio are the only way you can keep in touch with the cruisers' radio networks. These nets are a valuable source of weather and current destination information. You can also use them to keep in touch with the many new friends you will make along the way.

Marine VHF is uses radio frequencies that only work over the "line of sight" between the antennas at each end of the conversation, so it's rare that it will work over more than about 20 miles for a mast head antenna, 5 miles or so for handhelds.

Marine SSB uses radio frequencies that can, on the lower frequencies, refract a little around the curvature of the earth and, on the higher frequencies, bounce off the ionosphere. So you can reliably communicate over distances of hundreds or thousands of miles. If you pick the right frequency for the time of day, season, weather on the Sun, and a few other factors. Fortunately, there's a computer program that's available for free that figures this all out for you (ICEPAC – see below).

ICOM makes the most reliable Marine SSB radios. We have the 710RT, they're stable and rock solid. The newer ICOM-802 model has had some problems but they're fixed on new radios – check with your supplier to make sure. If you have an older ICOM-802, make sure you don't have the "clipping" problem that would require sending the radio back to ICOM for updating. You can also refer to the Technical Note from ICOM which includes a contact phone number and email address for questions.

Test the radio by setting up a contact with another boat or one of the radio nets and making sure your audio quality is up to snuff. Don't just talk to someone nearby, try making a contact at least a few hundred miles away.

In addition to the radio, you will need a Marine Pleasure Vessel license. These are available from your government (here in the US, the FCC) for a small fee. No test is required.

We highly recommend also getting an Amateur Radio (Ham) license. This requires study, but almost anyone with the determination to get one can learn what's needed. There are many courses that can tutor you through the whole process. Morse code is no longer required so getting your license is much easier than in the past.

Marine and Ham can both use the same equipment. Marine Radios are allowed to be sold that can transmit and receive on the Ham bands – but not vice versa. Both Marine and Ham use Single Sideband (SSB) transmission in the radio High Frequency (HF) range – between 2 and 30 Megahertz – the difference is in the particular frequency ranges (bands) assigned to each service. Cruisers jargon is a bit sloppy however: SSB is usually used to refer just to Marine HF SSB communication.

Wireless Internet (WiFi) is almost everywhere
We've even hit an open access point in the from La Manzanilla in the Tenacatita anchorage. The regular adapter on your computer just won't cut it though for access from your boat. You'll need a better WiFi adapter or antenna of some sort.

Our recommendation is to keep things very simple. Remember, you'll be in Mexico and unless you run across a cruising computer geek, you'll need to do your own tech support. See our article on
Using WiFi While Cruising
" for more details.

Sailmail and/or Winlink are the way to go for email.
Wireless Internet is now found in many places in the world, but not everywhere and not at sea. If you need to keep in touch with your family or work, you may need a satellite phone. For those of us who are full time cruisers, Sailmail ( and Winlink ( provide reliable, low cost text only email.

These services also let you file position reports so your family and friends can see where you are. This is especially nice on long passages. See my writeup on "Position Reporting and how we do it" for more info.

Sailmail is a non-profit operation, it's annual fee of $250 goes to support the station network. For this fee, you can send and receive 90 minutes of email per week. This is enough for most folks to keep in touch with work, friends and family. You will need a standard pleasure vessel ("PL") Marine license from the FCC (or your country's government if not the US).

Winlink, on the other hand, uses amateur (Ham) radio, so you will need a Ham radio "General" class license or above.

We highly recommend the SCS PTC-II Pro or USB radio modems. Lower cost units just aren't as reliable or fast. The optional extra Pactor III Permit is recommended if you have more than a couple of emails a day. Pactor III increases the effective speed of the radio link.

Also, make sure your modem can and you've got the cables to have your radio modem command your radio to change frequencies. You will do a lot of frequency changes on your radio, it's much more convenient to be able to drive everything from your PC.

Jim Corenman's Airmail program is available for free and supports both email services, see Be sure to also download and install the free propagation program "ICEPAC". This is the magic program that helps you figure out the best frequency to use. It integrates seamlessly into Airmail and is very easy to use. You must make sure that your computer clock is set properly and your location is also entered correctly – the later is real easy if you have a GPS hooked up to your computer.

Make sure you get everything hooked up and try sending and receiving email before you leave. This is very important as forgotten parts are hard to come in Mexico.

Also, check to see if you have interference when transmitting email in your other systems. If you do – either solve the problem before you leave or learn to live with it. It's not uncommon for your transmissions to light the pilot lights on your power panel on some or all of the "off" circuit breaker, cause your autopilot to do strange things (ours "snake wakes") or even crash your PC.

We once spent 2 days exploring radio stores in La Paz looking for parts to help another cruiser out. When transmitting on some radio frequencies their radio caused their computer keyboard and mouse to act like a chimpanzee was trying to write Shakespeare. We ultimately gave up trying to find the ferrite filters to put on their keyboard and mouse cable in Mexico. They just avoided the problematic frequencies until they could get and install the filters.

Cell and Satellite Phones
Cellular coverage is surprisingly good in Mexico. Coming down on the Ha-ha XIII we found we had coverage with AT&T (Cingular) in Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria. On New Years Day 2007, the new cell tower in Tenacatita came online, so it's getting even harder to escape.

However, unless you do your homework and get the right cellular rate plan, the per minutes prices can be pretty horrendous.

The different cell phone providers keep altering what plans they offer, so you'll need to check. If you have Verizon, look into their "North America Choice" plan. If you have AT&T Cingular, you may be able to get their "North America" plan. These plans let you use your US base minutes to, from, and in Canada and Mexico with no long distance or roaming charges.

If you're not able to get such a rate plan, consider getting a "Prepaid" phone in Mexico They're readily available.

Warning! If you have an iPhone - make sure you turn off it's data features. There are no good data plans available in Mexico and folks have racked up huge bills without warning, since the iPhone love to chat with the servers back home to see if you have any mail or other messages.

Our Iridium Satellite phone is often less expensive per minute than roaming with a cell phone. We found a store that sells prepaid Iridium time for $1/minute. Also, you have 1 year to use the minutes and if you renew, unused minutes roll over. You can also use your Iridium for email and data, but very slowly – it runs much slower than dialup, only 2400 bits per second (dialup typically runs up to 56,000 bits per second).

On the other hand, you might just do without a cell phone all together (don't forget you're cruising!) and use Skype when you have Internet connectivity.

It's likely that parts for your boat and boat systems will be hard to get in Mexico You can get parts for some brands pretty easily e.g. Mercury outboards, Yanmar Diesels. Others, like our Westerbeke engine and Nissan outboard are much more difficult. We'd recommend taking lots of spares – particularly consumables like oil filters, fuel filters, belts, raw water impellers, etc. Motor oil is readily available so that's not a problem.

Bottom paint is twice the price, so bring enough along if you're going to repaint in Mexico

Spares can be shipped into Mexico with a bit of effort. When you're in San Diego, stop in and open an account at the Ha-ha sponsors: Downwind Marine and West Marine. Many of the San Diego chandleries can have parts walked across the boarder and put on in-country transit to get it to you. Downwind can also sometimes find other cruisers who will bring parts to you on their way South.

In conclusion:
The Ha-ha is a great way to meet your fellow cruisers and have a fun time heading down to Mexico. Mexico is a blast! We hope to see you down here.

July 22, 2007

Next Food Network Star?

Hi Everyone!

Most of you know that we love to cook and really enjoy great food.

Lots of our friends commented that we should write a cookbook or
have a cooking show. So we decided that I (Bill) should submit an audition
tape to Food Network for their next season "Next Food Network Star"

We thought you might get a kick our of this 3 minutes video, so We'd like to share it with you.

The video is at:
Note - If you're a MySpace user, We'd appreciate a ThumbsUp rating ;-}

You can also find the recipe on our website at
(see the Recipe link in top of the left column - then look for
"Tagine", it's currently recipe 13).

Let us know what you all think!

Warmest Regards,
Bill and Mary

June 25, 2007

Soda Club

One of the really great items that we've been using aboard Raptor Dance since we set off on our cruise is a gadget from a company called "Soda Club" (later renamed "Soda Stream")

This unit is about the size of coffee maker and makes really tasty soft drinks (see picture below). One CO2 canister holds enough gas to carbonate about 110 liters of soda. You make up a liter batch of seltzer at a time and then add the flavoring of your choice.

They sell the flavors at their website, you can mix your own or obtain syrup elsewhere.

It's a really cost effective way to make soda, mixers and saves enormously on storage space.

We bought from the 6 extra carbonators so we don't run out as they can't ship the gas bottles to Mexico. We also stocked up on their Diet Cola, Diet Tonic, Diet Ginger Ale and Diet Lemon/Lime Soda. Their Tonic is much tastier than any we've found in Mexico.

To check out their products, click the link/graphic below (note they do give us a small referral fee if you buy their goodies after following our link).

Also, until October 15th they're running some specials for online orders:
Save $30 on any new soda maker package when you use promotion code FIZZYFALL and
Use promotion code CHEAPGAS to save $15 off any 110-liter spare, licensed carbonators.

June 24, 2007

What we're doing on our summer vacation...

Hi Everyone!

It's been a while since our last message. Gosh it's almost July already!

Since our maintenance chores kept us from heading to the Sea of Cortez until it was too late in the season, we flew back to our "vacation home" on May 2nd. Since then, we've been busy with home chores and catching up with family and friends back here in the states. Fun, but not as exciting as cruising in Mexico - so we won't bore you with the details.

We are planning to head back to Mexico, late September/early October and visit Copper Canyon on our way back to Nuevo Vallarta where Raptor Dance is parked for the summer.

We'll share with you anything super interesting that we do over the summer, otherwise we'll give you inbox a rest ;-}

We'd love to hear from you and possibly visit during the summer. Drop us a line at our emails when you have a moment and let us know what you're up to!

Warmest Regards,
Bill and Mary

April 21, 2007

Latest News and Updated Pictures from Raptor Dance

Hi Everyone!

We just finished uploading the latest batch of pictures to our website at

We posted some great pictures from the Lucha Libre match we attended and also a short (1 minute 32 second) video of some of the highlights.

Also posted are new sailing shots of Raptor Dance.

Additionally, we have updated our writeup on "Using WiFi while Cruising". A recent article in the Latitude 38 suggested a solution that we've seen is far too complex for the average non-computer geek cruiser, so we posted an update to our original article (from Oct 2004). We share our recent experiences helping cruisers afloat connect to the Internet from their boats.

We also added a really neat feature, Clustrmaps (yes, no "e"). Clustrmaps shows you where our website visitors are from. Check it out and let me know what you think!

News update - we're still working out the problems with our Transmission and Prop. We've missed our cut off date for going to the Sea of Cortez this year - so we'll be returning to Sonoma California late on May 2nd. More later.

Warmest Regards to all,
Bill and Mary

April 5, 2007

Puerto Vallarta, March 2007

Hi All,

March was a great month. We had family and friends visit, did lots of other stuff and had an exciting time during the Banderas Bay Regatta.

The month of March started with a Ham Exam at the Vallarta Yacht club. Bill was looking for something to stick his nose into and found it. I have my General ham licenses and Bill had his Advanced (He was first licensed in November, 1963). Bill decided to test for the Extra (which gives him a few extra radio bands, but more important: bragging rights) and Volunteer Examiner - allowing him to hold Ham exam sessions (a team of 3 VEs is needed, so he'll need two others to hold a session). Naturally he aced both in short order.

One of the side benefits of visitors is that they can bring "stuff", like the replacement Soda Club machine, Shaft Shark line cutter, rebuild kits for our Autoprop Propeller and Rix SCUBA compressor and Snyder's Sourdough Hard Pretzels. That was very handy as shipping parts into Mexico is usually a problem and we can't find great pretzels down here yet!

We were happy to be having visitors from home. In the past, that four letter word beginning with W has interfered. That changed when our cousin Frank from San Diego retired last year. Now cousin Helene and her husband Frank were finally able to get their schedule coordinated to come to Puerto Vallarta.

PV is an easy place to fly into. Raptor Dance is docked at Paradise Marina in Nuevo Vallarta see:

The Marina is part of the 5 start Paradise Village Resort

We have the marina, yacht club, hotel and condos right here with all the amenities: pools, restaurants, shopping center, etc.

Puerto Vallarta is just a short hop away as are a host of other small Mexican towns and attractions. Ah, don't let me forget beautiful Banderas Bay for sailing, whale watching, fishing and salt water immersion of one type or another.

You have the idea. It is an ideal place to have visitors. Once Helene and Frank arrived and we ascertained how active they wanted to be, we were ready to rumba. Actually we did not rumba but we did salsa at a Cuban club in downtown PV.

We started with a nice little trip into the mangroves to Fajita Republic for dinner. The food is quite nice and it's an interesting dingy ride up the estuary. We tied up to a tree on their beach and had a nice dinner.

The next morning we went back into the mangroves in a little steam engine driven boat, The African Queen. It was similar to the boat in the movie but a bit smaller. This was a crocodile seeking jaunt and was plenty successful. There were small Crocs, about 6 feet long, larger Crocs on the mangrove banks and in the water, and the Big Guy whose head was easily 2 feet wide and length unknown (our guess over 17 feet)...very big. He came right up to the boat looking for a bit of chicken. There was no hand feeding!

That evening we headed up to Las Carmelitas

This restaurant has a great view of all of Puerto Vallarta. The food is not as good as past years, but the view is still fantastic.

The biggest challenge of the place is getting back! It's off the beaten track, up a few kilometers up a dirt road. You need to take a taxi to get there - the problem is that taxis don't just hang around waiting for return fares. Folks from the area typically have their original taxi come back 2 hours later to pick them up.

We, however, came from Paradise Village which is over the state line in Nayarit (Puerto Vallarta is in Jalisco). Nayarit taxis are not allowed to pick up fares in Jalisco - thus the quandary - our taxi was not permitted to come back to pick us up! Fortunately half our group got in a cab that was dropping off a new party of late diners. Unfortunately, the rest of us had to wait an hour for another cab, with frequent requests to the restaurant staff to call another cab. With the frustration of having multiple cabs coming by - returning to pick up their earlier fares.

Our general recommendation is to skip Las Carmelitas and go to Le Kliff instead. Le Kliff has both a fantastic view and food and is easy to get to and back - either by bus or taxi!

We had no trouble filling the rest of Helen and Frank's time with sailing, flying through the trees on zip lines at the Los Veranos Canopy Tour ( ), eating well, exploring PV, and just relaxing at the pool and beach. We were all happy but the time flew by too quickly.

We were in the zone now. Friends Lani and June arrived March 17th, just in time for the Banderas Bay Regatta with extra days to spare. I admit, we did some of the same things...visited favorite dinning spots like Calamari Adventura (The Frisky Squid) and Le Kliff and went on the Los Veranos Canopy Tour. Why do we all love that? I guess it's the thrill and feels like being a little kid again. Yippee! Oh yes, I had a close encounter with a friendly python too. Hmmm.

Our sailing week started with the Pirates for Pupils Spinnaker Run. It is a benefit for local school children which takes paying passengers on the boat, north to Punta Mita. There we all go in to shore for lunch, dressed in pirate gear of course. By 2PM the wind is up and we sail back to the marina with spinnakers flying. It was a great day on the water and a great sail. It was also the first time Lani and June were actually sailing on our boat. All the other times we were sitting still in the marina or both traveling on our own boats.

Also joining us on the Spinnaker Run was our very good friend Jan Brewer (aka Queenie) and a couple from a power boat who came along for the charity event. We thought they were a bit quiet and shy until they told us later that they had never been on a sailboat flying a spinnaker and they were totally in awe!

We'll cover more about the Regatta in our next posting.

After the Regatta, it was back to boat chores... The rebuild kit for the Autoprop was a lifesaver (see: ). We had Guillermo The Diver pull the prop and found one of the three blades was very loose with the seal shredded and the ball bearings about to fall out.

It took Bill and two friends: John Jones of Jonco Marine Repair and John Prentice of Prentice Marine Services the better part of a day to disassemble the prop, clean it up and reassemble it with the new bearings and other parts. Guillermo then put the prop back on this morning and she works like a champ.

Guillermo also mounted the "Shaft Shark" line cutter we had Lani and June bring down in case we have future run ins with long liners.

That's the latest from Raptor Dance!

Be sure and write us back and let us know how you all are doing! Just please send us a new message instead of "replying" to this one!

Warmest Regards to All,
Mary and Bill

April 3, 2007

Barra de Navidad to Puerto Vallarta - February 2007

Hi All,

We've been busy, but now we have a chance to catch up with everyone...

We hope you are all well and enjoying Spring weather. Speaking of the weather, it was a relief when we returned to Barra Navidad in mid-February. It almost felt cool in the high 80's. Zihuatanejo was probably 10 degrees hotter plus greater humidity.

It was so hot that some of our Scharffen Berger Chocolate bloomed (horrors)! Fortunately, it's still tasty! The most affected bars we melt down and make almond bark!

The first order of business once back in Barra de Navidad was getting the boat cleaned and taking care of whatever boat part has demanded attention. This time it was an oil leak that needed to be tracked down and remedied. It was the hoses to the remote oil filter. We removed the remote oil filter assembly until we could get new hoses in Puerto Vallarta.

Then there was the engine raw water pump that needed to be replaced as it was leaking salt water from the shaft seal. We had a spare pump and had the old one rebuilt in Puerto Vallarta.

Also Bill replaced the shredded genset impeller. And what is going on with the bow thruster? (Too many barnacles). Bill had his hands full. Luckily we had the spare parts needed and Bill made pretty quick work of it... only 4 days.

The highlights for the time in Barra was my birthday party and the trip to Colima that Bill arranged for me. We hired Memo (Español for Bill), a Mexican tour guide to give us a private tour of Colima and the surroundings.

Colima was a lovely surprise. Even though it is an old city, it is modern looking with clean wide streets, lovely gardens, several universities, museums and a performance art center. It's very prosperous.

We also visited the ongoing archeological site in Colima and went as close to the volcano as we could. The volcano was not blowing off any steam that particular day.

In our travels to and from we visited banana, avacado, mango, coconut, papaya and coffee plantations; salt flats; a brick factory; coffee mill and the lovely country side.

We stopped at the town of Comala, just North of Colima, between it and the volcanos. Comala is known for the uniform color of the town's buildings. They were all painted the same, white top half, red bottom half and orange interior walls. Recently the locals decided they wanted to show some individuality. So now some of the buildings have either blue, green or pink bottom halves. The top half of every building is still white.

The town's other uniqueness is a series of restaurants that serve Botanas (small plates of food), for free, when you order a drink. The waiters keep bringing new items until you ask them to stop. Mariachis are everywhere, both inside and out. It was a popular place, tasty, a nice lunch and it was very inexpensive.

My birthday party was much more fun than I anticipated. It was good to have a fine group a friends to help celebrate. Bill set up the party at "Restaurant Mary's" (Hmmm, I like that name). It's a palapa in the Barra de Navidad Lagoon with great food. They even added balloons and silly hats. You can see in the pictures on our website that no one minded being silly.

You do need to be mindful of the ambush with that fizzy tequila drink. I'm not sure what the ingredients are but they slam it on the table and it just start foaming away. It took me by surprise.

We also tried out the newest restaurant in Barra, Sambuca. Most just call it "the tree house restaurant" because it is located by a landmark major tree and gives the impression that it is a tree house with several levels. It has a limited menu but each item is excellent. Highly recommended.

We found the fish market which supplies the local restaurants also along the Barra Lagoon. So when we left we had a nice supply (3 kilos) of giant shrimp. Yum! They became Thai green curry and coconut shrimp, shrimp diablo and paella. Yum again. No, (thank heavens) we are not gaining weight with all this talk of food.

Our time was up in Barra and it was time to head north. We passed over Tenacatita and went directly to Chamela which we like better. I love being out on the water, moving, traveling to a new destination, wondering what we might see this time. Once there, we alerted Yonish the Polish dude who is a partner in Manuelitos Palapa, that we were up for perogi. He knew we were coming back so he was ready with his ingredients. He had a busy morning. The next day he served a perogi lunch to about 20 cruisers.
Yum. Oink. This is not a light dish. It is better suited for a cold winter evening. But it is still yummy.

Yonish also was able to give us the recipe for diablo sauce, at least his mother-in-law's. Later when I followed her recipe, I modified it slightly (adding the cabernet vinegar and honey) to achieve the bit of sweet and sour effect with the heat. Check the recipe section on our website for the revised recipe. In all fairness to her, Mexican catsup does taste different...much more sugar.

We spent four days in Chamela waiting for a favorable forecast to round Cabo Corrientes and return to Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta). While we were there, other boats pulled into the bay until 8 were queued up to head North.

In the past when we left Chamela headed North, we departed in the morning and stopped in Ipala for the night. Early the next morning we rounded Cabo Corrientes before it started to blow around noon. Ipala has added fish holding pens taking up a lot of the prime anchoring spots. We all had a major concern that all of the good anchoring spots would be taken. If we left in the morning and Ipala turned out to be full, we would be forced to anchor in a very uncomfortable spot in Ipala or round the cape
during the highest winds and seas.

We changed our habits and left with a group of 8 other boats at 4 PM on Feb 26th. We went non-stop to Puerto Vallarta. All started out fine but soon the winds built on our nose - only 18 to 20 knots - but the seas were short, square, choppy and confused. That is not good sleeping weather because the boat falls off the waves and slams. It's not too bad in the cockpit but down below it is much more dramatic.

We compensated by slowing the RPM's down and tacking out 30 degrees and them tacking back. That helped but it was still choppy and also took longer. Ipala was full so we could not stop there. But at that point conditions improved. We still had a few hours to go so sleep was in shifts naturally.

Our timing was good. It was daylight when we reached Paradise Marina in Nuevo Vallarta and came right back to our old slip, E-44.

That was our February.

Stay tuned for our March fun in the continuing adventures of Mary and Bill on Raptor Dance!

Warmest Regards,
Mary Mack and Bill Finkelstein

February 14, 2007

A Busy Time in Zihuatanejo

Hi Everyone,

We hope you all have a Happy Valentine's day!

We also hope you are having an enjoyable winter wherever you are. We catch some of the weather reports for the states. It does not always sound pretty.

When we last gave you a major update, we were in Las Hadas about to depart for Zihuatanejo. Our weather report was for 10 to 15 Knots from the North West. That would have been fact perfect. We would have a great sail.

What we encountered instead was 20 to 25 Knots on the nose with short choppy seas. This is not good. It would slow us down considerably and not be comfortable. We decided to turn around and go back to Las Hadas. The other 5 boats that left that morning returned also. The flowing day we had light winds from astern...a better trip, but not enough wind to sail.

During this 190 mile motor sail we had plenty of dolphin company, a few whales and a big group of turtles. We did not immediately recognize the turtles. At first I thought it was a marker for some long liners or big floating coconuts. They must have been sleeping. They were not active and didn't even wave. Sorry to say we did not have any nibbles on our fishing lines.

There were a few areas that must be good for the long line fishermen though. We saw a dozen or so long lines on our passage between Las Hadas and Zihuatanejo and about the same number on our way back.

Each long line can be 2 miles or more long. Every 30 to 40 feet along the main line is a 10 to 20 foot leader with bait. The main line is supported by empty 2 liter soda bottles used as floats. The whole assembly typically has a black flag at each end with a panga in attendance. If we can see the long line in time and if we can see the end flag, we try to go around.

Most of the time the main line sinks a little. So as long as the motor is off (I think they call that sailing!) or in neutral we can carefully pass over a section - aiming for halfway between the soda bottle floats. Unfortunately, we have found some lines floating just under the surface.

Coming north from Zihuatanejo we managed to pass over one of these long lines but caught 3 of our 4 hand fishing lines on it. That made it necessary for us put the engine in neutral (there was no wind at the moment) and pull in our lines which pulled Raptor Dance backwards to the long line (we use 200 pound test line). Then we were able to unhook our lines. Funny, we decided to do without our fishing lines for the rest of this trip.

After one overnight we arrived in Zihuatanejo the following morning, just a bit tired. Zihuatanejo looked very different than it did in the early 1980's when I had been there before. It was still charming but much more busy and had greatly spread out. Plus cruise ships come in 3 times a week. Those cruise ship cruisers do not spend much time in town though. It is very convenient to provision your boat. The local mercado (farmers market) and the big "Commercial" (a large chain store) are nearby.

A local fellow, Nathaniel was available at one spot in the beach to help dingy's land and exit the surf. It amounted to valet parking for dingys. Very handy.

Another enterprising Mexican, Ishmael would bring fuel, water, drinks, etc to the boat plus take care of picking up and delivering your laundry. He and his wife were kept busy with the 100+ boats in the anchorage.

There are plenty of palapas and other restaurants available. One of Zihuatanejo's specialties is pozole, in red, green or white variety. This is a hominy based soup with lots of other goodies, very tasty. The green is our favorite.

Playa las Gatos was the snorkeling location across Zihuatanejo bay with cleaner water, a variety of fish and a nicely located palapa at the point. It was good to be back in the water. If we return to Zihuatanejo we'll anchor at Playa la Ropa with an additional stern anchor. It is further from town but the water is cleaner. And the stern anchor reduces the effect of the swell.

The big event was Sail Fest see: - a four day program to raise money for the local schools and school children. It is a very worthwhile cause.

Rick's Bar was cruiser central and the center of action for activities included registering (paying a fee, signing up for volunteer activities, and receiving tee shirts), chili cook off, seminars, school kids beach party, beach pot luck, local music artists CD, seminar CDs, musicians performance at the Blue Mamou, raffles, auctions, soliciting local businesses and cruisers for donations for the raffles or just money, and a boat parade from Ixtapa to Zihuatanejo (carrying paying passengers). Needless to say, we could not be involved in every event. It would have been overwhelming.

While Bill was giving a seminar on Marine and Ham SSB Radio, Winlink, Sailmail and computers (handout posted at ) - I went to visit the present school, the new school site and the one school that has already been build from Z Fest money. The present school is made from scrap lumber. The floor boards are flexible and the ground is eroding. So the school is now perched on edge of the eroding hillside. But the children seem happy, energetic and very anxious to learn. Depending on the money that comes in, those with the best grades are given a scholarship to be able to continue their education. At present it costs $250 for one child's school expenses for one year.

The one school that was already built is very basic but built to last. $85,000 was raised this year. That will allow the new school project to begin.

We entered the chili competition. Bill and I created a great chili recipe and cooked a great chili. In fact we won! There were 17 entrants, some cruisers and local restaurants. We've posted he recipe on our website. So feel free to try it yourself. Our friends Linda Frakes and Marie and Don from Freezing Rain helped us serve.

The following day we moved to the small island outside the Bay, Isla Grande, aka Isla Ixtapa. It was a good plan. Because of the "nutrient rich" environment in Zihuatanejo Bay and the local temperature (10 degrees hotter than Barra) it is a very active marine growth area. In other words, our chain, prop and the bottom of the boat needed a good cleaning. In just 10 days there was so much growth on our prop that it slowed our motoring speed by 2 knots, as we went to Isla Grande. As we scrubbed the bottom, this small cove became packed with power boats from Ixtapa and a few more sail boats. But by 6PM all of the day boats were gone.

With a clean bottom we headed north the next morning. "Light and variable winds" turned out to be more "noserly" winds and choppy seas. So besides a rollicking ride, lots of salt water over the boat and the snagging of the long line (previously mentioned) it was a fine ride. Once we turned past Punta San Telmo it calmed enough to sleep well.

It was wonderful returning to Las Hadas, our friends on Liberty and Fafner, the hotel pool and a Pechugón pollo dinner. That's the place with the great roasted chicken and potatoes.

We waited to get to Barra to clean off the salt deposits on the boat and up the mast - we had thick deposits everyone on the boat. I wonder if there's a market for "Raptor Dance Sal de Mer"?

Refreshed with a full night's sleep we continued onto Barra Navidad the next morning, accompanied by 2 humpback whales (pod a du?). It was a calm and short passage back to Marina Isla Navidad.

We do love the variety anchorages and marinas provide.

We hope your lives are full of variety too, whatever direction you take.

Warmest Regards,
Mary and Bill

February 12, 2007

Raptor Red Top of the Food Chain Chili Recipe

This is our Chili recipe that won the Chili Cook Off at Sail Fest in Zihuatanejo on Saturday, Feb 3, 2007. It's a flavorful red beef chili with a deep flavor and pleasant back heat.

This is quite a different Chili than our team prepared at Paradise Village in Nuevo Vallarta which won the competition in December 2006.

This recipe is fairly complex and should be prepared at least a day ahead to allow the flavors to blend. It freezes and reheats well. Serve with a dollop of Toasted Cumin Crema (recipe below).

You will need to do a lot of tasting as you go along to get the best results.

The pot is important. It should be big enough to hold the whole batch. The pot should also have a thick bottom to spread the heat so the chili doesn't burn.

We don't have a big pot on board and borrowed one from fellow cruisers. It was fairly thin metal, so we used a flame spreader.

We used 2 separate fry pans to toast or sweat (lower heat than a sauté) the components before adding to them to the pot.

The following makes approximately 2 gallons of Chili.



The Meat:

The meat is very important. You want a flavorful cut of beef with some connective tissue. Chuck is preferred. Flank steak or skirt steak are also fine. We used 3 Kilos (7 pounds) of un-marinated Arrachara, Mexican skirt steak.

Cut the meat into cubes (do not use ground meat). For meal or side dish sized servings, cut into 1/2 inch cubes. For competition sized (tiny) servings, cut into 3/8 inch cubes. Season the beef with salt and pepper.

The Chili Molé (gravy):

We selected a variety of dried and fresh chilies at the local market. If you're not familiar with the chilies, you should taste a sliver of each (after toasting and rehydration of the dried ones) to help you balance the flavor. You may need to use more or less of each based on their size and flavor.

A good guide to identifying chilies can be found on the web at

Dried Chilies (possibly more of each if small, buy extras):
2 Chipotlé
3 Ancho
4 Pasilla
5 Cascabel
4 New Mexican
3 Guajillo

Remove the seeds and stems from the dried chilies. Then toast the dried chilies (except the chipotles) in a dry pan until fragrant, be careful not to burn.

Pour boiling water over the toasted chilies and allow to rehydrate 30 minutes.

Scrape the meat off the skin of the chipotles and cascabeles (or any other thick skinned chilies) and put in a blender. Do not use their skins. Thin skin chilies can be added directly to the blender.

Add water to the blender to cover. Taste the chili soaking water and use it if not bitter. Blend until smooth.

This should produce around 1 liter of a very thick sauce.

The Aromatics:

3 Poblano chilies, seeded and diced
2 Jalapeño chilies, seeded and diced
3 to 4 Large Red Onions, finely diced
1/2 cup of chopped garlic

Other Ingredients:

* Olive Oil
3 bottles of dark beer, we used Indio
5 Oz of dark, semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
3 14 1/2 oz cans of chopped tomatoes
1 6 oz can of tomato paste
3 14 1/2 cans of black beans, drained
3 Tbsp ground cumin

Ingredients to balance taste and consistency:

* Beef Broth
* Fresh lime juice
* Sweetener (maple syrup, honey or Agave nectar)
* Fresh grated nutmeg
* Salt and pepper
* Hot Sauce or Salsa



Add approximately 1 Tsp Olive Oil in your frying pan (we had 2 pans going at the same time) and brown the beef in small batches.

Do not crowd the pan. You want to brown the beef not steam it, do not burn the beef. When the surface of the beef cubes has a deep brown color, Add the batch of beef to your pot.

Between batches, deglaze the frying pan with some of the beer, reduce slightly and add to the pot.

When all the beef is done, add 1 Tsp of Olive Oil to the pan(s) and sweat the aromatics. Season with salt as you add each aromatic.

Start with the fresh Chilies, sweat 2 or 3 minutes until fragrant (be careful of the fumes), add the onions, sweat for 2 minutes more, then add the garlic and sweat for another 1 minute. Add to the pot.

Add a little olive oil to your empty fry pan and add the can of tomato paste. Cook, stirring frequently until the paste takes on a rust color (1 to 2 minutes). Add to the pot, use beer to get all the tomato paste out of the pan and add to the pot.

Now add the Chili Molé, chocolate, chopped tomatoes, remaining beer, ground cumin and black beans to the pot.

Note - REAL Chili does not have beans in it! You can omit them and have a heartier chili. We added them to extend the recipe for the contest and because we like the taste.

Bring the pot up to a gentle simmer. Stir frequently to prevent burning and to blend completely. Simmer at least 2 hours until the meat is tender, but still has a little bite to it.

During the cooking, you should taste the chili and add the following ingredients:

* Beef Broth - as needed to reduce thickness
* Fresh lime juice - as needed to increase the brightness of the chili
* Sweetener (maple syrup, honey or Agave nectar) - as needed to balance the flavor
* Fresh grated nutmeg - as needed to add flavor complexity
* Salt and pepper - to taste
* Hot Sauce or Salsa to increase heat

When plating, add a dollop of Toasted Cumin Crema to each serving.


Toasted Cumin Crema (also prepare a day ahead to meld flavors):

1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 Cup Mexican crema or creme fraiche
* salt and pepper to taste

Place the cumin seeds in a dry sauté or fry pan over medium heat. Toast until lightly golden brown and fragrant, do not burn.

Place in a small bowl, stir in the crema and season with salt and pepper to taste. To dispense, put in a squeeze bottle with a big enough nozzle to not clog with the seeds.

January 23, 2007

Bara de Navidad to Las Hadas

Hi Everyone,

We hope this new year has been good to you.

After several weeks at anchor and having had a fine time in Tenacatita we decided to move on to the next destination.

Barra de Navidad is just 9.3 miles around the corner. We had originally planned to anchor in the lagoon. But we were both ready for Isla Navidad Marina, with all it's amenities. It is a lovely sight, as you round the corner and see the town to the right with it's multi colored buildings, the well kept marina, the interesting salmon colored hotel with all the levels, the terraces with swimming pools, the lush vegetation and the little island just off shore covered with palm trees and flowering plants. The island can be reserved for special a romantic dinner.

We love being at anchor but were ready to be back in a marina and plugged in.

We had a great time wandering around the town of Barra and sampling the restaurants. We are actually eating on board more than we had in the past though. The bus service is very good and we used that to go to the nearby town of Melaque during the day.

Melaque is very different than Barra and interesting to see. One night we heard Latcho and Andrea, the Blond Gypsies playing in Melaque at restaurant Maya. Many of the other cruisers are familiar with their lovely Spanish Guitar and Flamingo music. That evening we can easily say that we knew more than half of the dinners...other cruising friends. This restaurant is lovely with excellent food. It is a little Mexican but more California cuisine. We enjoyed the lively evening. I'm just sorry that I did not bring my castanets.

Our expected five day stay stretched into ten. One of the things we really enjoy is our time at and in the pool. There usually are not very many hotel guests, so we have the run of the place. But the last few days a (very white, soon to be red) contingent of builders and suppliers from Minnesota arrived and filled every room in the hotel. The pools were overwhelmed. Luckily we had heard about some other, out of the way, pools situated throughout the hotel. Ah. Our own pool, large enough to swim laps, was waiting for us among the suites.

This actually turned out to be a busy week for the hotel and marina. A fishing tournament was also being held over the weekend. This brought out the Mariachi bands and tequila and brought in the sailfish (vella pesce), swordfish, dorado (mahi-mahi), and tuna...big tuna. After watching the men clean the fish, I know very well how to fillet our tuna. Now if we can just catch one. At that size, we only need one!

On our way from Barra to Santiago Bay we had four fishing lines in the water without even a nibble. Too bad. Santiago Bay is a new place to us and we anchored in the area by the town of Santiago. It was a little rolly at night with the swells coming in broad side. The next day, the tide was so high that if we went into shore, we would be landing among the tables and chairs of the beach palapas. OK, it is time for a change of plans. We upped anchor and moved around into the next lobe and anchored off the Las Hadas hotel. Some may remember this from the movie Ten.

This is perfect for us. It is a calm anchorage, and we can use the dingy dock and hotel facilities. So this means that we do not need to do a dingy landing on the civilized. We'll have our more primitive anchorages later in the Sea of Cortez. So for now we can be pampered. Yes, there is another lovely pool with pool service. The water in the anchorage is very clear too with quite a few fish and turtles. Another great thing is that we finally crossed paths with some of our best friends including, Yvette, Carl, Joel and Kyle on Liberty and Karen and Bill on Miela.

Life is good. We are sitting here on the boat, watching the sunset feeling energized and wonderfully at peace at the same time. This over whelming feeling of well being comes over us through out our voyage. Sometimes it has to do with the spectacular sunset, the colorful sunrises, the feeling we have that we are part fish while we are in the water, or how the mountains look in the distance in the changing sunlight. It is not limited to these times though. This has been/is a very special time for the two of us.

Tomorrow we will leave at day break for and overnight sail to Zihuatanejo. Maybe there is tuna waiting for us along the way.

Our best to you all. We look forward to hearing from you.

Warmest regards,
Mary and Bill

January 2, 2007

Happy New Year from Bahia Tenacatita

Happy New Year Everyone!

Gosh, you sure can keep busy when cruising!

We left Ipala on December 24th and proceeded down to Bahia de Chamela (Chamela Bay). Chamela was as nice as we remembered it. Lot's of Palapas (Beach Restaurants) and a small town with a few Tiendas (small grocery stores). Unlike two years ago, when we were the only cruisers in the bay, there were 5 boats in the anchorage. There were many Mexican families there for the holiday week, but not as many as two years ago. Apparently tourism is down a bit in Mexico so it wasn't quite as crowded.

Miguelito's Palapa had among the best food. A Polish ex-patriot, Yonish is partnered with Miguel and serves as manager and sometimes cook. He will arrange for special dinners with advance notice. Unfortunately, he couldn't get the ingredients together to cook Perogi for us before we left. We did have a great shrimp dish, however. He calls it Camarones (Shrimp) 4 x 4: 4 large shrimp cooked each of 4 different ways. It was great!

We stayed at Chamela until the 27th enjoying the anchorage. The dingy landings were a little challenging as there was a little surf - 2 feet or so, but we were cautious and landed between sets and didn't dump going in or out.

We then continued on to Tenacatita, one of our favorite anchorages on this section of coast. Tenacatita is a huge well protected bay and we're anchored here with a few dozen other cruisers. On Saturday Dec 30, we took our dingy on the jungle passage to the other lobe of the bay where there are many Palapas and two Tiendas. Things are a bit more developed than they were two years ago and the brand new Tienda was fairly well stocked.

Every year in Tenacatita one of the cruisers "volunteers" to be mayor. This year it's Chris and Heather on Legacy,

Unfortunately, they've been delayed in Mazatlan and won't arrive until tomorrow, January 3rd. So Bill was asked to set up the New Years activities.

We did a dingy raft up for New Years Eve. Basically we anchored our dingy (we have a little 6 pound Fortress anchor) off a side beach and 10 other cruisers tied their dingys to ours. We then passed appetizers around, introduced ourselves and waited for midnight. We then toasted the new year and continued chatting until the bugs came out - we anchored a bit too close to the beach and the bugs came out at sundown... Oh, did I mention that we celebrated at midnight Greenwich Mean Time? That's 6 PM local time. That way everyone is awake! At local midnight the hotel across the bay shot off fireworks so we got to celebrate twice.

On New Years Day, we arrange for a BBQed Rib lunch at 2 PM at the Palapa on the beach. We had 30 cruisers attend. After that we played a few rounds of Mexican Train Dominoes until sunset, when the bugs started to come out again. We then went back to our boats and had a relaxing evening.

Bugs in Tenacatita will only bother you on the mountain hike, jungle trip or on the beach at dusk. They don't come far enough off shore to get to the anchored boats, except those who are anchored very close to the beach.

The next day, we went hiking in the hills with Dave on Deja 2 who showed us the trail to the other side of the bay. It's an alternative to the dingy trip through the jungle. It's about a 5 KM hike. I don't think we'll be doing this one with groceries.

Today, we're taking it easy. Bill is doing various chores and Mary is working on jewelry projects.

We did turn on the cell phone and discovered that Telmex finished their tower project and we now have cell phone coverage! A few days ago, we only had our satellite phone. We're surprised at how much further the cell phone coverage has expanded in the last two years. There are very few places we've been that are not now covered.

We also have intermittant WiFi Internet coverage. Not enough for web surfing or updating our pictures, but enough to do occasional emails - please continue to contact us on our address as coverage isn't good enough to reliably pick up our emails.

We love hearing from you but remember to send us a NEW message, don't reply and send this message back to us. Our winlink email is extremely slow! We haven't heard from some of you in a while, so drop us a note and let us know how you are doing!

You can see where we've been and where we are via our position reporter link at:
Be sure to click the "Satellite" link and zoom in on one of the balloons to get a fantastic view of where we are.

Warmest Regards,
Bill and Mary