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.