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 http://raptordance.com

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: http://www.paradisevillagemarina.com/

The Marina is part of the 5 start Paradise Village Resort http://www.paradisevillage.com/

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 http://lascarmelitas.com/

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 http://www.lekliff.com/ 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 (http://www.canopytours-vallarta.com/ ), 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: http://www.ab-marine.com/ ). 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 order...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