May 5, 2008

End of the 2007-2008 Season

When you last heard from us it was February and we were anchored in Tenacatita on our way north to Puerto Vallarta.

After a couple of days catching up with sailing friends who were in Tenacatita we left for Chamela. What a great trip that was! We saw whales, dolphins, turtles and lots of feeding birds and fish. Unfortunately I did not have any of our hand lines out to catch any of those fish. The truth is that we had not been catching many fish which lead to less fishing. In fact we sold our (like new) fishing polls and gear when we were in Barra. Our friends, who are much better fisherman catch way more fish than they can use – so we've still been enjoying frequent, fresh, free seafood! Real fisherman have a variety of techniques that they use, including kites on helium balloons to keep the bail lightly on the surface. Who knew!

Chamela was very quiet at this time. There were only a dozen boats in the anchorage. It seems that Barra was the favorite place to be for cruisers this season. Some mornings there would be as many as 70 boats sign in on the Barra morning net. We were on a roll so the next morning at first light we raised anchor and headed to Ipala.

Many people don't bother going into Ipala because it is a small cove which is partly taken up with the local fishing pangas and a few fishing pens and the town is small, very small. BUT, we have had the best lobster dinners there. We like it. In fact, as we pulled in I think our mouths were already watering for some yummy lobster. We invited the other couple of boats to go with us and we headed to shore.

Hopes dashed! They did not have any lobster but we did have a great Huachinango (whole red snapper), a good time and made new friends. As long as boats anchor in a reasonable fashion (not anchoring right in the middle) there is room for at least 6 boats inside. More can anchor a little further out but it is not quite as protected.

We left early the next morning and enjoyed the beautiful sunrise as we rounded Cabo Corrientes. The wind was blowing 20 knots but as soon as we rounded we were in flat seas and virtually no wind. We still had whales breaching around us as we crossed the bay. By early afternoon we were back and tied up in paradise Marina. We feel like we have so many homes now. It felt just like coming home when we pulled in, as it does when we go to Barra or back to Santa Rosa.

This year the weather was much cooler. I often needed a light wrap in the evening. Right now it is perfect weather for me but a little warm for Bill. It's in the 80's during the day and high 70's in the evening. We received reports that in March there were days of fog in the Barra area. That was a first. We have never seen fog. Plus there was a serious red tide around the same time. It's only now in May that the temperatures are approaching normal. It will be interesting to see what the weather is like in the Sea of Cortez this year.

Here in Nuevo Vallarta we saw, for a day or two at the end of April, what looks like lots of soap suds piling up on the beach. The locals say this is caused by warm and cold water meeting. Actually we think it is the protein by-product of the red tide organisms dying out at sea. Not a normal occurrence around here.

It was good being back in Paradise. We were able to visit and celebrate my birthday with Cindy and Scott on SV Beach House, a Switch 51' catamaran. Then we were able to spend time and celebrate my birthday with Linda of condo fame and our friends, Carl, Yvette, Joel and Kyle from SV Liberty before they made the "puddle jump" to the Marquesas and South Pacific. What!? Yes. We do believe in the two party system. And Liberty has arrived and is already enjoying the islands. It was good getting reconnected with our buddies here.

Then family, my brother Joe, his wife Ginny, son Rob with his wife Sue, plus their children Andrea and Eric arrived in style on a cruise ship. It was our good fortune that they had a long shore time. We were able do a bit of exploring in Puerto Vallarta with them and show them what life is like in Nuevo Vallarta.

Later that evening, we went to the Puerto Vallarta Botanical Gardens for their members' appreciation dinner, we had a great time with food, drink and fantastic fireworks right overhead. The Botanical Gardens is a great non-profit that also supports the local school system. We also visited the gardens again later with our friends Scott and Cindy.

On February 19th the new board was elected for the Vallarta Yacht Club. Bill had agreed and was elected Treasurer. The committee knew they were getting a good man but never did they expect what was coming. Every day, except during the Banderas Bay Regatta and a few odd days, Bill has spent in the yacht club and on the computer either there or on the boat totally revising the club. He has gone through all the documents, files, accounts, accounting systems and procedures, computing systems, ISP relationships, WiFi and bank accounts since it's inception. He has revised procedures, simplifying and improving them; implemented a budget (something new); instituted cash controls; done a complete audit; changed banks; changed web hosting providers and totally redid the website.

He has been working with the managers and staff every step of the way so they know how to follow through. You know Bill, he has totally redone the yacht club website and continues to improve it. Enough said…the list would go on and on. This did limit our activities greatly but Bill really enjoyed doing it. It makes me think that maybe he would enjoy getting back into business (comment from Bill: "NOT!"). You can see the results of the website rebuild at

While Bill was spending time at the yacht club, I used some of that time to take over the boat and spread out all the pearls, gems and jewelry making paraphernalia. I love the creative aspect, designing pieces that are unique. The logistics of taking a piece in my imagination to its end is sometimes a challenge but always fun. They all become one of a kind pieces. I have also been able to help other women with jewelry problems and teach techniques.

In between all that we had some boating fun. Vallarta Race Week in Banderas Bay was a little different this year. It was composed of The San Diego to Puerto Vallarta Race, The Mexorc Race, The Governor's Cup and The Banderas Bay Regatta (BBR). There was a lot going on!

We hosted 2 boats from the San Diego to PV Race, Holua and Beowulf, both from the California Yacht Club in Marina del Rey. This amounted to greeting them with buckets of beer, tequila and anything else we could think of and helping them in any way we could. The finish line was at Punta Mita at the north end of the bay. That gave us a little notice of the approximate time they would arrive. Plus we (and anyone) could track the boats on their route down the coast on-line. Only one boat did not show up on-line…something about their transponder not working. We were lucky. Our boats arrived during daylight.

Mexorc was mainly Mexican boats. The BBR overlapped the Mexorc races. Each one of these events had evening activities planned. There was no lack of sailors, family and friends enjoying the music, food, drink and sailing stories.

We had planned to race Raptor Dance and our friends Lani and June (our ringers) came down to enjoy and help us. But we do need 7 or even 8 crew to race. The two of us are fine cruising but racing is a different animal. Actions need to happen fast and sometimes in tight quarters. Finding additional crew was difficult. There are fewer sail boats and fewer sailors in Paradise. Many of the slips are filled with powerboats or by commuter cruisers. A friend of a friend on Huma Huma, a catamaran, was also having the same difficulty. If we had the courage to wait until two days before the race, we would have had crew. Some sailing friends, who would be crew, arrived at the last minute. Before that time came though we had decided to crew on Huma Huma with the plan that if anything broke (or whatever) on Huma Huma, we would continue on Raptor Dance. We were already registered.

It was interesting and quite different racing on a catamaran. The feel is totally different. Instead of healing (leaning) the cat runs along flat. It doesn't give the same sense of speed even though we were going 20+ knots at times – about 2 1/2 times our normal speed on Raptor Dance. It actually made us love our boat all the more, no offense to Huma Huma. Tacking may be easier on this Cat but preparing and popping the spinnaker is a breeze on ours. The boat did very well. The majority of the crew were experienced racers and all were captains. You should have seen those "meetings"! We came in first in our class. It was a great team effort. A few of the crew may be on our boat next year. We'll plan further ahead for next year.

While Lani and June were here, we took time for a road trip! We ventured inland to the little towns of San Sebastian de Oeste and Mascota. Until the last year, these towns were only reachable over a dirt road. You also had to ford a river. Recently a new bridge was built and the paved road was finished. Now you can drive all the way from Puerto Vallarta to Guadalajara on this new mountain road. It's very scenic and the villages are still pretty much untouched. This is a major historic silver mining area and there is a lot of history here.

It's now early May and Bill is pretty much finished with all the projects at the yacht club. We are completing a few boat chores to do in preparation for the summer. We are again leaving the boat in Paradise Marina, the safest place in case of any storms. Banderas Bay has never had a hurricane.

We did take time out on Saturday to do another Canopy Tour. So far, we've counted at least 5 different Canopy Tour operators here in Banderas Bay. Each has it's own character. This one, Canopy La Vista, is not as long, fast or exciting as El Eden or Los Veranos, but it has great views of Banderas Bay – hence the name. It also uses a different pulley technology. With their system, you use a glove with a thick pad to both steer and brake – very interesting and quite different. It actually has a number of advantages in that you are more stable around the vertical axis with this system so you have more opportunity to look around.

Particularly noticeable during the canopy tour is how dry it currently is. We're just at the end of the dry season. The mountains in particular are as dry and brown as California. In June the summer rains start again. When they do, look out! It's normal here to get many inches of rain per hour during a summer thunder storm. When we arrived back in October, the last storm of the season dropped 2 inches of rain in half an hour. Don, the weather guru, calls Puerto Vallarta in Summer "web foot city" and for good reason.

Thursday, we will begin our drive north to Santa Rosa, plant some tomatoes and drink some good Sonoma County wine.

We hope you all are well and enjoying this Spring. We love hearing from you.