December 20, 2008

Raptor Dance Update - Since Summer Started

Greetings and Happy Holidays to everyone.
(See all our pictures at

Yes, it has been a long time since we posted an update. We are fine and frisky. We just got caught up in the local action when we returned to Mexico.

We had a great time being back in California for the summer. One of the best times was with Mary's family in Pennsylvania for a celebration party for her parents with a big crowd of friends and family, mainly coming from different parts of the east coast. We children wanted to give this party while they could still kick up their heels and have a ball. There was eating and drinking, music and dancing, and laughing and hugging. Mom and Dad loved it.

We also purchased an elliptical trainer and set it up in our garage gym, this helped us get in better shape. We still watch Food Network on the Tivo while exercising as motivation – but the recipes have lost a lot of their appeal due to our new diet.

In July, we went in for checkups and Bill's Dr. wanted him to increase his medication for blood pressure and cholesterol. That was the last straw! He did a lot of research and as a result we switch to a new lifestyle diet. As a result of that diet, he's now off all medications. Since we returned home from Mexico in late May, Bill lost 30 pounds and Mary 20. From our peak weight on July 1, 2005, Bill is down a total of 70 pounds and Mary's off 55. You can see Bill's "before" picture here:

If you are interested in our diet, it's no added fat, sweetener, salt Vegan (just because it is a healthier diet). If you are interested in the details, you can find out more at and

Note, this is a lifestyle diet, not a religion. We are free to eat whatever we want, just not every day.

Another most interesting time during the summer was an adventurous caving excursion at California Caverns. Looking for the most exciting time, we took the Middle Earth Tour. It is the most extensive and extreme caving experience available to non pros.

It certainly was an experience. In that moment some spots were "not fun". That would be sliding through the dark (headlights only) tunnel being able to propel ourselves only by our elbows. It was so narrow and low that we had to be on our bellies in the wet mud for too long of a passage. It was interesting and beautiful in spots. That made up somewhat for the drop into cold muddy water and the caked on mud. We went in looking dorky with the overalls, kneepads, gloves helmets and headlights, and just came out as a complete muddy mess…not a spa treatment.

Ah, the things we do for fun. I might recommend the walking tour. That is unless you really like squeezing through a passage too small for an inflated basket ball! It's a good thing we lost most of our weight by then.

Another highlight was Bill's surprise birthday party. That is a long story on it's own. I'll just say it is not an easy thing to pull off when the person is present during preparation time. Luckily Bill was focused on other things, so he misread the splattered cake icing as a failed attempt to make something else and missed the smell of chocolate cake when he exited the shower (open windows helped).

The cake was in the shape of a duck which was a bit hit. As many of you know Bill grew up on a farm with a pet duck, named Ritz Quackers. Bill thinks the duck imprinted on him. Mary thinks Bill imprinted on the duck!

Mary's series of lame excuses for strange culinary behavior had Bill thinking that Mary might be getting Alzheimer's! Fortunately, it was a ploy.

A fun time was had by all!

Over the summer Bill handled his chores as Treasurer for the Vallarta Yacht Club remotely via the Internet. Bill is also the entire Information Technology Department for the Yacht Club, including Webmaster, see: He also did a number of websites for other folks, including one for Mary's Jewelry endeavor, see: For the complete list of websites see:

Before we knew it the summer was over and we were on our way to Puerto Vallarta in the Jeep (loaded). The first stop was southern California to visit with Bill's family and continue his BD celebration. From there we had a smooth journey and arrived well rested on the third day (one night in Nogales AZ and one in Navajoa in Sonora, Mexico). It's about 1,600 miles from LA to PV.

Since we got here, we've been involved in the usual social whirlwind, twice a week Spanish Class and a pile of boat chores, more on those later.

December 3, 4, 5 was the Banderas Bay Blast (no pictures of us, but see: ).

This fun event featured a cruisers rally from our home Marina, to Marina La Cruz – about 7 nautical miles away. We spent the first night at La Cruz Marina, where the Marina provided free slips to the participants.

This is a new marina and the work is still in progress but the slips are in as well as the very nice shower facilities, restaurant and Sky Bar. The view from the Sky Bar is great, looking out over the breakwater to the water. This evening it was also used for a perverted game of dodge ball, Instead of avoiding the ball, the aim was to catch the water filled balloons (that's Bill waiting to try to catch the Balloon). Very tough. But everyone was in great spirits and willing to give it a try. Few, very few succeeded. After everyone dried off we had a fun party at the local cruisers' hangout: Philo's Bar.

The 4th featured an upwind race to Punta de Mita. Upwind on our boat is fine as long as you don't have to tack too much… Guess what we did – oh, bother. Our friend Linda (Leendah) joined us for this mucho tacking leg.

At Punta de Mita, we anchored out and took a panga (Mexican 27 foot fiberglass launch) ashore for the party at "Margarita's Restaurant". The panga ride was especially important going back to the boat. The swell was up. We would have had a difficult time getting out in our dingy. We would have been, at least, drenched.

The final day, the 5th, featured a Spinnaker run and another party (are you detecting a theme here?) at the Vallarta Yacht Club. Our friends Pat & Bob from Berkeley were staying in PV and they had an interesting bus ride to Punta de Mita to join us for this leg.

December 6th was the 9th annual charity Chili Cookoff here at the Vallarta Yacht Club. We thought we would retire undefeated after our last two wins here and the one at Sail Fest in Zihuatanejo, but we got seduced into entering again. With our new diet, we devised a batch of Very Low Fat, Salt, unsweetened Vegan Chili.

We figured we didn't have a chance. After all, Vegetarian Chili is an oxymoron! Real chili has only meat, chilies and a few vegetables (onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, etc). But we won 1st place in the Cruisers Division yet again! That's 4 for 4 for team Raptor!

We'll post the recipe soon (after we figure out what we did!). A lot of people thought our secret ingredient was Mangos, but in reality it was very ripe (i.e. very black) Plantains.

Reader warning – Geeky boat content follows:

Dear Raptor Dance had an early encounter with bees in June after we left and a second close encounter not long before we arrived in October. Bees like to make hives inside boat masts. We thought our mast was safe because we have internal halyards rattling around inside the mast. They entered the openings low in the mast, below the internal halyards, and flew down into the bilge. From there they came up through a grate into the saloon. Luckily a dock mate and our boat minder saw the swam and alerted us. We had hired a boat minder for while we were away. That was good. He was able to bring in a "Bee Man" and cleaners to rid us of our new friends. The October encounter didn't result in a hive, just a swarm around the top of the mast.

Next year we're going to try the preventative technique of moth balls inside the mast.

After we got to PV on October 29th we had a lot of boat chores to do this year. The first was thing was cleaning and gathering any bees that escaped detection. We were worried that we would need to wash everything inside the boat but no insecticide needed to be used inside. We also thought we would find bees scattered throughout the boat but there was only a handful mainly at the base of the mast and some bee mummies inside lockers (the cleaners did a great job).

All summer we had run one of our Air Conditioners in "dehumidify" mode. Basically, it came on once every 8 hours and ran for an hour to remove the moisture from the air. We did this in past years and it worked great. This year it did too, but when we got here we noticed that we had a lot of marine growth in the raw water system and that particular unit seem to have lost it's mojo (it wasn't cooling as well as it used to).

After a visit from the local refrigeration guy who put more gas in our system – it's efficiency was back to normal… But only for a month. Turns out our air handler had a medium gas leak. So we ordered a new one and had it flown in and installed.

The marine growth was ultimately solved with a muriatic acid soak. We then discovered a great trick. We get 3 inch pool chlorine tablets at the local PV Home Depot, divide them in quarters and put a chunk into the raw water strainer every 7 to 10 days. Since we started doing that, no growth!

During normal engine service, we discovered a heat exchanger leak and we started losing coolant overboard (your exhaust water turns green!). A marine engine's heat exchanger is basically like a car radiator. Except instead of dumping the excess engine heat to the air, it transfers it into sea water that's pumped through it. The whole assembly is about 18 inches long and 4 inches in diameter. It's not too hard to change, but once it leaks it's impossible to fix.

Oh bother. At this moment we are waiting for the new heat exchange to be flown in to fix that. Hopefully we can get it installed before Christmas so we can leave for our cruise down to Manzanillo. We had expected to be in Chamela for Christmas. Right now it is anyone's guess where we will be. We will be fine wherever we are.

Have a Merry Christmas everyone!
Happy Hanukkah!
And a Happy New Year!

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