Thursday, December 18, 2014

RETURNING TO CHIAPAS

December 8, 2014

I hardly slept for more than an hour at a time all night since I was afraid I would oversleep and miss my plane.  My alarm went off at 3:45 and I was glad to get up and get going.  I was ready long before 4:30.  I thought I heard a car about 4:15, so opened the door to find the very cabby with whom I had made the reservation poking around, trying to find me.  I was quite relieved to see him.  There was very little traffic at that hour, so we had a quick trip to the Puerto Vallarta airport.

The airport was fairly deserted at that hour.  I had agonized over what to do with the gallon of teak oil that I had purchased before I realized that I would be flying to Tapachula, rather than taking a bus.  Scott had talked to AeroMexico customer service and they had told him that there was no problem with bringing teak oil, but that if the flight was very heavy, they might limit me to three liters of liquid.  The plane was small, but only partially full at that hour.  Being a domestic flight, my bag didn’t have to go through a scanner before being checked and no one asked me about the contents.  I watched it disappear down the conveyor belt and wondered if I would ever see that $200 can of teak oil again.  I was desperate for a cup of coffee but, tragically, all the Starbucks were closed.

My flight to Mexico City left at 6:35 and took just over an hour.  Scott and I had planned to meet in Mexico City and take the same flight to Tapachula.  Unfortunately, when he arrived at the Sacramento airport for his 2:00 (Yes, 2 AM.) flight, it had been cancelled.  They re-booked him on a 6:00 flight, but it connected through Guadalajara.  He would not arrive in Tapachula until 22:00.  I had booked a hotel for us that he had stayed in previously, but he would not be there to help me to find it.

I arrived in Mexico City about 8:00.  A bus brought us from the plane to the terminal and there was a huge snarl at the door to the terminal because plane loads of people were trying to get out to board buses, but had to cross our long line to go through security once again.  People got into the wrong lines and it was a mess.  Once I got through security, the airport was not terribly crowded.  While using the restroom, I heard the last call for the flight to Tapachula that I almost booked before realizing that I wouldn’t have time to make the connection.  I would have to spend the entire day in the airport, but at least I would not be charged for missing my connecting flight as I had been the last time I passed through Mexico City.  AeroMexico doesn’t hesitate to book passengers on flights that they can’t possibly make, but they say it’s your own fault if you miss them.  I dislike the airline for that reason, but they are ubiquitous and impossible to avoid on routes to all but the most popular destinations.  Tapachula didn’t rate.

It was quite cold in Mexico City and my fingers and toes grew numb.  I finally found an open Starbuck’s and got a coffee to warm my fingers.  I was able to use the internet there and even to use the Starbuck’s user name and password on the Infinitum network elsewhere in the airport, which was very handy since the tables at Starbuck’s were always very crowded.  I caught up on my blog and read until my flight finally left around 15:00.  The flight to Tapachula was only an hour and a half.  After having been awake all night, I slept most of the way there.

Downtown Tapachula
I was very relieved to see that my luggage containing a gallon of teak oil had arrived in Tapachula unmolested.  To get a taxi at the airport, you must first buy a ticket at the taxi counter and then they assign you to a driver.  This keeps rates standard and makes sure the airport collects its taxes.  A private taxi from the airport to my hotel in Tapachula cost 230 pesos (about $16.50.)  That seemed like a good deal, although I later learned that it was only 150 pesos ($10.75) to return.  The airport is a good 25 km from the center of town.  The clerk at the counter seemed familiar with the hotel, but the taxi driver began to look concerned as we neared the central square and was quite relieved when I told him the address, which I had written down when I heard that Scott would not be with me.  I arrived at the hotel just in time to drop off my luggage and run out to get some dinner before it got dark.  Downtown Tapachula is probably not dangerous, but there is nothing attractive about it.  I was happy to grab some tacos al pastor from a taqueria on the corner.  My dinner of three tacos and a bottle of water cost me less than $3.  After dinner, I returned to the hotel and napped until Scott arrived around 23:00.


December 9, 2014

Neither Scott nor I had had any sleep the previous night, so we both slept hard and were a bit slow to rise.    Finally, around 10:30, we got it together enough to walk several blocks west to try to catch a collective to the marina.  I had no clue where to look and Scott couldn’t remember exactly which north and south street they took through town.  We asked someone and he told us to walk another two blocks east where we found a collectivo whose sign said it was going
to the Zona Naval, although he wasn’t actually going there.  He told us to walk another two blocks west where we finally caught our transport and settled down for the long ride.  The marina is something like 35 km from the center of town.  The fare on a collective is 20 pesos (<$1.50.)  We were often packed in a minivan with up to 23 people, but the price was right.

Marina Chiapas
Enrique and Memo at the marina were surprised and happy to see us.  I looked around the marina to see if I recognized any boats.  My friend, Venus, had already left, but out friend Peter’s catamaran was up in the yard with ours.  We headed up to the office.  The box with the replacement parts for the box of parts that had disappeared had just been delivered the previous day.  We opened it up and took and inventory.

Clutter Inside Fool's Castle
After visiting with the office, we headed out to the boat to check on the state of Fool’s Castle.  The outside of the boat was pretty filthy, but there were no glaring problems.  The inside was better than I had feared it might be.  There was black mold all over the hatches and windows and every horizontal surface was covered with clutter.    We hooked up the solar panels to charge the batteries, cleaned the mildew off a couple of windows, put sheets on the bed and took a nap.  About 3:30, we headed back out to the main road to catch a collectivo back to Tapachula. 

Fool's Castle in the Yard
I had a touch of the stomach flu and didn’t feel very ambitious.
We got back to Tapachula in plenty of time to walk around the plaza and find a restaurant for dinner.  We had stuffed, fried chicken breasts that closely resembled chicken cordon bleu.  They were very good, but I wasn’t able to eat more than half of mine, since I didn’t feel well.  Later, I lost what little I had eaten.











December 10, 2014

Lobby of Hotel Cervantino
We left the hotel a bit earlier than the day before and headed out to the marina.  When we got there, we were told that our mechanic would meet with us between 15:00 and 16:00.  I felt pretty lousy, but ate some crackers, drank some mineral water and cleaned a few hatches and windows between naps.  We waited for Marvin, the mechanic, until 17:00 when we started to worry that we would miss the last collectivo.  Memo called him for us and Marvin said he would meet us the next morning at 7:00.  We told him we couldn’t get to the marina by 7:00 because we didn’t have a car.  Memo said he would pick us up on his way to work at 7:30.  He was also kind enough to take us back to the hotel on his way home.


I still didn’t feel up to eating dinner.  Scott went out to the al pastor place on the corner and had a stuffed potato for dinner.  He brought me a plain quesadilla, which I managed to keep down.

December 11, 2014

We got up at 6:30 so as to be ready for Memo when he arrived.  We were ready at 7:30, but Memo was nowhere to be seen.  We waited until 8:00, but still there was no sign of Memo.  We began to get concerned that we would miss Marvin.  It looked like maybe Memo had forgotten us.  Enrique had once forgotten us on our previous trip to Chiapas, which may have clouded our judgement.  Finally, a few minutes after 8:00, we gave up and walked west until we found a bus heading towards Walmart.  We decided to stop at the shopping center to go to the bank and also to make a trip to Home Depot so that we could buy parts to convert an adaptor we had for our 30 amp power cord so that we could run our shore power off the 15 amp power in the yard.  The ATMs at the shopping mall were all down, but we had enough money to buy what we needed at Home Depot and pick up cleaning supplies so that I could assault the dirt on the boat.

It was 9:30 by the time we got to the marina.  Memo wondered why we hadn’t waited for him, although he admitted he had arrived shortly after we left.  Fortunately, Marvin had waited for us.  Our mission for the morning was to determine exactly which parts we did and did not have.  Over Labor Day weekend, we had driven to Tijuana, walked four boxes of parts through customs, and sent them to the marina via DHL.  Shortly thereafter, Scott had received an email from Enrique confirming that he had received four boxes of parts.  Two months later, when we told him we were coming, he claimed that he only had two boxes of parts.  Scott had requested proof of delivery from DHL and they claimed that the marina had signed for four boxes.  We had a mystery on our hands.  When Enrique had first told Scott that some of the parts were missing, Scott had ordered replacements for what  he knew was missing.  Those were the parts that had arrived just before we returned.

Boatyard at Marina Chiapas
Nasty Black Mold
We all trooped over to the ware-house to take an in-ventory of our parts.  After some digging, we dis-covered a third parcel containing our dinghy thwart, but the fourth box was still missing.  We were missing valve seals, some bearings and the bushings for the connecting rods and wrist pins.  Enrique went to talk to DHL on his way home for lunch and dropped Scott off at the hotel on his way.  I stayed behind and worked on cleaning the mildew off the remaining hatches and then commenced a thorough cleaning of the boat, beginning with the aft cabin where we sleep.  I cleaned our cabin and head, the galley except for the dinette, and most of the other surfaces I could reach that weren’t covered with junk.

Eventually, Scott took a collectivo back to the marina.  He had gone through his paperwork and determined that the missing box contained a complete gasket set and the missing bearings.  The bushings had never been ordered.  He dug through the spares on the boat and came up with the valve seals and necessary gaskets, but we still needed the bearings and bushings.  When the yard employees started heading for the highway, we packed up and followed them.  We boarded a very crowded collectivo and rode it to the Walmart shopping center, where we stopped to go to the ATM and grab some dinner at Taco Toro, our favorite spot in the food court there and, I fear to admit, our favorite restaurant in Tapachula.  My appetite was almost back to normal and I was able to enjoy a couple of their mixed tacos with cheese.

Back at the hotel, loud popping noises reverberated through the neighborhood every few minutes.  No one seemed panicked, so we were fairly sure it wasn’t gunfire.  It wasn’t mango season (I hit the deck the first time I heard a mango hit a tin roof.), so that left firecrackers as the likely source of the noise.  Mexico loves its fireworks. 


December 12, 2014

Our Room at Hotel Cervantino
With no early meetings, we took our time checking out of the hotel.  Scott went out for coffee and returned bearing a tiny gecko, knowing that I am partial to them.  He was very cute.    Eventually, we checked out and caught a cab to the marina.  Our 35 km ride to the marina cost us only 200 pesos (<$14.50.)  Taxis seems cheap in Chiapas unless you compare their prices to those of collectivos.  With all our heavy bags, it was worthwhile to pay for door to door service.

I started back in on the cleaning, beginning with the refrigerator and dinette and working my way through the forward head.  Scott dug through the marina’s warehouse and eventually found the missing box under a rudder and a sail, inside a larger collapsed box.  The complete gasket kit and missing bearings replenished our spares and left us missing only the buhsings.  Marvin could start reassembling the head while Scott ordered the bushings.

The latches holding the lid onto the case containing our first aid kit had corroded badly from the humidity.  I sanded off the rust and took them down the ladder to paint them with zinc primer.  While I was down there, I noticed that the yard employees were washing Peter’s catamaran and eventually Peter and I spied each other and started waving.  Peter had gone back to his home in France for six months since I had seen him last in El Salvador.  Like Scott, the heat was bothering him and he didn’t feel he could accomplish much.   I was glad I had stayed in Central America as long as I had and wasn’t as affected by the heat as they were.  (The cold, however, had paralyzed me when I returned home and it was still summer at that time.)  Peter and I compared notes and were disappointed to learn that neither of us knew the whereabouts of our friend, Venus, who had been in Chiapas until recently.

After my chat with Peter, I took my moldy mosquito screens up to the restrooms to wash them in soap and bleach.  They came mostly clean, which was a relief because they had looked disgusting.  Once that chore was accomplished, Scott and I took showers and then had a tasty and relaxing dinner at Baos, the restaurant at the marina.  It seemed that all the other cruisers in the marina were there, too.  I had chicken enchiladas in a black bean sauce, sprinkled with fried chorizo and salty hard cheese and garnished with fried plantains.  They were delicious.  Almost the best part, however, was knowing that we would be spending the night on our boat instead of in that hotel with the unyielding mattress and constant fireworks.  The marina was quiet, although we could still hear occasional fireworks coming from Playa Linda.  Mostly, we just heard birds whistling and geckos chirping (and our fans whirring, of course.)

December 13, 2014

Sunrise Over the Boat Yard
The main trouble with living in your boat while it is on the hard is that there is no salt water to flush the heads.  Therefore, we had to climb down the 5 meter ladder and walk a block to the restroom.  I woke up about 6:30 and, knowing I would never get back to sleep after visiting the restroom, decided to go for a run.  I ran a couple of kilometers down the road to Playa Linda and back.  Then I took a shower and used the internet for a while.

Since we had to wait several days for the parts we had ordered to arrive, it seemed like a good time to explore another part of Chiapas.  I made a hotel reservation for us at a B&B in San Cristobal de las Casas, up in the mountains.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t buy bus tickets online with an American credit card, so we decided that I would go into Tapachula to buy the tickets and do a few other errands while Scott stayed behind to work on trying to frankenstein two broken air conditioners into one that would work.

I took a collectivo to the Walmart shopping center, where I had the bright idea that I might find a travel agent and be able to avoid a long trip to the bus station.  There wasn’t one in the shopping center, but I did manage to buy a new SIM card for my old Mexican phone so that Scott and I could call each other, if necessary.  We should have been able to buy more minutes for the SIM card I had, but we didn’t have the phone number anywhere on the boat and the number recorded in Scott’s US phone had too many digits.  We tried a couple of permutations at the store, but I finally gave up and bought a new card before the helpful people at the store got too disgusted with me.  A new SIM card only cost about $8.


Plaza Central in Tapachula
From the Walmart, I took the city bus, the “Tapachulteco”, to the center of town where I had seen travel agencies while we were staying there.  I got off the bus, walked one block, and found a travel agency that sold bus tickets.  The helpful agent called the bus company and made a reservation and then sent his gofer to run the 10 blocks or so to the bus station to pick up the tickets.  I wasn’t expecting that!  I had a nice time conversing in Spanish with the agent and learned a lot about San Cristobal de las Casas, including that it is very cold there during the winter, which was handy to know.  When we finally concluded our transaction, I caught a bus right in front of the agency to take me back to Home Depot, where I bought some glue to reattach the Velcro securing our mosquito nets over the hatches and a new floor fan.  Our old one had toppled off the slanted chart table one too many times and was making a terrible racket when we used it.


I got back to the boat just in time to heat up some meat and beans for tostadas.  We hadn’t purchased any perishables because we were planning to leave for a few days and couldn’t be certain that no one would unplug our power cord.  Scott went to bed right after dinner, but I stayed up, working on my blog.  While sitting at the table in the main salon, typing away, I was stung by a bee.  This was the third time I had been stung on a boat and Kathy had been stung while on Comet.  Something about boats seemed to make bees aggressive.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

SETTLING INTO LA CRUZ

December 2, 2014

I had been very disappointed to discover that the CrossFit gym in Bucerias had closed.  I was determined to come back in at least as good shape as I had been when I left.  Having slacked off during my time on the boat, I now began my days with an ever increasing number of pushups, situps and air squats.

My first missions for the day were to drop off my laundry and get my hair cut.  I had seen a hair salon over on Huachinango (Red Snapper) Street, so headed in that direction.  There was a gringo gentleman in line ahead of me.  The hairstylist cut his hair with clippers and then proceeded to clip short his beard and all the hair on his upper body.  I had never seen anybody do that before, but it made sense in the warm climate.  For 80 pesos (<$6) I got a nice haircut.  It was the most I had ever paid for a haircut in Mexico, but still only a fraction of what I paid in the USA.  I could have had my hair cut for 40 pesos if I had been willing to do it at someone’s kitchen table, but I elected to splurge on the salon.

After completing my errands in town, I took the bus to the Mega to replenish my groceries.  This time, I managed not to buy more than I could carry.  I took a big bus home so as to have room for my purchases and then carried the whole load up the hill.  The hardest part of climbing the hill was not slipping out of my sweaty flip flops.  Coming down, the trick was not to slip on the smooth cobblestones or trip on the uneven surface.  I was getting quite good at hauling heavy loads up the hill without missing a beat.

It was 15:00 by the time I got home.  I put my groceries away, ate some lunch, and relaxed until 17:30 when I had to go down the hill to buy a ticket for the following night’s Amigos de La Cruz fundraiser and pick up my laundry.  After ascending the hill with yet another heavy load, I mixed myself a drink and cooked beef in green mole over Spanish rice for dinner.  It was late by the time I finished my meal and I had just enough time to catch up on my correspondence and watch an episode of The Walking Dead before it was time to hit the hay.

December 3, 2014

Wednesday was my day to catch up on my blog and I spent most of the day writing and uploading photos.  Before I knew it, it was time to head down to the Gecko Rojo for Mexican Train dominoes.  It was a particularly lively session but, after I finally won a game and raked in my pesos, I had to tear myself away to head up to the Amigos de La Cruz fundraiser at Roberto’s Xocolatl, the restaurant below my apartment.  The Amigos de La Cruz is an organization dedicated to the improvement of La Cruz and assistance to its citizens.  They provide recycling services and trash cans, beautify the streets and public facilities and assist citizens with medical care and school supplies.  I figured it would be a good way to meet people and find out what was going on around town.

Another reason I wanted to go to the party was that Tatewari (a flamenco band) was supposed to play at 19:00.  I got there about 19:00, but they had started early and their set was almost over.  The place was packed and it was difficult to find a seat.  I stood in line for 15 minutes, trying to get a drink before I sat down, but finally gave up because the bartender was only fulfilling orders for the waiters.  They brought out another table and I grabbed an empty seat there, since I at least knew the girls from the marina office who were sitting there.  The rest of the people at the table turned out to be cruisers from Sunday Morning and Giddy Up.  One of them even had a spare glass of wine, so things worked out well.  It was a bit too noisy to talk much, but we enjoyed the music and, when we were finally called to the buffet, the chicken and marlin fajitas were excellent.  The restaurant had a nice view (not quite as nice as mine) and a pleasant atmosphere.  After Tatewari finished playing, Bryan Savage took over.  Bryan Savage is an excellent saxophone player who has toured with every big name who ever needed a sax.  I am not a fan of jazz, but had long admired his playing and really enjoyed his set.  Not only did he play the saxophone, but he also played a mean flute and performed some Jethro Tull.  When the party died down, I climbed up the hill to my apartment and sat listening to the music, which I could hear clearly through the open window.

December 4, 2014

I finally felt well enough to get up and run.  I ran down the hill, through the town, along the malecon to the red light and then back up the hill to my place.  Running up the steep hill to my apartment after a two mile run was a challenge, but I made it without having to walk.  It was only slightly more difficult than walking up the hill with a load of groceries.

Improvised Chile Rellenos
After I cleaned up, ate breakfast, and took care of my morning correspondence, I walked back into town to pick up a few groceries because I had invited Don over for dinner.  Back at my place, I relaxed for a little while and then set about roasting and peeling poblano chiles to make chile rellenos.  I did not have an egg beater or an oven, so I had to improvise.  I learned that one cannot beat egg whites in a blender and that doing so with a fork was only somewhat successful.  I had just fried the chiles in my watery egg batter when Don arrived a bit early.  I drenched them in spicy enchilada sauce and heated them on the stove while I made a salad and fried up some turkey pupusas.  Don brought coffee ice cream for dessert and we had a satisfying dinner.

Secret Pathway to My Apartment
After dinner, we were leaving to return to the marina for movie night when I finally ran into my neighbors who were lounging on the front porch.  We met Dave and Lisa and their dog (also named Dave) who live to the left of me and Paul who lives downstairs.  Paul let me in on the secret path leading down the back stairs and through Roberto’s to the highway.  It was definitely shorter and, while one section was rather precarious, probably not any more hazardous than walking up steep cobblestones.  Don stopped at the grocery store, but I continued on to the marina to watch Captain Phillips, which I had seen (but not heard) on a bus somewhere in Columbia.  It was much more enjoyable with sound and there was a big crowd.

December 5, 2014

I got up rather late, but still found time for pushups, situps and air squats before the net came on.  After the net and breakfast, I headed out to get a second key made for my guests and to buy water.  I managed to find the locksmith that I had once seen on Calle Huachinango, but the place was deserted.  I walked back up through the town and started along the highway in search of a hardware store where I might get a key made.  I hadn’t gone far when I ran into Jen and Greg coming out of the vet’s with their two dogs.  I chatted with them for a few minutes and they told me where I could find a locksmith nearby.  The locksmith was practically next door to the convenience store where I planned to buy water.  He made me a key for a measly 15 pesos (about $1.10.)  I picked up two six liter bottles of water at the store and climbed the long flights of stair up to my aerie.

Not long after I returned home, I got a call from Carlos to tell me that he had finished with the passport office in Guadalajara (still no passport, but was finally promised one next week after almost 2 years) and was headed for the bus station to make his way here.  I found it interesting that the person most eager to visit me was only coming from Cabo San Lucas.  Neither Don nor I could convince any of our friends to come before the holidays were over, although I did have three visitors scheduled for late January and February. 

I went down to the Gecko Rojo for happy hour and then returned just in time for a barbecue with my neighbors.  I had suddenly realized that I was leaving soon and had a fridge full of food.  I shared my leftover chile rellenos with them and whipped up some bacon slaw to share.  I met the couple next door and another fellow who lives below me.  I asked Dave and Lisa, next door, how they managed the gnats, since all their windows were open and the floor was not littered with gnat corpses.  They told me they weren’t a problem if you didn’t keep fruit around.  I put my fruit bowl in the refrigerator and never had another problem with gnats.  It was a welcome relief to be able to open the windows again.  I get a nice breeze most of the time, but had been trying to do without opening the windows so that I didn’t need to sweep constantly.

Carlos and Zit Zin
The bus from Guadalajara dropped Carlos and his girlfriend, Zit Zin, off at the turnoff for La Cruz.  This saved them from going all the way to Mezcales, but it was too late for them to find a bus or cab.  They walked most of the way here before getting a ride in the back of a pickup truck.  I went down to meet them and show them the way up the hill.  It was nearly midnight by the time we got back and they had had a long day, so we didn’t get to visit much before it was time to go to bed.





December 6, 2014

We got up in time to listen to the morning net.  Carlos really wanted to see his friends on Emerald Lady, but they didn’t answer the radio, so he figured they were sleeping in late.  We decided to go out to breakfast before dropping in on them.  Carlos remembered a place he liked for breakfast, but they were closed so we ate at a café near the entrance to the marina.  I had eggs and sausage, which turned out to be eggs and hot dog bites, but it was nice to sit and drink coffee in the morning sun and hang out with the kids.  After breakfast, we went in search of Emerald Lady.

Carlos & Zit Zin Dancing in My Apartment
We knew Emerald Lady was in the marina, but security couldn’t locate them on their list until Carlos mentioned that it was the boat with the girl with blue hair and then the guard knew who they were, right away.  We found them way on the outside of the marina and spent several hours chatting with them and relaxing in their cockpit.  Finally, we decided to have a little dinner party up at my house, later.  Carlos, Zit Zin and I left to go to the butcher and the grocery store and then went home to relax and start cooking.  I called Don on the radio to invite him and he told me that my friend, Perry from Felicita, had just arrived.  I invited him, too.  With John, Kelly, and blue haired daughter Rachel from Emerald Lady, that made eight for dinner. 

Dinner Party at My Place
Cooking for a crowd on a small stove without an oven and no decent pots, pans or bowls was a challenge.  We settled on beef fajitas with chips and guacamole, bacon slaw and a jicama mango salad.  I sliced and diced everything before people got there, so just had to cook things once my guests showed up.  We had a really nice party.  It was as if we were a big extended family related through Carlos.  Most of the food got eaten, which really helped to clean out my refrigerator.  We finished dinner just in time to head down to the beach for a full moon bonfire.  We almost forgot to eat the ice cream that Don and Perry had brought, but we hesitated long enough to absorb that.  It was a beautiful night on the beach and many people from the marina came out to enjoy the bonfire.  Mike from PV Sailing had set up speakers and we enjoyed his music until the neighboring beach club drowned it out with their own and we just had to listen to that.  By the time we said our goodbyes and walked back up the hill, we were all tired and satisfied from spending a pleasant day together.

December 7, 2014

Sunrise Over Banderas Bay
Carlos and Zit Zin had a reservation at the nearby Riu for three nights of all inclusive fun.  Check in time was 11:00, so we had a relaxing morning drinking coffee and munching a pound cake that Carlos had brought.  I lounged around a bit after they left, catching up on my email and Facebook.  Then I set off for Nueva Vallarta to go to the bank.  On the way, I stopped by the taxi stand and made a reservation for a cab to pick me up at 4:30 the next morning.  My reservation was written on a tiny chalk board mounted on a column and I admit I had my reservations about whether or not a cab would actually appear.  I figured I could trot down to the marina and have security call one if I got desperate.

My bank was at the mall, so I ate bad Chinese food in the food court for lunch.  There was so much breading on the sweet and sour chicken that each piece resembled a bao (pork bun.)  The prawn was likewise enveloped in dough, more closely resembling a corn dog than a fried shrimp.  After lunch, I bought some more minutes for my Mexican phone and found a store that actually sold bras in my size, but was dismayed to discover that one is not allowed to try on bras or bathing suits in Mexico.  I got lucky, but wouldn’t risk it with an expensive bathing suit.

After returning home, I started packing for my trip to Chiapas the following day and worked on my blog.  At 18:10, I was heating up the sauce to pour over the torta ahogada that Carlos had left me when I ran across Perry’s card and remembered that we were supposed to have met for dinner at 18:00.  Fortunately, we had agreed to bring our radios in case he got lost, so I was able to call him and let him know I was on the way.  Perry wanted to pick my brain about the trip south, as he was headed for Panama.  We ate dinner at the Cava Martinez, a nice restaurant on a side street in La Cruz that I had wanted to try.  I had shrimp enchiladas in salsa verde and they were excellent.  After dinner, we stopped by the Gecko Rojo for a beer, but didn’t stay long because I had packing to do.  We had entertained the idea of my crewing for Perry at some point because he was single-handing, but it didn’t look like the timing would work.  We parted and wished each other safe travels.  I trooped back up the hill to finish packing and try to catch a few hours of sleep before rising at 3:45 to catch my plane.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A CRUISE AROUND BANDERAS BAY

November 24, 2014

While still not feeling up to running, I felt a bit better on Monday morning.  I cooked breakfast, did a little housework, and posted to my blog.  Then I started researching my trip to Chiapas.  I had intended to take the bus, but there were no bus lines that went from Puerto Vallarta all the way to Chiapas.  I would have to change buses (and bus stations) in Mexico City or Puebla.  The trip would take nearly two days in each direction and would not be much cheaper than flying.  Eventually, I gave up and booked a flight, even though it meant that I would not be able to bring the $200 worth of teak oil and cleaner that I had purchased for Fool’s Castle.

Searching for a cheaper alternative, I had somehow (via Kayak, maybe?) ended up on the AeroMexico website, where flights (in pesos) were about $60 US cheaper than on US sites.  It seemed to accept my payment and I thought I had succeeded in booking a flight until I saw a notice that said I had made a reservation, but needed to call them before the flights could be ticketed.  Panic set in.  Speaking Spanish on the telephone was the least of my problems when trying to place calls in Mexico because dialing is fairly complex (different rules for land lines and cell phones and even differences between cell vendors) and I could never hear well enough to understand the messages when I inevitably made an error.  For this reason, I had never succeeded in even setting up the voice mail on my Mexican (or Panamanian) phones.  Of course the notice didn’t give me a number to call, but I eventually found the numbers for customer service on the website.  The first number I tried failed.  The second number looked like a US 800 number but, surprisingly, I got through.  I couldn’t navigate the menu on my first attempt (the mute button on my phone was on), but I eventually determined that was user error and spoke with the ticketing folks.  The problem seemed to be that I was trying to use a foreign credit card.  They eventually took the card, but not before changing the price to US dollars and the same amount as seen on all the US sites.  I wasn’t entirely surprised, as I had tried and failed to purchase plane tickets on French and Turkish sites in the past.  At least I hadn’t lost my reservation because there were only a few seats left.  By the time I got my travel plans squared away, it was 15:30.

My New Blender
My original mission for the day had been to go to Walmart to buy a coffee cone, cheap blender and some speakers for my iPod.  Even though it was getting rather late, I headed down the hill and caught a bus to Walmart.  I debated whether or not to buy a blender that I would, no doubt, end up leaving behind, but decided that three months’ worth of smoothies, margaritas and daiquiris would be worth the price.  I found a cheap Osterizer that looked like it would chop ice for 299 pesos (about $22.)  I also found a fairly nifty set of computer speakers (with sub-woofer) for 349 pesos (about $25) that would not only let me listen to my iPod, but would also make it possible to watch Netflix on my computer without straining to hear.  Those would not be a waste as they would eventually make their way to Fool’s Castle, where Scott and I had been watching movies by sharing one set of earbuds.

Makeshift Coffee Maker
                            I had already looked for a coffee cone at the market and plastic vendor in La Cruz and at the Mega in Mezcales.  While the Walmart carried the filters for a #2 coffee cone, they did not carry the actual cones.  It had never occurred to me that a furnished apartment would have no means for making coffee or that I wouldn’t be able to buy a cone if I needed one.  I scoured the store for a substitute that wouldn’t melt when I poured boiling water on it (like the soda bottle I had tried to use.)  Eventually, I settled on a sieve that would, at least, be useful to strain seeds out of lime juice.


Taking a collective with four shopping bags and a 6 liter bottle of water could have been challenging, but I lucked out and the first one to come along headed in the direction of La Cruz was extra spacious and had a seat open on the aisle in the front where there was plenty of room for my treasures.  I made it back without incident and was happy to discover that I was sufficiently recovered to be able to lug everything up the hill without gasping for breath.  I put everything away, fried up some spicy marinated chicken wings (Man, do I miss those when I’m not in Mexico!), and settled down to watch a few episodes of The Walking Dead, my latest Netflix addiction.

November 25, 2014

The cruisers’ radio net began at 8:30 and I always tried to be up in time for that.  Usually, I was dressed by then, but sometimes drank coffee in my nightgown while I listened.  My position on the hill gave me good reception on my VHF radio, even though I only had a handheld.  It was easy to while away the mornings, reading my email, working on my blog, keeping up with my friends on Facebook, and playing games.  Other than to run, I seldom left the house before early afternoon.  Sweeping up the daily harvest of dead gnats was another occupation.  My new blender and the frozen strawberries I had purchased the day before made it possible to resume my habit of drinking smoothies for breakfast.

My Dog Friend
Before I left Benicia, I had located a CrossFit gym in Bucerias and really looked forward to working out there.  By the time I arrived in La Cruz, however, the website had been suspended.  I had a bad feeling that the gym no longer existed, but decided it was worth going over there to check it out.  About 14:30, I left the apartment and strolled down the hill.  There was a playful young dog that lived on the street leading to my apartment.  His owners tried to keep him tied to the tree outside their front door, but he often chewed through his rope and came running to greet me and chew on my fingers.  He was adorable and clearly desperate for attention, tugging at my clothes if I ignored him.  He clearly desired a more present companion and it broke my heart to leave him sitting forlornly by the side of the road.  At least he was clean and seemed well fed.  I always stopped and gave him a scratch on my way past.

Abandoned CrossFit Gym
There was a collectivo waiting when I got to the bus stop and I took it to downtown Bucerias.  Giving the aggressive vendors in the Bucerias Flea Market a wide berth, I sought out the address where the CrossFit gym had been.  There seemed to be two separate numbering systems operating on Avenida Lazaro Cardenas, but I eventually found the spot where a CrossFit banner hung from one corner and weeds filled the yard.  Clearly, the gym had not succeeded.  I was disappointed, but not surprised.

Feeling like I needed to get some real exercise after my days of illness induced idleness, I decided to see if I could walk back to La Cruz along the beach.  While it was a much longer drive by the road, it looked to be less than four miles via the shore.  My only concern was that I was looking straight into the sun and couldn’t tell if the sand stretched all the way around to the marina.  I kicked off my flip flops and set off across the sand, figuring that the worst thing that could happen would be that I would have to return to the highway and take the bus back.
The Beach in Bucerias

Rocks at Pelican Point
The beach in Bucerias was wide and sandy and lined with expensive condominiums and beachfront bars and restaurants.  A cold front was passing through, so the weather was perfect for walking.  After the first couple of miles, the condos gave way to private homes and the beach became more secluded.

Between Bucerias and La Cruz, Pelican Point juts out into the bay.  A fancy condo complex covered the side facing Bucerias.  There was a nice beach fronting the condos, but the going got rocky as I started around the point.  The rocks extended far out into the bay, but the tide was low, so I had no trouble pressing on.  On the La Cruz side of the point, there were a number of nice resorts occupying sandy coves.  They didn’t look like they wanted strangers on their beaches, but there was no one around, so I walked purposefully on towards the marina.  Pelican Point was clearly named for the many pelicans that hung out there, fishing among the rocks.  Several kinds of egrets and herons fished there, also.  It was a great place to watch birds and I paused to take a few photographs.  Eventually, I cleared the resorts and relaxed as I reached the familiar public beach next to the marina where fishermen were launching pangas using a pickup truck.  I climbed onto the breakwater and circled the marina to drop in on Don and see if I could induce him to go out for tacos.

Heron Eating a Crab
Spectacular Sunset
When I reached Comet, I found Don scrap-ing the patch that we had so care-fully applied off of the dinghy.  It had held for a couple of days and then begun to leak.  I couldn’t believe that a four inch diameter patch couldn’t contain a pinhole leak, but it appeared that, not having a brush, we had applied too much glue and the air was able to escape from between the lumps.  Don cleaned all the rubber cement off the dinghy and I helped him apply three new layers, this time using a brush.  The glue went on much more smoothly, so we hoped our second patch would hold.  Don clamped it between two steel chain plates, just to be sure that it adhered properly.  We were hoping to go sailing to Punta Mita and Yelapa over Thanksgiving and wanted to be sure the dinghy would be operable.  The sun set while we worked on the dinghy and the colors were stunning.  Once we finished working on the dinghy, Don and I walked up to town and at tacos at our favorite street taco cart before I headed up the hill to my apartment.

November 26, 2014

Wednesday was a relaxing day.  I spent the day puttering around the apartment and working on my blog.  Before I knew it, it was time to head down to the Gecko Rojo for Mexican Train dominoes.  We played a couple of games and I won 60 pesos in the second game.  After dominoes, I went with Dani (a local woman who was involved in local animal charities) to catch some homeless puppies in an empty lot in La Cruz.  She had a home for one of them and wanted to take the others somewhere they could be cared for until they were adopted.  It was dark when we got there.  The puppy that had been spoken for was wandering around by herself, so we grabbed that one.  When we approached the others, an adult dog growled at us.  A female dog (not their absent mother) had adopted them and was nursing them.  We took the one puppy and decided to leave the others for the time being, since they were being well fed and had round little tummies.  I held the puppy while Dani drove us back to the bar.  She snuggled up to my chest and fell asleep.  She was precious.

November 27, 2014, Thanksgiving

Don and I had decided that we wanted to sail to Punta de Mita for Thanksgiving.  I packed enough things to go sailing for four or five days into Scott’s military duffle (with shoulder straps) and tossed what perishable food I figured wouldn’t last until my return into the ice chest Don had left at my place when I moved in.  I carried the whole load down the hill and met Don at the market in La Cruz where we picked up a few items to round out our provisions and then headed down to the boat.

The Anchorage at Punta de Mita
We left the marina just after noon.  It was only about eight miles to Punta Mita from La Cruz, but we sailed almost the whole way, so it took us nearly four hours of tacking back and forth to finally reach the anchorage.  It was a gorgeous mild day and we both felt extremely thankful to be where we were on that Thanksgiving Day.  We anchored close to the beach and then took the dinghy in behind a small breakwater where there was a sheltered spot to land.  The sand was very soft and the beach steep, so it was a chore to drag the dinghy up above the tide line, but we succeeded.  We stopped at El Coral for a celebratory margarita and then walked around the main drag of Punta de Mita.  Private homes and golf courses occupy the actual point.  Hotels and restaurants line the beach as far as the stream.  Further east, on the other side of the stream, there were more homes and condos. 
Margarita's on the Right

After checking out our options, we opted to eat at Margarita’s, on the far eastern side of the beach.  They were serving a turkey buffet, but we decided that it would be safer to order Mexican food if we wanted a delicious meal.  We started with a shrimp cocktail.  I ordered beef fajitas and Don got a chile relleno.  The waiter brought us some complimentary ceviche.  Everything was very good.  We ate in the restaurant where there was enough light to see our food, but there were candlelit tables set up out on the jetty with twinkling rope lights outlining the seating area that made for nice ambiance. We ate a leisurely meal and quaffed a couple of more margaritas in honor of the holiday.  I missed spending the holiday with friends and family, but could hardly complain about where I was.  We really did have a perfect evening.

November 28, 2014

Frigate Birds Chasing a Panga at Punta de Mita
After a number of margaritas the night before, we got a slow start.  We wanted to swim, but it was cool in the morning.  By the time we waited for it to warm up and finally swam and showered with water heated in the sun, it was 13:30.  We wanted to check out the Tres Marietas, a series of islands at the entrance to Banderas Bay.  There wasn’t much wind, so we motored out there.  By the time we made our way around to the far side where the preferred anchorage was, it was just after 15:00.  The tour boats were casting off their moorings and heading back to shore.  We could have grabbed a mooring and gone snorkeling, but we wanted to make it to Yelapa before dark.  We decided to leave exploring the Tres Marietas for another day when we could get an early start.

There still wasn’t any wind, so we motored the rest of the way to Yelapa.  We saw a pair of whales frolicking in the bay.  When we got close, a fellow in a panga zipped out to offer us a mooring.  The water in Yelapa was very deep, so it was difficult to anchor there.  We rented a mooring for 100 pesos.  It was 140 feet deep where we were moored.  A baby humpback whale flipped his tail at us a few times.  We never spotted his mother, which suited us just fine.  Yelapa was very green and tropical looking, with lots of palm trees sticking up out of the jungle.  Our first night there, we didn’t leave the boat.  We sipped cocktails and admired the scenery while I prepared pasta with sauce I had made previously and a big salad.  A chill breeze blew out of the mountains as soon as the sun set.  Even inside the boat, I needed my fleece jacket, which I hadn’t worn since Bahia Santa Maria.  Having left my warm sleeping bag back in the apartment, I slept in my fleece and woke up cold several times during the night.  It was definitely cooler than it had been the previous year when I spent my time in La Cruz madly constructing a shade structure to keep us from baking in the heat.  Without so much as a boom tent, the temperature aboard Comet stayed quite pleasant.
The Beach at Yelapa

November 29, 2014
Comet at Yelapa
We dawdled over coffee and breakfast, waiting for it to warm up enough for a swim.  The sun was warm and we eventually enjoyed swimming in the coolish deep water.  Patches of water were quite warm and other patches were decidedly chill.  We figured this phenomenon was the result of the cool river water mixing with the warm bay water.  After swimming and showering, we hopped in the dinghy and made our way to the shore and Domingo’s Restaurant who owned our mooring and promised to watch our dinghy while we explored Yelapa.  Our first stop was lunch or, in my case, breakfast.  I ordered huevos rancheros. 

The Main Street of Yelapa
Don at the Waterfall
After eating, we waded across the thigh deep and swiftly moving river and climbed up a flight of stairs to the wide path that served as the main street of Yelapa.  Yelapa was not served by a proper road and the only vehicles in evidence were ATVs.  Supplies and tourists arrived by boat.  We walked along the side of the hill to the center of town where another path followed a small stream uphill to a waterfall.  A few other tourists were drinking and eating at the restaurant at the base of the falls and some local youths were climbing the rocks and jumping into the pool at the base of the falls.  We weren’t tempted to swim in the chilly water when the water all around our boat was a much more pleasant temperature, but we did appreciate the scenery.  Yelapa is a well-known destination, but we were surprised to see that it was not terribly overbuilt or expensive.  A few tour boats disgorged passengers for long enough to walk through town and eat lunch, but the place was surprisingly sleepy.  We walked through town and picked up a few grocery items at the local tienda before heading back towards the boat.  On the way back, we decided to ford the river further upstream where the water was shallower.  The crossing was much easier, but we did have to pick our way through a terribly muddy stretch where the preferred path was actually across underwater sandbags, rather than through the calf deep mud where the water had receded.  We had to wash our feet and shoes before jumping in the dinghy to return to Comet.
The Ford at Yelapa

 Once again, I scrounged dinner and a salad in the boat.  It was just as cold as it had been the previous night.  Don broke out the pair of sleeping bags he had brought along for emergencies.  I slept cozily with a blanket pulled up to my chin for most of the night.










November 30, 2014

The Anchorage at Yelapa
Yelapa was beautiful, but there were other ports to explore in Banderas Bay.  After another slow moving morning and swim in the cool, clear Yelapa water, we set off for Los Arcos just after noon.  We followed the southern shore of Banderas Bay, past Mismaloya to the cluster of small islands known as Los Arcos because of the sea caves carved into their bases.  Once again, we arrived about 15:00 and had to choose between stopping to snorkel and arriving at our destination (Marina Vallarta) before dark.  We decided to leave swimming at Los Arcos for another day and headed downtown.
Entering Marina Vallarta


Empty Slips in Marina Vallarta
I had not been to Marina Vallarta for twenty years.  It was still a popular marina in 1994, but had fallen out of favor.  Having walked around the neighborhood when we came to get Don’s TIP, I knew it wasn’t because the neighborhood was bad.  We decided to check it out.  We couldn’t raise anyone on the radio, so motored down the channel and putted around the marina until we attracted the attention of security.  The guard said there was room for us, but told us we needed to go to the port captain’s office first.  We headed over there but, once we realized there was nowhere to tie up, I just called them on the radio, knowing we had already checked in at La Cruz.  Once I explained that we were merely coming from within the bay, the port captain gave us permission to continue to Marina Vallarta.  We couldn’t find the guard again, so pulled into an empty slip on the dock where he had directed us before sending us to the port captain.  Once we were tied up, both the guard and his supervisor arrived.  It was late on Sunday afternoon and the office was closed, but they looked at our check-in paperwork from La Cruz and other documents and decided we could stay.  It was immediately clear why cruisers eschew Marina Vallarta.  The docks were in very poor repair.  The gates did not lock and the trash containers were screwed shut.  There was no water or power on the dock and they wouldn’t give us a key to the restrooms.  Despite all these drawbacks, the nightly rate was about the same as in La Cruz.

Being self-sufficient, the lack of amenities didn’t disturb us overly much.  The security folks were very helpful and directed us to Victor’s restaurant where we had a tasty Mexican dinner and every beer and margarita came with a free shot of tequila.  After dinner, Victor stopped by our table and sent us complimentary Kahlua and creams.  We took a stroll along the malecon to counteract some of the alcohol and then slept well, happy to be out of the chilly Yelapa air.

December 1, 2014
Marina Vallarta in the Morning

Marina Vallarta was quiet in the morning.  We sipped our coffee and listened to the net.  Then we went to the office to pay for our slip.  While we were out, we went for a walk to Zaragoza Marine so that Don could get a new fitting for his outboard motor fuel line.  Many marine parts are quite expensive in Mexico, but that fitting cost about a third what it would have in the USA for the exact same thing.  We took a side trip up the road to an ATM and stopped at a drugstore on the way back for deodorant and popsicles.  By 11:30, we were underway again. 

Don had never been to Nuevo Vallarta, so we motored over there and took a cruise around the Nuevo Vallarta and Paradise Village marinas.  It was fun to see some of the boats we had been hearing on the net every morning.  It was a beautiful day, but there wasn’t enough wind to even bother raising the main sail.  An hour or so after leaving Nuevo Vallarta, we pulled back into Marina La Cruz, feeling satisfied that we had explored all the options and had selected by far the best location.  Upon our return, Don was disappointed that he was not assigned the same slip.  His new slip was on Dock 4, which was on the other side of the marina and a long walk from the office and restrooms, although much closer to town.  His disappointment soon turned to happiness, however, when he discovered that he had a strong Wi-Fi signal from his new location and could finally connect his computer to the internet.

My Building
I left the boat in the early afternoon and lugged my belongings back up the hill in the heat of the day.  I was happy to see my shower and glad to discover that, even though I had left the windows closed, the apartment was not too hot.  Best of all, the floor was not littered with gnat corpses.  After cleaning up, I spent the evening writing and catching up on email.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

AN APARTMENT IN THE SKY

November 17, 2014

Once again, I got up early to run.  This time, I ran nearly three miles before heading for the showers.  I stopped to check my email for responses regarding my apartment search, but hadn’t heard from anyone.  Just about the time I finished my morning coffee, my phone started to ring.  The owner of the apartment building got back to me.  He seemed to consider three and a half months long term enough and was eager to show me his available places.  We agreed to meet at 17:00.  

Don and I flipped the dinghy over and soaped it down in search of the leak in one of the pontoons.  We had assumed it would be the valve or one of the seams leaking, but they all seemed OK.  Finally, we soaped down the whole pontoon and, though I never did see any bubbles, I could hear the leak.  It turned out to be a tiny pinhole in the fabric.  We pulled out the patch kit and glued a patch over the hole.  Later, we visited the owners of Deborah Rae, who were getting ready to return to Southern California until January and wanted to give us some of the fish they had caught.  We received a nice filet of dorado and some wahoo steaks.

Back at the boat, I got a text from the owners of the other possible rental, wanting me to come over and see it ASAP.  The house was right in town, close to the bus stop.  When I rang the bell, I was surprised to learn that the owners were a couple I had met the previous year when they had been partners in the Gecko Rojo.  They had a big house with three upstairs rooms that they rented.  Their nightly rate was $40, but they agreed to a rate of 6000 pesos (about $462) a month for the 3.5 months of my stay.  The room was large and airy, had a private bath, and a small outdoor kitchen.  The rent included house privileges, utilities, and internet.  There was a large shady yard and a rooftop patio.  I liked them and liked the idea of living in a house where everyone I knew in La Cruz would be coming and going, but wanted to see the other apartments before making a commitment.  While Greg and Jen assured me that beds could be found if I had guests, I still liked the idea of having two bedrooms.

Exotic Point Condominiums
At 17:00, I picked Kathy up at the beach club and we climbed up the hill to look at the apartments.  The Exotic Point complex was at the top of a hill overlooking La Cruz.  Getting there involved climbing a few blocks up a steep cobblestoned street.  The owner’s son, with whom I had spoken, had told me that it was below the big white cross, but there were two big white crosses, so it took us a few minutes to determine where to go.  When we finally got there, we were greeted by the caretaker, Benito.  The first apartment that we looked at was at the bottom of a long flight of stairs and was so large that I mistook the kitchen and living area for a common area.  The ad in Craigslist had said the two bedrooms were something like 325 square feet, but they were closer to 325 square meters.  The first one we looked at was nice, but the second one he showed us was really spectacular.  It had two large bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms and a huge kitchen/living area.  The living area had lovely murals and was completely fronted by opening plate glass windows that offered a view of the entire Banderas Bay.  A built in circular banquette faced the windows.  At 8000 pesos per month (less than $600) it was a steal.  We also looked at the studios and one bedrooms, which were nice and somewhat cheaper, but nowhere near the value of the two bedrooms.  I decided to take the second two bedroom apartment.

View from My Apartment
The owner didn’t require a deposit, but wanted me to pay 50% of the season’s rental as a deposit and the rest upon move in.  I didn’t have that much on me and explained that I could only get about 7000 pesos per day out of the ATM.  I gave him the 2600 pesos that I had and promised to hoard as much cash as I could over the few days before I could move in.  We agreed that I would move in on Thursday.

Kathy and I were in a celebratory mood as we walked down the hill.  The owner of La Glorieta de Enrique (a restaurant) had invited me inside every time I passed last year and commenced doing so, again, when I returned.  This time we decided to stop in for at least a drink.  Enrique tempted us with the idea of coconut shrimp with mango salsa and we ordered what we thought would be an appetizer and turned out to be enough food to make dinner for both of us.  The prawns (too big to be called mere shrimp) were about five inches long and we got five of them.  They came served with rice, salad, and a baked potato.  I had a beer and Kathy ordered a margarita that, even with my assistance, she was unable to finish.  By the time we dragged ourselves back to the boat, cooking a full dinner was out of the question.  I made some guacamole and Don had chips and guac for dinner.  We all retired early.

November 18, 2014

Our mission for the day was to get a temporary import permit for Don’s boat.  We went into Puerto Vallarta to visit Banjercito, the naval bank that issues the permits and collects the fees.  Kathy decided to come along and visit her timeshare further down the coast to take care of some business there.  We took the bus into town.  Our stop came up rather unexpectedly, so we made a quick plan to meet at the entrance to Marina Vallarta at 17:00 unless Kathy texted us with a different plan and Don and I hopped off the bus.  We got off too soon, but didn’t walk nearly as far as Scott and I had, last year, before I realized we were in the wrong place.  We got on another bus and managed to disembark directly in front of our destination the second time.

Getting a temporary import permit (TIP) for your boat is the worst hassle about cruising in Mexico.  You are supposed to get it before you arrive and can supposedly do it online, but I don’t know anyone who has ever succeeded in doing so.  They keep changing the requirements and always seem to need some additional document.  The offices where they can be obtained are few and far between and there isn’t one in Cabo.  The previous year, Scott and I had obtained ours in Puerto Vallarta just the day before SAT (the Mexican IRS) agents stormed the marina and impounded all the boats without valid TIPs.

Banjercito in Puerto Vallarta

We arrived at Banjercito just after noon and soon learned that we would need a copy of the invoice for the dinghy or dinghy registration in order to get the TIP.  At first, we were stumped.  We had the packing list, but that was not acceptable.  Don’s new dinghy had never been registered in California, so we couldn’t go that route.  We had an order confirmation in an old email on Don’s tablet, but they wouldn’t take that, either.  They had to have an invoice, which Don had never received.  We retreated to the shopping mall across the street to get something to eat and think while enjoying the air conditioning.  While we ate tacos, I emailed Defender, where Don had purchased the dinghy, and they miraculously responded with a copy of the invoice before we finished lunch.  Fortunately, I knew where to find the internet café around the corner because we had had to go there to use the copy machine the previous year.  We printed out a copy of the invoice and headed back to Banjercito. 

It was about 14:00 when we got back.  The clerk was satisfied with our paperwork and set about entering all the information into her system.  The system kept crashing and it took her four or five tries to get to the stage of printing the actual TIP.  TIPs are holographic and printing them is a two-step process.  The clerk had no trouble with the first step which just involved feeding the form through a normal printer, but had terrible difficulty with the holographic printer.  She just couldn’t get it to work.  We waited for two hours while she called her IT department and grappled with the equipment.  The security guard locked the door and drew the curtains.  All of the other customers left and we were still there.  We were afraid we would have to come back another day, but about 16:15 she finally managed to get it to work.  We completed the process, Don paid the fee, and we just had enough time to take a bus down to Zaragoza Marine to do our shopping before meeting Kathy at 17:00.

Zaragoza Marina is a huge store and has a marvelous selection of boating parts and supplies, fishing gear, and water sport equipment.  Don needed some snaps to replace the cheesy ones we bought in Cabo that deformed when we installed them.  It took some digging on the part of the clerk, but he eventually found some nice stainless ones.  I picked up the gallon of teak oil that Scott had requested I buy for Fool’s Castle and some teak cleaner for good measure.  I had withdrawn 7,000 pesos from the ATM at Banjercito, but wanted to try to get some more.  While Don waited for Kathy, I tried a couple of different banks, but the network seemed to be down.  When I got back at 17:10, Kathy still hadn’t arrived.  The battery on my phone had died, so we didn’t know if Kathy had tried to text or not.  Someone had called me earlier in the day but, when I called the number, no one knew a Kathy Smith.  My voicemail was not set up, so I couldn’t access any messages she might have left.  We waited until 17:45 and then decided she must have gone home without us.  We took the bus back to La Cruz.

Kathy was not at the boat when we returned, but her phone was charging on the chart table.  I plugged in my phone and, after it charged for a few minutes, could see that someone had called again from the same number.  I compared the number to the listing of resorts and determined that the call had come from Kathy’s timeshare but, when I tried to call again, they still had no idea how to find her, since she wasn’t a guest there.  Apparently, there was a large 35th anniversary party going on.  Don and I hoped that Kathy had just decided to stay for the party and would try to call later.  We heated up some chili for dinner, since the fish I had planned to cook was frozen solid, and settled in for a quiet evening.  Kathy finally returned about 11:00, having stayed for the party and then taken the bus back.

November 19, 2014

Front View of Exotic Point Condos
I needed to get more cash, so I got up and set off to the Santander bank in Nuevo Vallarta.  Unfortunately, when I got there, I was still unable to withdraw money.  I had an appointment to meet with my new landlord at noon.  I had hoped to have more cash to give him, but went up there with the 7,000 pesos I had.  Jorge, the owner, was much more understanding than his son had led me to believe he would be.  

Figuring that maybe I could only withdraw cash once in a 24 hour period, I stopped in a little roadside restaurant for a bowl of meatball soup before walking up to the Oxxo (convenience store) on the edge of town to try the ATM there.  That ATM would only give me 2000 pesos at a time, so I didn’t want to waste what might be my only opportunity for such a small amount.  I got on a bus and went up to the Mega in Mezcales where there were a couple of banks.  None of them would give me money from my Bank of America account.  It dawned on me, while I was there, that I also had a Citibank account, but had left my Citibank ATM card at the boat with my US dollars and other stuff I never use in Mexico.  In desperation, I withdrew 7000 pesos using my credit card.  Then I hurried back to the boat to say goodbye to Kathy, who was flying out that afternoon.

It seemed like I barely had time to walk Kathy up to the bus stop and talk to my bank about unfreezing my ATM card before it was time to head up to the Gecko Rojo for Wednesday night Mexican train dominoes.  I knew about half of the players from last year, but things had gotten serious and they were now playing for money.  This left me in a pickle, since I had a severe shortage of cash.  After I lost the first round, Mike from PV Sailing had to lend me 10 pesos so I could stay in the game.  It was fun to see folks, but the game broke up early because Mike and Katrina had to get back to the marina for the pre-opening party at Frascati, an Italian restaurant that used to be on the circle at the entrance to town, but had just moved to the location upstairs at the marina.  I had some fish to cook at Don’s boat, so took the opportunity to duck out and return to the boat.  I made a salad and fried the last yam.  We barbecued the wahoo that our neighbors had given us.  We had thought about going out to hear some music after dinner, but neither of us was that motivated.  We stayed in and watched a bootleg copy of Interstellar that Don had picked up from the video vendor near the bus stop.  It was a terrible copy and it was often hard to tell what was going on.  It seemed like a good movie, despite being three hours long.  I barely managed to stay awake until the end.

November 20, 2014

Interior of My Apartment
With Kathy’s stuff out of the boat, it seemed very spacious in there.  I got up and started packing.  My next task was to return to the Santander bank to get more cash for my landlord.  This time, I remembered to take both ATM cards, so was able to get 14,000 pesos.  When I returned with the money, Don and I loaded all my belongings into a dock cart, wheeled them up to the parking lot and called a cab.  Don came along to help me move stuff.  After he left, I unpacked and put stuff away.  I walked down the hill to the local market and bought a few food items and some cleaning supplies.  I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning. The place looked tidy when I moved in, but was actually fairly dirty.  Soon it was time to return to the marina for movie night.

November 21, 2014

The sun really shone into my apartment in the morning.  The bedrooms were screened from all that brilliance, but it was rather shocking once I wandered out into the main living area.  I had volunteered to help John, a blind skipper, move his boat from Paradise Village to La Cruz and was due to meet by fellow volunteers at the marina at 9:30.  I walked down there and met the guys at the dock.  Then we walked up to the bus stop and took a bus to the Sam’s Club in Nuevo Vallarta where we were able to catch another bus to take us to Paradise Village.

John had a very nice Ericson 34 and it was a beautiful day, although there wasn’t enough wind to actually sail.  We motored across the bay to La Cruz and visited the fuel dock before delivering John to his slip.  It was amazing to see how well John was able to get around his boat and up and down docks without being able to see.  It scared the heck out of me when he hopped off the boat onto the dock when we arrived, but all went smoothly.  The whole process was completed before noon.  Since John’s slip was on the same dock as Comet, I stopped in to say hello to Don.  Then I decided to take advantage of my free afternoon to take another bus trip to the Mega for groceries and household items.

The Daunting Hill
I didn’t mean to purchase more than I could carry up the hill, but I started coming down with a cold while I was at the Mega and knew that I wouldn’t be up to carrying anything up the hill, anyway, so I bought most of what I needed and then took a cab back up the hill.  My place was nominally furnished, but lacked much in the way of dishes, cooking utensils or towels.  I bought some cheap items that I wouldn’t mind abandoning at the end of the season.  I was feeling pretty sick and had a terrible sore throat by the time I got home.  It was all I could do to put everything away.  I made a pot of hot Tang and retired to the couch.  I planned to sleep there all night, (The couch is much more comfortable than the bed.) but the neighbors were having a loud party that lasted literally all night and they finally drove me into the quieter bedroom about three in the morning.


November 22, 2014

Being sick and not having slept well the previous night, I slept late.  My throat was killing me.  Eventually, I got up and walked down the hill to the farmacia to get some aspirin and throat lozenges.  I picked up my laundry from Sonja on the way back.  Visiting with Sonja was always enjoyable.  She was usually eager to converse with me in Spanish and I got caught up on all the gossip from the marina.  Climbing back up the hill with my laundry took what little energy I had and I spent several hours napping and lounging on the couch.

I would have been content to stay right there on the couch, but there was a big party at PV Sailing at 16:00 and everybody was going to be there.  I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to meet people, so I hauled myself over there.  There were cheap beer and delicious fish tacos and a big crowd of sailors and marine purveyors.  I met a couple of my neighbors from Monte Calvario (the name of my street and the hill on which I live) and got filled in on the upcoming social calendar.  Don arrived fashionably late.  We stayed until the party started to wind down and then walked through the darkening town to the grocery store.  Don picked up a few groceries and I bought a broom and dustpan so that I could do battle with the alarming quantity of dead gnats accumulating on my apartment floor.  We parted there, agreeing to meet at the farmers’ market the following day.

November 23, 2014

Still not feeling too well, I slept and lounged in bed until 11:00.  I got up and decided to sweep the floor.  When I moved in, I was concerned about the lack of screens on the windows because I feared that mosquitoes would get in.  Mosquitoes weren’t a problem, but gnats were.  They weren’t bothersome while living, but died in droves, littering the white and light blue tiles and window ledges.  After two days, the place looked like it hadn’t been cleaned for a year.  I had to sweep the kitchen floor twice a day.  Three quarters of the way through the project, I realized that I had been supposed to meet Don at the farmers’ market.  I finished the floor, grabbed a quick breakfast, and headed out the door about 12:15.

My first stop was the smaller market in the plaza.  There had been a nut vendor there that I had frequented the previous year and I was happy to see him again because it is hard to find good almonds in Mexico.  I bought half a pound and he insisted on giving me a handful of candied pecans, which were delightful and way too tempting to ever buy any.  The woman selling tamales was there, too, and I bought several.  

The farmers’ market was still going when I got there, although not as busy as it had been the previous week when we got there earlier.  I bought a t-shirt for my friend, Cynthia, and strolled along, keeping an eye out for Don, until I came across a poster for my favorite band, Luna Rumba, at a stall selling coffee.  I had just started talking to the vendor, a gringo I recognized from last year, when Don came up behind me and startled me.  He distracted me, but not before I learned that Luna Rumba would be playing five concerts at Philo’s over the course of the season.  They must have been doing well because, instead of playing free shows every Wednesday night, they were now selling tickets for 100 pesos.  I was dismayed to discover that I would be in Chiapas during their first show and would have to wait until late January to see them (at least at Philo’s.)
Band Playing at the Farmers' Market


Don and I strolled out to the point and bought some cool juice.  There was a fun mambo band playing and we enjoyed the music, especially the horn section, in my case.  Don wanted to see the vendors in the park, so we stopped back by there on the way to Don’s boat.    I was starting to flag, but needed to pick up the jar of coffee I had left on the boat.  I collected the coffee and lounged in the cockpit until I collected enough energy to make it back up the hill.  Returning home, I camped on the couch and pretty much remained there until the following morning.