Our first cruise-out to St Francis YC

IMG_5988The Club at Westpoint’s first cruise out was to the world famous St. Francis YC in San Francisco. With cruising to St. FYC, our spectacular San Francisco weather, and our six boats attending, Carolyn and I felt it was a fantastic weekend. After arriving on Friday afternoon and the staff atSt. FYC assisting with the docking, we had cocktails on the outside deck at the club in warm weather (not found in the summertime!) and then went to St. FYC’s magnificent seafood buffet – salad, crab, oysters, many fish dishes, sushi bar, even prime rib, and dessert bar! Saturday started with our members heading in different directions into the City. One of the main attractions was the Disney Museum in the Presidio. We would really like to thank John and LuAnne Graves for hosting our first “docktails” on “Grunion”.  So much food (before dinner…) supplied by everyone and I definitely lost track of wine bottles that we consumed.  Well, that ended with a great dinner at St. FYC watching the lights turn on on the Golden Gate Bridge. Thank you, Peter, for wine at dinner! After dinner, Vladimir and Liliana invited everyone to their boat, “This is it” for after dinner drinks. What a great boat and I cannot believe how hard that I laughed into the wee hours of night… Thank you, Vladimir and Liliana, for making this a tremendous experience! We woke up to the one hour time change, saved an hour of sleep, but still had to catch the early flood for the cruise back the south bay. Again, many thanks to all participants and will be looking to make this an annual event!

International Cruising Program – August 24, 2019

IMG_8741I’m excited to announce that we’ve selected the leeward side of the Society Island as the location to launch our International Cruising Program; We’re going to French Polynesia! This stunningly beautiful area in the South Pacific includes the idyllic islands of Tahiti, Raiatea, Moorea, Tahaa and Bora Bora. These islands offer crystal clear waters, perfect tropical temperatures, steady winds, protected anchorages, and open blue-water crossings from island to island.
Unlike our local cruise outs, for the International Cruise Program, the first step in preparing is to arrange/charter a boat and pull together your crew. Boats charter from the island of Raiatea, from the chartering companies Moorings or Dream Yachts. There are easy, and at least one direct, flights from San Francisco to Papeete, Tahiti, landing at Fa’a’a International Airport. Once in Tahiti, it’s a quick island-hopper flight to Raiatea. And, both charter bases are within a mile of the Raiatea airport. Both charter bases offer bareboat charters, and also fully crewed charters.
As of this publication, there are five boats chartered, with a mixture of our Club at Westpoint members and Sequoia Yacht Club members:
Shannon Amerman – Club at Westpoint – Lagoon 62, a crew of 11
John Graves – Club at Westpoint – Dufour 520, a crew of 4
Steve Holmstrom – SYC – Bali 4.5 Luxe, a crew of 8
Mike Kastrop – Club at Westpoint – Moorings 4800, a crew of 8
Eric Jessen – SYC – Sun Odyssey 439, a crew of 4
Of the boats already scheduled, we all start on August 24, 2019. Some of us are going for a seven-day charter, others for 10 days; cruise as long as you like!
If you are interested or have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Shannon Amerman or John Graves; co-cruise out captains supporting the Club at Westpoint members.
Shannon and John
For more information complete the form below.

The Club in Latitude 38

Great update about the Club from Tim Henry at Latitude 38. Thank Tim. Read about us here.

There’s a new club coming to the Bay Area’s newest piece of waterfront, and it will have yachts. But don’t call it a yacht club.

The Club at Westpoint was formed in January, and as of the summer, already had nearly 100 members signed up. Currently housed on the top floor of the Westpoint Harbor harbor house in Redwood City, the Club at Westpoint hopes to break ground soon on a “high-tech, modern, super-cool, classy, sophisticated, elegant 15,000 square-foot two-level building,” according to Kevin Parker, one of the people behind the Club at Westpoint. Parker says the club hopes to have a soft opening at Thanksgiving, with the full opening in December 2019.

An artist’s rendering of the proposed Club at Wesptoint. The new building will also have showers and changing facilities for sailors coming off the snortin’ summer South Bay.

© 2018 Club at Westpoint

“We deliberately chose not to use the words ‘yacht club,’” Parker added. “There is a certain impression that people get from ‘yacht clubs’ that can be intimidating and excluding. We want to be an inclusive club that anyone can join. The idea of the Club at Westpoint is that we’re a premier sporting and social club where people can come and enjoy the water and the weather. Our motto is ‘no boat, no problem’. We want to make it as open as possible.”

Parker said that the two-floor Club at Westpoint will have a casual downstairs bar and restaurant, “serving good, wholesome food in the style of a British pub.” The downstairs will also feature a conference center, which will double as an event space and be available to rent out. The bottom floor will open onto a one-acre green area, where there will be indoor and outdoor seating. Redwood City is, of course, known for his exceptional microclimate, which tends to be a few degrees warmer than the surrounding towns during the summer months.

With a new club comes a new burgee.

© 2018 The Club at Wespoint

Parker said the upstairs will have a fine-dining restaurant on a private deck overlooking Westpoint Harbor. The club plans to source local food and beer. Parker went on to say that the Club at Westpoint plans to be environmentally conscious and sustainable, “We’re going to build ways of filtering rainwater and using other organic methods in our operation. We’re also going to offer a residential program for ornithologists or biologists, where they can use the clubhouse as a venue for marine sciences, to help us all become better stewards.”

Originally from the UK, Parker went to work at Pacific Shores Center, a high-tech business park adjacent to Westpoint Harbor. He decided to look for “lower-cost living,” bought a boat, and kept it at Westpoint. “That gave me the ability to be on the water three days a week, and to be part of an amazing community.”

For more information, please go to The Club at Westpoint.

 

Nuevo Vallarta to Mazatlan – Pangas, Bees, and Pelicans

Welcome back to the “Black Hole” (aka Mazatlan).  Much like its astral counterpart, this Black Hole sucks in things (in this case cruisers and their boats), but (unlike its space cousin) escape is possible with sufficient mental and physical effort.  You “gotta wanna” leave really badly to make it happen.  Our Hero has a severe case of the “wannas” and is just waiting for a “weather window” (i.e., the right wind speed and direction) to make crossing the Sea of Cortez something less than an ordeal.

In the fourth saga, Our Hero (aka “The Captain”) plus “The Admiral” (Paula) completed numerous “recon missions” that involved La Cruz, Punta de Mita, Bucerias, and Puerto Vallarta.  Of course, recon mission is a euphemism for shopping, sightseeing, and eating in local restaurants.  Needless to say, there wasn’t much sailing involved in all that.  No Moss served as a floating respite and transportation from Nuevo Vallarta to La Cruz and then back again.

This saga chapter will fill you in on The Captain’s adventures on the “high seas” as he backtracks from Nuevo Vallarta to Mazatlan.  Why you might ask is he returning to Mazatlan?  Well, as it turns out that’s the only way to get to the Sea of Cortez.  So, fasten your seat belt as we go charging up the coast at a breakneck speed of 4-5 knots (about 5-6 mph for you non-nautical people).

“Dodge’m Boats.”  It’s not an amusement park ride like “Dodge’m Cars.”  It’s the real deal and what The Captain had to do to get out of the harbor and exit the breakwater on a Saturday (27 Feb).  Lots of boats (sportfishers, private yachts of all sizes, tour boats, and local pangas, to name a few) come and go and criss-cross the small harbor; some enter and exit through the narrow breakwater channel.

Our Hero’s careful navigation, patience, and good fortune saved the day.  Once out of the breakwater and clear of most of the boat traffic, The Captain wiped his sweaty brow in relief and settled into the routine of passage-making.

This leg of the cruise from Nuevo Vallarta to the anchorage at Punta de Mita was short (13nm, 3.5 hrs) and not without its frustration of some wind then no wind.  Essentially, it was another motor-sail with the motor providing the drive and the jib occasionally helping with an additional half-knot of boat speed.  With about six miles left to go, the wind veered to the right on the bow and the jib was furled. So much for the highly-touted sailing on Banderas Bay . . .

Only two things of real note occurred.  First, since the engine was running it was a good time to run the watermaker. After three hours, the water tanks were full with the addition of 23 gallons of reverse osmosis (fresh) water (i.e., seawater passed through a membrane under pressure to remove salt and other “contaminants”).

Picture51Second, the GPS map that appears on the chartplotter screen was wrong!  The icon (red/green triangle at the lower center of photo) that represents No Moss appeared (at anchor) to be .18 nm inland – not out on the water in the anchorage as was the case in the “real world.”  The Captain confirmed this using the radar.  The radar position (reality) of No Moss was .3 nm offshore.  Now you know why a careful and skilled navigator always consults more than one “aid to navigation.”

Just as you read in the prior saga chapter that Punta de Mita ashore was nothing to get excited about, so too was the anchorage – maybe even more disappointing.  When Our Hero uses “rock-and-roll” to describe the anchorage, he is NOT talking about music.  True, other anchorages have been more rolly, but that comparison didn’t make the experience any more enjoyable.

Hold on.  There was one other thing that detracted from the visual and aural serenity of the anchorage:  pangas zooming around.  In case you don’t remember (or maybe I forgot to mention it before this), pangas have only two speeds:  fast and stop.

Picture52The panga “harbor” at Punta de Mita is home to a multitude of pangas that are used for fishing and taking tourists out to the islands.  Consequently, during daylight hours they come and go with irregularity and no great concern for how close and fast they pass by the cruising boats in the anchorage.  Here’s a classic example.  This may not look that close, but the picture suffers from the same problem as your car’s side view mirrors – “objects are closer than they appear.”

Sunday morning (28 Feb) The Captain made an early departure from the anchorage to do the eight-hour run to the next anchorage (Chacala).  I know this is getting boring – it’s not my fault, blame Mother Nature – but there was virtually no wind.  Only during the last two hours before getting to Chacala was there enough wind to make it worth unfurling the jib and actually getting some drive from it.

Picture53The passage was uneventful, so in the throes of boredom, one seeks something of interest to contemplate.  Ah-ha!  There is something worth noting and it’s the water temperature.  For a northern California sailor who is used to seeing water temperatures in the 50s and 60s, this was quite impressive.  Check out the reading on the instrument on the right in the picture.  It’s no wonder that the air temperature was always comfortable – although a bit humid – with a water temperature of 82 degrees F.

Picture54As I told you before when Nathalie and I stopped in Chacala on our way south in January, this is the “Riviera” for the Mexican middle-class in this part of Mexico.  It wasn’t a bright sunny day, but it was a Sunday, and the beach-goers were there in good number.  I know the crowd doesn’t rival those of the other rivieras around the world, but it was pretty impressive for here.  This was the view from the cockpit of No Moss when at anchor after arriving.  By the way, the guy with the boat has one of those inflated “banana boats” that he tows around the anchorage with paying passengers (kids) aboard.

One night in rolly Chacala – actually it was less so than before because the swells were smaller – was enough.  There was no reason to stay longer.  The anchor came up at 8:23 a.m. on Monday (29 Feb) and it was off “like a herd of turtles” for the five-hour leg to San Blas (Matanchen Bay).  No wind.  Our Hero droned along with the motor spinning at 1500 rpm and averaging 4.5 knots.  I might as well get some additional work out of the fuel consumption, so the watermaker ran for about 3.5 hours (28 gallons) to fill the tank.

There was a “welcoming committee” in the bay; there were six other boats at anchor.  This is the most I have seen in this anchorage in all of my prior visits/cruises.  I’m not sure why.  I stayed an extra day here and only one boat left on my lay-day. When I left the following morning, one other boat left too and was headed north as was I.

Matanchen Bay is not without its representatives from the natural world.  Some were benign, others weren’t. I’ll start with the “bad guys.”  The bees arrived in what I would call a small swarm about 11:30 a.m. on my lay-day.  They seemed attracted to the stainless steel arch at the back of the boat and fortunately stayed mostly in that area.  As soon as I saw them, I closed up the boat so they wouldn’t get inside.

After watching them from inside the boat for about ten minutes, I decided to try to persuade them to go somewhere else.  I dressed in light-colored clothing, grabbed a white dish towel, and ventured into the cockpit.  I first tried to spray them with water from the cockpit shower hose and that seemed to have little effect.

About this same time the breeze came up and the wind turbine blades started spinning.  This would save the day in the battle with the bees.  The spinning blades were hacking up the flying bees; bee body parts were strewn all over the aft end of the cockpit.

The turbine blades plus my water-spraying and flapping towel seemed to reduce their numbers gradually.  By 12:15 p.m. they were gone.  I saw maybe one or two late-comers/stragglers after that, but the attack was over.  All I can say is it’s a good thing they apparently weren’t the Africanized (aggressive) bees; I wasn’t stung or even approached with any regularity while in the cockpit.

Now on the lighter side of things, I noticed quite a few small fish swimming around and under the boat.  I couldn’t identify them and they weren’t big enough to consider catching and eating.  Also swimming about and not easily noticed were small jellyfish.  They ranged in size from the diameter of a ping-pong ball to that of a baseball.  Not exciting really, but a novelty none-the-less.

Picture55Lastly, pelicanos (Espanol for “pelicans”) were flying around and diving for fish in the anchorage.  They were probably eating small ones like those hiding under No Moss.  Two of them mistakenly landed next to the boat and sat there thinking I was going to give them a hand-out.  I guess they weren’t the brightest tools in the shed and couldn’t tell a sailboat from a fishing boat.  They were impressive for their size and prehistoric-like appearance.  The beak and head always remind me of pictures of pterodactyls.

Picture56It was time to pull up the anchor and make the final push to Mazatlan.  That ol’ Black Hole was starting to exert its pull on No Moss and The Captain.  The anchor came up before eight on Wednesday morning (2 Mar) and thus started another long leg (130 nm) with an overnight “sail” (motor).  The morning was windless and afforded a good view of a very solitary rock (Piedra Blanca del Mar) that sits way offshore with no connection to the land.  It’s a very unusual sight that prompts the question, “What is that doing there all by itself?”

A gentle breeze started to fill in, but not from a good direction.  In other words, here it comes again right on the bow.  Before it got too strong, Our Hero spied the infamous “long-fishing-line-between-two-hard-to-see buoys” that the Mexican fishermen managed to place right on my course.  One should always try to avoid them for two reasons:  courtesy to the fishermen so you don’t run over the line and snag or cut it; and to avoid the hassle of wrapping the line around your prop thus requiring stopping, going in the water, and cutting it free.

Picture5aThey aren’t always easy to spot and the distance between the two buoys varies greatly.  The black flags show up well against a light sky, but not very well against dark water, and not at all at night. See what I mean?

The wind now built quickly to 16 knots with occasional higher gusts – more frustrating than threatening.  No Moss would punch into the wind-generated waves (about 2 ft in height, sometimes more and sometimes less) and immediately slow from 4 knots down to 2-3 kts.  Not good at all.  So, The Captain elected to partially unfurl the jib and then reluctantly tack back-and-forth across the desired course to make any kind of headway.  This was a very irritating situation with so many miles left to go and not knowing how long these poor conditions would last.

Mother Nature must have taken pity on Our Hero because after four hours the wind gradually backed to the west.  This meant The Captain could hold the desired northwesterly course and make progress without tacking.  The waves were gradually dying down as the wind lessened, so the ride was still lumpy but smacking into the smaller waves didn’t slow the boat nearly as much.

As the sun went down, so did the wind.  The jib eventually was furled and during the nighttime hours the waves eased up.  By sunrise, the wind had died and the waves had become ripples.  This was all good news, but it meant the engine would have to run for the rest of the time to Mazatlan.  This leg turned out to be another marathon engine run of 30+ hours.  That’s a lot of diesel fuel (approximately 15 gallons or so), but there was no choice.

The now drag-ass tired Captain had one more challenge.  The dredge for the channel into Marina Mazatlan was operating its usual hours.  It blocks the channel so no boats can get in or out.  Dredge operations take a break from 2-3 p.m.  Can No Moss make it to the channel entrance during the break in dredge operations?  It was going to be really close.

Our Hero decided to take a shortcut between two islands.  Doing this reduced the distance to the breakwater by a mile and might make the difference.  So, frequent cross-checks of the GPS and the depth coupled with visual sightings of the islands and their shorelines worked well.  It looked like it was going to be really close on the timing, but the shortcut paid off.  No Moss entered the breakwater and passed the dredge at 2:36 p.m.

Whew!  That was a relief.  The last thing Our Hero wanted to do was make the ordeal longer by having to motor in circles for two hours before the dredge knocked off for the day.  No Moss was finally tied up to the Isla Marina dock at 2:55 p.m.

Picture5bOur Hero has given you a tour of the Marina Mazatlan area in a previous saga chapter. However, there are two things to add for your edification.  First, the street entrance to Isla Marina and its resort is rather unique.  In keeping with a nautical theme, they made the guard/gate house resemble a fishing boat.  Here you see one of the security guys, Alfredo, standing beside the structure.  You can’t see it, but he’s grinning from ear-to-ear – I don’t think anyone has asked to take his picture before this.

Picture59Second, I’ve made reference to the “hombre de frutas y verduras” (the fruits and veggies man) who shows up M/W/F mornings to sell fresh produce, some bread, and occasionally some smoked marlin.  I finally got around to taking his picture.  No doubt I’ve mentioned before that he has excellent stuff at VERY reasonable prices.

Lastly, Isla Marina and environs occasionally dishes up something different.  A couple of days ago the weather became very interesting and produced something I have never experienced in all my time here on this cruise or prior ones.  A squall tore through the marina.

Picture510The sky gradually darkened in the afternoon and the temperature noticeably dropped rather quickly. A breeze came up and a quick look from the cockpit presented this view.  In less than ten minutes, the wind hit 25 kts with gusts to 30 as a squall passed through the marina.  The strong winds were accompanied immediately by heavy rain.  The whole event subsided to an occasional shower after 25-30 minutes.  You just never know what Mother Nature is going to throw at you . . .

Stay tuned for the second crossing of the Sea of Cortez (Mazatlan to Bahia de los Muertos).  Will Our Hero single-handedly sail across the Sea with benign conditions or will Mother Nature and King Neptune conspire to humble The Captain with contrary winds and seas?  Will the 186 nautical miles of non-stop offshore sailing kick his butt?  Who knows . . .

Neal

Signing off for now

Ed: Neal Doten is a member of The Club at Westpoint and an active boater. In addition to these delightful travelogs, Neal provides advice and guidance to boaters undertaking coastal cruising especially those looking for adventure on the Mexican and Central American shorelines. Read about his educational program here. You can contact Neal by completing the contact form below.

Oktoberfest comes to The Club

IMG_20181013_183321420With the wonderful enthusiasm of Barbara and Chris Bussler, Oktoberfest came to The Club. With authentic Bavarian delicacies and some fine examples of Bavarian beers, a fun night was had by all.

Here we can see members, Chris Bussler, Richard Webber, Peter Blackmore and Graeme Tait getting into the swing of things.

No Lederhosen in sight but there’s always next year!

Thank you to the Busslers for a great evening.

 

Banderas Bay Shuffle and The Big Three

Hola de Bahia de Banderas!  (“Hi from Banderas Bay”)  This fourth sailing saga is coming to you (once again) from Banderas Bay which is the location of Puerto Vallarta as well as the lesser-known towns of Nuevo Vallarta, Bucerias (“BOO-sir-REE-us”), Punta de Mita, and La Cruz.  All of which play a part in this on-going saga of the cruise of the good “ship” No Moss.

In the third saga, Our Hero (aka “The Captain”) finally managed to break the grip of the “black hole” (known to the rest of the world as Mazatlan) and slip southward to the warmer and more exciting environs of Banderas Bay.  With intrepid crew member Nathalie (also once again), this southbound leg presented the extremes of somewhat remote anchorages and major resorts/marinas.

This saga chapter will provide a shore-based look at some of the things one can do in the Banderas Bay area. It is a good reference for any of you who might consider a vacation south of the border – whether traveling by boat or flying-in/-out and staying ashore.  Plus, “The Admiral” (Paula) is piped aboard and shares three weeks of fun-times doing the “Big Three” (sightseeing, shopping, and dining) with Our Hero and another couple (introduction to follow, so read on).

Red light or green light?  What’s it gonna be?  Unfortunately for Paula, she pushed the button and got the red light. Customs put her through the baggage inspection process, but luckily she didn’t have to pay duty on anything.  I met her in the main terminal area and we caught a cab back to Nuevo Vallarta and the marina.  The stress of international travel slowly crept away with each mile from the airport.

Picture101No Moss was safely ensconced in slip A18.  The boats on either side were inhabited by some “old sailors” (Americans) who sailed in and seemed to have lost the motivation to keep on cruising.  They were good neighbors and provided some excellent local knowledge that made our explorations easier and more productive.

By mid- to late-afternoon, we had hopped on the water taxi that shuttles between Marina Nuevo Vallarta and the Paradise Village Marina.  The Paradise Village Resort offers many amenities and we took advantage of the mall with its myriad of shops, places to eat, and a small but well-stocked market.  After buying some short-term grocery items and a stop at the ATM for pesos, it was back on the water taxi for a return to No Moss and finally some kick-back time with drinks in the cockpit.

You’ll have to pardon The Captain’s lack of recall regarding where we ate lunch or dinner out and in what order.  Three weeks of alternately eating aboard and ashore when coupled with the occasional adult beverage makes it very difficult to specifically relate the chronological and geographical sequence.  Trust me, being exact in those details far exceeds the scope of the saga.  However, Our Hero will note highlights where appropriate.

After a day or so in Nuevo Vallarta, it was time for a change of venue.  The original plan was to sail to La Cruz (only an hour and twenty minutes away), spend a day or two in the marina and see the quaint little town, then move on to anchor at Punta de Mita.  Chacala (one of our favorite anchorages) would be the next and last stop in our foray north of Banderas Bay.  Well, it never quite happened that way . . .

Picture102Upon arriving in Marina La Cruz, Paula and I hiked along the breakwater to get oriented and checked out the restaurants in the marina complex.  Later in the day, I introduced Paula to Steve and Lynne Smith (aboard their Stockton-based Catalina 36 sailboat).  You may remember that Nathalie and I had first met them in Puerto los Cabos marina before crossing the Sea of Cortez.  Anyway, all four of us hit it off well, and consequently followed the untimely demise of our sailing plans involving Punta de Mita and Chacala.

Steve and Lynne had spent some time in La Cruz and really liked the place. Their enthusiasm and willingness to share the Big Three with us supplanted our desire to sail onward.  Of course, this was not a hard sell to The Admiral because it meant more time ashore doing “fun stuff.”

Picture103Variety is the spice of life, and we certainly had that. Most often we would explore “downtown” La Cruz on foot. Step out the entrance to the marina and right away one is greeted by some of the local “residents.” It’s a quaint little Mexican town with mom-and-pop tiendas (mini-markets is probably the best descriptor) along each block.  There are so many, that one has to wonder how they stay in business when the resident population isn’t that great.  The secret probably lies in that an item one doesn’t stock, another one will.  “One-stop shopping” is not alive and well here.

Picture104A Laundromat?  No such thing.  Someone has to do yourPicture105 laundry for you.  Thus, we patronized this establishment on one of the infamous La Cruz cobble-stone side streets ( . . . watch your step).  The only advertising (and way to locate this business) consisted of the picture on the wall.  However, the nice ladies who did all the work were very friendly and did a great job at a very reasonable price.

Picture106Lastly, for those of you who have a long-established relationship with your barber or beautician, please don’t show them this picture.  I can’t vouch for the quality of the work (e.g., a haircut) in this shop, but I suspect it’s probably quite good based on only two haircuts I’ve had in other places in Mexico.  By the way, here are the prices in USD (US dollars):  35 pesos = $2.00, 60 pesos = $3.43.

After a hard day of traipsing all over La Cruz, it was nicePicture107 to get back to the boat, take a shower in the very nice marina facilities, and then have dinner in the cockpit aboard No Moss.  With the warmth (and humidity) of the day gradually dissipating as the sun went down, it was most pleasant to sip a drink or a glass of wine and enjoy a salad or other fare while settled comfortably under the bimini (awning over the cockpit seats in boat talk).  Sailing in foreign lands can be quite nice under the right circumstances.  Wouldn’t you agree?

Earlier Our Hero made reference to excursions to Punta de Mita and another place called Bucerias.  Well, Punta de Mita was a bit of a “dog.”  It really had nothing to recommend it.  The Captain and The Admiral both give it “thumbs down” in reference to the Big Three.  We hiked the length of the main street along hotel and restaurant fronts; their backs were on the beach.  That was it.  Lunch “on the beach” was okay with saving graces being generous servings of food and margaritas. Obviously, no pictures for this tells you even more.

Picture108However, Bucerias was a bit more exciting for its ability to overwhelm one with the “shopping” aspect of the Big Three. Numerous tourist trap stalls lined the street that ran along the beach.  If you look closely, you will see Our Hero (with his signature Panama hat) accompanied by Lynne Smith in the bottom right corner of the picture.  Our Hero is patiently waiting for Paula to catch up and then join Lynne as they forage among the stalls stretching into the distance.  They are two truly great “shopping animals.”

I must add, however, that on the second street back from the beach there were some very nice (up-scale) shops offering art works and cut glass pieces.  Both of “The Admirals” spent significant time in such places while “The Captains” (Steve and I) sat in a small outdoor café across the street and sipped a beverage of choice.

Sadly, so far I have neglected to mention that the transportation of choice (based on cost effectiveness) was the local bus system.  Trust me.  These busses are BASIC transportation with hard seats (usually) and super-stiff or completely-sprung suspensions such that one can ultimately experience every bump in the road. Now, add to that the fact that Mexican speed bumps – on main highways even – are Mt Everest compared to what you’re used to, and you have another whole dimension of experience that would make your chiropractor cringe.  Needless to say, we survived the trips to Punta de Mita, Bucerias, and (yet to come) downtown Puerto Vallarta.

Picture109Before leaving La Cruz, Our Hero celebrated his birthday.  The Admiral treated to dinner at the really nice restaurant in the marina complex.  The table was on the third floor and looked out over the marina and the nearby grandeur of La Cruz . . . until the sun went down and left one able to see only the well-lit marina and an occasional streetlight in La Cruz.  Nonetheless, it was a most enjoyable evening with excellent food and service.  The best part?  The Admiral’s company.

Ahh, yes, the foray into downtown Puerto Vallarta was the last big event after sailing aboard No Moss from La Cruz back to Marina Nuevo Vallarta.  We sadly said “adios” to Steve and Lynne and were back to adventuring on our own.  The day was filled with “super-shopping” interspersed with lots of walking to get from the bus depot to the desired shops and then back to the bus depot.

The shopping was focused on mutual gifts.  The Admiral’s birthday was mid-January and The Captain’s birthday was early February, so this was the perfect opportunity to fulfill the gift-giving requirement that had been held in abeyance until we were together in Mexico.  Needless to say, we covered a lot of ground and looked in a lot of shops.

Picture110The sales force varied considerably from your basic street vendor to the refined clerk in a very nice jewelry store.  Spanish “passwords” for the day ranged from “hoy no” (not today) for the former to “solo mirando, gracias” (only looking, thanks) for the latter.  Fortunately, we found the River Café and had a very nice lunch (and respite).  The setting was very verdant with trees and foliage lining the river bank (actually it was more of a wide creek in Our Hero’s opinion).  The Admiral didn’t like the picture I took of her as she sat across the table from me, so you’ll have to settle for this.

By the end of the afternoon, sensory overload had set in (for Our Hero anyway), but the timing was good because by then we had purchased appropriate gifts.  Now, which way is it to the bus depot?  Which corner was close to it?  Hmmmmm.  Let’s try to remember.

We did make it back safe and sound.  After all that, it was a welcome relief to find ourselves on the boat in a very pleasant water-surrounded environment.  Showers followed by a drink in the cockpit were most enjoyable and offered the chance to reflect on the day’s successes.  The final decision was which restaurant do we wish to visit for dinner.  That was easy; back to Eddie’s Place just outside the entrance to our dock.

The day had one failure.  Our Hero was unable to find a replacement for his well-worn and slowly-deteriorating signature Panama hat.  If it couldn’t be found in downtown Puerto Vallarta, maybe it wasn’t to be found in Mexico.  Hold on, not so fast!  Get out the “secret weapon.”  Call for help from the “Super Shopper!”  Paula to the rescue . . .

Picture111The Admiral hopped the water taxi driven by Guillermo, a very likeable gentleman who owned and operated the pontoon boat from 9-5, Mon-Sat.  Off she went to the mall in Paradise village to do some power shopping for herself and without the distraction of Our Hero tagging along.  Less than an hour later, Our Hero gets a text that says she has had success on both counts.  She’s found Panama hats that are essentially the same as The Captain’s beloved head covering.

Well, as you might guess, Our Hero joined her and confirmed the hat in the shop was the long-sought replacement.  Mission accomplished.  To make the ending even happier, Paula found a very nice cotton skirt and top ensemble in the same store and Our Hero purchased it for her as a birthday (and thank you) gift.

There is a dark cloud gathering on the horizon.  What ill does this portend?  Have The Captain and The Admiral fallen into disfavor with the “Travel Gods?”  It would seem so.  Here’s what happened . . .

We arrived at the Puerto Vallarta airport two plus hours before the flight to SFO was scheduled to leave.  All went well with check-in.  Then, the unexpected happened.  The flight was delayed.  Then it was delayed again by another hour. And, then . . .  You get the idea.  By ten that night the flight was canceled.  The plane had arrived but the crew had run out of “crew duty day” (the number of hours they are allowed to fly in one day).

United Airlines bussed all the passengers to a local Puerto Vallarta hotel and paid for everything.  Sounds good, but it wasn’t.  The dining room shut down one half hour after we walked in to the buffet meal so there was a meager selection of rather “tired” food.  To make matters worse, room service wouldn’t serve breakfast until six a.m., the veryPicture112same time we had to be down in the lobby to get the bus back to the airport.  So, there was no breakfast unless you wanted to help yourself to the gourmet selection of cereals in the room, and I use the word “gourmet” with a great degree of sarcasm.  See what I mean?

We did fly back that day (one day behind schedule).  It was great to get home and have a good night’s sleep in a familiar bed and eat real food.  Our Hero was home for only a week in order to do a few things at home, but more so to leave Mexico and return.  That’s the only way to renew the tourist card (visa) for another 180 days to cover the rest of the cruise on No Moss.

I won’t leave you in “suspenders.”  Our Hero flew back most uneventfully.  Yay!  No Moss was none the worse for wear in his absence and only needed the usual pre-departure actions of refueling, reprovisioning, and checking out with the Port Captain.

Will Our Hero single-handedly sail back to Mazatlan without trials and tribulations?  Will he be plagued by rolly anchorages, speeding pangas, and untended long fishing lines?  Who knows . . .  Stay tuned for more excitement.

Signing off for now,

Neal

Ed: Neal Doten is a member of The Club at Westpoint and an active boater. In addition to these delightful travelogs, Neal provides advice and guidance to boaters undertaking coastal cruising especially those looking for adventure on the Mexican and Central American shorelines. Read about his educational program here. You can contact Neal by completing the contact form below.