Cruising  ~ The Cat’s Meow Style ~  March & April,  2009

Marching up and down the coastline



                                                                                                                                                                      Sunset, Barra de Navidad lagoon (photo by Irwin on Winsome)


The Cat’s Meow anchored in the Santiago portion of the Manzanillo bay for about two weeks. Friends on Spirit Quest, Sea Chantey, Wirewalker, and Winsome were all nearby, and we had many a good time together! The water had started to “turn”, however, becoming greener and more murky, one day it would be clear and murky again another day, and some days we had a red tide in the anchorage. Last winter season, the swells coming into the anchorages on the mainland coast were more numerous, and bigger. This season they were much smaller, but they could still present a problem while cruisers attempted to enter or leave the beach with dinghies. To make a beach landing, one approaches the shore cautiously, puts the dinghy wheels down into the water, looks back out to sea and waits. We count the swells looking for the “set”, as the surfers do, only we watch to see when there is (usually…) a lull – when the swells are the flattest – and then we boogie on into shallow water, hop out of the dink quickly and begin hauling it up onto the shore, riding on the wheels. Hopefully a larger swell does not come at the wrong moment, tipping or flipping the dinghy while persons are still in it, or during the drag up the beach. Sometimes this can be quite “hairy”. Sometimes people get flipped out of the dinghy, and sometimes someone gets hurt and/or the motor gets underwater….it can all be very intense.  This season there were fewer problems, but still there were some. Friends going into shore from Spirit Quest were flipped sideways, Kathy went flying and was thrown into the water, all manner of things in the dink were in the water….. Thankfully, Kathy only had a slightly hurt hand, except she had to return to her boat for a quick shower and a change of clothes. One evening after spending time in town, while trying to push the dinghy out into the surf from the shore, Robin twisted her right knee – for the second time – and had to be pulled into the dink by Martin. This slowed her down quite a bit during the next few months.


Other than the fun and games of beach landings, all went well. Martin and some of the other boaters did a night dive on the wreck of a barge that is in the middle of the anchorage, in shallow water. Another evening the folks aboard 10 or 12 boats went to the hotel palapa restaurant at one end of the anchorage and we all had a good time eating botaneros (appetizers) and drinking margaritas. Some boat projects were accomplished on TCM, such as putting new formica on two of the counters, finishing the wonderful settee table, and finishing a little piece of the flooring. Thankfully, Martin did not need to spend a lot of time in the engine room!


                                    However, Martin did get to clean the bottom of the boat….


After a few weeks at Santiago, we decided to head back to Barra de Navidad, specifically for the Saint Patrick’s festivals. Saint Patrick is the patron saint of Melaque, the village just a few miles north of Barra, on the bay. We have attended the St. Pat’s festival once before, and we were looking forward to all of the colors, noise, people, fireworks, and food. The festival is a week in duration, and people come from miles away to participate in the frivolity. We took the bus to Melaque a few evenings ahead of the “big night” to enjoy the throngs of people, the activity, and yes the yummy street food. The evening of March 17 th we again went to the village with a group of cruisers to have a grand time. It is traditional in Mexico for the villagers to build a tower, perhaps 30 feet in height or more, on which they attach a pinwheel type of thing on each side of the tower. Each pinwheel lights up with fireworks and spins, throwing sparks out all over the crowd below. That pinwheel is supposed to then light the next one. On the top of the tower is a topper – in this case it was a crown – that is also lighted with fireworks, and a piece on the very top of that lights and flies off of the tower completely, spewing sparks as it goes, sometimes flying over the church and out into the village! It is quite a spectacle! OSHA would never approve….. J  The villagefolk gather right under the tower, scream and yell when the sparks come down on them, and they have a great time. Little boys hold pieces of cardboard over their heads and run into the sparks, and they run after the topper to find and claim it. Some people do get burned, many pieces of clothing get scorched…..and it is all considered to be good fun. We gringos, on the other hand, usually hide behind something just where we can see the goings-on!!! The next spectacle is “el toro”, the “bull”. Yikes! Anywhere from one to three guys run all around the plaza and sometimes into the crowd, “wearing” a garment that has something that is supposed to resemble a bull’s head, and attached to that are rockets (more fireworks) that he shoots into the crowd! This one is waaaay too dangerous for Robin – she gets away from the maddening crowd!



                                                                            Bingo for plastic goods                                                                                                                         Midway fun




                                                           Fireworks and people (photo by Lynn of Wild Flower)                                                          Tower of fireworks


When it is all over, we try to find a taxi to return us to Barra, then we board the all-night water taxis back to the boats in the anchorage, arriving sometime between one and two in the morning. A good time is had by all. 


Good friend Marsha, from Arizona, flew down to Pto. Vallarta, then took a bus ride down to see us in Barra de Navidad.(We had planned to be in Pto. Vallarta by the time she was to fly down, but weather kept us in Barra de Navidad.) She had only a few days, but we hope that we filled her days and evenings with good times. She LOVED the French Baker! We had tasty “street tacos” and lots of other good Mexican food, enjoyed the view from the “big” (two story!) hotel, walked across the new golf course to the beach, which gave us a show of HUGE surf. Her visit was short, but full and fun.



                                 Marsha, Martin, Irwin & Jaye (and Robin too) enjoy sundowners                                    Big surf just outside of the Barra lagoon      



                                                                                                             Yes, Marsha enjoyed her visit to Barra de Navidad


When we left the Baja side of Mexico a couple of years ago, we intended to head down the coastline at least to Zijuatenejo, and then south out of Mexico, and down through Central America. Well…..for a number of reasons, such as the cost of fuel, the wear & tear on the boat, and reports from our friends in Central America, we have been talking about getting down to Central America, but by plane instead of on TCM. Who knows….perhaps one day we WILL take the boat all the way down and through the Canal, but for now, we have decided to stay in Mexico with the boat, and to travel to more far-flung places by plane, or even by RV. With all of that in mind, we also determined that we missed the Sea of Cortez. The mainland has a lot to offer boaters, many interesting anchorages and fun villages, and of course great cruisers. However, we both really enjoy water sports! We like to snorkel and SCUBA dive, we like kayaking, we like to gather food from the sea. The water in the Sea of Cortez is just so much nicer than the mainland side for the water sports, and the gathering of goodies has no comparison. So. The Cat’s Meow is turning back north, heading back to the Sea……once more. This is one of the great things about our chosen life-style: we can change our minds, we can alter course, we can decide to do something different and not hurt anyone. 


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              TCM about to round Cabo Corrientes, heading north 

                                                                                       (photo by Irwin, Winsome)


The Cat’s Meow took on some fuel in Barra – always a shock to the pocketbook! – and we headed northward. We stopped and enjoyed the anchorages on the way up the coastline, like Tenacatita and Chamela, and we buddy-boated with Jaye & Irwin on Winsome. Unfortunately, Winsome broke a chainplate (part of the sailing rigging) on the way to the Chamela anchorage, but Martin & Irwin were able to make a temporary chainplate that would get Winsome back to Banderas Bay, where the proper work could be done to replace all of the boat’s chainplates. Once back in La Cruz, we did some provisioning, saw a few friends, got in one more night of great music and a little dancing at Anna Banana’s and prepared for the journey back to the Baja.


We left Banderas Bay with a good weather forecast. We had essentially no wind and no sea-state, just the way we like it!! Our first stop was Mantenchen bay, but only for the night, then we headed to Isla Isabella, an island that stands about 40 miles out in the ocean. This is a bird sanctuary, where frigates and blue-footed boobies nest. There are researchers on the island, and one can go ashore, but we have not. This can be a very rolly place to anchor, so we stop for one night and head out again, this time for Mazatlan. Again, we had purrrrfect (for us) weather conditions.



                             Approaching Isla Isabella                                                                                Robin busies herself making jewelry during the passage


We arrived at Mazatlan in the late afternoon and put the hook down in the old harbor. There is a small area for cruising boats to anchor in this harbor, along with the charter fishing boats and the party boats. TCM had her stern just at the edge of the outer limits for the anchorage, but we did OK. Very LARGE neighbors passed our stern day and night, such as tankers, cruise ships, and the ferry that goes between Mazatlan and La Paz. These photos do not look as close as we felt to these large ships. 




We enjoyed a few days connecting with friends in the marinas, which are on the opposite side of the city of Mazatlan. The busses do a great job for only about 50 cents US, getting us all over Mazatlan. It happened that we were there for the end of the second week of Semana Santa – Holy Week. What a madhouse!! This holiday is even bigger than Christmas in Mexico, and it was apparent! Traffic was awful – we were very happy to use the bus system! And, there were 13,000 motorcycles in the city for their annual rally, this the second week of the holiday!!! Yeeesh. Anywho, we had a chance to see good friends Gail & Houston, with their home, Blew Moon, in the boat yard. They were renting a very nice apartment. It was grand to see them, after a couple of years – they have been plying the waters between Mexico and Ecuador!!! Lots of stories to tell, and lots of laffs!!


 Gail & Houston, of Blew Moon, entertained us at their apartment


After our Mazatlan visit, we headed across the Sea of Cortez to La Paz. This crossing usually takes TCM about 30-32 hours. Again, we had those flat seas and essentially no wind, just some dense fog out of Mazatlan. We now have something called an Avoidance Identification System (AIS) receiver on TCM. This gives us a location of any and all big ships (anything over a certain size) in the area we are traveling. Well. For many years, we have traveled this same route, watching for the “big boys” out there, visually. We always knew the ferries were crossing, and about where they might be. But, boy o boy were we surprised to see SO MANY big ships out there, all around us, with this AIS!!! Whoa…we are not so sure we want to know they are all there!! Anywho, the crossing went easily and with no problems, except for picking up and dragging some fisherman’s net, complete with Styrofoam buoys. We arrived at an anchorage on Isla Espiritu Santo, just before arriving in La Paz, and put the anchor in the sand for the night. It felt really good to be back on the Baja!! 



                                                                                        Crossing the Sea of Cortez………just water, water water everywhere   (except for those big ships!)


The Cat’s Meow stayed in La Paz for a few days, trading hugs with good friends that we have not seen for many a moon. It was so very good to see friends, and to see some of our favorite places in La Paz again. Finally, we headed for some of the islands in the Sea, and for the Loreto Fest. Ya’all come on back and see how we are doing, back “at home” in the Sea of Cortez……Cruising ~ The Cat’s Meow Style…….


                                                                         Aaaaahhhh…… finally, back at the islands….