Cruising  ~ The Cat’s Meow Style ~  September thru December, 2008

All’s Well That Ends Well ~ and Other Stories



Merry HO HO HO y Feliz Navidad!


The Cat’s Meow is in Banderas Bay, a lovely wide bay where dolphins and humpback whales love to play during the winter months, along with sea turtles and all manner of fish, including some of the big billfish and tuna. Puerto Vallarta is on this bay, along with some quaint and interesting pueblos (villages). We have spent time here in years past, and we like this area a lot because of the diversity of city and small pueblos, warm “winter” temperatures, and the beauty of the bay and the mountains backing it.


As written in the stories before this one, we had spent our summer traveling to places inland in Mexico and then to Costa Rica. When we returned to The Cat’s Meow in late August, it was plenty hottt and humid! We spent just a couple of weeks doing a few boat projects and getting ready to leave TCM at the dock, in the new Riviera Nayarit Marina, once again. This time, we threw the two cats into the 1991 Aerostar van and headed north for the border, at Nogales.


Within an hour, we were stopped alongside the road going up a mountain, with car trouble. O, great. The van was stuffed with everything we would need for a few week’s worth of travel, some things we were taking up to the States, the cats and everything needed to keep them happy…. We drove back down the mountain, tried to find a mechanic or shop open – of course it was a Sunday morning – without any luck. Martin decided to look under the hood one more time…and found a loose wire!! Five minutes later, we were ready to go back up that mountain!


All’s well that ends well….


When we arrived at the border crossing at Nogales, Mx., Martin tried to keep the engine cool, while we sat in a line of cars. It was hot but we turned the AC off. Still, the transmission started to puke up oil, all over the pavement. We did make it across the border, and all the way up to Phoenix, where we were very glad to get to our friend Diane’s house. It was too late, tho’. The next day while we were driving around the hottt Phoenix area, trying to get some things done, the van died. D-e-d, ded. We had to leave it in an Aamco Transmission parking lot! After renting a car and driving all over the Phoenix area in 110 degree heat, we found a nice twenty-eight foot 1992 Fleetwood Bounder RV! The Universe works in mysterious ways…  We like traveling in it, and the cats think it is just the cat’s meow!!


  Our “new” land-yacht


All’s well that ends well…..


Robin had a “date” to meet three of her best-est girlfriends, friends since junior high school in San Jose California, for their biiig birthday celebration. This had been a planned event for at least six months. So, when one of the gals, Kathy, couldn’t make the trip due to a very nasty infection on her hand, Robin and the others were extremely disappointed. Andrea, Sheri, and Robin made the best of it while they stayed in the rented beach house in little Cambria. They went ahead and did the wine-tasting, they had yummy seafood, did lots of catching-up (read: yak yak yak!), visited the Hearst Castle, and they did some shopping…but they missed their friend Kathy. So, they left the beach house a day early and met Kathy in San Jose, so they could at least spend the day, all together.



                  Andrea does the honors                                                                                        Hearst Castle pool                                                                         Kathy, Andrea, and Robin together again


All’s well that ends well……


Once we completed all of the necessary and a few of the fun activities stateside, we headed south, for the border once again, in our “new” RV. Martin knew the brakes needed some work, and he had purchased brake stuff to take south and planned to find someone along the way to fix them. Labor is a LOT cheaper south of the border!! Well, of course working on the brakes was waaaay more difficult and more involved than Martin had thought….and we spent precious time at three different places, getting them worked on….some better work than others…. When we were heading up and then down that last, steep mountain, on our way back to the Puerto Vallarta area, it was purrrrty stressful!! But – we made it.


Martin’s brother, Ken, and their buddy Ed were arriving at the PV airport the evening of October 4th. With all of the stops and all of the time working on the #$@! brakes, we ended up “flying” into the airport an hour late!! The boys weren’t there! Their plane had landed, and they were nowhere in the airport. Thank God for cell phones…..a costly call to Ken’s bride, Rhonda, in California let us know that Ken & Ed had found lodging ~ very comfy lodging, at that! ~ and all was, again, well.



                                     You call THIS fishing??                                                                                                Ken’s catch for fish tacos                                                            Ed, Martin, & Ken playing PV tourists



One day soon after Ken & Ed left Mexico, it was quite windy, even inside the marina.  Robin looked out toward the aft deck, and this is what she saw:


                    “Hoppy” stuck hangin’ on in high winds


Well, we didn’t want the little thing to be blown off that pole and into the water…so we mounted a rescue effort. Using a little bait net, Martin captured the little guy and put him down lower on the deck area. We watched him for most of the next hour, doing his funny little back-and-forth “dance”, taking a l-o-n-g time to go anywhere. He liked the dive tanks, and then the dock line. BUT, when he was heading toward a dangerous place, Martin tried again to capture him so we could move him up to the nice bushes beside the marina office ….and……he flew away and landed in the water in the next slip!!! Aaaaarrrghhh!! Robin was yelling something like “Hurry!! Hurry!!” while Martin jumped into the dinghy and drove it around to the next slip, where little Hoppy was floundering in the water….Robin was beside herself! Martin saved the day, of course, and we carefully carried the little guy (in a small container) up to the bushes. We found just the right spot for him, let him go, marveled at how he just blended into the greenery, and we hope he had some good times while there.



                                                                 Hoppy on safer ground



All’s well……well, you get the idea.


Just another day on The Cat’s Meow, at anchor in the Bay….. uhmmmm, not exactly:

Robin spied some young people with two kayaks quite a distance from the boats at anchor. They looked like they might just be having fun…but then again, she thought they might be having some trouble. Watching them through the binoculars for about ten minutes, Robin finally decided it was time to see if they were OK, or if they needed help. It looked as though about four of the kids kept getting up into a kayak and then falling off again, and she knows how tired one can get in the water, trying to climb into a kayak. Martin stopped working on his project and we both took off in the dinghy. Good thing, too. There were seven young girls, of high school age, with two 2-man kayaks, and the tide was taking them further out into the Bay while they struggled with the one kayak. Three of the girls had started swimming toward shore, but it was a long long way, and they were tired already from trying to get and stay in their kayak. We ended up towing two of the girls on one of the kayaks, two other girls paddled back on their kayak, and three rode back to shore in our dinghy. They were exhausted! Martin was great – he tried to swamp the girls behind the dinghy, got them laughing and having a good time.


All’s well…..


Later that same afternoon, when Martin had finished installing an oil cooler to the engine of TCM, he checked it out by running the engine for a while, and then later did so again. All at once the engine “ran away”, meaning it revved up faster and faster… extremely dangerous! (Some oil had gotten into the engine.) Martin was the first one to the controls and shut the engine down forcefully and quickly! Smoke covered the entire aft end of The Cat’s Meow – someone in the anchored fleet yelled “FIRE!” on the VHF radio, someone else on the radio said, loudly, “Fire in the fleet! Fire in the fleet!” and was giving a description of our boat! We both rushed out to the aft deck with fire extinguishers, two or three or four captains of neighboring boats were getting in their dinghies with extinguishers to rush over to TCM! But, thankfully, the smoke cleared, and there was NO fire. Omygawd. Adrenaline was rushing through our veins. That was NOT fun. We checked the entire boat, waited, watched, assured the fleet that we were not on fire, and thanked them for their immediate response to what could have been a tragedy.

Whew. Still, all is well that ends well!


Next day: we both get ready in the morning to take the dinghy into the village. We go to the aft deck to get into the dinghy……..but there is no dinghy. Huh??! NO dinghy??!! The leader (line) hung straight down into the water. We knew that two dinghies had been stolen from boats at anchor just around the point from us, and we were just devastated. Martin called the fleet on the VHF radio and reported that our dinghy had gone missing, asked everyone to keep an eye out for it and gave a description. We were numb. Not two minutes later, the captain of the sailboat Sisutl said he could see a panga towing a dinghy into the marina, and it looked like ours!!! WOW!!! Friends on the boat Gemini dropped their dinghy into the water, picked us up, and ferried us into the marina. It took a few minutes to find out where the dinghy had been placed, but we did find her and she was OK, motor and all!! Once we found the nice young pangero (fisherman) who had done the good deed, we gave him a nice tip!!


All’s well that ends well………… we just wish that sometimes our lives were not quite so exciting.


La Cruz anchorage during a peaceful sunset 



Other than those interesting moments during the last few months, we have also enjoyed some more normal, calmer times:


Martin celebrated his birthday in late November. We gathered some of our friends together and of course went to a nice restaurant for a splendid dinner. Friends from Coastal Passage, Spirit Quest, TeaLady Ronnie & Teapot Tony made the evening a fun, enjoyable one. 


 Birthday celebration with friends at Mark’s Restaurant in Bucerias


A few days later it was time to celebrate Thanksgiving, so we did, by joining a bunch of other boaters and ex-pats at a local hang-out called Philo’s, in the pueblo of La Cruz. This is an annual potluck dinner with turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy provided by Philo’s, plus an afternoon and evening of great music. Boy o boy, some of those “potluck” dishes were purrrrty darn fancy, and yummy to the max!! We enjoyed the afternoon with boaters we had known for a while and we met some new ones. We hope your Thanksgiving was a special day, and we hope you remember how much you have to be thankful for.


 Philo’s Bar on Thanksgiving Day



Early December found John & Susie, of the motor vessel Cabaret, flying into Pto. Vallarta for a visit before they returned to their boat in Panama. It has been about five years since we have seen these guys, and they are just as fun and wacky as we remember! Philo’s it was again, for pizza and dancing. Before John & Susie left, we spent some more time with them, including a nice relaxed evening at Ronnie & Tony’s home. It was sure great to see those crazy guys from Cabaret again!!!


Robin, Susie of Cabaret, and Ronnie enjoying good friendship 


Martin used to work at Stanford Research Institute, “back in the day”. In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, he was part of the team working with Dr. Doug Engelbart, who invented the computer mouse, and this team presented what is still referred to as “the mother of all demonstrations” in 1968, when they demonstrated the very first long-distance computer internet-ing, in real time. This was the very first baby step to becoming what we now refer to as the world wide web!!! A reunion of the team and an industry - wide recognition of Dr. Engelbart was held in Menlo Park, CA. We attended. What a great time, what a great opportunity for Martin to reconnect with some of the guys & gals he worked with on that amazing team! 



            Martin & Doug Engelbart, Martin’s former boss at SRI                                Bill, Martin, “Jake”, and Smokey, re-connecting                                   Getting ready for the team’s group photo


While there, we also had the chance to spend a little time with Martin’s daughter Deb and her family, and Martin’s son Bill, just before Christmas. We had a great time, loved seeing the family, and we even had some fresh Dungeness crab!


 Son Bill, Martin, grandson Jake, and daughter Deb at home in the SF Bay Area


December brought another visit from another long-time friend: Cheryl, whom Robin used to work with in the San Jose area.  Cheryl visited the Puerto Vallarta area with another of her long-time friends, Pam. They visited us on TCM for a while before we all headed into La Cruz for some fish tacos. Robin also spent a relaxing afternoon with Cheryl & Pam at the resort they were staying in, right down the road. That was nice! 


Robin, Pam, and Cheryl on TCM 


The holiday social activities cranked-up, and we enjoyed a number of them. Christmas eve day found us aboard Spirit Quest, another large trawler, along with about 40 other cruisers for a lively appetizer potluck.  We spent Christmas afternoon & early evening at Philo’s once again, where we indulged in a turkey dinner with all of the trimmings plus a lot more – another potluck blow-out!


Santa arrived after dinner and with two helpers he gave out about 150 gifts to the children of the pueblo of La Cruz.  It is worthy to note here that the “gringo” folks who have made Mexico their home are almost always involved in some type of outreach program for the local people, especially the people who have very little in terms of money. Many of these kids would not otherwise have anything given to them for Xmas, or maybe ever, and it was evident that they and their families do appreciate the generosity of their transplanted neighbors. It was good to see those smiles on everyone’s faces!! 




Santa arrives at Philo’s Bar & Restaurant                                                      Good little girl gets a present from Santa                                                                  Miguel & Edgar, two great waiters at Philo’s



Now TCM is “hangin’ on the hook” just outside of the marina at La Cruz. We like it out here. It is quiet, there are sooo many stars, our view of Puerto Vallarta and this entire side of Banderas Bay is really very nice. O, and just because we can’t have a Christmas tree onboard does not mean we can’t decorate ~ Robin does the “Christmas poles”:




We have enjoyed seeing some of the cruisers we have met through the years, and we are meeting new one, as well. Life is good ~ Pura vida!!


Be sure to see what transpires here on The Cat’s Meow during 2009 ~ Cruising, The Cat’s Meow style!!