The Log of Moira
These are mostly Susan’s remarks. Larry’s notes are indicated thus <Larry: blah blah blah.>.
We left Puerto Vallarta on December 2nd, 2004 to explore along the coast of Jalisco State in Mexico, intending to get as far South as Barra de Navidad or Manzanillo in Colima State, and then return to Puerto Vallarta sometime in February. The coast is rugged, and development has barely begun to penetrate its vast mountainous jungle, tangled thorny scrub, and pine-clad summit forests. There are multiple well-known anchorages along the way, and a very nice marina in Barra.
Puerto Vallarta is located on Banderas Bay (“Bay of Flags”). Banderas Bay is very large <Larry: roughly 15 miles in each direction> and includes a number of anchorages outside of the main city of Puerto Vallarta. We started our jaunt by motoring <Larry: about six miles> over to La Cruz on the North side of Banderas Bay. This is a good anchorage in settled weather, which is most of the winter months in Puerto Vallarta.
<Larry: In the anchorage at La Cruz we met some folks we’d previously known only by their voices on the radio, and met some new friends who came to visit us because they were on a Valiant 32, a smaller ‘sister ship’ to our own Valiant 42. Each meeting provided an excuse for a cocktail hour rendezvous. We spent a day wandering the dusty streets of La Cruz. On our wander we visited the local tortilleria (tortilla factory), a common fixture in Mexican villages. Tortillas in Mexico are baked fresh, daily, and only corn tortillas are available; day-old tortillas are considered fit only for pet food, and tortillas made of wheat flour are a gringo invention. One stands in line at the open storefront where tortillas are streaming out of the small, automated, oven, and indicates to the clerk how many kilos of tortillas one wishes. The clerk weighs out the tortillas in a stack, wraps them in waxed paper, and computes the charge—a few pesos. On the way back to the boat we were also able to track down the pescaderia (fish store) where Susan scored several kilos of camaron (shrimp). Yum!>
After several days at La Cruz we sailed West to Punta de Mita <Larry: about 9 miles> which is in the far North-West corner of Banderas Bay. This lovely anchorage looks over a fine sand beach, most of which has been put under the control of the Four Seasons Hotel. <Larry: The little village at Punta de Mita has had a rough life. The guidebooks say that the original fishing village on the site was razed during the construction of the Four Seasons, and the population was involuntarily relocated to modern housing built on an adjacent site. We stayed on board.>
Punta de Mita is an anchorage commonly used by cruisers coming from Cabo San Lucas, or planning to go South around Cabo Corrientes. Cabo Corrientes, which is the South-West most point of Banderas Bay, attracts high winds and unusual sea conditions, so timing of rounding the Point is important <Larry: “Cabo Corrientes” means “cape of currents,” referring to the strong ocean currents found in its vicinity. Fair warning.>.
We left Punta de Mita at night with the goal of arriving in Chamela Bay by the next morning. We were able to sail part of the way but as the winds died in the early morning we turned on our diesel engine. After a few hours the engine went through a series of sputters and kept going slower and slower. Knowing that it was trouble we turned it off and started thinking of solutions for the engine problems. Now of course, we are a sailing vessel and mainly get places under sail, however, when the wind produces a speed-over-the-ground of 1.5 knots the engine looks very attractive <Larry: Remember those “currents”? They were coming from the direction we wanted to go, at several knots. Sort of like walking the wrong way on one of those moving sidewalks.>. Also, the engine is enormously helpful when one is coming into an anchorage that is new and its characteristics are unknown other than what we see on a chart. Thinking of coming into Chamela Bay and anchoring without the engine working assisted Larry in finding a solution for the engine’s complaints as we sailed along <Larry: a vile calumny!>. It turned out that the fuel pump was the culprit. <Larry: It sure sounded like a fuel problem. After I replaced both fuel filters and switched fuel tanks, it occurred to me that my bin of spare parts contained two spare fuel pumps. Perhaps the Westerbeke distributor who put together the parts kit was trying to tell me something.> Once Larry replaced the fuel pump, the engine roared to life, and we put aside our plans for sailing on to the anchorage at Chamela. There will be a next time, we are sure. That’s just the way of a cruising life style.
Bahía De Chamela is a beautiful bay <Larry: roughly two miles by three> which provides several anchorages. It is about 120 miles from Punta de Mita, our last anchorage, so the trip was an overnighter. It’s fun to arrive in these anchorages, not only because the passage is over, but also that the pleasure of the anchorage is about to begin: as one moves around in Mexico the chances are that you’ll meet someone you know in any new anchorage. I enjoy that part of the cruise. Remember that about 50 boats sailed together from Cabo San Lucas to Puerto Vallarta, and about half of those boats, including us, headed South from Puerto Vallarta, though not together. Of course, there is a lot of socializing aboard the boats, with sharing of snacks and booze. Happy hour on another boat is fun and a great way to see other boats and learn from the experiences of others. And when the socializing becomes too much we just move on.
In Chamela we became acquainted with a Danish couple, Fleming and Hjordis Madsen, aboard Wayward Wind. <Larry: we met on the beach after they watched us do one of our undignified pre-Panga-Pivot surf landings.> They lived in San Francisco for many years, and their Danish background and perspective were interesting and unique. We shared a memorable lunch with them at beach palapa where we devoured together a deliciously cooked red snapper, prepared exquisitely by the cook with some help from our new friends, allowing them to explain to the cook how they wanted the snapper cooked. <Larry: Fleming asked the cook, in Spanish, “Is there any snapper?” Her response was to send a waiter down to one of the pangas that had just landed to retrieve several fresh-caught specimens for his approval. Can’t get much fresher than that!> We then spent an hour or two with them exploring the limited shopping opportunities in the little village of Chamela.
<Larry: Bahía de Chamela is several miles across, and has a number of small islands within its circumference. After several days at the village on the north side of the bay, we puttered over to an anchorage formed by the lee of the islands, and had the place to ourselves for several days. Our “2004 Christmas Card” photo was taken from one of those islands. We did a bit of snorkeling and marveled at the tropical fish.>
Careyes is a very small anchorage <Larry: Susan called it “intimate”; I called it “claustrophobic”>, which has room for about four boats without crowding. <Larry: Much of its surface is taken up by small moorings, there to handle the fleet of pangas that cater to the guests at the resort.> Surrounding the small bay are colorful villas, palapas and a very lovely hotel (the Bel Aire) which is actually a Sheraton, classed as a member of their “luxury collection.” For a daily fee of 40 dollars we used their Internet access, and enjoyed their spa and one of the loveliest pools I have seen at a hotel. We ate a lovely breakfast on the beautiful terrace overlooking the bay.
Our time on the beach was abbreviated because Larry noticed that Moira was dragging her anchors. We beat a hasty retreat through the hotel, raced to the dinghy and quickly rowed ourselves back to the boat. We were indeed dragging, but we were able to recover the anchors with some work. We motored about for a few minutes to catch our breaths, and then re-anchored. Then we both collapsed for several minutes realizing that we had escaped from what could have been big trouble. We think that another boat which briefly anchored right next to us tangled their anchor with ours, and when they attempted to retrieve their anchor actually pulled our anchor out of the bottom, which started the dragging. Things turned out well only because Larry noticed the difference in position of our boat and because we were able to rapidly get back to the boat. Such is the cruising life style!
Later that day <Larry: after a shower!> we took the dinghy back to shore and enjoyed the best dinner we’ve had so far in Mexico, at the lovely Playa Rosa palapa on the beach adjacent to the hotel. Supposedly, the entire resort of Careyes started with one this restaurant almost twenty years ago. <Larry: The story goes that, when the restaurant first opened, there was no road in to the resort, so their primary customers were the cruisers visiting the Bay. They’ve remained cruiser-friendly ever since. At the other end of the little bay is a Club Med, which over time developed a reputation for being cruiser UNfriendly. It is now permanently closed. One finds signs of justice where one can.>
<Larry: Our short passage to Tenacatita was uneventful, except for spotting, then dodging, another of those fishing lines. I had seen a panga in the vicinity, and so I was extra-vigilant. As a result, I spotted the clear plastic soda bottles that were holding up the fishing line. Susan took lookout duty, and we cleared the end of the line after a detour of about 2/3 of a mile.>
Bahía Tenacatita is a favorite of the cruising community. It is a large bay, about 4.5 miles across, with good protection from the winds and swell of the ocean, and has a sandy bottom for anchoring in 25 feet or so of water. One can anchor about a half mile off the beach, and the dinghy landing is through gentle surf, though bad timing in the landing will result in the crew and dinghy landing upside down on the beach. There is a small stream which enters the bay near the anchorage. It leads through a mangrove jungle, paralleling the shore of the bay, to a lagoon and a series of palapas which provide excellent fish lunches. You can take your dinghy through the estuary (locally known as “the jungle tour”) and see unusual birds and other creatures such as iguanas in the trees, large spiders, crabs and snakes.
There is a large, pink, Mexican hotel on the far end of the beach which is not interested in the cruisers and unfortunately blasts music from the hotel frequently. I think the guests must go home half deaf. If the wind is wrong, we do hear the music, including Christmas carols (such as ‘Silent Night” to a driving disco beat!) rapped out over the loud speakers. <Larry: The good news is that they shut it off by about 10PM.>
The swimming and snorkeling is grand in Tenacatita. The small palapa on the beach takes the cruisers’ garbage, will arrange for laundry to be done overnight, and serves very cold Mexican beer. The anchorage easily will hold 100 boats. There may be five to 20 boats there at any one time, so the level of socialization among the cruisers varies. When we were there, I generally swam to shore each day with other lady cruisers, played bocce ball on the beach, snorkeled and kayaked around the shore. <Larry: Tenacatita has an unusual combination of large size, flat water, and moderate breeze, which makes it a fun, and sometimes challenging, place to explore in a sailing dinghy as well.> We often had dinghy raft-ups with other boats to share appetizers and information and we even organized a progressive dinner for Christmas, with appetizers on one boat, entrees on our boat, and dessert on a third boat. Fifteen cruisers gathered for the dinner, each bringing two items and their own booze.
<Larry: At the South end of the Bay is the village of La Manzanilla, not to be confused with the city of Manzanillo. We took Moira across the Bay, dodging more fishing lines, and anchored in front of the village, then took the dink in through the surf to go shopping. We made the rounds of the local abarottes (small grocery stores), the tortilleria (storefront tortilla factory), and a fine panaderilla (bakery), found a book exchange being run by a US expat (proceeds benefit the local schools), and had lunch at a restaurant being run by a Dutch/Indonesian couple.>
We enjoy seeing ports from the perspective of a boat arriving from the sea. <Larry: The land-based tourist and the sailor will have very different impressions of a port city. It’s a matter of what’s important to each: the sailor will want to know where to handle official paperwork, how to get diesel fuel and water, where the hardware stores are, where the grocery stores are, how the bus system works, whether there’s a reliable mechanic to fix a broken whatever.>
As we arrive, we plan our tour of the city or village, and often take a professional bus tour of larger cities. We also want to see the areas of Mexico and other countries we visit that are away from the sea. We tried our first such trip while the boat stayed safely at the marina at Barra de Navidad. Since we plan to return North in order to visit the Sea of Cortez, one the choices we had to make is how far South to go: every mile we go South will require a harder mile beating into the wind going North. We decided to leave Moira in the marina at Barra de Navidad. We went by bus to see Manzanillo, an international tourist destination known for its great sport fishing, and continued on to see some other sights in the State of Colima. I particularly wanted to see the two volcanoes located in the Northern part of the State of Colima, one active and one dormant.
Bus transportation is excellent, cheap, and frequent in Mexico. The “first class” (long distance) bus system is served by government-built bus terminals, many of which are like modern airplane terminals in the States, and by privately-owned bus lines. The bus service supplements the airplane transportation in Mexico, which is very expensive and less convenient.
The local buses appear to be intermediate-size school buses, converted by the addition of a rear exit. The buses feature often-brilliant paint jobs. Rather than a route-map in a little brochure, as one might be familiar with from a city bus line in a large US city, each bus will have the names of its major stops (“Marina,” “Wal-Mart,” “Zona Romantica”) written in white paint on its windshield and right-side window.
So, the simplest and cheapest way of being a tourist is to take the bus. While we paid for a first class bus to Manzanillo we think we actually got on a second class bus <Larry: or maybe a first-and-a-half class>. It was not air-conditioned, and stopped at every small village, but it did drop us off in front of the entrance to the grounds of Hotel Las Hadas <Larry: which a true first-class bus would not have done>. We stayed for several days at Las Hadas (“The Fairies”). I have always wanted to stay at Las Hadas (Remember Bo Derek and the movie “10”? She, and it, were filmed there). The hotel is built into the hill overlooking the harbor. The hotel is done up in white marble and white stucco in the style of a Moorish palace. Quite stunning and very comfortable but unfortunately after 20 years it suffers from less than first-class maintenance: much that is built in Mexico is built well but much of it is not maintained so after 20 years the hotel is still pleasant but no longer quite first rate. Fortunately I got a great rate on the Internet, so I got what I paid for.
From Manzanillo, we took a first class bus to Colima, the capital city of the state of Colima and an early capital of Mexico. It is in an active earthquake area, not to mention an area of active volcanoes, so there are not many old buildings around. The rebuilding required by the earthquakes has benefited the city, however. It is well laid out, around a lovely, heavily landscaped plaza or jardin. Adjoining the plaza are the very lovely cathedral, a large colonial city hall, several museums filled with the pre-Columbian artifacts from the area, and several hotels and restaurants.
We stayed at the Hotel Ceballos, an old colonial hotel which has so far survived the earthquakes. There are many small plaques on the walls of the hotel which say “If an earthquake occurs, stand here.” It’s never quite clear what makes “here” safer than anywhere else! The older buildings that are freestanding and built with stone and clay seem to do fine, unless a modern, concrete building is later built adjacent to them. The two types of structure do not move the same way in an earthquake, and <Larry: when push comes to shove> the older building usually goes down. The government is apparently vigilant after earthquakes: within two days of the last one in Colima they had identified every unsafe building and tore each one down. The government also helps with the rebuilding costs.
Colima has much charm and is laid out around a series of lovely parks. The evening hours are when this town comes to life. The midday meal is usually at 2pm and is the largest meal of the day. Then families and couples come to the areas around the plazas for the evening snack or cena around 7or 8 pm. The plazas are alive with music and people eating, strolling, and enjoying themselves until well past midnight. And all of this seems to happen without a Redevelopment Director…can you imagine that!? <Larry: And without much by way of visible strict zoning. Land use is much more on the European model.> Colima has a distinct business district, actually several of them. Very modern stores and buildings exist along the main streets outside of the downtown. Many big American stores as well as Mexican stores offer a wide variety of retail goods. There are tracts of housing in the outskirts of town. They look like colorful versions of the first Levittowns, but with smaller, attached houses <Larry: like townhouses>, with carports in front and big black water tanks on the flat roof. <Larry: Water pressure is unreliable. The water tank on the roof makes a kind of standpipe or local reservoir for the residence.> Many of the residents live around the downtown in houses. The front of the house faces the street, often with a retail tienda or restaurant in front and the house in the back or upstairs. An upscale house may be next door, but one would never know: the face to the street is often a blank wall, with a small entry way for the car; in the interior courtyard there may be a large garden, with areas of the house opening onto it, all of which is hidden from the street unless the “coach” entrance is left open for ventilation. There are residences which we would call hovels, but they tend to be neat and clean.
Colima State is considered generally middle-class. There appears to be prosperity. We were told that school attendance is almost 100 percent and employment seems to be high though much of it may be considered underemployment by gringo standards. We seldom see beggars on the streets, and never in the smaller towns. Mexico seems to have a solution for homelessness which I am still trying to understand, but the strong extended families certainly assist here. I suspect that Colima is not a major source of immigration to the States, either legal or illegal.
In a serendipitous fashion we got connected with a very good guide to see the volcanoes of Colima. When I was standing on the beach of Tenacatita, I met a couple of Americans kayaking there who lived in Comala, a small town several miles outside of Colima. They shared with me that a physics professor at the University of Colima gave tours of the volcanoes. They knew his name was Gil and that he was French. So with the aid of the Internet <Larry: thank you, Google!> we located the professor and had a wonderful tour of the volcanoes with Gill. He is an expert on earth science and physics, so we had a great opportunity to tour the volcanoes with someone who had the perfect background to give the tour. See his website at http://www.colimamagic.com/colimamagic/id37.html. We went up to about 5,000 feet (the volcanoes are 13,500 and 14,500 feet) and were fortunate to see one of the more spectacular daily eruptions from the Fire Volcano. A magnificent sight. Last month (December, 2004) the adjacent, dormant volcano was snow capped. The volcanoes are surrounded by rolling hills covered with golden grass and large oak and fig trees. Large and small lakes nearby attract campers, horseback riders, rowers, and fishermen. The landscape somewhat resembles the area on Highway 280 linking San Jose and San Francisco.
We visited the charming small city of Comala, outside of Colima. It is an area known for its mariachi music and numerous restaurants surrounding the large plaza. A Sunday custom is for families to come to the town square, sit at the restaurants, listen to the music, and eat and drink. As long as you continue to drink, the restaurant will continue to bring appetizers (botanas) “free” of charge. Near Comala is the Nogueras Hacienda, an old sugar mill and residence that was rescued and restored by Rangel Hidalgo, a famous muralist of Mexico. Hidalgo was especially active from 1935 to 1955. He is also famous for his design of UNICEF Christmas cards, a service he provided for free for many years. His home is now a museum and contains a beautiful collection of pre-Columbian art which exceeds in quality what we have seen in to date in the museums.
After six days of roaming around, we headed back by bus to Barra Navidad to rejoin the cruising community in the marina. We are now getting ready to sail back to Puerto Vallarta. After a short rest, we will be on our way North to Mazatlan, La Paz and the Sea of Cortez. More to come.
There is no dinghy dock at La Cruz (or in many other anchorages) so if you want to go ashore, the dinghy and the passengers in it go through the surf to the beach. As we watched the pangas (the fast, sturdy open boats which the fisherman use throughout Mexico) in Chamela, Larry came up with a solution to the problem of being unceremoniously dumped in the surf as you approach the beach <Larry: it’s easy--we phone ahead so that we can be dumped with full ceremonial honors. Or not.>. Because of the strength of the surf, a dinghy (ours is 8 feet long and weighs about 100 pounds, not counting the outboard or passengers) has a distinct tendency to turn sideways to the surf and get itself rolled. To prevent that, we now anchor the dinghy just outside the surf line, about 50-150 feet off the shore, then turn the dinghy around <Larry: hence the name, “the panga pivot”>, so that it points out to sea, and back in to the beach. The pull of the anchor keeps our bow pointing into the approaching surf <Larry: and so resists the tendency of the dink to turn sideways>, which gives us some time to manage the dink in the surf and swell while getting out of the dinghy at the shore’s edge. When we want to leave, we keep a continuous tension on the anchor rode, which keeps the bow pointed into the surf and us safely in the dinghy while we pull the dink through the surf back beyond the surf line. Once beyond the surf, we can start the outboard or begin to row at our leisure. Well, it usually works. I am pretty slow in getting out as we approach the shore, so I have been known to get wet, but we are mastering the aspect of our lives. <Larry: the germ of this idea came from a book on seamanship published in England around 1900. E. F. Knight’s Seamanship (http://www.allthingsransome.net/literary/knight8.htm) devotes half of its Chapter 8 to the problem of landing a small boat in surf. Some of the solutions he proposes are similar in spirit to “the panga pivot.”>
Grocery shopping in the villages is one of the pleasures and challenges of cruising in Mexico. Shopping in Chamela is simple. With a canvas bag on your arm you wander from one tienda (shop) to another. There are about five tiendas in the town, which has a population of about 500. You may find lemons, limes, and tequila in one store, cheese and soap in another and veggies and paper towels in a third. There is sufficient food in these small towns, but the essence of shopping is that it is done each day. The produce is not of the quality one would find in a US supermarket, where one would expect all the carrots to be scrubbed clean and graded for size, for example, but it is mostly fresh and varied. There are many tropical fruits, some of which we have seen in California and some of which are new to us. Chocolate and some cheeses are available in large, several-kilo blocks; the shopkeeper will cut off and weigh the amount you desire. One doesn’t find Big Boy tomatoes, but only Italian (Roma) tomatoes. And so on. So cooking becomes a new and more interesting experience as I try fruits and veggies I haven’t used before. To buy meat, you visit the carniceria (carne is “meat” in Spanish) and point at a diagram of the cow on the wall as to which part of the cow you would like. The meat is good quality, but tastes different and the cuts look different. Now as our Spanish improves (or at least, as Larry’s Spanish improves) we can tell the butcher what we want, but pointing now does the job. I must say the Mexicans are very patient with us, and extremely helpful even with our poor Spanish. And they don’t get annoyed when in exhaustion we lapse into English.
The bigger towns have many American-style stores such as Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart, which provide a simpler <Larry: if less culturally enriching> shopping experience. There are also big Mexican grocery stores that are much like Wal-Mart. It is strange to be able to take a local bus from our anchorage or marina to a Wal-Mart—it doesn’t fit my image of Mexico, but there they are. They have done well to accommodate to the Mexican customer by making fresh tortillas and providing bakeries that produce all of the typical, very good, Mexican pastries. Generally, I can find just about everything I want in the Wal-Mart or Mexican groceries, but there are some exceptions….California wine, Lipton’s soup mixes (which I use to make appetizers), pitted Kalamata olives, and things like grilled red peppers in olive oil. We have discovered Spanish and Chilean wines and occasionally find a bottle of drinkable Mexican wine. I have grown fond of fresh corn tortillas, whether from a street front tienda or Wal-Mart.
We found a third type of shopping in Barra De Navidad, where we are now (January ’05). I suspect it is unusual and will not be repeated. But, time will tell. The first morning after we arrived, we heard the announcement at 8:30am over the VHF (radio) that “The French Baker is now on G dock” where we are located. Now, I had been alerted to this phenomenon the day before, by friends already in the marina. So, off the boat I went and found the French Baker, who daily hires a panga to make the rounds of the anchorage and marina with his offerings. I bought two baguettes and 2 croissants. The baker is from Montreal. He found Barra about six years ago on vacation, and set up a French bakery and café in Barra. His English and Spanish have a distinct French lilt which is a pleasure to hear each morning. In addition to the French Baker, there is Maria’s tienda. Maria is a sharp, charming Mexican woman who has a tienda catering to the North Americans in Barra. Much of her stock is provided by her husband’s weekly trips to the Costco in Guadalajara. One can visit the tienda and get supplies including meat as well as veggies and fruits. Or one can give Maria a list of provisions one needs to stock the boat for weeks or months; her husband will buy the required items at Costco and they deliver it to your boat two days later by panga. That avoids all the usual schlepping usually involved in large scale shopping for a boat journey. She charges a markup of ten percent over the cost of the goods for this service, and a two-dollar delivery fee. We believe it is well worth it.
<Larry: For non-grocery items, one can buy stuff over the Internet from the States. However, shipping costs render this a tactic of desperation. It seems to be impossible to ship anything into México for much less than about $80US, and often more. And there’s a 15% duty on top.>
We are now in the Tropics. That is, we are south of the Tropic of Capricorn and north of the Tropic of Cancer. But that does not mean that is a steamy jungle with lots of rainy weather. From what we have observed so far and have been told there are two seasons: dry and rainy. The dry season is from November to June, and the rainy season is from June to October. The rainy season is the hot season, with of lots of rain and thunderstorms, and is also generally the hurricane season. The dry season is good sailing and the rainy season is less attractive.
Because Moira will be within the hurricane zone this coming Summer (North of Costa Rica), we plan to store her during the hurricane season in the “hurricane hole” (protected anchorage or port) of Puerto Vallarta. We told our insurance holder we would do so, and that is now a restriction in our insurance policy. Some folks continue sailing during the Summer, and some spend the Summer in the Sea of Cortez, which is prone to hurricanes. There are several hurricane holes there too, and those who remain in the Sea of Cortez in the Summer are prudent to remain within a day’s sail of one of those refuges.
But the Summer or rainy season is hotter than we’re seeing now in the dry season. The typical January high temperature is in the mid-80’s F with high humidity. We have decided to go back to the States for at least the two hottest months, and then spend the rest of the Summer touring Mexico inland, where the temperature is more like Southern California in the Summer.
The weather in the dry season takes adjustments. The clothes one enjoys in a Southern California Summer are generally too hot. So I have bought some Mexican-style clothes. There is generally a breeze in the late afternoon which I look forward to. With fans on at night and the natural cooling of the evening we generally sleep well at night. That is, after we put up all our screens to keep out the mosquitoes and no-see-ums which venture out at dusk and nibble on those who are found in cabins without screens. The most enjoyable way to stay cool is to jump in the Pacific Ocean, which is cooler than the air but much warmer than the waters of Southern California. The water reminds me of my short stays in the Caribbean, but is not as warm now (January) as I remember from the Bahamas. When we arrived in Cabo San Lucas and had anchored, I jumped overboard and loved the relief of the water. It has been that way ever since. In the marinas, so far, there have been very pleasant swimming pools associated with the hotels located around the marinas. <Larry: Business arrangements vary depending on the financial connection, if any, between the marina and the hotel. At some hotels, cruisers are welcome provided they buy an occasional drink at the pool bar. At others, there is a fee to use the facilities for the day, perhaps $40 US. And some places, cruisers are Not Welcome.> When we are anchored, I swim along side the boat or to shore and back to beat the heat.
<Larry: cruisers, like people everywhere, have differing degrees of desire for social interaction. At the low end, sometimes we’ll see a boat arrive in an anchorage, never see its occupants, and a day or two later, they’ll depart. For those who desire more interaction, opportunities abound.
Cruisers generally have both long-range (SSB) and short-range (VHF) radios on board, and there are scheduled radio “nets” for each. One SSB net we participated in covers the territory from San Diego to El Salvador. One VHF net we participated in covers Banderas Bay. The net is controlled by a volunteer who attempts to keep things moving along, provides relays of messages between boats that cannot hear one another directly, and is final arbiter on matters of etiquette. The typical order of business for a net might begin with check-ins, which is a kind of roll-call, during which boats make their presence known. Any other boat that wishes to communicate briefly with a boat which has checked in may do so during the check-in process, or they may agree to shift to another frequency for more lengthy conversations. General announcements follow (“The navigation light on Isla X is burned out. Still.” Or, “There will be a Yoga class on the beach at 9AM”). Some nets feature amateur weather forecasts. Local nets will offer to broker rides (“offered or wanted”), trades of goods or services (gringos are not allowed to sell anything, but may barter), transport of mail (“We have a guest who is leaving for the States tomorrow and is willing to carry flat mail”), or information on local assistance (“Does anyone know where in town I can buy a 3/8” stainless-steel frammis?”). Any one of these nets can take 20 minutes to an hour, end to end. Some cruisers participate in three or four every day.
Moving to closer range, a social structure sets itself up among boats within an anchorage. Striking up a conversation requires nothing more than rowing over to one’s target and saying “Nice boat! Tell me about your solar panels,” or whatever. Particularly in very crowded anchorages, it’s prudent to get to know one’s immediate neighbors under relaxed daytime conditions: a wind shift at night may result in “things that go bump in the dark,” like your hull against theirs, and the ensuing discussion is more likely to be amicable and constructive if you’ve met the other boat socially before “running in to them,” so to speak, at night.
The most fully-developed social structure we’ve seen so far centers around “The Mayor of Tenacatita,” a gringo who has made a habit of anchoring his boat for the Summer in the anchorage there. Hizonner came to his post by a kind of hereditary appointment: he got it from the previous “mayor,” who got it from the one before him, a tradition going back over a decade. The mayor’s sole official duty is to coordinate “The Mayor’s Friday Evening Dinghy Raft-Up,” which Susan referred to in her writeup on Tenacatita. People from the boats in the anchorage take their dinghies to some neutral spot in the bay where the mayor has anchored his dinghy, and tie their dinghies up to his in a kind of instant island. People swap appetizers and lies, and a good time is generally had by all. Unofficially, hizonner provides information on local resources and conditions. Predictably, some folks interpret all this activity as a kind of power grab and an intrusion of personal space.>
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