Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bopping around Banderas Bay

While Maya was on skype the other evening talking to her cousin in Alaska, she stopped for a moment to ask, “Mom, where are we anchored?” “We’re in Chamela Bay,” I tell her and then think about the numerous places we’ve been anchored and how sometimes it can be confusing for the kids to know where we are. The constant though is our boat. Even though the scenery, towns and people change, we’re still sleeping in the same bunks, cooking in the same galley and surrounded by all of our same books, electronics and gear.
Last Thursday, we sailed out of Banderas Bay which had been our home since New Year’s Eve when we arrived with our buddy boat Bravado and anchored a the north end of the bay near Punta de Mita, famous for its fancy homes and good surfing. That night we had front row seats to the fireworks exploding all around us. New Year’s Day, we sailed five miles to the ecological island called Isla la Marieta. We kayaked into the caves amidst the clear water and also explored the caves on land. These caves used to be underwater and many connect with each other. That’s where Kai, Hein and Eltjo played Indiana Jones; Eltjo the explorer climbed a little too high and got stuck on the cliff with the yellow footed booties. Fortunately, Indiana saved him.
In the afternoon when the wind typically comes up, we sailed into La Cruz marina, escorted by humpback whales that, like us, came from the north. Many of these big mammals make Banderas Bay their home while they munch on thousands of pounds of krill, plankton and small fish. This is also where they give birth to their hundred pound babies. I’ve never seen so many whales jumping high into the air and flashing us their tales.
When we pulled into La Cruz Marina, we told Rafaela at the desk that we’d stay for only four days. Bu the boat projects, provisioning, the performance of the Harry Potter play and luxury of being at a marina with hot showers kept us there for more than two weeks. It felt good to stop moving for a bit and to get to know some of locals. La Cruz is a cozy town where some people serve food out of their homes. The special alhambres tacos next to the ice cream store kept us well fed. And the tasty bakery kept us plump with their delicious baked goods. The only complaint from our unicycling family was that the roads were bumpy and the “big city” of Puerto Vallarta was a 35-minute bus ride.
The sophisticated Puerto Vallarta reminded me a little of San Francisco as both have luxurious homes perched amidst steep hills. We also met Tim’s cousin, Pat Henry who settled in Puerto Vallarta, after being the one of the first women and the oldest one to sail around the world alone. Pat has now given up the sailor’s life, and while not painting for a living, she’s on the dance floor, tangoing.

Other Banderas Bay highlights include releasing baby turtles at Nuevo Vallarta and sailing to the south side of the Bay to Yelapa, an artistic town that you can only get to by boat. Instead of wide roads, small walking paths weave around the lush village. Many locals get around with horses. We followed one path a few miles out to a waterfall. Although magnificent, the rolly anchorage and the tights moorings which many of us used otherwise we had to anchor in 80-to-140-feet water deterred us from staying more than two days. One night, we almost bumped into New Moon, a catermaran also on a mooring. The only boat that wasn’t flopping sideways with the waves was Bravado who opted out of grabbing a mooring and instead dropped both a bow and stern anchor.
Our last days in Banderas Bay were spent with the Koenig family who flew down from Hood River to get a dose of the warm water and the sun. We took them on a perfect sail where in less than an hour, we saw Humpback Whales and caught a Sierra fish. I told Margaret and Nathan that our boat life isn’t all a vacation and that often our days are filled with working on the boat, getting provisions and schooling the kids, and they looked at me in disbelief. Nathan nodded smiling, “We’ll think about you when we’re back working in Hood River and it's grey and cold.”

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