Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sailing from Barra de Navidad to Zihuatenejo

It’s often mentally difficult to pull the anchor and continue on our way, especially when you have to leave friends behind, a school that the kids have been enjoying going to and a real live French baker who delivers fresh baguettes and chocolate croissants to the boat. But Tim and I promised that after we finished our taxes and my article for the Gorge Guide, we would head south. It helped that the water quality had deteriorated rapidly and turned a chocolate brown color.
So we headed out the bar, not the kind that serves drinks, but the one with sand that piles high and if you’re not careful, you can run aground, which we did once when we came into the lagoon about a week ago. Kamaya came to a skidding thunk; fortunately, we were able to reverse off the mud. This final exit, we safely navigated our way out of the Barra de Navidad lagoon and sailed about 20 miles toward Santiago Bay, just north of Manzanillo. The wind was perfect for our spinnaker and we arrived just at sunset.

Along the way, the ocean bubbled with foam. It looked a little like an ebb tide line that we see in San Francisco Bay, but the color was dark on both sides. We later learned from another sailor that the water turns murky every year; however, this year it had changed a little sooner. Apparently, the ocean is suffering from an algae bloom where high concentrations of algae/ phytoplankton congregate and deplete the oxygen from the water. Sometimes the result can be toxic for the fish and other marine life. According to Wikipedia, scientists no longer call this disease “red tide” because the color is not always red, but can be brown or dark green.
The next morning we motored to Las Hadas and anchored in front of the Moorish style hotel, famous for the set location of the movie, 10 starring Bo Derek who jogged gorgeously along the beach. Well, even though Bo wasn’t there when we arrived, we enjoyed the pool and journeyed into Manzanilla to stock up on food: vanilla and strawberry yogurt, mangos and bananas, cheese, chicken and cereal, and lots more.
We pulled anchor at 4 in the morning for the Zihuatenejo area, 180 miles south, hoping it would be an easy and quick overnight sail. But we were wrong. At first, the wind came lightly from the south and the swells were all mixed up, so we found ourselves beating at a rapid 2 or 3 knots (we could almost walk faster!). Then the refrigerator turned off, clogged from the nasty water, so we thought we’d have to feast frenetically on all our newly purchased cold food before it turned bad. In the evening, the wind grew a little stronger and Tim and I didn’t want to change jibs in the middle of the night. The angle of the waves occasionally snapped the jib and this might have been the reason why we heard a big “pop”: the stainless ring holding the jib sheets broke, forcing us to change to the smaller rainbow jib.
Fortunately, the wind changed direction, coming from behind and Mr. Fixit Tim figured out a way to fix the fridge. The water turned a translucent blue, the turtles and dolphins showed up and we were back on track. We hoisted the spinnaker sailed about 7 to 8 knots into Isla Grande, just in time for sunset. Isla Grande just off of Ixtapa is a tourist spot with clear water, restaurants and mega motor yachts. After cleaning our bottom, well not my bottom or Tim's but Kamaya's bottom, we pulled anchor and sailed the short distance to Zihuatenejo.
Before arrival or shortly thereafter, its mandatory to learn how to spell “Zihuatenejo” and I think we figured it out. The name comes from the Nahuatl Indians and means “place of women.” In this place for women, we can now feel the heat of the tropics. The kids slept outside our first night, and the once sleepy fishing village is now a bustling tourist town with fine restaurants, delicious gelato ice cream and lots of trinkets.
So I apologize for writing a more or less “we did this” type of story. Now that I just learned how to spell Zihuatenejo correctly and the kids have finished school, we’re going to town for relief from the hot sun in a hopefully air conditioned movie theatre. We’re hoping to see Inkheart by Cornelius Funk. All of us have read the book, eager to see Dustfinger and Capricorn.

Photo of Kamaya sailing into the Sunset taken by Ewout Mante, Captain, SV Bravado now en route west

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Interview with Maya

Maya, I'm going to take you back to Chamela. One night we decided to swim back to the boat instead of brave the surf in the dinghy. How did you like swimming at night in Chamela?

It was very fun.

What was different about it?

It was the first time that I got to swim with bioluminescience. Bioluminescience is a chemical reaction that creates light. When I swam, there were bright lights all around me.

Did you go to the school in Chamela/ Punta Perula? What did you teach there?

I taught Chinese there and told them about the Chinese New Years.

Did you also go to the school in Colimilla, the town that’s near us when we anchored in the Barra Lagoon?

Yes. There is only one teacher and she teaches 1st grade through 6th grade.

How do you like going to school there?

It's fun. The people are really nice.

Did you bring your unicycle there?

Yes, they liked it.

Who have you been teaching to swim?

(Lucy is a woman we met in San Blas on Christmas Eve and she sailed with us from San Blas to Chacala and then met us with her sister Teresa in Cuestacomote, a small beach town near Barra de Navidad. We just spent a fun weekend with them.)

What happens when a frigate bird lands on your mast?

You shoo it off.
(One of the birds broke our windex- that’s on an instrument on the top of our mast that helps us know where the direction of the wind. Frigate birds don’t swim, so like to land on masts and that is a constant problem).

What are some of things you’re going to miss most about Barra de Navidad?
The French Baker. He comes to the boats and delivers fresh baguettes and chocolate croissants and other pastries.

Monday, February 9, 2009

From Chamela to Barra de Navidad

Be warned, this is a bit of a ramble….

We left Punta Mita and sailed south, crossing the famous Cabo Corrientes, where the wind is known to make a racket. But it was pretty calm for us -- at least at first. We hoisted the spinnaker and unfortunately just as the wind predictably kicked up, the fishing pole zzzzzed. “This is a real big one,” shouted Tim. “I hope it’s a tuna,” yells Maya. I think it was both. Probably the biggest fish we’ve ever had behind us, probably bigger than both Maya and Kai combined. But the problem was that we couldn’t reel in the fish and slow down the boat at the same time. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the strength to pull down the spinnaker sock with the strong wind while Tim and the kids worked on reeling the fish into the boat. Then there was a loud snap. The fishing line broke and the real big fish got away. So if anyone catches a fish a real big yellow tuna with a lure in its mouth, please call us. It’s ours!

We reached Chamela Bay the following morning and anchored exhausted from sailing all night. Tim and I alternate two hour shifts during the nights. It’s hard for me to get used to the pattern in just one night and we’ve discussed lengthening our watch schedule, but the problem is that we’ve found that after two hours of sailing alone in the middle of night, we’re both eager to stop.

In Chamela Bay, while eating at the taco stand, we met a 9 year old boy named Sage who lived part time in the local town of Punta Perula and the other months works as a child actor in Los Angeles. Dressed as a sailor with a captain’s hat, and striped shirt, Sage asked me what kind of boat he should get when he turns 18 and sails with his friends. I told him to keep studying all the boats anchored in his bay and to see which ones look strong and sturdy to him. Sage told us that he dreams about sailing, but has not had the opportunity. We were excited to make his dream come true and we took Sage and his mother and younger brother with us on the 28 mile passage from Chamela to Tenacatita. It was an ideal sail with 10 knots of wind behind us, perfect for the spinnaker. We sailed into Tenacatita just in time for the beach bonfire.

The sailing community in the Mexican Riviera and really along our entire journey is super helpful and friendly. Most areas have a morning net (open discussion on the VHF radio) to communicate with the fleet. We’re always eager to get to know other “kid boats” and sometimes we team together for boat schooling. Musician and sailor Bobbie Jo who helped with the Harry Potter performance in La Cruz was also anchored in Tenacatita and came on board to teach Maya and Kai how to play Ode to Joe on the recorder.

On Friday, we also did a boat school morning in Barra lagoon where bats have made their home at an abandoned building near the hotel. First we watched the Planet Earth section on caves and bats and then brought the Bravado kids and “Bear” from Oso Blanco to investigate the bats of Barra. We walked up the steps of the spooky building adjacent to the fancy Grand Bay Hotel. “They’re here,” six year old Bear told us and pointed to the ceiling. We could hear their high pitched sound as they buzzed in and out of the dark abandoned rooms. When one flew out, Annie, Bear's mother, bee-lined out of the building, shaking her head, “I just can’t do bats.” On the other end of the spectrum, Maya wanted to bring one home as a pet. "I just don't do boat pets...kids and a husband are enough."

That afternoon, Bravado, our buddy boat since Christmas Day, sailed and drove north. Does that make sense? Well in the early morning, Bravado rafted next to us and dropped Judith and the three kids and their Oma, Ineka, on our boat as Ewout and Opa Alexander sailed the boat to Puerto Vallarta. Ineka gets seasick and so prefers to travel by land. As they drove out of the narrow streets of Barra and Maya and I stood and did the Dutch wave (that’s when you continue to wave until you can’t see them anymore), I had tears in my eyes, sad to see them go, but excited about their upcoming adventure across the Pacific. Though we’ve only known the Mante family for less than two months, it feels like we’ve known them forever.

Looking Back

It took me more than seven years to turn our blog into a hard covered bound book. At first, I was leery of wrapping up our adventure because...