Mazatlán to La Cruz

We returned several days into 2018 to find Nomi safe and sound in Marina Mazatlán. We spent about a week recommissioning her, provisioning, and getting settled back into boat life after a longer-than-anticipated absence. We explored Mazatlán a bit more than we had done last spring but we were fairly anxious to get back to the cruising community we love in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, so in mid-January we slipped the docklines, spent one night anchored just south of downtown Mazatlán, and then sailed to Matanchén Bay, just south of San Blas.

Despite the extremely annoying presence of jejenes, tiny invisible bugs whose bite both stings and itches, we enjoyed Matanchén very much. We went ashore and walked to the small town to ride a panga (a small, open motorboat) into the mangrove jungle. Casey took dozens of photos of the wildlife–crocodiles, egrets, iguanas–and at the end we came to a swimming hole (gated against crocs!) with a waterside restaurant where we spent a pleasant hour before the boat ride back. I’ll share those photos in another post once Casey has edited them.

Another not-to-be-missed feature of the San Blas area is the local banana bread. At first we bought only one loaf just to try, but ended up getting about 10 loaves of various types before we left! It was a great treat because our boat’s oven doesn’t heat properly so we rarely get fresh baked goods.

Our next stop was Chacala. This beautiful little anchorage was full of boats, tourists and plenty of beachside palapa restaurants. The kids really got into boogie boarding and digging on the beach, while Casey and I enjoyed sitting in the shade eating delicious shrimp ceviche and tacos.

We intended only to spend a night or two at Chacala before sailing the last 12 hours overnight to La Cruz (sailing through the night means the kids sleep through most of the passage, and we arrive at morning light rather than in the dark after a day of sailing). But each evening when we told the kids we had to leave the beach to up-anchor before dark, they begged to stay another night to play on the beach again. Casey and I would look at one another and shrug, “we could stay another night, we’re not in a hurry to leave.”

So it was already the end of January before we finally landed for our third season in lovely La Cruz. Morgan and Maeve were fully immersed in the cruising kids gang, literally within minutes of our arrival at the dock. Here they are enjoying raspados (similar to a snowcone or shave ice) at the first Sunday market of our season here:

We got up to our usual stuff in La Cruz, making friends and eating delicious food. Maeve held a Slime Workshop, teaching a large group of her peers to make glue-and-borax slime.

(Photo credit s/v Milou sailingmilou.com)

The La Cruz Kids Club once again put the kids to work running restaurants, doing beach cleanups, and raising money for and volunteering at the free spay and neuter clinic in town.

There was another “no parents allowed” beach campout, and a project making boats from organic materials found around the marina. Nomi was also host to a Girls’ Night, with pasta supper and a movie for nine girls! Maeve got to play with a friend’s puppies, too.

Morgan worked for days creating this sailboat made of dried banana leaves and palm ribs:

Maeve took her first turn at being “net control” (host) for the kids’ morning VHF radio net:

Morgan worked hard on getting his SCUBA certification.

The cats worked hard at watching Casey make sushi:

…and observing the action in the water:

We took a day trip to Yelapa with our friends from s/v Milou. Yelapa is an indigenous community accessible only by boat. After lunch under a palapa, we made a brutal, hours-long, steep hike to a cold waterfall. The kids may never agree to another hike again!

(Yelapa photos credit s/v Milou)

All in all, it was another busy and fun stay in one of our favorite spots.

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Back to Mexico

Our beloved Nadine, the 1996 Toyota that was with us for over 300k miles, finally gave up the ghost back in August. She was mourned by the whole family, but none more than Maeve. Our sensitive girl cried her eyes out as we emptied the car for the last time, and insisted that we take the rear-view mirror and the stick-shift knob to remember her by. Nadine is now at rest in the Palm Springs desert, which meant that we had an interesting time getting back to Mexico from California in December–we’d planned to bring the family, the cats, and a carload of boat parts back to Mexico in Nadine. The only vehicle we now own is a 1968 Land Rover Dormobile: Queen Maeve, aka the Dormie, aka Blue Truck. Right-hand drive, with a tent that pops up and has two fold-out cots, seats that fold into beds, a pantry, a stove, and a sink.

We ruled out buying a used car just for the trip because it would have been difficult to sell it again once we were in Mexico, so Casey spent several weeks preparing the truck for a trip south, and we generally sweated and crossed our fingers that we were making the right decision. The plan was to bring the Dormie down to San Carlos/Guaymas in Sonora, camping as we went. Then we’d leave the Dormie in storage there, rent a car to go the rest of the way to Mazatlán where the boat had spent the summer, and in late spring/early summer we would bring the boat up to San Carlos and haul it out of the water for some maintenance and repairs, and drive the truck back into the States to wait out hurricane season. Yep, we’re completely nuts.

A little over a week before Christmas we set off on this wild adventure. Things were rocky from the beginning, with a massive traffic jam leaving the Bay Area due to an overturned big rig. In the evening, the engine started misfiring and we were pretty stressed out. We ended up spending the night in Merced in Linda’s cousin Sierra’s driveway, and hoping we could resolve the issue in the morning without much delay. What we discovered at that point, though, was that winter was in full swing despite our desperate attempts to pretend it wasn’t. At 33° F that night, even the cats were cold and slept under the covers with us! That put paid to our plans to camp at any of the long list of free camp spots I’d compiled, and we resigned ourselves to cheap motels for the rest of the trip. Before we left Merced we had a nice breakfast with Sierra’s family. Pictured below: Linda and Maeve with cousins JoAnne, Sierra, Emily and Alice (twins).

Casey worked hard to keep the truck running as we made our way toward Phoenix, with mixed results. We climbed mountain passes at under 40mph with our hazards flashing. We were passed by every other type of vehicle, even decrepit-looking RVs. In spite of the stress of not knowing what might break next, the trip had its moments of fun.

Getting ready for the very cold first night in the cots up in the tent:

Because our progress was so slow, we drove far longer than we anticipated each day, until one evening outside of Barstow our headlights dimmed and the engine died. Luckily we were able to call for a tow and we waited in the cold and dark for it to show up. After almost two hours the tow truck arrived and we loaded the Dormie–cats and all–onto its bed.

Then we all held our breath as the driver careened down the pitch black highway at 85mph. We joked nervously that this was the fastest Blue Truck had ever gone in its life. The last time the kids and I had driven through and stayed in Barstow, it had been such a sub-mediocre experience I’d been moved to compose Barstow haiku, such as the following:

Barstow at midnight
I’d rather get my teeth cleaned

What else can I say

This current trip in the tow truck, with a loudly crooning driver, inspired this new haiku:

Tow truck to Barstow
Playing all the 80s rock
Sing along full blast

The next day, for whatever reason, the truck started without issue. We limped our way to Kingman, AZ and then into Phoenix, landing at the home of Linda’s aunt Janet, where we would end up spending a slightly depressing Christmas with just the four of us.

Because it was the holidays, the auto-electric shop working on what turned out to be an alternator issue was closed some days and worked very slowly other days. We spent a total of eleven days trying to get the truck running again! We finally said our goodbyes to Phoenix and made it to the rather seedy border town of Nogales, Sonora on New Year’s Eve. We celebrated the end of 2017 with tamales and tacos from a cart on a street corner, some sweets from the convenience store, and a movie in the hotel room.

From there, our drive to San Carlos was easy and we put the Dormie to bed for the winter, renting a minivan to go the rest of the way to Mazatlán.

Sunset on the tide pools in San Carlos:

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LCKC Beach Campout

Once again, Kat and Mike put together an incredible activity for the kids here in the marina. There was pizza delivered directly to the beach, roasted marshmallows, a demonstration of emergency flares, capture the flag, and story telling. They even exploded a watermelon by putting rubber bands around it till it was peanut-shaped…

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La Cruz Kids Club

The beloved Katrina, despite being set back by severe respiratory illness over the past two months or so, has been doing an absolutely incredible job creating opportunities for the La Cruz Kids Club. The lucky cruising kiddos get to have fun, learn new skills and give back to the local community. I’ve posted previously about events such as Kids for Ribs (where the kids ran the restaurant at Octopus’ Garden). In the past month they’ve also done Kids for Tacos, when they made and served tacos at La Ballena Blanca, donating part of their tips to local charities. 

Maeve, Neli and Jessica serve chips and salsa:

Morgan and Maia work the bar like pros again:

Maeve and Emma squeeze limes for alllllll those margaritas!

The whole crew:

Kat also ordered plain white burgees (and her partner Mike of PV Sailing donated paint) for the kids to decorate and fly from the rigging to let others in a new anchorage know there are children aboard.

Last month I volunteered to help drive to Amos de Amor (Hands of Love), an orphanage in the neighboring town of Bucerias. Originally this was to be a service project for school credit for the teens, helping to play or read with the children there, and help clean or organize as needed. We ended up including a cadre of younger kids as well, who jumped on the trampoline and pushed the orphanage kids on the swings. We all had a tour and got to see the children’s dormitories, the classroom, and the living areas. The orphanage kids were so very happy to meet and interact with our kids. I think it was eye-opening for our kids to see how little these children have; yet they have the wonderful love and care of those who work and live at the orphanage with them.

The “closet” in this photo is full of the boy clothing. Nothing belongs to any one child in particular; they all share all the clothing. This was the younger boys’ dorm.

The classroom:

In addition to the wall painting of the Spanish alphabet, they had this painting of the English alphabet with transliteration below each letter. I thought it was very interesting to see that there is no |y| sound in Spanish, so it’s spelled “guai.” (This also explains why, when I was talking about a wedding with a local, she asked me how to say it in English, and wrote down “gueddin?” )

This sweet little girl remembered Maia from when the orphans were brought to swim and eat hot dogs at the marina, and she immediately became Maia’s shadow.

The kids enjoyed a game of basketball despite the intense heat!

The whole gang! Back row, L-R: [cruiser boy] Maia (Ceilydh), [cruiser girl] Nina (Shawnigan), [cruiser boys]. Front row: photo-bombing orphan, Dean, Ellie and Scott (Zimovia), Maeve, Cooper (Wiz), and Benjy (Valella).

Another major event here was the LCKC Claymation Film project, put on by Kat and Susan from s/v Wiz. The kids were divvied into teams and set out to create a 30-90 second stop-motion animation using modeling clay (which was later donated to the orphanage) and a stop-motion app on iPads. Anyone who has ever done stop-motion animation will know that it is a labor intensive project and not as easy as it looks! Each production team came up with a name, sketched storyboards, and worked together to make their ideas come to life on the screen. 

Smiling Fish Productions:

Kidummbia!

Bubble Fish Productions:

Last Thursday, movie night at the amphitheater began with the presentation of their finished films and the awarding of cardboard and rigging wire “Oscars” handmade by Kat and Susan. 

The short films were a big hit, and were followed by birthday cake for Luke of s/v Beach Flea, and a showing of Zootopia. Here, for those who weren’t lucky enough to attend in person, are the finished videos:

As boats begin leaving the area to cross the Pacific to French Polynesia and beyond, Kat is trying to squeeze in more events for LCKC before the quiet season begins here. This weekend, Mike and Kat are hosting a beach camp-out: first they’ll build a base camp and first aid station, then have a bonfire and pizza from Kids Club sponsors Falconi’s Italian restaurant. They’ll let the kids stay up as late as they want, provided they can be awake at 6:30am for a quick breakfast and beach cleanup. (For those that don’t know our kids and their crazy schedule, 6:30 is going to be a painful wake up for them no matter how early they go to sleep!) On Tuesday, LCKC will have a kids-only, PJs and pillows/blankets movie night in the main marina building featuring Moana, an apropos feature with its sailor girl protagonist. In a few weeks, our kids will make food to share and host a potluck dinner and movie night for the children from Manos de Amor. It’s going to be a busy and fun time until most of the kid boats leave Bahia Banderas for the South Pacific, the Central American coast, or the Sea of Cortez.

It must be mentioned that Kat does all of this on a volunteer basis, in addition to her paid job at Marina La Cruz. It’s clear that she truly loves spending time with the kids, and she gets excited about each new idea she comes up with–we boat families are just so fortunate to be able to share in Kat’s enthusiasm and passion!

Tonight LCKC will run Kids for Sushi at Yin Yang Sushi. Pretty soon we’ll be able to put Morgan and Maeve to work making us supper on the boat!

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Juice Box

On Wednesdays here in La Cruz, there’s a “Beer Can” race, where a handful of sailboats go out for a short afternoon of friendly racing, then come back to the marina to chat about sailing, eat pizza (a local pizza chef brings his barbeque setup to the poolside area) and drink beer. 

Every Wednesday morning, we hear Mike (the partner of Kat who runs the kids’ club) on the radio announcing in his scratchy voice “yeeeah, we’re gonna get a Beer Can off this afternoon, so come on out, it’s a fun time for everyone…” After hearing this on the morning net for months, our friend Sara of Riki Tiki Tavi came to with the idea that we should set up a Beer Can for the cruising kids. RTT has their own sailing dinghy; on Nomi we have a sailing rig for our dinghy, PoPu; another family with four kids on a boat called Pickles has a sailing dinghy as well. 

The younger kids don’t yet know how to sail a dinghy on their own, but today Sara trailed two of them behind her motor dinghy Big Dollar, with just the rudders attached so they could begin to get a feel for how to use the tiller to steer. In the photos below, Morgan is in bright orange PoPu, and Liam of RTT is in the blue and white dinghy. Maeve and Neli had already had their turn so they rode on the side of Big Dollar with Luke of Beach Flea, who had his turn next.

Once the kids are ready to try actually sailing, we’re going to have Liam announce on the morning kids’ net: “yeeeah, we’re gonna get a Juice Box off today, should be a good time so everyone come on out!”

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Hauling Out

When we moved the boat last summer to Paradise Village, you may recall that we broke a very important piece of our driveline and consequently had no way to move the boat under power. So upon our return this winter, one of the first things we had to coordinate was getting Nomi towed back to La Cruz and hauled out of the water to repair the damage and replace broken parts. This was complicated because it’s not allowed for owners to live on their boats, so we had to find alternative temporary digs; but most buildings in La Cruz are not completely enclosed, so even the places that would allow our cats to stay didn’t work for us because we wouldn’t be able to keep Wylie and Dekker indoors. What we ended up doing was renting beds at a hostel in town and leaving the cats on board, with Casey spending most of every day in the yard working and keeping the cats company. Since the boat was about 15 feet in the air the cats were able to have free run of the boat during the day (they weren’t brave–or stupid?– enough to try to get down the ladder).

After each hard day’s work, Casey would lock the cats inside the boat and walk up the hill into town to join us at the Octopus’ Garden hostel, where we would cook supper in the shared kitchen, chat with other guests, and get ready for bed. (This is the same location that the kids did the restaurant-running event at; the hostel is located sort of above the restaurant). OG is also a music venue, which meant that for most of the nights of our 6-night stay there was loud music going on right outside our room, sometimes until after midnight. And unfortunately, not all of it was much good. The local older expat community seemed to love it, though, singing along with such favorites as “I Wanna Be a Dog” (awr! awr! awr!) and “I Don’t Look Good Nekkid Anymore.” The one night the restaurant was closed, the next-door neighbors hosted a birthday party, complete with a live band (and a barking dog). Now, there’s some great music in La Cruz, but this band was not it. It sounded like three separate bands all playing in different keys. It has to be heard to be believed.

Meanwhile, work was chugging along in the boatyard. Nomi got her AquaDrive repaired, a new propeller shaft installed (the old one had a lot of corrosion so it made sense to replace it while work was being done anyhow), and her bottom sanded and repainted.

Morgan had some questions for Casey about the repairs:

We splashed (put the boat back in the water) in the late afternoon on February 3 and motored over to the other side of the marina to a slip near a bunch of other kid boats. If you’ve ever wondered how they move boats around a yard, here’s your answer. First they move the gigantic Travelift around the boat:

Then they fasten the sling securely around the hull and lift the boat off its stilts:

Lastly, the boat is taken out of the yard to the haulout slip and lowered into the water. 

The Travelift driver stopped momentarily as our bowsprit aligned with the ground so that Casey and I could climb over the pulpit and onto the boat before it got any lower.

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Mini Restaurateurs

Our friend Kat at the Marina de La Cruz organizes the La Cruz Kids Club, with activities like last year’s Smoothie Stand at the cruisers’ swap meet, doing fish prints, and making gingerbread houses at Christmas time. 

This week, she arranged with local restaurant El Jardín del Pulpo (The Octopus’ Garden) for the kids to take over control for the evening, serving customers from the cruising community as well as others from the area. 

We parents dropped our children off at the restaurant at 2pm and left them in the capable hands of the chefs and owner. For the next two hours all twenty-five of them–ranging in age from five to sixteen–learned how to set tables, take orders, and cook and serve food and drinks. The restaurant opened for dinner at 4:00 and the community turned out in force, keeping the kids working hard, running up and down the stairs with orders until 6. 

All the boat kids did an amazing job, and they were rewarded at the end of the evening with ribs and chocolate cake. They also each took home 100 pesos in tips!

Ellie of Zimovia works in the kitchen serving coleslaw.

Ellamae of Shawnigan and Briley of Me Too put in their orders at the kitchen window.

Maeve and Neli of Riki Tiki Tavi help each other write down their customers’ orders.

Morgan explains to me that he is not actually allowed to serve me a margarita while Neli awaits her drink orders.

August of Princess Erica and Ellie work together on making salads.

Liam of Riki Tiki Tavi serves one of his tables.

Maeve carries a limonada very carefully down the steps to a thirsty customer.

Hannah of Empyrean and Matero of Kenta Anae discuss work.

Servers patiently await their orders.

Nina was in charge of getting the orders from servers to the kitchen staff.

Morgan works behind the bar, squeezing limes for margaritas. Behind him, Maia of Ceilydh and Abby of Beach Flea mix drinks.

Shandro of Kenta Anae works with the chef while Nina gets plates ready for servers.

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