S/V INTREPID II - Cape Dory Intrepid 40

My photo
Intrepid II is a Cape Dory Intrepid 40 sailboat, hull #2, designed by Chuck Paine and discovered by the Captain in Blue Hill Maine in 2006. The crew are Kelly (Captain) and Carol (Admiral and Blogger). In 2009 INTREPID II embarked on her West Coast journey from Victoria to San Francisco, the Baja Sur Peninsula and into the Sea of Cortez. In 2010/2011, we sailed ifrom Guaymas, south to Bahia Banderas and back. In 2011/2012 she left Guaymas, headed south to La Paz, spent three weeks at anchor on our northward journey and rested on the hard in San Carlos. Her 4th, 5th and 6th seasons were Boat Projects related. Season 7 - we are hoping to cruise again at long last.

February 23, 2011

Day trip into Puerto Vallarta -Tuesday February 22

Mermaid statue along Puerto Vallarta malecon
While there is a small marine chandlery located within Marnia Riviera Nayarit, it  has a limited selection.  Most cruisers find themselves making at least one trip to Ferreteria Zaragoza's, a much larger establishment.  This entails a bus ride into the north end of Puerto Vallarta, near Plaza Neptuno.  As we needed to check on a few items we decided to make a day of it.

By 09:30 we'd caught the bus from La Cruz at the top of Avenida Langosta on the highway and were on our somewhat bumpy, rattling way; nothing out of the ordinary on these buses.  Our plan was to ride all the way into the Zona Centro or Old Town, see some of the malecon (waterfront walkway) with its intriguing statues, sample Puerto Vallarta restaurants, then make our way back to the chandlery.

La Cruz and Bucerias are in the state of Nayarit and Puerto Vallarta is in Jalisco.  We might have been imagining it, but the road seemed to get bumpier as soon as we entered Jalisco, a real shaking for some time.  Then we watched for the airport and the start of the hotel zone and changed buses at Plaza los Glorias.  Along the way we had spotted Zaragoza's out of the bus windows and two huge cruise ships in dock.  Now we were on a blue bus and in the midst of traffic congestion, tourists and much more activity than we'd experienced since leaving La Paz.  Kelly picked a spot to hop off and we were now walking south along the malecon and the bridge over the Rio Cuale. 

Puerto Vallarta is at the east end of Bahia Banderas and offers a wide selection of restaurants, accommodations, shopping, browsing and people watching opportunites as well as several beaches. The tree lined, shady Isla Cuale looked appealing, so we took stairs down from the bridge and enjoyed a walk along artists' stalls, restaurants and the 'usual' vendors of tourist wares. Huge banyan trees shade the stalls.   The small but well presented Museo del Cuale provided an overview of the early cultures in the area with its collection of pottery, grinding stones, clay figurines and other  objects, and many of the texts are in English as well as Spanish.
Replica crown on bell tower
The River Cafe restaurant appealed to us for a late brunch and we were seated at a quiet table overlooking the greenery of the river, while we enjoyed the sounds of a two piece ensemble - guitar and harp - interesting combination.  After recrossing the bridge we spotted the 'crown' of the Church of our Lady of Guadalupe (La Iglesia de Nuestro Senora de Guadalupe) and climbed a few blocks of stairs, unnecessarily it turned out, to end up on a street behind the church dome. This effort provided a great view but necessitating a climb back down to the entrance. "Good exercise" commented the Captain.  The bell tower has a 'crown' which replicates that of Empress Carlotta.  The current one is of fibreglass, the original having been damaged in an earthquake.

We continued to walk the malecon, popping into shops which caught our eye and dodging time share salesmen.  We realized it wasn't a good thing to say you weren't with the cruise ships, because that meant you were available for their special deals....no thank you.  We enjoyed viewing the whimsical statues along the way.
Eventually we hopped a blue bus towards Plazo Neptuno and Marina Vallarta and had a quick look at this much larger gathering of boats. So large an area we couldn't spot the marina office.  After making our purchases at Zaragoza's (laid out much like a West Marine) we attempted to catch our bus home.  The grey bus to Bucerias and La Cruz  apparently no longer stopped outside the chandlery.  They certainly didn't respond to being waved down.  A very thoughtful woman took the time to advise us, in Spanish, that we needed to hop a blue bus going to the airport, where we could then catch the right bus to La Cruz.  We did just that and finally were seated on a very comfortable bus with red curtains billowing in the breeze on the windows to shade us from the sun.  The trip was enhanced by a guitarist who got on and sang songs for our entertainment, including "Last Kiss" in Spanish ('where oh where can my baby be....") then thanked us politely for our interest, our tips and hopped off to catch another bus.

It's a bit of a walk from the highway to the marina, so we were glad to reach home and enjoy a cool drink and put our feet up.  The Captain gathered enough energy to bbq burgers and we reflected on another very full day in Banderas Bay.  (note:  eventually I'll succeed in getting more pics uploaded...very strange gremlins at work...)

February 20, 2011

La Cruz - Colourful artistry

We made reference earlier to the colourful art work we've seen in San Blas, La Cruz and Bucerias, including the work of various Huichol artists.  In San Blas, where stalls wereset up in the town plaza, we enjoyed speaking with the women who were selling their beaded bracelets, earrings and other jewellery.  During the feast day festivities, a man arrived selling the beaded carvings he had made and they all spoke of the hours and days it takes to either create the jewellery or affix the small seed beads onto the wood carvings.  We were very impressed and admired the intricate work.

Reference material advises that:  the Huichol have a long history of beading, making the beads from clay, shells, corals, seeds and more and using them to make jewelry and to decorate bowls and other items. The “modern” beadwork usually consists of masks and wood sculptures covered in small, brightly colored commercial beads fastened with wax and resin.

In La Cruz there is a gallery located in the Abalon restaurant displaying a large variety of Huichol work.  We admired brightly coloured yarn 'paintings' created by pressing yarn into a beeswax-resin mixture and resulting in imaginative displays of art.  Some reflect mythology, some an aspect of the artists' world view. There are displays of jewellery similar to what we saw in San Blas and the detailed beaded sculptures of birds, animals and other shapes. The base is carved wood or a lighter weight mold.  The Hikuri silk screening shop provides very high quality tee-shirts, gift cards and other items based on the Huichol designs.

Today at the Sunday Market in the town plaza, we were able to view the art work on display with the benefit of more information and having seen a variety of pieces in several locations.  It was a difficult choice, but we decided INTREPID II deserved a local piece of art to enhance our cozy cabin.  We purchased an appealing crescent moon from artist Alvaro Ortiz Lopez and are now contemplating the best place to display La Luna or "Metsa" in the Huichol language.
Huichol art - beaded moon

Artist Alvaro Ortiz Lopez at work
The artist advised us he had participated in a recent artistic endeavour in which several Huichol artists painstakingly decorated a Volkswagen Beetle with an incredible amount of beads. The end result was to be auctioned off to the highest bidder, with funds received to be used to support  the Huichol community.

Hand woven and perfect for the boat
Leaving the market, we were offered a better price (half!) on a small woven basket we had admired and now have a new 'bread basket'.   A good day, having sampled fresh baked scones, various salsas, and gourmet tamales...all excellent.  

La Cruz - more highlights

Full moon over La Cruz marina
Last Thursday, February 17th, as we returned to the marina from picking up our freshly laundered items at a local lavenderia, the path was well lit by the full moon. We realized it was only a month ago that we'd sailed from Guaymas and the full moon had made our overnight passage a bright one.  We've covered a fair distance with INTREPID II in that time and caught up with many of our cruising friends who had earlier starts.  This is our turn-around spot, although we haven't set an exact date to head back.  More weather is coming from the north this week per the marine forecast.

Good friends - good times
Our Edmonton friends paid us a visit on Friday to be introduced to INTREPID II at long last and were very complimentary about her.  We didn't recruit any new crew members, however!
So this is what cruising is about?
It was our turn to 'lead the tour', through the streets of La Cruz, ending up in the courtyard of a local restaurant, with a fountain and shade to enjoy our mid afternoon comida. The 'especiale' for everyone (cervezas included).
Enjoying lunch at La Cascada
Rocks and sandy beach

Almost sunset in La Cruz 

February 19, 2011

Day trip to Bucerias - Tuesday February 15

Welcome to Bucerias
We were pleased to find that the stars aligned to be in La Cruz at the same time as friends were arriving from Edmonton to stay in Bucerias, a short distance away.  Last Tuesday we walked through the village up to the main highway to catch a bus for 9 pesos each for a 20 minute ride.  We rode through most of Bucerias to its eastern edge; according to our mini-map we were looking for the 5th traffic light.  As we strolled down the residential street our greeting party met us part way to their rented condo.   We enjoyed a catch up chat on the lovely shaded balcony overlooking a quiet pool in the complex. 
Well marked streets
Bonnie and Dave took us on a walking tour towards the footbridge near the town centre.  We enjoyed the stroll along cobblestone streets, admiring a variety of private homes, colourful gardens, rental casas, which gave way to restaurants, galleries, small shops and street vendors.
Yellow tailed birds on flowering bush

Dolphin finial on post

Intricate brick and mosaic
For lunch we sampled pescado y papas at Fishy's, near the Art Walk plaza and on our return quenched our thirst at Ixta's, enjoying a great compilation of music in the background.  Bucerias certainly offers a wide assortment of eating spots and more places to spent your pesos than does La Cruz. It also appears to be a pleasant place to enjoy the warmer weather for all of us from 'up  north'.

Dave, Bonnie and Kelly at Ixta
After our enjoyable exploration and visit we still had time to do some provisioning. Since there was a large super store in the area, we hopped the bus for a few more kms east and arrived at the Mega store.  Like all these large stores, it offers groceries, beer and wine, hardware, housewares and some clothing.  It made sense to buy some of the heavier items here and take a taxi back to the marina, so for $120 pesos we saved ourselves the effort of carting everything on the bus and down the long road.  This time we zipped along the highway and were back home on INTREPID II by sunset.

February 17, 2011

Bahia de Banderas and La Crux de Huanacaxtle

Some background info on our current location, courtesy of various guidebooks:

Bay of Flags (Banderas) is a large deep water bay, approximately 23 nm from north to south and 20 nm from the east, where Puerto Vallarta lies, to its western opening.   Punta de Mita is the northern point and Cabo Corrientes (Cape of Currents) at its southern tip.  The Bay is home to marine life such as sea turtles and manta rays (which we have yet to see) and draws the humpback whales here to calve and mate. Our Keetya I friends mentioned that they've seen mantas when they sailed across the bay to  the village of Yalapa.

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle (Cross of the huanacaxtle - a type of tree) is the full name of the fishing based town just outside the marina gate. The village was established in the 1930s.  There is a large anchorage nearby as well, which provides northwest wind protection and some protection from swells.  We had to check in with the local Port Captain in person and are required to do so to check out.  In other locations the Port Captain is fine with marina staff coordinating the process.
View of marina docks 10 (left) and 9
Bright woven shawls in market
The town square is very near the marina gates and at times is quiet and restful and at times very vibrant with market stalls or with fisherman laying out their nets to mend.  There are huanacaxtle trees in the square providing shade and look to be quite old from the circumference of their trunks.
Kelly at colourful Sunday market - town square
Streets are cobblestone and somewhat hard on the shoe leather, but sidewalks are well maintained and clean.  We've explored most of the side streets and enjoyed sampling either drinks or meals at restaurants and sidewalk stalls.  There is live music somewhere most evenings as well as movies projected on blank walls, if you are still up (cruisers' midnight....9 pm!).
Local Huichol art and craft gallery

Pottery display at Philo's

Bandstand ready for next open mic at Philo's
For a small fishing village, La Cruz is keeping us busy whenever we wish to take another walk.
Flowers along marina walkway

February 16, 2011

Chacala to La Cruz - February 11 catch-up post

As we mentioned, the effort put in to row out and drop a stern anchor here in Chacala anchorage was very worthwhile. DO believe the cruising guides when they mention many cruisers do so for a reason.  The trick is to determine which way the swell will hit overnight.  We were reasonably successful and our second night was definitely more restful.  We admired the technique one boat used coming in late on Thursday (although not the fact that they came in closer than we'd like).  Their stern anchor was ready, they had one person at the stern dropping it closer in to shore, then motored forward, dropped the bow anchor and then took up some stern slack and they were set. In the morning they made it look easy leaving as well.

We listened to the Sonrisa ham net at 07:30, checked in and advised the net we were continuing on south.  Geary's WX forecasts seemed reasonable and we expected winds in the NW  9 - 12 knot range, with hopes of sailing most of the 45 nm to La Cruz in Banderas Bay.  The stern anchor complied smoothly.  Our Fortress aluminum alloy anchor we bought last year in San Diego has proven its worth and Kelly appreciated the lighter weight when hauling it up. The bow anchor behaved as well.   INTREPID II was underway by 8:45 am.
Humpback whale to our starboard side
Good omens!  Within minutes as we motored out slowly, checking actual wind direction and speed, we glanced to starboard and spotted a female humpback and possibly yearling calf not more than 40 feet off INTREPID II's beam - what a thrill!  Of course cameras were not yet readily at hand so we got only a few photos, but we pleased to start this leg of our journey with such a positive start.  The pair slowed down and followed in our wake for a time and then veered off.  Safe travels.

Well...there is a whale attached to this tail!
It was 39 nm to Punta de Mita and a further 9 to La Cruz, so we set our target as 6 knots and raised the sail and jib, but had to motor sail.  The wind was light and more from the south west (of course).  Seas were light swell and sparkling.  We were entertained most of our way with the soaring and diving of various sea birds and the banditry of the magnificent frigate birds who harass the others for their catches, as they can't dive into the water.
Brown Booby bird soaring past INTREPID II
We passed by Rincon de Guayabitas, which is not an ideal anchorage, being fairly exposed and Sayulita, known as 'surf city' for the waves which draw the surf crowd, but leave no opportunity for anchoring.  The hills rose up into mountains and we noted the similarities to the B.C. coastline with the layers of mist and clouds shadowing the various heights leading up into the mountains.
Overview of Banderas Bay - Punta Mita upper left anchorage, La Cruz around the corner
Along the way we spotted three other sets of whales at greater distances. No dolphins nor turtle visits this time.  As Punta de Mita and the Islas Marietas came into view, the seas became mixed with higher 3 - 4 foot swells.  The Baja Peninsula does not protect the mainland except from NW swells to some extent. It's all open Pacific Ocean out here.  We were heading for a way-point well off the breaking rocks off Punta de Mita to be conservative.  Once there, which seemed such a long way south and west, we did almost a 90 degree turn to port.  The boom brake worked well as we took the swells now from the north right on the beam.
Captain hooking up boom brake

Boom brake set up to minimize swing when gybing
The Admiral recalled all those outside passages of the previous year and reminded herself that INTREPID II is an excellent offshore capable boat.  We will not roll over!  We watched as a few sport fishing boats positioned themselves right in the midst of the breaking waves of the offshore rocks; they really must have wanted those fish.  The wind started to rise and we turned off the engine; much more peaceful but rolly and a bit more heeling than desirable. One of us still hasn't shaken off all those 'what if' scenarios which rarely occur.

Entering La Cruz marina (Riviera Nayarit)
By now (15:00 hours) we decided we'd sail on into La Cruz and take a spot at Marina Riviera Nayarit if one was available; the marina confirmed there was space.  Our friends on SV Rosebud responded to our radio call and said they would stand by to take lines.  By 16:00 hours we were securely tied up on Dock 10 and ready to enjoy our stay on the Riviera Nayarit. (except it was 17:00 hours actually)

February 14, 2011

Photo Recap: San Blas Jungle Tour - Crocodiles and other critters

Our mangrove tour guide Guam obviously knows where to look for bird life and marine life. However, it took us cruisers quite some time to sharpen our eyes to know where to look for crocodiles, iguanas, turtles and other critters.  These photos are a mix of animals and flowers we saw on the tour in the mangroves and at the crocodile refuge further up the waterway.

Giant bird of paradise


Red crab at water's edge

Our first crocodile sighting!

Iguana well camoflagued in tree 
Lonely jaguar at rest in orocodile refuge
Open mouth is to aid in respiration - quite formidable

Coatimundi at the Crocodile refuge

Crocodile enjoying the sun at refuge
Wild crocodile we spotted on return trip

Matanchen Bay and Chacala anchorages

Our apologies....here at La Cruz marina the Internet connections are incredibly slow and as much as we'd like to be up to date with our journey and photos, the postings are taking a very long time...we are uploading a few pics and comments as time allows with hopes to find some quiet time to edit and enhance what we set up initially.

Just another beautiful sunset in 'paradise' Matanchen Bay

Matanchen Bay is a wide, fairly shallow bay, and many cruisers advise stopping here instead of in San Blas to excape the irritating "no see ums".  Anchoring here allows you to leave whenever, without concerns for crossing the San Blas bar at specific times.  We didn't have any bug issues, although we bought some fairly potent mosquito coils at a local tienda and they seemed to work. Like many of our friends who had preceded us we had our share of bites from the first night in San Blas, before the screens and Deep Woods Off were in place.

We enjoyed beautiful sunsets, a lazy day at anchor and delightful displays of aerial acrobatics by pelicans and other diving birds.  We were lulled by the babbling, bubble blowing efforts of schools of fish we have yet to identify; very much like the burblings of a fountain. 
Bubble blowing fish...a soothing sound
Our flopper stopper lines became the perch for three sweet little birds...who might be warblers of some sort (Dannie - help us out here!) who joined us for the afternoon and came to say farewell in the morning as Kelly hauled up the anchor.  (Thanks to Randy for the tip - they are swallows).
Friendly, cheery Mangrove Swallows

Colourful Chacala 

Chacala Bay is just over 20 nm away from Matanchen Bay and has lovely, colourful homes dotting the bay above the many palapas housing outdoor restaurants.  There are only a handful of cobblestone streets behind the beach, but we discovered a small tienda which provided us with some produce and tortillas and refreshments to tide us over.  We'd like to commend the Port Captain and his staff here for a very professional, friendly welcome when we checked in.  He spoke excellent English, answered our questions and set a very positive, professional tone.  He also advised us on what was most important to say when we checked in and said he could understand my Spanish!

INTREPID II at anchor in Chacala

Chacala beach looking south
Safe dinghy landing below the Port Captain's office

After we enjoyed an 'interesting' lunch of some sort of lobster and did our shopping, we headed back to our dinghy below the Port Captain's office. As we rowed out we spotted an 'apparition' in the distance.  It proved to be a double-decker party boat filled with tourists coming for a bbq on the beach.  The crew partied on the boat with the stereo on mega blaster while the guests dined. Not a quiet anchorage for a time, but they all headed off at sunset, no doubt having enjoyed their day.
Chacala anchorage only holds about a half dozen boats comfortably.  We were the tenth the first night, moving in closer the next day when a few boats headed on.
Sunset at Chacala Bay with navy buoy in view

Still smiling after our mystery lobster lunch!