Hello!

Welcome to our mid-life crisis! These are the chronicles of Laura and Patrick, their young son Jack, and their goofball Labrador Retriever named Evinrude (Rudy), as they travelled the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific coast of mainland Mexico in their catamaran. We went cruising in search of a change of pace, a closer knit family, and peace of mind. We found all three and more. The fun all started in October, 2008 and nearly four years later the Mexican adventure came to an end August 3rd, 2012. With our mid-life crisis cured in Mexico, we are excited to start a new adventure - life back in America.

Patrick has since joined the Sales Team of Marine Servicenter as a boat broker. Whether you are looking to make your dream of sailing away come true, or ready to sell your boat he can help. He can be reached at http://marinesc.com/about/crew/patrick-harrigan

Candeleros Chico

Candeleros Chico
Just another beautiful day at anchor on the Baja. 2010

Dolphins at play in the bow wake 2011

Dolphins at play in the bow wake  2011

Saturday, February 25, 2012

How to Fly Home When Your Home Moves

I flew out of Zihuatanejo about a week ago. I had to fly to Iowa and meet up with my siblings for some family business. I knew when I left that I would not be flying back into Zihuatanejo. We need to be on the Baja in La Paz by the first week of April and time is running out. While I've been in Iowa, Patrick, Jack and Rudy started heading the 180 miles north from Zihuatanejo to Santiago Bay. We are all supposed to meet up in Santiago Bay on Monday. There's an international airport in nearby Manzanillo. It all sounds reasonable until you find out the rest of the story.
The rest of the story involves these facts: there is no marina in Santiago Bay, so there is no clear location where I can reach JaM on foot; there is no way for Patrick and I to communicate with each other once I leave my sister's house - I am traveling without a computer, a phone or a radio transmitter; and last of all, Santiago Bay is huge with any number of places to land your dinghy.
I am currently out of communication with Patrick now since he is boating up to Santiago Bay.
The big concerns are this - if JaM is delayed by weather, breakdown or accident I won't know what happened. I will just be in Santiago Bay frantically looking for JaM and trying to find a hotel. If my travel is delayed by weather, missed connections and the like, Patrick will have no way to find out what happened to me. He will have no way of finding out when to meet me. Even if I make it there and can see JaM at anchor, I won't have a way of getting their attention since I don't have a computer, phone, VHF radio, or a dinghy.
The whole thing makes me nervous. Especially since the agreed upon plan was for me to present myself at a particular, tiny beach-side restaurant on Playa Boquita a couple hours after my flight is scheduled to arrive. It sounds sort of romantic, doesn't it? It's not really. The closer I get to my departure time, the more I think this plan has more holes than Swiss cheese. If this is the last blog posting you see for the next couple weeks, you will know I am wandering around somewhere in the Manzanillo area, looking for JaM. But you can bet on this - I will be staying in the nicest hotel I can find!
One more thing, if you DO see me wandering around the beaches of Santiago Bay dragging my enormous, heavy luggage loaded with State-side goodies through the sand, please don't look at me strangely when I ask if you have a VHF radio on you, or a computer, or if you would mind driving me out to my boat.

Friday, February 17, 2012

In and Around Zihua

Zihuatanejo is a bustling, small town with a vibrant community. It is my favorite town on the Mexican mainland. I think it is the perfect blend of tourist-and-working town. The town square is the center of action and always has many Mexican families enjoying a wide variety of entertainment every day from basketball games and clowns, to art shows, dance troups and musicians. The Central Market is mostly about food, with none of the kitschy tourist stalls selling trinkets and T-shirts. In the large tourist area, the streets and sidewalks are beautifully paved with stamped concrete. Statues and flowering plants are liberally scattered throughout, and the stores are pretty, clean and uniform. There are many quality stores selling regional artwork at fair prices. Coffee shops stocked with local coffee and restaurants in all price ranges are everywhere. As I said, there's somthing for everyone in Zihua. Below are a few highlights from our time here.


The Pozoleria Santa Prisca
Patrick, Meri from Hotspur and I went to a pozoleria (a restaurant specializing in pozole) yesterday. Santa Prisca is open only one day a week from 2pm to 8pm and they mainly serve pozole. Your pozole can come with either a green, red or white broth with the choice of pork or chicken. Pozole is a stew made of hominy and meat dating back to pre-Columbian times. It was a meal used in Aztec rituals - after they sacrificed humans they chopped up the meat and served it in pozole for the community to share. Now they mostly use pork. Judging by the packed restaurant, it is still a favorite dish in Mexico.


The Central Market
Just one of the hundreds of fruit and veggie stands in and around the Central Market.
This market had a few things I have never seen in other central markets in Mexico. For one, most of the butchers have these long strips of thinly sliced meat and coils of sausages hanging on bars above their meat counters. Another new twist were the dozens of pollorias with their stacks of unrefrigerated, plucked chickens with their heads (and often feet) still on.


The blocks surrounding the Central Market are filled with even more vendors, stalls and people selling even more veggies and meat. This man was selling mamey from a wheelbarrow. Mamey is a tree fruit that is indigenous to southern Mexico. Its brilliant orange-red flesh is like a very sweet, very creamy cooked yam


Just one of dozens of charming hotels.


The Museo Arqueologia de la Costa Grande

The archeological museum in Zihuatanejo is small, but very impressive. Six rooms hold many, many artifacts found right around the hills of Zihuatanejo and surrounding regions. There are many artifacts from several different cultures over hundreds of years.




Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Thefts in Zihuatanejo

The cruisers here in Zihua are unsettled and with good reason. Two days ago, two boats were burgled during the closing ceremonies of the Zihua Sailfest. Reports are that a third boat was burgled a few days before then.
Thefts happen here in Mexico, just like everywhere else. It's not a common occurance, but every month or so, you will hear through the SSB radio nets of a cruiser being robbed. Almost always, the boat is anchored in a city (most often on the mainland). Usually the theft is of items left unsecured on deck or of a dinghy left floating behind the boat at night. These thieves never set foot on the cruiser's boat, they take what they can while staying on their own boat. They don't want a confrontation and usually work in stealth in the cover of night.
What makes these thefts in Zihuatanejo so unsettling to me is that the locked boats were boarded and broken into in broad daylight in a crowded anchorage. Most upsetting of all, on one of the boats a knife was taken from the galley and carried around the boat while they were checking to see if anyone was home. Thankfully, no one was. I've heard of boats being boarded two other times in Mexico this year. Both happened during the day, when the boats had obviously been under surveillance and the crew was known to be off the boat. I have just never heard of thefts against cruisers in Mexico involving the use of weapons and potential confrontation.
Reports were made to the Mexican Navy and the Port Captain. Both agencies appear very concerned. The Mexican Navy has begun patrolling the harbor and anchorage and have been a presence since the incident. Thankfully, we have Rudy on board. He may be a marshmallow inside, but he's scary looking on the outside, especially in a culture like this which tends to fear dogs. He's big, has big teeth and a big bark. It's nice to have a little extra insurance.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The 2012 Zihua Sailfest

This year 19 boats participated in the Boat Parade which went from Zihua harbor to the beach of Ixtapa where all the high-rise condos and hotels are. There the boats pass the Port Captain who's floating around in a Zodiac, give him a salute and then turn back for Zihua. The boats carried about 100 paying passengers and 22 local school children, making quite a bit of money for Zihua Sailfest charity and giving the kids a great memory.



JaM took ten passengers for the Boat Parade. They were all friends and so we had a very nice time. The night before had been stormy with rain, lightning, and winds to 20+ knots. Thankfully that all blew over by morning and we only saw sprinkles of rain and heavy clouds.


*********



We are exhausted! We dropped anchor in Zihua less than a week ago and already we have participated in the Sailfest race, gone to a fantastic benefit concert, taken part in the Boat Parade with ten paying guests on board, gone out to dinner with George and Barb who were our crew for the race, attended the Kid's Day Beach Party and the Wrap Up Party. We've barely had time to check out the town of Zihuatanejo but from the little we've seen, it is well worth exploring. Zihuatanejo is absolutely a charming town with lots to see, lots of good food, and lots to do.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Shanghaied!



Yesterday morning at 9:35, Patrick and I were enjoying a quiet morning, sitting at the table playing a game of Rummikube and drinking coffee. We still had our jammies on and had just started making plans for our day. All around us were piles of clutter and dirty dishes. We have been moving quickly over the last week and it's hard to keep up on cleanliness when you're on passage. Then we heard a dinghy approach our boat and we went out to greet the visitor. It was Marc on s/v Younger Girl. We had met Marc for the first time just a few weeks ago in Melaque an had talked about fifteen minutes.
The first words out of Marc's mouth were, "I've taken the liberty of signing you up for the Race. Here are the start times and the paperwork." To say we were flabbergasted would be putting it mildly. After chatting another minute, Marc zoomed off, presumably to shanghai someone else. That's when we looked at the paperwork and saw our start time was in 30 minutes! After discussing it about 5 minutes we decided to go for it. The race helps raise money for the Sailfest's charity called Por Los Ninos. We've always enjoyed volunteering our time for kids and used to give quite a bit to charities back in the day when we had money to spare, so this looked like a great way to help out.
However, I was still scared. I hadn't even seen a real race! We don't know the rules and how the whole thing works. Of course, the chief thing I needed to remember was that this "race" was more about making money than acutally proving your sailing skills. We began frantically preparing the boat for departure. Then, the call came out over the race channel that they had more paying "crew" who wanted to participate in the race. Landlubbers in Zihua can pay to be placed on the boats. I hadn'r realized before then how the race made money. Oh! The dishes! The bathroom! All three of us kicked it into high gear then. And here come the "crew"!
Thankfully our crew turned out to be a very nice couple (Barb and George) from Minneapolis. And best of all, George had crewed in sailboat races before. With our crew on board, we had our anchor pulled in minutes, motored through the anchored sailboats and then raised the sails. The race had 8 boats entered and we began circling behind the start line. The start times were staggered and the boats had an order to leave in. And then the horn sounded and the first boat approached the line.
Of course, there was very little wind, about 5-6 knots. The race course consisted of a 3.5 mile trip around Roca Negra (Black Rock) which is just outside Bahia Zihuatanejo. Roca Negra is a 40 foot high chunk of rock that rises steeply from the sea. The first half of the race was into the wind, the second half was running with the wind. Prizes for the race were to be given to the 1st, 2nd and 10th place boat.
Just a Minute was the last boat to start the race. Of the eight boats, three total were catamarans, one of which was another Lagoon 380. I'm happy to say that we did just fine.
At this time, I don't have a clue who won the race since the winner is determined in a formula that takes into account the boat's handicap and the time they take to complete the course. However, I do know this, we were the third boat to cross the finish line. I consider that a major victory. I think this race has finally made Patrick and I realize that we actually DO know how to sail our boat, pretty darn well.







Circling behind the start line, waiting for the horn. We are supposed to start behind




s/v 3 hour Tour which you see here looking good under sail.






Enjoying the shade under the spinnaker. This is our light air spinnaker which is .5 ounce. Our other spinnaker is 1.5 oz. We've never flown the light one, or even seen it out of the bag. It was the perfect sail for the super-light winds we had.






Our crew, Barb and George. They were a joy to have on board, and we all had a very nice time. And best of all, George could give us pointers and tips and help us figure out sail tactics since he has actually BEEN in a real race before.

The winds were so light that our speed ranged from 1.0 knot to the high of 4.4 knots per hour. We were usually traveling around 2.0 knots. At one point in the race, Jack jumped off the bow and swam to the back swim steps. We were threatened by the Committe Boat with a penalty for having someone "push" the boat!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Trip to Ixtapa

Jack, Rudy and Patrick swimming in to shore at Maruata.

*****


We've ventured off our known path in the last few days and moved further down the coast than we've been to date. Most of the cruisers who ply the Pacific coastal waters of Mexico stay within the Mazatlan to Manzanillo area. Quite a bit fewer of the boats head down to Zihuatanejo and even less beyond that point, unless they are intent on heading to Central America.

As I've mentioned before, the Pacific Coast cruising is just a world apart from cruising in the Baja. The big differences are ocean swell, large towns, and the huge population of vactioners intent on having fun with jet skis, parasails, charter fishing, water skis, beach-side restaurants, music, boogie boards, surf boards and the like. It's one big party scene.

I didn't use to care for it much, but this trip down the coast has shown me some of the charm that I missed last time. The weather makes the difference. On our first excursion to Manzanillo, the weather was unsettled with lots of squalls, lots of torrential rain, lots of near death experiences. This season on the Mexican Riviera, the weather has been charming. There are still lots of clouds this year, but there has been little rain, and only mild land and sea breezes which are just pleasant. There's been no drama this year, and I really appreciate that. It's amazing how calm the Pacific Ocean can be.

South of Manzanillo,we stayed in three small anchorages which are just little indents on the side of the ocean. These stops allowed us to break up the 180 mile trip so we didn't need to make an overnighter. Not one of them offered much protection from the ocean swell or wind, yet each one was comfortable thanks to the mild conditions. Cabeza Negra was the least remarkable, Maruata offered the best protection, and Caleta Campos was absolutely a lovely town with an excellent beach for boogie boarding. All have big enough swell so we didn't even try to launch the dinghy into shore. Instead we just swam in to enjoy the restaurants, boogie boarding and beach vacation fun.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

5 o'clock in the morning

It's five o'clock in the morning here in Santiago Bay, just outside of Manzanillo. The sky is pitch dark without a hint of light, and sunrise won't happen for another 2 and a half hours. The water is absolutely flat calm without a breath of air. A small surf is beating rhythmically on the shore and the boat is very gently moving in the ocean's swell. Next to our boat, a family of dolphins is fishing for their breakfast. I can hear their breaths, then silence, and then the water explodes in a sudden lunge or tail slap. With my steaming, first cup of coffee poured; Rudy fed, petted, and now warming my feet; internet running; and two fast-asleep crewmates, the boat is all mine. Life is currently about as good as it gets.

We came down to Santiago two days ago on the afternoon's sea breezes. It wasn't enough to push us along without an engine running too, but that just means the seas were relatively flat, and the going was easy. Yesterday we provisioned up and today we will set sail for points further south. We are headed another 180 miles south to Zihuatanejo in time for their sailing festival. Zihuatanejo is a name has always hung in the back of my mind as an exotic destination and refuge, ever since watching the old movie, Shawshank Redemption. I can hear Tim Robbins' voice saying the name in my head even today, years later. Zihuatanejo will be our furthest south port this year and then we will turn around and head north again.