Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rockin' it in Bahia de Banderas

'Hola from Bahia de Banderas, translated as "Bay of Flags"! In anticipation, Naomi has been flying her freak flag all week now, and is feeling right at home. ;->

To affix a geographic location to this post, Banderas Bay is about halfway down the pacific side of the mexican riviera, and is anchored by the city of Puerto Vallarta. I've been to PV twice before, and my impressions were rather mixed, undoubtedly colored by the experiences: the first time was on a motorcycle, right after graduating high school, but my companion and I were so poor we stayed in a true Mexican "roach hotel"; the second time was with some buddies on a spring break trip, but we ran into a little drunken "trouble" and had to pay off the local law enforcement to avoid a true Mexican "roach jail"...undoubtedly many times worse than the hotels.

Must be that the third time's a charm, or maybe it's because PV is a sailor's dream, but we are enjoying the area this time 'round. To start off with, we are seeing an incredible abundance of wildlife.

For example, on the day-long, 40 nMi sail from Chacala, we saw:

+A massive whale that jumped completely out of the water. This occurred in totally flat water, and about 300 yards from our starboard bow...needless to say, it caused a bit of a heart palpitation, but was just incredible to see that much flesh suddenly rise from the sea. He did not do it again, and thus I caught no photos, so I'm using a stock pic for 'effect'.

+A baby dolphin learning to play. This little guy was about 3 feet long and would repeatedly plant his nose down and kick up his tail, almost like a child trying to do a handstand in a pool. Adorable.

+Flying manta rays: Particularly around dusk, we occsionally see manta rays jump from the water, and they often execute either a flip or a few full flaps of their wings mid-air. What's cool is that they usually do it a couple times in a row, so we can get all hands on deck and see it happen again (something harder to do with the elusive whales, who perform once then dive away...yet I am using a stock photo, as I didn't catch the manta's show on film!)

After reaching the Bay, which is roughly 20 x 10 sq. miles, we anchored a few days at the north end, near a small town called La Cruz de Huaxnnn....some long and un-spellable name. This is a cool spot that is just now developing a marine infrastructure. In fact, the recently-completed marina where we docked our dinghy was probably only 15% occupied. While there, we also took the bus to a surf town called Sayulita, which was much fun. We were here 3 years ago for the wedding of our friends Rebecca and Seth, and it has changed very little.

After that, Naomi's parents came to visit for a few days and we stayed at Paradise Village Resort and Marina...nice! But, despite being in 'paradise' we had a few rough days...first, we took the Zells out for some fishing, and although we saw many whales, we caught nothing but a bird. This was NOT pleasant. We reeled him in, as we would a fish, then I got in the dinghy and hauled him aboard. I spent the next 45 minutes holding his beak shut (so he couldn't nip me) while fiddling with the pliers to remove the fish hooks, which had lodged in his breast, lip, ankle, and feet. Unbelievably, when I got them all out he flew away, and there wasn't that much blood-- meaning the wounds were not very deep. Hopefully, he can make a full recovery.

Afterwards, Naomi's mom started feeling ill, and it became progressively worse-- a case of some pretty bad heat stroke and dehydration. She spent the night in the hospital with an IV, and then they flew home. We feel bad we didn't show them a better time, but we did get in some great meals together!

Ok, we are now close to two months into our trip, and time for a little reflection. Some comments/questions/observations:
  • Escapism is good for the soul, but makes for a rough transition back to reality... I mean, dang Brandy, is the world outside our floating bubble really THAT bad? It is certainly a luxury to disconnect and be mostly offline for a bit. But man, what a shock when we finally do pick up a newspaper or otherwise catch the headlines...multi-billion dollar bailouts of key US industries, 5- and 6-digit layoff announcements, forecasts of prolonged and 'nuclear winter' economic slumps ahead, etc...it's really depressing. Probably more so than it should be, and I think two magnifying factors are at work here: i) things are pretty bad, probably worse than average; and, ii) when bombarded with news media every day, we become desensitized, but when you disconnect for awhile, you lose such "media calluses". In other words, when you read one paper a month, it has significantly greater impact.
  • Sailing is to the retired set what backpacking is to the post-college crowd. While anchoring in La Cruz, we went to this local cruisers' hangout called Philos. Here, you can take hot showers, do Internet, play pool and have a few drinks while socializing with other cruisers. It struck me how much the whole environment was like many of the backpacker hostels and hangouts we've been to, particularly in asia and south america. Although the average age is more in the 50's or 60's vs. 20's and early 30's, the vibe is the same. These folks are generally pretty great...they relay weather forecasts, invite us over for sunset happy hours, and lend a hand when needed. In addition, sailing attracts some of the most interesting people on the planet-- those who march to the beat of their own drums. It makes for fascinating conversation.
  • But...sometimes marinas are like floating trailer parks. We stayed a few nights in a marina called Nueva Vallarta, and here it dawned on me (somewhat more depressingly) that the marina scene is occasionally like an expensive RV park. A few years ago, when driving in the Florida Keys and having no place to stay, Naomi and I camped at an trailer park, which was absolutely awful. All these people from the Northeast had come down for the winter, and were crammed in (and literally hanging out of) their tin boxes. It was like a holding area for retirees trying to stay warm while forestalling the reaper. The marina scene occasionally feels like that, but with fiberglass tubes in place of tin boxes. Some 'marina rats' seem to just 'hang out' on their boats all day, 3 feet away from their neighbor, and wait for cocktail hour to begin. It seems strange to us, because as soon as our boat is tied up somewhere, we're off with backpacks to explore the town. But, different strokes...
Ok, that's enough for now. We moved locations yesterday and are now docked in Marina Vallarta, which is the oldest marina in PV and a very cool scene....the moment we got Hurulu tied up we felt the vibe, and it was refreshing. It's got "character" in the best sense of the word. We are going to hole up here until post-Christmas, when our beloved friend and colleague Brita will join us for a sail down to Barra de Navidad. Until then, asta luego!


Jim Parker said...

Hey guys, dont forget, there's a lot of good news, too. Gas prices are way down, and whether you voted for him or not, most folks are happy with the way Obama is handling the transition and making Cabinet-level appointments. I was on a fishing trip once where we snagged a bird -- very unpleasant for all involved, and totally the bird's fault, and the bird flew away just fine, too. Have a merry Christmas!! Jim

Nathan Beckord, CFA said...

thanks Jim. yeah, this was the bird's fault too...he kept diving on our lure until he finally got entangled. anyway, thanks for the "good news" perspective...last night when I got into the airport in Denver and we passed the gas station, my jaw dropped when I saw "$1.59" for Regular Unleaded! What the heck?

A Concerned Taxpayer said...

Hey Nate, yeah it seems a bit different, but I also know that the media continues to blow things way out of proportion. No one is talking about the 97% of people who are happily paying their mortgage. Unfortunately, I think our politicians take all of their cues from the media and are not exercising their own logic or commonsense. But, at the end of the day it feels like we're making some changes that probably needed to be made 10 years ago. Everyone will come out the other side just fine. It's only money.
Your stories are fantastic. I wish I had the skills and the balls to do what you and Naomi are doing. We'll have to have you down for dinner when get back (if you decide to come back). Take care and good sailing.