Saturday, January 26, 2013

Herb and Michelle Explore Banderas Bay

We had a very exciting week exploring Banderas Bay with Herb and Michelle.
Sunday Market in La Cruz
In the past when visitors had come to Starship, we had the opportunity to stake out the best places to take them ahead of time. This time though we had just arrived in Banderas Bay, so we were all figuring things out together for the first time.

Standup Paddle Yoga at Sunday Market in La Cruz
The trip got off to a bit of a rough start as Michelle's luggage did not make her connection. After one failed attempt to have it delivered to a restaurant near the boat, we decided it would be easiest to take a taxi back to the airport and pickup the luggage ourselves.
Trying to relax, waiting for the luggage which never came...
Finally with Michelle's luggage onboard we decided to set out from La Cruz to Punta de Mita, a small tourist town near the mouth of the bay which is famous for surfing.
Herb and Michelle experience the finest street dining La Cruz has to offer!
Enroute we observed quite a spectacular show put on by the Humpback whales in the bay. We had heard from a lot of cruisers how amazing the whales are here, and they weren't kidding! At one point we had to take evasive action to avoid a pod we had been watching.
The best breeching photo we captured
Trying not to hit the whales.
After Punta de Mita, we headed for Puerto Vallarta where we stayed in Marina Vallarta. The state of the marina facilities was very disappointing. Missing cleats, no power, questionable water, and disgusting showers. Luckily the area around the marina was bustling and interesting. It was also a short, bumpy bus ride to the downtown core.
After leaving Marina Vallarta, we went for a lunch stop at a place called Los Arcos, or "The Arcs". Named after it's islands with arcing sea caves, it made for a great snorkelling stop for Anne-Marie and Michelle.
Michelle summoning the courage to jump from the boat. 
Michelle and Anne-Marie ready to go exploring.
View through one of the arcing sea caves.
Our next stop took us over to Paradise Village Marina in Nuevo Vallarta, which is affectionately referred to as "Disney Land". Paradise Village was miles above Marina Vallarta in terms of facilities and service! On top of that, it was 40% cheaper, with full access to the resort facilities.
Michelle riding the Crocodile slide
Anne-Marie on the Crocodile slide
They have two tigers! And lots of parrots that say "Hola" & "Agua"
Paradise Village was a perfect place for Herb & Michelle to end their stay. The shower facilities were excellent so they could prepare for reintegration with the civilized world. And there was a really interesting mangrove that you can tour in the dinghy behind Paradise Village. On the tour we got a close up look at Green Iguanas, various birds, and crocodiles!
The African Queen! 
Iguana Ménage à trois
Check out more pictures in our Picasa photo album, and our video (only on the website, not in email) below:
La Cruz

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Puddle Jump - Here We Come!

I had a lazy day on board doing "internet stuff" and realized that it's really time to make this JUMP thing official.
Chris training for the JUMP
 The Pacific Puddle Jump is a rally of boats that leave the west coast of the Americas to sail to French Polynesia sometime between March - May. We plan to leave mid/late March. Boats depart somewhere between California to the Galapagos, with the the largest concentration leaving from Banderas Bay and Panama. Even though we won't be in visual contact with other boats, we'll stay in radio contact to share information such as weather. There are currently 87 boat registered and I'm sure many more to follow. We've become friends with a few of the boats that are crossing this year and it really is a wonderful feeling to know we'll be crossing an ocean with friends. It somehow makes me feel less crazy about the whole thing!

Starship has been officially registered for the 2013 Pacific Puddle Jump Rally!

I remember being so nervous when we left left San Francisco to sail south and start this adventure. I'll never forget the stress of seeing our cars being towed away and the constant nagging thought afterwards that we'd forgotten to buy something crucial. I remember the panic attack I had when I saw all the contents from our storage van on our dock and realized we had to fit all that stuff in our little boat. I was extremely anxious and many questions rotated through my brain as we left our slip for the last time....How did Chris convince me to do this anyway? Will I like the cruising/sailing lifestyle? Is Starship well equipped and sea-worthy? Do we know how to sail well-enough?

I am much more confident about sailing to French Polynesia and beyond because I know the answer to the last 3 questions is YES! I'm still not exactly sure how Chris convinced me to start this whole sailing thing, but I'm so happy that he did.

Knowing my personality, I'm sure I will not sleep the night before we leave and I'll be nervous, but I don't think it will be as extreme as my initial shove off anxieties. This past year we've done a lot of boat projects/maintenance, sailing and practicing. All of this "work" has left me with a profound sense of trust and confidence in what we're doing. I trust Chris as captain and myself as first mate. I trust Starship and all the work we've put into her. AND now I know that I love this sailing/cruising lifestyle. I'm very happy with our last year and excited for the Puddle Jump. South Pacific, here we come!

La Cruz

Saturday, January 12, 2013

East Cape to Banderas Bay - What a Ride!

We started off on what is called the "Southern Crossing" to mainland Mexico the other day, with my Dad Herb onboard. The initial goal was to go from La Ribiera Marina (near Los Barriles on the east cape of the baja peninsula) to Isla Isabel (the Galapagos of Mexico), or straight on to Puerto Vallarta depending on conditions.
Cabo Riviera Marina - VERY much a work in progress

Herb & Chris ready to go!
The weather forecast seemed favorable before heading out, a steady 20kt NNW wind, which would make for a lively downwind sail. Unfortunately we forgot the standard "add 10kt" factor for the east cape wind forecast, and found ourselves in gusts to 35kt on the first night! Our first hint things were going to be wild probably should have been the breaking waves on our way out of the marina, as the NNW wind was sending big rollers straight down the channel. These two factors combined to give Anne-Marie her worst case of sea sickness to date. Luckily Herb and I were feeling fine and took all the shifts for the first day so she could get some rest.
Anne-Marie - Out for the count
Luckily Herb didn't mind the wild conditions
The second day brought with it very pleasant conditions. With a pretty steady 15-20kt wind from the stern we were able to make good speed as the sea state calmed considerably. The second night saw the wind drop down to 5-10kt, and the third day to the point that we were practically becalmed, and decided to motor the last 18 miles to Isla Isabel.
Anne-Marie trying not to throw up
Herb enjoyed the conditions
Anne-Marie was reluctant to stop at Isla Isabel, since she had finally recovered from her sea sickness, and was worried when we started up again it would be back. I knew she would be happy to explore the island though, and a strong wind was forecasted which was just as likely to make her sick again, so we hunkered down at Isla Isabel for the worst of the wind.

Isla Isabel is known to "swallow" anchors, since the sea bottom is covered in large rocks instead of the more forgiving sand we prefer. It was our first time using a trip line on the crown of the anchor, so I decided to jump in with my snorkelling gear before we attempted to set the anchor. As it turned out, our trip line was too short, and the anchor was just hovering a couple of feet over the sea bottom. It was probably for the best though as the area we dropped the hook was covered in massive bolders which surely would have tangled the anchor chain. After hauling the anchor back aboard, I decided to swim around with our hand held VHF radio and look for a sandy spot among the rocks to try and set the anchor. After five minutes of swimming around I found a suitable spot and sent Anne-Marie my position. She came in with Starship and dropped the hook. We were still a little off so I dove in again and moved the anchor onto the sandy patch. I remained in the water while Anne-Marie and Herb backed down on the anchor, so that I could watch and ensure we had a good set to weather the pending blow.
Going in to check on the anchor
Securely anchored at Isla Isabel
All that work really paid off though! The anchorage was incredibly beautiful and interesting. Isla Isabel is known for it's large flocks of nesting boobies (blue, green and red footed), frigate birds and iguanas. With no predators on the island, the birds let you walk right up to them!

Between the thousands of birds everywhere you looked, the sounds of their chirping and whistling, and the creepy deserted research station on the island, it seemed like a scene from Jurassic Park.

Creepy abandoned research station...
The forecast for our trip from Isla Isabel to La Cruz was looking great! We had an amazing sail, flying the spinnaker for most of the time, several dolphin encounters, and caught a skip jack tuna! It was pretty funny as Anne-Marie had just mentioned she smelled fish, and moments later line was ripping off the reel. One hour later we had some delicious breaded skip jack for dinner, courtesy of Anne-Marie. It's hard to get fresher than that...
Do you smells fish??
Yup, here is one!
Finally we arrived in La Cruz as the sun was rising. Got the boat set back up into living mode and explored the town a bit. After that we all collapsed in exhaustion. Soon my Mom Michelle will be joining us for a week of exploring Banderas Bay.
For a few more pictures not on the blog, be sure to check out our Picasa album here:

Also I compiled a short video of the boobies and dolphins we saw on our trip,only available on the blog, not in the email blast, enjoy:

La Cruz