Saturday, November 27, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Our second Thanksgiving on the boat…while we did miss our families, we had a very nice time by ourselves.  We were invited to various different restaurants with different couples but we preferred to do it the more traditional way with cooking our dinner ourselves and finishing the day with sleeping and being lazy.  So we did. 
We were able to find some turkey legs and wings and what we thought was a breast but turned out to be a gigantic thigh.  Andy grilled them while I made dressing, cabbage and potatoes.  For desert, Jake and I made a pecan pie which turned out to be one of my all time best.
We watched a few movies, went up to Benji’s to pick up our shrimp and drop off some trash, then back to the boat for one last movie before Jake’s bed time.
Jake and I making a pecan pie
Jake and I did a lot of preparation for Thanksgiving this year.  He really got into the whole story about the pilgrims and indians and the idea of being thankful for everything.  So we started with making turkey napkin holders – I give myself an A+ for heading up this craft.  They actually turned out to look like turkeys.  We attempted to make a candle out of crayons but our wick wasn’t very good so it didn’t actually light.  But Jake had a blast during the process.  Finally, we made a Thanksgiving tree where we all wrote down what we’re thankful for on some cut out leaves and then we taped them to our tree.  Our tree had a lot of leaves!
We’re heading out today for Isla Isabel.  The weather looks good and we’re ready to go.  We hope everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving had a good one and ate so much you had trouble staying awake during the football games!  

We had a fourth guest for our lunch one day.

11/24/2020 - Stone Island - Mazatlan

We didn’t make it far from the marina but we’re really enjoying being on the hook again.  We dropped our anchor at Stone Island just outside the old harbor in Mazatlan.  It’s very pretty here with just a few boats.  There appears to be a lot of tourist activity on shore but we haven’t made it to that side yet. 
Our guidebook told us about a place called Benji’s Pizza.  It’s located on the opposite side of the anchorage as the tourist area and it’s supposed to be the best place to land the dinghy, so we gave it a shot. 
I’m trying to think of a good way to describe this place without offending anyone (Andy gave them our blog address so you never know who’s going to read this).  I’ll try it this way.  At first you walk in and you think, this place is a dump.  After thirty minutes, half a margarita and a chat with Eli (the guy that runs the place) you think, this place has character.  After finishing your margarita and devouring a garlic shrimp pizza you think, I’d like to hang out here every day. 

Benji’s is run by an American, Eli who came down and fell in love with a local girl.  After a long pursuit and finally getting her family’s blessing (it’s a tight nit group here on the island), they married and live here full time.  There are all sorts of characters here and the cool thing is that they are all very friendly and it’s not uncommon for them to pull up a chair and make you feel like you’re part of the group.  We met Mark, a guy who was backpacking to his friend’s wedding and got side tracked and is now working on one of the charter boats here.  He keeps his tent at Benji’s for a very reasonable price (free) while he decides whether to continue on to Rio or go with the charter boat to Hawaii next summer.  Tough decisions.  There’s the guy that chops up the coconuts with the great sense of humor. He’s from England and is currently making his way around the world without using any kind of air travel.  He works at Benji’s and keeps his tent there as well.

Aside from the people, the food is delicious and the drinks are even better.  We had a garlic shrimp pizza (the best pizza in Mexico so far) and Jake had a huge plate of fish (which he tried his best to finish).  We came back the next day for the fantastic margaritas and tried out the ceviche.  All of which did not disappoint. 
Before lunch...
After lunch.

Today we’re going into town to get some $$ to drop off for Eli as he’s going to get us some of the freshest shrimp around so we can stock our freezer.   His father in law is a shrimp boat captain…very convenient for us J.
We also did a beautiful hike yesterday up the hill behind Benji’s.  It’s covered with goats (and goat poop) and when you get to the top you can see all of Mazatlan.  Jake was a trooper and was insistent on going all the way to the “tippy top” despite my nervous nature.  He thinks I’m nervous for myself so he keeps telling me “you can do it mommy.”  But every mom out there knows I’m really nervous for him!  The kid is a walking disaster and he insists on looking back while walking forward and I can just picture him going straight over the side.  I’m considering one of those leashes for our next hike…

One of MANY goats on the hill.

We’re still planning on having Thanksgiving here tomorrow and heading out on Friday for Isla Isabel.  The wind is supposed to die down Saturday and pick back up Monday so maybe we’ll at least get a good 2-3 days there.  It’s said to be the Galapagos of Mexico with the various different critters and underwater life.

Monday, November 22, 2010

More exploring in Mazatlan

Our last couple of days have been spent exploring more of the town and marina area.  We went to the Mazatlan aquarium the other day.  It's supposed to be the biggest aquarium in Mexico.  I think after having a pass at Sea World, visiting the GA Aquarium, and spending the summer in the Sea of Cortez, we might have been a little desensitized.  It was impressive for down here though. They had sting rays, sharks, turtles and crocodiles.  There were tons of kids there on field trips from various different schools and I thought it a little sad that most of them are so close to seeing these things in the wild right in their backyard and yet they never get the opportunity.  They have to squint their eyes through a dirty old tank to see a shadow of a sting ray while we have to poke sticks in the water to shoo them away before going to the beach.

Andy and Jake posing with King Neptune in front of the Aquarium

There have been a few cruiser parties that we've attended.  They had the potential to be fun but once again, Andy and I are not the most outgoing folks and we didn't really make any connections with anyone so we drank our free beer and headed back to the boat.  Don't get me wrong, there are very nice people out here but we just have trouble with crowds.  Not that we can't mingle and make small talk, we do that very well... we just don't enjoy it.  I would rather sit down one on one with someone and get to know them than work a room and just gather a bunch of names.

So...when we're not out socializing, we take dinghy rides.  There are tons of little canals here to explore with beautiful houses, mangroves and quite a few iquanas.  It's one of our favorite things to do here that doesn't cost us any money!

View from the canal of one of many beautiful homes dotting the golf course
Speaking of money, we're spending a fortune on marina fees so we're heading out today.  The weather doesn't seem to want to allow us to make the 90 mile trek to Isla Isabel yet (it's supposed to be blowing 25-35 knots by mid week - would make for a very uncomfortable anchorage) so we're going to go anchor out near old town in a place called Stone Island and will probably be there through Thanksgiving.  I doubt there will be any wifi signal there so this may be my last post for a while.

We stocked up on groceries yesterday in the Mega (HUGE grocery store that would rival any Albertson's) and even found some turkey for our Thanksgiving dinner.  Not just turkey slices :).  We found a turkey breast for me and wings and legs for Andy and Jake so it looks like we'll be able to have somewhat of a traditional meal after all (I was all prepared to have our first fish thanksgiving...the pilgrims ate fish too you know).  I even found pecans for pecan pie.

While we miss our families and friends terribly, we're very thankful that we've been able to spend all of this time together.  It's definitely brought us closer (literally, I can't even begin to describe the close proximity of two people in our bathroom together).  We would like to wish everyone back home a Happy Thanksgiving!  We miss you and will be thinking of you!

By the way, I got a good response from my lime tip I posted a few days ago....Here's another one: Wrap your cabbage heads in paper (butcher paper, newspaper, whatever)...they last longer out of the fridge that way.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Who are cruisers anyway?

Savannah at sunset in Mazatlan
So who does this kind of thing?  Well, it's your teachers (lots of teachers), retired military, your real estate agent that sold you your house.... the grocery store clerk at your local Publix, your air conditioning repairman... the guy down the street foreclosing on his house (or boat)...all walks of life.  Everyone has a dream, right?  While your dream may not be sailing around the world (although don't let not knowing how to sail stop you), after seven months, we can honestly say, do whatever you can to achieve that dream...sooner than later.  It really is worth every minute of hard work.

We meet all kinds of people with all different kinds of skills and levels of income.  The only difference between these people and the majority of the world out there is that they took some sort of action.  Sure it's a little scary (ok, a lot scary...terrifying)...but you'll never know if you don't try.

Too sappy for me? was one of those days.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Back to Old Town

Yesterday we decided to go back into Old Town so that we could take more pictures and try out a restaurant recommended by someone here on our dock.  The food was good, the company great and it was nice to see the city at night.


Decisions, decisions
These things appear to be pretty popular!

Terrorizing pigeons

Jake was totally uninterested in this man's attempt to entertain him.

Everyone has to have a self portrait, right?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

What is that?

This post is dedicated to my friend Diane on Ceilydh.  I actually researched something…

The most obscure thing we’ve seen since we’ve been cruising is this tiny little fuzzy creature that resembles a furry ant.  Andy got a pretty good picture of one (hard to do as they’re really fast) so I decided to look further into it (really way beyond my usual behavior).

We thought they were called “Diablo Ants”…but after further research, it looks like they’re actually called Thistledown Velvet Ants.  Here’s a few things I found in some obscure websites…

Velvet Ants are actually flightless female wasps, and they can produce a painful sting. “

Males have wings but no stingers, while females have stingers but lack wings.”

I wont’ say they are abundant around here, but we have seen them more than once.  Picture a piece of fuzz blowing across the desert, only on a closer look do you find that fuzz had legs and is moving at a very rapid speed.
We thought it was cool….thought we would share.

War at the Beach in Mazatlan

A day at the beach confirms the impact movies have on small kids minds.  In a span of two hours, Jake managed to bomb a volcano, shoot the bad guys, and make himself into a submarine only to be blown up by the bad guys.  On the walk back to the marina, he flew his six wing jet fighters (to someone with no imagination, they looked remarkably like two hands with the thumbs and pinky's poking out) making sure no bad guys snuck up on us.

U.S.S Jake, complete with barnacles

Creating the bombs for the volcano

Delivering the bombs

I'll probably get a lot of mommy criticism for this one, but I say boys will be boys.  You can set a boy down with barbies if you want, but most of them will just pull their heads off.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Helpful (I hope) tips onshore and offshore

Through reading a number of books on cruising and provisioning as well as talking with other cruisers, I’ve learned a number of tips over the last few months that I thought might be helpful to others getting ready to sail, already sailing or anyone who wants to make their food last longer.  I’ll try to post them as they come up, but here are a few…

Did you ever want to buy that huge 5 lb block of cheese at Costco but just not know how to keep it from going bad without stuffing your family of four full with cheese at every meal?  First off, if you don’t open it, it’ll last as long as you need it to.  But after you open it, wrap it in a cheese cloth (a paper towel works fine too) soaked in vinegar and put it in a plastic container.  It also helps if you wipe down the inside of the container with vinegar.  My cheeses are lasting at least three times longer now and I don’t have to cut any mold off or give them the sniff test.  The vinegar doesn’t seem to affect the taste at all either. 

Down here in Mexico, limes are super cheap and they have all kinds of uses.  However, we never manage to use all of ours before they turn brown and/or get hard as a rock.  Wrap them in tin foil.  Yup.  Tin foil.  I did this on half my limes.  The half I did not wrap went bad in a week.  The half I wrapped are still in my galley (2 weeks later) bright green and juicy.  If you put them in the fridge, they’ll last even longer.  I just don’t have room in my itty bitty fridge for that.  I’m not sure if this trick works on other citrus fruits as well.  Stay tuned because I intend to try it.

This tip may not be so useful for those at home unless you have access to a local farm, but did you know that if you get eggs straight from the chicken, never refrigerated, you don’t have to refrigerate them either (maybe I’m the only one who didn’t know this, but remember I’m from Atlanta and we didn’t raise chickens)?  The first time I saw poop on an egg down here I was a little grossed out.  Now, I look for the poop and if it has a few feathers on it, even better… I know it’s fresh.  If you’re not sure if one is rotten, put it in a glass of water and see if it floats.  If it floats, it’s rotten.

The last one probably isn’t new to anyone, but I swear it’s the first time I’ve tried it.  Good, fresh garlic is hard to come by down here (old, black, yucky garlic is not hard to come by), so when I find it, I buy it.  I put this last batch in a clean jar and covered it with olive oil.  Now my garlic not only lasts longer, I have garlic flavored oil for cooking.

I’m trying a recipe now for preserving lemons but the jury is still out… stay tuned.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Visit to Old Town

Jake next to the pig's head at the market
Today we made our way to Old Town here in Mazatlan.  We all thoroughly enjoyed it.  We took the bus (much easier than San Carlos) and got off at the Mercado Municipal.  It's basically a huge market where everyone rents stalls and brings their goods to sell whether it's fruit, veggies, meat, clothes, jewelry, you name it.  We didn't buy anything today (too overwhelmed) but intend on going back Monday to get some fresh shrimp from the "shrimp ladies" and some veggies.

After the market we went to the Cathedral.  This is the "Catedral Basilica de la Purisima Concepcion."  It's dedicated to the city's patron saint, Virgen de la Purisima Concepcion (Virgin of the Immaculate Conception).  It's the most beautiful cathedral I've ever seen (at least in my adult life where I've been paying attention).

Next stop was lunch.  We ate in a little plaza called Plazuela Machado at the Beach Burger.  I know, why would you go all the way to Mexico to eat a hamburger.  I'm telling you, the ground beef here is 100% tastier than what we get at home.  Granted you might get a bone here or there (don't gross out, pretend you're eating fish), but we've decided they don't descriminate on what they grind up.  So you're not just getting the left overs.  You may be eating a sirlion or filet mignon burger and not even know it.

We went to the Archeology Museum, but it was a little sparse compared to others we've been to.

Finally, we ended the day walking down the Malecon (boardwalk) and looking at all of the beautiful bronze statues that dot the area.  We'd heard there were cliff divers here.  For a price, they'll dive off the cliff into the rough surf between a bunch of huge bolders.  I, for one, could not come up with a price that I would take to jump off these rocks.  So when they told us it was $10 a jump, we paid up.  I was scared for the guy.  Andy was able to get a good picture.

One too many complaints about how tired his legs were... 

We stopped and watched a baptism in the ocean
Jake riding a dolphin in an empty fountain

Jake's little piggy's were tired and we couldn't find a bus so we hopped a ride back in one of the "Pulmonia's" here.  They're basically golf cart's on steroids.    Evidently, these type of taxis were invented here in Mazatlan by a guy named don Miguel Ramirez Urquijo 55 years ago.  Originally they were aimed at carrying freight and later started carrying passengers.  He died this year at age 91.  It was a great way to see the city from a different point of view.

Tomorrow is boat cleaning day.  See, our maid never seems to find us, no matter how good our GPS coordinates are.  So, Andy and Jake will clean the outside while I do the inside...then we'll feel a little human again.  I'm too embarrassed to put a picture up, so that should tell you something.

Friday, November 12, 2010

11/9/2010 - Mazatlan, here we come

Mazatlan, it’s a 2 ½ day, 240 mile trip for us.  It’s been at least a month since we did an overnighter and not since the beginning of our trip have we had to do 2 nights, so we’re long overdue.  I’m considering this my training and part of work ups to our soon to be much longer passages across the Pacific.
Using that line of thinking, I decided to prepare a little better this time.
I took my seasick pills a full 24 hours ahead of time.  They tend to take a long time to get into my system and don’t always work the first day if I wait to late.  I’ve tried all types of things from Dramamine to wristbands.  The only sure thing I’ve found so far is Scopamine. You can get it in Mexico really cheap.  I think I 50 pills cost me $5 in LaPaz.
Another thing I did this time that I should have done before was to make some meals ahead of time.  Again, being prone to sickness, spending time in the galley doesn’t usually work for me.  But, I also hate to eat leftover’s and make ahead dinners always seem like leftovers for me (I know, it’s not the same thing).  This time, I made Tamales so all I would have to do is steam them.  I made enough for one lunch and one dinner.  Then I saved the leftover filling for us to put on Tostadas for lunch the other day.  I’m not very creative when it comes to lunches so I was pretty proud that I won’t be serving any sandwiches on this trip.
For Jake, I had grand plans of making sure we continued on with his schooling during this passage.  But plans are meant to be changed (or so my husband keeps telling me).  I’ve learned not to get too stressed if he ends up watching a few movies or having to play by himself more than usual.  It’s temporary.  I’m not a bad mommy.  We tried to get him involved today (i.e. get outside and away from the Star Wars) Tonight, I let Jake look at the radar and tell me if any ships were coming.  He asked me “Do we have our port and starboard lights on mommy?”
“Yes, sweetie. We do.”
“That’s good.  It’s important to have our nabigation lights on, right?”
“Yes, very important.”
“I wonder if Darth Vader’s Death Star has nabigation lights?”
And so it goes…

As I’m about to end my watch, I’m starting to think about Thanksgiving (it’s sneaking up on us) and where we’re going to be, what we’re going to do, eat, etc.  And I realize that this year we have more to be thankful for than ever before.  Not only are we all healthy and happy, but we’re living our dream and experiencing things I never in my life imagined I would experience.  And we’ve just gotten started.  We’ve passed our six month mark, the time where we were going to assess and determine if we should continue.  I think the consensus with the crew is, yes.

11/6/2010 - Moving on

Friends on Endurance waving Bye for the last time.

Friday morning we had a short goodbye swim with our friends on Endurance and then a sad goodbye wave as they headed north and we headed south.  We truly enjoyed their company over the last week and all of us on Savannah are sad that we couldn’t be going the same direction.  Trinidad and Samantha are such good kids.  Funny, smart and cute as a button.  Jake can’t quite get his head around not seeing them again.  We all promised to meet up again after our trip is over.  With my experience with leaving friends in the military, this isn’t as far fetched as it sounds…you always run into people down the road.

It’s interesting to see the landscape change since we came through here a few months ago.  Aqua Verde, our first stop, has transformed from a small dustbowl to a beautiful cove with actual flowers blooming (albeit not very many)!  We pulled in early afternoon and spent the evening watching the fishermen come in and out.  After breakfast the next morning we went to the Tienda for some vegetables and eggs and were able to get some fresh goat cheese.  It’s not the kind we think of at home, it’s more like a mozzarella, but very tasty.  This is my favorite little Tienda that we’ve been to.  I posted pictures the first time around.  It’s a small house with food on the front porch and coolers extending in to the yard.  You can either browse around or just ask for what you want and they will point you to the right cooler.  We were able to get tomatoes, eggs, avocados, lettuce, cheese and chayote (a vegetable good for stir fry…Paula made it and it was delicious).  The also had chicken, potatoes and onions but we didn’t need any of those things yet.  It looks so bare yet has so many things…and the people are so nice and helpful with our Spanish!

Los Gatos was our next stop and it looks like they too were able to get some green things growing!  The beach here looks completely different from the first time.  It looks like they got some rain and a bit of erosion on the beach.  It was very neat to see the miniature cliffs left in the sand by the running water and wind.  They almost looked like replicas of the mountains standing behind the beach.  We explored a good bit, threw the Frisbee around and worked on Jake’s rock skipping skills.

He can throw...

He just can't quite catch yet.

After a brief visit and Spanish practice with the local fisherman, a nice sushi dinner (we caught a fairly large dorado on the way here), we’re now on our way to Isla San Francisco.  This will be our dropping off point for the mainland.  It’s about 35 miles so we got an early start this morning and are seriously hoping for some wind.  We’ve been motoring since we left.  We tried a bit of sailing the first day but after a few hours at 2 knots, we decided to crank the motors back up.

We’re looking forward to a beautiful sunset tonight, as Isla San Francisco is really one of the more picturesque places we’ve been.  

There is really never enough sushi for that kid.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Gas complaint (not THAT kind of gas)

Andy just got back from filling our jugs with gas and for the first time since being in Mexico, I feel the need to complain about the practices publicly.

For anyone coming to Puerto Escondido...
If you take your jugs up to the gas station here at the marina and fill them up and then get in a CAR, no problem.  If you take the same jugs up and fill them and get in your dinghy (i.e. the gas is for a boat), you will be charged a 20% tax.  No amount of arguing or logic changes the situation.  I recommend you find one of the folks that stay here year round and own a car and ask them to borrow it for 10 minutes.  Drive your jugs the 100 yards it takes to get to the gas station, drive back to the parking lot and then walk them to your dinghy.

As a side note, in Santa Rosalia, it was just the opposite.  If you pulled your boat up to the dock to get gas, there was a 10% tax.  If you carried your jugs up, no tax.  This at least made a little sense as the guys had to pull the hoses down to the dock and wait around in the hot sun as opposed to pumping into a small tank in the shade.  We took that one in stride.

Andy is not a happy camper this morning...good thing we're leaving.

Watching movies aboard Savannah

We really have to come up with a different plan.  This is what it looks like to watch a movie on our boat.  Actually, this is one of the configurations.
For those movies that we brought with us, they plug in nicely to Jake's little DVD player and hook up the traditional way to our TV.  For those movies we've bought in Mexico, until San Carlos, they had to be played through our laptop because they're from a different "region" and Jake's DVD player won't play them.  We bought a new DVD player in San Carlos, hoping to fix these problems and now we can play our mexican DVD's but not our US DVDs (we still have to use Jake's DVD player).
Next we introduce a whole new problem.  We have some DVDs on a hard drive a friend gave us.  Those can only be played through our MAC laptop, for which we had to get a new cord to connect to the TV (previously, we had to copy a movie onto a flash drive, then play through our other laptop).  But we don't have just one hard drive, we have two.  The second one has AVI files that we are unable to read altogether until we download the latest version of our movie player.
Regardless of the configuration, we have to pull out the cables, plug it all in, get the generator out and started (or turn on the inverter), every single time.  We can't just leave it out due to lack of space and the fact that it drives me batty.
It seems like a trivial problem, just buy the right cables, download the right software and boom, there you go.  But as I've said before, nothing's as easy as it seems.  We're working on it though, I don't mean to sound like I'm whining, but we don't get to watch "TV" in the traditional sense so movies can become pretty important.  Particularly when we cross the pacific... I figure 5 movies a day for 30 days...Jake should be good :).  For all of you mom's out there who just had a heart attack, calm down, I'm kidding.... sort of.