December 28, 2009

Indelible memories

Our travels opened opportunities to create some amazing memories with our children. This past week, one such gift came in the form of an encounter I'm not sure any of us will forget: holding month-old tiger cubs at the Vallarta zoo.

Once in a lifetime

Once in a lifetime

Their bellies full after guzzling down bottles of formula, the cubs were undeniably adorable. For almost ten minutes, the children held them mostly on their laps as they rolled, played, and generally acted like the cute babies that they are. It was a little overwhelming just to watch the interaction. I can't imagine doing anything like this back in the States.

It was a zoo like no other we've seen. Visitors carry bags of food with carrots, peanuts, bread, and other snacks inside for feeding the animals. Printed on the side of the bag are guidance for which type of food to feed which type of animal. It it really incredible to have a giraffe sneak up on you looking for treats (they have the softest cheeks!), or a camel surprise you by poking way over his enclosure to see what you have to offer. Then there are the hippos.

Vallarta Zoo

It's more than a little sad... hippos begging for carrots? Isn't this one of the most dangerous animals in Africa? It doesn't seem right. I'm pretty sure I should feel worse about this, but it's hard to let that overcome the wonder of the close-encounter experiences for all of us. From having our fingers held by little capuchins, to being goosed by a giraffe, I can't regret our visit for a moment- and I'd like to think the children's memories of the cubs will only enhance their sensitivity to the wonders of the world around them.

Vallarta Zoo

December 20, 2009

Visitors

We've longed for friends & family to visit, to share the beauty of Mexico and a peek into our nomadic life. Our wishes were answered in a big way this past week!

First were our old neighbors from Bainbridge Island. Although Jocelyn and I are SURE we were on a soccer field in Jakarta together in 1988, I first met her and her husband Willie when their oldest son, Theo, and our daughter Mairen were both just a few months old. We've built wonderful memories as our children have grown. Their visit was a tease, really. The days flew by far too quickly, and I feel like we just scratched the surface of the things we wanted to talk about, but it was a gift. A beautiful gift, of themselves and their time to haul down here en famille. I wanted every moment to be perfect, so they won't have an iota of regret for the many other things they could have been doing. Silly to worry, but I can't help it. As fast as it all seemed to go, when I look at the pictures of this past week, we sure crammed in an incredible amount of living. In hindsight, if I could have changed anything, I think I just might have hugged them all a little more. Oh, and skipped the 2nd margarita that certain night (what did the restaurant put in that thing, anyway?!).

Joc & Willie
Joc & Willie

sunset from the Brent's condo
Sunset in Punta de Mita

making a current
The kids "making current" in the hot tub

celebrating hannukah
Celebrating Hanukkah

Because in life it seems that it pours instead of raining sometimes, we also had the gift of Siobhan's much-loved preschool teacher Nita and her husband Ty here at their condo at the same time. I wish there could have been more days in the week! We had a picture-perfect daysail with them, full of humpback whales and bait balls of fish. We all had such a good time together, that we're hoping Ty will come with us across the Pacific next spring. We have won the crew lottery if he can do it- Ty is a ferry captain with a senior maritime license- not to mention- all the EMT training that comes with being on ski patrol. Most important? He's a fun guy, and we had a terrific time together on the Bay.

whales!
Whales!

Nita reads to Siobhan
Nita reads with Siobhan

Ty
Ty, future Totem crew (we hope!)

In February, our cruising mentors and dear friends Jim & Diana Jessie will come to Mexico, and we're hoping the Crew of the s/v Seven Cs will head south for some sun here in March. Meanwhile, there's a pilot berth for the kids' occasional sleepovers...or escapees from the northern latitudes.

December 10, 2009

Goodbye, Baja- hello, mainland Mexico!

Here's a little catch-up on the path of Totem. I had fun queuing up pictures and notes to post automatically while we've been away from the internet for the last couple of weeks (thank you, Blogger). We're happy to be mostly staying in one place for the next month.

Making the jump from Baja over to the mainland felt like a bigger transition this year, because we know we're not going to reverse it in a few months. It was great to do it in the company of our friends on Capaz. Our two boats are surprisingly well matched in terms of speed: we wondered if their longer ketch would pull away from Totem in some of the spectacular reaching conditions we've had, but we have generally stayed evenly paced. I can tell that PJ and I will have to use some kind of electronic restraint to prevent Brad and Jamie from match racing each other to Hiva Oa next spring.

Always within about a five mile range of each other, we could share everything from bored check-ins in the wee hours on watch to comparing notes on the lights of distant fishing boats, and their cross track to our bearing. It also made for some lovely photo opportunities.

Capaz underway
Capaz flying their spinnaker

It was almost two days- 42 two hours, actually- to our first destination, Isla Isabella. We had a great experience with a bedraggled frigate bird on our first trip here last fall. The island is a major breeding area for great frigates and blue footed boobies. We have to pass the Galapagos on our journey next year, but we're pretty sure this a good taste of the close-ups with wildlife that would offer.

poor man's Galapagos?
Boobie parent and chick, generally unphased by our presence

We didn't have very good luck fishing on our way across. The children decided we should have a fishing derby, with prizes for first, biggest (by length), and most fish caught. I believe the instigator was Bryce from Capaz. As it turns out, their smallish fish (I think it was a skipjack) was the only one caught between our boats, giving them a dubious trifecta. This luck has since changed, thankfully! Clearly there are plenty of huge fish around: on Isabella we met some very happy Mexican charter fisherman with their haul. Here they are holding a portion of the catch- I wish I had gotten a better shot of the guy in the purple lifejacket trying to get Jamie to take that big fish he's holding up.

a good day
Some very happy fishermen

From Isla Isabella we went to San Blas. This town seems to get overlooked a bit, or passed over because of the reputation for bugginess. There are definitely bugs (Niall counted 32 no-see-um bites on the back of ONE calf), but it's hardly insurmountable... we just have to remember the screens and the lotion. It has become a very special place for us in great part because of Norm and Jan Goldie. Originally from New York & New Jersey, this couple has made San Blas their home for the last 44 years. They do a great deal to help both visitors and the local community. We happily passed along bags of outgrown clothing and children's toys for their distributions to the needy. We're seriously considering coming back to San Blas in March for final provisioning and zarpe (exit papers), and making it our departure point from Mexico to French Polynesia. It's entirely Norm and Jan's fault...I can't imagine leaving without seeing them again.

One of the must-do activities in San Blas is to hire a panga to go up the estuary to a freshwater spring. The pangueros are well versed in the local fauna. It was a downpour, so we didn't see quite as many birds as we did in April, but there were plenty of other spectacular sightings... like this guy. OK, maybe I would be alright with a little less spectacular! This croc was about a dozen feet away from our panga.... watching... waiting... at least as far as I could tell.

about a dozen feet away...
No fences here, folks.

Included in the panga services is a stop at the fresh water spring, styled as an ol' swimming hole. Last spring, it was full of swimmers, paddling and splashing and generally having a very good time. A chainlink fence separates the swimming area from the open waters where primordial guys like the one above lurk about (along with turtles and tilapia, in clear blue water). What did we see on our trip, but a croc surfacing INSIDE the swimming area. Yikes!

One of the occasional realities of life on the boat, and being without transportation in some out of the way corners, is that we get from Point A to Point B whatever way we can. Hitchiking is the norm in many places, because people do not have cars and there is not much in the way of regular public transportation. You walk down the road, hope for the best, and often- as in this picture below- end up sharing the back of a truck with a handful of people.

responsible parents...
Withhold a little judgment here, ye with the minivans and 5-point car seats.

I'm a little wary of the reactions to this, having been in the camp of people who would not put our car in gear until every little person had their car seat buckled and snugged up. Ruminating on other thoughts around this, but not for a minute regretting our choices.

We're in Banderas Bay now. For folks who follow our SPOT positions, you probably noticed they're not working anymore. We really loved SPOT, but it does not have much coverage in the South Pacific. Our annual subscription recently came up, and we couldn't justify it for just a few more months in Mexico. We'll continue to post our position through the radio on Winlink, which has the added benefit of a longer history view of position reports than we got from SPOT.

December 4, 2009

things I'm loving... again!

A mellow, peaceful Thanksgiving with friends... and so many reasons to be grateful!

Thanksgiving dinner on Capaz
Jamie, me, and Jesse (s/v Francis Lee)

Thanksgiving on Capaz
Brad & PJ

December 3, 2009

December 2, 2009

things I'm loving... part deux

Time to just be, together.

Beachcombing, Isla Partida
Beachcoming with Jamie- late afternoon walk at Ensenada Grande on Isla Partida.

December 1, 2009

things I'm loving... part 1 of a bunch

Hiking with friends! From climbing up the ridge above Puerto Don Juan with Jaime (s/v Don Quixote) this summer, to last week's ridge hike with PJ... source of the amazing panorama shot below, and one off-kilter timer picture of the two of us. Good times.

Ridge hike!
Who says skirts don't make good hiking wear, anyway?

Sorry, the panorama just doesn't fit and I'm not taking the time to adjust it right now- but click through to the 1280 px wide image and check it out. This is simply a magical spot!

Isla San Francisco