Thursday, February 24, 2005

Leaving Zihuatenejo, almost

Isla Grande

When you've stayed in one place as long as we have--a month and a half--it takes a while to get ready for sea again. Kay made several reprovisioning runs to the Commercial, the Safeway-like supermarket. We had a local man clean Kavenga's rather severely fouled bottom--lots of soft marine growth as well as a pretty good case of barnacles. When he came up and got in our dinghy, dozens of tiny crabs, baby lobsters and little fish fell out of his dive gear and into the bottom of the dink. We basically had our own aquarium.

Steve did all the usual engine checks and maintenance. We took our papers to the Port Captain's office and cleared out for Puerto Vallarta. While Kay did one last load of laundry, Steve got on the internet one more time to check our land-based email and to get the latest news on the Seattle Mariners.

So, yesterday morning we were all set to leave. Rather than take off on a longer run up the coast we decided to just go seven miles north to Isla Grande, a tourist island just off of the resort town of Ixtapa. Our first evening there we listened to the weather forecast and learned that a trough of low pressure would be moving down the coast as we went north, which meant that we would likely run into strong headwinds before we could reach the next port of any size--Manzanillo.

We talked it over and decided that we'd just as soon not bash into headwinds and seas, and that if we were going to get stuck someplace before Manzanillo, the best place to be stuck would be Zihuatenejo.

So, unless things change dramatically overnight, we will be heading back down to Zihua tomorrow to wait for this trough to slide south. We'll have to go see the Port Captain and hope that he won't make us clear back in and out again ($32 and a bit of a bureaucratic hassle).

Things could be worse. Now Kay is thinking that if she isn't able to watch the Academy Awards this coming Sunday, she'll at least be able to check out the results on the internet the next day.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Movies & Music

We recently finished watching "Destinos", a 52-episode Spanish telenovela about a Mexican American attorney and private investigator named Raquel Rodriguez who is commissioned to find the lost heirs of a well-to-do Spaniard now living in Mexico. Raquel travels to Spain, Argentina, Puerto Rico and finally Mexico in her successful effort to reunite the man with grandchildren previously unknown to him.

You're wondering how we learned enough Spanish to watch a Spanish telenovela? Well, actually, it's a programmed learning system and you learn Spanish while following the events of the investigation. We're certainly not fluent yet, nor even comfortable with the language, but we did learn a lot and we enjoyed the story and its characters. We especially liked the fact that Raquel winds up engaged to marry the psychiatrist she meets in Argentina.

In other news, we were surprised to hear that the movie, The Aviator, was coming to town. We went to see it a couple nights ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. With the exception of movies targeted at children, virtually all (English-language) movies are shown here in English with Spanish subtitles; i.e., they are not dubbed in Spanish. The Spanish subtitles are another way to learn a little more Spanish as you hear the spoken English and see the written Spanish below. In fact, when watching our own DVDs, we sometimes turn on the Spanish subtitles for that very reason.

One of the things we like about Zihuatenejo is its two theaters and the ease of getting our movie fix. A few days ago we did a double-feature: "Wimbledon" and "A Series of Unfortunate Events". We enjoyed both of them and at less than $3 for a double-feature, it's quite a bargain.

Lately, we've been getting back to playing music again, not just Steve, but Kay as well. Ever since the guitar jam session back at Barra de Navidad, Steve has been getting out his guitar every now and then to practice a few tunes. And since we've been in Zihuatenejo, Kay has gotten out her Omnichord (electronic harpsichord). In addition to practicing with just the two of us, we recently had Kevin and Kathy of Tau Min (Bainbridge Is, WA) on board with their guitar and synthesized keyboard respectively. Then just yesterday, the four of us got together with the crews of three other boats; Pegasus, Tumbleweed and Effie; for a jam session and singalong on the beach in the shade of some palm trees. We did a little of everything: Eagles, CCR, Stones, Bobby Darin, Johnny Horton, etc. Kay debated for quite awhile before we left whether to bring her Omnichord since she had played it so little back home. Now, she's glad she brought it.

Thanks to Steve's accident, we've been in Zihuatenejo a bit longer than planned. But now it's time for us to attend to the chores necessary to prepare us for the voyage back north, primarily reprovisioning, refueling and the like.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Zihua Sailfest

Zihua Sailfest started on Wednesday, the 2nd of February. We attended all three of the cruiser seminars. Jim Corenman, the man who developed Airmail and Sailmail, the onboard email system that we use, gave a presentation. We picked up a few tidbits of how we could use the capabilities in new ways.

We then attended a seminar for Northbound Cruisers, those planning to spend the summer in the Sea of Cortez. They made it sound like an endurance test because of the heat, the bugs, and the volatile weather systems that sometimes include hurricanes. We do plan to head north for the Sea of Cortez, but we will likely haul Kavenga out of the water during the high hurricane months.

The third seminar was for Southbound Cruisers, those planning to head south for Central America and the Panama Canal. We're not planning to do that at the moment, but it was interesting nonetheless. The islands of Panama, in particular, sounded enticing.

Capping off the long first day of Sailfest, we attended the kick-off party and auction. They had two humorous auctioneers, one American and one Mexican. They auctioned off many donated items and services, including jewelry, paintings, dinners, jungle-cave excursions, etc.

The next evening we watched the Flare Shoot-out. Numerous hand-held and aerial flares were set off in the middle of the bay from the Port Captain's boat. It was announced on marine VHF radio the brand and type of flare being fired, so it was a good opportunity to see which flares were the most effective. The Pains-Wessex SOLAS flares, both the hand-helds and the parachute flares were the brightest and lasted the longest. All of the flares fired were beyond their expiration dates and there were a high number of "duds", particularly the small Sky Blazers. Conversely, few of the Pains-Wessex failed to fire even when several years out of date.

The next day we participated in a "Dinghy Poker Chase". We were given clues to locations or other boats scattered around the bay. Using the clues we found each of the locations where we picked one card at random from a deck until we had a complete hand. Unfortunately, it was not good enough to win either the prize for best hand or worst hand (A,Q,10,2,3).

The same afternoon there was a chili cook-off and bake sale. Kay made her delicious lemon bars for the bake sale. Steve bought tickets for the chili cook-off and sampled 10 of the 13 entrants. We also sampled most of what was offered at the bake sale. So much for lunch and dinner.

We didn't participate in the Sail Parade from Zihua to Ixtapa because Steve still isn't 100% since his fall. We did however attend the festival's wrap-up barbeque on La Madera Beach at M.J Ritchie's beach restaurant. Four other restaurants also had tables and your ticket allowed you to pick a meal from any one of the five. Kay went for a cheeseburger with potato salad, while Steve went for a total carb-out pasta meal of spaghetti, lasagne and shell pasta salad.

This was also the occasion of awards presentation and the final raffles. Kay had earlier won a bead earing, necklace and bracelet set that she gave to another cruiser for her daughter's birthday. On this day we also won a Z-What! T-shirt.

All the proceeds of Sailfest go to support and improve the local schools, particularly those for the indigenous children, many of whom only speak Nihuatl and need to learn Spanish. This year they almost doubled the results of last year and took in around 430,000 pesos or about $40,000.


Saturday, February 05, 2005

Ooops! Man Down!

Two weeks ago today, we were part of a sailor work party helping to repaint the classrooms of a local Zihuatenejo school for indigenous Nihuatl children. We were part of "Trim Team 2". Our job was to paint the edges of all the walls and windows ahead of "Roller Crew 2".

We were within 15 minutes of finishing when Steve went up his ladder one last time to cut in the high part of the peaked ceiling. The ladder was an aluminum extension type that was a little too tall for the room so it set at shallow angle to the floor.

Steve no more than reached the top and was about to load his brush when the ladder suddenly slipped out from under him and went crashing to the cement floor. Steve did a "chest-flop" on the ladder. It knocked the breath out of him for half a minute and he was in intense pain.

The ride down the steep bumpy roads in a Chevy Blazer was almost as bad as the fall. Steve could only take tiny gasps of air.

He didn't leave the boat for nearly a week. One of the side benefits was that Kay finally got a chance to take a refresher course on dinghy outboard operation. She would go ashore and beach the dinghy on her own to get groceries and newspapers for Steve.

Very slowly, Steve is regaining his mobility. Apparently he didn't break any bones. However, he did quite a bit of damage to the soft tissues (muscle, cartilage and tendons) in his upper right chest and side. Sometimes those can take longer to heal than bones.

He's been well enough to enjoy some of the Zihuatenejo Sailfest events, the subject of the next blog entry.