Monday, January 19, 2015

January 19, 2015 - La Cruz de Huanacaxtle Anchorage

First of all, I am happy to report that my knee is almost back to normal.  I’m still on antibiotics for a few more days, but all is good.  My knee infection took me out of commission for several days where all I could do was lay on my back with my leg elevated.  Fortunately, this was a good time for this to happen as we had no immediate travel plans so laying around fit well into our schedule.  Kathy and the kids went into town many times while I stayed behind to rest.  We are now exploring La Cruz together.

We are enjoying our stay in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, which everyone simply refers to as La Cruz.  This is a very cruiser friendly town, with a beautiful new marina, and a large anchorage just outside the marina.   We have been able to catch up with two vessels from the Umbrella Dumpers group, from Tappan Zee and The Red Thread.  Both couples are so much fun to socialize with.  Everyone is on their own agenda so each time we say hello and another goodbye when someone leaves.  We are anchored out (along with about 60 other American and Canadian cruising boats).  Anchoring out is free of charge, and there is no time limit for your stay.  The marina has a dinghy dock for the anchored boats, but they do charge a few dollars every day you use it.  But it is worth the money because we can dump our trash at the dinghy dock for free, use the marina facilities, and participate in the marina activities.  They have a very nice cruiser’s lounge, a small mini-mart, and a seriously awesome Sunday market with about 180 vendors selling everything imaginable including flavor infused honey, fresh produce, breads of all kinds, fresh fish, handmade rugs, artwork, and much more.  One of the major criteria for being allowed to sell your goods in the market is that it must be grown, caught, or made by the people selling it.  So, no junky mass produced touristy items to be found here.  It is very popular with shoppers so it is packed with people and can be a bit tough to walk through the crowds.  We can only describe it as “most excellent!”
Steve, with ice pack and knee up. Kevin playing and lego's all around!

The cruising community here is phenomenal with everyone monitoring and participating in the 8:30AM daily morning net on VHF 22A.  Back in the states that channel is reserved for US Coast Guard use, but down here it is THE channel to find other cruisers.  The net starts out with any emergencies to report, then everyone checks in by simply saying their boat name.   This is a large cruisers net so they have three locations they call out and you check in from the area you are in.  After that there are several regular topics including “mail call”, “lost and found”, “crew needed”, “services needed of offered”, “items for sale”, “misc”, and “trivia of the day”.  Sometimes vessels are looking for recommendations for service or even trading or parts needed for their vessels.  Even local businesses are involved in the morning net with a few restaurants giving their “special of the day”, or info about the band that will be playing that evening.   It is a wealth of information and an easy way to resolve problems, and meet other boaters.   Everyone leaves their VHF on 22A all day, and most also carry their portables with them whenever they venture to shore.  There are also many organized activities from tours of local attractions, jewelry making classes, and even a weekly technical class on topics interesting to long distance cruisers.  All of these are announced and organized on the morning net.

I (Steve) have bumped into a few old friends down here.  Terry and Diane both worked in Anacortes (marine electronics) and retired a few years ago to go cruising.  I had a few beers with Terry on his boat one evening a few weeks before they left Anacortes.  I haven’t seen them since.  Well, they are now here in the La Cruz anchorage!  Boy was Diane surprised when I pulled up in the dinghy a few days ago :-)  I also bumped into Jake, who was in a marine refrigeration class with me about 3-4 years ago in Anacortes.  He and his wife and two daughters (similar in age to our kids) are on a multi-year adventure headed to the Caribbean and plan to summer-over this year in El Salvador.  We met Jake and family back in the El Cid marina (Mazatlan) the day before they left, but it wasn’t until here in La Cruz that Jake figured out our past connection from the Anacortes class we took together.  Small world!  There are a lot of Seattle (and Vancouver/Victoria) boats here and it is fun to meet them and find out where they lived and what their plans are.

The cruiser kid’s community here is also great.  They have “Science Friday” where a retired chemistry teacher hosts a kid’s science class on her boat for about 3 hours every Friday morning.   This weekend there will be a kid’s campout on the beach organized by the La Cruz Marina staff.  They have been doing this event for several years and have it pretty dialed in.  The marina also has a kid’s movie night on Wednesdays.  There is a grown-up movie night every week too.  The kids went and hung out on a dock with the kids from Kenta Anae (Matero and Shandro) yesterday afternoon and had fun.  Trading Legos with them is in the works!  There is a new kid’s net every morning just after the regular net so the kids can get used to radio etiquette and become comfortable talking on the radio.  It’s also a great way to meet new kids.  Cindy and Kevin just met Matthew (age ten, just like Kevin) and Morgan (age 12, same as Cindy) on the radio today when Kevin asked if anyone wanted to play or trade Legos.  Matthew and Morgan are brother and sister on a boat in a different marina.  We are going to be headed to the other marina perhaps later this week (or maybe next week) as it is a resort facility like the one back in Mazatlan.  They have pools with slides, etc.  I’m sure the kids will play together quite a bit while we are there.

Kevin talking on the kids morning net.

The kids on the "flubber" or amorphous liquid.  Science Friday.

Making Crystals, here are many waiting to cool down.  It is sugar water mixed
at a specific ratio.  In about a week they will have grown crystals on the pipe cleaners
that are suspended in the mixture.

Amorphous liquid pouring into jars, with food coloring to boot!

Everyone in La Cruz is extremely helpful and friendly.  We were struggling with the translation for flour one afternoon in a little store (Kiosko) and a local stepped in to help us with the Spanish word.  The store we were in did not have flour (they ran out) but he told us another store to try, and what to ask for.  With his help we found flour.  Yesterday we were walking up to catch a bus to the Mega Store (huge place, like Walmart) and he stopped us on the street to see if he could help us.  He offered some helpful advice, and he seemed genuinely interested in helping us.  We have gotten to know a couple from Victoria that has been here since 2008.  They have been working here since 2008 and stayed much longer than expected because they love it here.  They are now getting ready to resume cruising and cross the pacific on their sailboat with their two boys, also about our kid’s age.  Cindy and Kevin spent yesterday afternoon playing Legos with their boys.  They have told us a lot about La Cruz and that it is a very safe place to visit, and live.  There is virtually no crime here, it is relaxed, and it is quite inexpensive, and there are some really excellent restaurants with cheap prices.  There is live music every night at one place or another.  No wonder there are SO many cruisers here.

The town of La Cruz is typical Mexico with dirt roads, rough cobblestone streets, run-down abandoned buildings next to nice ones, dogs running around, loud music, lots of small motorcycles, junky cars and nice cars, palm trees, small restaurants and bars every few hundred feet, tiny shops selling all sorts of goods, a few butcher shops, and more.   It is an easy town to get familiar with.  Transportation from La Cruz to the neighboring towns of Bucerias, Nuevo Vallarta, and Puerto Vallarta is quite easy with taxis, big busses, and mini-vans.  The Nissan minivans are the cheapest way to go (only about $1 each way) and are quite an experience.  A minivan passes by every few minutes so they are super convenient and well utilized by the locals.  You can get on or off just about anywhere, no need to wait at a designated stop.  There are some good sized stores for provisioning in the nearby towns where you can find Sam’s Club, Costco, Walmart, Mega, Home Depot, and more.   Puerto Vallarta is a large town with a population of around 350,000.  We have not been there yet, but plan to catch a minivan in the next few days to go exploring.
Walking in town.  There are many colorful buildings in Mexico.
Dinghy Dock
The weather has been great so far, as it typically at this time of year.  Temps are in the low 80’s every days, with lows in the low 70’s, perhaps even dipping into the upper 60’s at night.  The humidity is very high though, making it seem much hotter than it actually is.   The winds have been calm for the week we have been here, and the swell from the ocean low, making the anchorage a very smooth place to be.   The wind does seem calm in the mornings, gusts and wind from 10-20 in the afternoons and calms down in the early evening.  The water temp is about 76-77 so swimming and playing on the nearby beach is awesome.  It is quiet here too, with no airports or noisy roads nearby.  There are no jet skis running around, or crazy booze cruise boats blasting music.  Parasails are nowhere to be found.  Cruise ships can occasionally be seen in the distance headed to Puerto Vallarta.  Instead there is only dinghy traffic as boaters head to shore or return to their floating homes.  It is simple, relaxing, easy living here without the big tourist town distractions, or problems.  It is nothing like the crazy Cabo San Lucas scene of a month ago.  Whales are very common in the bay and I just saw a huge whale breach maybe a ¼ mile away while I was sitting in the pilothouse writing this blog entry.  Frigate birds and Pelicans are the most common bird.  Many colorful tropical fish can be seen swimming around as well.  What a wonderful experience we are having here in La Cruz!  We currently have no departure date in mind. 
Marina entrance.  We venture over that way several times per day on our dinghy.
Several dolphins are swimming by. left side.

Steve on one of his first ventures out.  Too much for the bad knee.....  anchorage behind

Sunset in the anchorage.

We made cookies for a charity here for the marine swap meet at the marina.  The kids made some sugar cookies that for donation helped the local orphanage in Bucerias. The orphanage's name is "Manos de Amor" or Hands of Love.  Cindy and Kevin insisted on some mega cookies for themselves which they ate on the way in to the swap meet as shown below!
Cindy's mega cookie

Kevin's mega cookie

Cindy, on our way into the market, behind her.........

Sunday Market (it is bigger than it looks here)

Kids watching performers at the Sunday Market

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