Friday, February 24, 2006

Dispatch 9 Puerto Vallarta and Bahia de Banderas

Feb 2-Feb 28

Puerto Vallarta is the main cosmopolitan area within Banderas Bay. The Bay, much like Monterey Bay is huge, 20 by 20 miles or so, and stunningly beautiful. Most of it is surrounded by mountains. We entered the Bay in the early morning after leaving Isla Isabella and motored in on a glassy morning to Marina Vallarta, just north of the main city. We arrived in Puerto Vallarta on Feb 2, a few days before Betsy’s parents arrived from Cleveland, Ohio for a one week visit. Many of our old buddy boats were there so the first few days were spent mainly socializing and catching up. We also wanted to do some exploring, but never got around to it before the folks arrived. Marina Vallarta is part of the tourist trap area of PV—many very high end hotels surround the marina and the walkway around the marina is full of tourist type stores and numerous restaurants as well as hawkers for fishing, time shares, sailing, time shares, snorkeling, time shares, and time shares. The Spanish classes quickly went to waste as English seems to be the first language in this area, Spanish the second. Sad.

The folks arrived and stayed at a stunning Westin hotel complete with numerous pools, its own beach and a couple very good restaurants. It was nearby the marina so very convenient for us. They had been to PV for many years with friends and stayed in a house on a hill south of town so they knew the place much better than we did and assumed the role of tour guides. We went into town by cab and explored the many shops selling artisan wares as well as some very good galleries. We bought another mask for our collection and it is now installed in our boat with our Pacific NW collection. Over the course of the first couple weeks, we have come to enjoy much about Puerto Vallarta. First, it is physically stunning. High mountains ring the Bay and the city climbs into scenic hills almost immediately after the first few blocks on the waterfront. Although the marina area is new, much of the city of Puerto Vallarta is quite old and beautiful. The “Zona Romantica” district and Old Town are gorgeous with beautiful colonial buildings.

Of course, some of the best parts of the visit had to do with food as we all enjoy great meals and the folks were very generous with us. One night we ate at the Vista Grill, a restaurant perched on a hill high over Banderas Bay with a breathtakingly stunning view. The road to the restaurant was a steep cobblestone drive that seems like it would be impossible in the rain. Luckily, it doesn’t rain here this time of year. The food was quite good but the view stole the show. Another night we ate at one of the best restaurants in town: Café Des Artistes which stimulated both the eye and the palate with truly artistic setting and food presentations. That was definitely the high point in a culinarily excellent week.

Around mid-week, we finally had the folks down to the boat. They were curious of course about our “home” so they came aboard to look around. We had casually discussed taking them out sailing, but, since my Dad is notorious for getting seasick even at the mention of sailing and starting to turn green just driving to a boat, we thought that adventure was out of the question. Well, my Dad was aboard and we had a little light snack and asked casually, “Well, what do you think, want to go out sailing?” And somewhat to our surprise he said yes.

We quickly readied the boat for the sail and dropped the dock lines and motored out. Strike while the iron’s hot as they say. It was the usual beautiful afternoon on Banderas Bay—literally every afternoon here is sunny, hot, and the wind blows 10-20 knots starting around midday. We put up sail just outside the breakwater and began reaching across the bay with a sharp eye out for marine wildlife to point out to the folks. Well, in that we were not disappointed. First we saw a turtle floating a bit off the boat and then, whoa, a whale blow. We tacked around to follow the direction the whale was traveling and proceeded to be thrilled by whale sightings for the next 30-45 minutes. He blew, he sounded (dove and showed his tail flukes) and eventually he breeched (jumped clear of the water) all within a quarter mile from us, the breeching as close as 100 yards! We were all thrilled and excited. The crew of Qayaq could not have ordered up a better show if they planned it. Everyone was delighted with the afternoon! By the time we headed in about 2 hours later the water had become choppy from the consistent 15 knot breeze, but, through it all my Dad felt well. Hallelujah!!

The visit was delightful and we were very sad to see my parents go home. It was fun to share our lives with them. They even attended a cruisers meeting where I gave a medical talk and met some of our cruiser friends.

The next week was spent with our friends socializing some more, doing some exploring and trading some medical expertise for help in setting up a real website. Yup, that’s the big news this dispatch—check it out and see the early website development. The logbook will send you to the blogsite for the dispatches and, eventually, soon, we’ll post a lot of our pictures.

We are now anchored off another village on Banderas Bay, La Cruz, a darling small “real Mexican” town that welcomes cruisers and provides a nice “home” for a bunch of boats as well as some Americans who have settled here in Mexico. Happily, we are speaking Spanish again. We enjoyed live music with one of our friends playing and will go to a Mexican Fiesta this weekend. In this small town, we are able to get free wireless internet from our boat anchored off the breakwater—ironically, it’s been easier to get free internet in smaller towns than in PV where we could have it for a fee. The water is warm-ish and we spent a couple hours cleaning the bottom of our boat the other day. In these tropical waters, the marine life tends to grow on the hull of the boat so scraping and wiping it needs to happen every few weeks. We still got a little cold doing it, but we can look forward to warmer water still as we head south again in a while.

Our next stops will be on the Mexican Riviera including Tenicatita and Bahia de Navidad before we turn back north to head for the Sea of Cortez for the spring. We hope to see Copper Canyon on the way back north (an inland trip from Mazatlan). Take care all.