Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Discovering Mazatlan

World navigators possess amazing skills to find their way not just at sea but also ashore.  We, on the other hand, found ourselves utterly lost in Mazatlan.  Well OK, technically we weren't lost, but after we could not find the Colonial District of Mazatlan, we returned to Moonshadow to regroup where we turned to our FWC. 

Friends With Cars.

Ed and Connie showed us around and took us to the Freeman Hotel for drinks on the roof-top pool and bar.  On the way up in the elevator, we felt a sharp bump, which kind of made sense after we inspected the vintage lifting mechanism. 

All was forgotten when we stepped out onto the roof with it's panoramic view of old Mazatlan.  From here, we could see that when we were "lost" our position was actually just two blocks from the Colonial District we'd sought!

But when we left, we rode the elevator down from the roof.  It stopped between floors.  For a minute we looked at each other and thought "How fun...we're stuck in an elevator".  This snapshot is about five minutes into one of those stuck in a tiny, hot elevator with no margaritas kind of situations.  We were all smiling and having fun but quietly thinking GET ME OUTTA HERE!!!

We survived.  
On another trip to town we finally toured the Colonial District which has some well restored vintage buildings.

The streets are narrow and the building facades are captivating. 

We learned you never know what you'll find behind these beautifully preserved exteriors.

Behind one, you'll find parking...

...another door opens to an open air restaurant.

There's a thriving art community here where you can discover some really unique things.

Just down the street is the old opera house.  It has been restored from the days when rain poured in through the roof and trees grew inside.

Nowadays they're back to performing here.

We hadn't planned to visit Mazatlan at all, but friends said we should and now we're glad we did.  Still, we were itching to return to the Sea of Cortez and some of the beautiful isolated Baja anchorages we'd seen last year.  So we set off, sailing west-northwest chasing the sun.

After 30 hours we dropped anchor in Ensenada Grande, took a swim in the clear water and sat back to watch the sandstone faces taking shape as the sun got lower.

But this sunset turned out to be the only one we would see from Baja this time. First, we discovered that some minor refrigeration maintenance we had done in Mazatlan resulted in a cracked freon pipe, so the next morning we made for La Paz, about 25 miles to the south.

We quickly found someone to repair our refrigeration and were preparing to sail back north when we got the call that our son Ryan had broken his neck in a motorcycle accident.  It's amazing how fast you can run through the check-list to prepare a boat like Moonshadow for a prolonged absence.  The next morning we were at the airport waiting for our flight to San Diego.

We arrived at the hospital as Ryan was wheeled back from 4 hours of spinal surgery to fuse several vertebra where we learned he is expected to have a full recovery and he will have no paralysis.
 Thank God!

Then came the next call.  John's father was failing fast so John was on a plane to Oregon to be with his brothers and Dad.  

William Rogers - February 10, 1922 - April 25, 2015
Their dad hated hospitals so the three brothers promised he could stay in his home till the end.  With help from some angels from the local hospice organization, he remained at home with his sons and his beloved shepherd Freida.  When a guy makes it to 93 and retains his wits and humor till the end, we rationalize this is no tragedy.  

Frieda isn't so sure.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


There's something about Aquarians you just gotta love.

Leon plays cow bells, honks horn, and blows a whoopy whistle at Philo's Bar in La Cruz, but his primary instrument is the washboard.  February Leon turned 84 so someone gave Leon a washboard tie for his birthday.  John wants to be Leon when he grows up.

You can't let a person turn 90 without some kind of recognition, so Deb and her sisters cooked up a big surprise party for her father, also an aquarian, in Carlsbad with about 75 friends and family.  It's tricky business trusting dozens of old-timers to keep a secret, but in the end Ed was surprised and had a great day.

Joined by brothers Bill and Steve, John celebrated his own birthday while visiting his dad in Oregon.  Coincidentally, it was John's dad's 93rd birthday.  Both are aquarians.

There's just something about Aquarians.

A week at Dad's Oregon home gave us the chance to make some more alterations to the house so Dad could retain as much freedom of mobility as possible.

During our visit, we brothers developed a plan to ensure one of us is with Dad all the time to provide help with his daily activities.  So, for the time being, we will divide our time between cruising Moonshadow and trips home as John and his brothers rotate up to Oregon for visits of three weeks or so.

Besides wanting to enjoy Mexico more, the proximity to family and aging parents is another reason we had delayed sailing to the South Pacific.  With safe and secure marinas all over Mexico and cheap air transportation home, we can adapt to this schedule much more easily than if we were somewhere in the South Pacific right now.

One of the things we enjoy most about the cruising life is the changing scenery outside our windows aboard Moonshadow.  Likewise, here in Oregon, you get distinct seasonal changes that we aren't used to from our years living in Southern California, so it was great to see the world welcoming another spring season.

You can never tire of the view out the galley, er... kitchen window which makes you venture outside for a closer look.

My mother planted Daffodiles all around the property years ago.  Mom left us at the beginning of spring seven years ago, and now each year these beauties pop open on that anniversary as if to celebrate her life.  They are always among the first to announce the arrival of spring and that reminds me of Mom's optimism so much.  

Weeks later, arriving in La Cruz on separate flights an hour apart, we wasted no time getting back into the groove in our lovely La Cruz.  Tired from travel day, when we heard the music of The Breeze playing at the White Whale we nevertheless had to rally long enough to stop in for a drink and great music. 

After a day of opening Moonshadow up, shopping and clearing the junk out of the "junk-bunk", we met good old friends Greg and Barb for a week aboard Moonshadow in our favorite town in Mexico.

We took Moonshadow for a sail up to Punta Mita and enjoyed a great whale show capped by a terrific rainbow.

But not everybody was having fun that day.  This 38 foot power boat burned to the waterline and sank. 

Back in La Cruz, we spent the evenings introducing Barb and Greg to the variety of great live music available here.

As a special treat, Philo's great friend and amazing musician Oscar Fuentes was in town that week.

During the days we used our rental car to visit nearby Sayulita

My friend Pedro calls this place a "gringo town".   Not sure exactly why...

And we drove down to old Vallarta's Malecon, the boardwalk that features dozens of interesting and well done bronze sculptures.

When we had some time, Greg provided some much needed instruction on the ukulele. 

Years ago on a charter in the BVI with Barb Greg and friends Jeff and Annie, we were asked if we might be music teachers on vacation.  So, it was perfect that Greg finally got a chance to actually be a music teacher on vacation.  John learned a lot and appreciated it even more.

We had a blast with these old friends and the week went by fast.

With Barb and Greg gone, John began the creation of our new mainsail cover.

And looked after some items on the perpetual "to-do" list.

But soon, we awoke to a pre-dawn alarm, cast off our dock lines, stowed the fenders and said good-bye to La Cruz as the sun peeked up above the eastern mountains.

Next stop was the lovely Isla Isabela, about half way between La Cruz and Mazatlan.

We had thought we'd stay a night or maybe two.  We stayed four days.

As with so many places the sunset colors turn up the sensory volume knob to full blast.

Everywhere you turn there's something just awesome.

And each day, the sunrise made a convincing argument to stay just one more day

Isla Isabela has some stark volcanic structures to contemplate.

But it is the birds that make this place so special.

By our count there are at least a gazillion birds here (not merely zillions as reported by friends Sheldon and Marilyn Cook from their 1982 visit here), some making nests, some standing guard nearby.

On the rocky islands and points of land you can find the Blue Footed Boobies.  

We agreed their feet were more green than blue.  That seemed to make this boobie self conscious as he looked down at his feet.  But hey, when your whole species is named "boobie", you can't worry what people think about your feet!

Isla Isabela is considered Mexico's Galapagos because of the many species here that have no fear of humans.  

The middle of the island has a nearly perfectly round lake in a volcanic crater, which can be reached along a path beneath the gazillions of bird nests in the trees just a few feet above your head.  

At the end of hike day we rejoined Moonshadow, where one can admire the new mainsail cover while cocktails are being prepared below.

Then it's out to the foredeck and our lawn chairs for the big show.

Pelicans love to demonstrate their low level soaring techniques, while the frigates prefer to search for  updrafts so they can soar forever with flapping a beat.  

When food becomes the objective, these two have vastly different tactics.  Pelicans climb to about the height of Moonshadow's mast where they can spot fish, usually in shallow water, then dive full speed head first for the kill.  A lifetime of this can make a pelican blind they say.

We observed these frigates going about feeding a whole different way.  First they pick a flight path then approach for what looks like a wheels up landing...

...then they transition to slow flight with full flaps and wheels down until they spot a fish.

Somehow frigates can maintain straight and level flight with their heads turned all the way backwards.

Finally, we agreed to leave Isla Isabela until next time, and after an uneventful and smooth 11 hours arrived at Marina Mazatlan, a little north of Old Mazatlan and the main harbor.

On a particularly hot day, we "taxied" to town looking for the old historic district.

We weren't well prepared as we hadn't a map or even taken the time to look up Mazatlan on the internet.  Nevertheless, we found the magnificent Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.  Closed.

A few blocks away is the full city block labyrinth called the Centro Market.  Here you can find colorful dresses and people butchering chickens side by side.

From here though, we could not find the historic old town part of Mazatlan.  In fact surrounded by tall buildings, we couldn't agree which way was north.  We stopped and asked three "taxi" drivers where to find "old town".  All looked at us like we had three heads.  We decided to tack and head back to Moonshadow, where really cold margaritas can be had.  We will return another day armed with maps, GPS, and maybe even a sextant.

Meanwhile, with just a few weeks until returning to Oregon, we are anxious to cross the Sea of Cortez for a week in the beautiful anchorages on the interior of the grand Baja Peninsula we visited this time last year.  But now, we are waiting here in Mazatlan for better weather.  That should leave us plenty of time for exploring those parts of the historic center of "Old Mazatlan" and remembering those beautiful sunrises over the Mexican mainland from Isla Isabela.