Mexico, Central America & the Caribbean – Leg One

November 2007 to January 2008

General Overview

This leg took us from Newport Beach roughly 2,000 miles to Ixtapa, Mexico, which included many stops at villages down the outside of the Baja peninsula, Cabo, Muertos, LaPaz, Mazatlan, LaCruz, Puerto Vallarta, Chamela, Tenacatita, Barra, Santiago and Ixtapa. We traveled thru much of this area in 2005-06, so it was a good experience going back into familiar territory, yet still discovering new things and having new experiences. In February we will be in Zhiuataneo and should be down into Central America by March. We’ve now logged about 13,000 miles on our voyages since November 2005! You can link directly to our most recent photo gallery and web site at www.Dreamweaver-BigBear.com


What a difference a change in latitude makes! We admit it, although the Pacific Northwest, Canada & Alaska were absolutely amazing, we love the sun and have understandably been spoiled by the warmth of the sunshine here in Mexico.

The first three months have been unseasonably cool, by Mexico standards. We’ve not seen many days above 85 degrees, which is just fine with us. As we continued southward it began to warm up a bit. I don’t mean to complain here; but getting warmer does call for shedding a few layers of clothes and showing more of our white skin to the outside world. We weren’t excited to do that, after (for medicinal purposes only you know) we were "forced" to store up a few extra pounds in order to stay warm in Alaska last season?! Several weeks back we kayaked over to a friends boat, where, while she was lying out in her bikini. She reminded us of the undocumented, but very well known fact, that "tan fat looks better than white fat!" I like the way she thinks? with thoughts like that she just may become my new best friend!

We left San Diego for Mexico the first of November after spending a great time home visiting, while preparing to head south again. Rather than participating in one of the two rallies (the Baja Ha-Ha or FUBAR) that were coming down the Baja coast around the same time we were, we decided to go on our own so we could stop and see many of the little towns (San Quintin, SanBonitas, Abrehojos, etc) we missed on our first trip up and down the 900 mile Baja coastline a few years back. We actually had the best of both worlds, because sister Jo & Adie (along with our nephew John) and several of our friends were part of the FUBAR power boat rally. This meant that we were able to rendezvous with them at most of their stops and enjoy all the organized rally events and parties a along the way as their guests!

J&A’s boat is a Selene and many of the other Selene owners we’d previously met in Friday Harbor last spring, were also in the rally. Voyager, Mystic Moon, Kasekuchen, Rediscovery II, etc. We loved this group and after being with them so much they adopted us and our homebuilt trawler. It seemed that we all were always the last to leave the get-togethers and definitely the last to leave the dance floor!

At the Cabo San Lucas stop, John flew home to Arkansas, and Sister Diane & Mike flew in to join J&A’s crew on Wandering Star for the second half of the rally that ended in LaPaz. John was great to have along, and although at 25 he was the youngest rally member, he had a blast, especially when, for his last evening in Mexico, we three aunts and uncles took him to Squid Roe in Cabo for a night he won’t soon forget!

The fishing tournament among the Selene group was a hoot. The official rules included items like; rules could change at the judge’s whim, bribes were happily accepted, etc. Prizes were to go to the biggest fish, first one caught, and the "cutest" fish, that the whole group would vote on. When we were approaching LaPaz and the rally was almost over, it was becoming apparent that, while we did catch a 42" dorado, it was not going to be the longest fish caught, and we knew we were not the first ones to catch a fish. With that in mind, we decided to put our thinking caps on and try to come up with the cutest fish. That’s also when we determined we’d have to take drastic measures in order to win the coveted prize. Ken proceeded to jump in the water and get wet, then, buck naked, laid on the back deck (face down of course) and, while I held the rod, posed like a fish with a huge lure hanging out of his mouth!! If you’re wondering, yes, he did win the cutest fish award --- no bribing necessary! (See photos)

We stayed at the Marina in LaPaz for the week of Thanksgiving, which was filled with celebrations, awards, concerts, and a large Thanksgiving feast. We visited with family & new friends as well as catching up with old friends. Mike & Ken went out fishing with a local "panguero" who taught them a great deal about fishing in this area. They caught 8 Ahi tuna and 3 Dorado’s in about 2 hours! We had fish coming out our ears. We filled our freezers and the rest went home to Colorado with Diane & Mike.

It was in LaPaz when Ken finally got his courage up and let me cut his hair – for the first time! I pulled out my computer and tried to follow the pictures I took of Leon cutting Ken’s hair a few years back. Ken, on the other hand, had a shot of tequila to build some false courage. It turned out pretty darned good if I do say so myself! However, it was not without bloodshed first. Those damned little haircutting scissors are sharp!! It ended up being a hair salon day on Dreamweaver. Diane, our "Beauty School Dropout Sister," proceeded to cut not only my hair, but Jo’s, Adie’s and our friend Susan’s as well. I am happy to report, there was no further bloodshed?

One of the things we wanted to do on this voyage was not only to see more of the towns we visited, but to do more inland travel …. preferably with out having to rent a car. What’s a boater to do?? Our solution was to bring our 350 Suzuki motorcycle on board with us. Ken rigged it so we could carry our bike on the fly bridge (the top deck) and "launch" it with our boom. How convenient! - especially when we’re at a marina where it is easy to offload on to a dock. Most people keep their dinghies on their flybridge, so we must admit, it looked quite odd (and we drew many stares) each time we’ve "launched" the motorcycle from the roof of our boat!

At the end of November, Jo & Adie stayed in LaPaz while we made the 180 mile crossing over to Mazatlan and Mexico’s mainland, and where we caught up with our friends Houston & Gayle on Blew Moon. We said a sad "audios" to them a year and a half ago in the Sea of Cortez, not really knowing if our paths would cross again, so we were excited to be able to see them again. We anchored out for a few days, caught up, told lies, toured the Malecon, hiked, and watched the tail end of a Marathon while we waited out a big blow.

We missed Mazatlan on our previous trip to Mexico so we checked into the Marina for what we thought was going to be a few days. Instead, we stayed for a few weeks where we explored more of the town, visited with friends and shared holiday time with Jo & Adie before having to part ways again for the next 7 months. They will stay in Mazatlan until January and we will be on different schedules from then on, with our boats not actually being together again until we’re in the Caribbean in late 2008…. At least that’s the plan for right now we think!

Everyone has different tastes, which is good in the grand scheme of things. Many told us they didn’t care for Mazatlan at all, while others loved it. As far as cities go, we found it to be one of our favorite places; a great combination of culture, art, history, industry, night life, and a cruiser friendly community to boot. A real Mexican town with a healthy dose of gringos thrown into the mix!

For years we have heard jokes and horror stories about medical care in Mexico. Medical care is so much cheaper here than in the US, and many people now seem to be traveling outside the US for care – especially if they have to pay cash for it! With that in mind, our friends Les & Rose told us about a Dr. they see in Mazatlan that they like very much. We called, got in with the Dr. the same day, had lab tests and results the following day and a long overdue Colonoscopy the next. Those of you who have had one of these lovely little procedures, know that they sedate you, and about a half hour after you are finished (and usually still quite drowsy) they generally take you out in a wheelchair, and assure that you are safely tucked into a car with a responsible driver to take you home. Here, 10 minutes after the procedure was done, I walked out, jumped on the back of our motorcycle (actually Ken contemplated tying me on the back so I wouldn’t fall off) and was back to the boat 15 minutes later! All for less than $500 US!

In Canada, they don’t allow you to name your boat the same as another; however, that’s not the case in all countries. We thought we were being quite original when we named our boat Dreamweaver (it was our dream and we "weaved" it together in the mountains over several years) but come to find out that half the cruisers we’ve run into, have come across or met another Dreamweaver somewhere out there in the world. When we were departing Mazatlan, and winding out thru the narrow channel (which we were already sharing with a large dredge,) another boat was coming in, making the channel even narrower. It was quite confusing when, as we were driving out, we heard a few friends calling "Dreamweaver-Dreamweaver," on the VHF radio, bidding us farewell, and at the same time, a few other cruisers were calling to welcome "Dreamweaver" to Mazatlan?! Turned out that the boat we were about to pass in the channel, was another boat named Dreamweaver. The wind was blowing and it was too narrow to stop and chat so we never found out much about them but heard from others they were nice folks. How could you not be with a name like "Dreamweaver?"

Long passages usually include an overnighter or two. This tends to make it particularly difficult for single hander's to get some rest. On our transit from Mazatlan to Puerto Vallarta there was a lady single handing her boat (Lynn on Wildflower) who asked if she could travel with us thru the night so she could get some rest. Of course we said "yes." We traveled about ½ mile apart thru the night, and when she needed to get some sleep, she’d call to tell us, set her auto pilot, then slept in her cockpit with her VHF radio in her hand. This way we could be her eyes, watch our radar, make sure she was staying on course, and simply call her if a boat or obstacle was in her way. Apparently when several single hander’s travel together they rotate thru like this so that each one of them can get some sleep. Very clever and it worked really well!

Good mechanical skills can never be overrated or taken for granted, especially while underway. The alternator waited until dark during the 100 mile passage down to Puerto Vallarta, to quit working. I have to admit that stopping the boat, turning off the engine and bobbing around in the ocean at night is a little eerie! Ken got to be my hero again when he replaced the alternator, with a spare one we carried and we were happily on our way without too much delay?

It was deja`vu for us this Christmas, as we again spent it at Philos (the cruisers hangout) in LaCruz, where Philo provides the turkeys and 150 cruisers bring pot luck dishes to share. Santa came and handed out 400 stockings to the local children who line up around the block to see him. Music then filled the air for the rest of the night. It was in LaCruz where we met several fellow cruisers we’d not met in the past and where our old friends from New Paige (Joan, Roger, & Kimberly) came into town as well.

Christmas is always a reflective time and a time when you tend to miss your family and friends, especially when you’re far away. This year was no exception. It was particularly sweet to get a call from our yacht club while they were having their annual Christmas party –where they toasted us made us feel like we were there with them. They kindheartedly decided that they would each send us $5 to help cover our loss in property values since we’ve been away and not working. Then there was the call at 3 am from Loren & Patty, who were on their boat in Thailand – we didn’t care what time it was, we just loved hearing from them and hearing about all their escapades like loosing their navigation system, having no refrigeration, and crazy monkey stories!

Along with the majority of people we’ve been cruising with, we were both sick for several weeks. Whatever it was just seemed to hang on and on and on. I completely lost my voice for several days, and for some strange reason, Ken was not too sympathetic?? Go figure!

The peaceful little town of Chamela was where we spent our New Year’s. We went to Alanui (Scott & Marian’s) along with Paloma (Susan, Patrick & Jonathan) and Boomerang (Chuck and Elaine) on New Year’s Eve which was fun; however, it was a very early night for us, as we still weren’t feeling too hot?

Next it was a return to beautiful Tenacatita. This large protected bay is surrounded by palm trees, and has a cool "jungle cruise" adjacent to it, where you can take your dinghy a few miles up a river which then joins with a little village in a neighboring bay. Ken likes to think he’s Indiana Jones while going on the jungle cruise (see photos) Susan & I kayaked and swam a little while Ken worked with Patrick on some water-maker & mechanical issues. We enjoyed spending some time with Oya (Craig & Kiki) who are quite the characters on their "Gucci Boat" with all the amenities. It’s one of the most peaceful places to spend time -some cruisers stay for months on end, but for us it was time to push south.

We were excited to move on to another of our favorite spots, Barra de Navidad, where we enjoyed ten days in the lagoon. Those of you who follow these logs may recall that Barra is where the "French Baker" (who truly is a Frenchman) comes to your boat in a panga filled with fresh baguettes, croissants, and other home baked goodies every morning. This kind of food is a rarity in Mexico which makes it that much more tempting to gorge yourself daily!

It was a hectic but fun time in Barra. Ken worked with Patrick on Paloma a fair amount of time so they insisted on taking us to "Isadora’s" a restaurant where we had a fantastic meal one night. While the guys were working Susan & I were able to spend some girl time. One day wandered over to the fishing tournament where some fishermen gave us all the Ahi and Dorado that we could carry – for free! During the week we went to two birthday parties, an evening on Samurai (a gigantic Nordhaven) with many other boaters and locals, visited with two sets of friends (Sally & Carmelo and Vicki & John) who now live in Barra, and caught up with George & Joanne on Kalinga.

One of the days we anchored in Melaque (a neighboring bay) with Blue Moon where we ended up getting tangled in a fisherman’s net that wasn’t clearly marked... In order to free ourselves we had to untangle the net and re-anchor. When the fishermen returned to check their net, Ken went out in the dinghy to tell them what happened and offer to pay to repair their net. They could see that he had $100 dollars in his hand (not knowing how much it would cost to repair or replace the net.) They would not accept any money! Ken had to insist before they would even take $5.00 for a beer for their inconvenience. Some friends at home have worried about honesty or safety issues in Mexico. This is just an example of how honest we have found the majority of people in Mexico to be. Heck, we have never even locked our doors! …. Although I do believe that habit will change as we travel into some of the poorer and more remote countries this year!

A special thing I get to do for myself in Mexico is to send our laundry out to be done – oh poor me?. You see, most places don’t have Laundromats, just "lavanderias" where they do the laundry for you – and at a fraction of the normal cost. The way I figure it, is that if I were to do our laundry myself, I would be taking away someone’s job, and I wouldn’t want to do that would I?! One of the last things we did before leaving Barra was to pick up our clean laundry. When we got to the lavandaria no one was there, so we picked up our bags (3, which is what we dropped off) and left the money on the desk. As we were leaving the guy walked in and I showed him the bags I took and where we put the money. He said "OK" and we were on our way. We left for Santiago the next day, before I had a chance to put the clean clothes away.

We’d been gone for a few hours and were out several miles when we started getting calls on the VHF radio from people in Barra saying that they thought perhaps we had been "given" the wrong laundry!? We quickly checked the bags. From the outside it all looked right – beige shorts, check; flowered shirt, check; navy trunks, check; turquoise striped bath towel – oops! Not our bag? We turned around and started heading back to return the laundry we had inadvertently "stolen." We were about 4 miles out when we decided to launch the dinghy (because it goes faster than the big boat) to go the rest of the way. I jumped in the dinghy to rendezvous with our friends Ray & Janie from Audios and handed the laundry off to them, who eventually returned it to the rightful owner.

On my dinghy ride back to the boat, when I was still several miles away from Dreamweaver, I began feeling pretty vulnerable in the open ocean, all by myself in my little dinghy. I realized I had forgotten to put the oars in the boat, the motor wasn’t running well, plus it was rougher than it looked out there. By the time I got back to the boat I looked like a drowned rat and made a mental note not to do that one again! We are now known as laundry thieves!

We arrived in Santiago at dusk and had a riotous evening on Oya with Kalinga & Blew Moon. We were once again reminded of what a dangerous duo Captain Chaos and Houston are together! We’d heard rumors about what a fantastic cook George, on Kalinga was, and what a great job he did cooking a turkey on board at Thanksgiving. With that in mind, George and Joanne thought it would be great to have Blew Moon and ourselves over for a farewell turkey dinner. Oh, my gawd…the rumors were true. It was a turkey dinner fit for a king. They spared nothing; dressing, cranberry, mashed potatoes and a gazillion calories – all aboard their 50’ boat! There wasn’t enough room in the small oven to fit the drumsticks and wings so he BBQ’s them! The following night we pulled out the last of the halibut we caught in Alaska and fed the group on our boat. Hard to believe we’re living on our boats in Mexico with meals like this!

That night, at 1 a.m., we waddled out of Santiago, now a few pounds heavier, and drove 32 hours straight thru to Isla Grande, just outside of Ixtapa. Thru the day the island is busy with tourists and visitors from Ixtapa. In the evening everyone starts leaving by 6pm and the place is vacant by 8pm – leaving us at anchor, the lights of the city shining on the neighboring beach, and the now deserted little vacation island all to the few cruisers anchored here. There’s no need for vehicles on this small island; everyone comes over in pangas to enjoy great snorkeling, swimming as well as the many palapas and masseuses that line the shore. I’ve only had a few massages in my life (its sooo expensive!) but did take advantage of the $25 price tag for a full body massage on the beach – ahhh, I could get used to this! Ixtapa is a destination resort area and has many fancy hotels that line its beachfront. We wandered in to visit the area one day and sauntered in to one of the exclusive resorts, sat by their waterfront pool, and sipped margaritas while watching a lively game of pool volleyball. All the amenities of a large hotel for a $4 margarita!

As January comes to a close, the next stop for us will be Zhiuataneo, where "Sailfest," a fundraiser put on by cruisers to benefit the schools in the area, will be going on. We expect to be getting into Central America by the end of the month and do some inland travel, which will really be uncharted territory for us. We continue to enjoy our radical sabbatical and look forward to seeing everyone on our trip home to Big Bear this summer. Here’s to keeping good thoughts that all is well in your lives! Stay tuned...

Love & Dreams,

Ken & Dottie
Dreamweaver

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