Boat things and boat plans and general boatiness

With Kirstyn and the new dog jetting back to Canada to seek employment, I find myself alone with my thoughts. Well, not entirely alone, there’s T, always present T. And Johan, my Swedish friend. So alone would be a slight exaggeration. Where do we find all these Swedish guys? If you’re lucky, you may spot Kirstyn roaming around Vancouver Island. She’s probably in Tofino or Lantzville or some such place at this very moment with a small grey dog in a small grey dog sweater. Leeroy isn’t coming, him and Brian have a routine that’s unbreakable. Meanwhile, my fearless crew and I continue the perilous journey north. Not too far north though. How could I return to BC? At this point it’s been so long I probably couldn’t even find the place! The mere thought of ending this journey and returning to BC to find a job with a dental plan almost makes me weep. Sorry Mom, maybe next year. So what are our plans? We need money, and not being geniuses, the only sure fire way of getting money that we’ve figured out is to get jobs. That’s why I will be returning to Canada temporarily, because there are people there that are willing to pay me to do stuff. But you don’t care about that, what you wanna know is where will our adventures take us after this brief interlude? I don’t know, and if I did know I wouldn’t tell because I’d probably change my mind. Will we roam Mexico forever? No, that would be silly, not that we’ve seen it all but we kinda got the gist of this place. Oh, and FYI, if the government ever takes away your drivers license, the State of Guerrero is handing them out to anyone with some pesos, so there’s no reason to be driving around without one. I’ve got two of them just because I didn’t like the picture on the first one. Let’s review the plan, make bank, fix some boat stuff that’s been neglected, then go do more fun stuff. And you were probably worried we weren’t gonna do more fun stuff, unless you’re my mom, then you were probably worried we were gonna do more fun stuff.

Over the past few weeks we’ve become aware of some of the prolific social media sailors that are out there. Wow, we seem old fashioned and quaint. We don’t even have a drone. How do we compete with that? All those free dive bikini shots and panoramic drone videos! I once climbed a hill to get a great shot of our boat in a beautiful, pristine anchorage with clear turquoise water… but you’ll have to take my word for it because my phone just doesn’t take great pictures. And man was I out of breath. They also have so many friends! Where do they get all those friends! I don’t think I remember ever meeting that many people. If I had that many friends, wow. So rather than take great videos and stunning photographs, and post YouTube videos (I always thought YouTube was for old guys to teach me how to clean a carburetor), I will be describing our glamorous life in intimate detail. Possibly more detail than you ever imagined. I know in the past there have been long stretches where I lost interest and posted nothing at all, or long stretches where everything I posted was lies, or fiction as I sometimes like to call it, but now I pledge my undying loyalty to this blog and you, my fans. Both of you. Hi Mom! That’s not true, I lied again. I’m not really sure my mom reads this.

Intimate detail, here we go. So yesterday, I was sensing that maybe Johan needed some time to be alone and contemplate some things, so I went to the beach, which as luck would have it has a palapa restaurant with cold beer and delicious fish. Whoa! How did that happen! So I had this wonderful dish where they wrap bacon around shrimp and cheese and then roll the whole thing up in a fish fillet and bake it in a creamy sauce. My waitress was very attentive, so I had an endless supply of ice cold beer… Too much detail? Shit.

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The Heat

When we arrived in Puerto Vallarta back in October, it was hot. Sweating was a way of life and sleeping was difficult. But as Mexican ‘winter’ settled in, the temperature started to drop in the evening. For the past week the temperature hasn’t been dropping much at night and once again sleeping is a sweaty affair. Kirstyn has taken to sleeping outdoors the past few nights, taking full advantage of the slight breeze in the anchorage.

The Machine

The best time for getting some quality sleep is from 5 to 7 am when it’s at its coolest. If you’ve been to Zihuatanejo, you can probably picture the municipal pier and beach in front of town, and off to the NW there’s some cliffs covered in pastel houses and hotels. We’re anchored over there. Crazy thing that a luxury hotel would have someone running a very loud gas powered machine at 5:30 am. Kirstyn rolled around, trying to get as much airflow over her sweaty body as possible, listening to the machine rattle and sputter. At some point the belt came off, the machine gasped and died. Men yelling in Spanish. The cooling breeze dies. Kirstyn peels the bedsheet off her back and wipes her sweat drenched hair off her forehead. The men yell. Please don’t let them have a spare belt.

The Bots

We all see those tailored adds popping up on Facebook or wherever we do the internet these days. They know what you looked at and show you adds for similar things. Sometimes it seems like your phone is listening to conversations. The hand cream I mentioned I liked but had never actually typed started popping up in ads. Later someone I was chatting with mentioned the name of a Mexican discount airline and I immediately start getting ads for that company on Facebook. Conspiracy worthy stuff, but I’ve never actually bought anything from an ad on Facebook and they seem to have it wrong more than they get it right. During the US election I was getting ads for candidates in Missouri. I get ads telling me they can help me immigrate to Canada. All this tells me that while Facebook has gotten really good at gathering information, they have no clue how to use that information to benefit their advertisers. The hell Facebook, if you’re gonna watch my every move, at least show me a product I might find useful.

The Delivery

There’s a great service here in Zihua. Beer, fuel, water, ice, it all shows up at your boat the next morning, it’s like Amazon but it’s just three super stoned Mexican dudes in a boat. Excellent customer service, five stars for them if they ever go on trip advisor.

The Restaurant

We had dinner at a restaurant on Playa la Ropa. Standard Mexican seafood palapa menu, not bad. But they have an excellent view of the mangrove swamp and the crocodiles in the swamp. We didn’t bring Merl.

Last Chance

We’re going home soon, so if you haven’t visited us in Mexico, it’s almost too late. Almost.

New Dog

Way back in October or maybe September, Kirstyn started talking about getting a new dog. There was a lot of talk about puppies. I voiced my opinion that we already have a perfectly good dog with no major defects so why would we be talking about puppies? Armed with the knowledge that fifty percent of us wanted a new dog, not to replace our current dog but intended to be complementary to him, Kirstyn made the decision to acquire a puppy. Normally I prefer to be part of the decision making process, but I gotta admit, dogs are very affordable in Mexico, they’re practically everywhere, you could in theory, just scoop one up off the street on your way home from the store. But Kirstyn had some specific qualities she was looking for. She wanted a dog that would fill in the gaps in Leeroy’s skillset. She wanted a dog that’s scruffy and cuddly and small enough that it can’t use brute strength to escape her cuddles and snuggles the way Leeroy sometimes does. So we got a new dog from a rescue place near Guadalajara. He was $125 Canadian which covered his veterinary care and shots. He was delivered to us in Puerto Vallarta by a nice old couple that was already going that way and when we got him he was wearing a small blue baseball cap. He also appeared to be starving to death and was missing patches of fur. His breath smelled awful and he was terrified of everything. We decided that he needed a name because ‘new dog’ wasn’t gonna cut it over the long term. We got him on the 24th of November and decided to call him Merlin because his white eyebrows and whiskers made him look like an old wizard. Since then we’ve been calling him Merl and he’s slowly gotten healthier, bigger and so much more energetic. Merl is working out really well so far. Sure, there’s been a few puke incidents and a couple of pee incidents but that’s all fairly normal for a new dog. So far, Merl has learned to sit, lay down and occasionally come when we call. His favourite place is the beach even though there are sometimes scary humans and dogs there. He’s still quite scruffy and snuggly, so Kirstyn’s pretty happy with his skillset. He shares a few of Leeroy’s skills as well such as digging and swimming, so they’ll be able to do fun things together when they meet up back in Canada. Merl also seems to be a very fast runner. We think that he may be part coyote because he has very long orange legs. He’s easily able to outrun all the little dogs at the beach and we haven’t met any big dogs that seem quick enough to keep up to him. I have seen a few big dogs that look fast on recent beach visits but none of them seemed interested in racing a scruffy long legged puppy. Anyway, that’s our current dog situation.

Progress Update!

As usual, I try to make informative blog posts full of factual information so that our families know what we’re up to and where to claim our bodies should we meet an untimely end. In the past I’ve held back our most recent location information in the hope that it makes it a little harder for our stalkers to find us. But today I’m gonna make it easy.

It’s the eve of another year, and we’re ready to party like it’s 1999. We’ve arrived in the lovely Bahia Tenacatita, yet another picturesque bay with long golden sand beaches and palm trees swaying gently in the tropical breeze. I haven’t wore a shirt in over a week and the water is warm and clear. Mexican holiday goers are roaming the beaches, kicking soccer balls and screaming with joy as they get towed around the bay on giant inflatable bananas. Sailboat cruisers are tossing bocce balls on the beach and the crocodiles in the river are eagerly waiting for a dog or small child to get too close to the waters edge.

Our last stop before Tenacatita was the gorgeous Bahia Chamela with the tiny town of Punta Perula in the northwest corner of the bay. We had one small setback at Punta Perula. Imagine yourself landing on a golden sand beach in a tiny dinghy so you can enjoy a cold beverage and some delicious fresh fish at a beach palapa. Wonderful, then imagine the surf crashing on that beach and flipping your tiny boat, end over end, with you and your belongings and small dog in the boat. Your outboard motor still running, upside down. As you pop up and gather your wits, your motor sputters and dies as sea water intrudes the various areas that normally only contain oil and gasoline. I love going to the beach! One minor setback. Near the middle and south of the bay are several small islands, one small “secret” beach, invisible from the mainland, stands out above all beaches we’ve visited this season. Boats shuttle holidayers back and forth all day, but at night, that little beach is just for us. Firewood is plentiful and the sand is soft and inviting. Surf breaks onto the beach from two sides, washing over a sand bar, but not the death surf mentioned earlier. Kirstyn and I make love in the firelight with the warm crystal clear Pacific Ocean washing over us. I made that last part up, you don’t wanna get too much sand in your bits, ouch. There’s also some great snorkeling around those islands, various corals and fishes doing the stuff that fishes and corals do. On our departure a northwesterly breeze carried us to La Manzanilla saving our valuable pesos for beer rather than wastefully going into our fuel tank.

I hope you all have a wonderful 2019, much love from Kirstyn and Jerin.

Bye bye Banderas

After what seems like an extraordinary amount of time spent in the bay of Banderas, we’ve finally moved on. It’s been great, but the time came and now we’re moving south and east toward the next great spot. Here are some assorted tales of our time in PV.

The neighbours

Greg and Mellisa have been anchored near us in La Cruz for a couple weeks. I’ve never spoken to Greg and Mellisa, I nod hello when we pass each other, but that’s the extent of our relationship. I know their names because Kirstyn had one brief conversation with them at the dinghy dock. They’re easily recognized in the anchorage because their dinghy motor is painted in yellow and black stripes like a bumblebee. This morning, while Kirstyn and I were enjoying our morning coffee, four Mexican men left Greg and Mellisa’s boat in their bumblebee dinghy. A while later Greg returned to his boat alone. Obviously we’re gonna speculate. Did those four men spend the night on Greg and Mellisa’s boat? The only theory I can come up with that seems at all plausible, is that Greg and Mellisa had hosted an all night, cocaine fuelled sex party. Greg probably filmed while Mellisa got wild with the four guests. Mellisa whipped them, beat them, fucked them and sucked them, all the while yelling “make America great again!” And “build the wall!” Like a sex crazed maniac. I could be mistaken, but I think that’s what happened.

After a series of events, that included cruising around in a RAV4 with the host of a popular Guadalajara television news show, we ended up at a house in Puerto Vallarta with a bunch of ladies from Winnipeg. Our cell phone is out of data, so we used the house wifi to get an Uber some time around midnight. Kirstyn plugged the info into the phone app and soon our car arrived. As we drove away, we of course lost our wifi signal and assumed we were headed toward whatever destination Kirstyn had originally plugged into the app. Our driver looked at his phone repeatedly and seemed a little confused, possibly even worried, but didn’t voice any concerns and continued driving. There was tension in the car, we took a bunch of turns, we seemed to be heading toward a part of town I’d never been to. The driver didn’t look at us. No one spoke. Crazy thoughts were going through my head. I peaked over at the driver’s phone showing us on the Uber map. We were nowhere near the ocean. The driver kept looking at the map. I was getting worried. Is this it? Are we being kidnaped by a Mexican cartel? Should we jump out of the car at a stoplight? How would I let Kirstyn know, she was sitting directly behind me. Are we going to a bar one of the ladies told Kirstyn about? Shit, shit, shit. The driver seemed to be avoiding looking at me. We were driving through residential streets. There were no other cars on there road. The driver noticed me looking at his phone, he turned the screen so I couldn’t see, but I knew we were getting close to the destination marked on the map. Fuck, where are we going? Finally the driver looked at me. He looks worried, he’s sweating even with the air conditioner on. He points to a sprawling complex with a security guard at the gate, some sort of institution that tourists probably don’t visit at midnight. “You go here?” He asks. I turn and look at Kirstyn “this isn’t the malecon” she says. Definitely not the malecon. The driver still looks worried “this is the address” he tells me “we made a mistake, could you take us to the malecon?” He thinks, I ask “quanto?” He thinks for a moment. “Ninety pesos” he tells me “si” there’s still tension in the car. “Lo siento” I tell the driver. He laughs “no problem!” He says. No more tension, we drive 20 minutes in the opposite direction to the malecon. When we’re out of the car Kirstyn says “I thought we were fucked” “So did I and I think the driver thought we were about to carjack him.” Not getting kidnaped might be the best thing that’s happened to us all week.

After spending the afternoon enjoying some beverages on the boat with Mary and Ilene, we decided to take them up on their offer of a ride to town. We went to the dollar beer place in Nuevo Vallarta in the hope of finding Cristobal, who’s phone has been out of service for a few days. Sure enough, he was drinking beer at a park bench with a few of his coworkers. He introduced me to one guy but the other guy, who was very drunk, was busy making out with an equally drunk woman. We scampered back over to the bar, which had run out of beer. The waiter told us he could sell us dollar margaritas so we were still in business. After a few of those, Cristobal asked if we want to get some… and made the universal smoking gesture. We headed to the taxi stand, negotiated, $200 pesos. “You sure?” I ask “yeah, we got to pay him good.” Cristobal told me. We drive to an Oxxo about 5 blocks away. “You shouldn’t come with me” Cristobal tells me in the car. A moment later “put on this hat so they think you’re Mexican.” He hands me a white ball cap. Even through the haze of all day drinking, I can see that Cristobal is very drunk, so I put on the hat, backwards, and follow him down a dimly lit street. Our cab waits at the Oxxo. Nobody could possibly see through my disguise. We round a corner and see a man standing in the street. Another man sits on a bench hidden in the shadows. Cristobal speaks to the man in the street in a hushed voice. I try to act casual and don’t speak. After we round the corner heading back to the Oxxo Cristobal tells me “that was close, he didn’t believe you were Mexican but I told him you’re from Monterrey.” “What would have happened if he didn’t believe you?” “We would’ve had to pay the gringo price.” Back at Cristobal’s boat, he asked me how much I paid the taxi driver. “$200” I tell him. “Are you crazy!” “You said $200!” “I did? Shit, I’m drunk”

Have you ever seen a giant manta wray? I’m not talking about a large manta wray, this is the real deal. Sometimes those guys wingtips stick out of the water when they’re at the surface. It kinda looks like two sharks swimming side by side with their dorsal fins out of the water. Imagine if jaws had a twin brother and they cruised around together eating townsfolk and tourists. A seasoned veteran like myself wouldn’t make that mistake, but I can see how you could think that’s what you’re looking at. Going for a morning swim is a key part of my hygiene and fitness routine, so the sight of two fins cruising past the boat was slightly unnerving. I got in the dinghy to check him out, got up real close, and he was somewhat larger than our little boat. This totally ruined my morning swim, remember that crocodile guy? Crikey! Didn’t he get stabbed through the heart by one of those things? Sarah claims it was some other seagoing critter, but I’m not taking any risks this early in the morning.

Maybe you’re aware that it gets hot in Puerto Vallarta, and sometimes I sweat a bit. I also have a great tan, like an athlete. That’s why I drink a fair bit of Gatorade. Gatorade isn’t cheap my friends, and that’s why I buy the flavour crystals and make it myself. It comes in three flavours here, green orange and red. But red is scarce, almost to the point that it’s a luxury item. I found one can of red at the La Comer store a few weeks ago. Very luxurious.

Dave the pilot, who hails from some undisclosed location near Niagara Falls Ontario, likes to have the odd rum and coke at an establishment we’ve been frequenting. Dave spent most of his career flying passenger jets for airlines in Africa and South America. After a bunch of beers, I mentioned my admiration for the Boeing 747. Dave grabbed a book off his living room bookshelf, a handbook for big jet pilots circa 1970 something. Dave has flown everything from Twin Otters and DC-3’s up to 747’s. He’s delivered a Twin Otter from Newfoundland to Europe with bladder tanks in the back full of fuel. Dave never saw UFO’s. He’s turning 80 years old and has a young Mexican girlfriend. Cheers Dave.

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

We call it La Cruz because pronouncing names incorrectly embarrasses us for some unknown reason. Routine is setting in. Sometimes we go to the grocery store, dinghy to the marina, try to evade the security guy that charges us $40 pesos to use the dock, walk to the bus stop, ride to the Chedraui on the far side of Buserias. Someone told us you need to watch the cashiers there or they don’t give you the sale prices. We went to the Mega yesterday instead. I caught an ear infection, after swimming under the boat back in the swampy estuary at Nuevo Vallarta. Some sort of swamp bacteria got in my ear, the doctor told me the infection is in both ears and I’m on antibiotics. Someone told us the doctor has a twin brother who’s also a doctor at that clinic but doesn’t speak English. Patients show up and wonder why this guy they saw last week doesn’t remember them and only speaks Spanish. The antibiotics seem to be working and the swelling goes down a little each day but I’m still deaf in my left ear. I can chew food again, which is nice. I only got about half the barnacles off the bottom of the boat before my ear ruined my plans. I read somewhere that there’s a dengue fever outbreak here, so I guess I should be happy I don’t have that, although it’s probably a great weight loss plan. In the evening we’ve been gong to the beach for a swim. Last night we met two Hungarian ladies that live in Vancouver and are staying at the hotel we’ve been swimming in front of. It looks like the nicest place on this stretch of beach. They said it’s really nice. We discussed some politics and stuff and the one lady assured me that the Canadian government is still better than the Soviets, despite the cost of car insurance. It’s not been as hot here as when we first arrived, Nuevo was sweltering and breezeless, La Cruz has been a lot nicer and the temperature has been more tolerable. Anyone who’s watched the Walking Dead will know the character Rick, who’s always a disgusting sweaty mess. That’s how we felt in Nuevo, minus the zombies. The timeshare hawkers keep trying to get us to go to their presentations. They promise either $150 or $200 US. We don’t qualify, they want married couples and they check to make sure you have the same address on your ID, we don’t. They also want people staying at a hotel that are in town less than a few weeks. The guy yesterday promised we’d get paid anyway but I don’t think I believe him enough to risk sitting through a timeshare sales pitch. The money would be nice but is it worth the risk? We recovered our dinghy with new green fabric, so from now on when the marina security guy asks our boat name I’m gonna say ‘barco verde.’ Overall La Cruz is treating us well, it’s kinda like a smaller, more rustic version of Bucerias, which many many Canadians know well, and I’ve heard it called B.C.rias, which is a little unfair because there are plenty of Albertans and Saskatchetoonians as well. There’s usually live music at one of the drinking establishments in La Cruz and the beaches are almost deserted. We’re planning on going to the Sunday market and I’m seriously considering getting a lobster at the fish market. It’s an extravagant expenditure that I’ll need to ponder. Our neighbourhood seems a little clique, everyone seems to know everyone else already and we’re the newcomers who have no friends. We also have a generator making us electricity, which makes us unpopular with some of the fancy solar powered people who shun us for our noisy, environmentally unfriendly ways, so we hang out at the fringe of the anchorage and occasionally moon our neighbours as they cruise from boat to boat socializing. We haven’t been to Puerto Vallarta yet, it seems daunting but I think Cristobal wants to go do some drinking in the city one of these days and we’ll have fun once we’re there. It’s just so…. and the buses quit running earlier than you’d think. We could defeat the whole system by taking our dinghy, its only 12 miles, but that creates a new set of issues like where do we park it? And will we get run over in the dark by a cruise ship. Ouch! Last time we went to PV We got drunk and Kirstyn got a tattoo, so we should probably do it again

May good fortune be with you

Recently a friend asked us what was the catalyst that sent us off on our sailboat adventures. He wanted to know, what was the series of events that led us down the path of being barely respectable, unemployed vagabonds. Could we narrow it down to a life changing moment? Yes we could and although I’ve never told the story, I’ve decided too now.

“What do you think this means?” Kirstyn asked me as we stood on the street corner in front of the Chinese restaurant we’d just had dinner at. She was holding the small slip of paper from her fortune cookie. I leaned in to look ‘take a step back’ is all it read. It didn’t even have lucky numbers on the back. “Very unusual” we both nodded in agreement. “Take a literal step back or a figurative step back?” I wondered out loud. There was nothing but sidewalk, buildings, all the stuff of an ordinary city street behind us. In front of us the little ‘do not walk’ Guy was lit up above the crosswalk but traffic was light and I’d been considering scurrying across between cars. “Should we try it?” Kirstyn suggested. I shrugged my shoulders and we both took a long deliberate step backward. As we arrived at our new space, a car that was probably going a little too fast came careening up onto the curb and slammed into the light pole we’d previously been standing beside. Debris scattered about our feet. We looked at each other and said nothing for a moment. “Did the cookie know?” Kirstyn asked. “Smart cookie” I mumble, “Maybe we should ask for another cookie” Kirstyn suggested. There was a crowd gathering by the car, and one of the onlookers was the young woman who’s the host in the restaurant. I showed her the slip of paper from the cookie. She stared at it for a moment, said something in Mandarin and then asked “did you?” “We were standing there.” I pointed to where the wrecked car sat, bystanders leaned in the drivers side, someone was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher. “Could we have more cookies?” I asked the woman. “Come with me.” We followed her into the restaurant and through a door to the kitchen. She spoke briefly in mandarin to an old man who was cooking up a batch of breaded almond chicken. He listened, nodded, walked over to a shelf and picked up an ancient looking box. He walked over and handed the box to Kirstyn. He spoke in his native language and the woman translated “do not break open the cookies till the time is right. You will know when that is and the cookie will guide you.” “But how will I know?” Kirstyn asked the old cook. His eyes widened and his nostrils flared “You will know!” He said in English. We headed out of the restaurant and carefully crossed the accident scene and the street and slowly walked in the direction of our hotel. “What do you think?” Kirstyn asked me. “Very suspect, why didn’t he speak English sooner?” Kirstyn nodded, “I meant the cookies.” “Yeah, I mean, a lot of great Confucius like wisdom has come out of those cookies over the years, but can a cookie see the future?” I pondered, but Kirstyn was more convinced of the cookie power. “These cookies come from an ancient culture full of mysticism, I think I’m taking the old man’s advice.”

Months later, long enough that the cookie incident had become an anecdote, the sort of story you tell at parties. The box of cookies had been sitting untouched in a cupboard. It was a quiet night, we had ordered out for pizza and were fully engulfed in a Netflix binge. Kirstyn suddenly looked at me, eyes wide and nostrils flared, in a way that reminded me of the old Chinese man. “The time is right.” She whispered softly as she stood and walked to the cookie cupboard. That was when Kirstyn and Jerin’s adventures really began.