And just like that, another year has passed. Amazing how fast time goes, even when you are rolling through life at 8 knots. I was doing my usual “late-late-night” night watch on a recent night run, listening to some great music and thinking about the year just past, the exciting year ahead, and as a related sidebar, the impact that boats have had on our lives. There are a variety of types of boat owners – no one better than the other by the way – we are all out here enjoying the water. There are people that own boats as awesome fun toys that they visit and play with and make wonderful memories. There are weekend warriors, liveaboards and there are full-time cruisers. We have checked every one of those boxes since we bought our first boat in 2004, or really, since we were kids – one of us boat camping on Lake Chelan in a skiff and one of us learning the fine points of sailing at Community Boating in Boston. The realization I had in the middle of the night is that throughout all of our interactions with boats, the vessels themselves have been our safe harbors, both physically and emotionally. When I was a kid, it was the feeling of freedom and control, heeling to the edge of capsizing as I raced my brother on the then-quite-dirty Charles River. Our ski boat took us, and our kids, away from the pressures of work and school and transported us to a world of fun and happiness. Our 4788 Bayliner opened a whole new world. I used to say that I could feel the stress melt away as we drove up I-5 to turn onto Highway 20 to Anacortes and MV Island Dog. As owners of two real estate development related businesses, we weathered an incredibly challenging recession by escaping to our personal safe harbor in the form of the boat and the San Juan Islands. And then there is Red Rover. She’s our safe place in a storm, or on a beautiful flat-water day. She’s home. And as we navigate new waters and big adventures in 2022, she’ll be there for us.
Whew. Ok enough with the deep thoughts. Let’s talk about cruising! We’re actively cruising and exploring again and it feels soooooo good! And I am WAY behind on capturing our journey. Argh. So I’ll attempt to catch up over the next few posts, including this one. Our last post (before the awesome Nordhavn video post – still, and always will be so in love with Doug’s awesome work) had us coming out of the boat yard in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, in the Bay of Banderas, Mexico. So, we’ll continue from there! We spent a few more weeks in La Cruz, getting the boat fully ready to go south while we were in the land of resources. The further south we go, the less available boat parts are, and the harder it is, or the more expensive it becomes, to get boat parts to us. Costa Rica for example, has a 40% import fee. Wow. Panama it seems might be our next great place to pick up parts but it is a long way from Puerto Vallarta to Panama.
Getting our already robust first aid kit even more ready for our Central American adventures was another priority. Dr. Shukan, who is the fleet doctor in La Cruz helped us get our oxygen tank filled and refilled some of our antibiotics, etc. Gracias Dr. Shukan – what an incredible resource. He also ensured that I knew how to stab Kevin in the butt with an epi pen. Ha ha ha!
We also spent a bunch of time provisioning. In fact, we went to Costco three times! With full carts! Last Costco til’ Florida = full throttle shopping. In talking to other people ahead of us, we learned that hard liquor would become much more expensive, and that good tequila would be hard to find. WHAT? Well we couldn’t have that. Happily, in the spirit of sharing gratitude for Thanksgiving, Costco was having a sale on liquor. When have you ever seen Costco have a sale on anything? Much less liquid delights? Kevin does love a bargain… the deal was sweetened a bit more the next day when we went to Chedraui (Mexican grocery store chain) to pick up things we didn’t need in the “feed a family of 12” size. Not to be outdone by Costco, they too were selling liquor at a discount. Let’s just say that Red Rover is not at any risk of running out of adult beverages before we arrive in Florida. In fact, we could probably open a floating tavern.
In addition to food and liquid courage, we had a few other needs including new contact lenses and glasses (thank you Costco), a haircut for Kevin and a newly upholstered headboard. Well I guess the headboard wasn’t a requirement, but isn’t the new one nice?
Originally, we thought we’d head out from La Cruz a week after our haul-out. But then we heard some fantastic news. Our friends Sara and Jak and their awesome kids Sanjay and Solvae were going to be visiting their home in Sayulita (30 minutes away) for Thanksgiving. As we log our miles south, and get farther and farther away from Seattle, the opportunity to see our friends diminishes. And while cruising is exciting, knowing that you may not see someone for years is a little hard on the heart.
Not only were Sara and Jak going to be in town, but some of our Nordhavn friends were also going to be at the marina. And while we would see a few of these folks in the coming weeks, we are on a different timeline and path than most of our former buddy boats. We’re unlikely to see them in the next year or two or many more…unless we connect at a Nordhavn event. Once again, we’re saying “see you later,” but not knowing when that might be. With a quick call to the marina office, we were staying. And we’re super glad we did.
It was a fun holiday week (including the dancing horses!) that culminated in a rescheduled Thanksgiving with the Nordhavn fleet. Because, of course, weather. Nothing stands between us and a great weather window. Not even Thanksgiving. Being fellow cruisers, everyone was up for the day early holiday. Vince and Linda on Last Arrow even showed up with amazing treats to share just hours after pulling into La Cruz from a 40+ hour crossing from San Jose del Cabo. That’s holiday commitment. Doug and Mary on N46 One Life arrived at Marina Riviera Nayarit the night before pre-Thanksgiving and as we greeted them on the dock, they too were invited to come eat turkey! And they did, which was fantastic! In all, we had six boats and 14 people on Red Rover for Thanksgiving (N76 Seacret, N60 Last Arrow with guests Spike and Samantha, former owners of N52 Resolute, N55 Red Rover, N50 Noeta, N46 One Life and N43 Cuarandera). Unfortunately, Eric and his friend Deb (N40 Sprezzatura) had flown back to the US for the holiday so we had to pre-funk with them before they left. Seven Nordhavns in the house! As with all major holidays on Red Rover, Zoe and Max were served up a full plate of goodies – from turkey with gravy to mashed potatoes. Dog heaven.
Leaving the Bay of Banderas, the humpback whales showed up as they always seem to, playing in the warm water and offering up whale tail goodbye waves. We were on our way! After an uneventful night run in the good company of Last Arrow, we arrived at beautiful Tenacatita, a tropical anchorage that we had visited two years before, but were delighted to return to. Tenacatita has a large estuary on one side, and in our prior visit we had not tried the dinghy tour through the mangroves due to a breaking wave entrance that intimidated us, as we were early in our shore break dinghy landing practice. This time we were on it! We appear to have learned a few things in the last couple of years. We took the dinghy to the beach, picked it up and walked it over into the estuary. Mission accomplished and dry bag not necessary. The estuary dinghy ride is a few miles each way, through low-hanging mangroves where tourist pangas pass you where it seems unlikely two boats could pass. But this is Mexico. Driving is a sport! The pangueros were super friendly and slowed down for us as we backed ourselves into the greenery to stay out of their way. At the end of this pathway through the trees we came to a lagoon with a muddy beach where we pulled the dinghy up and out of the water to wander across the street to the sandy beach! We actually ate Christmas lunch on this beach 14 years ago with our kids when we were on a three-week driving adventure. It truly hasn’t changed much.
After a few days floating at Tenacatita, we went on a quick ride around the corner into Barra de Navidad. We were last in Barra in January 2020, and it was good to be back. It seems that we either beat the rush, or the difficulties of Canadian travel were making Barra into a bit of a ghost town. Boy was it quiet. The marina, however, was busy! And for a good reason. During the first week of December, Marina Puerto de la Navidad and the hotel/resort that it is encompassed by, Grand Isla Navidad Resort, are the host of the Panama Posse kick-off seminars and festivities. We are members of the Panama Posse, as we were last year as well. But last year, with all the uncertainty around International travel and COVID, we put our plans on hold and stayed in the Sea of Cortez. The Panama Posse is a go-at-your-own-pace rally, this year consisting of over 300 boats, most of which are sailboats. That said there are 11 Nordhavns participating! The Posse originally started in Barra de Navidad and ended in Panama, but over the past few years it has expanded significantly, with “routes” leading from San Francisco all the way to the Chesapeake Bay, the Caribbean to the South Pacific. It’s inexpensive to join (under $200) and the intel, marina discounts, West Marine discount(!) and the fun camaraderie between boats makes it the deal of the century.
Earlier last summer we changed our general fall plan with a goal to attend the seminars. Such fun! We met a great group of cruisers and reconnected with Sea of Cortez buddies and Nordhavn friends too. And we learned a ton about our upcoming cruising season, the anchorages, the marinas and the upland destinations as well. If we thought we were excited BEFORE the Posse kick-off, we were SUPER excited at its completion!
When the Posse kick-off drew to a close, it was time to move along once more. The kids were coming for Christmas! We were all meeting in Zihuatanejo for a week of fun, and as we had never been to Zihua before, we wanted to arrive early and explore a bit so that we could ensure their visit was non-stop fun. So off we went on another night run, traveling the 118 miles from Barra to Zihau (as it is called locally), in oh about 16 hours. As we weren’t in a big hurry, we put the lines in the water to see what we might catch. We have this joke that if we say, “oh we won’t catch anything,” we’ll catch something pretty decent. One sailfish (our first) and two dorado later, we pulled the lines in. Guess it worked again! We let the beautiful (and somewhat creepy looking) sailfish go. Along with marlin, these magnificent creatures seem like they simply belong in the ocean and not on a plate.
Zihuatanejo is adjacent to the resort town of Ixtapa, which has a shallow-entrance marina that also has a number of resident crocodiles. We felt like we had spent plenty of time in marinas, and we were itching for some nights of lazily swinging on the hook. We were also coming from a resort and we were ready for a Mexican town once more, so we bypassed Ixtapa and cruised into Zihua bay with its beautiful steep hillsides dotted with almost Mediterranean looking homes. Zihua has two major anchorages, one in front of town and one by a popular and beautiful beach, Playa Ropa. We opted for the town anchorage as it included a relatively benign, almost surf-free beach landing and designated dinghy area – important with dogs who really want to go to shore. The water in front of town is murky however, due to an active and muddy estuary adjacent to the downtown. There are also rumors about sewage systems, but Zihua has not tested in the unhealthy category as many of the beaches in the very urban areas of Puerto Vallarta and Acapulco have. We didn’t hop in for a swim however. When we first arrived, the anchorage was fairly rolly with swell coming in from the Pacific. It didn’t improve, and after a first night of almost landing on the floor vs. staying in bed, we decided to deploy the flopper stopper. We never used the flopper stopper in the Pacific Northwest. We had no idea how fantastic this was. No swell? What what?? On the Pacific coast, life is, shall we say, swell. Or swelly? Or swell-full? However you’d like to say it, the flopper stopper is a great invention. While the FS doesn’t take the rolling motion of the boat at anchor in swell away, it does dampen the roll significantly.
Upon our arrival in town, Zihua experienced what can only be described as a Christmas explosion! Which is great when you are a huge fan of all things Christmas (that would be me). The town was installing Christmas decorations EVERYWHERE with lots of selfie-appropriate displays and beautiful twinkling white lights. Santa had a visiting area by the beach on the Malecon, and the town’s gathering space, a sunken amphitheater/basketball court, was hosting nightly dances, theater, live music and even a performance of Zihua kids doing the Nutcracker. CHRISTMAS TOWN BABY! We had already set up our tiny tree and turned on the Christmas tunes in La Cruz in celebration of Thanksgiving (the official start of Christmas for me!), so it was just time for lights! Kevin had purchased two sets of LED lights, each with thousands of tiny bulbs. Our sailboat neighbors and friends told us that the lights delighted them, but as one couple approached in their dinghy with the greeting, “Hey Griswolds!” I’m not sure if delight is the best word. Perhaps horrified? Spirited, let’s say.
We loved Zihua. We explored the amazing municipal market, wandered the stunning malecon, stuffed our faces full of al pastor tacos, went out to dinner with the other two Nordhavns in town (N55 Sea Trial and N46 One Life), shopped for silly Christmas stocking stuffers and filled our boat with booze and food in preparation for the arrival of three 20-somethings and one recently turned 30-year-old. With his can’t stop work ethic, Kevin also tackled a makeover on my recently acquired paddle board, giving us two boards for the week of family fun. As with everything he does, it turned out looking like new vs. the rather “ratchet” appearance it once had. The board was a result of a trade in La Cruz, and originally I was pretty sure the other boat had the better end of the deal. Not anymore!