Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Adventures in electronics

In Chacala we came to the realization that our laptop was ready for retirement.  This was a long painful realization that began in Ensenada.   We just never knew if it would turn on or not.  And if it did, would it get beyond the initial welcome screen?  We already had a friend look at it which involved completely rebooting everything and erasing everything on it.  A week later it was doing the same thing.  It survived four years on a boat.  That’s pretty respectable, but it’s time to move on.  

Our laptop is a very vital part of our cruising lifestyle.  First off, we don’t have a TV, so it serves as our entertainment/TV/DVD player.  Secondly, I use it to type this blog.   Thirdly, Jake uses it to download and save weather files.  Jake may have put these in a different order, oh well.  The bottom line is, when we don’t have a functioning laptop, we are a bit lost. 

So we decide that we can’t have this on again, off again relationship with our laptop.  The good thing is we are in civilization and have access to a Walmart to seek the cheapest darn laptop we can find.  Need I remind you that we completely blew our budget out of the water in December (haulout).  At this rate we will be heading back to work in no time. 

So, off we go to Walmart.  Yo quiero un laptop, por favor.  We have the laptop in hand and express our concern in the best Spanglish we can manage that we need said laptop to be in ingles por favor.  The kid working the electronics counter was trying to be very helpful, but ended up going through the initial settings and apparently missed the ingles option because we went home with a Spanish laptop. 

 Maybe this won’t be so bad I say.  We are trying to immerse ourselves into the culture and learn the language after all.  This could help.  Oh, did I mention the keyboard is also in Spanish?  The keys are not in the same place as an American keyboard.  No problemo.  We did figure out how to convert the keyboard into the American style.  So if you are really good at typing and not actually looking at the keys you are just fine.  However, if you need to say find the question mark, you may have to push a few keys before you get the right one because low and behold the question mark is really on the – key.  Grrrrr.  Also, we are now dealing with a new version of Windows.  We can figure out simple things like cancel, shutdown, sleep, etc in Spanish.  Beyond that we are stuck using our wordlens app on our iPhone and holding it up to the computer screen to interpret.  We must look like total idiots.  So, new version of Windows in Spanish with a screwed up keyboard equals frustrating...

Oh well, what do you do when you need help with something way out of your realm of knowledge?  You Google it of course.  Unfortunately, according to Google, we purchased the single language version of Windows and there is no way of changing it to English at this point.  Therefore, we needed to take our version of Windows off and download a new version and set it up properly the first time.  This may not be a problem for someone that is sitting in a home with a normal internet connection and could start a download of Windows, then go to bed and wake up in the morning and bam there it is.  We on the other hand, have a crappy wifi connection that can only be used in the marina lounge and don’t have the ability to leave our computer on said crappy wifi for the five hours that it would take to download. 

What to do?  Ayuda me, por favor.  We asked the locals and they pointed us to Eduardo on the highway.  So, off to Eduardo we go.  Five hundred pesos (34 usd) and four days later we have Windows in English and Office downloaded onto our new laptop.  Gracias mi amigo! 

The moral of this story is…If you are going cruising outside of the US and there is any chance that your laptop will take a dump, get a new one in the States before you leave. 

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

The nice part about this leg of the journey is that we are done with overnight sails for a while.  San Blas to Chacala was only 22 miles.  Chacala to La Cruz only 40 something.  We’ve got a lot of nice anchorages to explore and not a lot of distance between them.  The bad part is that we haven’t been doing much sailing.  We had a nice breeze leaving Chacala and cruised at 7 knots for the first hour, then the wind completely died. 

Coming into Banderas Bay we saw quite a few whales.  They were breaching and splashing around like crazy – from a distance thank goodness.  Even after dropping the hook in La Cruz we could hear the slapping and thundering on the water.  We also spotted 2 bottlenose dolphins, rays, and a variety of tropical looking fish.  It’s pretty amazing to have your home gliding through an aquarium.  It’s also very humbling to stand back and realize we are truly in their territory and how important it is to respect their environment. 

We are currently in La Cruz contemplating when we are going to leave.  We’ve actually contemplated not leaving at all… What a great little community here in La Cruz.  It’s the perfect fusion of cruiser comforts and Mexican culture.  The town can easily be navigated on foot.  There are some great restaurants, plenty of nightlife with live music, a great Sunday market, and lots of small stores for anything you might need.  If you can’t find it in La Cruz, Nuevo Vallarta is only 6 miles down the highway and Puerto Vallarta a few miles beyond that.  An easy bus ride can take you to Walmart, Costco, Home Depot, etc. 

We are currently at anchor with about 60 other boats.  The marina staff have been very accommodating.  For a small fee you can tie up to the dinghy dock, have access to wifi, and use their shower facilities.  There are tons of activities at the marina from morning yoga to movies nights.  They don’t care if you are staying in the marina or at anchor, everybody is welcome.   

We will be leaving at some point later this week (I think).  In the meantime, we are enjoying the company of other family boats and enjoying the scenery. 

Ana Bananas is famous with cruisers.  They have live music every other day and great food specials.

Bananas growing along the sidewalk. 

This place serves a full rotisserie chicken, papas, rice, and tortillas for $100 pesos.  That's about $7 usd to feed a family of 4.


Chacala is an anchorage that we had heard about and drooled at pictures from other blogs before we started cruising.  It’s one of those picturesque anchorages with a beautiful palm lined beach and palapa restaurants cooking up mouthwatering shrimp tacos and ice cold Pacifico.   The blogs weren’t fibbing.  It does exist. 
Chacala actually had quite a hippie vibe to it.  There is a beachfront campground and plenty of beachside inns to accommodate the backpacking style of traveler.  We enjoyed watching the Mexican families having some beach time over their holiday break.  There were kids everywhere making sandcastles, boogie boarding, and playing volleyball.  We were told that it’s not usually this crowded.  I didn’t feel crowded at all.  There’s plenty of beach for everyone.

There is one main road in town.  It is lined with small tiendas carrying basic provisions, local artwork, and beach wear.  There is no Walmart, banks, or any sign of commercialism.  It is a small piece of untouched paradise.  

A typical day in Chacala on the boat would go something like this: Wake up and make coffee, but only drink a few sips because it’s too darn hot for coffee.  Realize it’s too darn hot for coffee or anything else and jump off the boat for a swim.  Do some school work with the girls.  Get hot again and jump in for a swim to the beach.  Stroll the beach for a while and listen to the bongo drums.  Swim back to the boat. Watch the amazing sunset.  Crawl into bed and read for 10 minutes before passing out and it’s only 8pm (cruiser midnight).  Wake up and repeat.  I love my life.


Katelyn is a natural helm's woman.

Friday, January 2, 2015

We in the jungle baby! San Blas

After spending way too much time and money in Mazatlan, we moved on to San Blas.  We were looking forward to a nice calm anchorage and some peace and quiet.  That's exactly what we found.  The cruising guide books give San Blas a bad rap because of the no see ums.  We anchored in Mantenchan Bay about a mile from land and didn't have a problem.  We also used common sense and sprayed ourselves with bug repellent before heading to land.  

The anchorage is surrounded by lush tropical foliage.  There is a huge banana plantation so there are many street vendors selling their pan de plantano.  I highly recommend a loaf or five - 35 pesos each. The beaches around the anchorage are full of palapa restaurants serving plenty of cerveza, fresh seafood, and tacos.  If the plastic restaurant chairs are too uncomfortable, there are hammocks to chill in.  

The highlight of the trip to San Blas was the jungle tour.  We paid roughly $30 usd to have a panga take us up an estuary through the jungle.  We saw several crocs, birds, and turtles.  At the end of the river, there is a fresh water spring to swim in.  This was a truly unbelievable experience.  We sometimes have to pinch ourselves and say, "I can't believe we are really doing this."  

This fence separates the crocs from the innocent victims swimming in the fresh water spring.

Swimming in the jungle.

Palapa on the beach

Dining with good friends from Sarita.

Ohana at anchor in Mantenchen Bay