Wednesday, April 29, 2015

A Day at the Museum of Anthropology - Mexico City

We arrived in Mexico City yesterday afternoon.  Today we were super excited to get out and see some sights.  First stop - The Museo de Antropologia.  Anthropology is the study of humans, past and present.  Yes, I actually had to Google that.  When I checked Trip Advisor to see what we should be seeing while here, this came up as numero uno.  It is also a great museum to visit prior to seeing the pyramids of Teotihuacan which we will visit later in the week. 

I cannot express how amazing the museum was.  First of all the price was right.  Adult admission was $4.26 USD and the kids were free.  It was such a fascinating experience viewing original and replicated ruins, statues, jewelry, pottery, carvings, etc.  The exhibits displayed artifacts from the Toltecs, Olmecs, Mixtecs, Mayans, Zapotecs, and Aztecs.  We learned about each groups' rituals and beliefs and culture as well as what region of Mexico they occupied.  My favorite display was the Stone of the Sun created by the Aztecs.  This is often called the Aztec calendar, however, it was actually believed to be used as a  ritual altar for gladiatorial sacrifices.  The visit was a great educational experience for the kids.  Hannah was engrossed in reading every sign she could find in English and listening to the audio guide.  Katelyn found it interesting to view in person artifacts that she had read about in her history book.  It was a great time had by all. 

Jake and I couldn't get over how cool everything was, so we took an obscene amount of pictures...

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Summer Storage

Most of cruising is quite enjoyable.  Granted, we are not on vacation.  We still have to take care of "household" chores, maintain and repair things on the boat, boat school the kids, etc.  The beauty of it all is that most of these things take place in beautiful anchorages along the coast of Mexico and beyond. 

Packing up Ohana for the summer introduced a whole aspect of the cruising lifestyle.  One that was not pleasant at all.  First of all, let me make this clear, it is HOT in Puerto Chiapas.  To compound this hotness issue, we are in a marina.  There is not a lot of wind and fresh air breeze happening when you are tied to a dock.  We do not have A/C on the boat and the marina has tennis courts instead of a swimming pool (huh?).  So, the only relief from the heat is a cold shower - multiple times a day.  The temps inside the boat are hovering around 90 degrees.  Needless to say the chores involved in packing up a boat for the summer suck that much more in the heat.

So here is what we chose to do to ensure that we come back to a mold free, critter free boat (fingers crossed). 
  • washed every surface inside the boat down with vinegar
  • "tented" all interior cushions and opened all hatches underneath to allow air circulation
  • opened all cabinet doors
  • discarded all perishable food items
  • stored all other food items in Ziplocks, then put them in our cooler
  • turned off the fridge
  • set cockroach traps throughout
  • sprinkled Borax all over the floors
  • placed Damp-Rid tubs throughout the interior
  • emptied water tanks
  • removed all canvas from the exterior - dodger, bimini, spray curtains
  • removed EVERYTHING from the decks and stored items inside - jerry cans, kayaks, surfboards, etc.
  • took down all sails and stowed inside
  • removed impeller from water pump
  • flushed engine with fresh water
  • closed all seacocks
  • turned off 12V and AC panel
  • disconnected 12V monitor gauge
  • removed all excess lines and stowed inside
  • covered running rigging at the mast
  • put tinfoil on all interior windows
  • covered navigation lights and anchor light lenses
  • put netting on the dorade vents to keep critters out
  • closed and locked all hatches and windows
We chose to store Ohana out of the water for multiple reasons.  We think it's safer to have her on the hard while unattended.  It's cheaper.  The marina charges $240/month.  Our insurance gives us a rebate of $400 for storing the boat on the hard which covers the haul out fee.

With all of this work behind us now, we have never been so excited to stay at the Holiday Inn.  We are spending three luxurious nights in Tapachula before flying to Mexico City on 4/28.  The A/C is cranked up and the wifi is flowing to all possible electronic devices.  Yippee!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Change of Plans

As summer approaches, cruisers tend to begin making summer plans.  It is usually the topic of conversation on the dock.  "So, where are you going to summer over?"  We have found that the majority of cruisers do not cruise year round.  They usually leave their boat someplace safe from hurricanes for the summer and go home or do inland travel.  We have had many discussions about what we might do for the summer.  Jake wanted to come up with a plan when we were in ports as far north as Mazatl├ín.  I said, "We'll know our plan when we get there."  That's just the kind of "planner" I am.  Plans are relative anyways.  We live a lifestyle that is open to many different options along the way.  I like the saying, "A cruisers plans are written in the sand at low tide." 

So, when we arrived in Huatulco and realized that we were going to be delayed waiting for our autopilot part to arrive, we began making plans.  We decided that we were getting too far behind our unscheduled, non-planned cruising itinerary to continue heading south without getting into the summer storm (lightning) season in El Salvador, Costa Rica, and Panama.  Once again, Jake hates lightning.  So, we have decided that it is summer break time from the boat.  We will be storing Ohana "on the hard" (meaning out of the water) in Marina Chiapas, and heading back to land.  Since Ohana is our home, we don't have a home to go back to.  So, we decided to head to Arizona (home of grandparents, parents, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc...)  Surely someone has to be willing to give us a couch to sleep on for a while.  After all, we're not used to much space.  We have tickets to fly out of Tapachula on 4/28, then spend a week in Mexico City (yay!) then off to Las Vegas (cheaper airfare) on 5/05.  After hitting the slots and winning millions for our cruising kitty we will drive 6 hours to Mesa, AZ.  Quite the plan for a non-planner, huh?

Like all decisions, there are positives and negatives to this plan.  As we hang out in Marina Chiapas we have met many other boats coming and going.  A group of four boats took off the other day for El Salvador, I was dying to go with them.  It will be nice to be off the boat though.  I look forward to visiting with family, Taco Bell, and air conditioning.  We plan on staying in Arizona till November and will be looking for jobs to beef up the cruising kitty.  If any of you know of any jobs for two hardworking, adventurous, smart, responsible individuals - Katelyn and Hannah would love to hear from you. : )

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Last stop in Mexico - Chiapas

We are currently in Chiapas, our last Mexican port.  We have been here over a week now.  It’s crazy to think that we are only 10 miles from the Guatemalan border.  Our crossing of the Tpec was uneventful.  We stayed 3-5 miles off the beach until we reached Salina Cruz.  There was nothing of concern and we had a good weather window for the next five days, so we said goodbye to the “one foot on the beach” route and made a direct route to Puerto Chiapas.  Even the fishing pangas were comfortable enough with the weather to zoom back and forth with no land in sight.  We had smooth seas with a long rolling swell.  We sailed about one-third of the way and had to motor through the rest.  On the second night we dodged a couple of squalls and had a great lightening show.  I say that sarcastically, Jake is very paranoid about being underway with lightning around.  Rightfully so, we have a giant metal lightning rod sticking out of the boat.  During daylight, we were entertained by the dolphins, sea turtles, whales, rays, and birds.  All in all, it was a nice passage and it feels good to have it in our rearview mirror.
While at the dock at Marina Chiapas, we were approached by a tour guide by the name of Tony.  We had heard about Tony and his partner Miguel from other cruisers.  They have taken many boaters out to explore the sights of the state of Chiapas.  We signed up for a one day tour of the area.  Tony picked us up at 8am and drove us to the Guatemalan border, then up to the cooler climates of a nearby volcano.  Next we headed off to see a coffee plantation.  We learned that the coffee plant was originally introduced to the area by the Spanish, however, it was a German family that took interest in the cultivation of the coffee bean.  Tony told us all about the process of making coffee from bean to cup.  Coffee is one of Mexico's largest imports to the U.S. and it was interesting to see that it comes from such small plantations with such basic equipment and techniques. 

The Guatemalan border.

Overhead view of a large coffee processing plant.

We stopped at this cute little town for coffee.  The higher elevation offered a much needed break from the heat at the marina.

Coffee beans - 2 beans grow in each pod.  They turn red and look like cherries when they are ripe.

After visiting the coffee plantations it was time for some chocolate.  Another huge crop in Soconusco, Chiapas is cocoa.  We were taken to a local woman's house who showed us the process of making organic chocolate in her backyard.  The beans are actually covered in a white gooey pulp when they are pulled out of the pod.  We were able to suck the pulp off the bean which was very sweet and yummy, but the bean itself is very bitter.  After the pulp is removed, the beans are dried in the sun, then roasted over a large stove. Once roasted to an almost burnt tint, they are ground down, then rolled into chocolate.  They can add sugar, cinnamon, peanuts, almonds, etc. at that point. After showing us the chocolate process, the ladies of the house treated us to an amazing lunch.  We had homemade tamales, tortillas with queso fresco, fresh bread, and of course hot cocoa. 

Cocoa plant

Cocoa beans being pulled out of the pod.

Cocoa beans roasting

Hannah and I helped grind the beans down.


With our tummies full, we headed to the ruins of Izapa.  It is estimated that the ruins were originally settled between 1500-1200 BC by the Olmecs.  It was later settled by the Mayans and lastly, the Aztecs.  It is one of the oldest ruin sites in Mexico.  

Our family with Tony the tour guide.

We also explored the city of Tapachula.  We saw some amazing stained glass artwork and learned more about the history of the region.  Tony was so knowledgeable and always pointing out interesting sights along the way.  The area is so lush and tropical.  We saw mango, banana, avocado, and many other fruit trees that I had never heard of. 

Fresh juices in a bag.