Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Mexico Musings

The Next Generation


At this point we have been on our Mexico cruise for eight months with about six of those months in Mexico.  This has given us the opportunity to see a bit of how Mexico is doing and how the Mexican people are faring, at least from the view point of the itinerant yachtie passing through. In this posting we offer to you a few observations of what we have seen on our Mexican Adventure.

Before leaving the US, we were warned by a number of people and by our ever so helpful US State Department, that security and safety is a major issue in Mexico. Well, so far, we have seen no significant issues. There is a police or military presence on occasion and these are the only people we
Alejandro--Entrepreneur and Artist
have seen armed in Mexico. Yes, there must be issues in other, primarily in major urban, areas where the drug cartels and crime happen. However, we saw much more evidence and concern with crime throughout the Caribbean and even in the US, than we have here in Mexico. One needs to be prudent, but that is just the same as it is in many, many places.

With a career in public accounting and a college major in economics, it comes as no surprise that Roger is interested in the economic situation of Mexico. In general, things appear to be better than we have encountered before and better than we expected. There is definitely an emerging middle class with a stake in the future. And at the same time there
Mexico is Music
certainly is a large impoverished lower class, as well as a rarely seen, truly 1% upper class. The minimum wage in Mexico is 84 pesos per day – about $4.50. However, we were told that the minimum wage is rarely used, as the demand for labor has pushed wages up a bit from this abysmally low amount. All the same, it makes it easy to see why there is a drive for better jobs in Mexico or in the U.S. At a conference Roger attended in Mexico City about 15 years ago, we compared notes with the host accountant on labor costs and wages. At each point the Mexican labor amount was about 10% of the U.S. labor amount, whether that be a for unskilled labor, a starting accountant’s salary, or accounting fees charged by the accounting firm. It seems today that this percentage has grown a bit, perhaps to 12 or 15% of the US amount. This is still a considerable spread, but there is progress.

Jimmy--Los Gatos Fisherman
We have had the opportunity to talk to several Mexican people about their upcoming presidential election. On July 1 Mexico will elect a new president and the entire legislative assembly. It is undoubtedly the most important election in recent times in Mexico. The two traditional parties—PRI, which led the country for 61 years, but became discredited in a fury of corruption, and PAN, which replaced PRI to a large degree but also lost favor in more corruption, are being challenged by a candidate pushed out of PAN, who then started his own political party. Andre Manuel Lopez Obredor is now the leading candidate by a significant margin over both the PRI and PAN candidates. There is concern that he may be a left leaning Chavez type of president, which has been such a disaster for Venezuela. However, the same political forces which propelled Donald Trump into office are propelling Obredor. Stay tuned to your Mexico news-- this election is a big one!

Perhaps one of the most remarkable characteristics of the Mexican people in general, is their friendliness and openness. When we approach strangers, all it seems it take it is a cheery “Buenos dias—Como esta?”. Simply say hello and ask how they are, and they seem to drop their customary shyness. Often, they will reply that they speak little or no English, to which Roger says in Spanish “Well--you do speak Spanish, don’t you?”. This results in peals of laughter on both sides and immediately we are breaking down the language barrier. We have found that Mexicans we meet to be as very helpful as they can be. In fact, they often try too hard to give you the answer that they think you might want. Of course, all of this is a pure generality and is only the result of chance encounters by a sailing couple roaming the coastline. But it still seems to us that the warmth of the Mexican people is a characteristic that does engender international friendships.
Sunset Over Baja

And so how does Mexico fare in the future? Well, one doesn’t know. Certainly, NAFTA has been very helpful for Mexico economically. There is growing middle class with a stake in economic stability and growth. However, in Mexico the past has unraveled too many times and it is difficult to peer into the future. All we can do is wish Mexico all the best. 

We are now cruising northbound with a target of catching an airplane flight home on May 23. Schatzi will be parked at a marina in San Carlos on the mainland side of the Sea of Cortes for six months while we return home. Our thought is to do another season in Mexico next winter and spring and then probably ship Schatzi back to Seattle in May, 2019. Meanwhile, we thank you for following these blogs and ask that you wish us well as we wind down our Mexico Adventure for this year.

Roger, Lynne, and Salty
You can reach us at 206-755-4193 or email rdwerner47@gmail.com

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Where the Desert meets the Sea

Agua Verde

The 125 miles between La Paz and Loreto reminds us of cruising in the Northwest on the Sunshine Coast and Desolation Sound--except that you trade cactus for cedar trees, warm water for cold water, and sunshine for overcast. There are very few urban centers on the Sea of Cortez with La Paz being the largest and Loreto being one of the few others. In between these towns there is virtually nothing but a few scattered fishermen villages.  Here, you are totally off the grid! But the scenery is spectacular--blending the brown of American Southwest with the turquoise waters of the South Pacific.

We have spent nearly a month traveling slowly from La Paz to Loreto and returning. In that
Fresh Caught Dinner!
passage, there are dozens and dozens of anchorages, each one with its own character. At San Everisto we negotiated with the local fishermen for a freshly caught and super yummy fish. At Agua Verde we were delayed as a northerly cold front came through, giving us a chance to get better acquainted with some of the other boaters in the anchorage. This included a hike to see the petroglyphs, a bocce game, and a trip to the beachfront taco palapa stand. In Ballandra Bay, at the north end of Carman Island, we also hooked up with other cruisers and made several hikes into the back country, spotting bighorn sheep. At
Yellowstone Beach on Isla Monserrat, we walked for miles on a sandy beach we had all to
Life at 73 Degrees
ourselves. As a diversion we hiked up an arroyo and were treated to a delightful desert garden with quite a floral variety. And on Isla San Francisco we took in a perfect white sand crescent beach both from the water level and from the nearby hillsides. Cruisers have told us they have spent years shuttling back and forth on the Sea of Cortez and still have more to explore. We are beginning to understand what they mean.


At this point we are returning to La Paz so that Roger can attend the annual financial planning conference in San Diego put on by the brokerage company he uses. Before leaving La Paz, we plan to meet up with Ken MacDonald who is coming down Baja on the Baja 1000 off road race. Both of
Baaaa
us will have some good stories to tell each other, a few of which might even be true.

That about all for now. From here we sail north back up from La Paz to Loreto, then keep going to Santa Rosalia before crossing over the Sea of Cortez to San Carlos. Then Schatzi will be moored there for six months to wait out the hot and rainy hurricane season in summer and early fall. Our flight to Seattle leaves on May 23 and have a lot of catching up to do once we return.

Isla San Francisco
Moon Rise over Baja
Thank you to all of you who have connected back to us. We really appreciate the contacts with our family and friends while we are out here continuing our adventure. This post is written on April 17 (Tax Day!), so we send a special hello to our friends at Werner O’Meara and Co. We look forward to seeing you soon,

Roger, Lynne, and Salty
You can reach us at 206-755-4193 or email

rdwerner47@gmail.com

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Travels With Salty

Our Little Fellow

Roger is currently reading John Steinbeck’s novel--The Log of the Sea of Cortez.  Steinbeck’s classic provides an interesting comparison of how the Sea of Cortez appears to a visitor in 1939 compared to that of today. Of course, John Steinbeck was also the author of Travels with Charley, his 1960s book about traveling around the U.S.  accompanied by his trusty pooch, Charlie. This has many parallels with our cruising with our trusty pooch, Salty.

There are a number of good cruising guides for the waters we have traveled from Seattle down to the Mexican Pacific Coast. However, there is scant mention anywhere of traveling with a pet. This was also true of our experiences of cruising the East Coast with Salty. Pet owners talk among themselves and pass bits of information gleaned from
Salty with his bed and toys
experience or from the Internet. We were told that we would need a veterinarian’s health certificate prior to bringing Salty into Mexico. After paying several hundred dollars for a suitable health certificate, we presented it at our check in at Ensenada. No one was the least bit interested.  This random nature of cruising with pets has been the rule not the exception with our cruising with Salty.

There are many unique factors in cruising with pets. One is dinghy trips ashore. For cruisers without a pet, a trip ashore is a pleasant option taken when
Looking for shore leave
conditions present themselves.  For pet owners, trips ashore are a necessary event 2-3 times a day, unless your pet is trained to stay on the boat. Dinghy beach landings can be very benign--or not. Coming down the Pacific Coast the ever-present ocean swell creates shore waves. These may be small, but they are always present. Thus, when one comes ashore on the Baja Coast, you learn to do beach landings with a swell. Our baptism by fire was at Asuncion, BCN. We managed to ride the waves into the beach. But when we went to leave, a puny two-foot swell was enough to roll our dinghy over on top of us, trapping Salty underneath and tossing our possessions into the water. We rapidly scooped Salty up and then he scooted right to shore, as we gathered in the rest of our possessions. We subsequently learned somewhat better techniques--wait for a period of settled waves, put
At Anchor in Mazatlan
everybody into the dinghy except the pusher, the pusher then pushes the dinghy out well past knee deep, jumps into the dinghy, fires up the outboard, and motors over the next couple waves. A quick few paddles also help to keep the bow pointed into the waves, where the dinghy harmlessly takes on the waves.

Another pet consideration is piddling and pooping (PNP).  We have read and that several cruisers have told us that given enough time at sea, dogs will learn to PNP on deck.  However, Salty, being half schnauzer and very stubborn, has only piddled on board once. He has managed to hold out for upwards of 34 hours until we get his paws on terra firma. We have tried all of the tricks: the grass mat, a piddled-on stump, treats and pleadings, walking around the boat with his leash on him, to no avail.  Oh well...
  
Roger, Lynne, Salty &
a 300 year old olive tree
And then there’s the matter of whether Salty is welcome to cruise with us at the stops we would like to make. We have found restaurants in Mexico (and French Canada and French Caribbean) are particularly dog friendly. We have been permitted to take Salty in virtually every restaurant we have patronized with the exception of just a few of the more upscale urban establishments. Mexican National Parks has a rule that no dogs are permitted ashore. However, we have spoken with many cruisers and the word is to use discretion. So long as you don’t mix up Salty in a crowd of people or wander too far off the beach, he seems to be quite welcome. There also is the helpful consideration that park rangers are way underfunded in Mexico and that enforcement of park rules is virtually nonexistent.
Schatzi at anchor

Of course, Salty is an important part of our crew and of our life. Roger has often commented “If Salty doesn’t go, Lynne doesn’t go; if Lynne doesn’t go, then Roger doesn’t go!”. Salty seems to do well making his home on the boat with his nest of toys, his chuck it throw balls, and his personal perch just inside the dodger. He makes our cruising much richer and we would never dream of cruising without him. Now we just need to author the guide book to cruising with your pooch!

Roger, Lynne, and Salty
You can reach us at 206-755-4193 or email rdwerner47@gmail.com

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Road Trips Rock!

Copala Church--c. 1740

It has been said that sailboat passages are connections between interesting places to visit.  Such has surely been the case recently for us here on the Mexican Pacific coastline.  So far, we have rented cars and toured inland on three occasions.  The first one was a trip to Mascota and to a few mountain villages which we talked about in a previous post.

A few weeks ago we rented a car (for the princely sum of $7 a day) in Mazatlan and preceded one hour east into the mountains to a small mining village called Copala.  We arrived about 10:30 and took in the small town square and the magnificent, 300 year old church. There didn’t seem to be much more to the town.  However, we had been told that this was the place to get banana cream pie.  So, we went to the other end of the town square to the only
Alejandro with the mask we bought
restaurant in town, which was open and serving some really yummy banana cream pie.  Afterward Lynne suggested looking into the yellow building off to the side which seem to be one of the few retail establishments around. It turned out to be was the artist’s studio, where Alejandro Rodriguez made Mardi Gras masks from various animal hides.  After buying a small souvenir mask, he asked if we had seen town museum.  No--we didn’t even know there was a museum.  So, Alejandro led us to the museum located in the old pueblo jail, loaded with artifacts dating back 200-500 years, mostly from the mining days.  He then asked if we had seen the rest of town – why, we didn’t even know there was more to town.  Alejandro then gave us a private tour of his pueblo, showing us the architecture, the flora and the history of Copala.  He was the town artist, the owner of the
Lynne petting her whale
restaurant and his family has lived in the town for three generations. What a treat!  Upon returning we decided we needed a full-size mask and we are so glad that we bought this art work.  In the end, we chanced upon an opportunity to see a slice of Mexico and were rewarded beyond our dreams.

A few weeks later we arrived in La Paz.  One of the goals while in Mexico was to go whale watching in Magdalena Bay—world famous as the location where gray whales mate, give birth, and nurse their young.  So, we quickly put together our own tour with another car rental (this time for $1 a day!), made overnight accommodations at the Whale Tales Inn in Lopez Mateos, and set out.  Mateos is a very small fishing village near the Pacific Ocean which engages in whale watching for December–March. In late March
Our friend, Diana smooching with a whale
the whales leave on an epic migration to Alaska for feeding and an eventual return the following year.  Early the next morning we chartered a panga to see the whales.  And did we!  The mother and baby whales snuggled right up against our panga allowing us to pet them, talk with them and see whales up and really, really close.  Petting a whale might just have been the highlight of our Mexico cruise. Events such as these cannot be planned—they just happen when the opportunity is right.

We have one road trip left to do. We plan to do a day trip around the back country behind Loreto to see the missions built in the 1700s.  We will report back on
Yes, another Mexican sunset!
that goal if we can put that trip together.  Meanwhile we wish all of our friends back home a happy Easter, a happy April Fool’s day and all the best for the Springtime!

Roger, Lynne, and Salty
You can reach us at 206-755-4193 or email rdwerner47@gmail.com

Monday, February 12, 2018

Cruising the Costalegre

Ibis Taking Flight

The portion of the Mexico Coast from Puerto Vallarta,120 miles south to Manzanillo is dubbed the “Costalegre”—the Happy Coast!  South of the Tropic of Cancer, the weather at this time of year is nearly perfect, with a temperature of 70-85°, generally light breezes and plentiful sunshine. In addition there are lots of interesting stops.  At Tentacatita the highlight might be the 2-mile dinghy trip through the estuary mangroves, ending up at the Aquarium for lunch.  A bit further south, the marina at Barra de Navidad is at a resort with a beautiful swimming pool and a nearby town for good dining out.  Further south at Santiago Bay near Manzanillo we found a great beach for Salty and had a marvelous time at the Saturday market.  In addition to these there are half a dozen small anchorages with delightful snorkeling and fine beaches for salty to run on.
Lynne and Paul
Comparing Beverages

While at Barra de Navidad, Lynne connected with Paul Carlson, a cello mate from Thalia Symphony. Paul spends 5-6 weeks here every year at his beach front hotel with swimming pool.  Lynne was thrilled to reconnect with Paul and getting the latest news from Thalia.

We have now turned around at Manzanillo and have begun the trek north.  It has taken us 3000 miles and 5 months to get here from Seattle, including 1500 miles from San Diego.  We will spend a little more time at Puerto Vallarta with Ken Macdonald
Beach Vendor at Santiago
and his family who are flying in next week.  Afterward we will sail north into the Sea of Cortez where we will next post to our blog. Again, we thank all of you who email or phone—you are our connection back home.

Another Mexican Sunset
Roger, Lynne, and Salty
You can reach us at 206-755-4193 or email rdwerner47@gmail.com

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Reporting in from Puerto Vallarta

Maluhea on the Beach
A few days ago, I was some looking around for some content to put into this post.  We have been in Puerto Vallarta for about a month doing interesting, but somewhat mundane shore activities.  Then a call came over the radio that Maluhea, a 37’ Pacific Seacraft, had gone on the rocks at Punta Mita.  After a half day delay before the boat’s skipper asked for help, a group of nine of us went from the marina at La Cruz at 5 in the evening to where the boat was situated.  He could hardly have picked a worse place to land!  Punta Mita is a very, very private, secure residential development and they prohibit any access over their property.  As a result, we chartered a local panga to drop us off 1.4 miles from where the boat was ashore.  After clambering for an hour over the rocky beach in the dark, we arrived to find the boat way up on the beach but mostly intact.  We ran lines from the boat to the land to secure the boat against the high tide and removed the fuel aboard
The Lovely Church in Mascota
On the Road to Ron's Ranch
With these tasks done it was now 11 at night and time to return home.  We walked through some very private property to a guard shack where we were informed that we could under no circumstances go further in their development.  We were strongly encouraged to return via the beach ¾ mile the other direction to the town of Punta Mita, which we did.  It was quite a night!  Subsequently the volunteer boat rescue team has removed more material off the boat in preparation for the eventual patching of the hole in the boat’s side and sliding of the boat back to the sea and to a haul out facility. 


Other than this adventure, the rest of our time has been rather benign and pleasant.  One boater who elected to remain in the Puerta Vallarta area bought a “ranch” 50 miles to the east of Puerto Vallarta, in the mountains above Mascota.  He offered to have people come visit, which we did.  Ron and his wife live at 7,300’ and in a decidedly different environment than on the beach. 
Can you Guess who is heading for the
Airplane and who is staying in Puerto Vallarta?
In addition, the local village next to his ranch was having a fiesta, and all of this made seeing the inland side of Mexico most interesting.

The other major event for us was a visit to Puerto Vallarta by our sons Kevin and Andy accompanied with Christian, Lorraine and Clark in the week before Christmas.  They all stayed in the Vallarta Marriott hotel soaking up its resplendent facilities including a vast swimming pool, two tennis courts and a really pretty beach. Thank you all for coming!

We suppose that the other event to report was our 48th anniversary dinner. Our sailing friends, Steve and Peggy Leonard, are here and joined us for a really nice meal topped off with banana flambĂ©, and serenaded by the restaurant’s local musician.
Lynne and Clark
  
As for the rescue of Maluhea, I will say that it has had a chastening effect on Roger.  In the future when Lynne says to stay a bit further offshore as we round points of land or get near islands, she will have much less resistance.  This week we pick up our permanent residence permits.  We do not plan to move to Mexico, but these permits make it easier to come and go.  From Puerto Vallarta we intend to sail south toward Manzanillo for 4-6 weeks and then do a U turn and head north to the Sea of Cortez for March-May.  We will send future posts to let you know how the adventure continues!

Roger, Lynne, and Salty

You can reach us at 206-755-4193 or email rdwerner47@gmail.com

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Bienvenidos A Mexico!

The Cabo San Lucas Arch
We are now tied up at Puerto Vallarta, having gently wandered through our first month of cruising in Mexico. We began with a week at Cabo San Lucas, its mellower neighbor San Jose Del Cabo, and a very user-friendly anchorage at Las Friales (“the Friars”). We stayed several days right in the heart of Cabo San Lucas, with all the buzz of their crazy tourist activity swirling around us. Then we moved on to San Jose where we began to meld into the slow lane of Mexican life. But our favorite for the bottom of the Baja Peninsula came at Las Friales. A great beach, doable beach landings, a perfect spot for Salty to play ball, 80-degree water for swimming—what could be better?

One of the recommended activities at Las Friales is to head on up to Cabo Pulmo for snorkeling. About twenty years ago, the local fishermen at Pulmo saw their fish catches declining and banded
Las Frailes
together to make a change. They restricted fish catches (their own as well as any others) to allow the natural coral reef in front of their village to rebound and become the leading spot around for diving and snorkeling. The Government assisted by declaring the reef a protected national underwater park. But the only issue is making the 9-km trek on the rough, rutted dirt road out there and back. We managed to hitch a ride out with a couple Gringo Girls and that gave us time for lunch before the snorkel tour. On the return, things were not looking so good at first, as there were NO vehicles heading our way. Then along came Jose in his ancient Toyota pickup. For twenty minutes, Roger and Jose (sort of) carried on a fast-moving conversation, finding all about ranching in that dry countryside, Jose’s family, local fishing and all sorts of things. At one point, Jose’s beer
When it's Your Birthday, you get to do it your way!
caught up with him and he needed to stop and take advantage of the facilities. In the end we made it back to the boat just in time to walk Salty before dark, we took in a colorful piece of Mexican life, we saw some awesome snorkeling, and we supported the Pulmo fishermen who are trying to do the right thing.  Todo Bien!

The sign says no swimming--
No Joke!
From Las Friales we crossed over to Mazatlán and then sailed down to Puerto Vallarta. There we took moorage at the same dock as our friends, Steve and Peggy Leonard, who have been cruising Mexico for three years. We needed to stay in PV for there or four weeks in order to allow time for our permanent residency permits to be processed. We also will be here for a joint visit with both Kevin and Andy, (and Christian, Loraine and Clark) who are due in this coming week before Christmas and will be the topic of our next posting. Meanwhile we sailed in the Banderas Bay Blast (a three-day PV version of a Snooze and Cruise), celebrated Peggy’s birthday along with four of their friends visiting from Seattle, attended church at the Cathedral, and did touristy things around town. Of course, we
Sunset at San Blas
also did a number of boat maintenance projects, since as we all know, sailboat cruising is nothing more than doing boat maintenance in exotic locations!

That is about it for our first month in Mexico. From our boat in Puerto Vallarta, we pause and wish all of you a Feliz Navidad, where ever you may be this Holiday Season,

Roger, Lynne, and Salty

You can reach us at 206-755-4193 or email rdwerner47@gmail.com