Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Banderas Bay - Adios Mexico! (2011)

The majority of our time in Banderas Bay has been spent in La Cruz.  After we arrived in the marina, our sightseeing came to a halt, and our focus changed to getting ready for the Pacific crossing.  The priority was to get the boat ready for the heat and occasional bugs found in the tropics.  We spent most of the first week behind the sewing machine.  Andrew designed white covers for all the hatches and jerry cans, as well as a cockpit awning to keep the sun off of us out at sea.  We also made a wind scoop for the forward hatch to funnel a breeze through the interior of the boat while at anchor.   Then we made mosquito nets that fit inside the hatches, as well as the port lights.
We spent another few days checking off maintenance items from the list and then started provisioning.  Fortunately the marina is relatively close to the bus stop, and we took several trips into Puerto Vallarta to stock up on supplies and groceries.  The 15 mile bus ride into town was quite comfortable in the morning, but the busses really heated up in the afternoons.
 On our first trip to Mega (a large grocery store), we filled a jumbo shopping cart to the brim.  Since we had provisioned heavily in Mazatlan, we thought surely this would be plenty.  But, after updating our food inventory, we discovered that we still did not have enough so we headed back for one more round.   The provisioning we are doing now is not just for the upcoming passage, but includes staples to get us through to New Zealand.  We will certainly supplement with certain things in French Polynesia, but some food items are either hard to come by or very expensive there.  After loading up on heavy canned goods, Saviah is sitting very low on her waterline!

As for fresh fruits and veggies, some cruisers here passed along word of a local market that is held every Thursday and Sunday night.  Fresh produce is brought in straight from the farms of Guadalajara.  Most of the local restaurants buy their produce here.  It was perfect for us, since we need produce that is as fresh as possible and has not been refrigerated.
Amidst all this work, we did find a bit of time to check out some of the local attractions in La Cruz.  There were two Sunday markets in town, with lots of great food and crafts for sale, as well as the catch from the local fisherman.  La Cruz also has some good and inexpensive taco stands.
When we arrived in La Cruz, we were initially planning for a mid-April departure, knowing that we had to be flexible because of the weather.  However, in talking with other cruisers, we discovered that quite a few boats had been waiting a week or more for a good weather window to get to the trade winds.  That bit of information made us change our course a bit, and we decided to push hard to get ready for the next weather window.  Unfortunately, late last week, Andrew came down with a stomach bug and was out of commission for a few days.  Even after he was over the bug, it still took a few days for him to fully regain his strength.
As Andrew was recovering, a weather window did open last Saturday, 4/9/2011, and 11 boats took off for the Marquesas.  We were not quite ready, and it felt as if we were being left behind.   But, the few items left on our list were important, and Andrew needed a bit more time to get back to 100%.  So, begrudgingly, Saviah stayed put, and we kept working hard.
A bit more on weather… we’ve been monitoring the weather forecasts every day, and watching for the right weather window.  The NE trade winds that we will ride for part of our passage begin 500-700 miles away, so we’re watching for a forecast with winds to get us from Banderas Bay to the trades.  We only carry 70 gallons of fuel (including jerry cans), which is 3-5 days of motoring depending on the conditions.  If we were to motor to the trades, we may not have enough fuel to cross the ITCZ or for arrivals in port.  The ITCZ (Intertropical Convergence Zone) runs along the equator (the position changes during the year) and is known for light winds (or no winds) and squally conditions.  Most cruisers try to cross the ITCZ as quickly as possible to minimize the time spent in the unsettled area.

At this point, most of our “to do” list items have been done, and the forecast is for some more NW winds to fill in here on Thursday and Friday.  So, we made the quick jump over to Nuevo Vallarta Tuesday to clear out of Mexico.  The whole process was over in a couple of hours, and we left with our Zarpe papers in hand.  We'll be in La Cruz one more night, and then, Thursday, 4/14/2011, Saviah sets sail for the South Pacific!  Our first landfall will be Atuona on the island of Hiva Oa in the Marquesas.  We’re estimating the passage will take us 25-30 days, depending on the winds.  We should also mention that we have heard reports that the Spot service is a bit unreliable in some parts of the South Pacific.  We’ll be sending Spot messages frequently in hopes that some make it through.  Please don’t worry if the Spot stops working.
After five months in Mexico, we are finally ready to depart.  We have had a wonderful time here… the people are so friendly, and the laidback atmosphere is contagious.  Five months seemed like a long time when we arrived in December, but the time just flew by, and there are still many places in Mexico we would like to visit.  Perhaps we’ll spend another season here down the road.