Beauty and the Bees….
In early October, I made a quick overnight trip back to Orange County for a business matter. I returned swiftly to our home base at Marina La Cruz in the northern most part of the Banderas Bay very near Puerto Vallarta anxious to continue our adventure. It seemed like COVID was waning a bit, and we were beginning to hear rumors that French Polynesia was opening up to cruisers FINALLY! We never understood exactly why dumping a jet load of 450 tourists in Tahiti for a two week vacation was COVID safe, but allowing a tiny sailboat with a small crew of 3 was COVID dangerous! So, after hearing the good news, we hired an “agent” in Tahiti to handle our paperwork and was told that we could likely obtain our long stay visas, 9 months vs 90 days. We would need to sit for an interview at the French Embassy in LA and provide our approximate date of arrival. Great news EXCEPT, now we were staring down the barrel of the hurricane season in the Pacific and even if we were cleared to enter after the 28 day with “no land in sight” sail, it would be foolish and rather perilous to tempt fate and set out before the storm season passed. We had already survived one hurricane in La Cruz just weeks before and that was enough!
We had time to waste and few options: head south to Panama and Costa Rica? Make another trip into the Sea Of Cortez? For many reasons, we decided to head back into the “sea” as they call it here in Mexico. Only this time, our plans would take us the most northerly ports and most remote areas of this unique and beautiful part of Mexico that we had not explored last year.
For the weeks we had been at Marina La Cruz north of Puerta Vallarta, a sailboat named “KOOK” was docked on our port side with no one on board ever. One day, the ancient Aztec gods seemingly decided we deserved some good fortune after enduring the extreme heat and stifling humidity in Banderas Bay because, miraculously, the owner and captain of “KOOK”, showed up with his good friend and first mate, and we haven’t stopped smiling since! The 4 of us became fast friends and spent many a night sipping tequila and eating street tacos while the sun set. Captain Bill Smith and his mate David Roddy are both from New Mexico and have been friends for years and years. They were back in La Cruz for the final journey of KOOK before Bill became a permanent landlubber. KOOK was to be delivered to a yacht broker in La Paz on November 18 and the captain’s final passage itinerary mimicked our plans to head north so we decided to “buddy boat” (sail together for as much as the winds allowed, meeting at assigned anchorages each night) for most of his journey after which, Samsara would continue on.
Both Bill and David had been on the water for many more years than Jeff and I and had done extensive sailing in Sea of Cortez. Bill, a retired CEO of many cruise lines and maybe even smaller airlines, as I recall, is a tall handsome captain with a full head of gorgeous grey hair and all the charm of a true Texas gentleman. Dave, a retired advertising executive
(think Madmen) originally from Michigan, met Bill in business and became fast friends years ago sharing many adventures both on land and on the water. Dave’s is hilarious, a terrific conversationalist and a knowledgeable and outstanding sailor. Dave also has a boat in the marina called RHAPSODY, but for now, he was first mate on KOOK’s final journey. Bill’s girlfriend, Linda Steidel, from Redondo Beach, was to join KOOK’s crew list for our trip. Linda is a worldly retired flight attendant and current professional chef who has penned numerous cookbooks for Williams-Sonoma, and led countless culinary trips for private clients all over the world. Talk about a dream job!!!
We decided that every night we would alternate and dine together on either Samsara or KOOK. Food prep on a sailboat is quite a bit more challenging than meals prepared out of one’s Sub Zero refrigerator, on Wolf stoves and cooktops, or in our outdoor wood burning pizza oven and BBQ! Needless to say, I listened to Linda’s every word and asked a million questions when she was in either galley. I learned a multitude about simple and delicious “one bowl” meals using ingredients at hand. We shared our food stores as needed, and helped each other serve up some pretty impressive feasts! Thank you Linda! Having you here was inspiring and a hell of a lot of fun!
It seemed every port of call was prettier than the last as we made our way down to San Juanico with stops in Isla Isabella and then Mazatlan. I find it always takes a little bit of an attitude adjustment to go into town where I feel slightly assaulted by the hustle and bustle of buses and taxis with their honking horns; streets jammed with people walking hurriedly screaming billboards overhead, and well, civilization. It’s a double-edged sword: we get lonely and then we get irritated when we are back in the fray. Jeff would call that another of life’s “paradoxes”! In any case, we like old town Mazatlán a lot and last time we visited, we had discovered a wonderful restaurant and were excited to share it with KOOK’s crew. So, with our dress up clothes on, we loaded into a taxi and went out to eat. We had a wonderful meal laced with plenty of laughter at El Presidio, an amazing restaurant spotlighting a talented young chef set in the courtyard of a very old estate in the middle of old town Mazatlan. I’m pretty sure we would be hard pressed to remember precisely how we all got back to our boats that night after being “over served” by our cocktail waiter!
From Mazatlan, we headed out to Ensenda Grande on La Partida where we enjoyed some of the most beautiful water we had seen anywhere in our worldly travels. Crystal clear turquoise seas atop a white sandy bottom were a stark contrast to the cacti dotted, steep, striated, lava and sandstone rock cliffs painted in desert hues of charcoal gray, blush pink, iron ochre and chocolate brown that bordered our little anchorage. We spent several lazy days there swimming, snorkeling, watching the pelicans dive bomb their unsuspecting prey headfirst from 75 ft in the air and leave with dinner for a week in their beaks. We explored the water caves, and applauded the playful jumping rays as they reached heights of 20 ft, did several perfectly executed front flips ( eat your heart out Greg Lougianis ) and slap back down on the water. We took the dinghys ashore for sunset cocktails on the clean white sand and held dinner parties every night aboard either Samsara or KOOK.
Next stop was Isla Coronado, a long low lying white sandy thin crescent island floating in turquoise water. It was gorgeous except for the invasion of the most annoying BEES ever! Bees, EVERYWHERE….ALL DAY LONG, until the sun set when we got a reprieve until sunrise when we would wake to their buzzing around the main cabin. There they were AGAIN….EVERYWHERE… on the hunt for fresh water. We dried the bathroom and kitchen basins, put cutting boards over the sinks, put sponges outside in the hot air to dry out, covered our faucet spigots with baggies and zipped them up tight around the stems, covered fruit bowls, removed damp kitchen towels and avoided using the fresh water if at all possible. All of which did little to escape their irritating wrath. Trying to cook dinner was like being in an air war…swatting and batting them away in between sautéing, baking and boiling, suddenly running away from hot burners to escape an attack from the latest swooping squadron. Admittedly, watching them die gave me sick and delicious pleasure. Finding a slew of them in the sink basin, I would trap as many as possible under a drinking glass and watch demonically until they shriveled up and died (apparently, they have a very short lifespan without the elixir of fresh agua). Or I would ambush them with sprays of scalding hot water and swish them down the drain putting the stopper quickly on as desperately they tried to climb back out on their weak spindly legs to escape their well-deserved fate. Mostly it didn’t matter. There was an endless supply of the swarming little annoying buggers and the mornings l uncovered a virtual graveyard of them dead on the floor still able to activate a sting if you happened to step on one. We went over to KOOK for dinner one night and Bill announced that his arm was hurting him. When I asked what happened, he said it was sore from swatting the dreadful BEES!
In an effort to escape them, we relocated to the back side of Isla Coronado. We were not successful at escaping the bees, but, as a bonus, we were greeted in the tiny azure bay by a gift of dozens of black dolphins lazily feeding and jumping playfully all around us. Seeing a huge crowd of dolphin, in seemingly no rush to go anywhere, is always a magical moment that causes us to pause and pinch ourselves reminding us how rare our new life was. We bow to the shamrock gods! Amidst the dolphins were dense pods of tiny, silvery 6 inch fish skipping out of the water in unison to escape a predator on their heels. They resemble a ballet troupe all jumping together on cue on state. Right behind them was a 3 ft long, gold and grey pug snouted dancing Dorado porpoising 4 ft out of the water before it pounced, mouth open, on the bait fish pod. A veritable bottomless seafood buffet for the Dorado. We were entertained for hours, but the icing on the cake? Leaving Coronado, we saw our first humpback whale of the season lugging it’s way alongside Samsara, a mist of sea water spraying out his blow hole as he exhaled audibly and then dove into the deep. Now we know they are back for the winter, and we will have a watchful eye out for these truly wondrous creatures.
After a stop at two of our favorite places, Agua Verde (the best fish tacos to date) and San Evaristo (the BEST raw shrimp aguachile to date), KOOK and Samsara sailed on to San Juanico. The snorkeling here was off the charts with fish so varied and plentiful that were left optimistic that all the oceans currently stripped of nutrients by short sighted humans might one day return to such abundance. Dave and Jeff and I took the dinghy out to one of large rocks in the cove and were entertained for hours. Mask, snorkel and fins on, we lost ourselves in a floating confetti of hundreds of fish, pale periwinkle colored with neon yellow and azure stripes. A camouflaged khaki colored sea snake with dark grey irregular spots outlined in beige slinked around the sandy sea floor passing by purple sand dollars. Large armies of uniform dull gray fish with shimmery yellow tipped tails and stripes enveloped us as they swam determinedly all around us if they were late for an appointment. Flattish, deep inky blue parrot fish with bright yellow tails, and fins tipped in electric magenta swam solo beneath us munching on the algae covered rocks. Slews of carp-like brownish fish with tiny black dots lay motionless on the bottom unfazed by our flapping fins as we did a fly by. Darting in between the rocks were the teensy-est electric blue fish so small you wondered why they hadn’t been gobbled up by a lurking predator. Furry lilac colored starfish suctioned on to the slurry covered sea bottom while sprouts of sea fan coral waved above them. It was epic!
And it was here, at San Juanico, where we would say good bye to KOOK and her crew as they set sail for La Paz to the south and we headed north into uncharted seas. Clearly a sad day and one that eerily reminded us of more to come. That’s one of the things about cruising, you meet wonderful, incredibly interesting people of all ages, have a fire on the beach with them or a drink on deck and listen to their experiences at ports ahead; hear their solutions to common live aboard problems; share recommendations for safe anchoring spots; make notes of a remote beach shack where one might find a small tienda in the back that sells a fresh vegetable or two and a piece of fruit; or divulges the exact time and place where a certain fisherman returns to shore in his panga with a fresh catch that he would be willing to sell. All this comes with the inevitability that we will soon watch our newfound friends hoist their sails and disappear into the sunset… often in the opposite direction
leaving just us, alone again.
2 thoughts on “Kate’s Blog #10”
So beautifully written Katie!
How wonderful. Living viracuously through your adventures! Happy New Year to you both.