Cruising ~ The Cat’s Meow Style ~  January & February, 2008 
Mazatlan and beyond 
Hi Ho, here we go, The Cat’s Meow is cruisin’ again! As this is written, we are aboard The Cat’s Meow in the anchorage at La Cruz Huanicaxtle (“hu-an-ah-kot-lee”), a small village on Banderas Bay, just a few miles from Puerto Vallarta. We are back in the tropics, yahoo! But, let’s go back to the beginning of this year…. 
As you can see in the December 2007 update, we spent the first day of 2008 with lots of friends and having a lot of fun. TCM was still in the boat yard at that time, but soon she was launched and returned to Marina Palmira for two more weeks while we prepared to leave La Paz, the Baja, and to make our crossing to Mazatlan.  
                        The Cat's Meow with a purrrty "new" bottom, ready to leave the boat yard                                  Da' guys with TCM back at the slip   
At about the first of the year, Robin noticed an infection in a small nodule in her left armpit, which did not clear up easily. She called Dr. Tuchman, a friend to cruisers, and saw him later that same day. After a few more days of treating the area with medications, it was decided that some minor surgery should be performed to remove the nodule. Robin has world-wide insurance coverage through a company called Seven Corners, and which is underwritten by Lloyd’s of London - not a “fly-by-night’ outfit at all. She and the doctor discussed possibilities, and a few days later (not weeks… just days later) she was admitted into the Fidepaz hospital in La Paz. This was in & out surgery, and a few hours later Martin was returning her to the boat. The doctor made a boat-visit to check on Robin a few days later, and of course to see TCM! However, the stitches from the surgery had caused another nodule, a small ball of tissue, to form, so it needed to be removed. (Dr. Tuchman was not happy with the suturing, evidently done by his assistant.) The doctor performed this second minor surgery in his office — at no cost, since he said the surgery “had a guarantee”! Robin’s underarm was sutured up again, and she knew these sutures would need to be removed in Mazatlan. The total cost of the doctor’s visits, the hospital, and all costs associated with it came to a whopping $2500US. Not bad!!! The medications, including antibiotics, cost about $50US. Not bad, again! 
The Cat’s Meow looked better and felt safer than ever. We were ready to head for the mainland; at the same time, it was somewhat sad to be leaving La Paz and the Baja, so many friends we had spent great times with, and places we knew. Our good friend Pat has her birthday in late January, and we could not leave La Paz before we helped her celebrate. So, we worked on last minute projects, provisioned to the hilt, and finally, we were ready to go. 
  Sunset during the crossing from La Paz to Mazatlan 
February 3rd, after saying our good-byes to friends on the dock, we began our crossing to Mazatlan. La Paz is on the Baja peninsula; Mazatlan is on the mainland of Mexico, on the other side and to the south of the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California). We had waited a few extra days for a good “weather window”, and we had timed it well. Our thirty-two hour crossing was during a period of flat, calm water and virtually no wind. Just the way we like it! We saw only three other boats during the entire crossing, and all at the same time, and they were all large freighters — easy to spot on radar. It was actually a boring ride, and that ain’t bad!!  
                                                                                                                                                      . .. and sunrise   
The Cat’s Meow did splendidly during the entire voyage, purring along happily, and she used only half of the fuel we expected to burn! Martin did adjust a few things during the first part of the trip — he was in the engine room, raising the engine in order to align the shaft — but all in all, she did very well, and this was a good test of the engine and the boat. We are very proud of her! 
A note here about weather windows: when we first arrived in Mexico, a mere seven years ago, getting good weather information was nearly impossible. Checking with the single side-band (SSB) nets, one might be able to find out what the weather had been the day before and what it was like at the moment…but no forecasting/guesstimation was forthcoming. It was difficult to know if one would be in the middle of a blow or not, within a day or less. The Cat’s Meow was caught more than once, during a passage, in the middle of a very bad blow, because it was so difficult to get good weather information. That is NOT fun. About four years ago, things began to change as more boaters had access to weather information via the internet. At about the same time, an ex-sailor by the name of Don, formerly of the sailboat Summer Passage, began gathering comprehensive weather information regarding the Mexican waters and making it available to boaters via the SSB nets. What a huge difference this was to all of us cruisers!! Now there are a few other people doing the same type of information gathering and sharing, and there are decent internet sites. Being able to plan whether to “go” or “stay” has become much easier for the cruiser. We thank everyone who has made this possible. 
So…with a great weather window and a great boat, we arrived in Mazatlan during the middle of the afternoon on February 4th.   
One of the first things we did was to contact friends we had not seen in a long while. We enjoyed dining at (Overheated) Rita & Darrell’s new condo overlooking the marina, hooking up with Billie & Ted on Siempre Sabado, finding Sue & Alex (Maitairoa) on the next dock, spending an evening with John of Chez Moi and his sister-in-law Sandra, and meeting new folks as well. It was great to be back in Maz. The marina and surrounding area have changed greatly since we were there during the winter of 2003-04. Three condo buildings look down upon the marina, and there is now a small Singlar marina (identical to the ones in Puerto Escondido & La Paz). The marina office is new, and there is a coffee/sandwich shop and small tiendas (like 7-Elevens), a boat brokerage and of course plans for more stuff, all along the marina walkway. Construction is going on all over the adjoining areas, hoping and planning for the gringo dollar. The skyline is full of high rises, hotels and resorts, along the expansive beaches to the north of the marinas. 
                                                                                                                   The Cat's Meow at Marina Mazatlan 
We were glad to see that the veggie truck still brings fresh fruits & vegetables to the marina, and now there is also a “shrimp man”. There are a number of activities going on in the marina, such as Sunday bike rides, exercise classes, Spanish classes, and special events like traditional dances & other performances. A few days after our arrival, the Chinese New Year was celebrated with a Chinese potluck at the very nice, spacious cruiser’s lounge.  
Our arrival coincided with the Carnival celebration (Mardi Gras), which is a “big deal” in this city. It is a week-long party, with coronations of quite a few queens and kings; a “re-enactment”, using fireworks out over the bay, of a famous battle between the French and the people of Mazatlan; the hanging of Bad Humor; vendors selling all types of games, food, confetti, and “stuff”; and parades. The first night we were in the port, Billie & Ted took us out to see the firework “battle” re-enactment. It was quite spectacular, with some awesome explosions and colors.    
Fireworks of the "battle" during Carnival, Mazatlan (photo by Billie of Siempre Sabado) 
Our second day, we picked-up our Aerostar van, which had arrived ahead of us via the Baja Ferry, parked it, and walked for miles to the parade route. We waited for hours for the 4 p.m. parade to start at about 7 p.m. (….you’d think we would know by now….). It was worth the wait. The gowns and the floats are quite large and spectacular. Music and dancing is always part of the parades. The people watching was probably equally as fun, too. 
Two video clips are attached with these photos. If your computer has a video player, be sure to have your volume on.   You may need to install Active X, as well. 
      A Carnival queen float                                 Look at that gown!                                      
                                                            A "little queen" on her float                                                                                                            One of many fun floats 
Enjoy this video clip of some dancers on a float - it is a little dark; you might try to increase the brightness on your media player. Remember to turn your volume on... 
    Video: Carnival dancers float 
We are also glad to discover that Mazatlan itself has not changed much. Mazatlan is an old city, an important port on the Pacific side of Mexico, the home of a large brewery, the site of one of the largest Carnival celebrations, and home to burgeoning tourism. While it is not quite in the tropics, it enjoys warmer weather than La Paz. Siempre Sabado Billie was a great companion for Robin to walk around Mazatlan and explore. They had a couple of great fun days, walking their a**es off and enjoying some of the typical Mexican city life. Here, you can eat a full plate of good fresh food plus a tasty drink for under $5US. Nice!! And funnn!!  
                                                                                                    Billie's $3 lunch - an entire fish, plus 
One Sunday, Billie & Ted, Robin & Martin took the bus to the nearby village of Juarez. On Sundays, practically the entire village becomes a market, with everything from underwear to washing machines being sold, and mostly on the streets. We each managed to find something(s) we could not live without, and had a great inexpensive meal after walking the village market. It was a fun day!  
                 Robin buys yummie gummie bears                                                                    Fresh tortillas, hot off the press                                                           Is Martin looking for some sexy undies?               
Please check-out the link, on the page for 2008, for some other Mazatlan photos taken by Billie. 
As mentioned before, Robin needed to have sutures removed a short while after arriving in Mazatlan. Asking on the morning cruiser’s net for a nurse or someone who could assist, a response was immediate from Mandy, living with her husband Don (and two cute dogs) in one of the condos — in fact, next door to our friends Rita & Darrell!! Mandy (a nurse) was a super help with the suture removal and care afterward. She and Don have become new fast friends, and we were able to enjoy our last night in Mazatlan having a tasty dinner at their condo, while we all watched the total eclipse of the moon from their balcony. 
After 15 days, it was time to leave Mazatlan and head south. We had enjoyed our stay a lot, but now it was time to leave and get to do some real cruisin’  
                                    TCM leaving Marina Mazatlan (photo by Alex on Maitairoa) 
Early in the morning of February 21st, we bolted down the narrow channel, along with about a dozen faster fishing boats and pangas — it was a race we didn’t plan on joining! Martin had quite a time keeping TCM heading straight, with all the wakes and current, but we hit the narrow opening to the bay and scooted out at eleven knots! Wooohooo, that is FAST for TCM!! And we kept up that speed for about an hour before we slowed down to ten knots! Wow, we were cookin’! The Cat’s Meow was purring right along, everything worked well, so we kept the speed up in order to arrive at Isla Isabella before dark, about 90 nautical miles from Mazatlan. Again, we had good seas and little wind all the way.  
Isla Isabella is not one of our favorite places to anchor, as it is very rocky and deep quite near the shore. After driving around the anchorage looking for a good place to put the hook down, we finally anchored in 70 feet of water!! Yikes, that is deeeep!! But, we were “stuck”, and rode out the night with no problems. Just after anchoring, we could see some whales breeching, crashing down into the water making huge splashes, just outside of the anchorage! 
The next morning we took off for the San Blas area, about 50 miles to the east, back on the mainland. There, the huge wide bay is very shallow — about 50’ deep miles out from shore, and 15-20’ deep in the anchorage. Since we were carrying a solar panel to some people who were waiting for it in Puerto Vallarta, we did not stay and visit the quaint village of San Blas…. next time there, we will. 
Saturday, the 23rd, found us in rolly seas headed south to the Pto. Vallarta area. Although it was quite rolly and we were getting hit broadside at times, TCM had no problems and we motored right along at about 8 or 8.5 knots. This part of the ocean was full of sea turtles and whales!! We saw at least a dozen whales, blowing and sounding, all across our path. The sea turtles mostly seemed to be floating on top of the surface, and would only dive when we were quite close to them. Dolphins also loved swimming and jumping in our bow and stern wakes — it was a very fun day with all of that sea life all around!  
Here is a video clip - not real good, but the best Robin could get with the boat moving all around in the seas.  
  Video: whales  
We spent one night anchored at Punta de Mita, the southern point to Bahia de Banderas, a beautiful large bay protecting Puerto Vallarta and some villages along the shoreline. Since we were in this area the last time, five years ago, there has been much development all along the coastline. Resorts, condos, and huge homes have been built, taking advantage of the view…..and of the gringo dollar. We have mixed emotions, seeing this type of fast development, wishing the local people a better economy, but not wanting to see them pushed out of their very own land. It is a quandary.  
The Cat’s Meow has been bobbing in the swells that come into the anchorage at La Cruz, which is about 10 miles east of the Punta de Mita anchorage, closer to PV. We know we are in the tropics again, with the warm humid air and all the beautiful vegetation everywhere we look. We put the dinghy down (we carried it up on top of the lanai room since leaving La Paz) and have enjoyed walking around the village of La Cruz and taking the bus into Puerto Vallarta. A large new marina is being built here, in La Cruz, which again does provide the local people with jobs and brings in tourist dollars, but also threatens to wipe-out the quaint-ness of the village and the village life itself. We were pleased to find that so far, not much of the village has changed, at least physically. We are glad we have a chance to see it all, at least one more time. Puerto Vallarta is a bustling city, full of tourists and tourist attractions, some wonderful shops and restaurants, and lots of natural beauty. While Martin located some places to get mechanical stuff for TCM, Robin headed for the “old town” and enjoyed a coffee drink while people-watching. 
                                                                                                        The iglesia (church) in downtown Puerto Vallarta   
One day, we took the bus to Nuevo Vallarta, which is not really a village or town, but is an area full of resorts — absolutely a “gringo village”! This is where Paradise Village is located, and The Cat’s Meow has been berthed here in year’s past. We first stopped by the marina office to say HOLA to Dick and Gina Markie, managers of the marina. Then we luxuriated for the next few hours at the splendid spa….. this was total and welcome decadence! Both of us felt completely relaxed and as if we had new skin when we emerged from the spa. It was Thursday, so we stopped at Philo’s restaurant & bar in downtown La Cruz for an evening of BBQ’d ribs and great music. The place was packed and all the “old geezers” were shakin’ their booty and having a WONDERFUL time!!  
That brings us to the end of February, this leap year. The Cat’s Meow is lookin’ good and feelin’ fine, and is ready to head south for some more cruisin’. Come on along…. Cruising  ~  The Cat’s Meow Style.