Thursday, March 17, 2011

Día de San Patricio

Hola, Leo joined us here last night just in time for the St. Patricks day celebration in Melaque.  OMG, it was the most amazing fireworks demonstration and fiesta I have seen in Mexico.  We would NEVER, NEVER, EVER see anything like this in the USA.

Festivities began this week with the Fiesta del Torros which included rodeo events, bullfights, carnival, parades, blessing of the fishing fleet, folk dances, boxing matches, and nightly fireworks.

The town which I refer to as Melaque, is actually three towns seamlessly joined together: Melaque, Villa Obregón, and San Patricio. St. Patrick is the patron saint of San Patricio as in many other towns in Mexico. They all have a Saint Patrick's Day celebration but perhaps the biggest celebration is the Melaque, Jalisco, March 17 celebration which is the one event we went attended.

We took the bus over to Melaque from Barre de Navidid around 6:30 PM in the evening.  The fiesta was in the town square.  We wandered around and marveled at all the food stands selling taco, crepes, pancakes, hot dogs, hamburgers and finally decided on a taco stand that had a table, real fine dining. 

After eating our tacos, which all had very elaborate names like a volcano, a gringa, etc., we shuffled off towards the bull ring to watch the dancing horses and the bull riders.  On our way there we went by the church which was still having a service that was now including 3 troops of native dancers in the aisles of the church.  I couldn't help but poke my nose in an have a look, very fascinating. 

Just outside the church they had erected the "Castillo" which was a free standing fireworks display.  You could smell the ingredients of the fireworks, it looked very explosive indeed.  There was one small circle of caution tape around it with two fire extinguishers.  This was to be set off around 11:00 PM.  I noted that there was not a bombadero (firefighter) in site, not even a truck.  I guess if something were to go wrong it would just be part of the show.

We continued down to the bullring and enjoyed a show of 2 dancing horses and the blessing of the bull riders.  From our seats you could hear the 12 piece live band loud and clear!  As we sat in our seats we experienced another only in Mexico! a vendor coming by our seats offering 10 peso aqave shots.  We watched several bull riders (no hands) in the ring.  One of the bull riders fell off and was trampled by the bull.  It actually looked like he was injured pretty bad.  The ambulance came into the ring.  It was an old pick up truck with flashing lights.  The driver/medic only had one leg but managed to move rapidly.  They tossed the bull rider into the back of the pickup and took off.  I'm figuring if he wasn't hurt by the bull that the truck ride to the hospital would certainly finish him off.  On that note we decided to go pick a place to view the fireworks show.
We had heard you didn't want to be too close to the castillo so we found a spot in the square and waited for the fireworks to begin.  We didn't have to wait too long, a guy just walking through the crowd let off huge bottle rockets with his cigarette!  It was as loud as a shot gun and the crowd moved like a wave.  Then the castillo ignited.  The castillo is a very, very tall structure with several pinwheels attached.  They started at the lower pin wheel.  I can't even imagine why people where standing so close.  The castillo launches fireworks out into the square and up into the sky at all levels.  The crowd just goes wild trying to avoid the hot fireworks.  Inside each pinwheel was a spinning figure of some sort having to do with the festival.  Where we stood way in the back we were still ducking and jumping to avoid the fireworks.  The show seemed to go on for a very long time.  It really gets your heart pumping as you are wondering about crowd control, what crowd control!  The top of the castillo finally ignited with even more gusto then any of the pinwheels.  It was a little difficult to watch the whole show as I was avoiding hot piercing fireworks and trying not to get trampled but it was spectacular!  The finale was a hot molten sign that said "fini" was launched into the crowd and landed on a tree and caught fire. 

So we were thinking, ok, shows over the same guy who had started the show with the bottle rockets lit off several mortar rounds.  I didn't even see the guy set them up but we where so close I could feel the concussion.  I never even looked up at the fireworks cause I was too busy looking at the mortars that looked like they had misfired and exploded on the ground.  Just after that little show a guys starts running through the crowd with a fireworks shooting rig in the shape of a bull.  He ran through the crowd, leaving NO ONE out and aimed the rig and shot off fireworks intentionally right at people.  It was absolutely nuts!  This was a pretty big square and it was packed with people and I think I actually had eye contact with this guy at least 3 times!  We had been trying to stay together as a group but at this point it was every man for himself.  I ran into Kathy and Leo behind a small box truck trying to duck out of the guys aim only to see Kathy get pinned in between the truck and a motorcycle.  It was crazy, crazy!  When Kathy came out from behind the motor cycle we chatted and decided we thought we both we our pants on that one!
We tried to regroup where we all had been watching the show and let the guys know Kathy and I had to go find a bathroom.  We walked around for a very long time trying to find a bano that did not have a huge line.  We never did find one and I won't go into any details about that.  What we did find was a carnival, Mexican style.  I'm telling you it was like a dream, only we were walking through it.  The carnival was pretty typical with the carni rides and amusement booths.  At one booth they where playing a bingo game for kitchen plastics.  It appeared to be a family oriented right up until we came to the full bar booth complete with "titty" drinking cups, "Call" drinks at a carnival.
Kathy and I spent the next 30 minutes looking for our group in the crowd so we could go back to Barre de Navidad.  When we finally did find our group they where all sharing their version of how they managed during the show.  Most everyone had black soot somewhere on themselves.  The buses had all stopped so we went in search of a few taxi cabs.  I think we were finally tucked back in our bunks by 2:00 am. what a night.
We are renting a car tomorrow (Saturday) and driving down to Zihutanejo to take Clark to the airport and drop Leo off on his next crew position about SV Precious Metal.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Isle Grande

We are now on our way North back up into the sea.  We stopped here to snorkel and enjoy this small island paradise.  There is a Club Med over on the main shoreline,  so I guess this is one of those places you might see in a brochure.  Soft white sand beaches accentuate the island's shore along with a host of colorful palapa restaurants serving cold adulto beverages and fresh seafood.  That's where lunch is today anyway!

Our next stop, after an all night sail is Las Hadas in Bahia de Manzanillo.  We will meet up again with Leo, our crew since last November in Las Hadas.  Leo has been in Guadalajara picking up his new passport and ATM card.  We will also met up with our buddy boat SV Blue Dolphin.

We will take a little road trip back to Zihuatanejo to drop Clark off at the airport and send Leo South on board SV Precious Metal.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

International Guitar Festival 2011 in Zihuatanejo

Enjoying the music of guitar fest 2011
Eric McFadden and Omar Torrez jamming at Paccolos or

We were in the right place at the right time to catch this years International Guitar Festival 2011 in Zihuatanejo.  Amazing! Outstanding! are just a few words I can think of the say about the festival.  It was very well put together and the price was right.  The cost to attend a session was 100 pesos, plus your dinner and drinks.  The venues all held varying amounts of people.  We went to two shows a Paccolos with SV Zeppelin and there where only about 60 other people there. 

The opening concert was held in Ixtapa, Plaza Ixpamar the cost was $500 pesos with dinner and all you can drink.  We did not attend however I heard it turned out to be a very nice evening.

We did attend the closing concert on March 12 at the Zihuatanejo Centro.  The cost was $250 pesos plus dinner, drinks and a taxi ride. Total for the evening was about $360 pesos per person. This was probably the highlight for us.  It was a jam session that included all the artist that performed at the festival.  Wow, you would never no these people only just met this week.  The talent up there on the stage was staggering.  My hats off the the women artist!  They BELTED out the song lyrics and played those guitars with all their hearts.  I couldn't say I had a favorite as they all had such different styles.  They were all wonderful.
Adrian Raso & Nick Johnston the Canadian contingent

Friday, March 11, 2011


Our morning started out at approx. 5:45 am with a phone call from our friend Ernesto in Mazatlan.  He wanted to give us a heads up.  The tsunami event happened here in Zihuatanejo at about 4:00 pm.  We had moved the boat over to Las Gatas beach area and anchored in 40 feet of water, we had been anchored in about 15ft. near the pier in town.  The port was closed and a big red flag was flying at the end of the pier.  The bay was usually quiet all day long.  Typically there are boats, parasailers etc., buzzing around the bay.  We spent most of the day anchored at Las Gatas beach waiting for an event that was predicted at approx. 1:00/2:00 PM...., A guy in a panga boat came out and invited us over to a restaurant but we declined not really wanting to leave the boat.

Finally at about 4:00 pm I said I thought we should head back over to the anchorage since we have tickets for tonight's guitar fest.  We hoisted anchor and headed back to the main anchorage and the bay proceeded to empty.... the level went from about 20.5 to 10.5 FEET in about 10 min. It was all very exciting.  There is a small natural breakwater just off Las Gatas beach and Doug said he was looking at it and thinking he could see a lot more of it then usual, but was already concentrating on moving the boat.  He headed towards the anchorage.  The water in the bay became very violent with lot's of conflicting currents and waves.  Upon getting closer the the anchorage they noticed that a disabled sailboat here in the anchorage (Blythe Spirit) was already beached on it's side, since all the water resided past it.  It went back and forth in the waves but held anchors (bow and stern).   All the other sailboats at anchor were dancing around on their anchors as we were moving around looking for a spot to anchor.  The water literally rushed out like someone pulled a plug in the bay then swooshed back in.  The small river near the pier looked like the Truckee River in Tahoe.  In the river was washing a ton of debris being into the bay.
Doug was at the helm, Clark was on the anchor and me, well I was below resting after having made breakfast, lunch, bread, did dishes, washed the deck....., they said they called me up to have a look but they guess I didn't here them.  When they finally got the boat anchored and turned off the engine I popped my head up and they said wow that was freaking amazing!  I was like what?  Oh you missed it.
Well it turned out I only missed the first wave.  There were many, many more wave events.

Over at Las Gatas beach a panga boat sunk, there were kids in the water having fun at first then very scared, water up to the palapa tables,  The water went out then back in within just a few minutes.  The panga driver who had come out to ask us if we wanted to go to shore for lunch was on the radio saying you are on your own, I'm heading to high ground!  The folks from SV Precious Metal were on shore over at Las Gatas having a cooking class at the restaurant.  They dropped everything and started grabbing kids, helping with the pangas.  They said it all happened so fast.  One minute they were enjoying the food from the cooking class then all hell broke loose.  They eventually got into their dinghy and headed back over to their boat in the anchorage.

All in all everyone faired very well, the waves continued well past midnight in the anchorage.  We took a water taxi into the guitar fest and only stayed on shore for the performance then hailed a fellow cruiser to come get us from the pier.  At 11:00 pm the water was still rising at the pier well over the walkway then residing below the walk in the course of 3 to 5 min. intervals.  We had to dodge our way through a debris field to get back to the boat in the darkness.  I stayed up on anchor watch until about 1:30 am when I felt that everything had seem to fall into a calm pattern.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

We have company!

Clark Hemphill, Doug's cousin from Napa, California where the temperatures where in the 40's the morning he left.
Surf's up
This is as far South along the Pacific Mexico coast as we will go this season.
I have to take everyone on a Mexican bus ride!  That's just part of the tour.  Yes, the guy with the guitar was singing his heart out.
Clark is one of our original crew members from the 2009 Baja Ha Ha.
Crocodile warning

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Lunch in las Gatas, Zihuatanejo

We had an invitation from Noyo and SV Precious Metal to join them and SV Sea Turtle over at las Gatas beach for the day to sample some fresh tuna dishes.  The chef made 3 or 4 dishes that were outstanding.  My favorite was desert!
las Gatas Beach, natural breakwater in the back ground
This beach is only accessible by small boat.  During the tsunami that occurred on March 11 the water level dropped beyond the breakwater, then came back in past where the tables, chairs and umbrellas were at an alarming rate.  The water level dropped by over 10 feet in 5 to 8 minutes.

Shopping in Zihuatanejo

The seafood section
Pan or Bread at the street market.
The shopping mall, Mexican style.  This is not really the tourist zone
The fruit and vegetable stall
The meat section
Zapatos or shoe section
Dry goods
Gift section
Shopping in the Mercado in Zihuatanejo is a must do if you are ever in town.  It is huge!  There is the indoor area, an outdoor area on Mango Street and every inch of real estate on the surrounding streets.  It literally takes up whole blocks.  It is quite an adventure to provision the boat here.  I did go up to the Comericial Mexicana (Mega) and was not very impressed with it at all.  A good place to buy wine is at the MERZA on Mango Street.  They have a nice wine selection, the more you buy the cheaper it is by the bottle.  When I'm provisioning the boat I like to go have a look see at what is available first and shop on another day so I have more of a game plan to get the provisions back to the boat.  Just try and carry the contents of your Safeway shopping cart more than a mile, then pack it into a dinghy on a shore where there is surf!