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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Ten Thousand Turtles Maybe More

Our 53 hour leg from Puerto Angel to Acapulco was filled with surprises. The biggest surprise was finding a large section of ocean filled with billions of jellyfish egg sacks and thousands of turtles floating nearby. Like a prehistoric scene these old reptiles were snacking on these ancient invertebrates. Well, actually the turtles seemed to all be sleeping and the jelly fish, they just sort of floated there too. It wasn't until our little boat started weaving in and out of this crowd that things got lively.

The groggy turtles would awake with a start to find themselves staring at a sailboat. With reptile like brilliance they responded with a variety of undignified moves, usually accomplishing little more than making splashes.

We have never seen so many turtles ever. They made a mile long road block of the ocean. Fortunately for us the sea was in a rare mood and was still and clear -- great for taking some photos. Here's a video compilation:

There were also a large variety of dolphins who performed leaps for us, some massive manta rays doing flips and jumps in the air. We even saw some pilot whales.

It wasn't all fun and games, however, as the second night spanked us. For about 12 hours we had unusually strong headwinds which built up into a nasty chop on top of the swell and funky steep current waves. It wasn't until the early morning hours that the winds backed off enough for our speed to "soar" over 3 knots - did I mention the adverse current? Needless to say, we are beat and the boat is covered with salt spray.

Now we are anchored in Bahia Marques just south of the main Acapulco bay. It is quieter here and has a lot less water traffic. A good night's sleep will definitely clear the fog out of our heads and help us forget the headwinds.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Chepil Singularity

One of the great glories of Huatulco has been the corn tamales (tamales de elote). They used to be everywhere. Old women would walk the streets of the town with large baskets of them on their heads selling them for 3 for 10 pesos (about $0.80).

Three years ago we had our favorite old lady we would buy from and they were to die for. Die! Time and progress has intervened. Our vendor has faded into obscurity and no one wants just a plain corn tamal anymore. Now all the tamales are filled with crap like chicken, shrimp, pineapple, strawberries, cheese.

Trying to find a plain corn tamal was futile. I went to the one official "tamaleria" (tamale store) and demanded tamales de elote. A woman at a nearby table overheard me and shouted out, "Hey he's pure Mexican! Where are the tamales de elote?! Hahaha!"

So we continued our search. Where are the old ladies? What's happening to this place? It turns out there is a specific "Tamal Time Slot" when vendors roam the streets selling tamales. It varies depending on whom you ask, but the general idea is 10am to 11am then again at 5pm to 6pm. By chance we were in town at 11am one day and found a bicycle cart vendor selling his Tamales! Joy! Tamales de Elote here we come. No go. He has stuffed his tamales full of all kinds of animal products or cheese. Crap! What's a vegan got to do these days for some real food?

He stood there looking confused, probably thinking, "How could these gueros not want chicken? Everybody wants chicken." So we gave him the meat, no animal, no chicken, no fish, no shrimp, no cheese, no lard. What on Earth happened to the classic elote? He smiled and said something incomprehensible. It sounded like Tamales de Chepil.

We looked at each other. We know lots and lots of Spanish words, but he blew us away with that one. So we verified this Chepil wasn't an animal or some odd cheese product and he pulled one out and unwraped it. Sure enough. Green, leafy. Definitely plant like.

The flavor! Oh my! Chepil is a small leafy herb that has a light flavor that I found was a bit like spinach. The tamales were fantastic! We ate 4 of them. While not quite as good as elote, but we were hooked.

Today we decided for one last splurge. We rowed into the beach. Walked into town and proceeded to comb the streets for Tamales de Chepil. Nothing. Nada. We checked the time, hmmm after 11am. Damn. The tamales had evaporated into the void.

Sigh. So to make up for our disappointment we decided to one up the splurge from 4 tamales for 20 pesos to a full on lunch at the only vegetarian cafe in town (For those coming to visit Huatulco go behind the Super Che and you'll see a hotel with VEGETARIANO in neon). The chef there makes his own breads and he has talent! This place is priced right so for 107 pesos we had an all homemade veggie burger and curry vegetables (not traditional curry vegetables but still tasty).

I still want to know why everyone is too hip for tamales de elote.... And how do I get some more Tamales de Chepil?!

(FYI - some tamales are made with lard, others are cheaper and go with vegetable shortening--go cheap. Also in Spanish tamal is singular for English word tamale.)

Out of the dusty marina

Sometimes trying to leave is harder than actually leaving. Things break, engines die, fuel filters get clogged. Well this time none of that happened but it was still tough to leave.

The dredge decided to tie off for the night. So they ran a rope across our channel way to the other side of the marina. In effect they had trapped us. We walked down there and called out to them that we wanted to leave. "No. It's closed!" was their answer. Great, how hard is it to move some floating rope out of the way? After some back and forth they decided they would "open" it for us. Great! We'll be back with the boat.

We squeaked out around their equipment and pilings for our long voyage to Bahia Santa Cruz (0.3 miles away). Although we were ready to leave, the boat isn't quite ready. There's the bottom to clean, the top to clean, the sides to clean, the insides to clean. Where did all this dust come from I wonder. We also have to test out a few systems that are kind of important like the sails. We just couldn't bring ourselves to raise them in the dust filled marina.

Ah but now we are back on anchor! The cat is free to roam the decks! And the water and air are clear again!

{GMST}15|45.185|N|096|07.663|W|Back again and happy to be here|Santa Cruz Ancorage{GEND}

Monday, November 22, 2010

Let there be warm white light

LEDs are problematic when it comes to using them inside. The color is often a bit harsh and the light can be very focused. They are very tough however and work for years until something corrodes on them. Traditionally pre-packaged solutions are way over priced and replacement solutions are marginal with brightness and color. So we've been waiting for something good to come along.

While we were in Seattle we played around with a large light display in Fisheries Supply. One of the lights really caught our attention was the Imta's design (IMT ILSPG4-10W) with 10 LEDs, a linear current controller and a claim to be "warm white". The color of the light was nice on the display and it seemed bright in the store, so we bought one. Paying $20 for 10 LEDs with a PCB and a controller seemed like an ok price, even if the parts run about $5. It looks like this:

Fast forward months later back on the boat where I had forgotten about it until I was digging around in the bag with engine parts and found it. So we pulled the socket out of one of our lights and wired it in place with solder and some heat shrink.

Oh wow. When we turned it on I almost blinded myself and the color is very similar to nice incandescent glow. The best part is it doesn't get hot and only uses about 0.2 amps. Now I wished I had sprung for a few more. As long as it holds up in the marine environment I'd say we've finally found a winner.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Glory of Marina Chahue

Well, here we are and change is ever present. The marina recently changed owners from one government tourism branch to a port authority branch. Good old mexican tax dollars seem to be pouring in because they are building like mad. Unfortunately we are right in the middle of it and covered with dirt. Notice the large rock pile at the top of our ramp. And since we are in the cheap area there is no running water or power for cleaning up. Oh the glory of it all.

Just to add to the image. This photo shows our walk to the civilized section of the marina where there is power, water and wifi internet. That dirt is the fine powered kind that turns into muck in the rainy season and choking brown fog during the dry season. The rock piles come and go via dump truck and backhoe and you can imagine the clouds of dirt that engulf our boat. The small building in the background used to be the old marina office, but now it has become the computer room for the people who can't get wifi on the boat (the canal dwellers like us), but bring something to sit on. It is also the shower room (outdoor showers) and the public bathroom.

They have added two new finger piers in a void that many years ago I tried unsuccessfully to talk the harbor master into letting us anchor in (imagine the cost savings...haha). The have also completely reinforced the sea wall all around the marina. And they build a "mega yacht" area that consists of a long concrete wall with no floating ties. I don't know anyone with a mega yacht, but I doubt they are going to tie to a concrete wall (with black rubber strips) that they are going to rub against in the serge and rise and fall of the tides.

Here's a better shot of the long wall on the far side for the richies. They installed a gate and a fence to keep the public away from the money people. I wonder how the tax payers feel about paying for that?

What else can I say? Oh, they have also been dredging the entrance and the area along the mega-yacht wall. So if you're headed here, keep an eye out for the added obstacles in the middle of the channel entrance. I don't think it is lit at night either. The sunlight was bad for this photo, but in it they have ropes and floats blocking the right side and they've added temporary pilings in the middle of the channel to assist in the dredging work.

Of course I'm a bit negative because we are ready to get going. This is a very pretty area and we have beautiful egrets, white herons, and several cool birds I don't recognize around us. The town is fantastic and the people are all friendly and quick to chat up a conversation or provide directions to some obscure shop that has just the thing we need.

It's a fun town and the marina rates in our cheap area have been good despite the extra challenges. (FYI--If you choose to stay in the cheap area, they have upped the short-term rates to prevent people from doing a quick in and out.)

This being the only the second dock we have been at in 3 years we don't have much of a recent comparison. It certainly was good for Sarana (and many other boats) during the hurricane season. However the perpetual travelers in us are itching to go again.

Monday, November 15, 2010

New RSS/Atom Feed Pages

If you are reading this blog with a feed reader (and there seems to be a lot of you doing this) then you'll need to update your links.

I've written my own tool for generating RSS and ATOM feeds because I didn't like's. Now all the links will be correct and I've removed some of the non-compliant stuff so maybe it will work better. If you see any problems please let me know because I don't really read my own site :)

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Back on the Boat

After what seemed like an eternity, we finally made it back to the boat. You might wonder what took us so long to post something about it since we've been back at the boat for about 10 days now. As you can imagine we had a lot of dirt and mold to clean up and piles of “stuff” from the RV to sort out. Then once the space was livable again we started fixing things that were broken, cleaning and filling the water tanks and taking care of the engines.

Despite the serious construction going on around us in the canal things seem quiet and relaxed. The humidity has spiked and backed down again to the point where we have to use blankets at night (i.e. less than 70F).

We still have a few serious issues on the boat to fix before we can get back on the water, but just being back here with our simpler lives with no car and no television or obnoxious news is revitalizing. The cats literally collapsed in happiness when they returned. Jordan saw the boat and struggled out of my arms to leap on board. In fact Jordan probably can best describe how we felt without using any words:

Day of the DEAD

We've spent about a week now working on the boat and replacing parts that mysteriously broke in strange ways. There's been more steps forward than backwards so far and we're hopeful to get back out on the water by the end of the month.

In the meantime Sherrell had the opportunity to experience the Day of the Dead (Nov 2) in classic Oaxaca style. Several cruisers who have been in this area for a while have learned about a small town nearby called Santa Maria de Huatulco which has large chaotic graveyard. Any other description besides chaotic wouldn't fit this place. Graves are haphazardly placed forcing visitors to twist, wind and step on many sites just to try to pass through the yard. Some were elaborate and some were just piles of dirt.

The Day of the Dead is a day to celebrate the lives of the dead and not necessarily their death. Family and friends come from all over to gather, have some food and light some candles. Often graves are elaborately decorated. Everyone hangs out at the grave surrounded by marigolds, candles, and other ornaments and talk about all the good times they had together. To elevate the festive atmosphere there was even a wondering Mariachi band willing to play on demand for a little coin.