Friday, December 12, 2008

Spaghetti Sunrise

In life, especially in life on a sailboat, especially in life on a sailboat in Mexico, one has to learn to expect the unexpected. When life gives you lemons, as they say - or in this case, limes - bust out the tequila and salt and make margaritas. When we embarked on this voyage we were expecting to sail from Los Angeles all the way down to San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua. Well, as fate or luck or Neptune would have it, we hit a bump in the road that unfortunately will prevent the Jackson contingent of the Gypsy crew from making it all the way to Nicaragua - this time. The formidable Gulf of Tehuantepec and its powerful winds from the North - called Tehuantepeckers (spelling subject to debate) - left us tied up at the dock for two weeks waiting for a weather window safe enough to sail across. Fortunately the place we got stuck was Southern Mexico, where the tequila (and mezcal) are plentiful. Margaritas all around!

Chad and I weren´t really expecting much other than some cold beer and margs when we pulled into Acapulco. Sometimes it´s good to set expectations low. Acapulco delivered on the drinks and not a whole lot else other than this sweet night time vista of the harbor with city lights in the background.

Oh it also delivered on VW Bugs. So much so that Justin did a jig.

Our next stop, and the location of our Thanksgiving feast, was Puerto Escondido, known to surfers everywhere as the Mexican Pipeline for it´s monster waves. Our arrival in PE left us all a little wary of what we might encounter there. First off, it was easily the most difficult anchorage of the trip, risking running into dozens of pangas (Mexican water taxis/fishing boats) and flirting with a bottomless, anchor-eating trench. And second, the first person to greet us in town was none other than the local shark-wielding crackhead! This guy actually swam up to the boat after Justin had gone ashore to speak with the port captain. He came bearing the gift of a single flip flop and climbed right up into the cockpit, speaking crackhead sign language and then telling us that he was the port captain. ?!?! He then left and came back an hour or so later with a dead shark in his teeth. When we asked about the shark he muttered something about his daughter, and any time another boat passed by he would yell to them threatening to let the shark go if they didn´t turn off their engines. Needless to say, we were a little freaked out. I think the eight fingered hand here is some of Crackhead´s artwork.

The venue of our Thanksgiving Feast Part 1. Fresh fish and jumbo margs help to numb the pain of not devouring turkey on Turkey Day. I don´t remember where Part 2 took place.

The life of a sailor can be really be rough and sometimes it just hits you out of the blue. Like when you´re enjoying a beer on the beach, as it did here with Justin. Amazingly, he didn´t spill a drop over the course of an hour long nap!

Tortugitas booking for the safety of the Ocean. In Sayulita local guys would carry around puppy dogs to hit on gringo girls. In Puerto Escondido I´m pretty sure they carry around baby turtles.

The sail from Puerto Escondido to Huatulco was a quick one but nonetheless, awesome. Light breezes, perfect weather and dolphins all the way. Little did we know it was the last leg we´d sail together. DUH DUH DUH!!!! (scary music sound)

Eddie and his shadows. Just kidding, those are Justin´s and Chad´s shadows. Actually, that´s all that´s left of Justin and Chad.... their shadows. DUH DUH DUH!

Woops, maybe not. I guess they were just at the bar! When we got to Huatulco we realized how gnarly the Gulf of Tehuantepec can be. Up there with some of the most dangerous places in the world to sail when the weather´s wrong. So when we found out we´d be waiting in port for at least the next week for a good weather window we decided to take a little road trip to Oaxaca City. Oaxaca is the mezcal capital of Mexico and bars in the city will concoct speciality mezcal cocktails. The most renowned of these bars (by those in this photo, anyway) is the Casa de Mezal. This guy wearing the Colorado Rockies jacket was already a few deep when we showed up and when he found out we were from the States he got really excited. So much so that he called his brother who lives Stateside and passed the phone around for each of us to talk to him. Then he showed us his muscular calves. He was excited.

Rumor has it that these guys´moms love poinsettas. These guys´moms would love the plaza in Oaxaca. As you can see, poinsettas grow on trees here.

Just outside Oaxaca are the Olmec and Zapotec ruins of Monte Alban. They are neat. They are also the perfect place for handstand competitions!

Chad needed study the hieroglyphs on the walls of Monte Alban´s temples for only minutes before he was able to perform this extremely accurate reenactment of the Olmec fertility dance. Impressive.

Look carefully at the sign. Chad showing complete disregard for law and order, and walking etiquette.

They were little people back then. Or Chad is a very large people now.

¨Seriously, Chad was this much bigger than that boney dude!¨

These guys towered over us all. Not sure what they´re all about, but they stood outside a great cooperative for local handicrafts. Oaxaca is a mecca for all things artisinal in Mexico.

One of the many finds in the Oaxacan markets. Watch out Jackson, shaggy hats comin´at ya this winter!

This was a while ago, but I don´t think I ever mentioned that I got a floppy hat. And it is sweet.

That´s the aptly dubbed House of Smoking Meats in the background. The sight of the Gypsy crew´s last meal together. This place is great. It is a gauntlet of vendors selling all kinds of grilled meat from pork and beef to blood sausage and chorizo. You find your favorite vendor, pick out the meat and then take a seat at some communal picknick tables where you then select the veggies you want and pick up some tortillas from a different vendor. Might sound complicated, but it´s blast, and the end result is scrumptulescence.

Our House of Smoking Meats meal. We ate it all.

¨Seriously, the skeleton guy at Monte Alban was only like this big!¨
Just kidding. This is how you say ¨push the shutter button¨ to someone who doesn´t know what a shutter button is.

Oaxaca put on a fireworks show for us every night we were in town. Very thoughtful of them. I think it´s because we´re special.

We had to say goodbye to Chad in Oaxaca. It was a sad day, but when duty calls there´s not much you can do, especially when you´re betting against something as fickle as mother nature and those damn Tehuantepeckers. So Justin and I headed back to Huatulco to rejoin Gypsy and wait out the weather until it looked like we could safely sail. We thought it would be just a couple of days later, and we even attempted to go for it, but when the captain of a 42 foot motor yacht who has apparently crossed the Gulf more than anyone told us he got 8 miles out and it was too rough, we payed attention and turned around. Then we went to the beach. Like I said, when life gives you limes...

We ended up being stuck in Huatulco for so long that we became veritable regulars at our favorite bar in town, the Tipsy Blowfish. During our first visit to the Blowfish we met one of it´s owners, Cortney (pictured here with us alongside her dad, the co-owner), and proposed to her that we would drink enough margaritas for her to give us all free t-shirts. Well by the time we left town we had achieved our goal, although mine doesn´t have sleeves. I must have slacked.

That is mezcal con gusano. Yep, mezcal with a worm. And yup, I drank it. It was chewy.

It gets hot in southern Mexico, but fortunately during the second week of our stay in Huatulco we discovered that there is such a thing as a free pool club. It´s a lot cooler than a dock. We were also there so long that we started making friends with locals, like these two lovelies, Lucy and Lupe.

It was the moment we´d been waiting for for two weeks, but there was a twinge of sadness leaving Huatulco after staying so long. Great people and a great town, none of which we´ll forget.
But alas, time to move on. And that we did, with a new crew member. Welcome aboard Danielle! Danielle flew down to join us on a moment´s notice from Santa Barbara when she heard Justin´s cry for crew. Chad, we put it to a vote and decided that she looks better in a bikini than you do. But don´t feel bad, you´re still really good at fishing.

With time running out for the remaining Jackson crew, crossing the Gulf of Tehuantepec would unfortunately be as far as I could sail. But after such a long wait it felt pretty rewarding to finally slay the beast. And with a bountiful day´s worth of fishing we were able to cook up a fresh farewell feast of fish tacos.

All right, I lied. We never like to mislead our faithful followers, but in this case I had to. It just sounded too good: Spaghetti Sunrise. Nice right? But alas, it wasn't spaghetti, it was fusilli. You know, the curlicues. It´s amazing how hungry you´ll get while sailing at 6 a.m. just after putting down a mug of nuclear strength coffee - even with a belly full of fresh-caught fish tacos (the fish, not the tacos) from the night before. Sometimes the only thing to do is bust out some hearty leftovers and enjoy your last sunrise aboard Gypsy in style: accompanied by the birds and dolphins and a tupperware container full of fusilli (or spaghetti). A perfect moment in time; a Spaghetti Sunrise. Yum.

I guess a good thing never lasts. Even in Mexico. Especially in Mexico. It wasn´t much more than 12 hours later that we pulled into Puerto Madero, my final destination by boat, and were promptly boarded by the Mexican navy to check our paperwork. Unfortunately for us we hadn´t amended our paperwork from our first attempt to leave Huatulco, so technically we hadn´t been in Mexico for the last week. Oh and a third person magically appeared onboard. Oops. Puerto Madero is, to be blunt, a miserable little port town chalk full of tetanus, I mean rusty shrimping boats. Well several hours and muchos pesos later all was resolved and Gypsy and I went our separate ways.

With an unavoidable feeling of disappointment for having to cut things short, but a greater sense of pride for Gypsy and her crew having conquered a new challenge, I now pack my bags and head for home. Many thanks and good luck to all those who we´ve encountered along the way, especially to our captain and his ship, Justin and Gypsy - it´s been unforgetable. We may not have made it to Nicaragua but hey, the consolation prize ain´t bad; it´s snowing up north, and guess where I´m going. I´m going to Jackson...

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Friday, November 21, 2008

Home away from home

It´s a wildly exciting feeling to have the opportunity to both leave Cabo San Lucas (the $6 dollar beers left a slightly bitter taste in our mouths) and to sail 275 miles across the Sea of Cortez to meet up with some great friends from home in a sleepy little town in Mexico. Well, maybe sleepy´s not the appropriate adjective here. Sleep has never really been a big part of the gameplan in Jackson. I guess it should go without saying that the first R in R&R can´t be counted on when half of Jackson has been transplanted to Sayulita. Oh well, work hard (haha), play harder, right?
Our last view of Cabo, the famous rock arch, was a more than welcome sight when we finally shoved off.

Another strangely exciting feeling (emphasis on strange) is to be attacked by water balloon pirates in the middle of the ocean! Having not seen another boat for nearly a day and a half - almost 150 miles from the nearest shore - we were suddenly under enemy fire from fellow Haha-ers J-World. And we thought we were friends! Fortunately the dousing was a welcome relief from the heat, and their attempts to steal our women and our beer were futile - we had no women and our three beers were bordering on bathwater temperature. HA! That´ll teach you pirates to mess with the Gypsy Kings!

Hey hey! Remember these crazy kids? Matt and Katy from the Baja Haha were actually the first to greet us upon arrival in Sayulita. Cruising from Cabo on the Poobah´s luxury catamaran, they arrived a day or so ahead of us and were relaxing on the porch of their beachside bungalow when they saw Gypsy poking along into the bay. Must say it was a pleasant surprise to be greeted on the VHF by a familiar voice after a long sail to uncharted territory.

Ahhh, dry land. Time among good friends from home. Sayulita´s famous Tacos el Pastor. Can´t get much better than that, right? Oh wait, is that a bottle of tequila in your right hand, Eddie? What, this bottle? Tequila? In Mexico? Noooo. Well maybe, for better or for worse.

Deckhand Chad and a couple of our gracious hostesses, Amy and Katrina. Apparently our arrival in Sayulita was a much anticipated event, and as per usual we timed it perfectly. We got into to town on what was the last night in Mexico for several of the lovely Jackson ladies, so naturally had to celebrate both their departure and our arrival. And celebrate we did. Remember that bottle of tequila? Yeah, neither do we.

Don´t be scurred, Amy. Margaritas are your friends. See, Noni´s got the idea.

There´s no better way to burn off the fog of last night than catching a few breakfast waves before the rest of the beach bums wake up and paddle out. Seen here, real live surfer dudes and dudette.

Take that, wave!

Hey Eddie, which way to some killer waves? Oh, the waves are that way.

Amy. Shredding.

You get really hungry after surfing for two hours before breakfast. Really hungry. MMM, Sally.

Pangas line the beach in Sayulita.

The Sisters Jimmerson. Stay classy girls.

Speaking of classy, Sayulita didn´t know what it was getting itself into when it invited the Gypsy crew ashore.

The unfortunate thing about having a sailboat is that people are constantly trying to bum rides from you to really crummy places like surf breaks, deserted islands, and golden sand beaches. Seriously a bummer. Our last day in Sayulita we decided that maybe it wouldn´t hurt to let in and bring these hooligans along to a surf spot just up the coast. Boy were we wrong! Worst day ever - you can just see the agony and disgust in our faces.

Amy and Chad struggling through another day aboard Gypsy in sunny Sayulita.

Well eventually we had to leave Sayulita and move south along the coast to Zihuatanejo. Fortunately for us we got there on Thursday and Thursdays are Pozole Days! If you´ve never tried this speciality of the state of Guerrero, it is highly recomended. A spicy stew made with chicken or pork, onions, jalepenos, hominy, and all the additional fixings you could want to make it to your liking, it is an absolutely delicious dish well deserving of it´s own weekly holiday.

These lovely ladies serve up some of the cheapest, tastiest, and heartiest servings of pozole in all of Zihua. No reservations needed, but get there early if you want to be fed because their pozole goes fast!

Right next to Zihuatanejo is a the resort town of Ixtapa, which was created by the Mexican tourism board because they thought that Mexico was in need of another Cancun style resort town on the Pacific coast. First of all, Mexico, I think one Cancun in the world is enough Cancun for everyone. And second of all if you really have to build another one at least do it right. Not one wet t-shirt contest was witnessed in our stay in Ixtapa. I, for one, am very disappointed. The one saving grace for Ixtapa is that their marina is infested with giant crocodiles. Not good for swimming, but like wet t-shirt constests, fun to look at.

Mexicans take their tequila seriously and so do we. Our tequila somellier, Brisa, helped us select the best tequila available with some very prudent advice: the best tequila is the one that tastes best to you. Just like wine, you can get a good sense for flavor with the nose. I´m picking up an essence of salt and lime here. Mmm, delicious.

With high spirits after spending a few days in what seems to be the consensus favorite town in Mexico so far, we leave Zihuatanejo for Acapulco and then the last leg of our Mexican cruising with Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua still to come. But don´t worry, we´ll keep you in the loop. Salud!