Friday, March 11, 2011


As we begin this blog, we are sailing back and forth across Banderas Bay just a few miles from the city of Puerto Vallarta. It’s a beautiful, sunny day with a steady 10 knot breeze blowing from the west. Although the conditions make for a pleasant day of sailing, we are out on the water not for pleasure but to avoid surge and possible wave action caused by the tsunami that resulted from yesterday’s magnitude 8.9 earthquake in Japan. We are accompanied by about 100 other boats from the small harbors along this part of the Mexican coast and will remain safely offshore until the danger passes. Mark awoke this morning at about 6:30 am and got our first news of the earthquake via the internet. He searched various websites and found the general warning issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. Even though we are many thousands of miles from the earthquake’s center, we knew that the energy generated by the quake could produce serious surges in our location. Cruising sailors share general information each morning on a radio “net” and Mark tuned up the radio as chatter began about a possible tsunami hitting our area. Soon, the radio channel was alive with forecasts, reports and a discussion of safety tactics. To complicate matters, the annual Banderas Bay Regatta (sailboat race) is taking place this week and the local marinas are full of participating boats. In fact, we are crewing aboard a sleek and fast J-130 called “Sirocco” owned by our cruising friends Lee & Cathy from Oceanside California. With the help of 8 other crew members, Lee drove the boat to an exciting second place finish in yesterday’s first race of the regatta. After nearly 20 miles of racing, we finished just 50 seconds behind the winning boat. As we wait for a series of surges and currents in the harbors to subside, we will take a few minutes recap our adventures since our last blog entry.

While in Zihuatanejo last month, participating in the annual Sailfest fundraiser, we were joined by friends Carol and Amy who flew in from Seattle for a short visit. They were quickly adopted by our large group of cruising friends and crewed aboard “Blue Rodeo” for one of the Sailfest’s signature events, a race that allows contributors to sail aboard cruiser”s boats. In addition to Carol and Amy, our friends Henry and Janice were aboard as well as two contributors from Winnipeg, Canada. Both gentlemen were experienced sailors so Mark shared time at the helm with them. Wind conditions were very light throughout the race which gave our whole crew an opportunity to strategize and adjust sails in search of an extra fraction of a knot of boat speed. At one point during the race, we were treated to the best display of whale acrobatics that we have seen this season. Just a short distance away, several huge humpbacks hurled themselves skyward twisting and flipping before crashing down and sending spray high into the air. It happened so close to us that we could almost feel the concussion of the impact when their bodies slammed back into the water. Our race finished on a thrilling note as we fought for position with one of our competitors. Our boats were just inches apart as we crossed the finish line and although we tried every trick in the book to sneak ahead, they managed to cross just a few feet ahead of us. Everyone aboard was thrilled and elated by the adrenaline rush from our close finish.

Evenings during the festival were spent enjoying local restaurants and listening to entertainment scheduled for the fundraiser. Before long, Carol and Amy’s short visit came to a close and, as they prepared to fly back to the chilly Pacific Northwest, we hosted 5 more contributing guests on a day-long boat parade and trip to one of the beautiful islands off the neighboring town of Ixtapa. Once at the island, Mark shuttled everyone ashore for a delicious lunch on a sandy beach before our late afternoon return sail to Zihuatanejo. The event was a rousing success and a significant amount of money was raised to support local schools. Mark, however, announced at the conclusion of the parade day that having a number of non-boating strangers aboard was exhausting and that he had no intentions of exploring a second career as a charter boat captain.

After two wonderful weeks in Zihuatanejo, it was time to point “Blue Rodeo” north and begin the trek up toward the Sea of Cortez where we plan to spend the spring and early summer. After so many months of traveling south, it felt a little strange to be heading north but we were looking forward with eager anticipation to the stark beauty, deserted anchorages and crystal clear water that we expect to find north of La Paz.

Our first stop on our journey north would be one of our favorites, the lagoon at Barra de Navidad. Hoping to save fuel, we were determined to sail as much of the 200 mile distance as possible. Once we were underway we felt such exhilaration at again being out at sea. Our time spent anchored near Zihuatanejo was wonderful but seeing our sails filled and the breeze steadily propelling “Blue Rodeo” toward our destination made us feel so very alive and feeling fortunate to be having this adventure.

In our next installment we will recap our return to Barre de Navidad and on to Puerto Vallarta. As we conclude this post, we are safely anchored off the little town of La Cruz with at least 100 other boats. With the local marinas and ports still being affected by strong surge from Japan’s earthquake’s tsunami, the port captains here have closed all of the harbors until tomorrow. The anchorage here is peaceful though and the mast- head lights of the many boats around us look like the stars in the Milky Way.

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