[040317, 2215 UTC, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit, Mexico; 2044.9'N/10522.7' W]

Dear Friends;

Happy St. Patrick's Day! We had hoped to be enjoying the holiday in a town south of here called San Patricio-Melaque that celebrates its patron saint with a week-long festival but didn't get our projects completed in time to get out and make the sail south in time to partake in the festivities. Instead we've torn ourselves away from the marina life (despite the seductiveness of luxury, convenience and nearby friends) and anchored out at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle (pronounced "wah-nah-KAHSH-lay") in the northeast corner of Banderas Bay to attend an Irish music and food night at a local restaurant called La Luna y Sol (The Moon and Sun). It may be a bit foolish to attend an Irish celebration at an Italian restaurant run by Scots in Mexico, but we're going to dig out and don green duds and set out with modest expectations.

Our remaining time at Nuevo Vallarta was filled with numerous excursions and much fun. Leslie accomplished her goal of upgrading her ham license which allows us to access additional and more broad-reaching maritime mobile nets and expands our email capabilities significantly. We also enjoyed visiting and sightseeing with friends Karen and Lance from Montana and even saw one of the elusive crocodiles just up the estuary from the boat! Many friends we'd made in San Diego who'd taken alternative cruising routes over the winter months were also here, so we had many lively visits catching up and comparing adventures.

Over the course of our month here, we've had additional opportunities to experience local arts and culture. Nearby, within walking distance, is Jarretaderas, a community of very modest homes and tiendas lined along dirt streets. This village lies in the shadow of and in sharp contrast to the posh condos and manicured golf courses of Nuevo Vallarta. Someone told us that the Mexican government will not tax a dwelling until construction has been completed; ergo most buildings in Jarretaderas are still "under construction". Each Tuesday in Jarretaderas there is a street market with booths offering beautiful produce, clothing, plastic-ware, kitchen supplies, tools, machetes, sandals, beauty supplies, bike parts, etc. We've stocked our larder many weeks with supplies purchased at this market. Conspicuously absent from the market are the tacky tourist t-shirts that are offered for sale to passengers streaming off the cruise ships into Wal-Mart in Puerto Vallarta.

We also stumbled upon a festival in downtown PV called "La Tradicion" that is sponsored annually by a local a.m. radio station. The plaza near the cathedral was filled with vendors and artisans promoting the culture of the surrounding states of Jalisco and Nayarit. Philip made the rounds sampling local tequila and raicilla (a distilled liquor similar to tequila) and has sharpened his palate to the finer points of these unique beverages. In the process, we met a charismatic man named Jorge Antonio Duenas who runs a family distillery and farm in an OLD mountain town called San Sebastian de Oeste (west). We hope to visit this town and his farm "del Real" when we return in the fall.

In the "romantic zone" of Puerto Vallarta we also visited a pottery workshop and gallery that produces exquisite talavera-style pottery including tiles, custom house and street signs, house numbers, sinks, dishes, urns, etc., etc., etc. Upstairs you can quietly observe the artisans turning and decorating these unique and functional beauties and - if you're anything like us - dream about how you might bring some of these pieces back to brighten and add distinctiveness to your home.

While Lance and Karen were visiting we made a short trip to the far north end of the bay to Punta de Mita, awaiting an early morning crossing to the Islas Tres Marietas in an attempt to go snorkeling. Unfortunately, we were unable to drop our anchor and snorkel as the winter northerlies in the Sea of Cortez north of here produced large swells that wrapped around into the anchorage and caused breaking waves in the favored snorkeling rocks. The trip (2 nights) was fun anyway and it gave our friends the experience of seeing humpback whales, bunches of turtles and dolphins while sailing, in addition to cooking and sleeping aboard a small boat un-tethered to land.

One fun side trip we made with friends John and Lisa was to a natural hot springs that was about 15 miles northeast of PV in a town called La Desembocada. To get there one has to take the bus towards Puerto Vallarta get off at a place called La Juntas and wait for a local bus going to Las Palmas (on the road to Guadalajara). The bus travels through a fertile river delta lined with fields of grain including corn and others yet to be identified, in addition to lush mango and coconut palm groves. In the tiny village of La Desembocada, we walked down the cobblestone main street, passed a small plaza with gazebo, a beautiful little church and some small homes. One home had an enormous sow tied with a rope to a tree in the side yard. Tied to the sow's teats by their mouths were eight suckling piglets urgently trying to get lunch. Outdoor wood cooking fires filled the air with a sweet wood smell that mingled with the fragrance of hearty fare - pozole (pork stew) perhaps? Hiking to the hot springs from town involves about a half hour stroll up and numerous fordings of a shallow but swift river, the Rio Ameca. The river has wide gravel banks and runs up a narrow valley of small, dry mountains. We were surprised that the vegetation here was so different than the thick tropical growth at Puerto Vallarta, just a bit further south. As we walked, we passed a few small and isolated farms with small gardens of prickly pear cactus (grown to eat) and blue agave (used to make tequila), plus horses, burrows and goats. We also encountered wild bougainvillaea, a large dome-shaped termite nest about twenty feet up a tree and caballeros (horsemen) on horses or mules. At the fourth river crossing, three small stone and concrete pools catch the hot, slightly sulfurous water that runs right out of the side of the mountain. We soaked a little in each pool and then rinsed off in a deep pool of the river just downstream and enjoyed a light picnic before ambling back to the highway to catch the bus back to the coast.

Mainland Mexico is much more humid than arid Baja and has resulted in a slight change in our wardrobe. Jersey clothing (e.g., a t-shirt) is often too hot to wear, while loose clothing of natural cotton muslin or gauze is preferred. While here we purchased a few pieces of handmade gauze clothing in one of the many open markets, in addition to a length of natural cotton that will allow us to sew a few more items ourselves.

We'd better sign off now or we'll continue to gush about how much we've enjoyed our stay here. We'll skip the descriptions of the sweaty days sewing our sun-cover as the sun beat down on our boat, or the unsuccessful day-long searches for seemingly common items like spark plugs or shock cord hooks. Nor will we describe the wild bus rides through the city of Puerto Vallarta as Spanish music blasted in the background - one song's repetitive refrain, "no tengo dinero" ("I don't have any money") is still running incessantly through our consciousness! (Philip thinks this might be a good phrase for a few of our banking friends to adopt.)

We'll leave you instead with an image of our early morning departure as we slipped our moorings and slowly motored out of the quiet estuary into Banderas Bay. As we passed out through the breakwater the sun rose over the mountains astern flooding warm light on our pretty little boat and made our hearts glow. Minutes later we ghosted past a formation of baby manta rays that appeared gold against the dark blue bay and seemed to wave daintily at us as they gracefully floated past.

Su amigos de la velero "Carina",

Leslie, Philip & el gato primo, Jake

our website:  http://www.sv-carina.org