February 24, 2011

3rd Annual La Manzanilla Cup - a fun race to watch and to film

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - While my sailboat steering hand was twitching at the outset of the 3rd Annual La Manzanilla Cup sailboat race in Tenacatita Bay Tuesday, is was equally fun to watch the event from the race deck in front of Restaurant Raul, knowing that later I would be putting together a short video of the event.

Richard (right) accepts the Cup from last year's winner
The race is put on annually just for fun. And this year will be a real counter-point to an arguably serious yacht race this Saturday sponsored by the municipality of La Huerta. The Saturday race is serious enough that none of the boats that raced Tuesday are large enough to even enter. And in the villages, sounds trucks are driving around touting Saturday's event, encouraging people to come and watch.

It's doubtful that the people of these small pueblos will turn out in force to watch expensive yachts - some of which are worth 100 times the annual income of the villagers.

The winner of Tuesday's La Manzanilla Cup was Richard, best known as Richard of Richard and Nansee who have a house in La Manzanilla where they hold a variety of events each season.

Several years ago, I was there New Year's Eve and got a lesson in how to dance the tango from some professional instructors.

Six boats competed in the Cup race, which was a quick round-the-bay event with good winds and very light seas. The starting flag was a red tablecloth from Raul's Restaurant that did as fine a job as any America's Cup banners. Alaska Barb handled the start and finish line duties.

When not filming, I  sat at the press table with La Manzanilla's Lois Lane (aka Jane Gorby) who has written an account of the event for her newspaper, the Guadalajara Reporter. Jane was nattily attired with a very professional-looking hat that held her press credentials.

Here's a short video of the race:

February 14, 2011

All eyes on the Banderas Bay Regatta in a few weeks...

NUEVO VALLARTA, Nayarit, Mexico - Mike and Karen Schamel zoomed off on a Friendly Skies flight to Chicago this afternoon after two weeks of Mexico, staying both here and in Arroyo Seco. From the Windy City, they have another flight that takes them into Rochester, NY, tomorrow, then home to Hector and back to, well, chilly winter weather.

We capped off their last night in town with a dinner and drinks at Victor's in Marina Vallarta, joined by Laura and her amiga Wendy. Wendy was headed out today on a flight to Canada. Too early to go north, amigos. Months early!

Victor's restaurant is, well, an area icon. The food is good, the margaritas dangerous and Victor himself, a real character.

 (L-R) Karen and Mike, Adm. Fox, Wendy, the Captain, Dustin and Laura
Just remember this Golden Rule: Do Not order a second margarita if you go to Victor's.

But the wheels were barely up on Mike and Karen's flight today when I realized that the good ship, Lotus, driven by Captain Clarence, is back in Banderas Bay and ready for the Banderas Bay Regatta in a few weeks.

We are putting the crew from last year together again, this year vowing to make sure we fill the beer cooler at least an hour before each race to ensure proper temperatures for our hydration supplies

We have other goals, too, I am sure, but they escape me at this moment.

Before the race, Adm. Fox and I expect to get back down to Arroyo Seco and spend a lot of time out on the beach at the hotel where we have rented a room. Mike and Karen stayed there last week and we all ate at both of the beach restaurants several times.

And, of course, we will go into training so we are in good shape for the Regatta.

Maybe we will run back and forth between the restaurants to build up our cardiovascular systems.

Photo of the hotel taken from two miles out in the ocean

February 11, 2011

Quick sailing trip from Tenacatita Bay to Nuevo Vallarta

NUEVO VALLARTA, Jalisco, Mexico - Hector NY amigo Mike Schamel and I jumped aboard Roger Frizzelle's boat Di's Dream Tuesday afternoon for a quick delivery north to Nuevo Vallarta.

Roger had two issues going on - an ailing mother in California and a brand-new granddaughter in the Cayman Islands - and so he needed to park his 47-foot Catalina sailboat in a safe harbor while he attended to things.

Admiral Fox transported Mike and I Tuesday afternoon to the beach at the southeast end of La Veina in Tenacatita Bay (where most cruising boats anchor). We hitched a ride out to Roger's vessel aboard a dinghy owned by another cruiser in the anchorage.

Afte a few pre-voyage tasks, we pulled up anchor and were on our way north. And just 19 hours later, tied up snugly on B Dock at Paradise Village Marina.

It was one of the smoothest and fastest trips I have taken. Even Cabo Corrientes - noted for being a really nasty place - was like a lake.
Whales at play in Banderas Bay
We saw whales everywhere on the voyage, had one close encounter with another sailboat in the dark (which was not showing proper lights) and saw some of the ugliest red tides ever (video at the end of this blog).

But we also saw a fabulous (if weird) sunset, and then a spectacular sunrise as we enterered Banderas Bay. It was a largely uneventful trip, though the temperature differential between Arroyo Seco and Puerto Vallarta has to be 10 degrees F. We were damned cold in the pre-dawn hours in Banderas Bay.

As part of the trip, we also grabbed the headsail off Roger's boat and drove it today to Barra de Navidad for repairs. Bob Hogin (of Bob Hogin Sails) says it will be ready for Roger when he gets back from his various sojourns.

Red sunset off Mexico coast

February 8, 2011

Warm weather returns to Arroyo Seco - and we buy a house

ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - With amigos Karen and Mike Schamel from Hector, NY in tow, we arrived in Arroyo Seco Sunday, greeted by much warmer days and the normal Mexican winter that brings us south.

Mike and Karen are ensconced at the hotel on the beach, an 11-room manse where Adm. Fox and I have rented a room for a couple of months so we have a beach place when we leave the Pink Flamingo. It's opulence, Mexican style.

While we were gone for just a week, our neighbors Chena and Chon - along with most of their extended family - opened a beach restaurant just 200 yards from the hotel. We had dinner there last night - a celebratory event for finally closing on our new house.
Mike, Karen, Adm. Fox and el capitan

Um, new house?

Yes, Adm. Fox and I just purchased a three-bedroom, two-bath casa in beautiful Watkins Glen, New York.

Watkins Glen, NY?


The house became available at the end of last summer and after some machinations this fall, we flew into Watkins in December, checked it out, and decided that when we fully retire (Dec. 10 of this year), it would be our base camp. We will have a two-way split that way - Seneca Lake and Mexico, instead of the Seneca Lake-California-Mexico trifecta we have done for four years.

We will wait out the upstate New York winter before flying in to take possession this spring. Given the severity of this year's weather there, it's very had to predict when we will see our new house on North Glen Avenue.

But while we wait, our Mexican adventures remain steady at warp 10. Each day takes us to the beach for a long walk (a video of surfers is at the bottom of this entry).

And this afternoon I will go to Tenacatita Bay to hop aboard the sailing vessel Di's Dream to help Captain Roger Frizzelle pilot the ship to Paradise Village in Nuevo Vallarta. It probably means a bus ride back to Arroyo Seco in a few days after a an 18-24 hour voyage.

That means I can get motion sickness in both directions.


February 5, 2011

A quick trip to the second biggest city in Mexico - Guadalajara

GUADALAJARA, Jalisco, Mexico - The planned sojourn was a fairly quick one, just a couple of days in Guadalajara, a city Admiral Fox has been pining to visit for years. Each year, we plan a trip, and then events in Arroyo Seco or in Nuevo Vallarta take precedence.

But in this case, this was just a business trip, which included paying a visit to our Guadalajara-based attorney, Santiago Gonzalez Luna. Santiago represents us in our Tenacatita land battle.

Soooo, much to her chagrin, Adm. Fox decided to stay in Nuevo Vallarta with Hector, N.Y. amigos Karen and Mike Schamel. From the sound of things, the food was a lot better here. I ate dinner at an Applebee's Restaurant in Guadalajara.

I am not kidding.

Michael and Santiago
Santiago's law firm has been helping us try to recover our beachfront Tenacatita lot, taken by the Rodenas Corporation August 4, 2010. Since then, we haven't been able to even return to the area to check it out. Former property owners are stopped at the gates on the state highway, which is being guarded by Rodenas special police.

And Santiago's news? Well, things move slowly in the Mexican judicial system, a problem exacerbated by the fact that official documents travel by snail mail. Mexican snail mail.

So the good news is, the case is still in process. The bad news is, for how long, only the snails carrying the official legal documents can guess.

This was my first visit to Guadalajara and its reputation as being huge and somewhat complicated to get around in very well-deserved. Still, thanks to helpful taxi drivers, I was able to zip hither and yon (more hither than yon) without getting gouged in taxi fares.

At least I don't think I was gouged.

One surprising thing about the city was the high number of English speakers. (Note the sentence structure here. I did not say, the number of high English speakers. I did stay overnight close to a university campus, though, so that's difficult to assess.)

So where are my photos? In my head, I am afraid. I barely pulled my camera out as I zipped about.

Next trip, when the Admiral goes, too, lots of photos. Maybe even a rockumentary.

February 1, 2011

Fresh tuna, racing sailboats and frozen pipes...frozen pipes?

NUEVO VALLARTA, Nayarity, Mexico - Since coming back from Arroyo Seco late last week, Adm. Fox and I have been on a Mexican roller coaster (now that is a scary thought...) of fun and not-always-fun.

Actually, 90 percent has been fun. Make that 95 percent.

Saturday night, son Dustin hosted a party and the guests (and Adm. Fox) did the cooking. Fresh tuna, chorizo, a rice dish that I am lobbying for again, and, of course, industrial strength margaritas were all served. It was a great fiesta all around though the small kitchen area was put to the test with all the platters of food and drink.

Mike and Karen Schamel
Among the folks attending were Mike and Karen Schamel, our amigos from Hector, New York, here in Mexico for a few weeks to escape the near-Artic weather that has been choking the northeastern U.S.

About the same time as the party was going on, an email was making its way through the chronosynclasticinfindibulum (apologies to Kurt Vonnegut) with the frosty news that a pipe had burst in a house we have an interest in New York.

Coincidence? Perhaps. We're still waiting to see how much damage was done, but it seems, well, sort of distant. And it's an issue for insurance companies.

The day after the tuna soiree, we piled aboard a sailboat named Cupcake for a daysail in Banderas Bay. The boat was formerly known as Tomatillo and last year was a force to be reckoned with in the Banderas Bay Regatta. The new owner, Captain David, said he is unsure if he will be racing or not. He took the batch of us out for the afternoon and got back in time for us to watch some French acrobats put on a show in Paradise Village Marina.

Admiral Fox, Laura Warner and I have already signed up for a return engagement in the Banderas Bay Regatta aboard Lotus for this year's race. No acrobatics there, we hope.

Here is a brief video of our Sunday sailing adventures with some footage of the acrobats at the end.