Monday, April 23, 2007


Hanging out in Barra de Navidad

So...we're just hanging out here in Barra de Navidad watching the crowds thin out and the other yachts sail away to go north. Many folks just cruise Mexico during the winter months "season" and then return to North America - US and Canada for the summer. Some even do the 4-letter word - (work) for a time to get money to do it all again next season. They take their boats either back to the US or up into the Sea of Cortez and leave them in a marina.

There are a lot of choices for full-time, live-aboard cruisers: hop around the Sea of Cortez at various anchorages, or get a slip at La Paz, Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, San Carlos, and more. As full-time cruisers, we decided to go to the marina in Puerto Vallarta to secure the boat for the hurricane season. That's just a short sail from where we are now. Thus, we're going to stay put here for a couple of more weeks and enjoy the quiet, post-holiday atmosphere and cooler temperatures (70's) of April on the Mexican Pacific coast.

The cool weather certainly has made knitting with wool a lot more comfortable these past few days. Check out the progress I've made on the Grass Creek Park vest - am steeking along on the armholes now and have started working on the "sky" part of the design. Wool=J&S Jumper Weight Shetland.

Have you heard about Jamieson & Smith's parent company decision to discontinue a large number of their colors of this beautiful Shetland wool? The wide variety of blending colors is one of the features that gives value to this line of knitting yarns! It's not like carpet wools (which is the parent company's main business) where color trends change from year to year and certain colors lose favor with the buying public. We knitters need the gradual color shifts from hue to hue and tone to tone for this artistic form of hand knitting!

My Memories Sock Yarn Vest is growing - I now have the left front done and 1/2 of the back. This is great brainless knitting making these domino garter stitch squares. There seems to be a lot of interest lately in the knitting world in these mitered square designs made with sock yarn! I guess there's a lot of us with stashes of sock yarn leftovers.

And...I finished another pair of leisure socks for soldiers and my 1st pair of BBS (Big Black Socks) for my son's friend in Iraq. I'm loving the KnitPicks Essentials yarn for the black socks - very soft. Oh, and of course I've knit up a few more pairs of baby socks...they make great traveling & hanging out in public knitting.

MLC (Misery Loves Company) update: I found a ball of the missing black Lopi yarn for my fair isle sweater coat project that has been languishing in the back of the closet for almost 10 years. Now, no excuses! Those sleeves will be knit!

Cihuatlan & New Friends: Earlier this week we met Shirley from Canada in one of the lagoon side restaurants. She has been here on vacation for a few weeks and we all (Danny & Deborah on Cyclades and us) had a great leisurely lunch. Turns out Shirley is a knitter and even sells her original design 1-off-a-kind knit hats - very cool. Us gals decided to go explore the nearby town of Cihuatlan the following day - whooo hoooo! bus trip! The guys had to stay behind and babysit the boats as the afternoon winds had been strong and there is risk of the boats dragging anchor.

So here's a pic of new friend Shirley and me in the plaza in front of the church in Cihuatlan. The town itself is your typical Mexican town - dusty, with small dark cavelike stores and no tourist stuff as we were inland quite a bit. Our bus drove through a beautiful agricultural area with papaya groves, mango and coconut plantations and fields of banana trees. Actually, we were more interested in the farm fields than in the town itself. I'd like to find someone local who can show us the agricultural areas up close.

Check out these cool metal benches that were all around the plaza. The detail with the cathedral spires and birds is marvelous! There's such a strong contrast between the tidy little plaza and chuch and the rest of the spartan town.

When it was time for Shirley to return to Canada, we met her for sunset drinks and dinner on the beach. I know, it looks like all we do is hang out at little restaurants and bars watching people and sunsets. Not true! We do lots of other watch birds, fishermen, and sunsets from our boat anchored in the lagoon. And I knit...and knit...and knit......

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


No Stinkin Yarn Darning Needle

We have been safely anchored back in the Barra de Navidad lagoon for 3 days now. What a relief it is to have a quiet place to stay for a few weeks.

Since our last blog entry, we have endured monster swells/waves at our Las Hadas anchorage and massive holiday crowds at the next anchorage (Santiago). Yet, we have also made some wonderful new cruising friends and are enjoying some rather cool weather with temps in the 60's at night and 70's during the day. Jonesy has been wearing sweatshirts and pants!!!

Last week we were in the tiny anchorage by the Las Hadas Hotel in Manzanillo. Remember the giant swells/waves we encountered on our trip north last week? Well, they got bigger, and bigger. The forecast was for a high of 9 feet - that is a swell at sea of 9 feet all along the Central American Pacific coast. As these swells approach the shallow waters near land they rise up and become giant waves. We (and several other vessels) figured that this anchorage would be relatively calm.

But, that wasn't the case this time. The swells rolled into Las Hadas and grew into giant green waves. We looked up from the Niki Wiki to face a wall of green water at least 15 feet high. See this picture? The brown stuff is the foam from the waves washing way up onshore above the normal sand and high tide line, and washing the earth back into the sea. I took this picture about an hour before we fled in terror to Santiago. Don't be fooled by the flat seas - this was taken between "sets" of swells. See the breakwater in the distance by the fuel tank? The waves eventually broke over the top of the breakwater about two hours after I took the picture. Also, they broke along the shoreline of hotels and one wave washed up and over the rooftop of a restaurant that was sitting up high on top of a jetty/breakwater! This seafoam wasn't a nice green like the color that some yarns are with this name- it was yucky brown! I'll never think of seafoam the same way again.

This is just part of cruising. We watch the weather and seas forecasts, listen to the shortwave radio cruising nets each day, talk to other cruisers and locals, read our "cruising guides" and make the best decisions with the information we have available. We are close to nature - both serene and violent - and we get to experience it up close.

On our short trip (1 hour) over to Santiago to escape the waves, we motored through debris that included lots of floating coconuts. These fall from the trees and hang out way up on shore until big waves come along and wash them out to sea to travel to distant shores and sprout into new coconut trees. Very cool.
The bay of Santiago faces the ocean from a different direction and we were able to get ourselves nestled up against a big mountain which protected us from the swells. Our friends on the sailing vessel Cyclades were already anchored there and enjoying the "good watching". The "good watching" was the massive crowds of Easter holiday week (Semana Santa) vactioners who were crowded along the beach under a mile long line of beach umbrellas. This

holiday crowd could be seen at all the beach towns along the coast! This is the biggest holiday of the year for Mexican families. Of course, after we rested up for a day, we joined them!

As luck would have it, a new boat arrived into the bay and it was being crewed by friends and past marina-mates of Cyclades! That too is cruising - you never know who is going to show up. With much hooting and hollering, Jim, Heather, Ariel and AC (formerly known as Allen) sailed into the anchorage. They are on their way to Puerto Rico!

We all went to shore and enjoyed snacks and beverages at one of the palapa restaurants on the beach. There sure was some "good watching" of the vacationers. Also as luck would have it, AC is expecting a new granddaughter this week and I was working on a orphan pair of baby socks. Baby "Avery" now has some handknit socks coming her way with grandpa AC!

Knitting Content: So there I was on the beach, knitting up these tiny socks and drinking Mexican beers. But I didn't have a yarn darning needle with me to weave the toes up with the Kitchner stitch! AC was leaving the next day to sail south and I was going north. What to do? I really wanted to finish these up right then and there. So I thought about it. Yep, "thinking knitter" ala Elizabeth Zimmerman - or maybe it was the beer. So, okay. What happens to the yarn when I weave those toe stitches? Can I duplicate the path with knitting needles? The answer is a big fat YES!!! Here's how:

Get it? In other words reverse your knit and purl insertations from the usual Kitchner instructions, wrap, and pull yarn thru. Other than that it is exactly the same process as weaving with a yarn darning needle with the same results!!! Whooo hoooo! Yarn darning needle freedom!!!

Monday, April 09, 2007


...our flag was still there...

Tattered and torn, our flag on the back of the boat survived the perils of our travel these past 35 hours. We encountered heavy seas and a stiff headwind that gusted to over 20 knots. The forecast was for light winds and no swell. NOT! So much for forecasts.

We left the lovely Isla Ixtapa at 4am with our cruising buddies on the sailing vessel Cyclades bound for the tiny anchorage of Caleta de Campos - a one day sail. At first, the weather was calm, too calm for sailing, and we motored along. I worked on my Grass Creek Vest and marvelled at how the river in my knitting was the exact colors of the blue seas around us! See the calm ocean too?

I set up my fishing pole and trolled for fish. But, I only caught 2 Bonitos which are too gamey (dark meat) for our tastes. We entered the harbor at Caleta de Campos and found it packed with Easter Week Mexican tourists. Okay. There were the usual inflatable banana rides being towed around the area and lots of folks swimming in the water. We motored in and dropped anchor. Then we noticed the swells. Big swells rolled into the anchorage. By the time Cyclades entered the harbor the swells - and the breaking waves on the beach close at hand - were giant! Like surfing movie giant! We could hear the anchor chain being pulled along the sandy bottom of the harbor. No way could we get any sleep here as we were worried that we'd drag onto the beach. The tough decision was made to head back out to sea and continue north. This meant that we would have to travel overnight.

As the afternoon deepened, the winds started to build. By dusk, they were gusting to over 20 knots and coming straight at us! The swells were large and the waves were breaking over the bow of the Niki Wiki. Usually the afternoon winds diminish within an hour of the sun setting. Not this time though. They howled through the night. Jonesy was wound up too tight to get any sleep. I crawled below into our berth to get some sleep so that I would be fresh for my night watch. WTF?? I was rudely awakened by cold saltwater pouring onto my face! A wave had crashed over the bow (front pointy end) of the boat and had washed clear back to the stern (back) avoiding all the drains and had come into the open hatch. The bed and I were drenched! We had closed all the ports and forward hatches, but hadn't closed the stern hatch as we had never needed to - until that night.

At 3 am I got up and made Jonesy go lie down on the dry end of the bed and try to get some sleep. I sat by myself in the cockpit, knitting more socks by the light of my Petzel headlamp, watching the engine gauges, and waiting for Jonesy's beady little brown eyes to peer up the companionway (he doesn't sleep well when we're underway). I like to have some simple, production knitting such as socks to work on during my watches to help make the time pass more quickly. At one point I looked back up at our flag - so sadly tattered from the wind, illuminated by our aft running light, and that phrase "..and our flag was still there..." from our national anthem came to mind.

Dawn finally came and the winds calmed down somewhat. We managed to sail the final leg into Manzanillo harbor by 3 pm - 35 hours underway - and collapsed in exhaustion. I made an herbed chicken and gravy over mashed potatoes meal for us and we both sat on the stern of the boat and relished the calm anchorage.

We'll be here for several days, relaxing and enjoying Santiago and Las Hadas before we head out again to continue north.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Adios Zihuatanejo!

"Welcome to the yacht Niki Wiki"

We had this handpainted ceramic plaque made for us here. Our boat needed a little "Mexicanizing" as our friend Joanne from the trawler Kalinga told us. We'd been so busy outfitting the boat as far as utilitarian stuff went, that we'd neglected to personalize her with cool stuff. No, Jonesy doesn't think that cones & balls of yarn and baskets of knitting projects hanging around the salon constitutes "decorating". I'm sure many of us would disagree.

Good-bye Zihuatanejo - our favorite Mexican town. It is late in the cruising season now and most of the other sailboats have either headed north to hide from the hurricanes this summer, or have set sail for the south seas of the Pacific. The anchorage here in Zihuatanejo has only 11 boats left (Jonesy just counted for me) -and I know that two of us yachtistas are leaving tomorrow morning to head north.

We'll miss the fishermen in their small boats who come by each morning to throw out their nets for bait fish, the clean paved streets, and the friends we have made at the local businesses. But it's not such a sad farewell as we know we'll be back next year and we're planning a much longer stay.

Today we finished up the last of the provisioning for our trip north, hauled our booty back in a taxi to the beach, then aboard our dinghy, and then finally up onto the boat.
We had already topped of the fuel on our way back from Isla Ixtapa last week by stopping in at the Marina Ixtapa. What a scary entrance to the harbor!! There were big swells at the narrow opening in the jetties and they were actually breaking into waves at the sides. Jonesy aimed for the dead center of the channel and we had no problem getting in, and then out. But we were really glad we had a big, heavy boat!

Here's a picture of Jonesy and the Niki Wiki taking on a few hundred litres of diesel inside the marina.

Yesterday, we took a local bus out to the town of Petatlan which is famous for their gold jewelry. No, no bling-bling for me. I only bought some hand-embroidered cloths to line my tortilla basket and keep the toritillas warm (about $2 each). The bus ride was our favorite part of the day! We drove by groves of avocado trees, banana and coconut plantations. The bus was amusing too, with shiny purple fabric decorations and various decals. This is the view from our seats on the bus. We don't usually sit up front - it's just too scary to see how these guys drive, so we go towards the middle and just concentrate on the view outside the windows (if they're not spraypainted over with black paint for shade that is!)
On the ride back to Zihua we were entertained by a guitar player/singer. He was actually really good - which isn't always the case with these impromptu musicians on the busses. We're a captive audience and sometimes I want to get off at the next stop - anywhere - to get away from the racket! But this guy was good. He sang a few mexican ballads and had the man behind me singing along for a while. Hey - this is Mexico!

And in Mexico there is truth in advertising. Check out this sign painted on the wall outside of a local restaurant - SLOW FOOD. Yep, you'll get what is promised. Here in Mexico, the service is generally very leisurely (that's a positive word for slow). You just gotta relax and enjoy the scenery and not be in a hurry.

But, if you do want a quick snack, there are many of these little carts around town selling cut-up fruits & vegetables, drinks, nuts, candies, whatever. If you buy a drink (fruit juice, sugar & water) then you will get it served in a plastic bag that you gather at the top and then sip your drink thru a straw.

Knitting: I'm plodding along on the pair of Big Black Socks (BBS) for a friend of my son who is in Iraq. Also, the 4th pair of leisure socks for the Socks for Soldiers Yahoo! group is coming along. This is from some more of the sock yarn that my dad brings back from Germany for me. Very nice stuff.

So long for now...we're going to Isla Ixtapa for a couple of days, then up along the coast with a final destination of Puerto Vallarta in about 6 weeks. I'll blog whenever and where ever I can!

Monday, April 02, 2007


Toe Condom & GOT CAMP!

It had to happen sooner or later - I got an icky toe infection. I had a stash of Cipro antibiotics on the boat ready for just such an emergency so that wasn't the issue. The problem was how do I keep the wound clean and dry given that we had to land the dinghy thru the dirty ocean water onto the beach to go ashore?

The answer was the improvised toe condom. Simply take a ziploc sandwich bag, cut off the zipper, stick it on the toe and wrap with a rubber band. Not TOO tight! Anyway, I wasn't confined to the boat and was able to do all the fun stuff with Jonesy and friends.

GOT CAMP! I just got my email confirmation letter that I have been accepted to Meg Swansen's Knitting Camp Retreat 2.75 this summer again!!! Whoooo hooooo! I can hardly breathe!!!! I'm so excited!!!! I'll be surrounded by wool and fellow knitters for days and days. Now I really have to finish my Grass Creek Park vest before July....what FUN!

Sunday, April 01, 2007


Life Treasure

These past few days have been a treasure of a lifetime. Sparkling clear waters, excellent snorkeling, good friends, quiet mornings and evenings, warm sun with cool breezes and plenty of laughs have made for a lasting memory.

We took the Niki Wiki over to Isla Ixtapa (aka Isla Grande) which is only about 10 miles north of us here, and stayed for 3 nights at anchor in a small cove. Our good buddies Deborah and Danny from the sailing vessel Cyclades joined us for our little "vacation". As an added bonus, fellow Baja Ha-Ha class of '06 cruisers Lady Hawke and Tequila Rose showed up to rest before continuing north. Here's a photo of Deborah and me drinking our cold beers after an afternoon of snorkeling in the coral reef behind us. In addition to all of the beautiful colored fish, I spotted an octopus! It was hiding among the dead coral pieces on the sea floor - really hiding as he had changed colors to match the sand and coral. Danny swam down to the bottom and scared the octopus so that it swam up - changing colors - and squirted ink!!! How cool is that???

After snorkeling, we sat in (the omnipresent) plastic chairs and had a few beers at one of the beachfront palapas. These little restaurants are only open for about 5 hours each day. Then all the tourists and workers take boats back to the mainland, leaving the four of us cruisers alone on the quiet island. Deborah prepared her mouth-watering ribs for us the first night and I made sweet & sour chicken for the second evening's meal. Yep, we eat good on our boats.

Just a short dinghy ride from the island is the tourist town of Ixtapa. We braved the scary dinghy landing (big waves - we're NOT doing that again - way too dangerous) and took a hike along the bike path up into a mangrove swamp. The Mexican government has done an excellent job of preserving this area and yet allowing visitors in to take a peek. Check out the iguanas in this photo to the right - they're there - keep looking. Oh, and the crocodiles in the green water...I didn't want to get too close to these big fellas. We walked for several miles - thankfully I had my "Walking Knitting" carry pouch with me so I made some great progress on yet another pair of socks as I walked, talked, listened, knit, and watched the wildlife.

Dinosaur egg? We're confused too. This is how we found this rock along our walk. It is about 15" in diameter with the soil all dug out around it. What creature would do that?
And here's a lousy picture of Jonesy and me - it's so hard to get photos with the bright tropical sun and the dense jungle shade.

We wimped out and took a bus back to the beach dinghy landing. What a ride! The road was narrow and curvy and the bus driver drove like a bat outa hell! We sat in the very back row with the wind streaming in the open windows and the terrified gringo tourists in front of us. At one rough point the bus bounced and Danny and I threw up our hands like we were riding the E-ticket roller coaster at Disneyland. The driver was not amused.

We'll leave you with a photo of Niki Wiki and Cyclades at anchor in Isla Ixtapa with the mountains of the Sierra Madre in the distance.

Wish you were here!

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