One of the things we love about being in Puerto Vallarta is how many friends and family happen to come here to soak up the sun on their vacations. And while they may not be coming specifically to see us, we love the opportunity to meet up with them, share a meal, go whale watching, or show them around town. This winter we have had more visitors to Vallarta than any previous year. Thanks so much to everyone who looked us up or made a plan to see us during your vacation. We truly appreciate seeing you, and taking a break from work, school, or boat projects!
While many of you may think our life is a permanent vacation, News Flash: it is not! Being an Expat is a wonderful lifestyle choice—living in a country outside the US. However, our life is far from a permanent vacation. Heidi still works and goes to school. And Kirk usually has a boat project, or ten going on at any given time. And just like you, we have dentist and doctor appointments. We also don’t have a washer and dryer, so we also need to take our laundry to the lavenderia (laundry lady) each week and return to pick it up the next day. Or Tosh and Tikka may have a vet appointment. Plus, we have yoga classes, grocery shopping, and other errands to run. Maybe the outboard has to go to the mechanic. Or Kirk has to take the bus to the tornillo-rilla (“tore-knee-o-ria”)—the nuts, bolts, screws, and another fastener store (but no hose clamps there!)—or to the ferretería (hardware store) for some hose clamps (but no nuts, bolts, or fasteners there!) Kind of like Cuba, some things in Mexico are complicated!
All this to say, if you’re coming to Vallarta, we would absolutely love to see you. But please do give us a few weeks heads up so that we can be sure we are available to visit when you are here. And for the next few weeks, to quote Jimmy Buffett, we will be sailing to “Saint Somewhere”! We had intended to sail north to the Sea of Cortez for a couple of months, but that’s a long haul and we are in much need of a vacation too. So we’re going to stay more locally, hang on the hook (anchor), get in some much-needed snorkeling, swimming, reading, hammocking, and art time, and just chillax for a bit. We may head south to the Costalegre Coast, or we may head north to Chacala and Isla Isabel, neither of which we’ve been to yet…We’ll check the weather before we leave, and see which way the wind blows us.
In the meantime, let’s get caught up on who came to visit recently…and what we did for fun! For starters, long-time friends Karen & Jay sailed south from Seattle last fall and made it down to Banderas Bay this winter. It was great to have them in the area and they were back in PV for a couple of weeks around Heidi‘s birthday in January to help us celebrate. So grateful they were able to bring a few items down for us from the States. Super fun people who are now on their way sailing to Hawaii, and we hope they’ll sail back here again next year!
What a fun surprise visit from our friend Mari, a production designer in the Bay Area. As a teenager, she frequently raced with us in Seattle in the Thursday night Elliott Bay Marina Downtown Sailing Series. And many moons ago Heidi worked with Mari’s mom Laura, (and was actually at Mari’s baby shower!) So it was fun to catch up and hear what Mari has been up to recently (like her cool gig as Set Decoration for Sofia Coppola’s “Fairyland” film which premiered at Sundance this year.) Her parents Laura & Will have visited us a couple of times in Vallarta and Barra too—such an amazing family. We love hanging out with all of them!
We also had a FUNtastic time with our friend Joan. We met Joan at a Deepak Chopra event about ten years ago and have remained fast friends. When we sailed down the coast of California, Joan visited us aboard in Oceanside. She is a kick, with one of the most upbeat, positive outlooks of life we’ve ever encountered. This trip, we had so much fun together, we forgot to take any photos until she was leaving at the airport!
And when we were condo-sitting at the Grand Venetian last fall, we met a great couple, Leanne & John, from B.C. We spent lots of pool time with them then and were excited to have them return this winter too. We shared a delicious Jamaican meal at Mami Chulas. Such a fun time together—Leanne is an energy healer, so she and Heidi have lots of wellness topics to chat about. And John and Kirk find myriad interesting “boy” topics too (engines, power generation, plumbing, trucks, parts, grease, and oil). We could all chat for hours—and we do!
Many friends arrive by cruise ship, stopping in Vallarta for a day on their cruise. Like when Heidi’s cousins Sue & Darrel visited in December. On any given day there are 1-3 cruise ships here, usually arriving by 7 AM and departing somewhere between 5 PM – 9 PM the same day, blaring the theme from “The Love Boat” as they leave—loud enough that we can hear it in the marina, over a mile away, LOL. So it was fun to meet up with one of Heidi’s School of Applied Functional Medicine colleagues, Amy, and her family when their cruise ship stopped here one day. Last time Heidi saw Amy, she was pregnant with this cutie!
Passport 40 Reunions
Friends Deborah & Marty were our dock neighbors at Elliott Bay Marina for years, and also have a Passport 40, s/v Meridian, in Seattle. They visited us in January, and we spent a fun afternoon on the water whale watching along with Toronto friends Wai-Lin & Ian, and local friends Rachael and Eddie (see photo at top of post). La Vida Bella is a great operation taking up to 8 people on a 3-hour tour (cue Gilligan’s Island theme song here!), and includes all-you-can-drink (alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages) and delicious guacamole that first mate Mitzon, on the panga La Vida Bella, made for us. What’s Mitzon’s secret ingredient? Watch the video to find out.
After whale watching, we grabbed a delicious dinner with Deborah & Marty at one of our fav hole-in-the-wall Mexican establishments, El Campanario. We hope they’ll be sailing this way sometime soon for a Passport 40 Rendezvous in Mexico, we’d love to buddy boat with them and their cat Lily.
We also spent a gorgeous day at the Vallarta Botanical Gardens (one of the top 10 Botanical Gardens in the world!) with Seattle friends Lal & Eric who used to have a Passport 40, s/v Elizabeth Jean, as well. They cruised from Seattle through the Panama Canal to Florida a couple of years before we left Seattle. And we met up with them a few years ago in PV for a fun day on the water, snorkeling, and hiking to waterfalls.
This time Lal & Eric were here with their family and met up with us for a day in the jungle. We shared a delicious lunch in the Botanical Garden’s tree-top restaurant. And after lunch, we hiked on the Jaguar Trail through the Botanical Gardens and down along the Rio Horcones. As the sign reminds you, “Just because you didn’t see the jaguar, doesn’t mean the jaguar didn’t see you!” We took a refreshing dip in the very low river. It’s dry season now and the river is much higher during the rainy season, July-October.
On our last visit to the Botanical Gardens they had just built this garden chapel and the interior was all white. So we were amazed by the new interior wall murals. Click each image to zoom in and see the beautiful details! They have a lovely orchid house with hundreds of orchid varieties. And check out the photo to the right of the blue lotus flower… those green and yellow football-shaped pods are cacao pods growing on a cacao tree… where your chocolate comes from!
Again, we were having so much fun, we didn’t take photos of all of us until we were on the bus home. This cute Mexican cowgirl was on the bus with us along with her roller skates! It’s always so much fun hanging out with Lal and Eric. And thanks again for lunch!
Then yoga friend Cherie and her husband Dan from Colorado (who we met during our time in Barra when Cherie was a yoga teacher there) stopped in Vallarta for a couple of days on their way back to Barra. They came to beach yoga when Heidi was subbing for Sam, and after yoga, we had a yummy breakfast at Calmita Café. The next day, we randomly ran into them again at the Saturday market at Olas Altas and grabbed lunch together.
Our Barra friends, the Rodriguez Family drove down from the US and brought us a few boat parts, including a brand new 12-volt freezer and some supplements and food items we can’t get here.
We’re loving our new Alpicool 53 Qt 12-volt freezer. A 12-volt freezer had been on our wish list for several years because the freezer in our refrigerator is only about 6″ x 10″ x 12″ (think “dorm fridge freezer size”) and doesn’t hold much of anything for longer passages.
We had been looking at an Engle brand, which lots of cruisers swear by. But then we met fellow cruisers Jeff & Marcia from s/v On Three, and they raved about their Alpicool, which also happens to cost about a third as much as a similar-sized Engle!
Our new Alpicool is the size of a Coleman cooler and fits on the aft bunk (next to the ditch bag, and Heidi’s jewelry-making tackle box). And it enables us to stock up on frozen organic berries, broccoli, spinach, wild-caught salmon, and mahi-mahi for our upcoming adventures—thanks Costco! Plus it keeps things frozen at 2°F and it even has a light inside when the lid is open. We’re stoked!
Big thanks to Jeff & Marcia for this recommendation! And to the Rodriguez family for the transport, and Heidi’s mom Jean, for packing it full of goodies too!
After the first of the year, Kirk started part 2 of our waterworks project. (If you read our previous blog post you may remember that part 1 of this project was re-plumbing the head, otherwise known as the toilet.) For part 2, Kirk has worked his magic to replace all of the freshwater hoses in the boat, from the galley sink (kitchen) to the head sink (bathroom). And since our freshwater tanks are in the middle of the salon (living room) this meant hoses had to go underneath the floorboards and behind the built-in furniture of nearly every room in our boat, including underneath our bed.
Kirk also tackled the nasty job of cleaning out our fiberglass water tanks (the one above holds 60 gallons), under our settees (couches), and installing two new access ports (above) to make this and future tank cleanings much easier. He also installed a new foot pump in the head (Shane, the old pump you guys rebuilt finally gave up the ghost and started leaking), and a new pressure water pump under the settee. We’re looking forward to fresh, clean water tanks, all-new freshwater hoses, and all-new pumps too. And in between the projects, the boys always take their cat naps!
Once again, Due West has been torn up, but this time room by room, with one room being put back together before we tore the next room apart again. So Heidi has been attending school in the forward cabin instead of in the main salon. Grateful that one day soon Due West will be looking like a home again, instead of a construction zone! Es la vida.
A few times the new hoses did not want to fit into the allotted space where the old ones had been (although technically they are the same inside diameter the new hoses are a smidgen wider than the old ones.) Maybe the old hoses stretched?
And Heidi could tell every time Kirk was having an issue with a hose not fitting by the number of grunts, groan, and swears—and how much longer it took to get done! Thankfully, it is 90% done now, just one more foot pump at the galley sink to be replaced, and a pesky leak in the starboard filling hose to track down, and we can cross the entire waterworks project off the list. Wahoo!!
While it may seem like we are always working on our boat (and we sort of are!) She is 40 years old, and likely if you have a 40-year or older home (or car), you are doing quite a bit of repair and maintenance on it as well. But the salt air and sun take their toll on a boat much more quickly than on most houses or cars.
One big bonus of the boat being torn apart was that Tikka had a new temporary fort to hang out in. And she loved it!! Tosh was too big to get into her small space.
In between work and school, we love our beach yoga community with our instructor Sam. Such a great way to start the day with refreshing energy from the waves, palm trees, and nature abounding… turtles, dolphins, whales, pelicans, swallows, or dogs… there’s always some animal joining us at Yoga.
Speaking of animals, Heidi just completed her four-month Reiki Master Instructor apprenticeship. And in one of the last sessions they practiced Animal Reiki. (Sending Reiki to animals). Several times that week, random animals showed up at Due West and yoga! Coincidence or synchronicity?
First, an injured pelican landed on our neighbor’s dock box… then a few days later a small iguana showed up on the dock, and a larger iguana boarded Due West! Then at beach Yoga, a land turtle climbed up the beach out of the ocean. It appeared very sick and we were able to call the wild animal rescue. No idea how a freshwater land turtle ended up in the sea (possibly it was already sick and got washed down the river into the ocean?), but freshwater land turtles do not belong nor do well in saltwater. We’ve also had some really cool-looking juvenile African Pompano fish swimming around the boat recently.
While we wait for our weather window to head out, we’ll be finishing up a few more boat projects, like installing our new Predict Wind Data Hub (in theory so you can still track where we are on our map… see map in sidebar) if we can get it going!? Michael C and JGC, where are you guys?? You know our lack of tech-electronic skills!! Multiplexer-WHAT? At least we have our new Starlink satellite internet system up and running so we’ll have Wi-Fi underway (for Heidi‘s work and school). And as always, our plans are written in sand at low tide… we’ll be updating our Instagram account along the way, so be sure to follow us there @sail.due.west.
In the meantime, another blog post will be out shortly on our quick vacation (our first real vacation in a few years!!) to visit our dear friends Patti & Frosty in Ajijic, Mexico… a 6+ hour bus + taxi ride away. We had a blast, and Ajijic is our favorite new Mexican town!
On a sad-for-us, happy-for-them note, our friends Judy & Paul have sold their condo at the Grand Venetian where we’ve condo-sat for several summers. They’re excited about new adventures in the Phoenix, AZ area… we’ll definitely miss Judy at yoga, and miss hanging out with them! We do have a new house-sitting gig for the summer (Hurricane Season), in a brand-new house. More info on that coming soon. And we’ll have a guest room for you, July-Sept, so let us know if you’re headed to PV over the summer months. Judy & Paul, feel free to come back for a visit, LOL! We’re also looking forward to several family visits from Heidi’s brother David, wife Sharon, and our nephew Tate this summer too.
Tosh and Tikka are enjoying life as usual… oh to be them!! Sleep, eat, play, get petted, rinse, and repeat! Except for when Tosh had a recent bout of pneumonia, which was no fun! Daily vet trips for antibiotic shots and checkups with Dr. Lalo (and even over Semana Santa—Easter weekend—when they were closed, but still had us bring Tosh in for a shot each day!) We LOVE the staff at Wolfs Veterinary in PV. Tosh is much better now, but still a bit congested and sneezes constantly. So we’re investigating getting him tested for allergies, to see if we can mitigate what’s making him so sneezy. Tikka was so happy to have skated on all those vet appointments!
Soon we’ll be striking the sunshade to set sail to St. Somewhere… stay tuned for another post about our upcoming adventures. Happy May!
PS. To those of you concerned about our safety…or too worried to visit Mexico because of all the news stories you see, please consider this: There are likely parts of your own city or other major cities you would not visit, especially at night. Did you know there are also many countries around the world that warn their citizens against visiting the United States, due to US gun violence? It might interest you to know that Mexico has never had a school shooting or mall shooting in its history. And they actually have very strict gun laws here. Yes, criminals and organized crime will find access to weapons that no laws can protect against. That is true in the US as well.
From the article link above, you can see the propaganda put out by the US state department during spring break each year—it’s much easier (and less expensive) for them to control wild-and-crazy college kids on their home turf than in a foreign country. It happens EVERY year…
Please know that the vast majority of Mexico is very friendly and safe. As long as you don’t buy drugs, and don’t go clubbing or to casinos late at night. And petty crimes like pickpockets can happen at your local county fair—be prudent, not paranoid. Remember people anywhere in the world can be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Don’t let this stop you from traveling to your closest neighbor to the south… you have no idea what you’re missing until you visit Mexico!! We truly feel far safer here than in the US. In fact, Puerto Vallarta was just ranked the 5th safest city in Mexico, by the people who LIVE here! So come on down to the FUN side of the wall.