We hope this holiday season finds you happy and healthy, despite the chaos and sadness around the world. We continue our 30+ year meditation practice every day, sending peace, love, and healing energy around the globe, and to all of our friends and family. And we love our beach yoga tribe sending group energy to the world every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Winter Solstice has always been our favorite holiday, especially when we lived in Seattle. And being sun lovers, we prefer the longer daylight hours, even in Mexico! Celebrating Solstice also brings us back in tune with Mother Nature, a vital part of wellbeing for everyone and everything on Earth. We plan to head to the beach tonight to watch the Winter Solstice Sunset.
Speaking of the beach, our plans are always written in sand at low tide… in our last post, we thought we’d be headed back to Barra de Navidad again for Christmas (“let’s do the time warp again…”). However, Puerto Vallarta has become a hot spot for many of our friends and family, and so many of them (you?!) let us know they were coming to PV on vacation this winter. So we’ve changed up our plans a bit, to stay in Vallarta through January to visit with and play tour guide to many of our friends and family. If you’re coming to town, please let us know, we’d love to see you too!
Recently we had visits from Heidi’s long-time college friend Pamela and her husband Tracy from Seattle-area (below left at our favorite El Campanario antojitos restaurant), Seattle sailing friends Heavy & Sara (taking a bus ride, below middle), and recent friends-of-friends (now our friends too!) Janis & Michael from Marin (below right at another favorite, Calmate Cafe.) And we got a few minutes of hugs from our Barra Family, the Rodriguezes—Bella, Abby, Roland, Jerry, and Tilly— (also from Seattle before they went cruising—we didn’t know them in Seattle, but had many mutual friends and then spent the Pandemic years with them in Barra, so they are now our family too!)
BIG THANKS to all of you for muling various boat and computer parts, supplements, mail, and foodstuff down to us…we are grateful! For those who may not know, Mexico doesn’t really have a postal system (we hope the US does not go this route, it’s very inconvenient). There is Amazon Mexico, but it doesn’t carry a lot of what you can get stateside. So it can be quite difficult to get many things here. Most gringos in Mexico rely on friends or family to bring things down when they visit. Occasionally people buy RT plane tickets to Tijuana, cross the border to get what they need, and then back across the border for their return flight. We are always grateful if you can bring a few items down for us. And we’re happy to pay for a checked bag too!
We moved back aboard Due West from our house-sitting gig in early November, and thankfully Mother Nature did not send any more hurricanes to Mexico after Otis. The above photos show Rio Pitillal in Puerto Vallarta just after Hurricane Lidia (left) and this week in December (right). In two months the water level has receded at least 6′ (maybe even 9′), compared to peak levels, after Hurricane Lidia!
Our hearts go out to Acapulco (Hurricane Otis Cat 5) and La Paz (Hurricane Norma Cat 2), which slammed into Mexico two days apart, and just 10 days after PV got hit (Hurricane Lidia Cata 4). Mexico was hit by three major hurricanes within 15 days. For those of you who don’t keep an eye on Mexican weather (though Otis made international news), Hurricane Otis became a tropical storm with a trajectory north of Acapulco, near Lazaro Cardenas. Within 12 hours, it had grown from a Tropical Storm (up to 73 MPH) to a Cat 5 Hurricane (157+ MPH), and slammed into Acapulco, totally unprepared for this disaster. It is unprecedented and virtually unheard of for any storm to grow from a Tropical Storm into a Cat 5 within 12 hours. This was largely due to very warm ocean temperatures (think climate change!) combined with other atmospheric factors (Yale article explains more here). And it’s a VERY scary thought… if this becomes the new “normal” for hurricane season, no one can be prepared in that short amount of time. Typically you would have at least 2-3 days to prep for a major hurricane, not fewer than 12 hours.
Between damage in Acapulco and La Paz, many marinas, boats, and lives were lost. And unfortunately, Mexico is now down over 1,000 slips for moorage. Add in a couple hundred more cruisers who just arrived this season from the US and Canada…And it’s becoming very crowded down here since the Pandemic (when everyone and his brother who could work from anywhere, bought a boat and sailed to Mexico!) All marinas in Mexico are completely full now, and most have 6-month to 1-year wait lists. One marina in LaPaz now requires one full year of moorage, paid in advance if you want a slip. Transient moorage (for boats passing through, staying for a few nights or a few weeks) is a thing of the past. It was never like that when we arrived in Mexico in 2016, you could call any marina a day or two ahead of your arrival, and be guaranteed a slip. Not so these days. And we are very grateful for our slip in Marina Vallarta.
This whole scarcity of slips has made us reconsider this year’s cruising plans as well. We don’t want to play musical chairs, and end up without a slip when the music stops in June! So we will likely take shorter 2-3 week trips north and south of Banderas Bay, and continue to pay moorage while we’re away, to ensure we have a slip during Hurricane Season. As Bob Dylan sang, “The times, they are a changin’… “
In late October, Kirk made a quick trip up to Salt Lake City for some family business and stayed with Heidi’s brother David, and his wife Sharon. He got in a visit with Heidi’s stepmom, Willa, (now in Hospice in memory care) and they Facetimed with Heidi—though we’re not sure Willa really understood what was happening? Plus Kirk got to hear David play some music (he plays with a local Ukelale group), and they visited Sharon’s elementary school for their Halloween parade (where she’s a Rock Star principal keeping the kids in line with loving kindness and logic!) They also had a delicious family dinner at cousins Erik & Nan’s house with their adult “kids” Soren, and Per & Inaki, and more cousins Matt & Annette! And they went to the Zoo Lights for Halloween and to a midnight showing of Rocky Horror Picture Show. They sure packed in lots of fun festivities. Heidi was sad to miss this trip—but airfare prices have been ridiculous lately (THANKS for the passes Ann & Galen!)—and someone needed to hang out with Tosh & Tikka and take care of the house we were sitting!
Kirk returned home in time for the festivities of Dia de los Muertos…
Once again Puerto Vallarta won the Guinness Book of World Records for the tallest Catrina in the world. Long-time Seattle friends Judy & Joe (far left and far right) visited for Dia de los Muertos, along with Joe’s brother John, and we got photo-bombed by two Catrin kings! Judy hired Heidi in her first ever graphic design job at Waterlines (a Seattle boating magazine), waaaay back in 1987, before Heidi was even a sailor! Everything was cut-and-paste type-set, no computers back then.
We greatly appreciated the opportunity to house-sit for friends, Joanne & Stan, while they were in Canada for the summer. House-sitting (or cats and Heidi not being aboard) allowed Kirk to get some boat projects done, including fiberglassing—which we don’t want to do while living aboard. A couple of pesky projects still linger, while we wait for boat parts to be muled down or manufactured. But those should be finished soon.
You may remember a year ago Kirk cut two ports in our 6-foot-long 60-gallon fiberglass water tank, to make it easier to clean. That project went great, or so we thought… It turned out that cutting the ports weakened a thin spot in the fiberglass tank, causing the top of the tank to flex when full. So when we filled the tank with water the first time, the new cleaning ports leaked. Ughh!! This meant Kirk had to re-glass the top of the tank, making it thicker to strengthen it. He then had stainless ports made, including metal fabrication to weld the bolts onto the metal backing plates. Thankfully this project is almost done (and we found a great new machine shop in the process, thanks Andy!), and Kirk can move on to finishing the new alternator installation soon.
Back aboard Due West, the first few days were a bit crazy, as the boat was still in project mode. But Tosh & Tikka were so grateful to be home, they didn’t care. And we quickly got things stowed away. As Dorthy said, “There’s no place like home!” And we love our cozy boat (350 sq.ft), no matter the disarray. As those of you who live aboard know, the boat can look like a bomb went off one minute (below left), and a few hours later everything is stowed away and dinner is on the salon table (below middle)! We’re grateful to friends Alfredo & Shanti for gifting us the cute aloe plant to welcome us back home too!
The furbies like the coziness of our tiny home, and that we’re all nearby, not upstairs or downstairs. We are so grateful to both of them for being SO amiable. They have lived in a few different places for short periods over the years, and they always adjust very well. And they are always grateful to be home too. They relax in a way that they don’t do elsewhere. SO CUTE!!
In early December we were invited out to La Cruz (another marina north of Puerto Vallarta, on Banderas Bay) for our dear friend Judy Jensen’s celebration of life and spreading of ashes. We first knew Judy and her husband Fred from the sailboat racing circuit in Seattle in the late 80s-early 90s, when we raced against their winning boat Wings. They took off on their circumnavigation around the time we raced to Hawaii on the Vic-Maui race. We kept in touch via email, lived vicariously through their adventures around the globe, and occasionally saw them when they would return to Seattle for a visit. You can read about their circumnavigation adventures here. (Photo of Judy & Fred below courtesy of Fred Roswold.)
Twenty years later they ended up back in Banderas Bay after their circumnavigation, and when we arrived here in 2016, just after their return, we reconnected in person. At that point, our plans were a fast track to Panama and through the Canal, to the Caribbean. We didn’t plan to be in Mexico for more than a couple of months…
That is until Judy & Fred sat us down one night and said something to the effect of, “We won’t let you leave Mexico until you’ve spent a season in the Sea of Cortez. We’ve sailed the world and come back here because this is as good as it gets.” Sadly for the sailing community at large, Judy passed away last summer. And Fred waited until the snowbird cruising friends were back in town to celebrate this most amazing woman. Judy was truly one of the kindest people we’ve ever known, always a smile and a hug for everyone she met, never an ill word about anyone. We could all do well to live like Judy. This photo of the four of us was taken in La Paz, Baja spring of 2016 where we buddy-boated with them for a few weeks. RIP Judy, you are in our hearts forever, and we are better people for having had you in our lives.
Since moving back aboard, Heidi’s been nose to the grindstone with her school studies (now doing two different programs, one in Functional Medicine, and one in Naturopathic & Functional Wellness, cuz one wasn’t enough, LOL!), as well as on staff at SAFM. And she hopes to take some of her exams in June and have studying behind her soon.
She also just finished coaching an amazing group of 12 women in her Revive & Thrive (Online Group Wellness Coaching for Women) that ran from mid-September through mid-December. Her clients had fantastic successes from losing weight (one gal lost 17.5 lbs in 3 months), to reversing restless legs, resolving chronic heartburn, eliminating joint pain, alleviating chronic constipation, sleeping like a baby again, and much more—just by learning how to listen to their bodies and decipher the clues/cues (a.k.a. symptoms) their bodies were giving them.
Her next Revive & Thrive session starts January 11-April 11. So if you or anyone you know would like to take back your health in 2024, this is a great opportunity, with early bird pricing through this Friday, Dec. 22, 2023. Heidi also teaches her clients the importance of prioritizing self-care, in whatever form that means for them. For Heidi, it’s finding a swingset at any opportunity she can… swinging is a fantastic cardio workout, plus it puts your body back into parasympathetic nervous system mode (rest and digest mode), and always puts a smile on your face!
While Heidi is studying (or meeting with students or clients), Kirk’s keeping on top of Due West boat projects and is chief cook and bottle washer. We are so grateful for our next-door fishing boat Dos Amigos, who sometimes gifts us fresh tuna or mahi-mahi. Kirk’s blue shirt and blue eyes match the lovely mahi. We’ll be hosting a potluck Christmas dinner aboard Due West this year for 10 friends, cruisers, and others including our buddies Boni & John who’ve recently moved back to PV. Kirk will be making chili-lime shrimp, and Heidi’s making baked bananas for dessert—a tropical Christmas for sure!
“There’s another Santa Clause and there’s another Santa Clause, and there’s another Santa Clause there…” as Bob Rivers sings on one of his Twisted Christmas tunes. One of our favorite parts of the holidays is listening to our great Holiday Music collection that we recorded off of Seattle radio stations KXRX and KMTT in the early 90’s. We have digitized all of our cassette tapes to MP3s and the collection ranges from classic Christmas tunes from the 40s, 50s, and 60’s (Beach Boys Little Saint Nick) to Christmas Rock (Christmas Must Be Tonight by Robbie Robertson and the Band, an all time FAV), Pop (Red Lights by Dream So Real), Reggae, Blues, Soul (Soul Christmas with Grahm Parker & Nona Hendryx), Funk (Backdoor Santa is another fav!), Zydeco, Irreverant (Merry Christmas from the Family by Jill Sobule), Rap (Christmas Wrapping, by the Waitresses) and so many more…
There are also some FUN skits by local Seattle DJs Crow & West (like Christmas Beaver, a hilarious spoof on Leave it to Beaver), and some Christmas sound bites from Lucy & Dezzie too. But music is most fun shared, so this year we decided to gift you our amazing collection of songs! You can download them here. We’ve also made a Spotify playlist s/v Due West X-Mas Rock with some of them, but not all are available on Spotify (Soul Christmas isn’t on Spotify and it’s amazing!) And some of the BEST ones are only on the recorded tapes. We hope you enjoy them as much as much as we do! Merry Christmas!
Below, the stockings were hung by the mast with joy… and Aunt Judy filled Tikka & Tosh’s stockings with fun catnip toys! The little Christmas figures atop the picture frame are kids’ erasers… Heidi’s Christmas stocking nametag came from her Swedish friend Magdalena (and a Christmas fish pin from Peg on s/v Mambo!), and Kirk’s stocking is sporting a Cowboy Joe Wyoming pin… Our Christmas palm trees (from Ashland, Oregon) are also decorated with lots of little Swedish ornaments from Magdalena, and our Seattlel Snowglobe reminds us of the Smith Tower, Space Needle, Pike Place Market, with ferry boats and orcas on the other side. (And for those wondering where we put all our decorations the other 11 months of the year, they all fit into a small Rubbermaid tub under the bunk.)
Below, Santa is hanging out in our Universal Shrine with Ganesh, the Virgin of Guadalupe (thanks Karen & Roger!), a Tibetan Medicine Buddha, two Chinese Laughing Buddhas, a Thai Buddha and a Thai elephant, Lakshmi, and lots of seashells, crystals, geodes, feathers, rocks, and sea glass… we love it all!
Life around the Marina is looking festive too… but keep your eye out for the crocodile who may swim by. On this particular night he was a bit too close to the dock… yikes! Our friends Rosie & Javier who own the corner convenience store have decorated for the holidays too. From the photo, it looks like all they have is junk food (and it mostly is!) But behind Rosie & Javier is the fresh produce stand where we shop daily for ripe avocados (Rosie has the best!), bananas, lettuce, onions, limes, etc.
Puerto Vallarta Sunsets are always beautiful, but this one was amazingly pink! Due West is front and center in the left photo (tallest mast) with her canvas sunshade up and dinghy on the bow. The photo at right is our nightly view from the cockpit… lights on the water are always so pretty.
From our boat to your home, we wish you a Happy Solstice, Merry Christmas, and Healthy New Year.
PEACE ON EARTH… LOVE and HUGS to ALL… xoxo Tosh & Tikka (Heidi & Kirk too!)