Kids, Don't Try This At Home!

Hi, and welcome to the adventures of "Triton", a 45' Robertson & Caine Leopard catamaran we purchased in July of 2007, in Tortola, in the British Virgin Islands. We sailed her back to Emeryville, California, located in the lovely San Francisco East Bay area, worked a few more years, then set off cruising in the fall of 2014. This journal is the story of our ongoing adventure, the folks we've met along the way, and the hardships and joys of that journey. Please read along and let us know what you think!

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

Marina Puerto Vallarta...looks better at night.


Dear Reader,

Well, we've been in Puerto Vallarta for almost a week now, and staying at Marina Puerto Vallarta, the main marina in town. Aside from the many fabulous cruisers we've met on the dock here, I don't have a lot to recommend about this particular marina, except maybe the sunsets. It is definitely a marina that looks better in the dark.

It is very well protected, but the harbor waters are quite dirty, with dead fish, oil slicks and condoms floating about. At times it smells of sewage, and it isn't uncommon to see any of it bobbing in the water just off the docks. The dock slips are very, very run down. Many of the dock works are broken apart, with missing electrical outlets, non-working faucets and numerous deck cleats ripped out. There is only one shower facility, which was on the other side of the harbor, and very badly maintained as well. It would be understandable if it were cheap, but it has been one of the most expensive places we've been yet. If it weren't for the fact that it was convenient for AnnMarie to fly down for the weekend, we would never have stayed here. I'm told it was once a beautiful harbor, with great facilities, but it has seen better days. Supposedly there are new owners and they will be upgrading the entire facility, but this is Mexico, where you need an archaeologist to measure that kind of progress. We spoke with quite a number of other cruisers who all thought that the area's other marinas were better. We haven't been, but I wouldn't be surprised.

The marina itself is a sort of giant cul-de-sac, surrounded by a brick boardwalk that is lined with restaurants, tourist shops, adventure guides and sports bars. About midway along is a very large pseudo light house, with a small bar on top that looks out over a 360 degree view of the harbor and town. There is an elevator that takes you up to it, but it only fits two people at a time. The light house has that quaint architecture that gives one the impression it was built by the lowest bidder. The building appears to have been retrofitted with a steel superstructure inside it. I'm sure it is all perfectly safe, and done to the highest engineering standards. They probably even used real steel. I'd just rather not be in it when the big quake hits.

Behind and above the store fronts lining the marina are high rise condominiums. In front of the stores are barkers. You know the type, usually found in front of some carny tent or strip joint trying to induce you inside. They start the pitch with "HELLO MY FRIEND, THOSE ARE GREAT SHOES YOU ARE WEARING", referring to the the fact that I don't care that my plastic Crocs don't match [I go by thickness not color] and then should you be fool hardy enough to respond in any manner you will be offered hundreds of dollars, or an amazing experience, or great deal, or the absolutely best food in all of Mexico. Every thirty yards or so there is someone standing outside a shop while trying to sell you land, boat tours, dinner aboard a pirate ship, jungle excursions, zip line rides through the rain forest, time share condominiums and meals at the various restaurants that surround the marina. Oh, and an amazing collection of schlock. We couldn't find a single useful item in this store, but there were six other stores with exactly the same inventory. And it was all made in China. Grandma would be so proud.

It is also populated with very, very expensive mega yachts, top end fishing boats and very fat, dumpy, cigar smoking middle aged American men, with very young, improbably large breasted trophy wives. We've seen more "bolt ons" in the last six days than you could shake a bra at. Robinson and I have taken to sitting in the restaurants and playing a game we call "Love or Money?". As each couple wanders buy we try to guess the motivation behind the twenty five year old runway model snuggling along side the sixty year old, bald waddler with a dart player's physique. Love doesn't come up a lot, but we could be wrong. Maybe it's just sour grapes on our part, but perhaps wintering a multi-million dollar yacht in a nice climate can make up for a lot on the physical side. Not surprisingly, there are also numerous strip clubs just outside the marina along the main drag, just in case it doesn't.

Oh, and there are several wireless providers available within the marina. Unfortunately, I chose "PVAIRPATH", which turned out to be a huge mistake. It was $10.00USD a day, was very often down, and when it was up the transfer rates were pathetic. On top of that, they prohibited the use of VOIP (voice over internet protocol) so using Skype was not allowed. Even if you did, the quality of the connection was so bad as to make it worthless. Some of the other cruisers suggested using some of the local coffee shop's free hot spots, but their speeds weren't good enough to get something accomplished. It was fine if all you wanted to do was the occasional email, but worthless for doing any actual work, downloading files of and size, and especially frustrating uploading images to your blog. Unless you got up at six A.M., when it worked great for about forty seven minutes, you couldn't do anything productive across their net.

We should have left this morning, but we didn't. The surprise birthday party they sprung on me last night went quite late, there was much carousing, imbibing, and far too little sleep for us to just jump up and go. Hah! Robinson didn't wake up until two, and spoke using only vowels for the first two hours of consciousness. Well, we say consciousness, but it was really only brain stem activity. I'm sure a medical practitioner would have at least looked for a DNR, but unless you needed to hold something from blowing away, he wasn't much good for anything. We spoke very, very loudly to him, yelling at his left ear, to help him understand anything we needed to communicate. Pay backs are a bitch.

Well, we couldn't do much else, so instead, we took off an extra day to recover any braincells that survived, and finish repairing, restocking and refilling everything we needed for our trek up to Mazatlan. We had originally planned on leaving straight for Cabo San Lucas from here, but the winds would have been against us, so we decided to motor north to Mazatlan, check in with the Port Captain there, and have Robert taken off the crew list. He booked a flight to fly back to Nicaragua on Saturday, so we figured we had plenty of time to get there and handle any paper work before sending him off to the airport. He is shown here making a face. He does that a lot. We think he might have Tourette syndrome. Or maybe brain damage. Or is just goofy. It's hard to tell with the English.

In the meantime, Robert and I decided to go into the main part of town to see the Festival De Guadeloupe. Puerto Vallarta runs along the coast, with a numerous small and large rock outcropping just off the surf zone. Although the locals we encountered in the marina were pretty reserved, once outside the marina, the folks we met were very nice, helpful and friendly. There is a long cement walkway that runs along the beach front. It is lined with restaurants and shops, and no end of bizarre and somewhat tasteless bronze sculptures. These seem to be pandemic to the inside coast of the mainland as we've encountered them everywhere; apparently someone's cousin got the government contract, and then said to their brother "Jose, quick, we need a thousand nautical statues for tourists to look at! Get that sculptor friend of yours who always forgets to take his medication and tell him the skies the limit." Just beyond the walk way it drops down to a narrow, sandy beach where people build enormous and quite elaborate sand sculptures. Some of them were really quite impressive. Apparently making sand sculptures has really caught on here, and there are competitions and amazing amounts of effort put into them. So far we've seen them on almost every tourist beach we've come to. My favorite was a woman on a couch, holding her breast, while an artist draws her picture. The fact that its a naked woman holding a breast has nothing to do with why I like it so much. Its the artistic inspiration. No really. Honest.

We took a bus from the marina into the town square, then walked along the seaside, gawking at the very bad statues, ugly Americans and other oddities. It was a strange mixture of classical Mexican culture and American trailer trash. For instance, I'm not sure why, but there was a life sized statue of an elephant on the roof of one of the restaurants. There was one block that had a taco shop, an ice cream parlor, a Hooters restaurant, a Domino's pizza, a Mexican Naval Museum and a Starbucks coffee shop across the street. It made me sad to realize this was our contribution to world culture. As we walked along we found a tattoo parlor, which I dragged Robert into, hoping to convince him to get the word "MOM" written on his shoulder, I just know his parents would have wanted him to. Mostly I just wanted to watch him being polite to the shop owner, who foolishly assumed there was more than a snowball's chance in Hell of that ever happening.

We also found a McDonalds, with a life sized Ronald The Clown on a park bench inside it. Robert was also kind enough to point out the "Now Hiring" sign which stipulated that Mikey D wanted you, provided you were between the ages of sixteen and fifty and willing to work for sixteen cents an hour. Robert suggested I put in an application now, because I'd be too old the next time I came through here. He has a very mean sense of humor, and whatever moral qualms I might have had before he left, I now felt better for having putting those fish guts in the bottom of his backpack.

Eventually we reached the town center, which is dominated by a large cathedral with an giant bell tower. There was an enormous crowd milling about, with a queue several blocks long of parishioners waiting to get into the church. They lined the entire side street, several blocks deep, and slowly shuffled along before eventually filing into the temple doors. The church itself was quite ornate, internally balconied, lined with stained glass windows several stories high and trimmed with rococo woodwork overlaid with gold leaf. It reminded me of my days back at Catholic boarding school. There were even nuns wearing the traditional habit, choir boys and alter boys in white smocks, and a priest that looked like he'd walked out of Central Casting.

The bell tower must have had twenty different bells of various shapes, tones and sizes. Every few minutes they would ring all of them, which was deafening. Apparently the "procession" had just happened and we'd missed it. Like all town fairs everywhere, those who had taken part in it were walking around afterward still dressed in elaborate costumes while sipping cans of soda and smoking cigarettes. We wandered about the town square, took photos of the adorable children dressed up in traditional Frito Bandito garb, ate sidewalk vendor food and generally milled about.

There was also an amazing "Pro Life" display just outside the entrance, showing, supposedly, the life sized versions of a fetus during the various stages of development. I think this was intended as some sort of anti-abortion poster, but it was pretty surreal right outside the entrance way to the church. The really scary bit was that the four week old version looked just like Robinson when we left this morning. He had said he would meet us at the square, but he never showed up. Eventually we tired of waiting for him, had seen most of what the town had to offer visitors, and decided to grab a bus back.

The mass transit seemed like a pretty decent setup, although we were riding on what amounted to old school buses from the states. There were lots of them, if a bit crowed at times, but they seemed to be going everywhere we wanted to. Bus rides were fifty cents and ours came with its own musical entertainment. Apparently busking on public transportation is not only legit here, but encouraged, and we rode back to the marina listening to some pretty decent mariachi music. We passed a Home Depot, a Walmart, and several other "big box" chain stores including the Mexican version of West Marine, which was located less than a block from the marina. The store is relatively new, the prices are very good, there isn't much stock, but it was the largest chandler I've come across yet in Mexico. American pop culture is encroaching here, and no doubt in another twenty years it will be hard to tell the difference between here and any strip mall in Walnut Creek.

Robinson was still asleep when we returned, so we banged around and made as much noise as possible. We got the boat packed up and ready to go, had dinner that night at one of the local restaurants, and I worked furiously trying to get as much of the blog caught up to date, despite the lousy internet connection. We leave for Mazatlan tomorrow morning, providing no one else has a party before then.

Cheers for now!



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