nobody panic, we're okay.

Fucking military tribunals. Can't leave you people alone for any length of time. Why don't you understand? Don't you see how ineffective this is? How hard it will be to undo? If the terrorists wanted to destroy America, America is helping them along.

Hello to all my friends in domestic surveillance. Bite me. :-)

We left Mazatlan last Friday, and stayed at Isla Isabela, a small national park island, for a few days. On the second to last day we moved to a different anchorage, which was a kind of entertainment in its own right: our anchor is a CQR plow-type, which is meant to dig into the sea bottom. Unfortunately this was a volcanic island, and the sea bottom in that spot is big rocks--on top of solid rock. With nothing in between. Our high-tech anchor lay on its side wedged between a couple rocks, and the gravity of 45 feet of chain kept us in place.

So Mona and I decided to swim into the beach, and it turns out there's a barrier reef about 10 meters out from the beach, made of nice, sharp volcanic rock, and nice, sharp coral. We got a bit cut up on our feet, and I probably drew the worst of it since I got rolled by a wave, so about half my back is scraped up, but we're okay, and Greg launched out in the dink from the beach to save us further trouble. My back hurts, but we're fine, healing and with no infections (coral cuts get infected easily). So don't swim into a beach until you've landed the dinghy first to see what's there.

We're now in Bahia de Matenchen (called Ensa instead of Bahia on some maps--ours, for example, is published by the DoD, and is from Navy surveys 1873-1901, with some corrections to 1962; the fun never ends), which is immediately south of San Blas, Nayarit, and contains a few small villages. We're anchored directly off Las Isletas, but we've been going into what I think is Matenchen.

There are gnats here, vicious, mean-spirited no-see-ums that hurt. Apparently the mosquitoes in San Blas proper are just as bad, so cruisers have been chased out of Bahia de Matenchen. Last night we got here with 5 other boats, and they were all gone by dawn. But we borrowed some repellent, went into town and got more and had dinner. This feels like the first truly tropical place we've been to: lots of open-sided thatched-roof things, and piles of coconuts lying around waiting to be used. I think we're in the banana-bread capital of Mexico, since everyone sells that, plus carrot or coconut or pineapple bread. The people are really friendly and helpful, and we're enjoying being a bit more out of the way.

So last night Greg mentioned that this entire time he'd had in mind a road trip to Mexico City, which was news to me, Mona, and Cherie (Greg's girlfriend of a couple weeks now). We laid aside the issue of when he'd planned to mention this, and Cherie, who's been traveling for the past three years and is good at planning, helped us lay out what needs to happen to get to Florida. So far we've been making it up as we go along, but we have some serious mileage to cover in a few places, and there's a wait of two or three weeks to go through the Panama Canal (once it's your turn, it's just a day). For example, we're making a run from Zihuatanejo past Acapulco, probably to Costa Rica, and we're not sure what facilities might be available en route, but it's something like 1200-1800 nautical miles (nm--one minute of latitude). With enough wind in the right direction, we'll do 100nm in a day. So this requires some planning.

Tentatively, assuming we're in Puerto Vallarta starting on December 1st, we spend 3 days ordering parts for our repairs, including stanchions, the port davit arm, and the forward head. Then we take 5 days to go inland to Mexico City, and come back and take 3 days to fix stuff. Then we go to Zihuatanejo, provision and do last-minute stuff, and then we go to Costa Rica, probably bypassing Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador. Apparently they have awful infrastructure for traveling the interior, so we're not holding our breath for boating facilities. Around now we want to go inland in Costa Rica, but we may put ourselves in line for the Canal passage and then do Costa Rica while we're waiting our turn.

Things are necessarily a little fuzzier for the Caribbean side of things, but I think the planning assumed 80 days to get from Panama to Florida, and 20 of those were sailing, maybe a few more--1200nm straight distance, but we're going to Jamaica and we have to sail around Cuba whether we stop there or not. So that would be 60 days for Jamaica, the Caymans, Cuba, and conceivably the Yucatan, although that sort of didn't appear in the discussion. So we have the basic framework of a plan to make sure we get where we need to go within a certain time--Mona and I have a somewhat limited timeframe before we need to get back to our previous lives.

So I'm glad things are looking up with repairs and getting on with the trip. I'm excited to go off into the unknown of Central America: we haven't really heard much about it from other cruisers, so all we have to go on is Cherie's mostly recent knowledge. I'm sure we'll figure it out.

Again, if you travel down here, especially on a boat, if you think you might need something, bring two or more of them. Any kind of gear and hardware and technology will be cheaper and more widely available in the US.

On Isla Isabela we hung out on Mistress a little bit, the Swan 53 that Cherie came from. Apparently starting around Cabo San Lucas you can see the Southern Cross, but that was the first night I'd seen it. No city lights, so the moon came up in the late afternoon and soon started shining like a pearl in the sky. Pretty.

I cannot for the life of me figure out the Mexican fishing industry, or for that matter Mexican microeconomics as a whole. Every town has 23987623456 tiny little grocery stores, and it's so difficult to imagine that they're actually enough to make a living. And the fishermen...I'm used to fishermen in New England, who fish from 0430 to 1900 or longer, and can still end up at times with just a marginal living. Here, the fishermen go out in the morning for a few hours, come back, hang out and eat lunch for five hours, then maybe go out for another couple hours, then come back, clean up, and call it a day. Who buys their catch and takes it to market? Fish isn't expensive here: how do they catch enough to live on? I do not understand.

The whole place is so mellow, though. Pretty much everything can be done tomorrow or the day after instead of today; I'm not sure what happens if something actually needs to happen quickly, but I'm pretty sure it involves at least pretending that it can happen tomorrow.

Oy. Naptime. Make sure there's an America there when I get back.

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