Aboard Astraea

Invest in experiences, not things

We saw a tiny crocodile from the boat, this big one was in the refuge

April 23, 2015
by Nate

Bye Bye La Cruz to Bug Bitten in San Blas

We spent a lot of time in La Cruz and it was hard for Sully to say, “Goodbye” to his best friends Ollie and Emma. They were his first real best buddies, but that’s how it goes for cruising relationships. One day you have to go your separate ways.

After one last playtime Sully had to say "Bye" to his best friends, Ollie and Emma

After one last playtime Sully had to say “Bye” to his best friends, Ollie and Emma

 

We planned to leave La Cruz on April 3 and head to Punta Mita for a night’s rest before continuing on towards San Blas, but the going was good so we headed straight to San Blas. The passage was relatively uneventful, light wind and calm seas. A powerboater’s dream, but not good for sailing. We motorsailed all the way through the night and arrived at 5:00 am in the wide open bay at Ensenada de Matanchen just outside of San Blas. Once the anchor was set we took a long nap to make up for the lost sleep the night before.

When we awoke we were excited to see the beach full of people. It was Easter Weekend, the end of Semana Santa in Mexico, so lots of families went to the shore to play. This was great news for Sully so he could play with some kids. We were also happy to find out that our friends Alex and Naomi from S/V LunaSea were the only other boat in the anchorage with us. We made plans to meet up for dinner later that day, and they recommended that we go ashore and do the Crocodile Sanctuary boat tour. We prepared our dinghy and rode to shore for a tasty seaside lunch of fresh fish ceviche.

We walked down the dusty beach road to the La Tovara Jungle Tour. On the way we passed by stands selling fresh made banana bread, a local favorite. We wanted to go visit the Camolota Spring Crocodile Refuge and paid 150 pesos each (about US $10 each) for a fast paced panga boat ride through the mangroves.

The panga tour loading area

Loading and unloading the pangas for the tour

The pangas were expertly driven, cutting corners at high speed and passing within a few feet of each other at full throttle. For another 20 pesos (about US $1.50 each we entered the crocodile sanctuary and had 20 minutes to explore and play in their freshwater spring pool.

DSCN2381 DSCN2382 DSCN2383 DSCN2385

We reboarded the panga and took off for the next stop, a restaurant with another freshwater spring swimming hole. Natalie and I had fun swimming in the cool water while Sully watched from on shore. There was a trapeze swing above the water that I enjoyed swinging on into the water.

During the panga ride we saw many turtles and birds

During the panga ride we saw many turtles and birds

The freshwater swimming hole is fenced off so guests won't get snacked on by the crocs

The freshwater swimming hole is fenced off so guests won’t get snacked on by the crocs

We saw a tiny crocodile from the boat, this big one was in the refuge

We saw a tiny crocodile from the boat, this big one was in the refuge

The pangas zoomed through the narrow mangrove channel

The pangas zoomed through the narrow mangrove channel

When we were tired from swimming and Sully was antsy to get back to the boat we rode a panga back to our starting point and walked back to our dinghy on the beach.

The beach at Ensenada de Matanchen

The beach at Ensenada de Matanchen

Alex and Naomi came over for supper and brought fresh caught wahoo for fish tacos. Yum! It’s great to have friends who catch lots of fish and do all the bloody cleaning on their boat. We hung out with Alex and Naomi cooped up inside the cabin because of the terrible mosquitos and jejenes (tiny biting flies).

Having had enough bites from the bugs (it looked like Sully was getting the chicken pox he got bit that bad) the next day we decided to haul up the anchor and head up the coast to Mazatlan.

The next day was Easter Sunday. Sully woke to find the cabin full of Easter Eggs! He found all the eggs with a bit of help from us. He really enjoyed a chocolate kinder egg and opening it to find a small frisbee inside. Natalie and Sully read Happy Easter Little Critter and after breakfast we were off heading north to Mazatlan.

Easter eggs were hidden all over the boat for Sully to find

Easter eggs were hidden all over the boat for Sully to find

outboard

April 12, 2015
by Nate

Robbed in Mazatlan

This post is out of order. We’re trying to do quality posts about our trip, but I wanted to let everyone know what happened to us our first night in Mazatlán. We plan to cross the Sea of Cortez tomorrow and head northwest towards Isla San Francisco. The area is remote and we won’t have cell service, but you can follow our trip via the “Where’s Astraea” page on our blog. 

I’m sad to report that at around 0130 on April 7 there were some brazen thefts in the Stone Island (Isla de la Piedra) Anchorage near Mazatlán. We woke up to listen to the cruisers net and I went outside to fire up our Honda EU2000i generator and was very surprised when it wasn’t on the cockpit seat where it was left the night before. We had our 8′ Walker Bay dinghy hauled out of the water and tied to the rail and the 4HP Johnson outboard, gas can and oars were stolen from inside. They also attempted to take our 6HP Johnson outboard that was stored on the stern rail, but they were unsuccessful because it has a broken motor mount.

outboard

From 1973 and still working! What saved me was not replacing the handle that holds the motor to the boat.

 

The thieves also took Sully’s favorite flip flops from the dinghy. He was not happy to find they were gone!

S/V Mis Gale reported that they were awoken by a crash outside their boat. They went up on deck to find that two men in a white panga had cut the lines holding their dinghy on davits and the crash was their dinghy landing on the panga. The thieves took off in the panga with their whole dinghy and outboard aboard. Mis Gale got on the radio and called the Port Captain and Navy on VHF Channel 16, but were unable to raise anyone for assistance. They did make contact on VHF 22, the local cruisers hailing channel, and Mike from S/V Tortue responded. He was able to hail the Port Captain but the Port Captain and Navy were unable to provide assistance.

We moved our boat from the anchorage the morning we found our stuff was stolen and attempted to talk to the correct government officials, including the Tourist Police, Port Captain and Navy. By the time we located the Port Captain’s Office they were closed but we’ve since gone back to file our reports. We were lucky that our boat wasn’t entered and that we slept through the theft. From talking to regular cruisers of Mazatlán, the last time thefts were reported in the Stone Island Anchorage was about a year and a half ago and the last time anything was recovered was about seven years ago. Like many cruisers, we only carry liability insurance. The insurance company won’t be cutting us a check for the stuff we lost. We’re hoping to get our stuff back but aren’t counting on it.

My advice to our fellow cruisers and what we’re doing from now on. If you want to keep it on with your boat, lock it to or lock it inside your boat. For the dinghy outboard, many cruisers will lock it to the dinghy. In our case case they didn’t want the dinghy, just the outboard. Perhaps if our outboard was locked to the dinghy they would have taken everything because they couldn’t just take the outboard they wanted.

wpid-wp-1428875453039.jpeg

April 12, 2015
by Natalie

Puddle Jumpers

While Nate’s parents were in La Cruz, we said goodbye to our friends Eric and Jaime from s/v Coconuts. They left their beloved “Coco” in La Paz and are crossing the Pacific as crew on s/v Pied de Mer, a catamaran belonging to Eric and Pam Selix.

image

image

They sailed out of La Cruz on March 29th and are about to cross the equator! Follow along on their adventures at www.svcoconutz.com.

image

wpid-wp-1428857979535.jpeg

April 12, 2015
by Natalie

Sully’s Nana and Pappy Visit Mexico

We knew that the main reason Nate’s parents were coming to Mexico was to see us Sully, but we still wanted to show them around and give them a nice vacation. In the six days they were in Puerto Vallarta, they got to experience not only resort Mexico, but also the real, small town Mexico that most tourists never venture out to see.

image

They arrived tired and hungry, so we hopped on a bus and headed to the beach. We took them to the beach side restaurant we went to with our new friends the week before. We had discovered ceviche and wanted more! We enjoyed a nice lunch and some beers before taking a walk down the malecon (seaside walkway) and finding a bus back to La Cruz. We could tell our guests were tired – they had been up since 2am!

image

Nana and Pappy brought toys to keep Sully entertained

Thinking back about their visit, it seems like the first few days revolve around food and drink. But there’s no better way to get to know a place than by trying the food! Thier first morning we woke up and went out for huevos rancheros (rancher’s eggs served with tortillas) and chilaquiles (tortilla chips covered in salsa) for breakfast and that night we had the most flavorful rib-eye tacos at Tacos on the Street. The next day we did a tequila tasting followed by “drowned” carnitas tortas for lunch.

image

Relaxing after breakfast

image

Yummy rib-eye tacos

image

Can I have some?

image

Entertaining himself during the tequila tasting. He’s a cat person.

image

Too much tequila?

image

Carnitas Tortas Ahogadas and Tacos

After tacos one night, we walked through the La Cruz town square and found a big bouncy house blown up. They were getting ready for the Semana Santa (Easter) carnival. Sully jumped and played for over a hour. We texted his friend’s mom to let them know about the fun. Soon Sully was jumping along with his best friends Ollie and Emma. It was so cool to see Sully in there having SO MUCH FUN! I was glad that he wasn’t nervous at all and climbed right on in the huge structure. The bounce house was there the next night, too, along with other rides. Sully begged to go on the bounce house again all day, but once he saw the cars to ride, that’s what was on the agenda. He had his heart set on a pink big rig with Whinnie the Poo on it, but that ride was broken. He settled on the pink jeep.

image

image

After three nights at anchor, it was time to get these landlubbers into a marina before the seasickness meds wore off! We motored to Paradise Village Marina where we would stay for the duration of Lynn and Mary’s visit. We spent the next three days enjoying the perks of dock life and resort living!

image

image

image

image

On Sunday nights there is a welcome party with free snacks and drinks. The hotel staff comes up on stage and describes all the events that happen during the week. There is a kids club and to promote it all the kids get up on stage to play a game, and Sully wanted to get up on stage! The kids line up and when the music starts they put on the sombrero, spin around and then pass the hat along. If the music stops when you have the hat on, you’re out! Sully needed a little help from the staff, but there were a few other toddlers on stage, and the crowd was cheering for them all. When there was about five kids left (and the little ones kept getting free passes) they asked for a parent to come on stage to give guidance. Once I went onstage to help, Sully lost interest in the game and just wanted to go back to his seat and eat his popcorn. Guess he didn’t get my competitive spirit!

image

image

The marina leads back into an estuary that is a known crocodile zone. We took a dinghy ride one day and went crocodile hunting. We even brought a whole chicken that had been in the fridge a little too long. We saw one big one and one baby one, but didn’t catch them on camera, and the chicken just ended up sinking to the bottom. Hopefully a croc found it as a snack later.

image

image

On the last night of their visit the hotel had a big Mexican Fiesta! We decided to splurge and enjoyed the food (every Mexican dish you can think of), drinks (they gave us shot glasses to wear around our necks and filled them with tequila all evening!) and dancing (they had dancers from each state in Mexico). Of course there was a mariachi band and what’s a party without silly balloon hats! It ended up being a great night and by the end, Sully was up on the dance floor wooing all the girls.

image

image

image

image

Some more pics just for fun!

image

Sully wanted to try Nana’s electric toothbrush

image

image

image

image

Gotta read Little Critter before bed!

We sent Nana and Pappy back to the airport before dawn. Our last obligation in La Cruz was completed so now we could start planning our passage north in to the Sea of Cortez. We plan to sail north to Guaymas and haul Astraea out of the water in May. We’ll return to the United States to renew our tourist visas and visit friends and family.

April 5, 2015
by Nate

An Unexpected Day

In the week between Lizze’s departure and Nate’s parents arrival we didn’t have any plans. All we needed to do was clean up the boat, get laundry done, and grab a few more groceries before Lynn and Mary arrived in Mexico. We met a few new cruising families and hooked up with old friends that had arrived in La Cruz, and there was a fun beach party for all the kids complete with a bonfire, pizza, s’mores and paper lanterns.

image

Aimee from s/v Terrapin lighting a paper lantern

image

All the girls love Sully

On the way home from dropping Lizze  off at the airport, Sully noticed a Church’s Chicken/Subway with a big indoor playplace. He called it the “chicken playground” and asked if we could go. I said maybe soon and he forgot about it. But Nate didn’t, because on Sunday he suggested going to the “chicken playground” for lunch. We were bored that day and had nothing to do, but I think he just wanted an excuse to get fried chicken ;-)

Sully was VERY excited to hear our plans, so we hopped on a bus and headed towards Puerto Vallarta. We ate our lunch and Sully had a blast playing with all the other kids, but there was one boy, Eduardo, that he really got along with.

image

Nate and I started talking with his parents, Veronica and Gabriel, via Google translate. Veronica asked if we had seen the “cocodrilos” yet. Puerto Vallarta has wild crocodile’s that we hadn’t seen before and they asked if we wanted to come along. Since we had nothing else to do that day we agreed. We all hopped in their big SUV and drove down a long bumpy, dirt road until we came to a chain link fence. There were five crocodiles and one very brave white crane on the other side.

image

image

I thought they would just drive us back to the restaurant, but they asked if we wanted to go downtown and walk along the Malecon. We spent the rest of the day down by the beach, letting the boys run and play together.

image

image

image

image

Eduardo’s aunt, Fabiola, showed up in the afternoon which was convenient because she spoke English, and our phone batteries had died from using translate so much! They introduced us to the delicious sea food of Puerto Vallarta at a great restaurant right on the beach. We found out that we really love ceviche!

image

Always making new friends

After dinner we walked down the malecon to the city center. Music was playing and people were dancing in the square while all the kids were running around playing games.

image

image

We had been into Puerto Vallarta three times before this day, and didn’t think we’d go back, but that was before we saw the city with the help of locals. We had never been as far south on the malecon and found it to be much more authentic compared to what we had seen before. Meeting new friends helped us realize we need to talk to people outside the cruising community and practice our Spanish with Rosetta Stone a lot more.

wpid-wp-1427398797035.jpeg

March 26, 2015
by Lizze Kraft

Guest Post: 9 Tips for Visiting Cruisers

Ahoy, everyone!  I’m Nate’s sister, Lizze and I just got back from visiting S/V Astraea. Here are my nine tips for visiting cruisers:

1. Pack light!
There isn’t space on a sailboat for suitcases and ten pieces of luggage.  When I visited, I packed EVERYTHING I used for the week in a small backpack. The portability of my pack allowed my adventure to start as soon as I stepped off the plane. Nate, Nat, and Sully took me to Bucerias where we enjoyed shrimp tacos from a roadside stand. If I had a duffle bag or suitcase, we would have had to go directly back to S/V Astraea before exploring beautiful Mexico.

image

Here is the complete list of what I brought:
-camera and charger
-swimsuits
-3 shirts
-2 shorts
-underwear
-sandals
-hat
-sunglasses
-toothbrush
-deodorant
-razor
-assorted boat parts
-comb and hair ties
-eyeliner, mascara, and
chapstick (seriously, you don’t
need foundation – you’ll
sweat it off anyway)
-pajamas

Continue Reading →

wpid-wp-1426979614577.jpeg

March 21, 2015
by Nate

Filling up with Fuel and Water in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

Diesel: We have a main diesel tank that holds 50 gallons, an aft tank that holds 40.5 gallons and four five gallon jerry cans. In those four cans we can actually carry about 23.75 gallons of fuel. Our fueling plan is to rotate through the fuel using our oldest fuel first. Yesterday we ran out of fuel in the main tank while charging the batteries and running the refrigerator at anchor. We transferred 23 gallons from the aft tank to the main tank and added 23.75 gallons from the jerry cans to the main tank to top it off. Today at the fuel dock we put 40.5 gallons in the aft tank and 23.75 gallons in the jerry cans.

We have two outboards and two outboard fuel cans, one is three gallons and the other is six gallons. Our Honda generator holds about a gallon of fuel and we have two five gallon jerry cans that hold about 11.75 gallons of fuel total.

For water tanks there are 23 gallon tanks under each salon settee and a 40 gallon water tank under the aft lower quarter berth. Our water heater holds 6 gallons, giving us a total of 92 gallons of fresh water. We also have a Village Marine Tec SeaQuencher 200 water maker that produces about 7 gallons of fresh water per hour when it is running. Were not using it right now because the water around La Cruz is pretty dirty from rain and a recent red tide.

After filling up with fuel we moved over to Dock 1 at the marina and filled up our water tanks, jerry cans and solar shower with water and gave the boat a quick rinse. Note: Some people say the water at La Cruz is not fully potable, so well use it for washing dishes and taking showers.

image

All fueled up and back in the anchorage

Costs:
Diesel: On March 21, 2015 we took on 64.27 gallons (243.31 liters) of diesel at a cost of $4,056.12 Mexican pesos. This includes a $601.16 Mexican pesos Servicio de Atraque or docking service fee. The listed price for a gallon of Diesel was 53.75 pesos, the true total cost per gallon of diesel was $63.11 pesos, or at todays credit card (including 1% international transaction fee) it ended up being $15.03 pesos to $1 USD or $4.20 USD a gallon.
Gasoline: The gasoline docking service fee was $170.15 pesos a gallon listed at $51.37 pesos and the full realized cost was $60.2 pesos or $4.02 USD a gallon.
Water: For 92 gallons of water we paid $15 pesos, a buck US.

March 6, 2015
by Natalie

Still Having Fun in La Cruz

Two more weeks have passed here in La Cruz. Here’s what we’ve been up to…

We took a trip to Puerto Vallarta to go to a few marine stores and ended up exploring a little bit, too. It’s a very tourist centered town. On the malecon there is an “Original” Senor Frog’s Store on every corner. We got to see the Voladores de Papantla, who climb to the top of a 50 foot pole, wrap thick ropes around the top, and then fall head over heels dangling by just one ankle. Dressed in traditional native attire and playing drums and flutes, they spin and fall gracefully to the ground as the ropes unwind at the top of the pole.

image

image Continue Reading →

DSCN2045

February 26, 2015
by Natalie

From the Galley: Grilled Pizza

Nate has been wanting to have a pizza night once a week. We tried a place in La Cruz last week and it was really good, but a little more expensive than our usual cheap tacos. We’ve made pizza on the boat a few times, but turning the oven on in this heat makes the boat unbearably hot. So what do we do? Grill it!

We use Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything for most of our recipe searches. There are a lot of times when we don’t have access to the internet, so having a huge book of recipes is essential. I’ve used this book for years before cruising. Everything always turns out great and it is very complete.

image

Continue Reading →

wpid-wp-1424372680375.jpeg

February 19, 2015
by Natalie

Two Weeks in La Cruz – Welcome to the Mainland

We dropped anchor outside the marina in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle on Friday Febrary 6th. Our first order of business was to get a hot breakfast. After three days of scrounging for food on our propane-less three day passage, we were ready for a real meal. We got the dingy in the water and ready to go into town.

image

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle from the anchorage

Continue Reading →