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Tuesday, 3/8/05

"Sophie's Great Adventure"

Hi Everyone -

Greetings from Bahia Chamela ("bahia" is Spanish for "bay"), which is about 80 miles south of Puerto Vallarta. This anchorage is nice and quiet - very small village, beautiful long beach, and clear water with great snorkeling. We like it here, which is a good thing because we've had to stay longer than we expected since the winds have been unfavorable for us to return to Puerto Vallarta.

We tried leaving Chamela for P.V. a couple of nights ago, but we came back because the winds and seas were on our nose and getting stronger the longer we were out. We started out from here making 4 knots, which wasn't great but definitely do-able. However, when the winds and seas increased, we were slowed down to about 2 knots, and when we got hit with a big wave, it slowed us down to about 1.5 knots. Needless to say, it would have taken many uncomfortable hours to get to our destination, so we turned around.

We were trying to get to P.V. to pickup a guest - we volunteered to kitty sit "Sophie" for our friends Bob & Kay (on Kay II) while they visit family in Arizona. The weather was definitely not cooperating, and we were in a quandary as to what to do about Sophie. We had committed to watching her, it was now Friday, and Bob and Kay were leaving for Phoenix on Monday morning. Fortunately, Bob & Kay are also sailors and have been in a similar situation, so they completely understood. We needed to think of an alternate plan.

We have another boating friend who recently took a bus to P.V. to meet her mom because they, like us, couldn't get there because of the weather. Mexico has a great bus system that runs between major cities and smaller towns (as good as Greyhound, except if you don't take a first class bus, you may find yourself riding with chickens). I sent an e-mail to Bob & Kay and said I could take a bus to P.V. to pickup Sophie, but they insisted that they would bring Sophie to us. We are stilled awed at the ease with which the transfer occurred and thought you might enjoy the story. We are in very rural Mexico, but we somehow managed to coordinate this (without a telephone) in just over 24 hours.

Kay II also has winlink e-mail through their single sideband (SSB) radio, so we arranged all of the details by e-mail. We tried talking via the radio a couple of times, but propagation was not good, and although I could usually hear them, they couldn't hear me. Their boat was in a marina, and the surrounding boats and buildings created a lot of interference for them. However, on Saturday, Kay asked someone on the morning SSB net to "relay" a message to us that Bob and Sophie were on the bus. It's about a three-hour bus ride from P.V. to Chamela, so they expected to arrive between 11 and 11:30 a.m. I had previously told Bob via e-mail that I would meet him at the bus stop. We were also each carrying a hand-held VHF radio, so if we had any problems finding one another, hopefully we could reach each other by radio.

I asked our other boating friend where the bus stop was, and she directed me - walk about 2 miles down the beach, go through an R.V. park, and walk about 1/2 mile down a dirt road to the "highway." The highway is just two-lanes, but it's paved, so I guess that makes it a highway. There's a restaurant and little store ("tienda") where the dirt road meets the highway, and the bus stops there. Since we had some strong winds in the anchorage the previous day, Rich felt uncomfortable leaving the boat unattended, so my friend Debbie (on a power boat called "Megabyte") came with me. When we got to the bus stop, we asked a guy at the restaurant if this was the "Chamela" bus stop. He told us "no" and that the "Chamela" bus stop was about 15 kilometers (or 9 miles) down the road.

Since there aren't enough people in this area for a local bus service, we needed to figure out how to get to that bus stop. My friend Debbie had visited here before, and she and her husband had hitched rides a couple of times. There was a family getting in their car in the parking lot of the restaurant, so I stumbled through my bad Spanish and asked if we could get a ride to Chamela. They said "yes" so we climbed in. The family was two women (we assume sisters), a man (the husband of one of the women) and a young boy, about 8 years old. As we drove, I tried to speak Spanish with them, and the little boy piped up and said "You can speak English to us!" They were a Mexican family from Guadalajara, but all spoke and understood some English. They dropped us off in front of a sign that said "Chamela" and told us this was the bus stop. We were in the middle of nowhere, but we were on the highway, and there did appear to be a bus stop on both sides of the road, so we got out, thanked them and waited for Bob. About 15 minutes later, a bus pulled up, and Bob got off with Sophie and her luggage. Couldn't believe it! Bob offered to go to the boat with us to get Sophie settled in, but we told him there was no need. He had a schedule that said the buses ran every hour, so he was hoping he wouldn't have to wait too long for a return bus. Our timing couldn't have been better. We crossed the highway, and about 5 minutes later, a bus showed up, and Bob was on his way back to Puerto Vallarta.

So, now Debbie, Sophie and I needed to find our way back to the anchorage. Dave (Debbie's husband) had told us that the village by the anchorage is called Punta Perula, so at least we knew where we wanted to go. There was a car turning on to the highway from a little side road (which we assume went into the town of Chamela), and we asked the woman driving if we could get a ride. She said she could give us a ride to San Mateo, which was about half-way to Punta Perula, so we got in, and she drove us to San Mateo. This lady spoke no English, and I had a hard time understanding her Spanish, so we smiled and nodded a lot. She dropped us off in San Mateo, which consisted of a couple of tiendas along the highway. We hung out in the parking lot for a few minutes, but there wasn't much traffic coming and going at the tiendas. Debbie has long blonde hair, so she pulled it out of the pony tail, and when we saw a car coming down the road, we stuck out our thumbs. (I have never, ever, hitched a ride in the U.S., and I couldn't believe we were doing it in Mexico!) A big Chevy Suburban drove by at about 80 miles an hour, but no luck. We waited a little longer, and we saw the Suburban coming back. The driver (a young guy, 30'ish) was dressed nicely, spoke perfect English, and asked us where we were going. We told him Punta Perula, and he said he could take us there. His name was Miguel, and he told us he's the manager for a resort hotel a little further up the coast. He seemed to enjoy our story of the getting the kitty, and he insisted on driving us all the way to the beach where we land our dinghies.

When we got to the beach, since the surf was up a bit, we were concerned Sophie might get wet taking off from the beach in a dinghy, so we got a ride out to Slip Away in a panga (Mexican fishing boat). Sophie is a boat kitty and has traveled a lot, so she was no worse for the wear in all this adventure. She seemed to make herself at home quite quickly on Slip Away.

Once again, we were amazed at the kindness and generosity of the Mexican people. We offered money to all who gave us a ride, and all declined. The guy who brought us to Punta Perula obviously went out of his way, but he seemed happy to help us out. Our guardian angels were definitely keeping an eye on us in this adventure!

Take care all! We miss you!

Love, Jan & Rich

s.v. Slip Away

in Chamela