Sunday, April 22, 2012

Life in Mazatlán – March 19 – April 4

In our Responses to FAQ’s we talked about how we spend our time at anchor.  This post is about how we spend our time while docked at a marina – or at least how we spent these two-plus weeks in one of our favorite marinas: El Cid Marina Hotel in Mazatlán. 

Visitors:  The first couple days were spent visiting the Marina Mazatlán area (a nearby marina complex) with our visiting crewmember, Bob Romano, to view the changes that have taken place since his boat Gusto was at Marina Mazatlán in 2003.  The planned development of that marina area stalled out as a result of the world-wide economic slump and related reduction in tourism, and the slowdown of tourism to Mazatlán in particular due to concerns about narco-trafficking in Sinaloa.  For example, several condominium developments are only partially finished, and the shopping area is only half full.  Even so, the area has undergone a huge transformation in the last nine years and is now the home to some very good restaurants.  We introduced Bob to La Mona, with a wood-fired pizza oven, and Gus y Gus, with wonderful Mexican fare.  We also travelled with Bob to Mazatlán’s old town area where we ate at a couple places at Plazuela Machado . . . is there a pattern here?  . . . and spent some time at the Marina El Cid pools resting up after our arduous trip north. 
Bob left on the 22nd and that night we joined our friend Victoria Gruver Curtin and her daughter Mary, who were visiting their family’s time share in Nuevo Mazatlán, at Bruja Beach, a large restaurant known for its seafood dishes.  It was great to see them, though they were a little distracted during dinner.  Victoria’s nonagenarian father was spending the night in a local hospital being treated for the dehydration that comes with what visitors often need to be treated for in Mexico.  Before they left to go check in with the medical clinic, we did some catching up, learned about Mary’s college experience, and consumed a lot of shrimp.  The last word was that Mr. Gruver was making a full recovery.

Art Walk:  Friday night is art walk night in Old Mazatlán, and we had a wonderful walk through the old town and through several art studios with our friend Pam from Kewao . . .  including one studio that wasn’t on the tour!  While we were walking along Molly glimpsed the inside of a particularly charming courtyard – one of those little jewels that hide behind the high walls of urban Mexico.  As we were stopping to peak into the grate that separated the courtyard from the street, two other people walked toward our little group.  We stepped aside to let them pass, and invited them to peak in.  “We were just snooping – take a look at this absolutely lovely courtyard.”  The woman’s response brought a hot flush of embarrassment:  “Thank you, I live here.” 
We offered effusive apologies for our Peeping Tom activities, and she couldn’t have been more gracious.  She invited us in to her gorgeous home, introduced us to her husband, and showed us their art collection!  We even got to see her studio, and learn about an upcoming show she is preparing.  Perhaps the moral of the story is that sometimes it pays to be nosy? 

One studio on the tour was that of Armando Nava and his sister Laura Nava.  Armando Nava is a portrait painter – the type that can capture not only the look, but the personality of his subjects.  He had one painting of the twenty-something year-old heir of a Mexico City family in progress.  Later we wondered if the family would see just how self-important their precious son seems to be . . . .  What happens when a portrait painter brilliantly captures the essence of the subject – and shows the subject in a less-than-flattering light?  Does the subject “get it”?  If so, does the painter still get paid?  Does the family take the painting and stash it in the attic?  Would we be afraid to have someone paint us?   Hmmm.
Semana Santa:  We love Mazatlán in part because unlike some places (Cabo San Lucas and Paradise Village in Nuevo Vallarta come to mind), Mazatlán is where Mexican nationals go for vacation.  Semana Santa, which began on April 1, is the biggest week for vacations in the Mexican calendar.  And Mexicans do not vacation in couples or groups of couples, nor do they vacation with only the “nuclear family” that America loves to talk about loving.  Mexicans vacation with the entire family -- from grandmother and grandfather to the tiniest baby.  So beginning on April 1, the hotel portion of El Cid Marina Hotel was jam packed with vacationing families; families dining on their hotel balconies and patios and hanging around the pool; daughters steering ancient mothers through the hotel lobby; gaggles of kid cousins watching the outdoor movie.  There were unannounced activities that mysteriously erupted around the hotel, including fire jugglers on the lawn and a mariachi band on it's way to Marina Mazatlán on a catamaran.   

It was a great time.  Okay, we’ll admit all of this celebrating ran a bit thin around two in the morning, but we’re old and grouchy.  Mostly it was great fun.      

Miscellaneous Activities:  Molly had her momentous hair moment (see prior posting) and prepared and transmitted our tax information for our accountant in California, which was complicated by the fact that some of our documentation had gone walkabout as a result of our change of mailing address and had to be tracked down.   Bryce stayed out of her way, since she’s not any more fun when she does taxes in Mexico than she is when she works on them in California.
We did a big grocery shop at a Mega – one of the monster shopping stores that have sprung up in Mexico’s large urban centers.  These stores are much like Walmart, except not subject to U.S. anti-bribery laws (see New York Times article on Walmart’s violations of federal laws that ran on April 22!).  Why shop in such a place when there is good food at some of the small local food markets?  Two reasons: 

First:  Megas and their like (Soriana and Chedraui are two others) have it all in one place -- no need to traipse to three different stores to find paper towels, toothpaste, cereal, bread, meat and vegetables.  Isn’t it more charming to shop that way – buying vegetables from the vegetable person, and the meat from the carniceria and tortillas from the tortilleria?  Of course it is.  And we prefer to do so – it’s always nice to support small business, and often the food is fresher.  Consider, however, that we are limited to public transportation or taxis.  And when we are shopping for a one week or longer trip to a place where supplies are either unavailable or limited to dusty canned goods, cabbage and beer -- it’s worth giving up a bit to get the shopping done in one big visit.    

Second:  These mega-stores have some of the things that those of us from El Norte like that are hard to find in Mexico – sandwich meat that looks like meat (vs. the odd pressed-meat stuff that come in sandwiches here), dark roasted coffee beans, raspberry jam, sausages that aren’t hotdogs, etc.

Molly got laundry done.  How difficult is that when one uses a fluff and fold service?  Well, as we have learned, one must pre-treat clothes before handing them over to the fluff and fold service or live forever with any grease (cooking or engine) spots and that particularly icky yellow thing that sun screen does to clothes.  And when the clothes come back, one must stash them in the teensy-tinsey little spots available in some sort of organized fashion so that they can be found a week or more later.
Bryce took care of some boat projects: an oil change (what a mess!), several minor repairs, and ordering and overseeing two or three new bits of canvas covers, including one for the dinghy engine.  The local canvas work is great.

And of course it wasn’t all work.  There was a dock party organized by Jekamanzi (South African for dragonfly).  We had our friends from Tarry-A-Bit over for dinner, and had a wonderful dinner on Kewao.  And we spent some time at the pool . . . all important parts of the cruising experience.   
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But we’re always glad to get sailing again, so we left Mazatlán on the 4th to sail to La Paz – a trip of about 190 miles across the Gulfo de California (aka the Sea of Cortez), which we’ll write about in our next post. 

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