Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Making The Best of It -- January 12 - 21, 2014

Update on "The Situation"

If you don't know what we mean by "The Situation", and want to make sense of the following, see our three immediately prior postings.  Since our January 12 post:

January 16:  Officials from AGACE, an auditing branch of the Servicio de Administration Tibutaria (SAT) met with owners of many of the boats that have been put on embargo precautorio (precautionary embargo) status here in La Cruz.  The following description of the meeting with the skipper of the '62 foot catamaran Profligate (her nom de plum is Dona de Mallorca) comes from a post on 'Lectronic Latitude, the blog by the publishers of the West Coast sailing magazine Latitude 38:
". . . Dona de Mallorca asked them about the boat's status. The pleasant AGACE agent looked into the files and said, 'There are no problems with your boat.'  'Great,' said de Mallorca, 'she's free to go?'  'No,' replied the AGACE agent, 'she's still impounded.' He refused to say why or when she'll be released."
January 17:  When we returned from an out-of-town trip (see below - much more fun to read about than this embargo issue) we met with the lawyer for Marina Riviera Nayarit.  He confirmed that Abracadabra is one of the fully compliant boats.  He said he would be taking additional documentation to Guadalajara to seek release of all of the compliant boats on Friday, January 24.    

January 20:  'Lectronic Latitude reported that one embargoed boat in Ensenada has been told that there is a process for seeking release from embargo which includes sending copies of the vessel's temporary import permit, U.S. Coast Guard document, Mexican liability insurance policy and the owners' passports along with a letter from the marina seeking release of the vessel.  Release pursuant to this process is supposed to take two weeks. [Oddly, except for the letter, all of the documents listed above were in Abracadabra's file at the marina office that AGACE reviewed in November.]

January 21:  We sent the 'Lectronic Latitude report to the marina's lawyer, and he has said the La Cruz Harbor Master will be discussing this report with the Harbor Master for Ensenada.  We also sent this report to the U.S. Consul's office.  That office responded, suggesting that we either hire a lawyer or contact SAT in Zapopan (near Guadalajara) to request a review of our case. Sadly, the individual the Consul's office identified as our SAT contact was the same official that told people on January 16 that compliant boats could not be released.  We have pointed this out to the U.S. Consul's office and suggested that a trip to Zapopan sounded to us like an exercise in futility.  We've sent an e-mail to our Congressional Representative, Doris Matsui asking for assistance in working with the U.S. Consul.  Why?  Because we voted for her. 

Sigh.  Molly had a dream the other night in which we walked along the shore towards Abracadabra.  Or where she should have been, at anchor.  In that odd omniscient way of dreams, she saw that someone had cut the anchor rode and had sailed Abracadabra away. She woke up in the V-berth, convinced that someone had stolen Abracadabra.  We think that even without a PhD in psychology one can interpret this one . . .  

On to more pleasant topics:

Taking A Rest Cure in San Sebastian del Oeste:

To avoid succumbing to enfermidad de embargo precautorio we decided to take a short trip to a reportedly charming mountain village: San Sebastian del Oeste.  

And it is charming.  

San Sebastian del Oeste

The main square looks a bit like a movie set waiting for the director to cue the arrival of Pancho Villa or a dusty pickup carrying El Mariachi.

View From Restaurante Los Arcos del Sol

The church - full of images of San Sebstian stuck through with arrows -- was prettier than we expected.

San Sebastian - Stage Right - With Arrows


Easter Egg Ceiling

Bell Tower

It's chilly this time of year in the mountains (about 40 degrees Fahrenheit at night while we were there) so we were able to practice sleeping under blankets, wearing jeans and jackets and putting on socks to dash from bed to bath (our hotel had thick adobe walls and no heat).  While that may not sound so charming to those who live in chilly climes, it was fun for us - well, for two nights, anyway.

Things to Do in San Sebastian:

Not much.  That's the point.  There wasn't even a television or internet coverage at our hotel!  

We took several long walks.  

One was to a restored mining Hacienda in the hills above the village often frequented by the director John Huston.  

Hacienda Jailisco

It is a lovely walk along a babbling stream which, unfortunately lost some of its charm for Molly when she slipped on a mossy rock and went ass first into the cold water.  There was a minor injury to a finger and a more significant injury to her ego (she had to walk back to the hotel through the village making squish, squish, squish sounds . . . ) but we'd still recommend the walk.  Just maybe in the dry season.   

Efficient Mexican Clothes Dryer

The Injured Digit
 We rambled around the other routes in and out of town:

Cobblestone Street - Complete With Sky TV Antenna

Charm, Charm, Charm . . . But is There Heat?

Wandering Guy

 We watched events related to the novena to San Sebastian.   

The novena is the nine day run-up to the saint's day (January 20) which is also the "homecoming day" for the village. This is the day when those born in the village that are able to do so return home to do what Mexicans do when they're celebrating something: visit family, eat, drink, dance and laugh.  We were told that, beginning on the Friday night after our departure, every hotel room in the whole town was booked (and if you are younger than 10 you get a place on the floor with your cousins!).      
The daily ritual of the novena included:  

  • 5:30 a.m.: Very loud fireworks were shot of in front of the church (not sparkly fireworks -- rockets that made whistle-y, boom bomb-like noises).  We were told this was to open the heavens for San Sebastian
  • Noon: More fireworks. 
  • 5 p.m.:  More fireworks.
  • 6 p.m.:  San Sebastian was paraded through town to the church, with an accompanying band. 
  • 10:30 p.m.:  Even more very loud fireworks. 

How could a saint not feel well and truly welcome?

Primary Grade Roman Soldier
On His Way To Church Via Pickup Truck

Musical Welcome to San Sebastian

We watched the hordes of day-trippers arrive around 11:00 each morning, walk around, have lunch, and leave around 2:00.  We came to know most of the five overnight tourists by name.

And we took naps and read books under blankets.

Getting There Is Half The Adventure:

Because San Sebastian has narrow, cobbled streets and is reached by a winding, narrow road there is no bus service directly to the village.  Several guided tours make day trips there, and intrepid drivers can reach the village by rental car.  We wanted to stay over night and as all our readers know  . . . we're cheap, so we got there by taking:

  • The local bus from La Cruz to Puerto Vallarta (17 pesos or about $1.35 usd each);
  • A longer distance bus from PV to the farming village of La Estancia (80 pesos or about $6.75 usd each); and
  • A cab up the hill from La Estancia to San Sebastian (100 pesos - shared with another tourist = about $3 usd each).   
The address for the bus station in PV (this line has it's own station) and the schedule and fares from PV to Talpa de Allende (La Estancia is a stop on this line) are found here:

The local bus from La Cruz goes near this station, but we're not sure how close.  We had to get off early to get cash -- note: there is only one stand-alone ATM in San Sebastian and none of the local businesses take credit cards.  We took a cab from the  bank to the bus station. 

La Estancia, where you will find a cab to San Sebastian is the bano stop (3 pesos to use the w.c.) about half-way from PV to Talpa de Allende.  The 100-peso cab fare from La Estancia up the hill is apparently non-negotiable (we watched someone make an unsuccessful attempt to get a discount . . . ) but you might find other tourists going to San Sebastian that will share the cab and cost with you.  And really - even if you pay the full fare, it's under $8.35 usd!

The bus to La Estancia is not the super premium long distance bus we're used to riding in Mexico - it's pretty rattle-y and it stops frequently along the way.  But the ride includes great views - both landscape and portrait.

Other Potentially Useful Information:

Hotel:  We stayed at the Real San Sebastian which was picturesque and clean and at 700 pesos ($58 usd +/-) not a budget buster.  

Rooms Upstairs, In The Back

But it was really just four rooms above a restaurant.  No maid service on our second day.  No hot water until we reminded the guy that had met us upon our arrival that the boilers needed to be turned on.  There are several hotels in town, many with websites.  We're told some of the smaller hotels without web presence are clean and comfortable - you might consider just showing up and trying to find a room though it would be a bad place to not have a room as it's a long way to the next town with hotels. . . .

Food:  Most visitors to San Sebastian are day-trippers, and there are a number of good places to have breakfast and lunch.  We particularly enjoyed El Fortin in the square.  Dinner is another matter.  The locally famous Italian restaurant we had looked forward to visiting is only open Thursday through Sunday; and, of course, we were there on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.  Poor planning on our part.  Fortunately El Fortin was open on Wednesday night.  Our Tuesday night option (the only place in town that was open!) was expensive and just . . . fine. 

Coffee:  They grow it and roast it, and it's good in the two local coffee shops.  Restaurants may not do their best to showcase the local product.

Money:  There are no banks in San Sebastian and only one ATM.  Local businesses do not take credit cards.  Take cash.

Recommendation:  All-in-all it was a very nice stay - sodden butt and shoes and lack of Italian food notwithstanding.  If you're staying in PV for an extended period of time and are looking for a way to get away from la multitud de touristas a la playa - try a few days in San Sebastian.  Thursday and Friday, maybe.

Day Sailing

Last Sunday we had another lovely day sail on Bahia Banderas.  One of our Spanish instructors from Guanajuato, Rojelio Granda, joined us.  You may recall we tried to go sailing with Rojelio and his wife the weekend before, but we all opted out because it poured rain off and on all day.  Happily the weather was perfect last Sunday - wind up to 12 knots kept us sailing most of the afternoon.  

Rojelio At The Helm

And the famous whales were accommodating and put on a bit of a show for us.  

It's A Whale!
It Was A Whale!

It felt good to stay in sailing shape for the great day when Abracadabra is released! 

More stories of Life At The Dock to come.  And, hopefully, news of Abracadabra's release . . . or a plan for release . . . or something.

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