Two of Carlos Slim's three megayachts, "Tulley" and "Ostar," at Marina de La Paz.
Mariachis cap a perfect evening.
Waiting out a Norther in Bahía Falsa.
Clipped in while crossing the Sea of Cortez.
Wendy grinds his yummy
Welcome to Paradise.
One of the swimming pools.
Eggs Benedict or Huevos Rancheros?
Grady the Cockatoo says "¡Hola!"
The Welcome Event was a colorful spectacle.
Future Flamenco dancers.
Baja Ha-Ha mothership Profligate
Iguana sunning himself.
Wild coatimundi in the grass near a bus stop.
Beach chairs at Paradise Village.
Playing in the surf.
Cartwheels: the essence of
little girlhood on the beach.
A snowy egret high-steps it out of
Vallarta Yacht Club.
Bougainvillea on the docks.
This place gets a grip on you.
Late November/Early December, 2011 - We returned to La Paz from
the nearby anchorages to find ourselves suddenly caught up in the
lives of the rich and famous. Two megayachts were parked at Marina
de La Paz: the 140' Tulley and the 182' Ostar. Both belong to the
world's richest man, Carlos Slim (his other 200+ foot megayacht is in
the Caribbean!). Excitement filled the air the day Carlos arrived.
"Which one is he?" I asked as the entourage appeared. "The one with
the sunglasses." "But they all have sunglasses!"
A friend of ours is the captain of a neighboring megayacht, and he
invited us to his birthday party along with his buddy, the captain of
Ostar and his wife (who is also a captain but is currently enjoying the
high life on Ostar instead). Wow. How often do you get to peak in the
door of the world of the ultra rich? The stories these captains could
tell -- but can't due to contracts they've signed! The wine flowed, the
food was divine and above it all the music of the mariachi singers soared.
Out in Bahía Falsa a few days later, Mark played mellower tunes on his
guitar as we waited out a series of Northers that were blasting down the
Sea of Cortez. This was the ideal location to sit out these vicious storms.
We had tolerable winds and flat seas in our safe little nook, but the radio
crackled with chatter as one unattended boat dragged into another back in
the main La Paz anchorage. Helpful cruisers around the anchorage
located the owner of one of the boats in the US and relayed messages
from him to get the combination to the padlock, the location of the ignition
key, and the location of the battery switch for the anchor windlass.
It pays to wait for
a good weather
crossing the Sea
of Cortez, and
we got the perfect slot. We romped along close-hauled for 15 hours
at a blistering 7.5 knots and we motor-sailed the rest of the way,
zipping from Los Frailes to La Cruz five hours faster than we'd
planned. The seas were calm and the wind was warm on our faces,
and when we weren't on watch we each slept well. What an
incredible contrast to last year's roller coaster ride from hell on these
same waters where the teapot took a nosedive right off the stove and
the waves bore down on us like frothing beasts hissing at us from
above. Now we realize we crossed during a Norther last year.
The downside to our lickety-split speed was that it put us in port in the
wee hours of the morning in the pitch black. Fortunately, we knew the
La Cruz anchorage from last spring, but the twelve mile approach was
littered with small fishing pangas. Mark kept his eyes glued to what he
could see of the horizon through the binoculars while mine were glued to
the radar. The pangas kept materializing out of nowhere. They would
flash their flashlights at us frantically as we drew near and we'd flash
ours back to let them know we'd seen them.
We got the anchor down without a hitch,
43 hours after leaving Los Frailes, and
fell asleep almost before our heads hit
the pillow. Next morning as we
wandered around La Cruz it slowly sank
in that we were no longer in desert of
Baja California any more. We were in the lush, verdant, moist
tropics. The palm trees sported coconuts and the bananas
were thick on the trees.
The most important stop for us in La Cruz was at Garleria
Huichol in Octopus's Garden where a Frenchman named
Wendy roasts the most delicious French Roast coffee. We
stocked up and enjoyed a cup under the shade of a
The real reason we crossed the Sea to Banderas Bay (home of Puerto Vallarta) was to treat
ourselves to an early Christmas present with a stay at the incomparable Paradise Village
Marina. It is just a few miles from La Cruz, and we waited until we were fully rested from our
crossing before we headed over so we could make the most of every minute of our stay. As we
tied up at the dock a neighbor came over to greet us. "Are you here for good?" He asked. I
hesitated, puzzled. "Um, no, just five days… Are you here for good?" "Oh yeah!" Then we
discovered another neighbor had just signed up for his fifth year. As soon as we started walking
around the resort we began to understand why these guys weren't leaving. It's that nice.
Paradise Village is a huge complex of hotels, shops, villas, condos,
marina, golf course, beach, pools, spa and hot tubs located in Nuevo
Vallarta some 10 miles from downtown Puerto Vallarta.
The grounds are lavish, and lush, the dining areas are elegant, the
pools have a view of the expansive beach, and the spa can deliver
every possible body treatment you could dream of.
To keep the kids happy there is a building where vacationing
parents can drop them off for a day of supervised activities, and to
keep everyone happy there is a mall with all the favorite fast food
eateries from McDonalds to Starbucks.
After two months of living on the hook in a salty,
rolling home, I was dumbstruck when I went into the
women's showers in the spa and discovered a
candle-lit hot tub waiting for me. And boy, was I
ever clean when I finally emerged!
In the mornings the eager joggers ran around the
extensive grounds and up and down the miles long
beach. In the evenings couples strolled the paths hand in hand under the
stars. A small flock of macaws and a cockatoo added a tropical note to the air
with their raucous cries, and a pair of tigers in the middle of it all nursed a pair
of month-old cubs, the latest two of 76 that have been raised at the resort.
When we checked into the marina we were told
there was a "Welcome Event" that night with free
food and drinks at the amphitheater. What a
surprise to find rows of margaritas, piña coladas
and rum punches next to endless platters of finger
food and a huge crowd of vacationers taking seats
in front of an outdoor stage!
An emcee appeared and the colorful
show burst into action with all kinds
of dancing, audience participation
games and laughter.
We were treated to a special show
right in front of our seats as a little
girl and boy did their own dance
The marina has a cool layout
where all the boats are lined up
against the shoreline as it curves
along an estuary.
We took the kayak out one day
to explore the estuary a little
further, and were shocked to find
that our friends on Ostar had
followed us from La Paz and
parked at the end of the dock.
They must have liked our Groovy
Another boat in residence was
Profligate, the catamaran
mothership of the Baja Ha-Ha
cruising rally that takes boaters from
San Diego to Cabo San Lucas each fall.
Unfortunately its owners had returned
to the US and it was closed up tight.
Paddling down the estuary we passed many beautiful boats sitting out
in front of equally beautiful homes. Eventually we passed under a
bridge and turned away from civilization into the crocodile zone.
We didn't see any crocodiles but there were lots of exotic birds in the
trees and quite a few iguanas sunning themselves.
Unusual animals seemed to be the theme at
Paradise Village. Even when we took the city bus
to go provision at the supermarket we passed a
group of coatimundi scavenging in the grass.
So far we had explored only the
back side of the resort where the
boats and the estuary are. Out
front is an enormous beach that
stretches to the horizon and
seems to go on forever. Resorts
line the beach as far as the eye
can see, and each resort has a
collection of beach chairs and
thatch shade ramadas out front.
We took some wonderful, quiet
early morning walks along the sand. Later each day the beach would
be hopping with vacationers catching rays and playing in the surf.
Americans weren't the
only snowbirds enjoying
the warm air and warm
water. Several snowy
egrets were fishing along
the water's edge too.
The Vallarta Yacht Club
is an active social club
for all kinds of winter
residents, both boaters
and non-boaters alike. Visitors to the marina can enjoy the
yacht club's amenities too, and one afternoon we strolled down
for a beer and some free wifi. After an hour or so we noticed
the place was getting very busy. A woman came over and
asked, "Are you new members?"
We explained we were
"temporary" members through the
marina. She welcomed us warmly
and headed over to a large table
of delicious looking hors
d'oeuvres that had magically
appeared. We followed her
example and loaded up a plate
full of delicious goodies.
The crowd kept getting bigger,
and then another woman
asked us if we were new
members. "We must really
stand out!" Mark chuckled.
Just then a fellow with a microphone stood up right next to our table and said to the crowd,
"I want to welcome all our new members to New Member Night!" Suddenly we were in the
middle of a round of introductions and a microphone was thrust in my hand so I could
introduce Mark and myself to the group. "Gosh," I said to all the grinning faces, "We just
came down here for a beer and to get our email -- and then the party showed up!"
Another day we ended up on a timeshare tour of the nearby
Villa del Palmar resort. The freebies on offer were 1,300
pesos in cash ($100), a certificate for a week's stay at one
of their resorts for $249 when redeemed, and a one-week
pass to enjoy all the amenities of the resort here. It's not
that we couldn't find enough to do at the resort we were
already staying at, but we'd seen the
sister resort of Villa del Palmar in
Ensenada Blanca in the Sea of Cortez and
we were intrigued. A delicious gourmet
breakfast with a salesman, a resort tour
and an hour on the hot seat was all it took
to pocket our cool cash. This cruising life
is paying off.
It was really hard to tear ourselves away from Paradise Village, and we
envied the cruisers who had tied their boats up there semi-permanently.
But the warm air that had blown us across the Sea of Cortez had turned
cool in the evenings and the water that had been 80 degrees at the
beginning of the week had suddenly dropped to 69. It was time to go
south to Manzanillo Bay.
Find La Cruz, Puerto Vallarta and Banderas Bay on Mexico Maps.