Saturday, December 31, 2011

Gunboats and rifles and choppers -- Oh My!

Yesterday morning, the 30 or so sailboats gently bobbing in the peaceful La Cruz anchorage were awakened by the buzzing of a Mexican military chopper flying overhead.

He flew low over us one more time. And again. OK -- something's up.

We turned on the VHF radio, started the coffee and popped up on deck into the cockpit.

What's this? A Mexican military frigate had planted itself on the edge of the anchorage.

And on the other side of the small anchorage, a second gunboat had silently entered the picture. With several armed military men aboard. This boat was slowly driving right through the anchorage, within a few feet of the sailboats.

The same chopper continued to circle aggressively over the anchorage for another several cycles.

Chris and I uttered a couple of "Hmmmm...what's this?" type mutterings under our breath,  but basically we were silent. And observing.

The morning VHF channel 22 radio net, which at this time of the morning would normally be cheerfully buzzing with cruiser hailings from one boat to another, making New Years Eve plans, asking if anyone has a spare fuel pump, etc. -- was curiously silent as well.

Every sailor in the anchorage sat silently and vulnerably in their little sailboats, which suddenly felt as small and vulnerable as toys bobbing in a bathtub.

One sailboat next to us had clearly seen enough. They pulled up their dinghy and anchor and quickly headed to sea. I wondered if this was such a good idea...

A peek through our binoculars showed these hapless sailors were promptly boarded by a gunboat about a mile out to sea. Like I said: not such a good idea.

This was unlike anything we had seen in Mexico so far during our travels.

This is a good time to point out that each time we have met Mexican police or Navy during our travels, they have been friendly, helpful and completely non-aggressive. We have felt absolutely safe in their care.

Now a third, fourth and fifth gunboat entered the picture. From all sides.

"I think I'll get dressed." I said matter of factly. Who knew what would happen next? Being in pajamas just seemed so...vulnerable. And ridiculous.

Yes. I would get dressed. That is the next indicated step.

We were looking forward with intense curiosity to the 8:30 morning cruisers net on the radio. This is where all of the daily comings and goings of the marina and anchorage are discussed. What, if anything, would they say about this interesting situation in which we found ourselves?

At 8:30 they started the radio net as usual. They made announcements as usual. They discussed the weather, tides, upcoming New Years Eve plans, as usual.

Another chopper flew low and hard overhead in the middle of an announcement, which needed to be repeated due to the interruption.

After several minutes it became clear that noone was going to acknowledge this flack-jacketed elephant in the middle of our floating living room.


I turned to Chris and whispered slowly, and with intensity:

"If you don't discuss doesn't exist."

We shared a hearty laugh over this inside joke, which helped cut the tension that hung over the boats and the anchorage like a cold fog bank.

We had heard this line a couple of days earlier from our friend Kat, who had shared it during a discussion of the mindset some people have in keeping long-held deep, dark family secrets:

(whispered slowly, and with intention) "If you don't discuss doesn't exist."

After 20 minutes the cruisers net ended, and the "social net" started, which is a more casual VHF net to discuss events, maintenance issues, etc.

Finally, finally, FINALLY, at the very end of the cruisers net, someone got the guts to acknowledge the obvious and asked:

"Uh, well, does anyone have any idea why there are military choppers flying over and we are completely surrounded by the Mexican navy?"

I can guarantee you that every crew member on every boat within radio range dropped what they were doing and literally leaned 2 feet forward and planted their face and ear next to the radio to hear the response.

We found out that there was a perfectly good explanation for the military armada.

No, they were not a gang of corrupt militias about to board, rape and pillage every boat in the harbor.

It turns out that the governors of both Nayarit and neighboring Jalisco were arriving in La Cruz for a presentation at the marina to fisherman who had performed heroically during a recent mishap at sea. And this was simply a completely normal military/police presence to preserve the peace during this political visit.



Well. Just goes to show you.   :-)

We promptly took the bus into downtown Puerta Vallarta immediately afterwards with Talaria and had a wonderful day, chattering on about our morning adventure.

Happy to be alive and having the adventure of our lives!     :-)   XOXOXO Liz and Chris

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