Monday, December 28, 2009
Our Christmas was a very low key event, and a huge break from Christmases past. Jack slept in until 10:30! (oh the teenage years are coming!) before dragging himself out of bed to see what Santa had brought. We exchanged our few presents, and then went out for lunch and a bingo game by the pool. Then an enormous roast chicken and all the fixings dinner (well good food will always be part of our life) and a movie. We spent the whole day together just enjoying each other's company and having nothing to do.
But cruising also involves lots of boat projects and Patrick has created a long list of Things To Do in our down time. Our biggest project we are tackling during our time in Mazatlan is an upgrade of our alternators. The alternators recharge the boat's batteries as they get used up running all of our systems like refrigerator, lights, radio and water maker. Whenever the boat engine is turned on, the alternators pour power back into the batteries.
Our three solar panels allow us enough power to eek out up to two weeks on the hook without turning on the engines, but eventually we have to turn the engines on to power up the batteries to full. Unfortunately, the alternators on the boat did not put out much power and so it would take running the engines for up to 8 hours to fully charge up the batteries. Which meant that all summer long, we never sailed much because we always had to have the engines running so we could power up whenever we moved locations. Our solution was to put two new huge alternators in which would power up our batteries in an hour or two of the engine running. A big project but one with huge rewards. We won't have to put as many hours on the engines now, we will use less diesel, and we will have easily accessible power so we won't have to conserve energy as much (hot showers whenever we want!). All in all, an improvement that will really improve our comfort. Thankfully our good friend Dave from Juniata is close by in Marina Mazatlan, and totally willing to help. That man is a saint.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
It's hard to believe it is almost Christmas - especially while you are soaking in the sun at the poolside. But we have hung our lights and I will be making Christmas cookies over the next couple days. On Thursday, Marina El Cid hosts a Christmas party for the cruisers. On Friday, we are going to the Christmas celebration thrown by the Salvation Army featuring the children in their orphanage.
We spent the day yesterday walking around the old section of Mazatlan - down by the cliff divers, all along the Malecon of Olas Altas and over to the Central Market. We love this City!
Friday, December 11, 2009
We tried to be very careful about picking the boatyard that will work on JaM. After all, she is our boat, our home, our transportation and our way of life. We can't do it without her, and we love her. So we checked this boatyard out, talked to the owner, were assured they have hauled many, many catamarans. They have been in business since the 1800's for crying out loud, so you wouldn't think they would stay in business if they are less than excellent. We were sold. Actually three of the four separate boatyards in La Paz are run by three brothers in this family dynasty started in the 1800's. They have a sort of monopoly on the place.
Patrick arranged with the owner that our boat would be hauled out on Thursday morning. Eight o'clock that morning, Patrick dinghied over to the boatyard, the cart was in the water and everything looked good. Well, everything looked good except that there was a boat moving towards the cart which was not ours. There was no one around at the time who spoke English so after establishing that the new boat was a quick fix, Patrick returned to JaM and we waited. Later we called the boat on our radio and found out that they had been scheduled to haul out three days earlier. So no problem, the boatyard was just running behind a bit. A couple of days later a panga came out to JaM and said they were ready for us. Hey, it's Mexico! Patrick said we would be there in forty five minutes or so. The panga said, "No we need you now". So we yanked up our chain and headed over.
When we arrived at the rail car, they had us raft up next to a fishing boat near the cart, so they had time to get our boat's measurements and keel design. The boatyard owner got on our boat and took measurements. He told us with absolute confidence that we could be hauled at the boat yard next door in their boat lift, and that it would be much easier than using the cart. This other boatyard was run by his brother. We were surprised, but acquiesced. We cast off and motored over to the boat lift with several workers coming along to help us get it into the boat lift enclosure.
The lift looked pretty tight to us, but we had been told by the "experts" that it would fit. No one was taking charge of the workers and they were all doing their own thing which meant that JaM was being pulled quickly towards the concrete abutments of the enclosure without aligning it. We watched slack jaw as our starboard bow was narrowly saved from certain cracking by one worker's foot. Good thing he didn't break it, because he stuck his foot between our boat and the concrete wall. He was lucky and so were we. They adjusted and kept pulling JaM in, but then one side started scraping the concrete walls. Fiberglass will always lose against concrete. That got Patrick screaming. The funny thing was that even though he was screaming in English, everyone got the point, and immediately dropped their lines. True emotion transcends language barriers. Patrick fired the boat back up and tied up to a dock nearby. Just then the brother who manages this boatyard showed up and asks what we thought we were doing - that boat can't fit! Patrick explains that the man's brother measured it and said it would, and this owner just shook his head and walked away. His contempt for his little brother was obvious. The workers all left and we sat at the dock and waited.
Ten minutes later, a panga pulls up and tells us to come back to the rail car. Unfortunately, the tide had been going out this whole time, but since the water is murky and we do not know the configuration of the cart, we assume that they know the depth of water over the cart. They know our keel depth. JaM is directed right to the cart, and they ask the motor be turned off. Then the same workers begin pulling JaM further onto the cart using ropes. Well, her keels clear the metal edge of the cart but come to a jarring halt against the wooden joists that we are supposed to be positioned on. But wait! We can't go back either! Our keels are trapped in the metal cart! We were stuck until the next high tide which was in 8 hours. The only lucky thing was that there was no wind, and no waves or otherwise JaM would have been beaten to a pulp on the cart. Even as it was, we were pretty sure there was fiberglass damage from the cart.
By this time you can imagine that Patrick and I were pretty upset, and very unhappy with their (lack of) professionalism. Patrick gets off the boat to speak with the owner and is assured that all workers will stay there, as will he, until JaM can be floated off at Midnight that night. It's about 6:00 pm at this time, at the end of a long day and so we decide to go out to dinner. As we leave the boatyard, we pass the owner with many workers standing around a table with dinner brought in for them. The owner assures us again that the workers will all stay, as will he, to help us off the cart at midnight. Great!
We enjoy a lovely dinner and return to the boatyard to find it completely empty of life except for one night watchman. We are stunned. The night watchman has instructions for us - when the boat is afloat, we are to back off the cart and proceed back to the marina with the lift and tie up at the dock until morning. Oh? All by ourselves? We set the alarm and go to sleep while we wait for the next high tide.
At 11 pm, there is sufficient water for JaM to float off but there is a wicked current. We are tied off at six points with two of the ropes going underwater to the cart. No problem, except those are OUR ropes tied underwater since they had "borrowed them". Somehow in the current, they expect us to run around untying six ropes while the current pushes us into the wooden railings of the cart, or other boats, or the rock marina walls until we can get the boat moving off the cart. We untied one rope experimentally and were immediately pushed askew toward a boat tied off only 40 feet away. A NIGHTMARE. And did I mention that directly behind us, just thirty feet away was a floating black buoy that was tied off with rope to the underwater rail behind us, just waiting to snare our props? Oh, and that there was a panga floating gently with its stern directly to the side of the buoy? There was too much liability at stake to attempt this alone. So short of launching the dinghy and looking for help, the only other alternative was to start shouting for help. That didn't work. Nearly midnight now and no help in sight. We could not stay on the cart and sit through another low tide, getting more damaged, and we could not get off without help.
That is when Patrick broke out the AIR HORN. Now that seemed to do the job. The night watchman came running, begging us not to blow the horn any more. He agreed to help us but when we asked him to get in the panga to push it out of our way, he told us he couldn't do it because he was afraid of water! So Patrick asked the nightwatchman to get the owner, but he refused. About this time, Patrick lost his temper for the second time (well, he IS Irish, and human) and he grabbed the air horn again and threatened to let it wail until the whole marina was up. Well, that got some action. The nightwatchman ran off and came back in about ten minutes with one man who got in a panga and they started racing around untying the ropes, but still no one was there to help me keep JaM from being pushed into things. Then they raced to the back of JaM, pushed the other panga out of the way and pulled the buoy to one side and we ungracefully backed out. Safe, mostly unscathed, without two of our four ropes, and very unhappy. We went back to the dock and tied up for the night. We were met on the dock by the nightwatchman and Patrick passed him a beer and shared one with him and apologized for putting him in this position. The nightwatchman was very understanding and nice and we eventually got to sleep that night.
At this point, I was ready to just run away as fast as we could and get to Mazatlan for Malvina's to pull us. After all, the yard was dirty, but the workers were VERY professional. Patrick explained that we really couldn't since we had likely sustained damage and the only way it would be fixed without costing us a lot of money was to let this boatyard fix their mistakes. Also he was worried about taking the boat on such a long passage without knowing WHAT damage it had sustained. All very reasonable, I had to admit.
The next morning, we are visited by the panga telling us to get ready, it was time. With great trepidation we let five workers on the boat and we untied from the dock and headed to the cart. And finally, like clockwork, everything went perfectly - all workers working together under one person's orders, and JaM was safely tied on to the cart in a matter of minutes. Then began the long process of tying, measuring, positioning, and securing her to the cart. It took four hours, but it was very professional seeming.
It stayed good until Patrick got off the boat and was told by the owner that the price of the haul out was actually $300 US more than what was originally agreed on. What? It seems that the price of the paint had magically gone up $100 per can since the time the quote was given. "That's what we agreed on, Amigo." Patrick was livid. He told the owner to fix the damage and launch the boat - we would go elsewhere for the painting work. They were both on their toes screaming in each other's faces and I was wondering, "How does one go about bailing one's husband out from a Mexican prison?" However, after Patrick cooled down he went back over to the owner and flat blank told him the one flat fee he was prepared to pay for the entire project. They came to an agreement (which included some free waxing) and the work proceeded. Oh, and yes, there were several chunks missing from the fiberglass of the keel, and some yellow paint and scrapes on the side from the concrete, but nothing too hard to fix.
The men who did the actual work were great. Patrick and Jack worked alongside them on the ground while I tackled projects top side. Although they spoke no English, everyone managed to communicate sufficiently. Every afternoon we would provide cold beer on ice and everyone would sit around the boat for an hour in the shade and enjoy. So overall we were quite happy with the work performed. But quite unhappy with the owner and the haul out process.
After two days of work, we were launched again. Never to repeat this experiment, I promise. Rail carts are not for us. As the rail cart moves up or down the rail, loud cracks and bangs reverberate through the boat. Whether it's the boat, or the cart, we don't know, but they are scary noises. Especially after a particularly loud crack when all the workers started yelling for the cart operator to stop while we were being launched. But we won't go into that. And La Paz, though beautiful, is a few pegs further down our list of favorite places. So less than 24 hours after being launched, we pulled anchor and raced for Mazatlan. There was a Norther wind storm coming and we wanted to stay ahead of it - either that or spend another week in La Paz.
Monday, December 7, 2009
Those of you paying attention will already know that it is completely bogus that the paint came off that sail drive. It was brand new, installed one year ago in California, then taken apart and redone in Mazatlan in March 2009. Add to which, the bottom of the boat was painted in California and it should have lasted two years. I can't answer why we have had to pull our boat out four times in one year for all the same problem parts, but I do know that we have become pretty expert at weighing the benefits of different yards and finding ones big enough to haul us.
Because that is the "Problem with Catamarans". There is really only one, but it is a pretty big one. Our boat is 22 feet wide. The majority of boatyards in Mexico are not equipped to haul out a boat that wide. Which means that you have few options for help when you need to get your boat on land for repairs. Your options are Careening, using a Boat Lift, or using a Rail System.
Careening is when you intentionally put your boat on the beach on a fairly high tide, wait for the water to go out, do your work and then wait for the higher water to come back and float you off. Definitely an option we were interested in at Bahia de los Angeles but unfortunately, you could not buy the paint we needed way up there. So that was off the list. Next option was using a boat lift, like Malvina's in Mazatlan. But we have been there and done that last year and it wasn't that fun. Malvina's was the boat lift used by the commercial fishermen of Mazatlan to pull out their huge fishing trawlers, but it was the only lift wide enough to accommodate us. Since it is in the commercial yard, it is way off the beaten tourist path, miles from anywhere in a very dirty, industrial part of town. Not very pleasant. Our third option was to use a boat rail system, which intrigued us. Basically it is a huge railroad cart, on railroad tracks, with a pulley system to pull the cart out of the water. The width of the cart could easily accommodate Just a Minute and even larger catamarans. The problem with the rail system is that you have to stay on the cart while the work is done, which means it should be fairly quick work, since the boatyard cannot haul out anyone else while you are on their cart.
Which all added up to our decision to use Abaroa's Boatyard in La Paz with its rail cart system. Patrick checked them out, spoke with the owner and was assured that they had lots of experience with catamarans since they service the Moorings catamaran charter fleet. Great! And they were reasonably priced. Yeah! All systems set to go, and we decided we had found out solution.
Stay tuned for the actual haul out story, coming soon to a computer near you.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Since we have lived in Mexico for one year, it is now time for us to start seeking the routine check-ups that we all need to keep healthy. Since my mother is a breast cancer survivor, my first priority was a mammogram. I had a recommendation from a fellow cruiser for a mammogram clinic and I walked there to set up an appointment. The clinic was very clean and well cared for, with marble tile floors. It was a little small by American standards, and there were no live plants or aquariums. OK - I can live with that.
Imagine my surprise when the receptionist tells me they have time for me right then! What? I don't have to wait three weeks for an appointment? Wow. My name was taken, my age and nothing else. No forms to fill out, no Social Security number to provide. Wow. I was ushered back to the room shortly. The mammogram was taken. Then the x-ray technician walked the mammogram films to the doctor who looked them over. If the doctor found anything concerning like a cyst, he would perform an ultrasound RIGHT THEN to get a better picture of the cyst. The ultrasound was FREE OF CHARGE - just part of the service they provide! When I was all finished in about 30 minutes, they told me that my films would be ready to be picked up the following morning. What? I get to keep my own films so I can bring them to any doctor I want for a second opinion? Amazing. No filing system, no billing office, no records department = little overhead.
Are you ready to hear how much this amazing service cost? It's hard to believe. This entire service cost me $650 pesos, at an exchange rate of 12 to 1, that is about $60 US. Total.
I was very impressed by my experience. Next the dentist!
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
La Paz is a main cruiser's hub of Mexico and it is full to the brim with the cruiser's who have been here forever living on boats, the Baja HaHa 09 participants who are mostly newcomers and who just got down here from the States in early November, and the people like us who are moving south after spending the summer up in the Sea. It is quite a circus. The five marinas in town are all pretty full and the anchorage in the bay is filled with about another 60 to 80 boats. We could not find a spot in a marina since out 22 foot wide boat only fits in a few spots in each marina and they were all taken. That is one disadvantage of a catamaran. We are anchored in the bay of La Paz next to Third Day and Windfall. Our reservations are set to attend the upcoming Thanksgiving dinner put on by the Club Cruceros Cruiser's association. And we are working to secure reservations to haul the boat out on Tuesday.
Happy Thanksgiving to everyone,
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Mentioned in earlier posts, we began having a leak in our salt water intake pump for the starboard engine months ago. The salt water keeps the engine cool while it is running. The first time it showed up was when we were running from Hurricane Jimena and our engine stopped running and the heat sensor alarm went off. At the time, we did not know what was wrong, and we had our hands full trying to get the heck out of Jimena's way, so Patrick started tearing apart the engine while we were underway to Willard Bay. He figured at the time it was a faulty impellor, so he tore the water pump apart, replaced the impeller, put it back together, primed it, and got the engine started. He is amazing, considering that he has not ever been much of a "motorhead". But the next morning, the engine would not work again, so he did the whole same trick underway while we raced on to Willard. Once again he got it started during the trip, but it failed again the next day.
After that, Patrick figured he had a leak in the pump housing that was causing the system to lose it's prime when it sat idle. Easy enough to work around. Either leave the salt water intake valve open all the time with a leak of salt water coming into the engine compartment (not good) or shut the intake, and only open it when the engine was needed, and then start the engine. The second option is what we used to eek our way through the summer. We were miles from any boat part store and there was no way to get any replacements to us in LA Bay, so we just made it work. Patrick ordered pump rebuild parts online, had them sent to a friend (Gary in Mulege) who was home in WA for the summer, but coming down in the fall. Trying to be economical, Patrick ordered the rebuild kit at $180 instead of just buying a new pump for $500. It seemed like a good idea at the time.
By the end of the summer, the leak was getting worse and worse, whenever we had to turn on the engine. We were very excited to get to Mulege and get those new parts so this game would end. Gary was returning to Mulege in November, which coincidentally happened to be when Tom decided to fly into Loreto to visit us, which is only 100 miles from Mulege.
We wanted the boat working perfectly when Tom was here so we went to Mulege, picked up the parts, and the day before Tom was supposed to show up, Patrick began rebuilding the pump. Only to quickly find that the Yanmar parts we received were not compatible with our engine's Yanmar parts. Because they were the same model number made in two different countries! Our engines were made in Europe (which is rare) and the parts we received were made in Japan (which is more common). Oh the Panic! We now had a non-functioning engine and were HUNDREDS of MILES from any boat parts store. Our boat cannot manuever with one engine. It would have been a nightmare to go hundreds of miles.
Many of you have realized that we are the luckiest people alive, when it comes to things that count. Sometimes you have to squint and turn your head to see the luck, but generally it is pretty clear that Patrick's Irish heritage has blessed him with luck. And this day proved it beyond belief. First we were lucky that we happened to be parked in an anchorage in Conception Bay that had pretty good internet which we had permission to use. We did not have cell phone service, and there was no way to get ahold of anyone except through internet. So we began frantically emailing everyone we knew trying to get a message to someone to A) go to Seattle and buy the right pump; and B) have Tom bring it down.
Our second lucky break was that our sister-in-law Pam was on line and willing to help. Which began a frantic email exchange. Over the following hours Pam called the parts store numerous times to make sure they had the right pump, and she got ahold of Tom. Our third lucky break is that Tom is one in a million, and he happened to have time to fight rush hour Seattle traffic and pick up a whole new pump before the store closed. He arrived at the store at 4:40 and the store closed at 5:00! Tom was leaving to catch his plane to Mexico the next morning at 3am. Which added to part of our concern when Tom did not show up at the appointed pick up time - "Where is our water pump?"
Now it can be argued that we would have been truly lucky if the rebuild kit we had ordered had been the right one to begin with, or that the pump would never have leaked in the first place., or if only we had ordered a whole pump instead of a rebuild kit. But after all, we do live in the real world, sometimes. And this makes for a better story.
Friday, November 20, 2009
Thankfully the next day, the 2 pm bus pulled over and one lone traveler with lots of baggage began huffing it down the dirt road toward the beach. Jack and I jumped in the dinghy and got to the beach before Tom had to fumble through too much bad Spanish asking the campground attendant confused questions. All the attendant did was point to the beach and Tom saw us waving from our dinghy. (We had put the word out to the denizens of the beach to be on the lookout for a confused looking gringo with luggage!) From that time on, we had a blast.
Our first few days were spent in Conception Bay visiting some of our favorite spots. We were sad to go to Coyote Island and see the devestation that Hurricane Jimena wreaked. The tiny beach where all the scallops lived was wiped off the face of the earth, along with the scallops and chocolate clams. Every partical of sand from that beautiful beach was gone, and only the large rocks remained. The bottom of the bay was littered with thousands of shells of dead scallops, chocolate clams, butter clams, and pen scallops. Some pen scallop shells were a monsterous two feet long! It was so sad. Our entire trip down the coast has been a sad tour of Jimena damage from Santa Rosalia to Mulege, but the loss of the beach we loved was more personal to us. The damage in Mulege was incredible. People are still working so hard to clean up and repair. Many, many homes were lost there.
From Conception Bay, we sailed to San Juanico with Tom. A Norther was coming and we knew that San Juanico would be a good place to sit out a wind storm from that direction. The next morning, the winds hit and continued for three days. We were pinned, but it was a beautiful place to be stuck. We snorkeled, visited the cruiser's shrine where Jack immortalized Tom's visit, and we hiked for miles. By the time the storm was over, we had enough time left to spend one night at a beautiful little island near Loreto and then we dropped Tom off in the Loreto marina the next day in time to catch a taxi to the airport. Hopefully he is safe at home.
After dropping Tom at Loreto, we hustled to Puerto Escondido where we reunited with Third Day. We planned to stay long enough to get laundry done, refuel, and clean the boat. Oh, and hike the Steinbeck Canyon. I am so glad we took the time, but this morning when we were walking the 45 minutes just to get to the trail head, I was wondering why we were bothering to do this. About 10 minutes into the hike from the trail head, I stopped wondering. I have never been on such a beautiful hike. We had Third Day's Amy and Jason along as guides to show us where to go. We had such a great day together. The scenery was breathtaking, as was the plunge in one of the canyon's pools. Tomorrow we leave on our epic dash to La Paz. We hope to be there in three days, so there will be no lolly-gagging done.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Our immediate future is becoming clearer through December. Our friend Tom has decided to come visit us. We will be picking Tom up at Conception Bay next week and sailing around with him for a week and a half before leaving him in Puerto Escondido. From there we are heading down to La Paz to be there in time for the Cruiser's Thanksgiving Feast. We will be meeting back up with Third Day and Windfall there, since they are also planning to attend. We have gotten information about hauling out in La Paz to get our keel and sail drives painted, so we will need to be in La Paz at least two weeks. Then over to Mazatlan's Marina El Cid for OUR vacation. Yes, it's true, you even need a vacation from paradise -just a little change up from anchoring out on beautiful, isolated islands. We are all looking forward to tying to the dock at El Cid and being a tourist in Mazatlan over the Christmas Holidays.
And that is as far into the future was we care to look. We know we will be heading south from Mazatlan in January, but we have no idea where we will end up. We'll know when we get there!
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Our time at the dock has been well spent. We were very happy when we first got here to see s/v Juniata tied to the dock. Dave and Marcia, Juniata's crew, are knowledgeable cruisers and friends of ours. Dave is one of those mechanical geniuses who just knows how to fix things. We knew he was just the person to help us figure out what was wrong with our engine that had conked out on the trip down. Sure enough, the next day Dave spent hours diagnosing the problem with Patrick and then showing Jack and Patrick how to fix it. Jack's school that day consisted of a guest speaker on diesel engines! And boy did he learn a lot - Dave is a very good teacher. By the end of the day, the engine was fixed and purring again. Yesterday, Patrick and Jack made the same repairs to the other engine - just to be proactive. Now we just have the engine water leak, the water maker leak and the propane system to figure out. But that is life on a boat. Every system is being used a lot in a very harsh environment of sun and salt water. Repairs and breakdowns are par for the course. Hopefully we have had our share for a while.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Our next stop was San Francisquito. It was a bumpy, long ride to get that far, but finally around 5:00 pm we made it to that anchorage. The weather update on the Southbound Net at 6:00 pm indicated that several more days of high winds were forecast for the area. When we heard that report, the JaM crew decided to just keep going. We had been nursing a leaking water intake pump on our starboard engine for the last two months, and in the last few days, the leak was increasing significantly. It didtn't seem like a good idea to get pinned down by a wind storm with a significantly increasing engine problem. Add to that, our propane system for cooking was acting up and working very sporadically for the last few weeks. Add to that, our water maker had begun leaking and requiring a lot of attention to continue working. With all that put together, the decision to keep moving was easy.
We had already been traveling since 9 am that morning and had put in about 8 hours in seas with 5-6 foot waves and gusts up to 30 knots on our port hind quarter. A very bumpy ride, and I was not feeling well. So we pulled over at a beach with north wind protection and cooked up some dinner, watched a movie, and caught a three hour nap before waking at midnight to continue the trip to Santa Rosalia, another 70 miles further south. At about the halfway point in our journey, our one good engine suddenly began acting oddly and so we shut it off. That left us with 1/2 a working engine and no wind! A new problem! It was excruciating to creep along at 3 to 4 knots, but about fourteen miles out of Santa Rosalia, the forecasted winds started up and we caught a fast and furious ride on 25 knots of wind. It was fun to scream along on a reefed in main and jib, after hours of bobbing around listlessly. We made it into Santa Rosalia around 2 pm, about 29 hours after we had left Alacran.
So here we sit at Santa Rosalia, with a few boat projects to occupy our time and decisions to make about where to haul out and get repairs made. The wind storms will be blowing through here until this weekend, but we will probably be here longer than that. The mound of laundry alone should take days to work through!
Saturday, October 24, 2009
Our time in Refugio was well worth the effort of getting there. Patrick and Jack went snorkeling with the sea lion pups at the colony up there. Patrick speared his first fish there, and we enjoyed days of beautiful weather. Also up at Refugio with us were three boats with fine musicians on board and we enjoyed a fantastic live concert on the beach one night with a mandolin, banjo and harmonica. It was a very memorable evening.
Now we are back in LA Bay for the last time this summer and looking to do a small sail slightly south today. We are planning to be on a slow boat to Santa Rosalia, which will be our first stop with Internet. so look for more posts in about two weeks. Windfall and Third Day are leaving with us and I believe we are the last three who are left in the area, so we will be turning out the lights and locking the door. I am sad to leave but what a summer we had!
Saturday, October 17, 2009
The reports of Rick are frightening. The US Navy predicts that it will hit landfall Wednesday night at Cabo San Lucas as a Hurricane 1 storm, with the eye right over the city. If that happens, the entire Sea will get hammered, especially if it comes up the coast towards L Paz, as the prediction suggests. Other predictions put landfall on Thursday between Cabo and Magdalena Bay on the outside of the peninsula, just like Hurricane Jimena. As a matter of fact, Don Anderson, the weather man on the Amigo net says that this storm is identical to Jimena so far in its intensity and path. It covers 600 miles of area and is packing 135 knots of wind right now, and is expected to reach category 5 status later tonight or tomorrow morning. Some reports have it traveling at 10 knots, some as high as 20 knots, so it is covering ground quickly.
So you guys know the drill - we will soon be even further out in the boondocks and out of contact for probably two weeks. Wish us luck and keep us in your thoughts. We will get back to you as soon as we can.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
With the weather change, the cruiser boats that had congregated in the North Sea of Cortez have begun their migration south. Suddenly one day about a week ago, seven boats left to head south. Since that day, a few more have trickled out every day or so. Right now we are anchored at the village at B of LA with 12 other boats. I believe that is the majority of boats left. All have their plans to migrate, each in our own schedule. By another two weeks, few will be left, if any.
It's been really difficult to be out of internet range for such a long time. We have had so many amazing experiences, great times, and stories we want to share and it is impossible to fit them all in now. So I will give some highlights and a quick recap.
After leaving Third Day at Isla San Luis, we joined Windfall at Refugio. From that time until today, we have been boating in Windfall's company, sharing great times and beautiful anchorages. Third Day suffered a broken windlass (the device that raises the anchor) that needed to be replaced. They went to Puerto Penasco in the far, far north and only returned from there last night. We have not seen them for nearly five weeks, so our reunion last night was very fun.
Highlights of our last few weeks include Jack's birthday which was celebrated with 3 other kid boats and most of the fleet who had coincidentally congregated for a cruiser's party called a Full Moon Party the day before. We had cake and brownies on the beach with about 2o people crowded around singing "Happy Birthday" to Jack. Later that night, Jack told me it was the best birthday he has ever had. And his only present from us was a homemade birthday card that told him I would make him a cherry pie and he didn't have to do homeschooling that day! Being out in the middle of nowhere without TV takes the "Gimmees" out of kids evidently.
One of the changes with the weather has been a great increase in the number and intensity of wind storms The Northers have started (they are the same .winds as the Santa Anas in CA) and can blow at strong rates for days. Elefantes have become common in the last few weeks also. These are very strong winds that start during the day and can last through the night, always from the West. They are named after elephants because many times there will be clouds above the mountains that get caught in this wind and twist around like elephant trunks. We have been caught in Elefantes several times now and have learned to anchor in 30+ knot wind - not a small feat in a catamaran with lots of windage. We also had the fun of experiencing 50 knots of winds while anchored in B of LA during a different Elefante. It was cool to experience that much wind! And we were very comfortable since we were parked close to a cheltering shore, with no chance for waves to build up.
Our first year anniversary of the day that Just a Minute left the dock in San Francisco is rapidly approaching on October 25th. It is so amazing to look back on this last year. We have learned so much about so many different things. Though it seemed like such a pie in the sky dream back in March 2008, we are happeir than we ever could have imagined one year ago.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
When it came time to leave Willard Bay, Windfall decided to head straight to Refugio. Third Day decided to head north to San Felipe and then cross to Puerto Penasco. We decided to head north five miles to check out a group of islands nearby called Las Encantadas - The Enchanted Islands. They are volcanic formed and full of amazing geological features. One of the islands is mostly pumice and the rocks float off in the tide! We talked Third Day into stopping with us.
Unfortunately, the guide book we had that talked about it did not have any GPS way points and only written and hand drawn descriptions of where to anchor. While approaching an island at the place we thought we were supposed to be, Jack and I got up on the bows just to make sure we didn't see any rocks. Good thing we did! The water visibility was terrible, the wind was on our nose at 20 knots, and just about 20 feet from our starboard bow I saw the submerged but close to the surface jagged edge of a pillar rock. Barely able to do more than jump, scream and point, Patrick interpreted my actions correctly and slammed us in reverse. Thankfully our boat quickly responded and we veered off and approached at another cove, this time successfully.
Our first action once anchored was for Lori and her kids, and Jack and I to go exploring on the island called Isla San Luis. It has a obsidian core left in the volcano crater, and chunks of obsidian litter the hills, among the ash and rocks and pumice. It is a very barren place. While on shore, Jack sees a shark fin slice the water. Okay, interesting.
The next morning, Jack, Patrick and I decide to go snorkeling. The water visibility was horrible, but we wanted to spear fish. We had only been in the water a little while when Patrick notices three men dressed in camo waving their guns to get out attention. It did. We loaded up and went toward the shore to see what they wanted. Through the language barrier we understood that their boat was broken down in the cove around the corner, that they had walked over to get our help, and that their battery was bad. Nothing motivates you to help like men with big guns asking for help. (Just a joke, we would have helped anyone. The island was very isolated)
Patrick drove Jack and I back to our boat, called Rich for assistance, loaded up a jumper cable and then picked Rich and his battery up. They drove back to the beach, picked up one of the men (all they had room for) and then drove off around the corner and out of sight. I was a little nervous. But they returned soon enough and said they had given them a jump, shook hands and left them. Patrick told us that the man in the dinghy had asked if we had seen sharks. It turns there are known to be a lot of sharks around this island, and he was surprised to see us swimming there! Okay, that ended our need to be on this island and we decided to pull anchor and leave shortly later.
As we motored around the corner we saw the panga full of men, floating around a dangerous reef. They saw us and started waving a red flag frantically. Oh Boy! In our boat, we couldn't get close enough to them to help without endangering ourselves, but we started calling out a Pon-Pon (a distress call one step below Mayday. Mayday is used if someone's life is in danger. Pon-pon is used if there is someone in distress, but not imminent loss of life.). While we coordinated radio contact with those on the Baja peninsula who might be able to help, we also contacted Rich who decided to dinghy out from his anchored boat and see if he could help.
Rich is just the nicest guy. He brought them his starter battery and left it with them! The men in the panga were stationed out of San Felipe and Rich just asked that he could pick up his battery when he got up there. A big gamble, but one Rich was willing to take. Once they had Rich's battery hooked up, they powered off north. It turns out that Rich's gamble was no gamble at all. When he arrived at the military station in San Felipe there was a new battery there, waiting for him. International goodwill thrives.
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Saturday, September 19, 2009
Imagine our consternation on the next morning when, as we were leaving, our port engine died before we had even pulled the anchor. And it wouldn't restart. The hurricane was supposed to be showing up in our area in three days. We didn't have time to fix it. There was nothing to do but continue on with one engine. Unfortunately that meant we were too slow to reach Willard Bay in one day. The feeling of anxiety, tension and worry had Patrick's and my stomach in knots. Our boat is designed to work on two engines, you can't solidly set an anchor with just one engine. Definitely not good with a hurricane coming. As we motored along, watching the sterns of Windfall and Third Day pull farther and farther ahead of us, Patrick was working on the engine. Finally after several hours, he had it running again, but we only had enough daylight to make it safely to Refugio at that time. Our friends on Windfall and Third Day weren't going to leave us, so all three boats pulled in and dropped anchor
Pulling into Refugio, we were blown away by its beauty and that night at our potluck, we were all throwing around the idea of weathering out the storm in Refugio. Then in the morning we learned that Hurricane Jimena was expected to go over the top of Refugio. So the pressure was back on and worse. We were all pulling our anchors at the crack of dawn in a race to Willard Bay. And of course, again the port engine did not work. I was beside myself. Once again we watched our friends leave us behind as we putted along, with Patrick pulling apart the malfunctioning engine underway. Thankfully there was wind behind us and our sails kept us from falling too far behind. Again after several hours, he got it running and we caught up with our friends just as we approached Willard Bay.
Willard Bay was everything we could have hoped for. We were so worried to see it and find out if it was already full with other boats hiding out, or if its description was not accurate in the guide books. Instead we found a great anchorage, nearly surrounded by land, with plenty of room for us to spread out, good holding sand bottom and a fairly uniform depth at a perfect 25 feet throughout the anchoring area. It was the home run, slam dunk we were hoping for. Once we had set anchor, so much of our worry abated, but still we were faced with the big unknown - where was Jimena going to end up?
Lucky for us, it came no where near us. As you probably know, she went right over the top of Santa Rosalia and caused much destruction there. We were so lucky that we got out of there when we did. We were only five days out of Santa Rosalia when the first reports of the gathering storm came through. Jimena plowed though the Escondido hurricane hole and five boats ended up on the rocks (only one was lost). Conception Bay was also hit pretty hard and I am anxious to see how Isla Coyote looks. Worst hit was San Carlos on the mainland side of the Sea. Jimena parked herself on top of them for many hours and we heard reports that fifteen boats were on the beach, some parked on land were tipped over, or flooded out by the rain. LA Bay got off pretty well with some wind gusts maybe to 40 and a brief torrent of rain. But as you can see from the pictures, Jimena was blessedly a non-event in Willard Bay. Sometimes they can get that far up, but not this time.
Since then, JaM has had more adventures. Third Day and JaM saved a panga full of paramilitaries with sub machine guns when their boat broke down (I got to watch my husband ride off in our dinghy with one gun pointed at his knee - not intentionally). We almost gutted our starboard bow on a very jagged reef while trying to find anchorage on a little-visited island (hmmm... maybe there is a reason why no one goes there?). We attended a party for the net-controllers at LA Bay. We've seen multiple whales, snorkeled for hours over fascinating reefs stocked full of fish. And generally have had a blast.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Fair winds and following seas to us all,
Saturday, August 22, 2009
DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!!
We are trained professional midnight rubber dinghy squidders.
When you see Discovery Channel dealing with Humboldt's --- The TERROR of The DEEP -- This is where they are filming from. We kept the smallest one we caught as there is only two of us (remaining) to eat it.
Our friends on 3rd Day video-taped the evening and put together this You Tube clip. Enjoy!
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
Monday, August 10, 2009
Saturday, August 1, 2009
Our trip down is going a little slower than the one up. Last night we stopped to see Ken and Kim from Summerwings in their new home in California. It was so great to see them again. Their new home is lovely. Their boat is still available for sale in La Paz and can be viewed at http://home.mindspring.com/~kkcordes/id22.html. Currently we are about 100 miles north of Los Angeles and have plans to see Bill and Sue from Sunbaby tomorrow. They are enjoying their new granddaughter.
We plan to be back in Santa Rosalia in about three days. And then the work begins! Back up the mast to replace the parts we took down, new solar panel to be installed, boat cushions to be sewed. We hope to be out of there as fast as possible, but it will probably take four or more days.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Also we heard from several long time cruisers who have waited out the hurricane season up north in Bahia Los Angeles that you really want to be 70 miles north of Santa Rosalia by August 1st for safety. So then we were scrambling, trying to figure out how to get all of us home cheaply (including Rudy.) And that is when, by chance, our good friend Gary in Mulege happened to mention that he had a car in Mexico that he wanted North (it was too nice for the roads). And there you are. Just like clockwork, it couldn't have gone better if we had planned it.
So we are headed home. These last few days, Jack has been off for hours playing with the cruiser kids who are also in Santa Rosalia (there have been six to eight over the last few days.) Like a cloud of locusts they have overtaken our marina and he has spent hours off the boat having a great time. Right now is movie night for 5 of them up in the air conditioned cruiser's room, with popcorn. Jack is having the time of his life. He comes home to sleep, but other than that, we see him in the morning until his home schooling is done (about 10 or 11) and then we only see him for about another hour the rest of the day, combined. He has so much more freedom here in this setting than we were ever able to provide him in our old neighborhood. He takes the dinghy alone across the harbor to pick up his friends and bring them back to our marina (we have a pool!) In our old neighborhood, we couldn't safely let him go three blocks from our house due to a high traffic area, and there was never enough room for him to be completely out of sight for hours at a time, in the company of several other really nice children, all around his age. It is magic to finally be able to experience this.
I am picking this blog up a few days later. Our preparations for leaving the boat were exhausting. Preparing for probable storms (and a very unlikely hurricane) is hard work. Plus the marina is home to several osprey and many pelicans and cormorants that love to land on top of masts and sit and poop. One large bird already broke our anemometer (wind measuring instrument) in the first week we berthed at Santa Rosalia. Everything had to be gone over and prepared to sit unattended for several weeks - toilets,, through hulls, refrigerator, water maker, even the top of the mast. It took us hours of work over many days. It was a joy to finally be done and go sit in an air-conditioned car with nothing to do. We are now just north of Los Angeles and will be home by the end of the weekend.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Our good friend Ben came down to visit us Tuesday the ninth. We back tracked south so we could pick him up in Bahia Concepcion. He flew into Loreto and took a bus that dropped him off at one of the beaches in Conception Bay. We picked him up and have been having fun ever since. We spent days touring our favorite places in Conception Bay, and then have been working north. He's been to Chivato, the Arches on Isla Santo Marcos and now Santa Rosalia. On Sunday Ben leaves and we will be sad to see him go.
So fear not, we are all great and having fun (except our computers.)
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Sunday, May 31, 2009
The beaches on Isla San Marcos are some of the more remote that we have seen and so there were all sorts of interesting finds on them. I found pieces of sea turtle shells bleached white in the sun, the vertebra of a sea lion (a dried flipper was nearby), and even the jawbone of a dolphin, judging by the size and teeth. Jack found one of the prettiest, biggest pieces of old blue sea glass that I have ever seen. We have collected beach glass from Vancouver Island and all over the Pacific Northwest, but it is pretty rare to find down here, for some reason.
Our next stop was a marina at Santa Rosalia. We have a few minor repairs to attend to and cleaning. We have been off a dock for about two months and it is time for laundry facilities for for our clothes, and a hose, copious amounts of water, and a brush for our boat. We are salt encrusted from bow to stern.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
We left Bahia Concepcion after two weeks enjoying the warmer water and sheltered harbors. Our next stop was Mulege, a fairly large town on the outskirts of the Bay. Unfortunately, there is really no safe place to anchor your boat there, so Ru and I stayed on board while Patrick and Jack ran into town on the dinghy to get some business done. Their first stop was to find Gary Bott, a buddy of Patrick's from Rinker, who is now retired and lives in Mulege part of the year. With Patrick's usual luck, they found him first thing. Patrick and Jack were so happy to see Gary and his wife Annie. They were very kind and Annie made homemade brownies for Jack, while Gary picked beautiful tomatoes from his garden for us. Gary loaned Patrick his van so Patrick could get groceries and dinghy gas. Boy were we running low on supplies! But our coffers are filled now. Patrick and Jack had a great visit with Gary and Annie and we all look forward to visiting them again.
With our business taken care of, we left Mulege that afternoon and set off for Pnnta Chivato, a nearby sportsman fishing enclave. Beautiful, expensive homes line the bay here, enjoying one of the most amazing beaches. I am not an expert but this is the best shell beach I have ever seen. Loads of beautiful shells, lots of different species, in great condition over a beach that stretches at least a mile.
We leave tomorrow, headed to Sweet Pea Cove on Isla San Marcos. We have to get into a good anchorage without high surrounding hills for our upcoming Amigo Net gig on Friday the 29th. It's best to be somewhere where your radio is not limited in power since the distances broadcast are from CA to people on their way to Hawaii and others way down south on their way to the Galapagos. After that, we hope to secure a berth at the marina in Santa Rosalia for a week for a break. It is very restful to be tied to a dock, with easy access to a town, laundry, Internet, restaurants, and other people. We will update the blog more there.
One of our next blogs will be a picture tour of our boat (as suggested by our cousin Michelle) and a run down of our systems (another question from Kirk in Toronto).
Take care everyone,
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
We are really enjoying our time in Conception Bay. We are the only boat anchored this far into the Bay. All the other boats hang out closer to the entrance. There is a lot of life here. We have seen many pods of dolphins, hundreds of balls of bait fish breaking the surface, and even a whale shark. He was just a little guy - probably about 20 feet long. It is amazing to think of one being 60 feet long.
We will probably stay in Conception Bay for another week and then head on to Mulege, the closest town. We are running out of food and have to re-provision.
Finally at Conception Bay, we spent a couple nights anchored at a beach that is right at the entrance, before heading into the Bay. Our first stop when we passed into the Bay was at a popular cove that has a restaurant on the beach. We parked our boat, dinghyed in for lunch and promptly left to find a more secluded anchorage. We still wanted a little solitude, but it was nice to let someone else cook for a change.
We found the perfect anchorage tucked into the lee of a small island here in Conception Bay called Isla Coyote. We spent three days there, doing what we love - snorkeling, fishing, swimming with Rudy and being together. We had the place to ourselves, our own little deserted island with a perfect little beach. The cove is perfect for one boat and the island is uninhabited.
On our second morning at Isla Coyote, a pod of dolphins came into the cove while we were all snorkeling. We were only about 30 feet from them while they were feeding, but we could only see them if our heads were out of the water - visibility wasn't that great and they didn't come close enough. but is was still very exciting. Bottlenose dolphins are typically 11 feet long, some as long as 13 feet - they look big in the water.
The next day, Jack and I saw our first sea horse poised in the sea weed. It was so amazing to see one. He stays very close to the same spot and we saw him again the next day. His is about 6 to 8 inches long, black with lighter spots. The snorkeling is excellent around this island and Jack and Patrick have been practicing their spearfishing. Jack had his first kill that morning.
We loved our time in Ballandra and stayed many days. Our next jump was to Punta Mangles about 5 hours away. We weren't intending to stop there, but the wind was dead agaisnt us at around 15 knots and Jack and I weren't feeling well. It was a strange point, affording little protection from the wind direction, but sometimes it is just nice to be anchored, even in waves and wind. On a hill overlooking the point was an abandoned hotel complex, that had been started but never finished. It sort of reminded me of the setting of the horror movie "The Shining" for some strange reason. We only stayed one night.
We moved on to San Juanico the next day. This was Ralph and Arlene's favorite anchorage when they cruised through here 30 years ago. It is stunning, but our weather window did not hit it right. The wind poured straight into the bay both days we were there. San Juanico is a favorite cruiser's spot. The first night there were 15 boats anchored, but after a rolly night spent on the hook, every boat but Just a Minute was gone by 9 am the next morning. If it's rolly for a catamaran, it is generally miserable for a monohull. We woke up at 9 am to find the place empty and so we sensibly moved over to the only good spot in the enormous cove (it's about 2 miles across) for our second day. We tucked in right behind a rock outcropping, and the boat stopped pitching, but it was still too windy to enjoy kayaking or snorkeling, which is too bad since it is a stunning place.
San Juanico is famous for a "cruiser's shrine" where boats from years past all leave trash and graffiti behind commemorating their visit. They strew it all over one poor tree in the anchorage. Of course, we followed suit and Jack and Patrick spent hours carving our names into a large piece of driftwood (Jack) and a small sandstone rock (Patrick). Ralph and Arlene told us that the shrine was in operation when they were cruising, but the oldest date I saw was 1989.
Monday, May 18, 2009
I've been writing and storing blog entries on my computer throughout the last two weeks, so I will upload them as I can. It might be a little confusing in past and present tenses, but just bear with it.
We finally left Puerto Escondido on May 4th. We left early in the morning, and tiptoed out of the bay. Loretofest was a lot of fun, but I was happy to be back on the Sea.
Our first stop was Puerto Ballandra on Isla Carmen. We had heard from Sunbaby on the Amigo net that this cove was the next stop on their way home. It was only 16 nautical miles away from us, so we hurried over to see them. We knew this would be our last chance to see them before they headed home.
Puerto Ballandra is an exceptional anchorage (well they all seem exceptional so far.) It is a very protected C-shaped cove with mostly sand bottom. Outside the cove, a large pod of dolphins greeted us and escorted us in. That night we got together with Sunbaby and had lots of laughs filling each other in on our activities. The following day we just rested up and then had dinner over at Sunbaby along with a Canadian couple (Jeff and Linda on Curare) who are Amigo Net controllers - the hosts who run the cruiser's radio forum.
The controllers are a revolving bunch of cruisers who volunteer to run the Net - they keep everyone organized, record the current locations of everyone for safety, and generally just keep it flowing smoothly. No one is allowed to broadcast on the radio until the controller has recognized them and called for their input. We were very interested to talk with Jeff and Linda since Patrick and I are signed up to do our first Amigo Net controller job on Friday May 7th. It is a great way to get involved, learn a lot, help out and meet people. Lots of people rely on the Amigo net for connecting with friends, weather info from Don in Oxnard, and camaraderie. It's a great forum and we are really excited to get involved. Our first time will be as a fill-in for a regular controller who can't do it that day (Marcia on Juniata). We will also be filling in for Marcia while she goes home this summer in June and July. After we get a little practice, we hope to pick up a permanent spot. Many people leave over the summer and there is lots of room to help.
Puerto Ballandra has so much life in it. Everyday so far, we have seen a large pod of dolphins at the entrance to the cove, playing and feeding. This morning, I woke up to the sounds of a few hunting in the cove around the boats. I enjoyed the show as they caused shoals of fish to leap from the water for their lives. A couple times, I saw a fish walking across the water, with only their tale touching as they frantically tried to get away. And then the lunge and splash, and the fish became breakfast. Later that same morning, we saw a large sea turtle swimming underwater as we drove our dinghy over to Sunbaby for the Last Goodbye. We are so sad to see Bill (Uncle Bill as Jack calls him) and Sue leave. They feel like family. But they are planning to be back again next season and we look forward to seeing them again.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
Saturday, May 2, 2009
We will be out on the hook for the next couple weeks and will probably not have Internet service again for a few weeks. We'll post lots more pictures then. Hopefully by then this swine flu situation will be winding down.
Take care everyone,
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Our first stop was in the islands of Espiritu Santo and Partida which are slightly north of La Paz. They are nature preserves, so few inhabitants and no dogs allowed. It was hard for Rudy, but fantastic for us. We spent nearly a week there at a couple different anchorages. We filled every day with combinations of snorkeling, fishing, swimming, hiking, kayaking and hanging out. We saw sea turtles, sea lions, mantas, and thousands of tropical fish all swimming around our boat. At Ensenada Grande, we anchored in 10 feet of water over sand. Just a Minute looked like a toy boat in a swimming pool. The water was crystal clear and we easily watched manta rays feeding under our boat, and all the curious puffer fish that found shelter under our hull.
Our next stop was Isla San Francisco, a small island with rugged volcanic rock cliffs. We all went for a hike one evening up to the top to see the view. The sheer drop off the other side of the ridge line had all of us a little wary, except for Rudy. Good thing we had a leash on him. We spent two nights there, building rock towers on the beach, snorkeling and hiking.
Somewhere around this time, Patrick and I realized that we really wanted to get back to Bahia Concepcion - one of our favorite places we stayed on our honeymoon fifteen years ago. So we decided to pick up our pace and head north much faster. With that in mind, our next stop was Punta Telmo. On the passage to Telmo, a couple dolphins gave us the show of a life time. They swam right in front of our boat and launched themselves high out of the water. They only did five leaps, but it was spectacular. We caught a little footage of it but please forgive the crazy focusing -between my excitement, the moving boat and trying to keep the camera from getting splashed by the dolphins, I only got one good leap on film. We will try to figure out how to post video on the blog.
We were only going to spend one night at Telmo, but it was sooooo beautiful we stayed two nights. This point of land has fantastic red rocks that look like piles of slightly melted soft ice cream, with swirls and rounded contours. The beaches were some of the most beautiful I have seen yet. The second night a local fisherman came to our boat, asked if we wanted lobster and when we said yes, he moved his boat about 100 yards from ours, stripped off his shirt, dove in and brought us up three. All for about 10$. Yummy!
We pulled ourselves away the next morning and made it to Agua Verde. Another absolutely stunning anchorage. We will definitely return another time, but the pull for Conception Bay kept us moving. We left the following morning (which is today) and ended up in Puerto Escondido. This is the first port we've been to with Internet and we will stay here one night and leave tomorrow.
Since pictures are worth a thousand words, I will just forgo any more descriptions of the beauty around us and load the pages with pictures. Enjoy!
Thursday, April 16, 2009
In our last posting, I said we would be leaving that day to head out into the islands. Well we didn't. The last thing we did that morning before casting off the lines was to listen to the weather forecast on our single side band radio which is like a ham radio which covers long distances. Six days a week at 8:15 am on the Amigo Net (a radio forum for cruisers) a man named Don Anderson in Oxnard, CA does a weather forecast for mariners on the west coast of Mexico from CA to Guatemala. We listen to him every day and base our decisions on his predictions.
Yesterday morning, Don predicted a wind storm starting on Thursday and dying on Saturday that would produce winds up to 30 knots right in the area where we wanted to travel. So we decided to stay put. Our number one priority is safety and watching the weather is top of the list. Since we have no time frame and no schedule, it is very easy for us to base our travels on the weather. There is no reason to stress yourself, your crew, or your boat out in foul weather if you can avoid it. People can get in trouble when they have a schedule (like guests coming). We have heard several stories of cruisers getting in trouble when they are pushing themselves to make it to a particular area on a time frame.So all of our passages are made first with an eye on the weather. We don't leave unless it sounds optimum. Because of this, every passage has been pretty mild and enjoyable. The passages we have made - La Paz to Mazatlan is 240 nautical miles, Mazatlan to Isla Isabel was 80 nautical miles, San Blas to Teacapan and Teacapan to Mazatlan are each 60 nm - have mostly been by motoring. They are all day, or overnighters and so speed is of the essence. We never turn off the engines since we are trying to make it as quickly as possible. We do about 6 to 8 knots per hour with our engines at a comfortable RPM. There usually isn't enough wind to even bother putting up the sails. Now that we are on the Baja side of the Sea, there are a ton more anchorages and we won't be making any more long passages.
Despite our caution about weather, Jack and I both still get sea sick when we are first out in the swells. Thankfully the feeling passes after a couple hours. Jack is one tough kid and does not complain. But because of this, our cruising style is different from most others. When we find a place to lay anchor, we tend to stay longer than other cruisers. Lots of cruisers will stop for one night at an anchorage and then leave the next day. We tend to stay at least three to five days. Our plan up north is to find a good spot and settle down for a couple weeks. We plan to be more anchorers than sailors.
Regarding Patrick's handiness, I am passing this over to him.
First, I would like to elaborate on Jack being a tough kid. Usually our passages begin at first light so by the time Jack wakes up we have been underway a couple of hours. Normally he puts his life jacket on. comes out on deck, announces he does not feel well, asks why we ever bought a boat and then proceeds to throw up on deck (usually near the bucket). After which his li'l brother Rudy gleefully cleans it up. After a couple of puking sessions he generally feels better and wants to get the meatlines in for fishing and have some M&Ms. That's it - about one complaint per passage.
The question was raised "if I was handy" Those of you who know me should stop laughing. I would not say I was so much "handy" but more capable. Capable of taking something that works fine and making it not work at all. However, generally I have time to tackle projects at my own leisure, unless of course they fail underway (which happens). It took me three days last week to change one fuel filter. I hate grease under my finger nails and I hate most tools more complicated than a screw driver.
However, in the cruising community we are always surrounded by many experts and a few of them even know what they are talking about. I just choose carefully on who I consult. My most leaned-on sources have been Ken on Summerwings, Colin on MamaBird and most of all by far, Bill on Sunbaby. After meeting someone I decide has a great deal of knowledge and experience I generally throw any pride I have to the wind and with great humility, or at least as close to great humility that I can muster, begin asking the dumbest questions possible. Bill has a lifetime of sailing experience, comes from a family of sailors, and also owns a Lagoon Cat. He claims that he is new at this but generally I know I am getting really good advice when he says "I have no idea about that, but if it were me...", or "My brother once told me...", - then I know it's pure gold.
Occasionally I or Laura has tripped up and begun this process with someone we shouldn't. This happened quite a bit in our early days. The result sometimes cost us a whole day with some man spending lots of time on our boat creating projects that were not on our list. Another source I lean on is good ol' Duane Desrosier from Cemex. Duane and I worked together for many years and I have never met a more mechanical individual. I called Duane the other day when I was struggling with bleeding the fuel lines after changing the fuel filter. Duane does not own a boat yet was still able to describe my filter and where to find the prime pump on my Yanmar as if he were on the boat with me.
Lastly I rely on Jack. Whenever I begin a project Jack becomes quite the skeptic. He usually sits quietly behind me and supervises in near silence. He holds the proper amount of faith in my mechanical abilities (not much). Then I hear "I see a problem" and he patiently explains to me that what I am doing won't work and why. And I have to say he is almost always right. I have come to rely on him when shopping for boat supplies and parts. He has an ability to think through the project in steps and see the potential pitfalls. I generally see the pitfalls once I am in them.
So no, I am not that handy but I am willing to try. We don't know how to sail but we are learning. Since we started this adventure I have torn down the carburetor on our dinghy, changed oil and fuel filters, built a water filtration system for dock water, wired solar panels, battery monitor, stereo, two new breaker panels, gps, etc. Lots of wiring. Yesterday I tore apart all of our winches and serviced them. That was scarier than hell, about 63,479 moving parts all wanting to jump into the sea. But, Bill came over a couple times to supervise and I had a book, so I was able to tear down, service and reinstall all three winches. I have not worked up the courage to tackle the other fuel filter yet. Sitting inside a cramped engine room, lathered in diesel, in the blazing sun is not my idea of a good time.
Systems, systems, systems... the boat is full of them and they all need attention. So I am afraid that this life requires a little discipline. Whenever we are on the hook, Jack and I spend some time with spatulas, snorkeling around the boat cleaning and scraping the hull. Barnacles grow so fast in warm water. The first of each month, I have a check list of things to inspect. One of the things are thru-hull fittings. A thru hull fitting is a pipe with a valve that goes through the hull of the boat to either let water in (fridge coolant, engine coolant, or water maker supply) or let water out (bilge, sinks and heads). They are great for breaking and sinking boats. The day before we left California, Ralph our captain was looking at one, said "This one looks good to me" and gave it a tug. It broke off in his hand. I stood mouth agape, while water came shooting into the boat. Good thing Ralph has a big thumb. We had to be hauled out that day and had 9 of 12 thru hull fittings replaced. I also inspect and clean every water filter, strainer and pump. And every month, as we get more experienced the list gets longer. It sounds like a lot and there is always something that stops working but we have lots of time in this new life. So, if it isn't affecting safety, or Laura's comfort, it can wait until I feel like doing it.