Welcome to our mid-life crisis! These are the chronicles of Laura and Patrick, their young son Jack, and their goofball Labrador Retriever named Evinrude (Rudy), as they travelled the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific coast of mainland Mexico in their catamaran. We went cruising in search of a change of pace, a closer knit family, and peace of mind. We found all three and more. The fun all started in October, 2008 and nearly four years later the Mexican adventure came to an end August 3rd, 2012. With our mid-life crisis cured in Mexico, we are excited to start a new adventure - life back in America.

Candeleros Chico

Candeleros Chico
Just another beautiful day at anchor on the Baja. 2010

Dolphins at play in the bow wake 2011

Dolphins at play in the bow wake  2011

Monday, December 28, 2009

Life of a Tourist

We have been thoroughly enjoying our stay at Marina El Cid, by doing a lot of nothing in particular - Bingo by the pool, hours in the hot tub, diving into the Tarzan pool, playing on the beach, and going into town. It truly is our vacation from cruising. We have not spent so many hours off of the boat for a year. It is a very nice change to be back on land.

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


After our fantastic crossing, our home coming to El Cid was as great as we had dreamed. After our two months here last year, many of the workers and the many cruisers who permanently live here remembered us. It was so fun to see everyone again. Within ten minutes of docking, Esteban, the dock manager came over to talk about fishing in the canal, Lalo a dock worker came over with a greeting, and Gilberto swung the water taxi close enough to yell out hellos and bark at Rudy (he loves that dog!). When we saw Fidel at the pool bar, he dropped what he was doing to rush over and tell us his big news - he had been promoted to manager at the Iguana Pool and was voted El Cid's Worker of the Year. Very well deserved! Marina El Cid looks even more beautiful, and it is obvious that business is good and they are reinvesting their money in the property.

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

The Haul Out Story, Uncensored and from the Safety of Mazatlan....

This is a long post, so I won't be offended if you choose to skip it. But I will post it for our families who love us, and for those who love a good story of ineptitude, deceit and mishap. I wanted Patrick to write this blog post, since he is a much funnier writer than I am, but he is still traumatized by the experience and whenever it is mentioned a very far-away look floats over his face and he stops talking. I think he is going to his "Happy Place." So instead you are stuck with my version.

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

The Downfall of Catamarans....

For months, we have been weighing the options for getting our boat out on the hard for some routine maintenance. We knew we had to - one of the sail drives had become completely denuded of paint and electrolysis would soon be destroying the metal. For those new to boating, electrolysis is the bane of any salt water boat owner. The salt water carries a small electrical current which attacks exposed metal and will eventually eat through it. To counteract this, you keep a good coat of paint on any metal parts in the water, and put on some zincs to conduct the energy away from your boat's metal. So we had to pull our boat out, and the sooner the better.

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.