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Spreading Peace and Love to all Humanity…. The Archives


198_days2Bto2BgoBill will fill this space with stuff like engine part replacements.  How he fixed broken things with a rubberband and some duct tape, how many hot chicks he saw on the beach, and the name of the good cigar he smoked.  You know guy stuff.

 

 

The road home…end of September 2008

 

cold2Bbeer-comAt last the day had arrived to begin the return trip home. Lisa and I had the boat as prepared as possible for going into storage. There is still a lot of work to be accomplished once we have the boat up on the hard (meaning sitting in it’s cradle on dry land), but we figured it is better to leave the final cleaning, emptying of lockers and subsequent refilling with items that are currently on deck till when we can get off the boat. Our plan was for me to return to the states, Phoenix AZ exactly, to get a rental car then return to San Carlos to pickup Sparky and Lisa for the return trip back to California and home. In order to accomplish my task I needed to take a local bus from San Carlos to Guaymas and then hop on a first class bus from Guaymas to Phoenix. Once in Phoenix all that needed to be done was to find my way to the airport and Fox Rent-a Car.

I left on Saturday the 27th of September on the bus bound for Guaymas. It’s kind of interesting about the real “panhandlers” in Mexico. Unlike the US most of the homeless or destitute people in Mexico seem to really want to work and occasionally one of these folks will enter the local buses with the acknowledgement of the bus driver and strike up a song, or strum their guitar, chop sticks or whatever to make some music for the enjoyment or amusement of the riders on board. I would guess that their “gig” pays on average about $3 – $5 dollars US based on the handouts that I have seen. Most of these folks will be some time in finding a national contract as performers, but it is nice to see that they are doing something to better themselves rather than sitting on the streets with their hands out stretched.

A couple of stops into my trip we picked up what looked like young road “travelers” who boarded with overfilled duffel bags and looked the world like Rastafarian rejects. They shuffled to the back of the bus and unknown to me at the time took out a Trombone and two bongo drums. When they started to play I was amazed at the perfect rhythm they kept and the astonishing way the trombone actually added to the distinctive Afro/Cuban beat. Unlike most “performers” they kept up the rhythmic chorus all the way to Guaymas and the feeling of going on a big adventure or somewhat  of an Indiana Jones style expedition crept into my consciousness. When they departed the entire bus applauded and they easily score $20 – $30 for the 20 minute bus ride.

I reached my destination of Guaymas and took a seat in front of the television like the rest of the passengers to wait out the two hours before the bus arrived. On time and loaded we departed about 10 pm and pushed into the sticky Mexican air. Of course I wouldn’t know the air was sticky if I had been in the bus all day but I had been out most of the day and the air conditioned bus made the ride much more comfortable. Before long we were stopped by the Federales and everyone had to disembark the bus so a check of the luggage for contraband could be performed. Of course all the luggage was not checked as it was only a random inspection, but being the only gringo on the bus must have alerted the guards that my stuff was in need of re-organizing.

After the check we continued on our way and around 4 in the morning arrived at the US border. Again everyone came off the bus so the passenger manifest could be checked. The Mexican citizens we quickly checked into my country but I was delayed as the customs official had to scan the manifest a number of time prior to finding my distinctly Anglo last name among the 30 or so Rodriguez’, Hernandez’, Sanchez’ and so forth.

Following the check in the drug hounds were released on the bus and once cleared we continued the next 4 hour leg to Phoenix. As we passed the PHX airport and continue up into the bowels of Phoenix’s urban sprawl I couldn’t help but try and calculate the cost of the taxi ride to back track to the airport. Lisa claims I live in the 70’ still and although I now know that milk no longer costs $1 per gallon I must still have some growing to do as I figured a $10 taxi ride would get me the 7 miles back to the airport. Surprised when the driver told me $25 I started to walk for the first bus stop. Missing the bus by a minute or so only gave me time to realize I had only one American dollar in my wallet and the bus ride was going to cost $2.50 so I turned heal and began to march down the street in a direction that I hoped would lead me to an ATM.

Being Phoenix there are large open areas of nothing between New York sized blocks so I walked for a good deal of time prior to finding a convenience store and the requisite ATM. With cash in hand I strode to the bus stop and waited.

The local Mexican buses in almost all the towns we visited came by at a fairly regular rate of every 10 – 15 minutes. Phoenix’s transit system is not quite so regular. I waited close to 30 minutes for my first ride then transferred and waited an additional hour for the second ride to the airport. It didn’t cost $25 dollars so I guess I can’t complain much, but my arrival at 8 AM in Phoenix had now turned into a 10 AM arrival at the airport where I boarded a PHX airport bus to the rental facility.

It has been a while since I have visited Sky Harbor in Phoenix. The last time I visited they had a relatively modest rental facility just off the airport. Today the rental facility rivals the Moscone Center in San Francisco for size alone. The marble floors, artwork and massive air conditioned space clearly screams out excess and sprawl, I was in awe!

I had chosen Fox Rent-a-Car because of thier pricing and ability to supply Mexican insurance for the trip. Luckily I arrived just prior to some plane de-boarding and sending 10 customers into the Fox kiosk, so I didn’t have to wait long for help. Of course there was a glitch but I figured it wouldn’t take long for the representative to work out the issues with issuing Mexican Insurance, boy was I wrong. At just past 12:30 in the afternoon I got into my car and drove out of the three story building that housed Fox. Now if I could just finish my American errands I could get on the road and head back to Mexico.

After traveling half the distance to San Francisco (or so it seemed) I located the West Marine in Phoenix and bought a couple of things for our boat and two other boats that were in need of a materials fix and then headed to Wal-Mart to spend the remainder of my American cash on products that could only be found in the US (Roach Hotels and de-greaser). By 4 pm I was on the way back to Mexico.

On the way back I was reminded to be careful of driving on Mexican roads at night. It is said that there are lots of cows and animals on the road and driving is very hazardous. Perhaps I was lucky or perhaps it was my 70 MPH average down the two lane road that didn’t allow me to see a single animal but either way I arrived back at the boat around midnight and quickly turned in for a good 6 hours of rest.

Morning arrived early on Monday and we pulled anchor and moved to the fuel dock in hopes of arriving before all the sport fishing boats did. Our plan worked and we picked up the last of any $2.20 diesel we expect to see in a long time prior to moving to main dock for hauling. We had 2 hours prior to our haul and it just seemed to go by in a blur. As fastLast2Bdock2Bin2BSan2BCarlos-com as I could remove gear Lisa would stack another load outside for me take to the car. I came to the point where I thought we were clearing everything off the boat and a bit of tension began to creep into both Lisa and I. Ultimately Lisa was correct in taking off what she did, but being short sighted I was sure we had way to much stuff.

When the trailer arrived we were not even close to being ready and in fact hadn’t even cleaned and rolled the dinghy, so we had to ask for some time to get that chore completed before the haul.

The process used by Marina Seca San Carlos for hauling the boat went very smooth. A 60’ trailer with hydraulic stands is moved into the water and the boat is brought over the trailer. When everything is positioned the hydraulic stands are lifted by remote control and the boat is gently supported as the trailer is Tractor2Band2Bhual2Btrailer-compulled from the water. While the trailer is being pulled from the water, the operator of the remote is vigilantly watching the boat and adjusting the stands to allow the boats keel to rest on the trailer taking the main weight of the boat. The complete process took less than 20 minutes then our baby was moved down the road about 1 mile to its new resting place.

We took the rest of the day to clean the boat, rinse the engine and make final preparations on deck for storage. With the dodger pulled off the boat and 2 of the three solar panels disabled I tended to the last task of preparing the water maker for storage. Normally this is a 5 minute job so I had left it for last. Of course nothing goes smoothly in these situations and after hundreds of hours of operation the water maker failed for pump water (meaning cleaning solution) when we most needed it. Now at the end of a hot and sweaty day we had to disassemble the unit and get it re-built. Failure to running cleaning solution and preservative through the unit could cause a critical failure of the osmosis membrane and a $300 repair bill, so off the unit came and back to the hotel we went to make the repairs.

We stayed at the Andali Departmentos in San Carlos for $28 per night. The welcome shower and cool air conditioning madePulled2Bfrom2Bthe2Bwater-com for a nice end to a hot day. Before long I was ready for bed but the re-build still needed to be completed. Katadyn builds a great product (the Water Maker) and rebuilding is a simple matter of replacing 6 “O” rings and securing the screws that hold them in. All went according to plan and I was in bed 30 minutes after I started the job.

Tuesday morning was slow for us though I think both of our hearts were racing to get out of Mexico. The boat had previously been put into the work yard to get the engine flushed and today it would be moved to the primary storage yard. Unfortunately they could not move the boat till 1 pm so we would have a late departure for the US. When the time rolled around for the boat to be picked up and moved the trailer showed up right on time and was precisely placed under the boat in a matter of minutes. The was one small issue with the recovery and that was that perhaps there trailer wheels or the compacting of the ground around the boat was not quite sufficient for a boat of our weight. What resulted was when the boats full weight was put on the trailer the wheels sunk into the ground nearly 8”! The tractor had no problem pulling the boat out of therutts-com new ruts left in the ground and within minutes the boat was in its permanent spot: let the tarping begin.

After 2 hours of tarping we had completed our job and immediately jumped into the car and departed for the US. The country side of Northern Mexico was quite green and we enjoyed the passage of time just watching the last of our Mexican sunsets against the built-up clouds of a thunderstorm over the harsh terrain of Sonora, it was a fitting end to the trip.

By the time we hit Hermasillo, MX it had grown dark and our solemn mood was awakened when we came to a military check point and were immediately waved over for inspection. The military was respectful but still we had to get out of the car as they went through our luggage and checked under the seats for drugs and contraband. We were soon on our way and although we wanted pictures that told us it was forbidden, we must look like the drug cartel type apparently.

Hours later as we neared the US border we began to look for the last Pemex gas station to fill the car. I had seen prices of about $3.99 in Phoenix for fuel and the Mexican price of $3.20 was far superior but somehow we missed the last station and cruised into the US controlled border crossing in Nogales, AZ. We are not sure exactly happened but somehow I missed a stop sign or signal and the next thing we knew a US Border Control guard was furiously waving for us to stop and telling us to reverse the car immediately, not much courtesy here. Lisa whispered that we were “so screwed now”, but I just laughed and as we were waved forward tried to make light of the error as I was sure the US had forgotten to put up the signage. Although the officer was still miffed with us we figured we might just get away with an easy crossing till they noticed the live plant bouquet we had in the rear window. Red Tagged we were instructed to move to lane number 3 to see the 4 fellows in blue.

 

We cautiously approached the new lane not wanting to make any further blunders and were waved up to a line and asked to stop and shut off the engine, we did. After a series of questions that included whose car it was and if we had rented it for a whole year we were asked to get out. Sparky and Lisa were taken to a separate holding area and told that they must sit down while the border police asked me to empty the car of everything we had. I am not sure if it was the table saw in the back or the 30 lbs of dog food we had but somehow none of the guards seemed to enjoy my humor and the more I teased about putting them on the website the deeper they looked for contraband. In the end they took 28 lbs. of dried dog food and the plant. Welcome to the USA.

 

 

September 29th, Monkeys in San Carlos!

 

It’s been a while since we have seen any monkeys on the boat. While in Puerto Vallarta last beach-comFebruary it seemed as though we had monkeys nearly everyday but after leaving our most southerly points of Mexico and heading north there have been fewer and fewer. It’s not as if we have done anything different to the boat, they just don’t seem to come around at all.

Just the other night after returning from a great day of exploring ashore we found “evidence” of monkeys on the boat again. It really did take us by surprise, when we saw the amount of fluid next to the generator we knew we had a problem. One thing we have learned while being out for the last year is as soon as a monkey shows it’s face you must immediately attack the issue or before you know it you’ll have a whole barrel of monkeys in the boat and it’s really difficult to have a good day when they start rattling everything aboard.

So, the generator was leaking some combination of oil, diesel and antifreeze. Typically we are aware of small amounts of oil or antifreeze that we wipe away and monitor on a 10 hour basis. We have developed a routine and figure it is just part of the Entec West Generators personality…365 days and everything is still going well, except for the monkey. Anyway, when we returned there was nearly a quart of liquid in the generator tray that needed to be wiped away. On inspection we noticed that there appeared to be a leak around the generators cylinder sleeve (not the head, but the sleeve). We consulted the owner’s manual and quickly determined that the head mechanic quite possibly failed to tighten the valve cover to the recommended 22 lbs, and the valve cover bolts actually hold the generator head, cylinder sleeve and valve cover to the main body of the engine. This was quickly solved and we thought perhaps we have chased this monkey and even the incessant oil leak (albeit slow) away.. Oh contraire the band of monkeys says! Oh contraire.

During the morning run we again noticed diesel on the pan that the generator sits on. There was about a half cup, but any fuel leak is a potential disaster so we took to tightening the bolts around the fitting that appeared to be leaking. With the bolts tightened we still had a slow drip…No bueno! Another inspection showed that we should have concentrated on the hose that lead to the fitting. The previous owner for aesthetic reason (we can only guess) painted all the hoses on our generator and over the years I believe the hose have deteriorated but since they are painted any deterioration has been camouflaged. I only tell you about the deterioration and camouflage to tell you that we checked the hose and it appeared to be loose, so we tightened the clamp around the hose, determined it was secured and started the engine, perfect! Another monkey had just jumped into the boat as the hose sprung a leak blowing diesel all over me and the interior of the boat. Lisa was watching from above and quickly shut the generator down, but now we were without auxiliary power and the beer was getting warm in the refrigerator.

Because of our need for 120 volt power we always run and engine while running the refrigerator or the hot water heater. It may sound excessive, but in reality we usually start the generator, take the dog for a walk and return and hour later to shut the noise off. Our main engine is usually just for travel but as a redundant system we can charge just as well from the engine as we can from the generator, so on the engine went. Lisa stayed on the boat while I took Sparky for a walk, and when I return Lisa had a look on her face that told me there was another invasion of monkeys…the engine had suddenly quit.

Without power I was at a loss. Beer was getting warmer by the minute, dinner would be late, and worst of all there would be no movies on TV if we couldn’t get something fixed tonight. Typically if our engine just shuts down that means fuel issues, so we took a look at the fuel and surprise of surprises, nothing was in the tank. We had filled up about 2 months ago and the tank we were burning from had approximately 30 – 40 gallons in it when we arrived 3 weeks ago. Thinking 30 gallon should last forever we never had a second thought about how much fuel we use on a daily basis, but dividing 21 days by 30 gallons shows that we burn a little over 1 gallon per day for 3-4 hours of generator runs…That figure doesn’t sound like much, but I guess everything adds up.

Lucky for us we had saved about 10 gallons in our other tank, so we should be looking at a simple fix to re-prime the main engine and viola, TV and dinner would soon be on the schedule. Perhaps it is the main stateroom that attracts them (decorated in jungle motif), but no soon did I lift the cover to the fuel valves then another monkey showed up. This time it was that the return fuel that comes from the main engine was pumping up into the generator and out it’s return tube! This is the very tube that was previously broken and waiting for a fix in the morning. More diesel in the cabin, but luckily not on me this time. The hose was in such sad shape that plugging most of the leak was the best I could do until morning when I could buy a new hose. To idle away the time I worked on cleaning the fuel filters on the main engine and figured if I got this task out of the way, things would be groovy.

The third monkey arrived when I started on the secondary filter of the main engine. Design really matters when they are putting together sailboats, but I guess design, function and aesthetics all take priority at some time. The fuel tanks on our boat must have taken a back seat to aesthetics since the tank actually sits a bit lower than the fuel filter. This is not a problem when the fuel level is high as the top of the tank is above the filter and fuel will move by gravity toward the fuel filter, not so when the tank is low. When I saw that I could not fully bleed the air from the secondary filter that night due to low fuel level, I said goodnight to the monkeys and hoped they would not create too much havoc while I slept.

After breakfast I hopped over to the marine store to pick up new tubing and then to the fuel store to pickup 8 gallons of diesel. Reconnecting the hose was smooth and completed in little time. I swear I saw the monkey leave the boat. The fuel filter issue was persistent and required another 8 gallons of diesel to remedy its gravitational pull issue, but once the last of the fuel was added that monkey drifted off as well. Feeling good about myself I bled the system of air, and then moved back to the generator to start it and confirm it was good, it was.

With good news I went back to the main engine and bled that system as well. Lisa tried to start the engine but after a momentary start it shut down. Figuring that the last of our three filters needed a change as well, I got started on the main engine fuel filter. It’s hot in San Carlos and I may have been getting a bit edgy working on fuel systems that normally would have taken 10 minutes to clear, but whatever the reason I accepted help from one of the monkeys and before I knew it I had spilled and entire fuel bowl of diesel over the engine and into the bilge. Regaining my composure, I again allowed the monkey to help re-install the filter. Everything appeared good when we completed so we re-bled the engine yet again and tried to start it. Again, we got a small start then the engine wound down and died. Frustrated I looked at all the shut off valves before trying one last time that was when I noticed that the monkey had failed to tighten the fuel filter and again, more diesels was draining into the bilge. Just a little on the tense side I pushed the monkey over the side of the boat, tightened the filter, re-bled the air from the system and asked Lisa to start the engine…Prrrrfecto. Now we had two engines working and about 28 gallons of fuel to burn at our leisure.

With the sound of diesels humming in my ears I began to pickup with visions of TV, cold beer and dinner on time today. As I put the final cover on the engine I noticed that the last of the monkeys had not actually left and our old nemesis the alternator bracket was broken again. If I had caught that monkey I would have given him a very stern warning about messing with me. In the end we had the extra parts and about 1 hour later everything was buttoned up and running smoothly. We are a bit early for the refrigerator to have cooled the beer so I sat in the cockpit humming Christmas tunes to myself as I sipped another 70 degree beer.

 

Finally up to date:  September 12, 2008

 

We left Puerto Don Juan about the 26th of August and set our sights on the City of San Carlos on the Mexican side of the sea. It wasn’t that we were bored with BLA, but we still had “cushion” business to complete before we could head anywhere other than the Northern Sea of Cortez. During the last month we had made a number of calls to Peiles Y Tapics who have been in charge or re-doing the interior cushions. On our last call the owner, Ezekiel, had mentioned that the leather had arrived and the cushions would be completed soon. As we didn’t have a permanent address in Mexico to send the cushions to we figured we better position ourselves somewhere that the cushions and the delivery folks could find. With this in mind we left all our friends in Puerto San Juan and headed for Isla Animas.

Having been stuck in one position for a couple of days we were looking to sail and so after rounding the point at Don Juan, we pulled the sails up and blasted along the Baja coast to our destination 24 miles away at nearly 2 knots. It wasn’t fast but it was a nice morning and we enjoyed the slow pace.

Isla2BAnimas2BBR-comIsla Animas is located near the San Lorenzo Island chain and the currents really can be a problem if you don’t time them correctly so 10 hours later we arrived at our destination and dropped our anchor in 25’ of the most crystal clear water we have seen in our year at sea. It is always a joy to watch the anchor hit the bottom and spill sand upwards as it digs deeply into the ocean bottom. We were please with the stark beauty of the island and settled into for a fine after noon and a little snorkeling.

The water area around Isla Animas was filled with fish but either I was a really poor shot that day or my heart just wasn’t into eating fish that day, so we ate from the cupboards that night. As the sun went down were where “attacked” by bird sized moths which was actually more fun than annoying. The benefit being that moths don’t sting and it is hard for them to find a hiding spot on the boat with their wingspan being nearly 5”. Lisa and I made great “white trash” sport out of using the electric fly swatter on these terrors of the sky and nearly caught the boat on fire a couple of times with the electrocution went on for more than a minute on a few of the larger moths…Always a good time.

The night proved to be really peaceful and by early morning we were well rested and ready to head across the sea to Isla Estaban. Estaban is one of those islands that nobody visits so it was high on our list of things to do, but by the time we had crossed half the distance to the island the weather for the day changed from light Northerly winds to southerly winds of 15 to 20 knots. Because of our destination southerly or northerly winds were fine to sail in but Isla Estaban has no anchorages that protect you from wind and waves that come from the south. We did a close in sweep of the anchorages but none looked like they could provide any comfort so we made the decision to carry-on through the day and night to get to San Carlos.

The rest of the trip proved uneventful. The weather stayed to our favor for sailing but fishing was a bust after we caught 4 Boobie birds within 10 minutes of each other. It seem fruitless to continue to torment the birds with our lures so we pulled the lines in and just enjoyed the pleasant day and warm night.
Landfall at San Carlos came about 7 am, and after determining that our GPS was indeed correct in selecting the right direct to enter the harbor we headed in to drop the anchor.

We haven’t seen much greenery since leaving Chacala back in March so it was almost awe inspiring to seeSan2BCarlos2BHarbor-com hills smothered in lush green with specks of pink flowers here and there. If we didn’t know better we could have believed we had reached French Polynesia because the hills around San Carlos are steeply peaked with spires set at their very tops, it was lovely.

Once we settled in we visited the marina and did a quick walk around town. We will have to admit that this is definitely a gringo town where everyone seems to cater to the Americans, the signs are in English, the construction techniques are North American and many of the prices are in dollars. Usually we don’t like this type of town, but the vibe was good to begin with and only got better as we made our way to the first cantina we could find and surprisingly found cold beer for only $1.20 per bottle, served. The beer prices on the Baja have ranged from $2 to $3 for the last couple of months and this just drives me nuts knowing that there are few if any Mexicans that would pay this price.

I left Lisa at the cantina and shuffled up the street to find the nearest propane facility. Within minutes a car stopped and asked me if I needed a ride. What service! And score another point for San Carlos as being friendly.

With propane located I walked back to Lisa and soon we were hiking down the main street in San Carlos (only 1), and discovered a motor scooter rental place. For $45 dollar we could have a scooter for 24 hours (silly scooter company). The next day we picked up the scooter and header for the desert being sure to visit all the local pubs and tourist spots along the way.

Our ultimate destination was Nacapule Canyon Park located in the valley of some very large cliffs. Nacapule2BCanyon-comA dirt road lead us out in to the desert and within an hour we arrived at our destination. To keep saying that the landscape was beautiful, rugged and totally fascinating was an understatement for Nacapule Canyon. Out of the desert landscape of green scrub and cactus rose a canyon that ascended perhaps 1000’. A trail leads you up the valley and quickly changes from scrub trees to palm trees, ferns and waterfalls all set beside a stream that murmurs as you ascend the trail. The contrast of the deeply cleft hills, green ferns, blue sky and little brook where a visual feast.

Leaving the park and the dirt road we toured San Carlos and then headed to Algondones for our final must see site, Marina Real and the Soggy Pesos Bar.

Although nice we think that the Marina in San Carlos is more active and has much more to recommend it to boaters or travelers. Besides being closer to town the San Carlos Marina also has a direct bus that leads to Guaymas and there are an abundance of grocery stores within walking distance. Also Froggy’s tavern is much livelier and better priced than the Soggy Peso.

In the morning we finished our tour with the scooter by taking up the tallest hill in the area to visit some of the large homes that surround the bay. The views were pretty but we decided not to buy any of the homes on this trip.

We are now planning on having the boat hauled for storage while we get back to work to finish paying for the house we own. This is another subject that I will leave for the next addition.

August 10th…Hurricane Warnings

The day after the party at La Mona we noticed a large (say 20’) whale shark in the anchorage. I had told Lisa that if I ever saw a whale shark I would immediately dawn my snorkel gear and jump in the water with it. Lisa called my bluff on this particular morning and even though my I was a bit “under the weather” I grabbed my gear and jumped into the water. The shark didn’t seam very far off at the time, but I guess that large objects always appear to move slower and appear closer than they actually are so what I thought would be a leisure swim to the shark turned into a race as I tried to cut it off to the east of our boat.  When it turn I  tried to cut it off to the south of the boat and finally the west and north before I finally ran out of energy. I had actually gotten to within 20’ of it but the clarity of the water failed to show the beast underwater.

During my Olympic swim, Lisa had jumped into the dinghy and tried to herd the animal towards me but only succeeded in diverting it a little and nearly getting the dinghy swamped as the leviathan (not sure I can use that term for a shark) swam directly under her and actually hit the dink with its tail. The experience was pure excitement for Lisa and frustration and exhaustion for me.

Over the next couple of days weLisa2Bla2Bventana-com visited the islands and coves around the Bay of Los Angeles and eventually settled into a small cove know as La Ventana. The cove was pretty and again only supported 1 boat due to the close in sides of the cove. In our normal fashion we dropped 7 to 1 scope in 35 feet of water and calculated that we had just enough swinging room to miss all the sides and beaches of the cove.

About 9 pm that evening the wind came up out of the west and was cooling us down with a nice pacific breeze of about 10 knots. The boat swung towards the beach but other than that everything appeared fine. I say appeared but ultimately it was just to dark to see anything. Since we had prepared well I never gave any thought to blowing on to the beach that night but as happens we forgot one simple thing….The tide in the Bay of Los Angeles has a range of nearly 10 feet and on all but the steepest beaches this results in some rather wide beaches when the tide goes out.

Lisa had told me a couple of times to check the view out the back of the boat, but being little concerned I continued to read a particularly engrossing book and fail to pay any attention. Finally after some intense “nagging” I relented and took a look out the back of the boat and had to look down to find any water at all!  For all intents and purposes we were on the beach! “Holy Smokes” I yelled, “what’s our depth!”. To my anguish we were only in 8 feet of water and we draw 6’. The puzzle was that the depth sounder was at the front of the boat some 40 feet away so I don’t know how close we were to hitting the bottom and didn’t want to find out.

The engine engaged nearly before we turned the key and very quickly we hauled up on the anchor to get a bit of distance between us and the beach. When we had some breathing room we turned on the radar to help us negotiate the rock and island maze that we had so successfully drove ourselves into while the sun was high in the sky. Of course the moon was not to be found at this time of night so pitch darkness was our friend and to load up the demon cart just a bit more the fabled Elephantie winds (they come from the Pacific, imagine that) kicked up to just a bit short of 30 knots outside our cove.

For about 10 minutes things were a little tight but once we wiggled between the last couple of rocks Lisa, Sparks and I all settled down and enjoyed the brisk reach back toward BLA village which was about 4 miles distant. By the time the last mile clicked off the wind had completely vanished and we enjoyed a near windless night at anchor.

Our next stop was Puerto Don Juan. Don Juan is known as a hurricane hole which really means that it has protection from the waves in nearly all directions. We hadn’t been to Don Juan before and Don2BJuan2BPano2Bplus2Bcactus-comwanted to check it out in the event we ever got hit by a hurricane. What we didn’t know at the time was that Tropical Storm Julio had just been created well to the south of us and within 4 days would nearly come right over the top of Puerto Don Juan.

For once we had luck on our side and being one of the first boats in the anchorage gave us the best selection of locations to drop the anchor. I don’t want to build this up too much because ultimately we could have used our dinghy anchor to keep us in place, but the build-up over the next couple of days was pretty impressive.

Within 48 hours of the storm/hurricane “event” we were expecting a near direct hit on Puerto Don Juan. The population of boats in the anchorage grew from 3 to 14 and the build-up of clouds to our south was quite dramatic. 24 hours prior to the “event” the wind was blowing 30 knots through the anchorage and forecasters projected our winds to hit 50 – 60 knots within 24 hours. Also projected was intense rain. With this information we decided to set our second and largest anchor just in front of our primary anchor.

Setting the second anchor eventually proved easy but that was only because we got to practice on Windward Bound first. Windward Bound uses a setup similar to us so I got into my dive equipment and helped them locate their anchor. We attached a float to the primary anchor and then I surfaced to get the second anchor rode. My initial idea was to just take the chain down and attach the chain then resurface for the anchor but Windward Bounds anchor was nearly permanently attached for we tried to lower the anchor and chain in a single motion. While descending I realized that 30’ of chain would not make it to the bottom without Jim and Susan chucking their anchor over the side of the dinghy with possible catastrophic results (the anchor would most likely follow the path of the chain and find my head in between the two steel items), so I dropped the chain, moved to the side and surfaced. Just as I surfaced Susan let go of the anchor and we all just looked at each other…there was no line attached to either end.

I should note somewhere that water visibility was less than 10 feet so now I had a $1000.00 anchor and chain somewhere in the bay that needed to be found, moved and attached to the second primary anchor. I dove below and miraculously found the anchor but in my rush to not lose my place in the bay I had failed to bring a line with me, so the anchor was lost a second time as I surfaced for line and a check of the pressure left in my tank. With about 10 minutes of air left I dove again to find the anchor and swam in increasing square grid patterns until finally I found the end of the anchor chain, attached the line and surfaced to get a new tank.

With the new tank the remaining part of the job went quickly enough. I verified the primary anchor was set well, I attached the end of the second anchor chain to the primary anchor (at the front of the anchor), then “walked” the second anchor out at the same angle at the primary and subsequently buried it in the ground, complete.

With plenty of new knowledge about attaching lines to everything our second anchor was quickly attached and dug in within about 30 minutes of work commencement. As I proudly ascended to the surface with a big grin of satisfaction on my face I lost grip on 1 of the 2 pair of pliers I had used to tighten the shackles on the anchor and while bobbling the first set lost grip of the second set and eventually both pliers fell to the ground 50’ below. If you need a good used set of pliers they are still down there.

The next day the wind failed to blow at all and the rain we had expected failed to put more that about 2 drops on the boat. 24 hours later all threats of storms disappeared and we retrieved out storm anchors happy we had at least practiced prior to the real thing.

August 6-10 2008…we’re bound to catch up

We finally left Isla Partida about 3 to 4 weeks ago. It was sad to depart an island that was secluded, offered great weather shelter and provided the diving opportunities we had expected to find all the way along Baja but regretfully did not. Our destination was just 14 miles to the west at Animas Slot. According to the guide books we would find clean white sandy beaches, great diving and room for just 1 boat so we left early in the morning to find our spot.

Animas Slot was not a disappointment.  Everything the guide books had spoken of was wellAnimas2BSlot-com represented but they failed to discuss the amount of bees that might be present when we arrived. Bees have been a constant plague since we left Isla Carmen several months ago. The bees at Animas kept us on our toes but didn’t dissuade us from enjoying the beach or the snorkeling at the reef just outside the narrow entrance. Because of an ear infection I was only able to make a single dive but Lisa got a chance to enjoy a trip to the reef solo which was a first for her. She came back all smiles and I think it gave her the confidence to test herself a little more rigorously in the future.

We barbequed hotdogs on the beach that night and watched the sun set from the beach as our fire slowly burned down.

Animas2Bhot2Bdogs-comIn the morning we made a quick tour of the anchorage to get some photos of the boat and the surrounding area then prepare the boat for a hopeful downwind sail to Bahia de Los Angeles where a full moon “Jacuzzi” party was planned on the coming Saturday afternoon.

Within minutes of pulling the anchor we cut the engine and set our spinnaker for a nice 20 mile down wind sail. We are always surprised at how well our boat sails under spinnaker and today was no exception. The wind was coming out of the South East at about 6 – 8 knots and we were moving along at close to 6 knots over the ground. On deck you barely felt a breeze because we were moving so close to the wind speed. We were able to keep this up for nearly 3 hours at which time the wind increased and surpassed our normal hull speed. This is not to say we took the sail down, we just fell a bit behind the wind but carried sail all the way to Bahia de Los Angeles or BLA as it is called, and set the anchor under sail just to show off. To our surprise we didn’t even get the anchor tied off before we saw our first 15’ whale shark!

After the shark passed we loaded up the dinghy and headed to shore to pick up some groceries and dog food then settled down for the rest of the day. In the morning we were off to La Mona beach which has a small estuary behind it and is said to have a tremendous current which flows over rocks at its’ entrance creating a natural Jacuzzi during spring ebb tides which coincidentally was tomorrow. We expect to see almost every actively cruising boat in the northern sea at La Mono tomorrow so we went to bed early.

We arrived at La Mona about 1 hour after departing BLA village. Our welcome committee was only 4 other boats of which we knew all of them. Within two hours of arrival another 10 boats had emerged from the coves around the bay and La Mona began to fill up. Another 2 hours later we have 16 – 17 boats anchored around the entrance to the estuary.

Lisa, Sparks and I took an early exploratory trip up to the estuary. We were two hour before the flood tide and the entire estuary was just a dry creek bed. The estuary bed was not deserted though. There were easily 10,000 Fiddler crabs of all sizes running over the estuary picking up food and hiding in the Pickle grass that lined the edge of the estuary. In all I would expect the size of the estuary was only 4 – 7 acres and it didn’t look impressive, but as the flood tide began to fill the low ground it was obvious that amount of water needed to fill it would have to come in at a great volume if was to do it’s work in less than 4 hours.

By the afternoon we had about 40 people lining the entrance to the Mona2Bwater2Bparty-comestuary and as the water started to ebb the current began to swirl around the rocky entrance with encreasing intensity. To saw it of “Jacuzzi “ strength might be an overstatement but it was certainly relaxing to have clear warm water wash over you after a long day in the sun.

By morning many of us were showing the effects of the previouis days revelry but surprisingly everyone was smiling and most looked forward to a repeat trip to La Mona at the next spring tide.

Ideas on what worked and what didn’t

CAUTION: Sailing and Cruising information to follow.

As we promised Lisa and I have compiled a list of items and Ideas that worked and didn’t work over the last year. We have also included some things that we think should have been added to our boat prior to our departure. To help in addressing these issues we have created three categories: What Sucked: What Rocked: What we failed to afford or think about:

What Sucked:
1. We never found any pirates so our costumes have been of no use for the entire trip
2. Although this list is not in order of which was worst or best, our number on rant is ICOM RADIO!!!….ICOM IS THE WORST IN SERVICE OF ANY MARINE COMPANY WE HAVE FOUND. Prior to departing California we replaced a perfectly good VHF radio with one of the latest models made by ICOM. Honestly we were dazzled by the bright LED screen with big numbers and really wanted the remote microphone that could be purchased separately and used in the cockpit. About $500.00 later we were installing what we hoped would be the ultimate VHF system. The reception on our radio appeared fine from the first day but slowly we became disillusioned with the transmission of the radio. Friends complained that our transmission was fuzzy or unreadable and the transmission distance was limited based on our previous radio. Within a month we returned the radio and additional mic to ICOM in Washington State.

The unit was returned to us quickly and we found that several diodes had been replaced. The unit seemed to work just fine so we departed to Mexico. While traveling to La Paz, Baja Sur, the radio continued to diminish in its reception and transmission quality. Again friends said our transmission was fuzzy and we certainly did not have the reception others had. The final straw was when we touched the back of the unit and found it to be over 170 degrees (tested with our Fluke multi meter/temperature sensor). We spoke to several other cruisers who were in town and they two had troubles with their ICOM 502 VHF. Contacting ICOM only brought the answer of “if it’s not in the US we can’t do anything for you”. We had the unit repaired at an authorized repair facility in La Paz at our cost. The unit worked well for another couple of weeks and failed again. Ultimately we got the unit to the US and sent it back to ICOM USA. On arrival they refused to fix the unit under warranty and offered to repair the unit for $400.00. We told them to keep the worthless unit.

ICOM has had other issues in the cruiser community with their 802 series HAM radios. They apparently will fix the “clipping” issues if the units are sent to them, but I believe the entire line of ICOM products has issues and the company is failing to make good unless the units are found by the consumer and then returned from a US address. Although we believe ICOM is a wholly owned US company we would not buy another ICOM product based on service alone.
3. Humidity is the worst. We are from California and a “Dry Heat” is a “Good Heat”
4. Our Mexican Courtesy flag didn’t last 6 months. Don’t believe the ads; buy the highest quality flag you can find. Make sure the edges are taped and stitched to last the constant 30 MPH wind they will be subjected to.
5. Davis Dinghy Wheels: We love the wheels but 3 boaters plus ourselves had the wheel struts collapse while in use. The replacement cost for struts in Mexico was approximately $100 which is just slightly below the full replacement cost. Our dinghy and motor weight about 100 lbs combined, the struts should be made to handle this much weight easily as ours is on the low weight side compared to others.
6. Wringing out cloths. We didn’t buy a wringer so doing it by hand was the worst. In the future we will buy a wringer from the local hardware store and install it on the rail for those times when you can’t have the laundry done in town.
7. Boat parts are still hard to find in Mexico. Sending them from the states takes up to 30 days or more. We lost more cruising time in Mexico waiting for parts than any other issue.
8. We love our internet site and enjoy sharing our travels but the 1 and 1 website builder we use takes a heck of a lot of time to update and sometimes is so large you can’t update it at all.
9. Our full size spinnaker pole weighs a ton, is incredibly large, dangerous for a short handed crew and needs to be replaced with a telescoping pole ASAP. Downwind sailing (which is 80% of what we have done) can not be effective without a pole (we can only sail to within 120 degrees of Dead Down Wind without a pole). We have added 100’s of miles to our cruise by not using the pole.
10. Poly-Glow. This was a product made in Florida that was supposed to make our old fiberglass gel-coat shine like new. At $50 per quart and our boat requiring 3 quarts it just wasn’t worth the cost. The product didn’t give the boat that “new boat glow” and what shine it gave failed to last. Save your money and use a good wax.
11. Bug Screens: With the exception of San Blas, we never needed bug screens. To add permanent bug screens we think would be a mistake. The so limit the fresh air circulation and after a full year in Mexico we have had perhaps 1 night that we wished we had the screening. Buy some screen fabric but no need to waste time with fitting unless you plan on going below Puerto Vallarta. Clothespin work just fine in a pinch.

What Rocked:
1. Our simple Katadyne 40E survivor water maker met our needs for water every time. At 1.5 gallons per hour we did keep it in near constant use topping off tanks but because of the constant use we didn’t need to flush or pickle the unit as often as others with higher output. The added back flushing requirements of other units appeared to be time consuming and cumbersome for other boaters and we greatly enjoyed the freedom of just “On” or “Off” with the Katadyne. Amps = Gallons of water almost exactly on each unit we have seen in Mexico so our 4 amps per hour for 24 hours equaled the same amount of water and amps used on other more productive units.
2. Our Groco type K Toilet functioned without issue over 1 year. All seals and pumps worked like they should. Others with more expensive (electronic flush, vacuum flush, freshwater flush) all seemed to have multiple problems over the year.
3. Our decision to “go now” was correct for us. Although we are currently looking for jobs, we don’t feel our financial status has changed much.
4. Sirius Radio works in Mexico. The decision to buy it 3 months after we departed was a bit late. The coverage and quality are superb and the variety made the trip more enjoyable.
5. Better Homes and Gardens cook book was a great resource. The book contains substitutes for “Wine Sauce”, “Corn syrup”, “Brown sugar”, “Self rising flower” etc. This is a life-saver on a boat that doesn’t have access to Albertsons or Piggly Wiggly every day.
6. A quality Wi-Fi antenna is required. The omni directional antennae most mariners use are limited to close in proximity. Our uni-directional, 16dbi antennae worked well, was cheap and brought in internet over ½ mile away or more.
7. I expect a dejected sigh on this, but Microsoft Outlook Mail rocks! With limited connections Outlook was able to download and save mails for later reading. Additionally we could write letters and leave the computer on in an anchorage with limited wi-fi connections and within a couple of hours there would be perhaps 5 minutes of connection or less; Outlook delivered the mail and downloaded mail so we could read it out our leisure.
8. Skype and the Skype webcam are great for staying in contact and seeing those grandchildren that you left behind. Skype has the added benefit of being free or nearly so.
9. Buy a Pelican case for your camera. Pelican makes so many cases and we found one for our small Nikon camera. The case is just large enough to hold an extra set of batteries and our boat cards. We knew several couples that relied on zip-loc bags or waterproof bags that failed or where so bulky you didn’t want to take the camera with you when you went ashore.
10. Boat Cards with pictures of the owners are the best. It isn’t much more expensive and it really helps you remember the people on board.
11. Medical care in Mexico is affordable and good..perhaps better than the US.
12. Liaison International Medical Insurance for travelers was the best deal we made in Mexico. We had a $1000.00 deductible for Lisa and I and paid about $1200 per year for coverage. There were no issues with the insurance being excepted in Mazatlan and our only out of pocket costs were the deductible. All other expenses were processed by the hospital.
13. Buy an underwater case for you camera if you dive or snorkel, you won’t regret it.
14. Bimbo Bread is wonderful. Bimbo is baked in Mexico and if the products used to preserve the bread in Mexico have any effect on us we should live to be 100 years old and not look a day older than we do now. The bread never seems to spoil, mold or dry out regardless of humidity or temperature.
15. Our Shade system works. We originally designed a shade system with PVC tubes and heavy fabric. Our current cockpit shade is made of cheap fiberglass tent poles and garden fabric. When weather happens it is easy to pull down (4 lines) and stow (the poles break down to 3’ long). Setup is just as simple. Our shade over the rest of the boat is made of nylon which is just a simple sheet that we hang over 2 lines strung between our mizzen and main mast shrouds. It is held in place with permanent bungee cords and is stowed easily each night.
16. Acidophilus tablets are good to have aboard for any minor intestinal issues.
17. Two dinghy engines are better than one. We had an opportunity to use both engines on our dinghy and loaned our small 3.5 engine to several cruisers when their primaries were on the blink.
18. Big Anchors/Big links: When cruising step up to the big times. Our Anchor is several times larger than recommended by the manufacturers and we use all chain scope. If you are buying a new anchor drop the extra sheckles for the MUCH larger anchor and sleep well at night.
19. Limiting our spares was a good thing. You can add extras till your boat sinks below the waterline. We found most parts are available for your diesel, generator and even rigging. Alternators can be re-wired and re-built with ease in Mexico so buy a cheap spare that will get you to the next port. There is no need to have 2 $700 alternators on board when a primary and $40 rebuild will do just fine. You may not be able to get full use out of the refrigerator, but you’ll get to port. We carried lots of “get to port” supplies and put them to good use: Angle iron, vise grips, hacksaws, rubber hoses of all sizes, plenty of hose clamps, filters and more filters for everything aboard, valves and plumbing fixtures don’t take much room, screws and bolts of all sizes, tape, epoxy, glue and dowels, just one set of rigging fixtures (Norsemen), extra shackles of all sizes and a few turning blocks, electrical connectors galore as you will use these more than anything (buy them by the 100’s not in the kits), voltmeter(s) and a spare GPS. Lastly don’t forget the “O” rings. These they sell in kits and it is worth it as if push comes to shove you can always use you “Crazy” glue to make the ring fit just right.
20. Our OGM masthead light is the best. OGM makes a terrific product. The masthead light comes complete with a light sensor so the anchor light comes on automatically each night while we are in town eating or enjoying some attraction. The LED running lights are incredibly bright and can be seen from miles away. The strobe light option is worthless on the OGM masthead light, but we won’t split hairs we love the product and it was worth every penny (albeit about 20,000 pennies).
21. Fold-able dollies work great. For toting groceries and other bulky items back to the boat we bought a Wal-Mart foldable dolly. It has large 4” wheels which handle the uneven pavement and dirt streets of Mexico well. The carrying capacity is about 75 lbs so you can carry up to 5 cases of soda without an effort and it stows well. The foldable “milk-crates” sold at marine stores don’t carry nearly as much weight or bulk and the wheels are just too small for anything but the best paved sidewalks.
22. Flat screen TV’s. Forget the laptop screen, there is nothing as nice as sitting down to watch a movie in front of a nice flat screen TV. Our is only 17” but combined with a portable DVD player the experience is so much better than a laptop screen. When we are done we store the TV inside a home made pillow which is split to except the TV. The pillow sits in the open and the TV is protected from bumps and falls.
23. Sewing Machine. We brought a sewing machine and a table-saw. Thinking we might find some extra work making wood projects we never did move the table saw. The sewing machine got a workout making small sunbrella projects, repairing sails and sewing awnings. Sailrite appears to be the machine of choice but you can save money by looking at the Sailrite knock-offs on eBay. Same machines just different tags.
24. Hookah, no not the smoking type, the diving type. Our hookah is just a dive tank with 50 feet of breathing tube attached to a dive regulator. The tanks stay where they are stowed and the regulator and tube go overboard with you. The system is simple, relatively cheap and allows you to work on emergency underwater issues (like wrapped line) or to scrub the bottom of your boat conveniently. Setup the system prior to leaving the US as hose attachments can be a bear to find south of the boarder.
25. Computer thumb drives are great for storing and transferring data.

 

WWFTAOTA:
1. We should have updated our SSB or Ham radio to support email. Winlink is free to HAM radio operators and sail mail is used by most cruisers we know. Unfortunately our radio is a bit outdated and our pactor unit is too slow to make connections. A few hundred dollar would have solve this issue and made email available at all time and in any anchorage throughout Mexico.
2. Adding a second computer would have made life easier (sharing is so tough and it alienates the second person) and could have resulted in us still having a couple of month’s worth of pictures that we lost when our system crashed.
3. We should have bought more fans. During the first 6 months 4 fans were fine, but during the Mexican summer we could have used another 4 or more. Install the fans prior to leaving because when you want the fans it will be too humid to install them in comfort.
4. When we continue to cruise again in the future we will have a 15 HP outboard for our dinghy. We are rated at 4 HP, have a 6 HP Mercury and need a minimum of 10 HP to plane. Don’t listen to the boat show experts; get the largest outboard your dinghy is rated for. Many friends have RIB’s that are rated at 15 – 20 HP, but the boat show deals came with 10HP which were touted to be just fine for planning the dinghy, didn’t happen. It is not just you and your crew but 70 lbs of groceries and 5 cases of beverages you are trying to get home. If you dive or snorkel it is even worse…Go Biggie size on the engine.
5. 12 volt refrigeration. Our refrigerator uses 120v AC and although it seems bullet proof our electrical needs exceed almost every boat out here. There are a number of evaporator units on the market and most only use 40 amps 12v for a full 24 hours of operation. Ours uses 40 amps in the first ½ hour. Although we only operate the unit 4 hours a day we are just getting by with nearly frozen steaks and coolish soda.
6. More solar panels. Our solar works well but our electrical needs far exceed their charging power. We have heard nothing but good news on solar panels. Before we leave again we will increase our current supply by a minimum of 200 watts (total 390 watts). Wind generation still seems like the ultimate, but we don’t have a place for a wind unit and they are noisy if you get one with real output.
7. Boarding ladders. We have a rope boarding ladder which in other than emergency cases is useless. Others we have seen have ladders that only extend about a foot below the surface of the water, you could consider these just as useless. Prior to coming to warm water again we will have a ladder that is easy to deploy and will extend rigidly 3 feet below the surface at a minimum. Other considerations should be it’s use while wearing scuba or dive equipment

Very little in Mexico is cheaper than the US. Don’t put off stainless projects, mechanical issues, sail projects, upholstery or buying clothes till you reach Mexico. You know where the prices are cheapest in your home town and I will bet that 7 out of 10 times Mexico will cost you more. Get the good stuff, understand how it works and what will most likely go wrong if it fails. Buy the minimum products to get you back to port in an emergency and leave the rest to the “MacGyver’s” in Mexico.

 

Updates for August, 2008…internet at last

 

 

 

What a good ride we have had since leaving Bahia Conception. Our trip to San Marcos Island left usSan2BMarcos2Bmetro-com in awe of the diversity of fish life in the Sea of Cortez, Santa Rosalia had it’s own special French charm to add to this otherwise unique Mexican town, Bahia San Francisquito contrasted the beauty and power that Baja California has to offer and finally Isla Partida gave us the seclusion that we have looked for since we left the San Francisco Bay area a little under one year ago.

We sailed up to San Marcos Island about a week after the Fourth of July. The sail itself was nothing special but as always it was nice to just set the sails and leave the driving to the auto pilot. The only tension along the way was as we entered Craig’s Channel which is a narrow waterway between San Marcos and the Baja Coast. For 5 miles the water depth in the deepest part of the channel hovers around 20’ while to each side of you shallows hide beneath the waves waiting for a bit of mistaken navigation to snare your ship and delay your trip. As often happens the weather was relaxed until we entered the channel then the wind picked up to either hasten our trip forward or quicken our plunge into disaster. Obviously we made it, and if the drama I just presented didn’t quite happen it could have easily been so.

Once clear of the channel we continued on an easy reach towards Sweet Pea cove and dropped the anchor in near crystal clear water. The rock shore was not as attractive as many of the coves we had visited but the topography guaranteed fantastic snorkeling and fishing. After we tidied up the boat a bit we took our first of many dives around the island. With 50’ of visibility it was easy to see the marine life that abounded. To our surprise one of the most prevalent creatures were the Morey Eels. Many of the Morays exceeded 7’ in length and they were so numerous we easily saw 4 to 5 per dive. It was also at Sweet Pea that we experienced our first “tunnel dive” or “Tunnel Snorkel”. There is a small cove called Los Arcos about a quarter mile from Sweet Pea where many underwater caves and tunnels exist. Although most could only be explored using scuba tanks we did find a couple that extended about 50 yards through the rocks were one could snorkel easily without fear of bumping their heads or running out of air.

When we finally left Sweet Pea cove we moved on to the marina at Santa Rosalia were we completed some maintenance work on the boat and visited the town proper. Quick research will tell you that the town was mostly founded by a French mining company and thus the town has an element of French architecture to include a church that was designed by Gustaf Eiffel and then transported by boat to its present position near the town square. Also of note here is the tremendous squid industry.

We arrived Santa Rosalia around noon and noticed nearly 200 panga’s in the harbor. The number of pangas was not so much astonishing but the fact that they were in the harbor at noon posed a bit of our question in our mind as most fishing in Baja is done during the day time hours with the pangas return from fishing in the late afternoon. What we didn’t expect was the mass exodus of squid2Bthrowing-comfishermen from the harbor around 7 pm in the evening. Each of the boats had a crew of 2 or 3 pangareros along with a 12 volt battery and a single bare light bulb on a stick. The light was used to attract Humboldt squid which grow as large as 4’ long or better. Sometime during the night (usually starting around 10pm) the fishermen would return with their catch and deliver it directly to buyers who have set up weigh stations and are prepared with crates and ice to move the squid directly to a processing plant further up the road. The controlled chaos on the sight is something to behold, but everything seems to flow smoothly once you understand what is going on. We watched one night and saw several tons of squid delivered in just one hour and the process goes all night and every night except for Saturday evenings when the harbor is quite.

After a week of marina life we had to move on, so we cut the dock lines and move on up the road about 7 miles to a little used cove behind a large gypsum mining operation at Caletta Santa Maria. The anchorage was nice in that we were able to leave late in the day, set anchor, explore the little cove and still have time for dinner before sunset.

When we went to bed expecting a good nights sleep the cove was as still and serene as a Japanese koi pond, but sometime around midnight a west wind kicked up and out of pure luck we were not in the direct line of all the gypsum dust that blew off the built up piles waiting for shipment. The windstorm only last a couple of hours and then the serenity returned again giving us at least a couple of more hours of good rest before departing for Bahia San Francisquito about 75 miles up the road.

Our departure was early in the morning and our actual desired destination was Trinidad Cove. Trinidad is known for “Elephanta’s” which are winds that come over the low hills from the Pacific side and then thunder into the Sea of Cortez at 40 to 50 knots. The pleasant side to the cove is that the winds coming from the Pacific are cool so we were looking forward to light west winds and asan2Bfrancisquito-com nice cool night’s sleep.

 

As so often happens, when we arrived at the decision point to turn in 10 miles to the cove or continue 30 miles further to San Francisquito, the wind direction turned our trip a bit more north and off we went to San Francisquito. When looking back on the trip we made the correct decision as the sailing was pleasant, the sea smooth and the Sailfish were completely out of control and on a feeding frenzy! After dragging our fishing lines for 20 miles through some well known Dorado prone areas all we had to show for Hooked2Bboobie-comourselves were 2 boated Booby Birds. It seems our lures must look just like bait fish under the water and we always gather large numbers of the common sea birds whenever we fish. While releasing the most recently caught bird we noticed some commotion ahead of us. The seas were suddenly filled with white spume and splashing that we though must have been pelicans diving but none were around. As we got closer we saw 100’s of sailfish jumping and tail dancing across the waves in pursuit of smaller fish. We had seen this previously in Cabo San Lucas but not on nearly such a great scale. It is really exciting to watch these giant fish jump and splash. It’s as if each fish was caught on a line and trying to get away but no other boats were in sight.

At the time we were dragging two lines and one was attracting “Boobies” so heavily that I though I would never get a moment to try and catch one of the fish that were leaping about. As I was pulling on the line to keep the birds from catching my lure, the second pole came alive with a searing whine as the line began to scream from the reel. We are equipped with a couple of nice poles and reels but I would say that are more matched for ocean fish in the 15 – 20 lbs range so when I tighten the drag on the reel and the fish continued to pull line off at the same rate I was sure we had hooked into something larger than normal.

Lisa quickly retrieved the second line; goat tied Sparky to the mast and came up with her camera as the now identified sailfish did aerobatics 200 yards from the boat. The line was still being ripped from the reel and to my surprise the reel was literally smoking as the clutch began to burn up. In time I began to make some distance on the fish and Lisa was able to get a bit of video showing the fish jumping and splashing in the waves.

sailfish2Bin2Bwater-com30 minutes later the fish began to tire and got it right next to the boat. Neither of us expected to see a fish over 7’ long on the end of the line, but this one easily topped 7’ and perhaps a bit more. Using my new “Mickey Mouse style” fishing gloves I carefully grabbed the fishes spear for a couple of pre-release pictures, then we dropped the fish back into the ocean and watch as it majestically swam away ready to fight another day.

We arrived San Francisquito a couple of hours later and were blessed with beautifully clear green water and sand beaches that immediately put us into a relaxed mood.

Although a nice stop, we only spent 3 days in the small bay at San Francisquito. The reason behind moving was due to the amount of cruisers that were in the bay and also the number of bees that continued to harass us while at anchor. The bees in the sea of Cortez are a constant irritant. Some anchorages have more and some less, so when the bees get too bad we just move along. The bees are attracted to fresh water and I believe that have learned to identify boats with fresh water (sinks, shower sumps, beer!). The more boats in an anchorage the more bees seem to be attracted.

Isla Partida was our next destination and we ended up liking it so much the local radio net began to call us the mayors of Isla Partida Norte due to our long stay. Partida offered the first truly isolated anchorage we had found in Mexico and billandlobster-comwe took advantage of the isolation by skinny dipping with abandon over the next couple of days. The fishing was easy and for the first time we were seeing large numbers of lobsters. We took advantage of the sea life and ate very well for the next week.

Snorkeling was an adventure in Partida as you never knew what you would see. Turtles, Rays, Octopus, Grouper and seals all abounded in the area. Several times we would see 20 or more seals swimming in the water with us, and once we saw two turtles on the same dive. Partida helped us fill our punch card of things we had to see in Baja before we left. The only remaining cut-out was whale sharks which we hope to see in Bahia De Los Angeles.

 

 

Clear Water At Last….July 1st 2008

 

The morning following our arrival into Agua Verde was almost as exceptional as our arrival. The Phosphorescence was gone but the anchorage was absolutely what we had been searching for over the last 8 months.

Agua2BVerde2BScenes22B242872429-comAgua Verde is one of those places in Baja that you regularly see on magazine covers and glossy travel brochures for Mexico. The water is deep blue surrounded by a perimeter of pale blue then fringed in crystal green shallows. Each of the beaches are comprised of a sugary white sand that is embossed on a tapestry of rugged lava stone in shades of auburn, chartreuse, rust, amber, jade, curry, maroon and ebony. Some say this landscape is all just shades of brown, but if you look into the texture there is always more than first meets the eye. Cardon Cactus, Cirio and acacia trees all share their limited growing spaces with mesquite and manzanita to add unnecessary but inviting texture to the surrounding hills. Simply put we loved waking up and taking our coffee out on deck.

The town of Agua Verde is small by any comparison. With roughly 100 persons living within 1 square mile, the density is quite light. As such it is surprising to see that the town sports 2 schools, a modest church, a large basketball court and a single Agua2BVerde2BChurch-com1 room building which supplies the community with dry goods and fresh vegetables a couple of times per week. There is no meet or beer available, though you can find fresh goat milk if you look.

Lisa and I spent our first day walking through town and then exploring several of the coves that make up the anchorage looking for the perfect spot to snorkel the next day. Ultimately it became too much of a distraction to look into the water and see the bottom 15’ down in near crystal clarity so we donned our masks and fins and jumped in. As always I was immediately on the hunt for food while Lisa discovered new types of Angel Fish, puffers, wrasses, and sergeants that she hadn’t seen before in any of the other anchorages.

This area is blessed with a large scallop population and so making a meal of scallops would have been easy if it weren’t illegal for us to gather them. Being a hunter/gatherer at heart I merely “caught some” then “released them” again to prove that I could provide for the family if the need ever arose.

We have been very careful in Mexico regarding stingrays. We have seen a number of these ranging from little 1 foot specimens to the larger 4 and 5 foot creatures. With warm water all around we knew there had to be a number of them in the waters surrounding Agua Verde so we were careful to “shuffle” our feet as we had been told whenever we enter the shallows. During one of Lisa’s siestas I took a hike up a hill hoping for some good shots of the anchorage. When I reached the top and looked down into a nearby cove I noticed about 25 large rays circling around and feeding on the carcasses of fish which the fisherman had dropped off for them. Knowing the rays are somewhat friendly I rushed back to the boat to get Lisa and the snorkel gear. Within minutes we were back at the cove and swimming with some very large rays. Hovering just 3 feet above 5 foot rays was an experience we will not soon forget. Sometimes the rays would just sit in the sand while we observed and other times they got so frightened they would explode out from their hiding spots and sail off under a cloud cover of sand, shell and dust leaving us blinded from the murky water for a minute or more while things settled down. After an hour we decided to give the rays a rest and retired to the boat for snacks and refreshments.

Several days after arriving we sailed up to Isla Cosme where Lisa was sure one of her friends owned a home and had plans to start a new marina. We originally figured on staying the night in the cove, but after a quick walk around and being unable to determine if this was actual were her friends had built a home, we returned to the boat and found the motion a bit to tippy for our likes so we moved on.

Isla Monserrat is about 8 miles distant from Cosme and we had heard of a good anchorage on the north side of the island so this became out next destination. Little did we know that another exciting chapter of our trip was about to be filled.

The anchorage at Monserrat is a bit exposed to the wind so we were careful to set the anchor well. The topography is very similar to Drakes Bay in Northern California with equally impressive blunt hills of yellow limestone rimming the bay. Once on the beach the wind ceases and there are plenty of tide pools and geology to explore. In perfect habit Lisa was able to find natures own chaise loungers set up for her relaxation. We were both surprised at how comfortable a sandstone chair could be. Some evenLounging2Bin2BMonseratt-con had built in headrests!

Exhausted from the days sailing and hiking we retired early fully expecting a full day of snorkeling and fishing to begin in the morning.

In a quite anchorage you are aroused by the slightest sounds and our day began when were heard the sound of an outboard outside the boat. I was not alarmingly close, or filled with the raucous hoots and hollers of pirates, but since the sun was up it was enough to get me out of bed to see who it was and what they were doing. As I peeked from under the dodger I saw 3 men and a boy moving along the beach in their fishing panga. Earlier I had spotted a number of areas that looked very “lobstery” so I watch the men hoping to see that they were trapping lobsters and not just fishing for fish. I had great hopes of trading baseball hats or tequila for lobsters but these would not be realized today; the men were fishing for fish. I had coffee.

Twenty minutes passed before I looked out the hatch again, but when I did I saw that the fishermen appeared to be rowing over to our boat. I advised Lisa that we were about to have company and sure enough the guys came straight up to us. Sporting classic Baja paddles which comprised of one 12 foot PVC pipe and one 8 foot long piece of bamboo their progress was slow but sure. “Buenos Dias, motor no va”, I greeted when they got close and I with great powers of perception noticed their engine was out of the water. “Si” they all answered and began to tell us about their transmission failing due to hitting a rock near the shore. Several minutes and hand signals latter we determined they boys would need a tow; “nessicitas remolcar” we asked to their affirmation and soon we had them hooked up and we were leaving the anchorage.

It might seem strange that we would willingly give up a nice anchorage and inviting snorkeling for complete strangers but keep in mind there is no Coast Guard in Baja and most of the major traffic is made up of panga fishermen who don’t carry radios, so being a good Samaritan is paramount, we only hope that someone will be there for us if we ever need them.

The boys chose to stay aboard the panga and Beyond Reason hardly noticed that is was behind her as we set a course for the 14 mile distant Candelaros cove. As we pulled away from the island the heat increased and Lisa and I both felt guilty at our decadent sun shade and copious quantities of available beer, cool-aid and soft drinks while our new panga friends suffered without sun relief or refreshment. Putting on a good yachtie show we held up a water bottle and asked over the loud speaker if they would like some “refreshco’s” and four toothy grins were all we could see. Connecting a bag carbineer to the tow line allowed us to shuttle the drinks back to the panga without incident and we carrier on to our destination.

About ¾ of the way to the Baja shore we became confused on exactly which area of the coast they wanted to be towed. Hand signals had been fine for most of the trip but as we closed in on at least two different destinations it became apparent we need someone on our boat to steer to the correct location. We took the boat out of gear and began to bring the panga along side our boat. Somewhere along this exercise the pangas engine became entangled in the tow line and as they were unraveling the mess our transmission secretively stuck itself into reverse and quickly wrapped a ¾” mooring line (being used to tow with) around the prop which promptly stalled the engine once it had pulled all the slack from the line. We were now in trouble. The panga had an inoperable engine and we had a stuck prop, no wind and 3 miles to reach land.

In my mind I have prepared for this type of fiasco, but usually it works out that I dive into crystal clear water, pull the rope free from the prop with a single breath get back on the boat and pop a cold drink at the same time we start the engine and continue on our way. So my mind is a little short sighted and the wrap this time was a bit more complex.

Unraveling the first part of the wrap was easy and I did do it on a single breath. The trouble came from the rope being wedged into a 1” channel between our cutlass bearing and our shaft zinc. I won’t explain to those in Winters what all this means but suffice it to say that when you double a 3/4” line and shove it into a 1” crack, you can’t pull it free unless you have an allergic reaction to Kryptonite, I don’t!

For several minutes I struggled to cut and chafe through the line at which point one of the pangeraros jump into the water with his own knife and began helping me on alternate breaths. From the boat the sea swells hadn’t felt very large but with two of us diving and pitching in the water, each with a large knife in his hand, the swells seamed a bit more frightening. 15 minutes of double handed cutting didn’t do the trick so I asked Lisa to hand down my dive tank regulator which is connected to a topside tank by 50’ of airline and was finally able to sever the rope and pry it’s remains from the shaft within a minute of so.

On our way once again we had one more hurdle to cover. With our new Mexican crew aboard we determined we were heading for Candelaros Cove and one of the other smaller coves around the area. The hurdle was that the new crew wanted us to go between the shoreline and one of the islands. Our guide book gives us a much longer and circuitous course that rounds 2 islands and adds another couple of miles to the trip. Nacho, our crewmember advised that the water was very deep and without hazards along the shore, and having lived there all his life assured us there would not be any trouble. Lisa and I we confident he was telling the truth, but then we were towing his panga back to sh

Warp Speed..June 28th

Oh my god! This is sailing!!! We have been sailing, motoring, drifting, or muddling for the last 7 months. Having traveled over 1400 miles or more from San Francisco to Puerto Vallarta and other places not so recognizable, we had been appalled by the lack of true sailing conditions were one could relax, cook, drink a soda or read a book without having to contend with increasing winds, lack of wind (motoring), lack of fuel and wind (drifting) or some combination of all three which kept you on edge as you changed sails, turned on the motor, turned off the motor, added more sail etc…Topolabompo (Mainland Mexico) to Aqua Verde (Baja California) Changed everything!!

We departed Topo about 6am last Friday. Typically sailors don’t depart on Friday for some superstitious reason, but then we are Cruisers not sailors, so depart we did. We motored out the 3 mile entrance to Topolobampo Bay into an increasing wind which for some reason or not was going in exactly the correct direction for our ultimate destination. As we cleared the sea buoy we increase our sail area by raising the main and mizzen sails to compliment our already unfurled jib. The boat began to leap forward and soon the diesel was shut down and we reached westward in 15 to 18 knots of wind. The motion was pleasant so we turned on the radio and began to listen to some soft tunes as the sun began to rise behind us.

It was not really surprising to us as the seas began to increase as the morning wore on. Typically over the last number of months there have been few days when the sailing was excellent, so even though the waves increased to 3 then 4 feet we just took is in stride and moseyed on. The boat heeled to the waves and wind but kept a steady 6 to 7 knots of forward speed, which suited us just fine. Working that into the 140 miles we had to cover we figured 20 to 24 hours of travel time bring us into Agua Verde about sun rise the following morning.

About an hour into the trip nature called and as with many things on the boat relief came with a surprise when the toilet failed to flush. Now typically we have had one mechanical issue on every overnight sail we have taken since Monterey California last September so I can’t say that I was overly upset, but it would be nice to have one perfect crossing someday.

If you talk to many people who own sailboats or powerboats large enough to have anything more gentile than a Port-a Potty, most will speak ill of their toilets. We have been fortunate enough to have never experienced an episode of the dreaded “head aches” so now I felt the pangs of despair as the brown water failed to drain, and we had another 24 hours of travel time to come up with a work-able solution to our biological needs.

I have mentioned previously that the best solution to trouble on board is to sit down and drink a beer before jumping to conclusions and irrational evasive methods of recovery, so taking my own advise I grabbed a second cup of coffee and enjoyed the fact that the boat was moving under sail at a stable and quite acceptable 7 knots of speed.

The problem with marine toilets is generally the accumulation of ureic salts and calcium deposits in the lines flowing from the toilet to either the holding tank or the ocean (based on being more than 3 miles from shore). The deposits can be compared to hardening of your arteries where cholesterol builds up and restricts the blood flow. A typical marine toilet uses 1.5” hoses to flow the waste to the proper holding area. Upon removal of the first small section of our hose it was easy to discern that we had an issue. The typical 1.5” hose had been restricted to ½”, probably fine for some waste, but certainly not all.

Compounding the trouble our boat has system of waste lines that looks like it was designed on a Spyrograph so what could have been a simple system of just a few feet of tubing actual turned out to be a catacomb of 13’ feet of tubing with multiple valves, connections and pumps thrown in just to make things interesting.

Not to drag the story out, I will tell you that the process of clearing the lines involves removing a section of tubing at a time. Any remnants of waste that remain in that section of tubing are just there to add a slight diversion to the overall task as you try to keep the rest of the boat relatively clean. Anyway the section is removed, brought topside and vigorously beaten against the side of the boat or attacked with a screwdriver or other such item to remove the offending 1” of calcified coprolite from the tube. Once you have a clear tube, you reinstall the tube, try to flush and then repeat on the next section of tubing.

2 hours later declare victory and Lisa and I both celebrate as the water in the toilet runs clear and once again we feel good about eating solid food or so we thought. An hour later the toilet is clogged again and I realize that in my haste I have forgotten one 5” section of tubing. Of course when I attack this small section, the worst of spills occurs but at least we have found the true source of the problem.

The wind continues to build as we reach past San Ignacio Farralon. The rigging strains and cries out as the wind moves past 25 knots, but since we are moving on a broad reach I leave the sails as they are and confidently surmise that the boat is built to handle twice this wind with out even batting an eye. I am tired from the mornings work, so lay back on the leeward side and watch the water race by at nearly 8 knots, if I wasn’t tired it would be truly exhilarating: I am mesmerized.

By noon we have traveled nearly 40 miles and we entertain a crossing of 14 hours or less. The sails continue to pull, the boat surges forward as if hunting the Baja down for a kill, Lisa and I smile at each other knowing we are heading in the right direction.

By three in the afternoon the wind is down to 17 knots the boat continues to course along at over 7 knots, sailing is nearly flat, the only noise we hear besides the ocean passing underneath is the knot-log steadily clicking off mile after mile. We anticipate a wind decrease in the next couple of hours but it is never realized. As 10 pm shows its face we understand that we will be making a midnight approach to an unknown bay. Typically you would not enter an unknown port at night, but the approach an entry into Aqua Verde looked straight forward with no major hazards and plenty of water depth, we continued on course.

The moon rose just after 10 pm and by 11 pm we were entering the coastal Baja waters and were within 4 miles of our destination. Although our speed had decreased to 5 knots, the trail of phosphorescence we left in our trial looked every bit like the F-4 fighters that use to depart under full afterburner into the night skies above Germany from the Ramstien Airbase in the mid 1980’s.

We arrived just after midnight to pushing an electric blue wake from bow to stern. We dropped anchor a bit out of the normal anchoring area giving a bit a room to safety. As the anchor dropped it too seemed to be on fire as it excited the plankton in the water and shot off a stream of fiery phosphorescence on its way to bottom.

Happy as we were to shut down the systems for the night, we were already melancholy for the past sail and would have gladly extended the trip just to enjoy the pure magic of sailing…finally.

 

 

Sailing At Last…June 17th, 2008

 

We have finally departed Mazatlan. It is 6 pm in the evening, the sun is still shining, the wind is coming from the North East which is not really in our favor but at 14 knots we are happy to be raising sail and will decide on a destination just as soon as boredom hits us and we make a decision to look at the options. Life has been a bit down beat for the last month or so as we wait for surgery, visas, bottom work and finally upholstery to finish.

The cushions are still a work in progress as the shop was not able to complete a finished project in the time we generously allotted. Actually the cushions were completed but the flaws we found did not meet our approval so the owner of the shop generously offered to remake any cushions we were not happy with. This would have been a quick job had there been enough leather left over, but because green cows do not grow on trees the job needs to start from the beginning again and that was nearly 2 month ago. With a little negotiation we had the upholsterers come back to the boat, re-cut cushions and hold them at the shop while the new leather is re-ordered. Once the cows come home for a second time the upholstery will be applied to the cushions and the finished product shipped to San Carlos, Mexico for us to pick up. This is not ideal but acceptable, so we are on our way.

As we pull even with El Faro de Cerro (light house of the hill) we loosen the jib and begin to put a little power and drive into Beyond Reasons hull. It feels good to get the boat moving under sail; or at least until the first of Dante’s trails appear.

While we were in the boatyard a couple of weeks back it seemed a good idea to rebuild or re-work the primary winches aboard the boat. Everything appeared to go according to plan and no springs or small screws were lost in the process. At the end of the re-build there we not left over parts and the winches turned freely just like the manufacturer expected. Unfortunately there was a small flaw that didn’t manifest itself until the winches were subjected to a couple of hundred pounds of pressure from the resulting 14 knot winds. When this happened we found the port winch would turn both clockwise and counterclockwise which is more the design of a wheel hub, not a winch whose primary purpose if to “winch” line in!

We quickly remedied the problem by cinching the line to a handy cleat, but after a couple of minutes realized we could not travel 240 miles with a faulty winch while a perfectly good port lay just behind us: we returned to port.

Re-anchoring in the old harbor of Mazatlan was more psychological disappointment than anything else, and with Lisa doubting we would recover within the next 48 hours or more, we made dinner and prepared ourselves for yet another night in Mazatlan.

When we completed our meal of seared Tuna and almond rice (yes we eat like this), I began the disassembly process on the port winch. Surprisingly the starboard winch did not have the same issue, so we figured it had to be some fault of the assembly crew. About an hour later and after several threats of re-filing the cogs on the inside of the winch and possible removal of the hacksaw from it’s safety cage, we discovered that one of the gears had been put in upside down and reversing the gear made the difference between working and not functioning. All hail Lisa for using her best Caesar Milano (The Dog Whisperer) stance to keep me from the files and hacksaws!

Our 6 pm departure has now turned into an 11pm departure, but just the same we raised anchor and move out of the estuary under power. Within a few minutes we had raised all sail, stopped the engine and began sailing for the first time in what feels like 6 months. The best part of sailing this time was that we are moving at nearly 6 knots and making a pretty nice angle on our desire target. I expected this to only last till midnight, but we continued for the better part of the night and only after 6 am did we turn on the engine in the dying wind.

Approximately 11 am that morning (18th of June), the wind picked up again out of the Southwest and we sailed nearly 24 hours with an average of 7.5 knots into Topolobampo. Without exception this was one of the greatest sails Lisa and I have ever had. The boat was incredibly comfortable, the weather was warm throughout the nights and each of us arrived rested as we entered Topolobampo harbor.

Typically we arrive around 5pm, but this trip we came in before noon and after a quick explore around the harbor we pulled into the fuel dock to top off our Topo2Bfuel2B242812429-comtanks. Topolobampo is a commercial port and there is not much “recreational” boating or tourism so the dock was a bit of surprise to us. The crew that operated the fuel dock was efficient and happy to take care of our out 30 gallon request. Although the dock was intimidating we left without a scratch or any marring to the varnish then we dropped anchor off the Marina Club and dinghied over to shore to have a look around.

The heat in this part of Mexico is stifling. With or without humidity the temperature in town was enough to send us to the first “deposito” we could find. For those in Winters a Deposito is a Mexican beer store. You can buy anything you like in the store as long as it is beer (i.e., light beer, regular beer, tall beers and small beers). There is no liquor, candy or soda at a deposito, just beer, we bought 2 ice cold beers and then sat on the corner doing our best impression of homeless people but enjoying a couple of well earned chilled drinks that never tasted so good.

Once we checked the beer off our list of things to do we did a bit of roaming around town. The town itself is very modest in size which was a bit of a surprise as there is major shipping traffic that passes between here and other ports in Mexico. If you are not ready for the graffiti you could easily be thrown off by Urban2BTopolabompo2B242862429-comit’s presence and become quite guarded in your behavior, but Lisa and I had heard that they have a bit of a spray paint problem in the town so just took it in stride and relaxed as we walked through the streets saying hi to all the locals and enjoying the children’s expressions when they met Sparky and noticed that we were Americans which apparently is something they don’t see much of.

We were excited to see a side of Mexico that was not set up for tourists and while walking around actually got a good feel for how people could actually live in this country on what is said to be an income of around $300 per month.

Exhausted after a couple of hours of walking we dinked back to the boat and spent a comfortable night dreaming of the nice beach we would visit in the morning.

ore after he himself took the engine out of commission following a navigational error were he hit a rock….hmm.

In the aftermath we did do as Nacho had suggested. We saved several miles, never saw less than 80 feet of water and were able to bank just a bit more karma which we were running low on.

We spent the night in Candelaros cove but moved the next day after spending a night in 37 mph winds. Fun times.

March 31, 2008…It ain’t easy all the time.

“When I say Marco, you say Polo”, that’s the way the day started for us as we rolled into the town of Los Veranos. Our guide had surprisingly been named “Marco Polo” at birth which seemed strange since we were still in the primarily catholic country of Mexico. It didn’t really matter and neither Lisa nor I suggested that he either made up the name or someone had played a trick on him at birth, we were about to experience “Canopy” and we had gotten the tickets and 2 bottles of prime tequila all for the cost of a 90 minute tour of one of the many time-share hotels in Puerto Vallarta.

Prior to meeting our new friend Rodrigo at the Tequila Company, we had heard of several sailing couples that where approached by contractors of some of the major resorts in town and offered “cash or prizes” if the couples would be willing to attend a 90 minute sales presentation. Some of the couples have made as much as $1400.00 cash in just a week or so. Anyway, we met Rodrigo while testing tequila, go figure.

After a number of samples and a conversation about what we had planned to do in PV, Rodrigo asked if we would be interested in 2 bottles of tequila and 4 tickets to Los Veranos Canopy tours. Playing the ever vigilant tourists that we are, we jumped at the chance. Rod explained that he would pick us up in the morning near the marina and after the tour we would get our prizes.

The next morning we met Rod just as scheduled only there was a slight deviation to the plan. It seems Rod was not really suppose to give us the tickets and we needed to be staying in a hotel or we could not qualify (Call this flag 1). “Not to worry” says Rod, “I bribed a hotel owner and you are now staying in the Oasis Hotel, room 4”. He went on to say, “You got here on Tuesday and are leaving tomorrow”. Being smart cookies, Lisa and I told him “no problemo”. To counter the issue with the tickets, Rod said he would give those to us now if we promised to not let the time-share folks know (Call this flag 2). We told Rod we could keep a secret and pocketed a “voucher” for 4 people at Los Veranos on the appointed day and time we asked for, perfect.

Lisa and I did the tour and as planned failed to buy even 1 week of time-share. The tequila bottles were given to us and viola we were on our way back to the boat. Happy as clams we wrote to our friends that were coming down to PV that we had the tickets and they should prepare for an exciting time.

“Polo” we all chanted as Marco called out his name then proceeded to lead us up the hill to gear up. At the top of the hill with many of the participates already breathing heavy, Marco check everyone’s ticket. Of course our name didn’t appear on the list, but we stood by silently as Marco and his manager discussed the voucher he had in his hand and eventually let us in. We never thought there would be a problem, right.

Everyone geared up and then attended the safety presentation. When it was complete we were to follow the next guide up another steep hill for our first experience. Just as we got up we saw Marco again, and a sneaking suspicion crept into my mind. It only took a minute for the suspicion to turn into reality and 4 surprised gringos were pulled from the herd and off we tromped to see the manager.

Several minutes later we were advised that the tickets we fake and that Los Veranos did not do business with the Tequila Company…darn.

We pleaded with the manager about our ignorance in understanding how Mexico does business and eventually only had to pay for three of us instead of four, so chalk up a $75 dollar savings for the gringos and off we tromped to meet the rest of the group.

There are at least two of us who could probably use a bit more exercise, and by the time we reached the top of the hill we were exhausted, although we had no idea that there were still 5 flights of stairs that wound around the trunk of tree which still needed to be tackled. Exhaustion aside, Lisa had a hard time going up the stairs. This was a major fear of hers and I don’t believe she was quite ready to tackle it this soon, up we went.

Standing on the 3 foot platform, Lisa barely had time to take a deep breath before Pablo told her to strike the “Captain Morgan” pose and proceeded to hook her harness up to the zip line and send her down to the other side. With a whimper and scream Lisa took off like bullet and 15 seconds later was caught on the other side were she quickly turned and gave us all a “look at me” smile. We were off.

 

The proceeding 16 zip linesLisa_los2Bveranos4-com varied in height (too about 300’ off the canopy floor) and length (up to 900’) and took us over trees, through forests and above the river gorge that runs through the valley. Before we finished everyone was comfortable with the rides and Lisa had taken two trips in tandem with guides while flying hands free and backwards above the forest. We have it all on video tape!

With the tour over we relaxed on the grounds of the tour hosts drinking some well earned cocktails and munching on chips and salsa while discussing Rodrigo and his “deal”. Our friend Dino is from the New York/Jersey area so I knew when I suggested we visit Rodrigo later in the day, he replied with “yeah, will give ol’ Rod a visit”, so we did.

I’m an not sure which was more fun, to show up at a shop keepers address dress in wise guy sunglasses, an attitude that said “I ain’t leaving till I get my money” and glaring at any customers that might just want to come in and buy tequila, or getting my money back. I am quite sure having a friend that stands 6’4” and weight in at 250 lbs (wink, wink), helped my cause, but I like to think it was my cool style of talk that won the day anyway.

Dino and I marched into town later that night to find the girls and after seeing the shock on their faces that read: we can’t believe you two knuckle heads are not in jail, we settled down for a couple of Indio beers and a taco.

March 11, 2008…Cleaning our bottom!

 

Lisa had wanted me to right a story about Bottom Maintenance today. We have been working on the bottom and or the waterline since we left Alameda. Prior to leaving we made the mistake of being in a hurry to get out of the boat yard so we could enjoy sometime in the delta. Instead of raising the waterline of the boat which at the time was within ½ inch of the actual water, we figured that Beyond Reason had enough residual buoyancy to take on any load we could possibly imagine. Maybe we were a little to optimistic in the capabilities of a Hans Christian Yacht

For those that are not sure of what a waterline is or what exactly we take as the definition of a waterline I will explain. On almost all waterborne vessels the underside of the hull is painted with a compound of toxins that in the proper doses are lethal to all invertebrates. The common poison is copper, but zinc and other heavy metals find their way into bottom paints as well. It is typical to have to repaint the bottom of the boat every year or so to keep the toxin level high enough to resist barnacles, grass, sponges, crab infestation and corals from adhering to the bottom of the boat and in doing so slow the boat down. Unfortunately most paint manufacturers are shackled by environmental laws from adding a quantity of toxin to the paint that will actually live up to the claims on the label (Prevents Marine growth for 4 seasons, Work well in heavy growth areas like marinas and tropical environments etc). I don’t really know which season they are talking about or which Tropical environment I am suppose to leave my boat in, but my guess is they expect 4 seasons in Maine which I understand goes from July 1st to July 31st, so the paint would be good for about 4 months which might actually explain our results.

Anyway we were discussing the waterline. This is the area of the boat that most commonly stays wet while the boat is upright. If we sail in bays and rivers and then place the boat in a nice marina, the boat looks good to have bottom paint up to about 1” above the normal wetted surface. This will generally prevent any moss, barnacles or shell life from appearing near the surface where passersby could point to the living reef that many boats have somewhere below the turn of the bilge, or at least it would for “4 seasons”. We failed to incorporate the fact that we would not be staying in marinas, sailing bays and rivers or quite honestly be anchoring in many quiet flat anchorages. As it is, our boat is typically wet or moist about 6” above what would be considered the normal water line.

Because of our failure to apply more bottom paint to the side of the boat wishing instead to keep the classic lines in place we are constantly scraping, bushing, wiping and chiseling at marine growth above and below the waterline. Most of the hard growth (mussels, oysters and barnacles are just above the actual bottom paint, but below the waterline lives a beautiful green garden of wondrous sea plants and invertebrates. When you fist dive on the boat you would swear we made the sides of the boat out of my moms 1970s short shag green carpet. To run your hands over the bottom is like petting a nice Persian cat, albeit when you dislodge the shrimp from their habitat you wished the cat didn’t have so many fleas!

After yesterdays sail we concluded that we had one of several issues. We were either way to heavy or the bottom was very busy with sea life. Additionally we felt a bit of vibration when under power which meant we either had a misaligned engine or that encrustation had re-appeared on the prop within 2 weeks of the last cleaning. On inspection today we found that pictures of the submerged Titanic in all its overgrown undersea splendor don’t vary much from the bottom of the sailing boat Beyond Reason, it was time for a cleaning.

Our friends from Jake had just sent us a letter discussing their afternoon scrubbing the bottom of their boat and the “disinfection” process that ensued afterward. It is always funny to hear of others trials, but I am not sure that Jake had the assortment of reef life under his boat that we did.

To battle the world of Jacques Cousteau, I grabbed a stiff brush, a plastic scrapper, chisel, dive hose and regulator along with mask fins and snorkel and jumped over the side. Our paint retains at least a bit of it’s original poison as sweeping the bottom with the brush does leave behind a 12” swath of clean red paint along with a billowing cloud of plant life, miniature crabs, thousands of tiny shrimp and other crawling and snaking animals that as numerous as Blow flies on a 10 day old animal carcass. I know Lisa is proud of the fact that I dive and clean our own bottom but she is grossed out when I surface in a sea of blood red paint with hundreds of shrimp like animals squirming around in my hair, lounging on my back and arms and hibernating in other areas that can only be discovered when we turn on the wash down pump for my initial rinse cycle.

Once I finished with the sweeping, the real work begins. Most propellers are not covered in bottom paint and we follow this typical scheme. As a result I suspect we get more that our share of barnacles growing on the prop. Today, though only a couple of weeks old, we had barnacle growth again. If you can imagine the propeller of an aircraft and how smooth the surface is to direct airflow efficiently enough to pull you through the air, you can imagine how you would feel it your plane just had a large piece of rough sawn would on the front, this is similar to what I saw below. With the amount of growth on the prop it was a miracle that we could make any forward motion at all. The prop had been cleaned just 2 weeks earlier so we will have to up our maintenance schedule again. It is hard to imagine just lying around the boat sipping cocktails, though I still hear people are able to do that, perhaps in Maine on August 1st.

So I worked the propeller and then moved onto the real fright which was the underwater bronze fittings that hold the rudder in place. The gudgeons as they are called probably get the least attention of all the parts on the boat. This was completely evident by the lunch box sized clusters of barnacles and mussels I found on either side. 10 minutes with the chisel (wish I had brought a hammer as well) and the area was cleaned up.

In all it took a good hour and a half to finish the cleaning the bottom. This is not bad until you figure I will have to go at it again in two weeks. There is certainly more than one price to cruise!

When I finished Lisa got the hose out so I could wash off all the tiny shrimp. To say I had literally thousands of shrimp adhering to my body would be an understatement. When I was done Lisa came out to rinse a thousand more off my back and then did the prison “de-lousing” wash down procedure that we all see in the movies to get most of the remaining animals back to their original environment. The side of the boat now looks like the dried food section of an oriental grocery store, but I feel clean, except for perhaps that one shrimp that is stuck on my ear….oh and the one clinging to my leg hairs over here…

 

 

March 03, 2008,

Puerto Vallarta, Nayarite, MX

 

Several weeks ago we left Mazatlan following the events at Carnival. As Lisa reported earlier the fireworks were a true spectacle, not necessarily spectacular, but being so close to the action certainly added a thrill to the event that we hadn’t experienced since we were perhaps nine or ten years old.

Spending 10 days at Isla Mazatlan had the boat looking good again and the topside varnish should be ready for another year of exposure. Of course spending time in a foreign marina filled with Ex-patriots comes with the downfall of having to hear all their counter advice of those who believe they no better than the new guys who just arrived. There is also the constant threat of getting involved in conversation with the lonely cruiser guy or gal who just doesn’t understand that you have more important things to do than to spend 45 minutes listening to their diatribe on the proper orientation of Phifertex fabric or how much easier it would be to work on your boat if you only built a workbench in your cockpit. God help me not to get old and lonely!

So we left Mazatlan and headed down the coast to Isla Isabella. This is a beautiful little island, butLa2BMona-com unfortunately we arrived about 1 day early so the anchorage was a bit rough and unsettling, we moved on the next morning.

We carry some pretty big tackle about the boat for fishing the waters off the Mexican coast. We don’t always fish, but when the sailing is light or we are motoring we try to drag a line to see what can be picked up. On the morning that we left Isla Isabella I dropped our rig into the water and immediately hooked a small Bonita. Bonita are not our favorite so we dropped it back in the water and began trolling again…5 minutes later we were hooked up again with another Bonita. As I said we don’t really care for Bonita but if given the chance to catch Bonita or nothing I will always take the Bonita as they do give a reasonable fight and at about 5 lbs each they could sustain use if we really needed to eat, anyway today was catch and release time, so out the fish went. On my third drop, I picked up a fish that stripped line from the reel at an alarming rate. The more we tightened the drag on the line the more the fish seemed to take. Eventually I had the line (60 lbs test) drag set as tight as it could possible go and the fish continued to tear away at the reel.

You will notice that I have not named the fish so consummately you will understand that at some time the fish broke loose and we never had another bite all day, such is fishing.

Our destination was Matanchen Bay, just outside San Blas Mexico. The bay is gorgeous but I don’t know if we will ever return due to the number of bug bites that I sustained in the first 24 hours..I literally thought I would explode from all the bite swellings on my legs.

Molesting-comWe stayed in Matanchen for 4 days before departing as there was some exploring that needed to be accomplished prior to leaving; the jungle trip, San Blas, 7 miles of beach and finally trying to understand why they only serve 8 oz beers.

With our next destination being Chacala, some 20 to 30 miles away, we departed Matanchen at a reasonable 9 am or so and sailed the first couple of miles. It became apparent some were along the way that we would need to engine to complete the trip before dark so our peaceful trip was interrupted by the “diesel sails” for a number of hours until the fan belt gave way again just 10 miles from our destination. It’s moments like these that I am always thankful that we travel several miles off shore. It is also a time like this that I feel cruising is a constant test of your nerves and ability to overcome adversity at the most inopportune times. So it was that we had about 3 – 4 knots of wind (not much), 10 miles to go and a broken engine, our test…sail a 50,000 lbs boat in minimal wind to a strange port without having the tide pull you on to the rocks, no problemo.

If we have anything on board this boat it is a good sail inventory. Most of the sails we rarely use out of laziness. Our Mizzen spinnaker is just one of those sails but once it is set we do move along in just a whisper of air, so we set it and continued on the way at about 2 knots (just a bit above normal walking speed).

Lisa, to her credit is quite capable of handling the boat by herself when left alone so I left her to the sail while I attended yet another festive time with the fan belts, 20 minutes later we were ready to start the diesel again, but let it be while we sailed onto our destination.

By far one of our favorite populated destinations has been Chacala. The town is small, if a bit touristy, but clean in all respects with small cobble stone streets, polite and helpful people, moderate prices and plenty of activities to keep you busy for days.

We spent 8 days in Chacala. During this time we explored the extinct volcano at the top of the Chacala2Boverveiw-comSouthern hills, visited a resort hotel designed to keep your chi aligned, snorkeled the reefs to the north and south of the anchorage, kayaked the bay, took a taxi into the big (5,000 pop) city (Las Varagas) a couple of times, and even sat around the boat enjoying life. Without a schedule it was tough to leave this little paradise.

Our departure from Chacala was unique in that we departed under spinnaker. There was just a light breeze running, but we had all day to make either a 10 mile trip to Jaltemba or a 20 mile trip to Punta Mita depending on the sea state of the anchorage. We arrived in Jaltemba 3 hours later and found questionable anchoring seas, meaning it was a bit rolly but we were ready to stop anyway. The spinnaker had presented a bit of a problem on take down as the sock that normally snuffs the sail would not come down. When we finally inspected it we discovered there were no swivels used on the head of the sail so each time you tacked you just put another twist in the top of the sail that eventually blocked the sock from coming down. There have been several things along this trip that just make you wonder what someone was thinking when they added the equipment. Anyway the swivels are now on our purchase list.

Our anchor did not hold on the first drop so we repositioned and tried to drop it a second time…nada. Lisa called out to me that the anchor would not going down so without consultation I immediately went into the cabin and up to the front of the boat to manipulate the chain from below. Satisfied I came up and told her to drop the chain before we moved too far away. Lisa quickly snipped back at me that the chain wouldn’t drop just like she told me before. Huh, I went forward and told her I had cleared the chain below. “It won’t drop Bill!” she says and then she mentioned that the windlass had stopped operating. Had I paid attention before I would have understood her, but being the all knowing person I am, I just merrily went on my way to fix something else that wasn’t broke..hmm.

The windlass was able to recover the chain that had dropped so we took it as a sign to leave and diverted course for Puerto Vallarta/Punta Mita. 10 minutes later I had the wire repaired on the windlass and we were back in business.

As we were sailing around Punta Mita we achieved another miles stone for us by seeing our first big Manta Ray. When I say big I mean close to 14 feet from wingtip to wingtip. The Manta was so large that it took us a minute or two to understand just what we were passing. I thought it might have been one of those small submarines used for research at first but once we saw the wingtips clear the surface we understood that we were looking at one of the giant Manta Rays that frequent this area. Totally awesome.

 

 

January 12th, 2008

Altata, Sinaloa, MX

Well we finally got frustrated enough with living in the big city and decided to get out of town. As usual we were still waiting on packages so we figured we may as well go north while the weather was working with us instead of going south and then having to fight north again when the packages arrived, this is how we found ourselves sailing 140 miles to the small village of Altata. La2BPerla

Having 20 hours to make the slack tide put us in a bit of a bind as typically we travel at 5 knots over the ground. Assuming we could catch a breeze in the morning and afternoon we felt good about the trip but come morning we found we were still 20 miles short of our destination and running up against an ebb tide.

 

According to the books, the ebb tide was the worst possible time to make the crossing; we carried on just the same, and although only making headway of 1 -2 knots per hour, found the crossing relatively benign, although time consuming. Once inside the bay, the sun shown and the water was flat calm and bright, we had entered into another world that we hadn’t seen before.

 

The surrounding land was mostly flat scrub or sand dunes, but the water looked very rich in plankton and minute sea life. The richness was accented by about 20 small fishing boats that were holding nets against the out going current. DSCN3129Surprisingly each of the boats (pangas) had a 20 foot pole jutting from both the bow and stern which appeared to hold their nets open. The poles made it possible for their 25 foot pangas to stretch 60 foot of net across the water. As we passed each panga the pangararo’s would wave or shout out a Buenos Tardes and we would reciprocate while keeping a firm eye on the depth of the channel.

 

We had about 8 miles of channel or estuary to traverse before reaching the actual town of Altata so we checked the temperature of the beer in the refrigerator several times and settled into the trip. As we closed on the town we could see what appeared to be a sailboat regatta on the water. The odd bit about the regatta was that each boat was sailing sideways.

 

Twin2BTrawlAfter we got closer we realized that there was no race going on at all, but we were seeing typical Mexican pangas (with the addition of the poles mentioned above) sailing sideways with spinnakers pulling them downwind while dragging shrimp nets behind. The method was rather ingenious as the masts were only bamboo poles. Over the last week we have experienced winds of up to 20 knots while anchored in the bay, so with a spinnaker of nearly 200 square feet they had to come up with a way to stay the masts without interfering with the fishing. The solution is to stay the mast from the windward side using the shrimp net to provide the countering force to the sail. In other words the spinnaker pulls one way on the top of the mast and the shrimp net also has a rope that is connected to the top of the mast that provides a counter balance as it is pulled through the water. The more wind that fills the sail the faster the net is dragged through the water and the more resistance it provides. Anyway enough technical talk, the sails on the water (upwards of 40 at any one time during the day) were striking.

 

We anchored just in front of the town and once we had put everything back in order, we made the short 2 minute ride in the dinghy to the town beach. Altata has no paved roads and the beach front restaurants are just that, beachfront. At times you could say that the palapas in town are actually sea bound as when the tide comes up many of the tables and chairs are situated in about 1 – 2 feet of water, it don’t get much closer that that.

 

In a week we still have not found a place to buy beef or pork, but seafood is abundant and if you are not eating it you are stepping on it, looking at it or hearing someone crack it, oysters, small and large clams, shrimp, octopus, marlin, dorado, small fish we can not even name, and crabs are all part of the menus here. Pricing is fine, though not as cheap as we would have liked, but this is a sort of rich person hangout we are told. To equate it to something closer to home you would have to think of Tomales bay, CA without the hotels, motels or camping areas, there are none here.

 

We were met on the beach by one of the town elders and owner of the La Gustavo2BCeasarPerla restaurant. Gustavo was friendly in a non-overbearing way. With limited English and Spanish we introduced ourselves and he offered his services and those of his sons to provide fuel, mechanical work, shuttle service or anything we needed to enjoy our stay. With the boat running well we were fine and said so, so he wished us a good day and carried on about his business.


In the last couple of days we had had a chance to explore the bay quite a bit. There is so much hear to explore I am not sure we could see it all in two weeks, but we are trying. The beaches to the west are beautiful sand and hard packed flats littered with shells and clams if you are willing to just dip you hands in the water. Lisa and I collected approx 50 clams similar to Little Necks in less than an hour. The mangrovesLisa2Band2Bclams have oysters attached to them, though so far we have not found any that are sizeable to eat.


The eastern side of the bay is mostly weekend homes of varied sizes and elaboration, all are nicely done and fit well into the landscape. The town itself is Mexico, or what we were thinking a small town in Mexico should be. There are dogs running around the streets which although curious will instantly disappear if you look them directly in the eyes and tell them to scat.

 

Several small grocery stores dot the village along with several home bread making establishments. We buy our vegetables from the veggie truck that comes by daily, but staples like rice, cola, packaged bread and canned foods are available in the stores.

 

The town is ultimately a fishing village and there are nearly as many boats on trailers in the street as there are cars. We have counted 3 pescadorias (fish CO-OP’s) around town plus a large processing plant (no smell). Nets are more abundant in yards than is landscaping and the fashionable dress around town is blue jeans, a hoody pull over and large white fishing boots, very nice.

 

The shrimp that are caught in the bay are huge. By the standards set in Altata2BShrimo-comMazatlan the shrimp are every bit as large as Mexican lobsters, we count 20 to a kilo (2.2 pounds). We found it cheaper to buy directly from the shrimpers but at $2.75 per pound we are not complaining and the shrimp does not get any fresher, we place an order in the early afternoon with any one of the fisherman and by 4pm the shrimp is delivered.

 

There is an hourly bus here that goes to the larger towns of Novaloto and Culiacan (state capitol). For about $3 you get a ride in a sometimes air conditioned bus to the towns respectively 30 and 60 minutes away.

 

Culiacan is a metro center with a couple of nice museums that we did not attend. The churches there are pretty amazing though I imagine the opulence is not out of the ordinary for Mexico.

Novalato has yet to be explored but as we drove through on our way to Culiacan we felt certain we would have a good time in this moderate sized town due to the compactness of the town square, shopping area and restaurant district. We plan on going this Monday.

 

This should bring us up to date. Tentatively we will be hear another week unless weather or something else slows us down. Carnival in Mazatlan should bring us to that city no later than the end of January, but plans are always subject to change.
It is always a thrill to look at the phosphorescence as you see everything that is going on below the surface of the water. As we speak I can see several predatory fish moving swiftly and disturbing the plankton that makes up the phosphorescence in the water. Essentially you see stars in the water followed by sudden bursts of fallen stars as the predatory animals try to catch their prey.. Only pictures would show what is really happening, but from my point of view this is exactly what we came to see, and exactly what we have invested so much time and money into to experience..Wow.


 

December 20th, 2007

Well it appears that last time I updated we were around Ispiritu Santo Island. We did have a good time on and around this set of islands. Lisa2Bin2Bthe2BmonsterOnce we departed Caleta el Candelario and its wild rock formations we traveled the incredible distance of 1 mile to the cove of El Cardonal.

We had heard the night before that we could be in for some rolly weather and indeed we did get it later in the evening, but we arrived around 2pm and had plenty of time to walk among the mangroves while the tide was low. At first we were concerned by the large mud flats and potential for stingrays in the shallows but these thoughts quickly disappeared as we ventured on to the beach.

In front of us was what looked like thousands of cockroaches scurrying across the beach just fifty feet in front of us. Surprisingly when we stopped the “cockroaches” stopped as well. When we moved forward the roaches move away at the same pace. Primal instinct soon set in with Lisa and I, primed of course with plenty of “boat drink” and we decided we needed to flank the roaches to find out exactly what they were.

As we moved to our stations and slowly crept in on their positions the identity of these “things” was soon revealed, Fiddler Crabs! Thousands and Fiddlers_El2BCardonel3-comThousands of Fiddler Crabs! For those in Winters and probably elsewhere as well, Fiddler Crabs are only about and inch or two long and have one enormous pincher and another that is nearly ridiculously small. If given the opportunity they will scurry away and try to find one of the many shallow holes in the beach in which to hide. I don’t know if they actually dig the holes themselves or just “borrow” the holes for other animals, for sure if they dig the holes they are quite lazy as the holes don’t seem to fit the entire crab and it is an easy task to just reach in and pull the crab out.

We fiddled with crabs for bit and then made our way to the second beach on the cove which was much more conducive to sun bathing than to exploring for animals, so we pulled up some sand and relaxed for about a ½ hour before heading back to the boat.

The evening brought the foretold winds and waves and in the morning we gave some thought to leaving and either heading back to Candelario, La Paz or even heading north to the more secure anchorage of San Everisto. It was a visit by our friends on Triple Stars that ultimately sealed the deal to move on to Everisto.

We departed around noon for the 25 mile passage north to San Everisto. The weather looked good until around 3 pm when a nearly blinding rain storm cancelled any view we may have had of the coastline, islands or even the immediate sea around us. The rain lasted till just short of sunset which was just enough allow us to see the entrance into Everisto and allow us to anchor amongst the other 5 boats in the small anchorage.

We new most of the people on the boats anchored so we slowly motored past Hiatus, Jammin, Triple Stars and Whirlwind to say hi before dropping the hook. Once anchoring was completed we rowed the dinghy over to Hiatus for a little after passage drink and re-acquaintance since we hadn’t seen them since Cabo San Lucas.

The following morning we got a chance to explore a bit around the small supposed “goat herding” town. We didn’t find any goats but a couple of dogs greeted us. We couldn’t find any goat herders either, but did find a fishing camp with no fish. In dogs2Bon2Bnotice-comgood American fashion we did try to buy lobsters (the weather was too cold), we tried to buy shrimp (the trawlers not in) and we tried to even buy fish (the fish monger had been to the beach and left already) so eventually we negotiated with the old gentleman who was sipping tequila from a bottle cap at the palapa on the beach for a dozen tortillas. These were not just any tortillas as he had explained that his wife would cook them up pronto and have them to us in a couple of minutes. We were game so we ordered them up and when off to explore the small town.

Not more than 30 minutes later we heard the old gentlemen’s truck roar down the hillside and ramble up to us on the beach, tortillas in hand. We were Lisa2Band2BPal_everisto-comvery happy to find that the tortillas were warm, soft and scrumptious.

In the evening we joined the crews of Jammin, Hiatus and Triple Stars for some homemade wine aboard Jammin…too much fun to even write about.

So now we are back in La Paz working on boat projects. This afternoon we finished our dinghy chaps which are covers for the tubes on the dinghy to protect it from the sun. Our pals in AlamedaDinghy2BChaps1 will be happy to hear that they are “Ass-less” chaps, but really I have never heard of any chaps that were not “without tushies” unless you wanted to call them cowboy pants! We also installed a safety bar in the kitchen to prevent us from falling on the stove during rough weather (if we ever leave La Paz).

Things are going well and we are enjoying the stay here at marina La Paz.

 


December 6th, 2007.. Colleta el Candelario

Lisa and I have just finished dinner in one of the best coves we have visited thus far. Dinner was just a simple chicken (yes the whole thing) and some pasta with pesto made fresh from the herbs that Lisa has been tending since San Francisco.

 

This cove has unbelievable geography. We went ashore today to explore and found a vernal pond which was dry and behind it hills that soared over 500 feet on one side and more than a thousand on the other. The topography was a base of sandstone with volcanic rock on the top. There was an abundance of cactus that grew through the volcanic rock and most of the hillsides were covered in caves or side cut into geometric forms that you swear were people looking down on you.

 

So after dinner (and a few drinks), I am sitting outside the cockpit looking at the stars. Lisa claimed there were so many stars that you could not even identify the constellations so I had to come see for myself, it is true…too many stars.  Candelaro2Bpanarama-comThe moon is new so essentially there is nothing to compete with in the sky, the stars are thick. As if in competition with the stars, the phosphorescence in the water is twinkling in every direction.

 

Tomorrow I am hoping we can walk some of the trails that lead out of the cove up to the top of the peaks. Lisa identified a rainbow Bridge” this afternoon that just begs to be explored. This is fantastic country and I can’t wait to explore it.

 

November 30, 2007

Today really is November 30th. It is hard to believe that we have fallen this far behind but the business of cruising is fraught with dangers of laziness and over activity. Since Cabo San Lucas we have visited Frailes cove and the adjacent reef of Pulmo. We went a little over budget at Frailes as we wanted to visit the coral reef there and the weather wasn’t cooperating with our needs for smooth water over a long enough period of time to transport by dinghy. As a result I found myself on a 4 – 5 mile hike over to the town of Pulmo to try and arrange a ride the next day from Frailes to Pulmo and a guided tour of the reef.

It took a little doing but eventually after waiting patiently for the dive company to deal with a sick diver and the attendant ambulance I was able to convince one of the managers to pick us up at the boat and lead us on the tour. In celebration I bought a cerveza to wash down the dust from the previous hike, and then proceeded to replace the dust with the return trip back down the same dusty road.

Lisa has written pretty extensively about the Pulmo dive so I will let it stand that the trip was well worth the praise that it has received from Skin Diver Magazine and PADI as one of the top 50 dives spots in the world, and we all had a terrific experience.

The following day we moved another 45 miles north to Muertos Cove. In Spanish muertos refers to “dead men” or anchors that were here for the barges that use to transport ore from the surrounding mountains of the area. Today there is little evidence of mining, with the exception of mining for the American dollar. There is a very large development going up on the surrounding hills of Muertos which easily exceed 100 plus acres. Of course there is nothing significant to show for the development just now but they are certainly moving ahead with miles of dirt roads scarring the countryside.

Although there is little in the way of infrastructure we found that spending four or five days in this anchorage was easy as the water was clear and warm, the newly scratched roads are easy to walk, the weather was comfortable and with so many cruisers at the anchorage and the Thanksgiving Holiday at hand, there was just too much fun to be had.

For Thanksgiving we invited three couples over for dinner. Most of us were just a little short on ingredients so it was niceThanksgiving_Dave2BKim2BElaine2BChuck2BDiane2BRay2 to have everyone pitch in with whatever they could to help make the holiday festive. In attendance where Chuck and Elaine from Boomerang, Dave and Kim from Andante, Ray and Diane from Emerald Star plus Lisa, Sparky and I.

We tried to find a turkey but the best we could come up with was a turkey/ham loaf. Between the ingredients from the other boats we were able to make up dressing, mashed potatoes, pasta salad, three bean salad and even a pumpkin cake; not bad for folks that hadn’t expected to be in the middle of nowhere for Thanksgiving.

The day after Thanksgiving we rested but the weather was turning on us so we made plans to leave on Saturday. By Friday evening plans had changed once again due to the forecast so we pushed our departure back another day and left very early Sunday morning for Balandra Cove, home of the mushroom rock!

Several fish were caught along the way to Balandra but nothing that was worth keeping if you don’t count Lisa’s Dorado that was lost at the rail.

Balandra is fascinating and the first cove that we have come to that has a large tidal range which virtually dries out the cove each day. We were surprised to find that we could anchor almost next to the mushroom rock. I don’t know why it surprises me as many of the “national wonders” we have seen in our lifetime are always just a few steps behind the parking lot. I guess I would just feel better if you had to hike or work a little bit before you actually got to see what you came for.

Anyway, the rock was right there for us to see. It has quite a history of being knocked down and cemented back in place every couple of years and when you get next to it the evidence is not hard to see. The current method of support has been done by brick layers who have not even tried to hide their masonry work. It’s Baja so in a strange way it fits in just fine.

In our excitement to see the mushroom rock up close and personal we failed to make drinks for the trip ashore so we returned to the boat to see what we could find. Lisa was able to put together a nice adult “smoothie” made with Crystal Light Raspberry, Coconut, pineapple juice, and a good helping of rum that we transported back to the beach to share with friends. While at the beach we met with the crew from Vava which is owned by Ernesto Bertarelli the backer of the America’s Cup boat Alingi. We were perplexed at the size of Vava which might be a smidge over 100’ but owned by one of the richest men in Switzerland. I just had to ask if this boat was one of many owned by the Swiss tycoon as we have seen so many other boats that would dwarf this one and it just seemed to us that all tycoons flaunt their wealth when they can. The simple answer was “no”, this was Berterelli’s only “mega” yacht and frankly he didn’t need a fleet of overpriced boats since he could fly anywhere he wanted anyway. I’m not sure why but I have a lot more respect for this guy than those folks that just can’t seem to resist buying the biggest boat possible.

Because Balandra was so nice we stayed the night and most of Monday to just sit on the beach and read but eventually the wind picked up and we decided to move into La Paz to refill on supplies, repair equipment and touch base with society again.

At present the weather is raining and projected to get fairly windy of the next couple of days. Sparky appears happy to be stationary for a while and Lisa and I are just getting to know the town. With any luck we will have a chance to visit the Anthropology Museum in town as well as the Cathedral in the main square.

 


November 17, 2007

I have opted to leave out the events of leg 3 of the Baja Ha Ha. For the most part we sailed a bit, motored a lot due to lack of wind and discovered that the fix on the alternator only lasted about 2 hours before the alternator quite working. If the alternator had been an employee it would have been fired a long time ago, but alas it is more like a spoiled child that just will not cooperate with the rest of the family.

 

We entered the port of Cabo San Lucas around 2 pm on Thursday the 8th of November. This was a free day for the Ha Ha folks and at the time we arrived it was just a bit late to do anything about checking in so we just relaxed on the boat after finding a place to anchor. To our surprise the spot we chose to anchor just happened to be where Hollywood had planned to shoot a new Adam Sandler movie the next day. With a little reluctance we prepared ourselves mentally to move on Friday before 10 am, check in to the port and immigration and pay fees at the bank.  Additionally we then had to find time to attend the welcome party on the beach at a place called Mango’s.

 

We arose early on Friday to get a jump on the customs procedures and also because it was difficult to sleep with all the sport fishing boats heading out to sea as part of one of the many fishing tournaments Cabo San Lucas has yearly. As we were eating breakfast we heard a call put out by 3 different Ha Ha boats that had just rounded the point at Cabo and due to engine trouble wanted help with anchoring. Translated this means they would like someone or many ones to come out in dinghies to pull them in. We acknowledged that we could help, having just set up the dinghy, and immediately loaded up and headed to sea.

 

Being one of the smallest and most underpowered dinghies, we of course where allowed to bring in the most distant and one of the largest yachts that had trouble. My guess is we traveled about 1 mile out to get Delight, a 40 foot yacht with a burnt starter motor. After several attempt we finally got the boat under tow and were making a good ½ knot of speed towards Cabo. It was evident that we were underpowered and so we called into the fleet for a little help. No doubt to the fleet, Lisa’s calls probably sounded a bit terse, but really there was no panic, just slow going.

 

Eventually we got another 2 dinghies coupled up to Delight and soon we were moving at a good 5 knots to the anchorage. After we got the anchor down on Delight, Lisa and I went back to the boat to collect our check-in papers and headed for town to “Check In”.

 

I have read a lot about the check in procedures in Mexico and even took some of the advise from the Marine experts at West Marine and Downwind Marine in Mexico. If I were to do it again I would ignore everything I ever heard and just drive my boat down to Mexico without a care, there is no reason to do anything regarding crossing the border in the US, NOTHING. Applying for a visa in the US only delays things in Mexico and wastes your time in San Diego.

 

We spent a good hour getting our visa in San Diego and because of this I thought I could skip immigration, pay for my visa at the bank and finish my check in at the port office, that was only partially true. What snagged me up was that the official crew list for the boat needed to be stamped by immigration before presenting to the Port Capitan. By the time I had gotten to the Port Capitans office, immigration was closed for normal business (nobody told me this out right), but still open to stamp paperwork (for a small additional fee). Normal cost of checking in to Mexico including Visas and Port Captians fees, $76. Charges for the Novak’s because they tried to do a little preclearance as advised by West Marine/Downwind Marine, $116 ($20 each person for overtime at immigration).

 

So checked in we preceeded to the welcome party around 4:30 pm. Most of the fun events had been completed by this time so we sat and had a couple of drinks with friends, boarded the dinghy and went home for dinner.

 

Saturday was the final award ceremony with free beer and prizes for everyone. By 8pm Saturday the Ha Ha event was over and we were on our own in Mexico…

 

Monday, November 12th we set out with our alternator to get it fixed at a local Auto Electric place. It surprised me that so many of the cruises we came down with were completely without resource when it came to finding repair facilities. I don’t know if they are just so used to dropping in at the local marine chandlery or harbor office or that they just believe there is no one qualified to work on boats in Mexico. Lisa and I found a shop (more a garage – come backyard of a local house) within about 30 minutes of trying. The fellow said to bring the alternator in at 8:30 AM Tuesday and he would have it repaired by 4pm, we did and he did. We walked out with a bill for $65.

 

On the way back we ran into 2 cruisers with issues, 1 with a starter problem and another with an outboard issue. Both of these folks thought they would have to go to La Paz to have the work done because the local boat yard would not do the work. We gave them some simple directions in town on where they might get a fix and they were awestruck that it could even be done..go figure.

 

We delayed leaving Cabo San Lucas on Wednesday because we still had laundry to do and the website hadn’t been updated in weeks. It turned out well that we did delay because the Sunset on Wednesday was just so awesome. another+BR+sunsetThe last time I did this trip we had evening after evening of spectacular sun sets, but not this trip so Wednesday night was special.

 

On Thursday Morning we took off for a small cove named Los Frailes (the Friars). We departed at about 4 AM and watched a follow on sun rise to the sunset we had seen the night before.

 

Typically the weather is a bit cold for us at 4 am, but dressed in shorts and shirt sleeves both Lisa and I were comfortably and watch the sun rise a little after 6am. We are now anchored in Los Frailes. The spot is just a little bit of paradise, although only 40 miles from Cabo San Lucas. It has the reputation of being the last remaining hard coral area in the Eastern Pacific, so we had to stop and plan to explore it before leaving.

November 16, 2007

The days here are a little confused as we have not been very good at keeping track of them. I believe it was the 3rd of November that we departed Turtle Bay for Bahia Santa Maria. This leg is generally known for its fishing and we were not disappointed in that department. 

 

The morning was a little cool; Bloodthe breeze was fine for sailing but not in the right direction or speed for flying the spinnaker. I believe there were many people that decided to slow down their boats on this leg due to the amount of equipment breakage that was reported over the last couple of days.


Within about 15 or 20 minutes we had our first Dorado. I should say that Lisa caught her first Dorado; I still had not caught one. You will see by the photo how sleek and bright these fish are, but I am sure the photo will not do justice to being there in person. Lisa is not much for fishing and probably has only caught a handful of small fish in her life. To see her catch a fish in the open ocean was so much fun (See her update for the picture of her first fish). When the fish came in Lisa almost fell overboard with excitement while trying to hold the fish and pose for a picture. Needless to say the fish did not last long and was quickly cut into fillets and chunks for our fish tacos.

 

This leg is only two overnights and the sometime during the second night the wind cut out and we ended up motoring for about 12 hours. We figured that this would not be too bad as the batteries could use a good charge and we wanted to heat up the water for showers when we got to the anchorage. After about 5 hours things looked good in the power department and we were making way at close to 8 knots under some sail and the motor, but as with most goods things there was a problem, the alternator had quite working again.

 

We are getting much better at accepting these little inconveniences and so we checked to be sure the alternator was still spinning and the connecting water pump working and continued on our way. I didn’t do any diagnostics as I just wasn’t interested in the work and we have plenty of power backups. As Scarlet O’Hara would say, “I’ll think about that tomorrow”. Of course putting things off always leads to some sort of issue when it is time to pay, and there were no exceptions in our case.

 

It turns out that the bracket that holds the alternator had again broken but with spares on hand we set about making the repairs. While in Moro Bay I had ordered a couple of spare brackets that were suppose to be “original”, but when I fitted the new brackets the “original” brackets did not come close to fitting, so out came the hacksaw, the Dremel tool, the file and finally the belt sander to modify the shape of the bracket so we could continue on our way. It took nearly 2 hours to make a bracket that would work with our configuration and fan belt selection but eventually it was completed, installed and tested for operation, no really I tested it!.

 

During this time I had sent Lisa and Sparky out to explore the shores of Bahia Santa Maria and they came back with stories of surf that looked like the waves on Hawaii 5-0! This seemed a little extreme but they had taken a Panga (water taxi) in and were safe and sound just as well. With everyone on board we had just enough time for dinner before going over to our friends for a cocktail or two.

 

During the night a pretty big swell came up and over the morning radio net many boaters were concerned about being washed up on shore. The crew of Beyond Reason was not one of these as we have learned our anchoring lessons well and where nearly ½ mile from shore and in plenty deep water with tons of scope out, it was nice to be able to ignore the swell.

 

This afternoon there was to be a beach party and as 12 o’clock rolled around it was clear that not many people were going to brave the surf in their own dinghies. When the organizers were asked about water taxi service we found that even the fishermen that operate the Pangas did not want to cross the surf until it had calmed down a bit.

 

If you are not aware a Panga is a typical Mexican fishing boat similar to those aluminum fishing boats that your grandpa use to put in the back of his pickup. The difference is a Panga is roughly 20- 25 feet long and is powered by a 100 horse Yamaha outboard and also has very high sides for dealing with the ocean waves that are often encountered. The drivers of these boats are really experts at handling surf and heavy waves, so when they say it is rough, believe it.

 

It wasn’t until 2 o’clock that Panga drivers began to show up and since we were so far out in the bay we didn’t arrive at the party till after 4pm. By this time most of the food was gone, but the beer was chilling and the band was heating up so we enjoyed a good bit of the atmosphere for a couple of hours.

 

There was one scary moment when one of the cruisers decided to take his dinghy through the surf and got tossed out of the boat while the boat continued to motor happily along. As the boat was hit by another wave it started to make a line for the hapless seaman that was just tossed and nearly ran him over in the process. We watched for perhaps 5 minutes as this dinghy continued to motor along and periodically changed course for no reason and headed back to its owner full speed, pretty scary stuff when you are away from medical help by some 200 miles!

 In the end a couple of other boaters did a bit of dinghy wrangling and got the wayward machine shutdown and to shore safely with its previous rider.

With the excitement settled down we figured it was time to go home so we grabbed the dog and headed for the Panga Stop. There were perhaps 25 people in front of us looking to go back to their boats so we had a bit of a wait. After perhaps 30 minutes we could see we would be in the next Panga or perhaps the one just after that, but things were about to change. It was already dark by this time and the waves had continued to grow so the drivers were having a tough time seeing the sets. Just as we would have entered the next Panga, the drivers all went home, we were stranded! Stranded may be a little too big of word, as there were about 70 people on the island still partying, but as word spread the mood became more and more solemn, everyone was stuck on a beach that was getting colder by the minute with very limited shelter.

Many of us had showed up in t-shirts and shorts and some with as little as bathing suites, jackets for most were out of the questions. The Panga drivers promised to come back the next morning so everyone kind of made due with what they could find. Lisa, Sparky and I took shelter in a small cook shack with another 15 people, but the bare floor and hard backed chairs would be our beds for the night. Too say it was crowded in that shack would be an understatement, if you only had 1 persons feet in your face you were lucky, and after a night of drinking there was a lot of traffic to contend with if you were laying on the dark floor as people made there way outside to relieve themselves then tried to find there way back to their spot on the floor.

By morning we had survived and the Pangas did start running again. When we got back to the boat we quickly made breakfast, cleaned up and made the starting line for leg three just 30 minutes late.

November 11th, 2007

 

Finally an update. This has been a long couple of weeks. Lot’s of sailing, not much sleep, some very interesting landscape and people as well as a number of good and bad times.

When we departed San Diego we were sure that the trip would be fun and filled with plenty of sunshine and smooth seas. In the end I think what we got was a lot less than our expectations and lot more questions about cruising than answers.

When we departed San Francisco about 3 months ago we had a firmly set plan of not sailing in any type of heavy weather unless absolutely necessary and to never push ourselves. On the 28th of October that plan went out the window from soup to nuts. The weather forecast called for 15 knots of wind over the entire 3 day course (360 miles) which would have suited us just fine had it held true, but things change I guess and the weather forecasts are just that, forecasts.

By the time we made it to the starting line we were not sure if we would even see 15 knots of wind and cautiously calculated our fuel supplies in case we had to do some motoring. By the start time of 1100 though the winds filled in so much that we contemplated not starting the line with our spinnaker and potentially with much shorten sails. After a bit of pondering we chose the spinnaker in good faith and added the mizzen sail just for good practice. After a bit of a false start (twisted spinnaker) we were off at about 7 – 7.5 knots with the USS Ronald Reagon escorting us to Mexico. Start$2Bof$2BBahaFor Beyond Reason 7 knots is a fairly rapid pace, but it felt good and we were able to hold the speed until just after we crossed the US-Mexican border.

An hour or two after the start we found the isles Coronado’s were blocking a lot of the wind and so we slowed down to about 2 knots for 3 or so hours. Later as we passed them by the winds picked up again and so we continued on our course at respectable speeds.

We had plotted 2 courses for leg 1 of the Ha Ha, the first would take us close to shore (4 miles) and the second was to be used if we thought there was any chance we might run into weather or we got cold feet. Generally I will shy to the ocean side of any course for safety and so as night came in I decided to use course #2 and then moved ocean side of the course by a couple of miles.

Sometime in the dead of night I started plotting our course on the map and realized that I may have made a navigation error. Instead of entering course 2 I had instead entered course number 1. This did not pose an immediate problem as I have stated I usually run a mile off course for error anyway, but it did add about 40 miles to the overall distance of leg 1 as I wanted to get back to course #2. By morning we were on course and the winds had filled in to between 18 and 22 knots so we were making good progress.

The weather forecast at 0700 was for winds between 15 and 20 so the report seemed accurate if the weather did not change…it did. By afternoon we were fully reefed with the boat moving at 6 knots and careening down steep waves up to 10’ from the North West and the south. With the wave situation it lead to some pretty heavy steering as we tried to avoid the worst waves which were working to roll us from side to side. Throughout the rest of the afternoon and night we ran in steady winds of 25 – 30 knots, by morning we were exhausted and Sparky had had about enough of the sailing adventure for 1 lifetime.

During the morning radio net it was mentioned that one of the boats had wrapped a spinnaker around its mast and took refuge at Punta Culnett to Culnettget things under control. Lisa and I discussed a possible option to get Sparks to shore and us some rest and eventually settled on the idea of pulling into the little bay behind Punta Culnet as well. According to our chart book this little bay had protection from the Northwest winds we were experiencing, so we diverted course again and jogged the 20 miles back to shore to find a little rest.

The hills around Punta Culnett are impressive, 400’ high and towering straight up from the sea it looked like a perfect little hideaway…LOOKED LIKE A PERFECT LITTLE HIDEAWAY!

As we entered the bay the winds went from a steady 25 knots to 30, 35 and 40 knots of wind. With just the smallest portion of jib rolled out we were moving at 7 knots and hoping the hills would soon block the wind so we could find a spot and drop the anchor. When we had traveled nearly 1 mile into the bay the winds still had not dropped so we struggled to get the jib in and eventually made a mess of the furler in the process. Our chart book again told us this was a good anchorage and even offered a GPS point for dropping the hook, but from our vantage point, the anchorage had 4 foot swells and the wind was so powerful it was blowing spume off the top of the waves, saddened we choose to leave.

Punta Culet is surrounded by shoal water on the south and south west sides. Since we came from the North it was little problem to enter but a real bear now to depart without having the large seas board the boat. From about 4 pm till nearly 9 pm we reached across waves that would roll the boat and its rails under water every 5 to 10 minutes. It’s funny now to look back and see how easily the boat handled the rolling, but how on edge Lisa and I were as bottles tried to break there way through cabinet doors and books continuously worked there way out of cubbies along with other things that hadn’t moved in years that now found a new resting place, the boat just rolled along mile after mile. Eventually Lisa and I just settled in to endure the ride.

At this point Lisa and I we really dejected and had to gather ourselves to understand exactly what we had gotten into. I can’t say we were ever scared, but certainly as Lisa would say, “this was not the vacation we had signed up for”.

The final day into Turtle Bay was relatively easy and it was the first time we had a chance to drop a line over the side. It didn’t take long to land the first First$2Bfishtuna (bonita), fillet it and get it ready for dinner, but by then it was time to enter TurtleBay.

We dropped the anchor a little after 2 pm on the 31st (I think) sailing approx 300 of the 360 mile course.. The day after we arrived at Turtle Bay there was a large (600 people) beach party arranged. Beer and soda were plentiful and food was supplied by all of us “cruisers” so consider it a very large pot luck dinner.

We all had a blast including Sparky since we just let him run free; he was tired for days afterward. Somewhere along the line we heard about Lucha Liebre Professional coming to town. Keep in mind that Turtle Bay only has about 500 townspeople and a big event like Lucha Liebre creates quite a ruckus.

If you are not aware of Lucha Liebre this is Professional Wrestling at is entertainment best. Pantera_Lucha$2BLibre_beyondreason_turtle$2BbayThe wrestlers are driven through town in open bed trucks with loudspeakers blaring and kids following everywhere they went, we couldn’t miss becoming a part of it.

Around 6pm we all headed to the big arena gobbling tacos and beers from the local vendors along the way just to put us in the right frame of mind. A couple of our friends got so involved that they bought masks and put on a little pre-match before the real professionals arrived. The night progressed as you might expect with the crowd cheering the local heroes and hissing at the villains in each match. Coupled with $1 beer you can imagine how rowdy we all got.

Before we knew it the matches were over and were on our way back to the boat to clean up and prepare for the start of leg two at 7 am the next morning

October 25th, 2007

There are days when SunsetI just know that Lisa would like to throw me off the boat. Although I am quite sure that almost everyone knows me as a sensitive, loving, cool headed and mild mannered guy, mornings like today would suggest to you otherwise.

I had plans today to just do a quick oil change and then cut the new crop of grass that has been growing above our now rarely seen waterline. This snapped into Lisa’s plans of running to Costco to get many of the needed supplies we have been waiting to purchase due to this weeks power generation issues. We woke relatively early for us (0700) and got Sparky to the beach for his walk and then got the coffee fired up. About the same time we started the generator and just listen quietly while it purred along like the endless sound of rivet hammers in a shipyard. With the batteries nearly top up we figured running the refrigerator for a bit to “pre-cool” the icebox down was a good idea in preparation for the great quantity of meat products that Lisa would surely bring home from the Costco hunting grounds.

Lisa, prior to departure wanted to clean up a bit so she hit the showers and eventually fired up the hair dryer to blow dry her now sun-lighted hair. Prior to doing this I turned off a couple of high amp items around the boat as the hair dryer draws quite a bit and I didn’t want to tax our genset or the batteries too much. When she finished I started the refrigerator up again and during the first 5 minutes noticed the generator changing sounds. Now there are a lot of sounds that come from our generator, there are the normal rapping sounds as the piston spins around at 3500 rpms, there is the sound of the system loading up when we turn on high power equipment, and then there is the sound of those same items turning off and the generator giving a sound of relief that it no longer has to power much of anything. This is the sound that I heard, that of something with high amps (refrigerator) turning off. If the main engine had been on I would have ignored the issue. With the generator on it was a problem, another problem. This is where my mood starts to change quickly and the only option for Lisa is to leave, sit quietly while I throw a tantrum or kill me, she left for Costco! Good choice for both of us.

The ensuing tirade of having to pull nearly every cushion out of it’s resting place, empty the book shelf of every book even mentioning “refrigeration” and pleading for justice in the world of karma and boating gods was certainly on the high scale for a man of my sorts. When I settled down and got to diagnosis I quickly realized that my capacitor was shot, I had an oil leak in the compressor, the refrigerant was low and why the heck didn’t I just get an icebox and put an end to the madness of trying to keep up with systems…drink a beer please.

So, after my beer, I decided better of myself and moved on to the original oil change. Simple most would think, but even though the design of the engine should allow was a “mess-less” change, it simply can not be done. Oh I thought this time I have it figured out. I put oil pads under the filter, taped the ends so that even if a lot of oil dripped it would stay in place, I took my time removing the canister and only gradually let the remaining oil leak onto the pads, but in the end the tape let loose, the pad fell and I had about half a quart of oil in the bilge. OK, so that is about what I expected, so cleaning up with 2 rolls of Brawny fixed it all back up and soon the engine was happily twirling it’s four cylinders in a slurry of clean oil, next.

Again relying on my beer theory, I had another and decided that since the refrigerator was still beyond my grasp I would tackle what I knew I could do in hopes that my preventative maintenance would prevent us from stopping dead in the water on the way to Mexico. With good intentions I worked on both fuel filters and to my surprise I didn’t have any problems, imagine, two beers, no issues.

The neighbors came by to tell me that Lisa had arrived and I needed to take the dinghy to get her, I needed rest anyway. When we returned with her spoils I went to work on the refrigerator. I have told you previously about my skills as a mechanic, as a refrigerator repairman I have zero skill. I do have a number of books on refrigeration and it appears that most still want to keep this technology a secret to the masses.

I spent over an hour reading the same two or three paragraphs just trying to determine the difference or similarities in suction lines, discharge lines, low sides, high pressure sides, blue lines and red lines. For those who don’t know, when you are recharging refrigeration, suction, low pressure and blue lines are all the same, why can’t they just say so to make it easier for the rest of us.

In the end we added about a can of Freon. According to the books there is “no real way to tell when the refrigerator contains enough Freon, too much and you will ruin the unit via overcharging, and too little and it will not cool”, another fantastic man made invention. I think I have guessed correctly but when we most need the freezer to cool down I am sure I will refer back to this statement.

I still have no idea why the unit shut down earlier today, but everything appears to be running well. At this point I have determined that there is no oil leak, the capacitor is fine, and our Freon level is now just fine.

October 23rd, 2007, back to the fun stuff.

I’ve never claimed to be an excellent mechanic, heck I can hardly even pass for a decent sailor and those skills are far beyond anything mechanical. I can say that mechanical things don’t scare me and a long time ago I had an auto mechanic tell me to go ahead and fiddle with anything I wanted on the car and when I gummed it up so badly that I could not do anything more with it, bring it in and they would fix it. That pretty much sums up my philosophy on the boat. So far I have learn a lot, but the costs always add up to a bit more than if I had done it right the first time.

This last week has brought to light some of the “repairs” that have been done in the past. The water maker, as Lisa has noted was not one of these issues, and in the end I did everything I could to get it repaired in the timeline we are working on, but eventually it had to go to the experts for repair of the reverse osmosis membrane and the “spooling gismo” that the instructions specifically mention as “Factory Only Repair”. If the quoted costs are true, I will consider it a good choice to have sent it in. The only part of the water maker that seems out of control are the transportation costs, I believe we will see $200.00 in fees before we are done.

The generator repair appears to have been self inflicted. During a recent bought with the generator, I miss-diagnosed a failing $15 seal on the generator for a cracked exhaust manifold on the main engine. It could happen to anyone, really.

I had been trying to find out were a leak was occurring on the generator and had placed a green dye into the cooling system. After a couple of hours I was still unable to find the leak so called the experts the next day. The folks at Entec (generator manufacturer) said it was an internal seal, so I ordered the parts and a couple of days later installed the new seals in the water pump and put it back on the generator. In the effort to get things together I may have been a little rough on the impellor and pulley shaft, since I couldn’t quite get the pulley to seat on the shaft. After a bit of frustration I called over my friend who diagnosed the problem with the pulley (he is an expert) and quickly smoothed out a burr on the shaft. A couple of minutes later the problem was solved and the generator was fixed.

Several days later we decided to go for a sail and when we started the motor immediately saw green fluid coming from the exhaust water. I had forgotten about the dye that I had put into the generator and what I thought was anti-freeze, was actually residual water from the generator that had been pulled through the bad seal and was now being expelled through the exhaust.

Not knowing what I have just told you, we pulled the main engine exhaust manifold, virtually destroying the machined surface of the manifold in the process and spending several weeks rebuilding what was a perfectly good system to begin with.

Now back to our generator water pump today. The issue seams to have been a couple of bad bearings. These bearings are connected to the impellor and pulley shaft that I mentioned above…I wonder if my rough handling previously had anything to do with the problem we just had $$$.

So the days are going by slowly now. Fire$2BSunrise2We have 6 days left and without a lot left on the lists we are pretty idle around the boat. The weather has been a bit of a factor in us not getting about to much, that is scheduled to change over the next couple of days. The Sunsets and Sunrises, thanks to the fires have been intense, but we both would have been happy if the fires hadn’t taken place in the first place.

Hope to have more good news in the next couple of days.

 October 23rd, 2007….Caution, ranting ahead.

Well, here is a learning experience that I just have to share. Doing the website is really a lot of fun for me and I know Lisa loves to share things whenever she can. We work pretty hard to show the fun times and the frustration of being out of our own communities as best we can.

 

During a recent update, I had posted some pictures that while still “Ready for Prime time TV” may have been just a bit on the provacative side. We were really surprized a couple of days later when we heard that someone we knew pulled the picture off the website, enlarged the picture which was fairly blotchy, and enhanced it to make it look far beyond “Prime time”!

Both Lisa and I went into a panic as the original could hardly have made the cover of Cosmo, let alone anything close to a Victorias Secret catalog. We deleted the photo, but the person that downloaded it thought it would be fun to email the enhanced photo around to other people we know…We were furious and question what kind of fun this could have been, it failed to see the humor.

Life continues to move on and I suspect there will be other accounts like this, I just hope they are limited as it is one of the few things that would keep us from updating the log with anything but the most benign photos and text. Shame on them is all I can say.. 🙁

 

October 12th, 2007

It is Friday the 12th of October, seems like I haven’t written much in close to a month which is probably true. Lisa has been keeping up with the daily sights and sounds of the trip pretty well and my days on the internet usually involve putting in all the updates so there is little time to actually write. Wilma, our third crew member (our auto pilot) is driving us toward San Diego as I type this out. She is doing a fine job and the current speed is over 6 knots, so we are doing well.

In typical fashion we are flying just the jib (most forward sail) and the mizzen (most aft sail) since this allows for Lisa or I to sleep and whom ever is standing watch to either shorten or adjust sails without leaving the cockpit. True sailors would say that we are way to conservative in our sail plan, but if we make anything over 4 knots we are very happy and the boat moves along in pretty nice comfort.

Catalina was a blast as you will have read in Lisa’s updates. There were some anchoring issues and some challenges which will all help us to do better in the next situation. Since we left Capitola (anchor dragging incident) I have reverted back to a preferred 7 to 1 anchor scope with our minimum being 5 to 1. At Catalina Harbor last week we found ourselves in between 75’ and 80 feet of water, so minimum 350 to 400’ of chain needed to laid out. If one to look at a map of our anchorage you would see that there is barely 600’ to 700’ of distance between the two sides of the harbor.

 

On the Friday before Buccaneer Day we had the winds coming from all angles and we were literally sweeping a path across the whole anchorage. This didn’t really bother me nearly as much as the rest of the folks that were in our way. Of Course we moved because most of the boats were there first. It was really nice being on a mooring but it wasn’t the way we wanted to spend the week. I gotta go for a second as the wind has once again changed direction and Wilma will need some direction from me.

 

OK, I am back. I should note that it is overcast today and we expected a little rain but that appears to be passing. We have put 25 miles under our keel since 5 am this morning and have another 30 to go before dropping anchor. Lisa has awaken from her beauty sleep so it must be about 10 am.

So we attended Buccaneer Days and it did not disappoint me. The crowd was rowdy but not so Bill$2Bwith$2BPiratesmuch that they got out of hand and everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. As the day turned into night the drunks started to appear and it got more and more fun to watch the happenings than to really participate. Singing pirates who should not have been singing showed up, unsigned bands of guitarists that should remain so also began to come out of the woodwork along with a gaggle of others who entertained just by being themselves.

As for activities, the only ones we remember were the treasure hunt that we participated in (although not with the gusto of others as we did not want to spill our drinks) and the Wench and Pirate costume event which had it’s own special moments. Of all the things happening around the “camp” the most fun was watching the Dinghy$2Bcaosunofficial “dinghy boarding contest” around 11pm. If you can image and dock area approx 100’ long with more than 200 dinghies tied to it and then add 400 – 500 drunken pirates, wenches, and castaways, you have the making for a good time. When we added in the final pie`se de resistance, The Flashing

Flasherrunner up to the “Best Wench Contest” it was a night to remember for a long time.

OK, so we got through the Pirate festival and then eventually moved on to Emerald Bay, noting that our guide book said to only use this anchorage in “settled weather”.

Emerald Bay is just North of Catalina Harbor but on the other side of the island. We had a nice sail to this cove and were both awed by the clarity of the water. In 40 feet of water we could see the anchor drop and bury itself without leaving the boat!

We were joined in the cove by Hiatus, with Kent and Heather aboard. Knowing we were in “Settled Weather” Lisa and I went to bed early to enjoy a perfect sleep. The next morning we met up with Kent and Heather and they jokingly asked how our sleep was, perfect we replied to their amazed faces. Hiatus is about the same size and weight as our boat and they said there sleep was fitful due to the motion and waves of the previous night… must be that our boat is much more stable.

Lisa spent part of that afternoon snorkeling around the cove. This is the first time in about 4 years; but she had a ball. Lots of smaller fish in Emerald Bay so I opted out. As the day wore on we prepared for the night ahead which looked like it might be a bit rougher than the previous night.

We looked hard at heading for San Diego to avoid the weather but ultimately stayed. Between 9 pm and 3 am the waves built and soon we were pounding into waves and crashing into troughs that we have not witnessed on this trip so far and we were at anchor. We couldn’t wait for sun up, but eventually the night passes and we were ready to pull anchor and leave.

It so happens that Kent was up early as well so I went over for short goodbye. I told Kent the last night must have been fun for them as well with all the waves and he looked at me with the same perplexed look as the day before. Turns out the motion of their boat was exactly the same for the last two nights, Lisa and I must have been really tired to have missed the action the previous night….

We had a near perfect sail from Catalina to Dana Point. We flew the spinnaker for a couple of hours (the spinnaker is the big colorful sail that you see during boat races), and then switched over to our working sails as the wind increased to 15 knots or so. The entrance into the harbor was easy and we did it under sail then switched on the engine for an easy anchor. We had discussed getting a berth but when we were told it would cost $65 for the night (7 pm to noon), we declined. The boat can wait till San Diego for a bath.

So that is it for now. We are getting closed to San Diego as I write and should arrive around 1 or 2 pm. We are looking forward to staying put for the next couple of weeks and finishing up the sewing and varnishing projects we started way back in Capitola.

September 30th, 2007

Some people claim that the beast was 6 feet long while others claim it was actually 6 inches, I won’t tell you which is actually true as the results are still the same, and the beast from the deep actually attacked a fellow diver of mine during a recent scouting trip for lobster.

We are still trying to identify the actual species of shark that attacked him but luckily no one was seriously hurt, and even the gloved hand of my friend will heal in time.

We have spent a couple of days here at Pelican Bay on the North side of Santa Cruz Island in the Santa Barbara channel off California. Our trip around the “Cape Horn of the Pacific”, Point Conception, was mostly uneventful although the alternator did give us some trouble again. In typical cruiser fashion I decided to ignore the matter once we discovered it outside of Buchon Point. The boat was running fine and the engine was being cooled so I thought why bother, if we need power we will use one of the other sources on board.

Ultimately we made it past Conception and into the Santa Barbara Channel just fine. We found that this time the bolt that held the alternator to the bracket had stripped out so it was a matter of finding a replacement bolt, installing and viola’ everything was fine once again.

We didn’t make any decisions to head for Santa Cruz Island, San Miguel or Santa Barbara until we were just 20 mile outside Santa Barbara and along side Oil rig “Hondo”.

Lisa made the call and in good Rig$2BHondofashion this has proven to be a marvelous spot to just hang out and relax. Oh I know, how much tension can there possible be on a boat? Many of you are plugging through quarter end schedules at work, bringing in the last of the harvest in Winters, struggling to get that grade in Statistics, or working through the Canasta schedule for next week, why would there be tension on the boat. Honestly there is not much, but waiting for the next fiasco is enough to require a little R&R every now and then.

I am thrilled to be spending time with Lisa that we should have done years ago, and glad that we have made the decision to leave. On the islands (as I like to call them), we are living quite economically. I have been spearing fish each day to supplement our heavily laden freezer of pork and cross-rib steaks, the generator is keeping the ice cubes clear and hard which feeds the blender that has been working round the clock to provide us with hours of enjoyment watching the wild life, gazing at the starry nights and enjoying the warm breeze that comes off the Southern California coast each night. Each morning we have woken to the gentle motion of the sea, fixed coffee and slowly entered into the day.

Breakfast is fixed when the first or second cup of coffee is served and then we plan our day from there.

Our plans do not usually project too far in front of the day. Generally we look out about 2 hours, plan, execute and reflect on our actions when completed. For an operational guy I think that is pretty good.

Tomorrow will be Monday the 1st Of October. Our current thoughts are to bring the boat to Oxnard, Channel Islands Marina and meet up with some friends for dinner. While in port we will have the refrigerator looked at. The refrigerator has been giving us a bit of a challenge in that it will not operate for more than a couple of minutes at a time while either sailing or pitching in the ocean swell. While at anchor it presents no issues and as described above works fine and provides the needed “coolant” for cocktail hour at 5 pm. We figure this is a simple fix, but one we can’t do ourselves just yet. Our friends assure us that Channel Islands Harbor is the place to have this type work done. Once we complete our visit at Channel Islands Harbor we will set sail for Catalina Island.

Catalina will be another overnight journey, but it should be the last for a couple of weeks. If all goes as planned we should be there for Buccaneer days and then have time to do a little lobster diving before heading to San Diego. Will update when we can.

25 September 2007, weather reports

Yesterday the weather report stated that seas south of Monterey would be calm (4-6 feet every 14 second) and the winds near perfect for us (10-20 knots). This was mostly true as we departed Monterey for what would be one of our longest trips thus far at 105 miles. Once you start out from Monterey you have about 20 miles to either turn back or head for Carmel, if you don’t choose then you have 65 miles of weather to cross before you can find refuge.

Our day started nicely with 20 knots of wind and largely spaced waves as we header out the pennisula. As we turned down the coast the wind dropped back to reasonable 10 to 15 knots that I secretly wished was closer to 20 to driver us on to Morro Bay. The sail was really enjoyable as we passed by Point Sur and the Sun began to set.

After Sun set the waves began to move in from almost every direction which typically leads to rather annoying rock in the boat. They we not exceptionally tall, just mixed and this got me thinking about how the weather really hasn’t cooperated with us since we left Alameda. Again, not that the weather has been bad, just petulant. It has been 4 years since we have seen wind in the 40 knot range and twice in 3 weeks we have seen 40’s at anchor and while moving from an anchorage. Typically we have chosen anchorages which settle down by sunset and help assist in sleeping at night, but Suasalito, Capitola, Santa Cruz and Monterey have kept me up pass midnight on several occasions, so that leaves us back at last night.

Typically when winds are from the North, North West, we enjoy pleasant or consistant wave patterns along the coast. Last night this did not pan out and our bow-sprite was in the water nearly as much as our keel, and the gunnels of the boat (for our friends in Winters those are the side rails) did not want to be left out either. I don’t believe I have been rolled around so violently or quickly in all my boating career. The winds did stay consistant and the sailing was actually exihilerating, but if something was not tied down, stowed or taped in place, it eventually ended up on the floor or the other side of the boat.

From around 7 pm last night until 0900 this morning the waves never quit. The winds would ebb and flow from nearly still to 20 knots but the waves never settled into a consistant pattern. Since I was driving most of the time, the waves were of no particular issue other than toppling over my coffee a number of times, but for Lisa she gathered no rest as she tried to wedge herself against anything that would keep her in one place.

Throughout the trip we had some spectacular sightings of Pilot Whales, Dolphin and a variety of other sea life. but it was difficult to take any pictures as the shutter spead is just to slow when the boat is pitching so quickly. If anyone is interested we have many shots of water and sky available with some sort of blurred image stretched across the view.

Come 9 am things had settled down nicely. The waves we out of the west, the wind had come down to nil and there was fresh coffee waiting for us as we motored the last 20 miles into Morro Bay. It would be nice to say that we puttered into Morro Bay shortly there after, but Lisa heard an odd noise in the engine as we came within 9 miles of destination.

I asked Lisa to shut down the engine and sail out to sea as best we could in the dying 5 knot winds. On inspection we found that our alternator bracket had broken and it was actually resting on the engine but still funtioning to some level.

Had the wind been a little more consistant or intense we would have certainly sailed over the bar at Morro Bay, but we were having trouble just controlling the direction of the boat, so something needed to be done. Due to our closeness to shore I figured I didn’t have time to “contemplate” the situation in my usual way (no, 9 am did not figure into the equation!) so immediately I looked for something metal that might be used to remedy the situation.

The first thing out of the box was my precious T-square. In a pinch this would have gone down for the count, but ultimately I found some brass stock that I had used on another project not long ago. To replace the bracket I figured I could guess-ti-mate the proper length, drill the appropriate holes for the bolts that would hole it in place and then nurse the boat into the harbor for permanent repairs.

The first generation nearly worked, but as some are aware, it generally takes two and usually three tries for me to come up with a 3/4 solution to anything. During the first go around it was discovered that not only did the holes have to be correctly spaced, but also that the stock needed to be curved slightly to accommodate the curvature of the alternator. This did not pose a problem as I am an expert with a hack saw, and I quickly disected the needed “radius” from the stock. The piece fit perfectly, so I began bolting things back together when one of the bolts suddenly broke off short, this was a little bit of a pickle, since we didn’t really have time to extract the broken portion from the alternator.

Relying on my Winters, CA roots, I began to think “What would Goobber do?”, yup, bring out the vise grips, and that is just what we did. With the McGiver2vise grips in place we started the motor and spent the next 4 hours making our way to Morro Bay at 1.5 miles per hour.

To be sure that we would be ok when we entered the notorious entrance that has distroyed many boats before ours we hailed the Coast Guard to inform them of our situation and to get information on the crossing.

As is typical with calls like this, the Coast Guard requested that we contact them every 30 minute so they could keep track of our progress and when we finally made the entrance they sent Coast Guard unit 0280 out to meet us. It was most likely a pretty boring call for the coasties as they had to follow us until we Morrobay$2BCG0280 were safely inside the bay. With the out going tide we were only moving at about 1/2 mile and hour so pretty slow going, and we didn’t even need rescuing!

 

So we have found the replacement parts and have a couple of spares coming as well on Thursday. That means we will have to sit around and enjoy the warm 75 degree weather while the freezer churns out tray after tray of ice cubes.. What will we do with all these ice cubes, hmmmm.

23 September 2007, Monterey California

Just a quick update so everyone doesn’t think Lisa is the only one that can write. We have been to Monterey many times before and have done most of the tourist things here so yesterday we diverted and went to Sunny Salinas. It turned out to be raining, but that was just fine as we spent most of the day at the John Steinbeck museum. Even for non-readers this was a very interesting stop. Both Lisa and I learned alot about the writer that we didn’t know before and purchased about 4 books that we hadn’t read or didn’t know about in the past.

As Monterey goes, the weather was warm and comfortable, but the slips are a bit expensive. Normally we would anchor out but we had friends visit on Sunday and wanted to make it easy for them to get aboard the boat and also we wanted to have a quick place to tie up for dinner afterwards.

It has been a long time since we had kids aboard any of our boats and was a real treat to have Chris and Debbie along with thier three perfectly behaved and very helpful kids, Colleen, Christopher and Jessica, on board for a nice reach into the Monterey Bay. Everyone appeared to have a good time, but I am still trying to figure out why Chris came up from down below all pale and sweaty, I don’t think it was the motion of the boat, I must have left the heater on below ; ).

After the sail and dinner we pulled out and moved to anchorage. My final thoughts on Monterey if you happen to come in by boat are to request a berth on “A” dock. The showers in the mens room are the most incredible showers (actually shower as there is only 1) I have ever experienced. Two adjustable shower heads! What were they thinking? Lisa was a bit upset that I spent the better part of the morning and then the evening “freshening” up.

16 September 2007, Death 0, Bill and Lisa 1

 

When we started this chronicle I figured there would be some adventure along the line somewhere, but I didn’t think we would meet eye to eye as quickly as we had done today. I will go on record that I believe one of my few highly adapted skills is anchoring. I have studied many of the best books available, done calculations on our equipment to be certain that everything either meets or exceeds standards set by industry or by cruisers with experience well beyond that which we will ever know, and never in our 15 years of sailing have we ever considered cutting corners on the gear we lay out. To this end we have experienced anxiety during the night but never have we dragged anchor or even had to reset anchor once we have decided on a position.

Our plan has always been to use all heavy chain, and lay out a scope (this is the amount of chain in relation to the depth) of a minimum 7 to 1 and most times nearly 10 to 1 if we have the room. Coming to Capitola we did a 180 degree adjustment to this tried and true plan. We abandoned the anchor that has always kept us secure at night based on some recent testing by Sail magazine and some fancy brochures, and even elected to use “all rope” instead of chain because we knew there were no obstacles in our way.

What we did was something that over beer or cocktails, both Lisa and I have admonished others about, but hey, were cruisers now and our new Fortress anchor is made for the worst of weather and for holding in just the type of conditions we have here in Capitola.

I won’t begin to put blame on the Fortress company for what was festering in the sand below the boat and only name them because of their strong reputation and also the instructions that they sight in their literature. Based on Fortress, 5 to 1 scope will secure you when the anchor is proper set. They do recommend some chain between the anchor and the rope rode and in our case it is recommended to use 6 feet of chain to provide some protection from the sea floor and to aid in setting the anchor when first deployed, we did not use chain, but were well set for 4 days.

My gripe is that I do not believe that 125’ of scope was sufficient for the 25’ depth we anchored in and that their brochure should reflect a more realistic veiw of what needs to be let out. Any where else in the world with our normal working anchor I would have put out a minimum of 175’ of chain plus a 75 lbs anchor. Believe nothing of what you read….lesson learned.

To get to the real issue, I have to backtrack to a scenario we had in the California Delta about 1 year ago. We had set a stern “Danforth” anchor similar to our new Fortress in the soft mud of FortressAnchorone of the many coves in that area.

The anchor was approximately ½ the size of the Fortress we now own as our ultimate “Storm anchor”. When our mini vacation was up we tried to retrieve the Danforth and found it so firmly stuck in the mud that we spent nearly an hour trying to retrieve the anchor and nearly pulled our primary winches out of their solid mountings doing so.

When I reviewed this with friends I concluded that the next time we set an anchor of this type, we would also set an additional line off the Crown of the anchor to help pull the anchor out in reverse if needed. There is no recommendation to do this on the Fortress anchor, and truly there is no accommodation to do so either (strike 1 on me).

The additional line is called a trip line and many people use them to identify where their anchor has actually set or to alert other boaters to the presence of their anchor and also the danger of the anchor rope that ties the boat to the anchor. The danger factor in setting a trip line with an anchor similar to our Fortress is that when the tide changes the boat can reverse its direction of pull by 180 degrees. Many anchors will pull and turn along with the boat, with the Danforth or Fortress anchor this does not always happen and in our case the sand was so soft that the anchor actually flipped or pulled out of the sand and should have reset itself under any other conditions. From our analysis when the anchor “flipped” it actually caught the trip line which then inhibited the anchor flukes to reset into the sand (Strike 2 on me).

So Sunday morning we had been sitting peacefully at anchor waiting for my mother and brother to arrive from the San Francisco Bay area for breakfast. When they arrived we had a nice couple of hours visiting and swapping news. Around noon it was time for our company to depart but being cruisers now we opted to allow them to take Lisa to the local Costco for some supplies. I opted to stay at the boat mainly to wait for some other visitors that we expected later in the afternoon, but also because the wind generally picks up in the afternoon so it is just good practice to stick around when we can.

Having one person stay on board has not been the practice during our entire stay, but certainly something we will consider any time we have not dove on the anchor to check its set. I shuttled everyone to the shore and then returned to the boat to check email, wash dishes, charge batteries (due to not being able to sufficiently charge them earlier) and perhaps sit down to read for a bit during the quite time. I imagine I was on the boat for not more than 10 minutes when we lost internet connection. This generally means we go up top and adjust the antennae and all is good again.

At about the same time the internet lapsed Sparky was also causing a commotion, so I yelled at him to stop and then before I could adjust the angle of the antennae noticed that we were the only boat that was not headed directly into the wind.

When a boat is anchored it will hang in three ways. If the wind is strong enough the boat will hang directly behind the anchor inline with the wind. When the tide is strong enough the boat will hang directly behind the anchor down steam of the current. When both tide and wind are strong the boat can hang at an angle counter to both wind and current depending on which is stronger and which is lighter. In Capitola the tide is not strong and the wind nearly always takes precedence.

Since our boat was hanging 90 degrees to the wind I watched for a couple of second expecting the boat to move head to wind. This would not be abnormal, just a coincidence that it would happen at exactly the same moment that I have chosen to come up top. Within 30 seconds it became obvious that the boat was not going to move head to wind and was in fact dragging anchor and at a very fast rate moving toward the moored fleet of boats in the bay.

After the initial shock and virtual visualization of our 49,000 lbs boat ripping through half a dozen sail boats, Sparky and I moved to start the engine. We quickly shut down the generator so we could clearly hear and feel the engine when it started. As luck would have it, the batteries still had not fully charged and the turn of the key was met with a slow revolving of the engine and solid drop of my heart into my stomach, things had just moved to the left a little bit more.

We restarted the generator to provide the addition temporary charge required to start the engine and then turned the key, the engine fired. By this time we had drifted into the mooring field and I watched as the trip line from the anchored came very close to the mooring fields outer buoys. Sparky and I contemplated pulling the anchor in, but on second thought decided this would take much more time than we had, so we chose instead to tied one of our fenders (bumpers to protect the side of the boat during docking) to the end of the anchor line and toss the entire mess into the sea for later retrieval.

Free from the anchor and line we fire walled the throttle and moved away from all the other boats. Once clear we took stock of our situation, two hands, six feet, Lisa somewhere on the shore and Sparky and me with the dinghy facing 20 knots of wind, bad holding ground and creating a hazard to navigation with the 150’ of line we had just dropped over the side to accompany our anchor.

Deciding to move to a mooring ourselves we rigged a line from the port hawse hole, around the bowsprit and up to the starboard hawse hole. From the starboard hawse hole we redoubled the line and brought it aft to amidships where we hoped to snag the mooring and secure the boat. Once we had secured the boat we would retrieve the anchor, open a beer and settle down once again. The plan almost worked.

We maneuvered the boat to the mooring as planned and with just seconds before the boat drifted out of position we snagged the mooring with the boat hook and tried in vane to put our primary mooring line through the eye of the mooring. For those not aware of what a mooring is, consider it to be a large floating ball with a large heavy chain ran through the middle. At the top of the ball is a metal eye about the side of your average garbage disposal. At the bottom is large a weight used to keep the ball connected to the bottom of the ocean.

In normal conditions with Lisa driving I can usually get our primary mooring line pushed through the eye without issue, today there was no way I could hold the eye with our boat hook and then slip the heavy rope through the eye, we released the mooring and once again headed to sea.

At this point in our lone trial we switched rope to a smaller yet still substantial rope that would easily feed through the eye. We approached the mooring again.

When working towards a mooring in a cross wind the boats windage becomes a factor. If you bring the boat to far forward of the mooring the boat can actually be driven over the mooring by the wind. If the boat is too far behind, the mooring will quickly slid forward and away from you before you have a chance to secure a line. Each time we approached the mooring it took about 5 minutes to position the boat properly before I had a chance to secure the line. This was hindered in part to the boats windage and also in part to the other boats around the mooring field.

As we approached I quickly left the steering position and ran up to amidships to grab the mooring line and boat hook. With a quick jab I caught the eye of the mooring and then swiftly place the line into the eye of the mooring, perfect….not. I had failed to ensure that the mooring line was free of all the other lines on the boat. When I did finally take notice I had to release the mooring line and then maneuver away from the other boats again.

We recovered and soon were in position again to grab the mooring when we noticed that another boat was about to cross the 150’ of line that was still attached to the anchor that we had left early. This required that we abort our line of position on the mooring and steam ahead to ward off the sail boat for certain entanglement.

Sparky and I were now on our third attempt at the mooring. Some of our banked Karma must have been paid out since as we approached the mooring again we saw Lisa coming towards us in the local water taxi. She didn’t skip a beat as the taxi rubbed up against the hull she flew over the life lines and took over the helm so I could grab the mooring one more time….damn, once again I had fouled another line and we had to release the mooring line. I don’t know how I could have not cleared the line so many times but certainly this was a record for us.

On the next attempt we secured the mooring line and our outlook suddenly turned sunny. The final item to recover now was the anchor. This was a simple task but the one were we discovered all that we had done wrong.

Ultimately the trip line had not only prevented the anchor from resetting, but was so badly entangled in the anchor that it presented zero resistance when we pulled it in.

We will reset the anchor in the morning and will certainly go back to what we know is correct; Minimum 7 to 1 scope, no trip lines, check the anchor set if possible (it is), be very sure there are no obstructions in the way of the anchor to keep it from penetrating deeply into the surface of the earth.

We are both really happy this happened here and now. In another situation we could have really been in deep trouble.

Now let me have a glass of wine and review our insurance policy.

Surf is up and we had a blast today. I finally got a chance to use my lesson in surfing that Lisa bought me back in March. What Lisa didn’t know was that the lesson would start at about 7 AM which required us to be out of bed and on the wharf in Capitola by 0600. When the alarm went off at 0445 Lisa was not a happy camper. I on the other hand bounded out of bed Like Christmas mornings 40 years ago!

By the time the coffee was done Lisa had rolled out of bed as well, though I am not sure if it was the smell of fresh brew on the stove or the fact that I was singing surf songs and and repeatedly using the words Cowabunga and Wipe-out when I crushed the fresh beans and added them to the pot. When the oatmeal was complete, “Surfs Up Lisa Dude!”, and “Let’s Hang Ten” was the cry as 0555 rolled around the boat. All in all just too much fun…for me.

We met Todd from Club Ed’s surf school at a bit after 0700. He was exactly as we expected him to be, laid back and filled with surf words like “epic surf” but mostly just a real nice guy that was intent on getting me up on the board as quick as possible. A quick sign of the waiver that included things like, not responsible for drowning, shark attack, or nuclear war and we were down to the sea off Pleasure Point, just north of Capitola.

When we pulled the boards out, Lisa was aghast at the size of them. 10 feet is a lot of board, but if that’s what it would take to make this old man skip Bill$2BSurfing

 

across the ocean, I was game and happy to use it. Alright I did have some fun with the picture, but no matter how you cut it a 10′ board is 10 feet long and in yellow, that’s a lot of board.

So to cut to the chase, Todd had me up on the second wave, and I really think I can say I rode the 4th and/or 5th along with the 6th, 7th and 8th. Each wave got better and the rides got longer. The technique they use to get you up certainly works. I don’t know how they are able to hold on to your board and stabilize it while cranking down a huge 4′ face, but they can. Ultimately I was able to ride by myself from start to finish on the 6th – 8th wave. Funny thing is I was worried that 1.5 hours of training would not be enough time to learn, but boy was I wrong. Had the training lasted 2 hours my arms would have fallen off. An hour and a half is enough.

We returned home about 1030 in the morning and had made plans for Lunch and a dinner with freinds but I guess I must have played all my chips in the surf today. It was only minutes after we got into the dinghy for the return trip that we realized that once again we had no water coming out of the motor. Not sure I had written about it, but we just replaced the water pump and cleared most of the easy lines around the water jacket of the motor. With no water, we would have to put this outboard up for a while or fix the issue.

On a fun factor I would say that pulling the power head from the outboard to get into the internal water channels rates about a 5, not so bad that you don’t want to do it, but certainly rolling bottom paint would be less stressful. Anyway chalk up a near engine rebuild into the morning hours and we have a fairly complete day.

The motor now functions very well again, I can surf, the boat is clean, we have ice for drinks tonight and life continues to look positive for the future. How much better does it get, heck it’s not even 5 o’clock yet.

08, September 2007.

We arrived today in Half Moon Bay after about a 5 hour passage. Winds Lisa$2Bat$2Bgatewere light and out of the west, but were enough to keep the rolling down to a minimum. We had a number of failures on this first outbound ocean trek. All were resolved in essentially the same manner, have a beer, think and then move the metallicBill$2Bat$2BGate can off the compass, turn up the brightness on the display, turn on the inverter or some other simple, human caused error. About the only thing we couldn’t fix today was the spilling of about a quart of diesel when the nozzle didn’t automatically shut off as expected.

Really it was a great trip, we saw a number of whales that were feeding on the enormous amounts of jelly fish and plankton that were in the waters off Montera. We saw several pods of dolphin, gaggles of common Murrs (birds)a seal or two and hundreds of pelican. We failed to get blasted (horn blowing) by ships even though we did travel through a portion of the shipping lane. This was most likely Lisa’s fault as she is much more attentive than I am. The reason I mention this is that the last couple of times we have ventured to Half Moon Bay we have gotten blasted at least once each time as we transited the shipping channel into the Golden Gate.

When we arrived Half Moon Bay we did take on about 70 gallons of diesel (save the quart that went into the waiting sponge) so we are now fully loaded and the water line shows it. We are expecting to spend the next couple of days here as we wait for the wind to fill in a bit more. Tomorrow should be glass seas so it is definitely a skip. Monday looks better and anything after Wednesday will most likely be a pass as we are expecting winds from the south then.

No internet is available on the boat in Half Moon Bay, or we haven’t found any yet. You will be the first to know when we update the website.

07 September, 2007.

 

So here is my synopsis on Sausalito. I was more than ready to leave today. I have just about had it with the entire town treating us as vagrants that can’t spend a dime. We have seen the attitude at shops around town and move evidently at the marinas around town.

As most know we are still working to be free of our car and live just within the boat and our primary town transportation, the dinghy. We have repeatedly tried to work with the marinas around town to allow us to park our car for the next two days in their lots until our daughter can free her schedule to pick up the car and bring it home. Under no circumstances has any marina allowed us to park the car without actually violating one of their permit rules.

Yesterday Lisa had even dropped by the Clipper Harbor in Sausalito and asked if we could tie our dinghy to their dinghy dock for more than the 2 hour period posted to allow us to attend one of her appointments and they flatly denied our request. I find this appalling and have gathered that Sausalito has allowed their transient (read this as homeless) population to dictate actions that should be more kindly toward the general boating public, shame on you Sausalito, I have heard so much about you and now this.

So after dealing with Schoonmaker Marina and several others we did find a place to park the car for a couple of day. I am not quite sure it is fully legal, but it will do for now. Hopefully Stephanie will be around in the next couple of days to pickup it up before we get a ticket.

Once we finished with the car today we came back to the boat and decided to try a last resort in getting fresh water and change in venue. Yes even water is difficult to come by in Northern California apparently.

We had been anchored across from the Sausalito Yacht Club and decided to give them a shot at helping us to find about 70 gallons of water. To our surprise (only because of previous ventures gone badly), SYC was most hospitable and should receive something from the chamber of commerce for saving the reputation of the city of Sausalito.

We had no sooner entered the club and asked about available facilities, when Jim Schock advised that SYC would be more than happy to help us with water, a mooring and I imagine would have provided parking for the next day or so if we had asked. Ultimately they provided us with free internet and some very gracious hospitality at the club. Thanks Jim, our sprites have been revived.

So ultimately I will rate Sausalito as 5 out of 10, since they entered into my little rating system as a 2 to begin with.

We plan to spend 1 more day then we should be headed out the gate and down the coast.

We are finally ready to cast off. Today is the last day at the marina and we are just working out the final details. Lisa is doing some final stowing of clothes and food and I am working on hiding the beer and purchasing last minute items for the boat and dinghy.

Our plan is to move just about 7 miles tomorrow, from Alameda to Sausalito harbor. We will stay till Friday of next week before moving on. Lisa still has a couple of appointments that need to be met and we wanted to be close to home for at least this one last appointment. Lisa is recovering Medicine1well and gets my personal attention twice daily as we change her dressings. The process is a little complicated, but the doctor seems impressed with the job I have been doing.

 

 

After next Friday we should be out the gate and starting to move down the coast. It will continue to be a slow process as we will be stopping at Half Moon Bay and then Santa Cruz.

 23 August, 2007. days to go = ~7

Mr. Murphy has been on board lately. I am not sure if it is because we are just about ready to roll out of the slip or not but there have been some odd occurances lately. First off is our deck fill caps. These are the caps that cover the hole that water is poured into. Without these we would not be able to fill our water tanks.

The other day as I was filling the tanks I unscrewed the forward cap and inserted the hose as I usually do. When the tank filled (water gushing into the kitchen sink and spilling out of the hole on deck), I turned the hose off and left it for the night. I guess I wasn’t thinking about the havoc that gremlins can do and I may have missed the knocking on the side of the boat when Mr. Murphy (Murphy’s Law), visited. Anyway, the next day I took the hose out and tried to screw the cap back into the hole in the deck….plunk, the cap fell right into the hole, or at least fell until it hit the shoulder of the cap. The threads to this bronze fixture had somehow expanded and now the cap could no longer be tightened down. I’ll confess that it was a warm day, and yes metal does expand in heat, but both parts should expand at approximately the same rate.

We tried several different techniques to get the cap to fit again but no luck. We tested the cap from the other fill hole and it wouldn’t work no matter how many times we dropped it into the hole. We borrow caps our neighbors but these would not fit either. Each time we tried a cap it would either be way to big or make the same sound that all of my caps did when it hit bottom. I went so far as to wrap the cap threads in teflon tape, just to see if it would seal and again we didn’t have any luck. Ultimately we ended up replacing the fitting with a used one from a friend. The caps no longer match, but at least it will keep sea water out of our fresh water tanks.

The other odd thing that has happened was with our batteries. We have been having really good luck with keeping the batteries topped up now that we have the solar panels. I generally do not turn on the battery charger at all as our 12 volt consumption is limited and we run an “extention cord” from the dock power to operate the refrigerator (110 volt) and the water heater ( also 110 volt).

About a week ago I checked the batteries just so I could go to work happy and noticed that they were down to 50%. Seamed odd that the batteries were low, but I figured perhaps we had blown a fuse at the dock and we were running off the batteries for a couple of days. Once I checked I had to throw out the idea of the fuse. I checked all the connections and everything appeared OK so I left the system alone for a day.

In the evening when I returned the batteries were still in sad shape so I reluctantly turned on the batter charger. As early morning came around I checked on the batteries again and found very little charging going on. At this point (technical stuff coming up) I figured it must be time to equalize the batteries as perhaps they had sulfated too much over the last couple of month. I returned home after about 8 hours of equalizing and everything now appears to be ok, I just don’t understand why it would have come on so suddenly.

As you can see we are slowly moving towards our departure date. I feel like we are stuck in a time warp, but we seem to be getting about 28 hours out of every day so the goal is getting closer albeit 4 hours slower than normal humans. Our list of tasks has worked it’s way down to just a couple of sewing projects. The chain was delivered yesterday for the anchors and I hope to have that into the boat later today. Being a full time care taker for Lisa has slow progress on the optional projects so many will be on hold till next month or beyond.

I hope to post some pictures of the Going away Party we had last week soon.

14 June, 2007. days to go = ~60

If you are counting you will notice that the date has slipped just a bit. It is not that we are vasilating but we finally figured out the finances and another 2 – 4 weeks of work will certainly ease my mind. Lisa is still set for August first and that will certainly be the day we move aboard.

I imagine that everyone must go through the emotions that I am feeling now. At times I have to convince myself that we are making the right decision. Inveriably someone gets sick or we hear of another person passing on during these time and it steels me to keep after the goal that I had set many years ago.

Some of you know that we will be renting our house to our daughter for a VERY reasonable fee. The fee certainly does not pay the mortgage, but it gives us peace of mind that she will be sheltered and the house will be in as good or better shape when we return to sell or move back in. Because of this we are not sailing away on a shoestring and infact are selling about 50% of our accumulated liquid cash and retirement. At this time I am thinking in partial terms of the regular work-a-day guy and someone who has amased enough money to fulfill a childhood dream. I am sure I want to do this but find it hard to give notice to my employer too soon for fear of losing everything. It is a delima that I imagine many would love to be in, but frankly it is still tough to make the decision when you have 46 years of thoughts telling you to stay put and go happily into your 60’s working to make the last 5 years of your life comfortable. We plod on.The last items to work on now are the retro fitting of a propane gas system and the final large purchase item of 400′ of 3/8″ G4 chain.

We are nearly done with the propane and hope to have the oven and stove re-plumbed by this weekend. The chain is just a check away, so we will hord the last of our money for a bit then get the stuff delivered during our final days.

There of course is other paperwork that needs to be accomplished as well as some final arrangements for the house, but those should tie together fairly easily in late July and August. The only exception is the insurance for the boat which requires that the entire boat be inspected prior to the policy being written.

We are lucky to have a Marine Surveyor in the harbor, so we will arrange an inspection during the next week which will allow us to purchase boat insurance for the trip south as far as Panama. We have a couple of small projects to do before he comes aboard (stuck sea-cocks, wiring, etc) but hope to have these done before the end of this weekend, we will see if all goes well or if Murphy’s Law will come into play.

5 March, 2007. days to go = 149

14, September 2007

At last the solar panels are in. We had quite a lot of discussions with multiple Solarpanel$2Bforward$2Bviewvendors before we finally decided on the Kyocera KC65 panels.
Along the way we spoke with the folks at Hamilton Ferris, Northern Arizona Wind and Sun, as well Backwoods Solar. Each of these companies helped me form an opinion that I hope will serve us well for years to come.

Backwoods Solar initially got me thinking about MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracker) while I was thinking about placing a 24 volt unit on the boat. The MPPT unit job is to convert the voltage given off by the solar panel into a usable voltage rate for the batteries.

The theory goes that a battery can only accept charging voltage of approx 1 volt higher than the actual voltage of a battery. I am not sure this is a total truth but if you follow the theory, everything higher than 1 volt beyond your current charge is wasted. The MPPT actually matches or changes the input voltage of your solar panels to the optimal voltage rate your battery can accept. They are said to be about 90% efficient.

The efficiency of the MPPT made the 24 volt panels very attractive in that voltage and amperage (what the battery actually stores) work in opposites. By this I mean to say that a 24 volt panel that produces 10 amps per hour would actually produce 20 amps per hour at 12 volts (Ohms Law I think). Lisa and I live off amps, so the more the merrier. Even with 90% efficiency we could be looking at 18 amps.

I may have said it before but our current amperage use is about 150 amps per day. If Lisa would lighten up on the hair drier, curling irons and toasters we might be able to come to a more reasonable usage. Anyway, 24 volt panels made a lot of since to me. Unfortunately I could not get Backwoods Solar to agree with what I thought I had discovered, they keep talking about watts which never made any since to me.

Several weeks into my search for the perfect panel(s) I called Hamilton Ferris Company. Hamilton Ferris has been extremely helpful in the past and I was looking for a reason to buy from them. I rattled off the dimensions of our dodger, which is the ultimate location for panels on our boat, and several pieces of equipment that we were trying to tie together with the purchase of the panels and within hours, they had a solution. The first solution was not quite what we were after (a single 110 watt panel) but after some prompting we came together with a combination that would work to include a MPPT controller.

For 12 volt systems it is not necessary to have a controller, but I thought if I wanted to get the most out of the system I may as well go high end. Unfortunately the pricing gave me a jolt and led me to Northern Arizona Wind and Sun.

Northern Arizona Wind and Sun (NAWS) had jilted a friend of mine earlier in the year, but the pricing made me think a second time before I dismissed them. I sent a fairly complex Email to NAWS and quickly got a response from Ryan.

Ryan at NAWS was very responsive to probably 20 different mails and questions I had. Ultimately they had a solution that matched my needs and my pocket book using the same equipment options I had either suggested or agreed with from previous companies. Just so you don’t think I used any of the other companies for knowledge and then NAWS for pricing, I did go back to Hamilton Ferris and explained that I was ready to purchase but the pricing was a bit of quandary. They were unable to budge on there pricing so I had to more forward.

The equipment we decided on? After building a mock up of both a large single panel 24 volt panel and 3 smaller 12 volt Kyocera panel, we decided on the smaller units for the following reasons.

  1. Although the 24 volt panel fit better in our space, the 12 volt multiple panels provide more options to shade free installation. Any shading on a panel quickly diminishes its effectiveness so this played a big part in the choice.
  2. Knowing me and the fact that we are on a bouncing boat there is a tendency to drop heavy items. Should I drop a screwdriver, halyard shackle or other heavy item on the single panel, we could be out of power till we come up with another $1,000.00. Having multiple smaller panels allows me to break one and keep on powering Lisa’s hair dryer. The replacement panels are about $300.00 each.
  3. 3 smaller panels contour to the shape of the dodger better, and just look right.

The remaining equipment consisted of the Blue Sky 2512i(x) MPPT controller for obvious reasons and the accompanying IPN-ProRemote because of the added features it has to control the controller. The purchase of the ProRemote allows us to monitor all battery systems and even equalize the battery bank at will or on a scheduled basis (recommended by the manufacturer). My favorite feature is the Input and Output screen that shows the Amperage coming into the system from the Solar panels and the Amperage that leaves the controller and is being put into the batteries. During initial operation when it was overcast and the sun was setting, we were developing 1 Amp. 1 Amp is not a lot but we were actually expecting zero. The output into the battery bank was as high at 1.50 Amps, a 50% increase! Can’t wait till the sun shines.

Installation:

Installation was relatively straight forward though it took a full 3 days to the complete. The panels are framed in aluminum and come complete with a waterproof electrical box attached to the underside. Solarpanel$2BdetailWe had previously installed rails across the dodger to support the weight (about 15 lbs each) of the panels so the only thing left was to attach them.

Attachment was done by cutting a piece of 2” X 4” teak 50” long into 6 pieces approximately ½” X 4” X 25”. We used these members to attach to the panels (2 each) approximately 16” apart. The wooden members lay parallel and atop of the rails attached to the dodger.

Attached to the wood cross members were West Marine rail clamps (2 on the front member and 1 on the rear member). The 3 point attachment kept the panels very secure. We had originally started with 2 point attachment but there was so much movement in the panel I was worried about winds banging them around.

The process of trial and error in the attachment of the panels took a full day to complete.

Locating an area for the MPPT controller and Remote unit took a bit of time and required moving a couple of existing electrical items. Once the “remodeling” was accomplished, attachment was done with 4 screws in each item. No issues.

Electrical connections were straight forward. We chose to run 8 gauge battery wires between the panels and the controllers. In hind sight it would have been much easier to use 10 AWG wire, but the run of wire was almost 20 feet and I wanted to be sure we would be OK with zero loss of amperage, so 8AWG it was. Connections are marked on the panels so it was just a matter of running some waterproof conduit between the panels and connect + to + and – to -. Panels are capable of running in series because they are protected by blocking diodes at each connection (also part of the original panels).

The panel to controller connection is 2 wires (+ and -) and are well marked on the controller. The controller is attached to the batteries and essentially you are ready to rock. Because we have the remote assembly there were a couple of extra wires to run. There is a telephone style cable that must be run between the controller and the remote and also a pair of twisted wires that run between the Remote and the battery. No difficulty in connections just the usual wire running snafus.

We have the capability to disconnect the panels from outside the boat through the use of a marine plug. Our choice of plug was actually dictated by the use of the larger 8 AWG wire and we ended up using a Marinco plug for Electric Outboard motors. The design is very nice and the connection is positive so it will not get knocked out of place accidentally.

Total project cost for 195 watts of power at 10.65 amps was approx $2000.00. The actual panels, controller and remote weighted in at $1400, but the wire, connectors, rail connections, wood, screws, extra battery cable for some much needed renovation and assorted other goodies was easily another $300.00 plus.

It’s good to be slightly off the electrical grid.

17 December, 2006. days to go = 227

Lot of stuff going on lately, though it seems not much is really getting done. The insurance quest is really a hassle. Ultimately it looks like we will end up with Blue Water Insurance company, though we still have a couple of other companies to look at.

We are currently insured with US Boat, apparently US Boat really is just that, an insurance company that only insures boats in the US. At the time when we first signed on with them it seemed like a good deal, but now that we find out they don’t insure boats beyond Ensanada Mexico it will cost us close to $1000.00 for a new inspection on the boat before we can even get a policy.

The inspection is called a survey and requires a licensed person to come aboard and snoop around looking for leaking valves, corroded lifelines and holes in the hull. Once the person is done they will provide a report that is then turned over to the insurance company. The insurance company will ask that everything is fixed (or at least any major issues) prior to issuing a policy. This is all good stuff except that another boat buck (* $1000.00) will be lost.

Of course the other issue with insurance is the cost. At approximately $2400.00 a year the cost is nearly 1.5 times as much as we pay now. It is no wonder many cruisers do without insurance.

Health insurance is a question I was asked about a week ago. Health insurance is a relative bargain as long as you stay outside the US and have a reasonably high deductible ($5000.00). Essentially we will be paying for nearly every medical problem except those that are life threatening. The cost of this convienence is in the $1000.00 – $1500.00 per per, per year. Now that I look at it, the cost to insure Lisa and I is the same as the cost to insure the boat.

We have also looked into storage containers. P.O.D.S seem like the logical storage unit as they are self contained and can be moved about without getting a loading crew to move your stuff. In reality they are a box about 10′ X 10′ X 8′. The box is delivered to your house, you stuff your junk into it and they recover the box and put it in a warehouse.

If you decide to move while the box is in storage it is easily shipped to your new residence. Cost: About $160.00 per month.

Yesterday we installed a new ICOM VHF radio. The new VHF has DCS or Digital Selective Calling. DCS allows you to push a button during an emergency (sinking, collision, life threatening issue) and the VHF will send your boats information along with your current location. The location is captured via a connection between the radio and our GPS (Global Positioning System).

Next on the list for this month will be all the normal maintenence that goes with boat ownership:

Main engine oil change

Main engine transmission fluid change

Main engine anti-freeze change

Main engine zinc change

Generator oil change

Generator anti-freeze change

Large outboard lower unit oil change

Small outboard lower unit oil change.

That should do it for now. With the rains we have been getting lately we were able to chase down a couple of leaks that we created doing summer projects, so everything is good and dry now.

 

 

 

 

6 October, 2006. days to go = 297

 

Geez, I better get to work on this page. The archive is done, and now on to more important things. I have a list of some 20 items that I am trying to check-off before we leave. I have tried to keep it to the truely critical items; Insurance, Ham License, liferaft inspections and the like. The trouble for a procrastinator like myself is that I continue to put off things when there are really on about 300 days left before we have to leave.

The good information is that over the last month we have checked off a number of projects that really could have been difficult to achieve in the last weeks of summer or even in the first weeks of spring time 2007.

Jobs Completed:

Our Teak Deck Project is completed. The seams and bungs have all be replaced/inspected.

Morse Code, what a bugger this was. Thank You Gordon West CD’s. I currently commute almost 4 hours a day, two weeks of complete saturation during commutes plus time at home and during lunch helped me to click this off. Both elements 2 and 3 for my General Ham license were completed in February… See you on the air

Water Generator, actually an electrical generator that is towed in the water. Thanks to my friends at Downwind Marine for the new motor and my good pal Dino for the machine work, we are now making power for nuthin’.

Other Jobs to complete are below, as money permits we will click these off as well. If anyone has a used or discounted item that is not complete, please let me know.

  • Backup alternator. Hamilton Ferris Powermax would be a nice 1 for 1 match.
  • Solar Panel. Shell SQ175/Sharp NE-Q5E2U, both produce nearly 1/2 of our electrical needs making up to 100 amps per day.
  • 350 feet of 7/16″ G4 rated chain. We have 250′ but would like a second rode
  • Life Raft inspection, need to add the Wasabi that we left out last time. If your gonna have to eat raw fish anyway you might as well enjoy it.
  • Boom Brake. I’m undecided here, brake or boom vang pulled forward.
  • Sew chaps for the dinghy
  • Sew covers for the outboards
  • Extra scuba regulator and BC
  • Health Insurance for abroad
  • Boat Insurance for Central America
  • Backup VHF radio, DSC equiped ICOM.
  • Sell or store our stuff
  • Rent the house. Anyone looking for a 1 year lease?

Oh, almost forgot, high on the wish list, but fairly out of our range is a Hydrovane self steering gear. Lisa would like one for our 25th anniversary, but the diamond ring will be cheaper. Most guys would be thrilled with the offer, why do I have to put reason in the way.