Most of our crossing of the Sea of Cortez was calm with periods of winds coming from the front of the boat (on the nose). This did not make for great sailing and Tom was keen to try the new and improved rudder on the hydrovane (self-steering apparatus). Luckily at about two in the morning on Tom's last overnight watch the wind finally cooperated and came around to the side of the boat with enough strength to sail. The genoa came out, the engine was turned off, the hydrovane was set and it was like "look ma, no hands!" The hydrovane took over the steering from the regular autohelm and with very little effort the boat handled beautifully holding a course with less than 5 degrees of variation to the wind.
So what is a hydrovane? In simple terms it is an apparatus attached to the back of the boat that connects a rudder with a small sail or vane in the air. When the wind direction changes relative to the boat, it pushes on one side or other of the vane and this causes the rudder to turn. This in sequence causes the boat to turn as well and bring it back to the same angle to the wind it was on before the wind shift. This allows the boat to sail for extended periods without the help of a helmsman.
One may ask why bother with a hydrovane when you have a perfectly good hydraulic autohelm? But as you remember that was one of the reasons we were in PV for so long, replacing that 'reliable autohelm'! On sailboats redundancy is a very good thing. The other advantage of the hydrovane is that it requires no power as it is controlled and powered by the wind alone. Battery power on boats is always at a premium.
About 2 hours later the wind died completely and we were back to the engine. Oh well, I guess that is why we also have more than one way to propel the boat!
Its been over two weeks since we left the Pacific Mainland side of Mexico to enjoy more time sailing in the Sea of Cortez. Since then we've been exploring new islands and bays, and enjoying the intoxicating Baja landscape. (Since we left Nuevo Vallarta our blogging has been non-existent because we've had no internet coverage. Soon we'll learn how to post blogs via SSB so we can post more often, and without internet access!).
Our original plan was to head North from Banderas Bay to spend time in Chacala and San Blas before crossing the Sea. But the weather forecast indicated that conditions in the sea were expected to deteriorate in the next few days so we made a spontaneous decision to leave directly from Punta Mita for a two day sail over to Los Frailes (at the tip of the Baja Peninsula).
As it turned out our timing was perfect. High winds started blowing against opposing seas the day after we tucked ourselves into Bahia Los Frailes, which was well protected from the weather system. Our passage was a powerboater's dream: no wind and flat seas for two full days (with the exception of a mini-blow for five hours the second day). Five hours is just enough time for a jubilant mood to deteriorate, and a queasy feeling to arrive, making you question why you're out here!
(new photos in Gallery)
04/30/2012, Punta de Mita
So we travelled another 10 miles today, from La Cruz to Punta de Mita. Its a beautiful bay flanked by white sandy beaches, a few luxurious hotels and it's a surfer's haven. Ho hum, another picture perfect anchorage...
Here's a more unique topic:
You really don't have to go far to find interesting wildlife or critters around here. In fact sometimes you don't even have to leave the boat! How the sizeable crab in this photo squeezed into a through-hull (small drain opening at the bottom of the hull), swam up the line and wrangled itself through our partitioned sink drain is beyond us! We considered keeping it as a pet, but we don't have anything to feed it now that we have gotten rid of the cockroaches.
On the topic of onboard critters, we're happy to report that we haven't seen any cockroaches on board for over 2 months. We've become obsessive compulsive about never bringing anything onboard without inspecting it for hitchhiking insects, and all cardboard is discarded from packaged goods before coming inside the cabin (to prevent any cockroach eggs that may be embedded in the glue from hatching onboard... its true - cockroaches love laying their eggs in the glue that holds packages together!). We're meticulous about keeping our window screens secured and the mosquito net covering out companionway entrance - yep, cockroaches can fly too!!
To prevent any unseen pests from growing and reproducing in the perfect dark, warm environment of our cupboards, all of our grocery items are wiped down with a bleach solution before they're put away, and fruit and vegetables are soaked in an iodine solution to kill any bugs (and bacteria that our sensitive Canadian stomachs aren't accustomed to). That's why cruisers call it 'provisioning' and not 'shopping'. Its far more labour intensive, and you don't get a second chance to pick up everything you need for your next voyage.
Now you're getting a sense of what Kim keeps busy with when she's not helping Tom with boat projects!
After a month of boat projects, canvas work and daily social 'commitments', today we finally untied our lines and left Paradise Village. Tonight we're sitting at anchor off La Cruz after a whopping 12 mile journey across Banderas Bay. We managed to have picked one of the worst days of the month to leave, as the winds picked up to 20+ knots on our bow, with choppy seas to match. However, the wind and seas are history now, as we sit comfortably in our newly enclosed cockpit, enjoying a bug free environment. We're surrounded by the twinkling lights of Banderas Bay, including La Cruz, Bucerias, Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta, and we're being entertained by numerous firework displays at resorts along the bay. Tomorrow we plan to get fuel at the Marina in La Cruz and will likely spend another day at anchor before heading North. Weather predictions indicate favorable conditions which will be very welcome after today's weather... it's going to take a day or two to get our sea legs back and grow accustomed to a more solitary existence after a month at the Marina!
We have now been back in Paradise Village for just over 3 weeks. As mentioned in our last blog we had a few "boat issues" to sort out. And while living in Paradise (Village) this long wasn't exactly part of our plan, we can think of a thousand worse places to be stuck in while we work on boat projects!
The most significant issue to sort out was the hydraulic ram for the autopilot. For you technical folks, it's the clutch mechanism that engages the autopilot that has been causing our problem. For you non-technical folks, an autopilot is a modern day convenience we've become so spoiled by that the thought of sailing without one is inconceivable!! Why would we hand steer for miles (and days on end) when we can let the autopilot steer the boat on a pre-set course all by itself, while we relax and enjoy the view? Unfortunately, as great as Tom is at fixing things, this project requires parts and tools that only the manufacturer has access to. So we're buying a new autopilot, and sending the defunct unit out for repair (which we'll keep as a spare).
Have we mentioned that things happen slowly here? The new unit was supposed to arrive 5 days ago, but we're still waiting for it. Luckily (or not), we have a number of other projects to keep us busy while we wait...
First on our list is the new and improved rudder for our self-steering gear. As luck would have it, the Hydrovane company owners just happened to be tied up at the dock 3 slips away from us - so they were able to provide us with a replacement rudder last week.
Tom ventured up the mast again, this time to sort out a minor problem with the spinnaker halyard. He's also taken the watermaker saline probe out (which was a miserable job, as it required him to work upside down while squeezed into a small lazarette!). Saline probes are not easy items to obtain in Mexico, and fortunately we can live without it for now, so we've decided to obtain one from home this summer and replace it when we return in the fall. We've also decided to live with our VHF radio problem until next season, as we can use our handheld unit as a backup. Similarly, the logistics of repairing and/or replacing the particular VHF radio model we need is complicated and time consuming, so this is another item we'll deal when we're back in Canada this summer.
Tom pulled out and scrubbed off 2 inches of growth from our knot meter impeller again, which has become quite a frequent task. In fact the sea is so rich in nutrients here that you can practically watch growth accumulate right before your eyes on anything beneath the waterline. Of course our hull's underside is painted in anti-fouling paint, which reduces growth significantly. But because the spinning device on our knot meter is not coated with anti-fouling paint, growth accumulation can literally seize it up within days. This has led us to the conclusion that the best thing to do with a knot meter impeller is to take it out as soon as you tie up at a Marina. (The trick of course, is to remember to put it back in before you head out to sea!)
We've been in the tropical heat long enough to appreciate the reason many yachts are outfitted with sun-protective covers. S, we're having hatch covers made to prevent the sun from crazing (cracking) the glass, as well as a sun shade for our 240 degree center cabin window (which will block out the scorching heat without obstructing our view from inside), and we're also having a screen enclosure for our cockpit made which will keep the mosquitos out and provide sun protection, without obstructing our view when we're outside.
Ahhh yes, there are always plenty of boat projects to keep us busy and give our pocketbook a workout. Budget... what budget??
While we're waiting for our autohelm and canvas work to be completed, we've spent some time in Puerto Vallarta browsing through boutiques, appreciating art in gallery tours, and eating in excellent restaurants. Tom has also tried his hand at surfing (with marginal success!) at a small town called Sayalita, which is an hour away by bus... the jarring bus ride was an experience in itself and precluded the need for a chiropractor after the day of surfing!
We broke down and bought a cable cord so we can watch the hockey playoffs and keep abreast of what's happening in the news while we're hooked up at the Marina. We try to do laps at the pool and ride our bikes fairly regularly to keep in shape, and spend many evenings together with fellow boaters.
Hopefully, the new autopilot will arrive early next week and the canvas work will be finished, so we can set out to explore new anchorages on both sides of the Sea of Cortez before heading home for the summer.
We'll share an update on our trips to Bucerias and Sayulita, and some of the interesting wildlife we've seen recently in our next blog...
(new images for this blog in the photo gallery)
We know it's been a long time since our last blog but we have been busy!!
Our furthest destination south this year was a mere 4 hours away from Bahia Santiago. The short trip to Las Hadas anchorage wasn't much of an adventure, but the new scenery was definitely worth hoisting the anchor for.
Las Hadas anchorage is tucked up in the Northern part of Bahia de Manzanillo and the scenery is spectacular. Even before we rounded the Southern tip of Bahia Santiago we were impressed by the myriad of colorful vacation homes set into the lush tropical hillside. As soon as we rounded the point we were nearly blinded by the stark white Moorish-style architecture of the Las Hadas resort, which would be our backdrop for the next few days. We opted to anchor in the bay rather than tie up at the Marina due to reports of sea surge at the dock. Las Hadas Marina charges a nominal fee to tie up at the dinghy dock which provides cruisers at anchor with access to the resort pools and amenities. We spent a lazy day at the pool and under the shady umbrellas on the beach, we explored the resort, and stretched out our legs on long walks into Manzanillo where we went to the movies (Spanish subtitles) and stocked up on supplies.
Sailor's plans are 'written in sand' and are subject to change, and so it was fitting that our original plans to go as far south as Zihuatanejo changed, and Manzanillo became the furthest point south for us this year. Cruising guidebooks and earlier tales from other cruisers gave us high expectations for 'Zihuat'. But as we continued to sail south in March, we found that we were in the minority. All of our fellow cruisers were already on their way back up the coast, concerned about the weather getting unbearably hot and humid as far south as Zihuat. And unfortunately, we'd heard recent reports about dinghies and engines being stolen in the area. It seemed that there were a number of reasons to forego the overnight sail to Zihuat - and we wondered how it could be any better than what we'd already seen in Santiago, Barra de Navidad, Melaque, Tenacatita, La Cruz, and Nuevo Vallarta. Besides... now that we've delayed our voyage to the Marqueses until next year, we could visit Zihuat next spring!
So we headed north making a long 6 mile journey to Carrizal to have a second go at the great coral reefs on both sides of the bay. After a couple of hours of snorkelling we spent 'happy hour' with our neighbours in the bay from 'Barefoot', which is a 40 ft aluminum sloop headed to the Galapigos.
Next morning we were off to Tenacatita where we spent a day just lazing on the boat before moving on to Chamela. On the way to Chamela we dropped anchor for a couple of hours at picturesque 'Paraiso', had lunch and enjoyed the scenery before bucking a northerly swell and wind for the rest of the trip up to Chamela.
After a slightly challenging anchoring exercise in 20+ knots of wind we settled in for a couple of days to wait out the unfavorable northwest winds before heading around Cabo Corrientes, and on to Banderas Bay. Fortunately, the wind gods were on our side during our overnight passage, and our trip around the notorious cape was calm and uneventful. For the first time in quite a while the winds were not on our nose and we were able to get some sailing in.
The wind gods may have been good to us but the boat gods certainly were not! One hour out of Nuevo Vallarta - our final destination, we noticed the saline sensor on the water maker had failed. More importantly, the clutch unit on the autopilot quit working... one gets spoiled with technology and hand steering under power gets tiresome quickly. On the bright side we were only one hour from our destination. Next, as we called the Marina to get our slip assignment the VHF radio failed! (This continues to be an intermittent problem Tom needs to address). As if that wasn't enough, our depth sounder stopped registering - which was a little disconcerting as the channel into the Marina is very shallow)! But when all seemed lost, the depth sounder corrected itself, our backup hand held VHF radio worked well, and we hand steered successfully into Paradise Village Marina (with only a small amount of wandering off course) for our planned 10am (high tide) arrival.
Guess what we have been doing since?!!
(new photos from this blog in gallery)