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Allan and Rina's Sailing Adventure
The travels of S/V Follow You Follow Me Continue....
The Stingrays of Puerto Ballandra
05/10/2010, 26 01.2'N:111 09.8'W, Puerto Ballandra, Baja, Mexico

We arrived at the well protected Puerto Ballandra in the late afternoon after a 3 hour motor from Puerto Escondido. No wind and pond like conditions on vast tracts of water made the passage hot, sticky and eerie. Summer is on the way, with water temps now 78-84 degrees. The conditions were calm enough that we took an extra 45 minutes to recalibrate the autopilot, swinging big circles out in the middle of the sea off Loreto while the Raymarine software identified and corrected a 10 degree deviation and relearned the steering characteristics of our new rudder. Arriving in the late afternoon, we set the anchor among several other boats and plopped into cockpit with a chilled glass of sun tea, taking in our surroundings.

On the horizon, just outside the entrance to the bay, we noticed a series of splashes, far enough away that the associated plopping sound was delayed by 2 seconds. A quick look through the binoculars confirmed that the stingrays were jumping, but in numbers we have never seen before. We counted 5-10 stingrays in the air at any one time, each with its own unique style of flying through the air�.. Back flips, front flips, sideways, you name it�.some even getting 6 feet out of the water in long graceful jumps. This went on for 30 minutes before our curiosity forced us to jump into our kayaks and paddle out to see if we could get a better look before they moved on.

15 minutes later we were slowly floating among the rays, who, while definitely tuned into our presence, continued their show, but with increased unpredictability. This made it hard to figure out where to point the camera for a close up shot. We settled for lots of distant shots and 1-2 decent close ups. Rina kept asking why the rays jump, and I keep saying �"because it�'s fun!�" but none of our onboard fish books explain why, and without an internet connection, it will remain a mystery to us for awhile longer. We�'ll just keep watching and imagine they are having as much fun as we are out here.

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05/12/2010 | Phillip J. Faillers
05/12/2010 | seth
AMAZING PHOTO! If that doesn't make you want to go to Mexico, nothing will!
05/22/2010 | Kenneth Newell
How in the hell did you catch that photo?! I must have seen 10 of those an not once did I have a camera ready.

Were they doing flips?
Updated Picture Gallery
05/07/2010, Puerto Escondido

Had to come back into Puerto Escondido to send HRO a turd note about my broken watermaker so I can hopefully get some new seals later this month.

Took the opportunity to upload some Loreto Fest pictures...

Off to Puerto Balandra in the islands off Loreto

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Getting to know Puerto Escondido
05/04/2010, Puerto Escondido

Rina and I spent the last two weeks enjoying tranquil Puerto Escondido and the nearby town of Loreto. Puerto Escondido is a large well protected bay turned marine sanctuary with over 150 mooring balls for visiting boats and a small marina. Normally populated by 5-10 boats, the bay surges to full capacity for the annual Loreto Fest. This year over 450 people attended, a Loreto Fest record. Proceeds from the event benefit the local community in a variety of ways... purchasing computers for local schools, scholarships for 30-40 local students to attend the local college and 2 scholarships for students to attend university on the mainland, and other worthy endeavors. It's amazing how far money goes here. Loreto Fest is run by volunteer expats, many of them former cruisers, who have taken up residence in the nearby village of Juncalito, where renting land is dirt cheap, and well made palapas surround the RV's most people live in. Rina and I got to know several couples in the area in our travels, and I became the new best friend of Don, the yacht club commodore, once I volunteered my services for running the sound system and DJ'ing.

This included heading into Loreto to pick up our "loaner" sound system from the municipality, only to learn that word had not made it down to the lady who managed the sound system at the college. Conveniently, she had brought her friends that *rented* sound equipment with her... hmmmmmm... An hour and a half of bantering later, we made a deal to rent a small Peavey 8 channel powered mixer, matching speakers and a bunch of microphones. What started out as a 1500 price tag for 3 and a half days was slowly whittled down to 500 bucks... with long periods of uncomfortable silence providing most of the negotiating leverage.

Fortunately, the sound system showed up on time Friday Morning, and by 10am the Puerto Escondido Malecon was swaying to the soothing tunes from our two ipods. In the afternoons, after several seminars, including on how to both bottom and top fish (wish my bro coulda been there to learn with me!) I had the pleasure of playing bluegrass classics with Janet on Banjo and Bob on Guitar from sv Katy Hill and Howie, who joined us on a rockin electric mandolin. In the evenings, we would be joined by headliners, including a Mexican "one man band" on synthesizer, playing a wide variety of classic Mexican songs. We also enjoyed a dance troupe from the local college doing traditional dances from several parts of Mexico. Evenings usually ended with jam sessions that went late, and on Sunday night, the DJ rocked the house until the last cruisers fell into their Dinghy's and puttered back to their boats. Monday was *very* quiet in the anchorage...

Rina's highlight was competing in the chili cook-off. She made 8 quarts of chili, cool signage and got great reviews. Unfortunately, as is the case in most of these things, it's a popularity contest, so the *very* competitive local expats took top honors.

Tomorrow we will head north to Isla Carmen and the Puerto Balandra anchorage for a couple of days, then to Caliente De San Juanico, on the coast of Baja, before spending a week or so in Bahia Concepcion, which will be as far North as we will be able to travel this year in the Sea.

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05/06/2010 | Donnica
I want to see the picture of Rina transporting the chili to the the dinghy :) Love and miss you guys!
05/06/2010 | Monica Stoner
Hey guys, made it home safe. We miss hanging with you. I hope we catch up with each other again at some point.
Shopping in Rural Baja
04/26/2010, Agua Verde, Baja, Mexico

We took a day hike up and around the bay of Agua Verde with our new friends from S/V Scott Free (Scott & Monica), plodded down a road that had cows and donkeys grazing on what looked like grass, but with the dryness of the area, I doubt it. After a few miles over the hills and through the cacti, we came into town.. I mean, a village. We passed a sign that said "restaurant" that although we didn't partake, we heard that you can get great tacos & beer, and it's the only place to buy beer in this bay. Then we ran across a very faded cardboard sign that said "tienda" outside of a fenced in yard of someone's home. We walked in, hesitantly, where they were washing clothes, and cooking in a make-shift stove, the smell of the campfire under the pot was a memory in itself. They were so friendly and willing to help us find what we needed. The "tienda" was the building in the back of the stove/cooking area made of plywood and planks. Inside there were crates of several kinds of vegetables, rice, and beans that can stand the dry hot environment. Outside were several drop-in freezers, not powered of course, but they were full of other perishable vegetables for sale like lettuce, tomatoes, avocadoes, squash, and the longest lasting vegetable, cabbage. We packed our backpacks with our fresh finds and we were on a mission to find another boat some gasoline for his generator and dinghy. Sure enough, the "tienda" owner knew of a guy on the beach that had fuel. Off to the beach to find our fuel guy. After we found the fuel, we then decided to walk the volcanic shelf back on the water to the boats instead of walking all the way back around the road and hill. It was a very interesting walk with all of the volcanic rock that contained many imbedded stones, shells, and I'm sure, historical artifacts. Great walk, much cooler on the water. The pictures of our boats in this area were postcard perfect. Off to another day in our last few months left of our incredible journey.

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There are no words...
04/17/2010, 25 31.2'N:111 04.3'W, Aqua Vista describe our most recent sunsets... This was off Isla Espiritu Santo. I'll just say that we are enjoying every single one, given that will be back in California in 90 days or so.

We are currently anchored in Bahia Aqua Verde, where we will hang for a week before heading to the hustle and bustle of Puerto Escondito and the Loreto Fest cruisers rally. Aqua Verde is known for its clear blue water and great snorkeling. Well protected from both North and South winds, it's a cruiser favorite.

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Birthday Dip in Mexico
04/15/2010, 24 54.7'N:110 42.2'W, Evaristo, Baja Sur, Mexico

We're taking this relaxing thing seriously.This was the highlight of our day... Lets see...get up around 10, hot tea, tatos and egg breakfast, read for about 3 hours while digging the 3M 5200 sealant out from under my fingernails, Rina makes birthday dip - a family tradition, we take the dink over to the beach in the fishing town of Evaristo, hike a couple miles to the salt ponds, hike back, carve the above tribute into the sand, sit down and enjoy a little birthday dip on behalf of bro Phil. dink back to the boat, swim off the stern for a few minutes, give the ladies in the anchorage a show by showering off the stern, dig a Pacifico out of the fridge at toast to Phil being another year older! Happy Birthday Phil!

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04/18/2010 | Phillip J. Faillers
Love the sand-script. Thanks so much. Now lets GET THAT FISH and have many Sunset Alerts in June.

Head Repair in Paradise
04/12/2010, La Paz

The shitter hit the fan today... what joy. I know, your thinking: "ha ha, you got yours! Serves your right...

Just when we thought Follow You was ship shape again, the forward head started leaking.... BAD... to quote my daughters when they were younger...eeeewwww!!!! Luckily we had the spare parts on board... in this case a seal for the macerator motor that chews up the... well, you get the point... an hour later and after several scrubs with anti-bacterial hand soap... and a couple shots of tequila, all is well in the forward head...

And a shout out to my compadre in head repair... Dietmar! Sunset Alert!

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What a [Work] Week
04/12/2010, La Paz, Mexico

After a week of sailing and socializing it was time to work on the growing boat maintenance list. So for the past week, we have been mostly heads down, 8 hours a day, fixing and cleaning stuff. Here's the list of stuff we worked on, most of which is pretty typical in terms of repairs that regularly comes up on a cruising boat.

On top of our repairs list, Rina had a sudden urge to re-varnish all the slowly deteriorating fiddles (wooden counter lips) in her galley. I could see why, given the amount of time she spends in there and the dull, dented state of the fiddles after 18 months of cruising. 3 days of sanding and multiple coats of varnish resulted in shiny new looking fiddles, a refreshed nav station table and seat. Now if we can just get rid of all the sanding dust that permeates the entire boat...

Waterproof and UV protect the dodger and bimini - it's been a year, and if you don't keep it watertight, mildew forms and the sunbrella deteriorates. Looks like new now, except the slowly crazing windows and chafe marks from where the slack preventers hit it when we forget to snug them.

Change Genset Oil - it only uses a quart and it's really easy to change, with a pump right on the engine to easily purge the oil. Cheap insurance in my book

Fix leak in starboard portlight - I've tried 3 times to fix this sucker from the inside. It doesn't leak much, and it *should* be easy to identify, but not so. I don't want to re-bed the whole window, which could easily introduce more issues, so I'll try caulking the entire outside with 3M 4200 to see if that takes care of it.

Wax hull and de-oxidize the fading blue boot stripe - I paid Javier 85 bucks to do this, and it was money well spent.

Clean and wax companionway slider track - Poor design results in build up of gunk and polycarbonate, making it difficult to open/close. Acetone scrub and a coat of wax worked wonders.

Rebuild watermaker ETD - Yes, the watermaker is flakey again, as predicted, even after HRO tested the pump and ETD and said everything was fine. Took apart the ETD, cleaning all seals and reinstalled - works sometimes, but as water temp rises here in the sea, I predict it won't.

Find and fix transom leak - I repaired a leak at the seam where the hull and deck comes together back in 2004, likely from somebody punching the stern into a dock, but we kept finding a couple of quarts of water in the stern lazarettes. At first we thought it was leaking watermaker filters, but after I fixed that we still had water in the lazarette. Finally located a trail of water from the seam inside the lazarette after a test sail, requiring a 10 hour repair. I removed 3m 5200 sealant from 8 feet of the seam from the inside, much of it watersoaked. On the outside I had to remove the rub rail, exposing a crappy seal job by the factory.... The problem is that the stern rub rail sits 3-4 inches underwater whenever we are motoring, so it needs to be completely watertight. The biggest problem was all the screws holding the deck to the hull on the stern were not sealed tight, making the stern a sieve.

Major clean and re-stowing of the garage and aft cabin. These two cabins become convenient dumping grounds for all our crap, and when the transom leak became significant, we found salt water making its way forward when the boat heeled, soaking floorboards and leaving salt residue everywhere. Rina pulled up the floorboards and cleaned everything, and found homes for all our junk.

Find and fix dinghy leak - a slow leak finally got big enough to be a pain. We found where a screw had chafed the hypalon when stored on the passage from Auckland to Ensenada and repaired it with a little Stabond.

Fix air leak in forward fuel tank supply hose - The transfer pump no longer pumped at 1 gallon a minute, so a little research found a small leak in the hose where it clamps on the tank. 30 minutes and a quart of spilled diesel later, all fixed.

Fix a cranky cabinet latch under the sink - always pops open on starboard tack.

Fix broken latch on freezer - finally just wore out...

Fix broken shelf in anchor locker that holds dinghy fuel tank

Errands, errands, errands - major provisioning run to Soriana grocery store, to Telcel to top off our prepaid internet card, Club cruceros for book exchange, home depot for latches and paint supplies, Fed ex for ship Zen's stanchion back to him, laundry, etc, etc...

So we're pretty tired now... time for some R&R...we will take 2 weeks to sail up to Puerto Escondito for Loreto Fest at the end of the month. The water is getting warmer, now 74 degrees, so lots of snorkeling in our future at great anchorages like aqua verde on the way up the coast.

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Racing with Your House, Part Tres
04/08/2010, Sea of Cortez, Mexico

Gallery has been updated with lots of great shots from the last week. Follow You earned a nice reputation this week, placing second and third on the two races that really mattered, the others being called on account of no wind. In the picture above is the always photogenic Richard Spindler of Latitude 38 magazine and his SO Dona deMallorca, who were gracious enough to host us twice on their surfin 57 Catamaran Profligate.

On race one, we dueled with Craig on the Columbia 44 Adios, tacking up wind on opposite tacks, meeting every 45 minutes or so, with either us or him up by a boat length or less. Luckily when it was closer than a boat length I was on starboard, forcing him to duck under us. Craig gets extra points for single handing it though, including a hairy spinnaker run on our last day in 20 knots of wind, when his autopilot could not handle the boat in those conditions.

Another fierce competitor was Talion, a Gulfstar 50' who we alway seemed to *just* trail at the finish, always finishing within 2/10's of a mile of... We know she likes racing us though, because she called us out to race at this Sunday's La Paz Bayfest....

We also hung right on the heels of Braveheart, a MacGregor 65 on the last day, slowly creeping up on her stern over the course of 2 hours of light wind... he told me later I was pissing him off, as he should have been able to dust me with his longer waterline. As winds built, he doused the spinnaker and tacked to the finish line on a beam reach, as we kept the spinnaker up and beat him by about 15 minutes.

This racing thing is kinda fun, although Rina thinks I get a tad too competitive... who woulda thunk! She would just as soon take pics and kick back... meanwhile I'm tweaking sails and calling for yet another tack and blabbering on about wind shifts... what else are ya gonna do over 6 hours of pure sailing magic on the flat warm waters in the Sea of Cortez!

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Racing with Your House, Part Dos
04/03/2010, 24 49.1'N:110 34.0'W, Isla San Francisco, Sea of Cortez

In our last installment of "Racing with Your House" in Tonga, Follow You enjoyed a good sail, competing well with similar bloated butt cruisers in the fleet, showing our spinnaker colors and having a great time. Richard Spindler of Latitude 38 magazine is hosting the Sea of Cortez Sailing Week in the islands above La Paz this week, with about 20 boats in attendance. Back in the early 90's this regatta was huge, with over 250 boats attending. Latitude stopped hosting long ago but has recently picked up the mantle again, limiting the group however to however many he can fit on Profligate for the cocktail cruise. kind of an anti-Baja Haha in terms of size, complexity, and level of organization.

Our first race out of La Paz to Caleta Partida, 20 miles north, enjoyed perfect weather and winds from 8-18 knots. Follow You placed second due to a lucky wind shift that found us at the right time, while blocking several cats that had gambled on the far left side of the course. Of course we also lucked out because Pantera, the very fast trimaran that we last sailed with in the 2008 Haha blew their mainsail. Coming in first was Talion, beating us by just 3/10ths of a mile. Our closest competitor over the past couple of days has been Adios, flying a big code zero upwind and pointing much higher than we can. He too got stuck in the windshift.

In the fleet are many familiar names and boats. The crews from Destiny and Serendipity, who both sailed the HaHa with us are crewing on Profligate, while an old instructor friend from Club Nautique, Al Miller, is down here on his Hunter 36 with his wife and a rather large golden lab. We've met new friends on Tango, who are doing the Puddle Jump later this month, hosting them for drinks last night, imparting the wisdom from our travels (such that it is) and selling them a Cook Island flag, "French for Cruisers" book and another cruising guide. Felix and Andy on Rotkat are also in attendance. Andy, a sax player, and I were supposed to play at the open mic last Wednesday, but it was a bust. Not much jammin, but instead, several of the regulars at Marina La Paz playing standards from the 40's. Sorry, but the Djembe wouldn't fit well with Jimmy Dorsey's greatest hits.

Our race yesterday was not nearly as fun, as the light winds all but died by mid-afternoon. The race was called and we motored up to Isla San Francisco, where we anchored in the turquoise bay you see above. We hiked to the top of the surrounding hills this morning with the group, noting that the light winds had clocked to the South, meaning another beat, instead of the spinnaker run we were all hoping for. If the expected northern winds don't materialize by later today, we'll all just hang out, take a nap, then head over to Profligate for a sunset cocktail cruise.

We have lots of good pics, but they will have to wait till we get internet again in La Paz mid next week. Until then, it's email only via satphone.

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Who: Allan & Rina Alexopulos
Port: Sutter Creek, CA
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