01/09/2009, 21 50.6'N:105 52.9'W, Isla Isabela
We left Marina Mazatlan early due to a minus tide expected by noon. Having bounced over the bar on the way in, Rina was in no mood to repeat that adventure. Unfortunately, this meant that at normal cruising speeds we would arrive at Isla Isabela, a nature preserve with rare birds like Blue Footed Boobies, in the middle of the night. To kill time we headed for the main Mazatlan port, where there is a small anchorage for cruisers, and prepared to eat a light breakfast. We hung out for a couple of hours before heading out, just as the wind began to build from the Northwest. After an hour, we were seeing a consistent 10-12 knots so we (I) decided I wanted to put the spinnaker out. It's "I" because Rina has learned from her new cruising friends that few of the wives like running with a chute. Darn, I almost had her convinced. I rigged the whole thing and launched it and boat speed went up to 6-7 knots. We spent the next 4-5 hours surfing down the north swells. picture per fect sailing.
Rina made it clear she did not want to run the chute after dark and I reluctantly agreed. Just as we (I) began to take it down, winds gusted to 18-20, leading to another farcical dousing session, with my butt bouncing off the foredeck several times before I wrestled the sail in. Rina begrudgingly assisted with the spinnaker halyard, otherwise I would still be hanging off the clew trying to stuff the sail into its bag. I'm going to have to put some lanyards on the tackline shackles to make it easier to blow the sail, which will release more air pressure and make it easier to douse (yes, we blew the spinnaker sheets). .Duly added to the growing list of little boat projects.
I came back to the scene you see above, a classic picture of the cruisers cockpit. I'm sure some purists out there will scoff at the seeming disarray, but I'll tell you, the picture tells a story, at least for those who have spent entire days at a time in their cockpit. Of course, 30 minutes later it was much tidier, but that's no fun! So here's the game. Name all the stuff you see in the picture and explain why it's there. You sharp eyed lurkers out there will get most of it I'm sure. yea, that's you Corey, Phillip, Larry, SJ, Doug, Gene, Melanie, Karen, Mom, Devin, Stark. Leave a comment on the blog telling us what you see and why it's there.At the end of a week I'll explain it all. A week's passage on Follow You Follow Me to the winner! (see small print for prize rules ;-}
Anyway, because we made such great time, we actually had to slow the boat down overnight so we would get into the anchorage at dawn. We pulled the jib in and de-tuned the main to get us down to about 4 knots and pointed the boat to the Southeast to ride the swells comfortably. What a strange feeling, trying to make the boat go slower! Rina made awesome Ceviche for dinner from octopus and shrimp we got in Mazatlan and we traded 3 hour shifts until 5am, when we turned on the engine and headed towards the anchorage due to decreasing winds. The anchorage here is known as an anchor eater due to the underwater rock formations so we rigged a trip line and marker buoy to the head of the anchor and set it in about 40 feet of water. Just as the anchor sets, I notice that my trip line is about 100 ft, meaning the polypropylene line floats on the surface for about 60 ft. Hmmmm, that could be a problem. Forget it, time for a nap.
After 2 hours of wonderful catch up sleep Rina mentions that the panga fishermen are playing chicken with the anchor marker line. I watch as two more come blasting out of the fishing camp within 5 feet of my marker and exposed line. Oops, guess I shoulda made that line taut so it didn't present an unseen target. I jumped in the dink and pulled in all the slack line, hopefully presenting less of a target to the pangas, who have a reputation for running into cruising boats, dinks, and each other all the time.
Rina's down for her catch-up nap, and I'm going to hang out in that cockpit some more, this time watching the gray whales breaching and flapping their flippers on the water not 300 yards away from us. Amazing.
Justin and Dalia spent all day pulling old artwork off their stern as they get ready to rename their boat. Similar to our experience in Santa Cruz earlier this year, they spent 2 hours at the graphics place in front of a computer just staring at different fonts. Dalia spent 3 hours holding the dink steady so Justin could pull off the old wood, fill the holes and recondition the stern.
We leave this morning for point south, hoping to ride the remaining wind from the recent norther to Isla Isabela today.
7- Jan Depart Mazatlan
8- Jan Arrive Isla Isabela
10-Jan Arrive Chacala
12 Jan Arrive La Cruz, Banderas Bay
With a bit of good luck and some great friends, our freezer saga looks like it may end well. When we came back from the States, our freezer had failed. Mike from Mexicolder diagnosed a failed compressor. Alan from Boatguys worked with Southern California Marine and Vitrifrigo on a warranty replacement and here's the great part. Dietmar from Carinthia is bringing down a bunch of boat parts from San Diego today and kindly offered to swing by and pick up our new compressor. We will also get a larger evaporator plate to make sure the unit works well as temperatures increase later this year. There's a much longer version of this story (See Refrigerator 101 and 102) below but I won't bore you. Suffice to say, we've had great support from the vendors we have worked with. The nightmares about getting boat parts in Mexico have largely been avoided (so far!)
Time to go sailing!!!!
Almost every day the long term cruisers who inhabit dock six at Marina Mazatlan gather at the dock boxes for an impromptu sunset party. Anchored by Mike and Julie from Slacker, who bring out their beach chairs, books and a brew after a long day working on their boat, they are soon joined by Bill, Rick, Justin, Dalia and the newly arrived such as ourselves. Each has a great story and background...Mike and Julie commuter cruise every year, down from San Diego - 6 months working, 6 months cruising, although this year they are staying mostly here doing some major refitting of Slacker. Bill and Rick run thriving boat related businesses, and in Rick's case, is completely revamping Olympia, a 52 foot Hallberg Rassy that sank at the dock about 2 weeks ago due to a plug failing on their knotmeter thruhull... ouch! We met Justin upon our arrival before Christmas, a twenty-something Linux coder from Montreal who purchased a 37 foot fixer-upper to sail for year. He has since been joined by his wife Dalia.
Tuesday nights are pizza night... all you can eat for 45 pesos. The dock box table cloths come out, with a candle or two and it's standing room only.
On saturday's there is a great swap meet at the clubhouse, where Rina and I lightened our load by selling the suitcase we brought a bunch of boat supplies back from California, old dvd player, an under-used stair stepper (we get plenty of exercise walking, biking, kayaking!) and other assorted stuff. It's also a great social scene and we met the crew of Andanzas, who were the "other" Gilligan crew at the HaHa costume party in October.
We're going to miss Mazatlan. The relaxed atmosphere, benign weather and friendly locals really made it special.
Yesterday Rina and I did errands, taking a pulmonia around town. Pulmonia's are unique to Mazatlan, based on old VW bug technologies, rides like crap and give you a healthy dose of 1960's era exhaust... but how quaint... After errands we headed to old town to see the shrimp ladies who populate one area of old town, selling a wide variety of raw shrimp, octopus, squid and scallops out of large buckets under umbrellas. As the gringos walk up, you can see hear the prices rise... One local lady heard that she was paying the same price we were, gave the shrimp lady the evil eye and got "more change" When I gave her the the same evil eye, we got an excuse about a mixup in what denomination of pesos the lady gave her. Oh well, it was still a bargain.... 8 bucks for a kilo (2.2 lbs) of 5" long shrimp.
The best part was then taking the raw shrimp to a local mariscos style bar and grill that cleans and cooks them for you any way you want. Along with 1 dollar pacifico's it was good eatin! And since the financial incentive for not drinking too many beers had been removed, we enjoyed the afternoon listening to the local music, watching Nacho Libre wrestling on the TV and stuffing ourselves on shrimp, stumbling out of the place after several hours. That inevitably lead to a nice nap upon our return to the boat. All in all, quite a nice Sunday.
We have been hanging out at Marina Mazatlan and El Cid now for a week preparing to head south to Isla Isabella and Puerto Vallarta. We came back from California to a not so frozen freezer, which apparently had begun leaking coolant at some point in the past several weeks, finally getting to the point where it no longer kept cold. This in turn meant that the compressor stayed on 24/7 and got very hot, likely frying some of the internal components. We have worked with Mike Wilson of Mexicolder over the past week trying to nurse the system back to health, which at times gave us hope of a simple and inexpensive repair. Alas, it was not to be.
Along the way we received a lesson in the physics of modern refrigeration and like most things in sailing, EVERYONE has on opinion on the best setup for the tropics.
Now it's time to learn the in's and out's of getting replacement parts into Mexico. If were lucky we can get a replacement in San Diego to our friend Dietmar who is flying back to PV on Thursday, and we can then meet up and get it installed there. Otherwise it's the dreaded shipping option with it's assorted official and unofficial duties and associated bureaucracy.
We're back!!!! Arrived a couple of days ago, coming home to a dirty boat and a freezer on the fritz. Great time in California visiting friends and family and Riley the mutt.
We've moved the boat to the nearby El Cid Resort to play tourist, enjoying the pool and restaurants for New Years and Rina's birthday on the 2nd. Hopefully we can get our freezer fixed by Mike from Mexicolder in the next couple of days, otherwise we may be sticking around a couple of days longer.
It's new years... lets hope for a better 2009!
allan and rina
12/16/2008, Sutter Creek
Riley, our faithful mutt, says she misses Allan and Rina, so we're home in chilly Sutter Creek, where there is still 2 inches of snow on the ground in places. We'll be here for 2 weeks, returning Mazatlan on the 27th. Christmas at Mom's in Volcano, where there's 1-2 feet of snow, promising a white Christmas.
We'll be on a blogging hiatus until we return to Mazatlan on the 27th. To all our cruising friends as well as our land-borne friends and family, have a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a great New Year...
We completed our crossing of the Sea of Cortez around 2pm under clear blue skies, lining up the jetty north of the city at the El Cid Marina. We watched a sailboat enter from a distance and all appeared well as we approached at 3-4 knots.
As we got closer, we noticed the water clouding with sand, and expected that it came from the nearby beach. Just after completing that thought, the boat slammed to a halt, sending Rina into a bulkhead. It wasn't a big hit, just an unexpected one, therefore a bit jarring. I quickly backed off the sand bar and tried again with the same result, this time more gently.
Hmmmm... didnt expect this. Cruising guides don't mention concerns with sand bars here, it's a major port, therefore should be deep enough for most vessels, and while we draw 6.5 feet, many boats draw more. What I did *not* plan for was the lowest tide in 6 months, a minus 2 feet, where the normal tide range is about 4 feet. That's a 50% deviation from normal. Doesnt matter, Stupid Boat Trick #5? NOT CHECKING THE TIDE TABLES BEFORE ENTERING AN UNFAMILIAR PORT. duh.
We backed off the bar for a second time and hung out about 100 yards off and hailed the Mazatlan fleet and asked for some local knowledge. The friendly and gregarious crew of Don Quixote reminded me of the tide situation and then a local explained how best to get over.... ride a swell and bear to the right side of the channel.
Tide was going to be at it's lowest in 1.5 hours and would not be at a high again for another 8 hours.... now or maybe never.... I head for the channel and Rina, who *hates* the idea of running aground and getting stuck says "I'm going down below" (to fret of course!)
I came in as recommended just as a nice swell hit the entrance. I watched the depth gauge... 2....1.... .8 .6 Then a swell raises us up and settles us in the channel 1.5 2.5 3.... sweet!
We head down the narrowest channel we've ever been in, must have been 30 feet max, with rocks on both sides for about a mile until we get to Marina Mazatlan. We cleaned up the boat, got checked in, and then hung out on the dock boxes with a bunch of locals watching the sunset.
From the locals we learn that the above dredge works every day except Sunday, all day except one hour in the morning and one in the afternoon, to keep the channel entrance open.... Live and learn!
12/14/2008, 23 25.34'N:107 17.552'W, Los Muertos
On Friday we left La Paz for the 8 hour trip down to Los Muertos, where we spent several days early in November. Los Muertos offers a closer departure for the 190 mile trip across the Sea of Cortez. We had been watching the weather for several days along with Third Day, Lea Scotia, Sun Baby, Trumpeter and several other boats. After the "norther" came through, with 6-8 foot seas and 25-28 knot winds, the timing seemed right. BouyWeather and other weather sights predicted light seas and winds 5-10 knots from the north.
We left Muertos at 11am Saturday, hoping to average 7 knots to Mazatlan, which would put us into the harbor entrance before dark... it's *always* better to enter an unfamiliar harbor during daylight hours, especially a busy one, as the lights of the city, the surrounding sand bars, and the inaccuracy of electronic charts down here all conspire for surprises. The first 20 miles was as forecast, calm seas, light winds, with the only surprise being the 7 knot winds were right on the nose, coming out of the east. We motored with the main sail out, more aspirational than anything as the sail did not add any additional speed. After 4 hours a set of 3-5 foot rollers began coming out of the Southeast, which was a bit odd, but a portent of things to come.
By 4pm the wind had increased to 15-18 knots, shifted around to the South a bit and the seas increased to 5-6 feet, still from the Southeast. This allowed us to motorsail more effectively, increasing boat speed to almost 8 knots while the engine was only doing about 2k RPMs. Unfortunately the wind angle would not allow us to sail only without giving up VMG, or velocity made good, towards our destination. Oh well, that's what happens when you sail on a schedule... These conditions lasted most of the night, as Rina and I traded 3 hour watches from about 8pm, with the off-watch person sleeping in the converted settee in the main cabin. This offered the smoothest ride in the bumpy seas. Most of the day we saw no traffic. It may only be a "Sea" but it's plenty big and lonely out in the middle. Lonely, that is, except the 3 seabirds that keep trying to land on our swaying mast.... I keep thinking "stupid birds" but after 30 minutes of trying, they finally figure out how to land on the mast spreader, where one of them proceeds to poop all over the deck for the next 2 hours. No amount of yelling or shining our 2M candlelight spotlight will move him. Rina just laughs at me.
By 2am, seas became calmer and winds subsided to 7-10 knots and again shifted East, forcing Rina to bring in the main sail in her overnight shift. Our sunrise was interesting, with a line of thunder bumper-like clouds along the hidden coast, as we are still 50 miles from shore. The sun is a red glow behind these clouds, with what looks like fog behind, but as we get closer, this dissipates into morning mist. While yesterday had lots of clouds overhead from the "Pineapple Express", today looks to be mostly clear. The Pineapple Express brings high clouds and humidity up from the tropics into Baja. Makes for gloomy but sticky days, and is one of the reasons many of us are ready to head further South. Ooooh!, as I'm typing this, sitting at the helm, I look up and caught the above picture... cool. If I turn around and look behind me, the Pineapple Express still looks like it's covering Baja but Mazatlan is forecasting clear with occasional clouds and 84 degrees.
Rina is off to sleep, and I'm passing time catching up with many podcasts that I had downloaded in La Paz. Several months worth of "Fresh Air", "This American Life", "Real Time with Bill Maher" and others made those late night watches pass quickly. We will slip the boat at Marina Mazatlan for the next couple of weeks and head home for the holidays to see family, then return for New Years at the El Cid Marina and Resort where get this, you can get *room service* at your boat. Nice way to bring in the new year, eh?
Well, it's 7am, time to log, gotta go!
12/12/2008, La Paz
After almost too much chill time in La Paz, were headed for Mazatlan via Los Muertos this morning. We expect an 8 hour motorsail to Los Muertos, where we plan to stay a day or two, then make an overnight crossing to Mazatlan.
What have we learned? While marina life is nice, we like it in short doses... The upside is lots of water for cleaning the boat, little or no rocking, restaurants nearby, easy to go places on the bikes...the downside.... worker dudes at all hours of the day, smoking up a storm, thumping music (normally a good thing!) until 4am on weekends, lack of nature, etc.
It's interesting that we both have the itch to keep moving, as opposed to hanging out in one area for weeks. The La Paz cruising community is rightfully enamored of the local cruising grounds, but we are looking forward to a change of scenery. We will miss the many friends we have made here, but we are sure to run into many of them down the road. We expect to spend more time in the Sea of Cortez in the springtime, when it warms back up..... it was a brisk 61 degrees this morning. ( I know, no sympathy from our friends up north)