02/23/2009, Chamela Bay
We were doing boat projects here in Chamela Bay after feeling guilty for laying around for several days... I was trying for the 3rd time to fix the leaky mast base and noticed that the generator was running dry... no water in the exhaust. I turned the genset off and tried to restart and got a coolent temp error. Here is where I usually go try to solve the harder problem first before trying the simple stuff.
First, checked the sea-strainer. It was clean, but noticed that the inflow was reduced. Checked the impeller, it was fine. Dove into the water and checked the thru-hull to see if there was barnacles growing in or around it.... cleared out some, but it didnt account for the slow flow. Ok, time to pull the hose off the sea-strainer and see if I can see any blockage.
Sure enough, when I took the hose off, out popped two little fishies at a 90 degree elbow. I *did* notice that there was a bunch of small fish swimming around the bottom of the boat when I was down there.
A scene right out of "Finding Nemo" without the happy ending....
02/23/2009, Chamela Bay
We had a tough time reeling this guppy in, but in the end we won. Sushi for everyone tonight!
Rina, Jan and I enjoyed several days touring Barra de Navidad, attending a benefit concert for local children's shelter, and generally soaking up the atmosphere of this funky little town. (for the second time)
As we walked the sleepy streets of Barra to check in with the Port Captain, we could see where many American expats have made this their home, building small houses with high walls around them. Built on lots 50 by 100, they are little gringo oasis's (locals too, for that matter) and by all accounts inexpensive to build and maintain. The local infrastructure, however, leads a bit to be desired. Streets, electricity, water are all dicey affairs here. Rina and I often play a game of "could you live here?" in each place we visit. While this kick back town has a vibrant music scene, a nice blend of gringo and local businesses and a great marine environment, it's just a bit too rustic for Rina. We've come closer to saying yes in places like La Cruz, Mazatlan and Zijuatanejo, each for very different reasons. (Don't worry mom, it's just retirement fantasizing!) The common theme has been proximity to the water, a vibrant arts scene, rural, yet close enough to modern commerce, and oh yea, away from heavy industry that spoils many otherwise great areas of the Mexican coastline.
On Wednesday we left Barra and made the short 10 mile hop up the coast to Tenecatita Bay. While the Barra lagoon ensured quiet nights with no rocking from ocean swells, the water in the Barra lagoon is not very clear nor conducive to swimming. At Tenecatita, northwest ocean swells are mostly inhibited by the rocky point but the bay is open enough to ensure good circulation for swimming and running the watermaker. The weather has been perfect, with ocean breezes keeping the boat cool, a bright blue sky reflecting in the waters of the bay, cool nights in the low 70's and a fine-grained sandy beach for walks. An added recreational bonus is the jungle river, which winds for 2.5 miles to a nearby bay with beach palapas and small tiendas.
We met up with Justin and Dalia from Steady Beat Thursday and made the journey up the river, which at times narrowed to only 8 feet, with thick Mangrove trees beside and above. We forded the bar at the mouth of the river, with waves nearly breaking over the stern of our little dinghy. Luckily we came through unscathed and dry, thanks to our wheels, which were extended down to keep our prop off the rocks. Others before and after us got sideways and flipped over, sometimes with an out of control outboard motor at full throttle coming close to the boats former occupants.
The first part of the river had many shallows, requiring constant vigilance, but later, as the jungle canopy closed in, we were mostly concerned with the pokey roots of the mangroves reaching for our vulnerable inflatable pontoons. While there are many reports of crocodiles in the river shadows, we did not see any. Rather, we saw a wide variety of birds, colorful crabs and fish. The most exciting part (Rina would say un-nerving) was the pangas flying down the river at high speeds. Panga drivers have no concept of "slow" and can be counted on to zip by your boat in the quiet mornings at full speed, rocking you till you wake. The same held on the river, with only 1-2 feet separating us while they passed us with their boatloads of camera-toting hotel tourists. The end of the river opened into a pristine wide open lagoon that backed into the beach palapas where we had a long lunch with several other cruisers and caught up on current events with Justin and Dalia.
We plan on catching up with some boat chores Saturday before heading to Chamela Bay on Sunday. Our long list of "to-do's for the South Pacific has been getting steadily shorter, but the excitement will start when we return to La Cruz on the 27th and receive/install all the gear we have been gathering in the states. Our preparations and an update on our South Pacific itinerary will be coming in the next blog or three.
If I can keep this shaky internet connection, I'll update the gallery with more pictures of our river raft adventure.
02/14/2009, Las Hadas/Manzanillo
Follow You arrived in Manzanillo Bay late Wednesday night, aided by Apollo 2 and Precious Metal. We were aided in that Apollo 2 had come into the bay an hour before us we had never been here. Coming into an unfamiliar anchorage at night is usually not recommended, but we knew the bay was pretty wide open and deep right up to the anchorage, which is tucked in the northwest corner of the bay. As we entered the bay Apollo 2 helped us understand the sometimes confusing lights we were seeing on shore. Bright rows of lights would look like bridges, antennas and roads, only to be re-interpreted 10 minutes later as something completely different. The experience reinforces the need to keep an open mind and constantly re-assess what you are seeing... Not the time for sticking to a stubborn interpretation of your current reality. An example was a set of bright lights against the shoreline that eventually turned into a very large freighter anchored in the middle of a channel on our way in. Apollo 2 helped us on that one.
Both boats turned on lights, included a gazillion candlelight beam which made it easy to see where we wanted to end up. The glow from the city surrounding the bay reflected off the significant power plant emissions in the air and created enough ambient light to allow us to safely navigate into the anchorage and get our hook down.
We spent Thursday doing boat chores, continuing Jan's orientation of the boat, and finalizing our equipment purchases to be sent down to PV next week. Yesterday was spent by the pool, playing tourist, catching up with a rare Newsweek and researching our detailed float plan for the Marquesas and Tuamotos. Check out the gallery for some cool pictures of the hotel at Las Hadas, which was the set for the movie "10". Apparently the movie plays nonstop on the closed circuit TV system! Very cool architecture and great views of the bay.
Now it's on to Barra and a test of our reseated radar cable. Hopefully that fixes our intermittent signal.
Rina and I have spent the last several days attending a variety of events associated with the Sailfest... parades, duck races, parties, seminars, etc. It's been a nice combination of relaxation and socialization. We met a world traveller named Jan who has been hitching rides on boats around the world. We offered him a ride back up to PV, which will make those night watches more relaxing for us.
We leave tomorrow for Barra, where we will get to spend more time exploring the city, then to Tenticatita, where we get to take our RUBBER dink up a jungle river to watch the crocodiles... I promise to get a picture of the look on Rina's face as the crocs glide by.
One of the larger Zfest events is the boat parade, where locals and vacationers can purchase a ride on a sailboat. Marketing to all the local resorts in Ztown and Ixtapa, around 120 people got 4 hour rides and an easy sail back to the bay on over 30 sailboats.
We had 6 great guests aboard, who mixed easily with each other and enjoyed their time aboard. They were not all necessarily boat people but were thoroughly intrigued by the idea of live-aboard cruising. We had a great time explaining the whole idea, and reflected how far we really have come to this point. We had a great lunch aboard, with contributions from everyone, then sailed back in 7 knots of wind, nursing the helm for 3-4 knots of boat speed.
After dropping our guests, a nap for Rina was followed by dinner with Trevor, Karisa and Kiera from Lea scotia... we had so much to catch up on after parting ways back in La Paz. We thought WE had adventures, poor Lea Scotia braved a watermaker on the fritz, a real fire caused by a blower motor short and a complete rewiring of their forward navlights... Trevor and I spent many hours in the cockpit, looking out at the lights on the steep mountains behind us, looking just like Sausalito at night. We laughed and commiserated together on our trials, challenges, stupid mistakes and how we would not trade it for the world right now...
Follow You left Barra early for a 2 day sail to Zihuatanejo. We were looking forward to catching up with our friends on Lea Scotia and participate in Zfest, the local sailing fundraiser. Catching a stiff westerly breeze, we sailed comfortably down wind all day and most of the night. The wind finally moderated at 2-3am, allowing us both to sleep well off watch. We traded 3 hour shifts, finally motoring very early to recharge the batteries and keep pace for a morning arrival the next day.
As the sun rose, the wind clocked around 180 degrees, and built into 20-25 knots on the nose, very unusual for this part of the coast unless the "Tuantapeckers" are blowing in the big bay below Acapulco, influencing all the way up the coast. We decided to head for the small anchorage of Caleta De Campos about 10 miles down the coast. If the wind continued to build, we could duck in the anchorage and wait it out. If it moderated near the coast, we could ride more comfortably down the coast, with smaller wind waves. We listened as SV Bodhisattva discussed conditions with another boater, hailing him right after and discussing how the anchorage was dealing with the easterly winds. He reported back that there was enough room for a couple of boats out of the wind and swells. We anchored just off a beach and swam to cool off as the winds abated in the late afternoon.
Because we made such good time overnight, we were still slightly ahead of schedule for a morning arrival the next day. To thank Bodhisattva for their assistance in reconnoitering the anchorage for us, we invited them over for some cheese/crackers and a beer. (the classic cruiser offering) We had much to talk about, with their experiences double-handing across the Pacific and their many Mexico cruising stories. It is just these types of impromptu meetings and relationships that really make this an incredible experience.
At sunset we headed back out for another night at sea, this time in flat conditions, motoring to get a good battery charge before spending many days in the bay at Ztown. A warm evening made for a peaceful and uneventful crossing. We arrived just after sun up and anchored in the scenic bay just as the fleet woke up. After cleaning the boat up we announced our arrival to the fleet in the morning VHF net, quickly identifying other friends who chimed in at roll call. We later got signed up for Zfest, which is a benefit put on by the cruising community every year to raise money for the local indigenous peoples schools, which are somewhat ignored by the Mexican government. Over the years, the benefit has raised enough money to build an entire set of school rooms and provide much needed supplies and tutoring. They have also started a scholarship program to put 8-10 of the brightest kids on the college track, which is a largely unattainable goal without these additional resources. More information here: http://www.losninos.us/
02/01/2009, Barra de Navidad
This gives a great perspective on how big (small) Barra really is...The far side is the bay open to the pacific and on the near side is the lagoon leading to the anchorage in the prior shot. A great kick back vibe permeates this town and plays host to both local and gringo tourists. It has a low tech, slow paced old time mexico feel rather than condo or megahotel based tourism. After time in Z-Town we'll spend much more time here.
02/01/2009, Barra de Navidad
Rina and I took these shots from the top floor of the Grand Bay Hotel, showing the lagoon where most boats anchored. It's very shallow in most places, but a 30 foot wide channel takes you back to the anchoring area. Completely peaceful at night and early morning, with the local panga fishermen casting nets between the boats adding local flavor. The Marina is priced for sportfishing boats, with only a few sailboats paying the steep premium.
01/31/2009, Barra De Navidad
We spent the morning today on boat projects, of which we have many more now that we are heading to the South Pacific. Rina spent the day sewing a shade cover for our stern, which is mandatory as you head towards the tropics. I spent the day organizing our expanding chart library. While in PV, a local sailor made available his entire library of charts for copying at no charge... Only cost was our time and about a buck a copy at the local Office Depot. We got over 150 charts of the South Pacific and all the island groups we potentially will visit. All this has to be done in the next 4-6 weeks.
To dissuage those that think that cruising life is all fun and games, Rina and I have been extremely busy preparing for our passage to the South Pacific. Here are just a few of the examples from our "do list"
1. Purchase and import a 6 man liferaft. Make sure to give the right officials a little propina to make sure the raft gets here without being deployed by curious customs agent. Once here, install it just in front of the companionway without breaking anything else (fat chance)
2. Design and build a rain catcher for south pacific squalls... yippee more sewing time for Rina! The rain catcher will help ease the load on the onboard watermaker.
3. Spare starter and solenoid. We originally decided against a spare given our coastal itinerary, but is mandatory given our new plans and ahem, our recent experiences.
4. Import and install 2 solar panels above the bimini. This will give us about 110 amphours a day, which will largely take care of the power needs of the fridge and freezer, resulting in few and shorter genset runs to recharge the 675amphours of batteries.
5. Install 2 new halyards - one by replacing the existing toppinglift with a full halyard that can be used as a replacement main halyard. The other is a spectra halyard that can be used as and emergency shroud or forestay if necessary.
6. Order and import South Pacific CMAP NT+ charts for the chartplotter
7. Order and import a whisker pole for more comfortable downwind sailing.
8. Order an extra handheld GPS for redundancy and a low power usage anchor alarm
9. Install spool with 600 ft of poly line on the stern for tying off to palm trees in the South Pacific. Much easier than deploying a stern anchor when appropriate.
10. Order additional 2 micron yanmar fuel filters at 60 bucks a pop. Hard to find in the south pacific and there is no workaround.
11. Reseal mast base to fix a mystery leak
12. Check engine alignment - has not been done in 5 years and the hard rubber mounts settle over time. Middle of the ocean is no time to have your engine come off its mounts.
13. Explore additional bilge storage under starboard cabin floorboards. We will need 60 days of food aboard for the crossing
14. Order commanders weather routing service for the crossing. 70 bucks is a bargain for optimizing your route over 3000 miles
15. Make a yellow quarantine flag and courtesy flag for French Polynesia.
16. Get a riding sail - When deployed on end of the boom ensures that the boat does not wander around the anchorage as much as it does today.
17. Misc spare blocks, lines, bolts, fuses, water filters, 2 stroke oil, etc.... death by a million little tiny items that all seem critical