02/28/2009, La Cruz
Follow You and many other boats are busily preparing for the puddle jump to the Marquesas, with the first boats departing next week. The best time of the season for the 2800 mile crossing is mid-March to end of April, when the tradewinds are more consistent and best for an easier downwind sail. The docks are a veritable hive of activity, with most boats finishing up boat projects and loading provisions. There is no relaxing around here, as Rina and I can attest. We plan on departing on or about March 16th, when we'll have plenty of time to chill on the expected 20-26 day crossing.
We are making good progress on our own projects, especially after receiving 4 boxes of goodies from the states. A very large debt of gratitude is owed John Papadopoulos and Stephanie Faillers for staging many many shipments in their living room, providing guidance on a whisker pole purchase and then schlepping it all down to San Diego where it was driven across the border and put on a plane to PV.
We now have all the spare parts we need to deal with most contingencies, and Rina is busily sewing our last shade covers. If there is one thing we did not anticipate, it was the need for easy to deploy shade for the cockpit that can handle significant winds. We also got many treats not easily found in Mexico, like thin swim skins, LOTS of earl grey tea, Jasmine Rice, Sushi making materials, 12 boxes of tofu and spicy curry. The liferaft and solar panels are still in transit and will arrive next week, but we have lined up the electrician and stainless steel guys, so those projects are likely off the critical path.
The biggest and most important part is provisioning, which we will start next week. We've done all our research, comparing prices at Mega, Soriana, Mexicana Commercial and Costco. It's a big deal too, since we are buying significant quantities of most staples with are hard to get or very expensive in the South Pacific. For example, we are buying 3 months of orange juice in 1 liter boxes. At one box a day between us, that's 90 boxes, presenting both a storage issue and a cost one. We have been paying up to 20 pesos per box, but found it at one store for 10. And don't get me started on the alternatives.... Frozen vs. powder vs. gallon jugs, etc....
Upper left picture , project 1 was cleaning and lubricating the steering system to try to get rid of an annoying squeak. Lubing did not work, so I pulled it apart and found the culprit... the wheel brake, which doesn't work, had a bunch of dirt that caused all the noise. Cleaned and re-greased all the gears and re-aligned the autopilot (Phil will be happy) and made sure everything was fastened down securely. Rina getting reeelly tired of sewing all these little projects I come up with. Bottom left, the bow has a 3 x 8 inch opening for the anchor chain to drop into a big locker. Problem is when you hit big seas, you can stuff your bow into the wave ahead of you and fill that anchor locker with more water than can drain out quickly. The additional weight helps stuff your nose further into the waves and the boat hobbyhorses. I cut Â½" rubber to cover the opening and mounted to the anchor locker cover. Bottom right shows the new stanchion mounted whisker pole on the port side. Now we just need to learn to use it!
02/26/2009, La Cruz
Nothing like a nice dock environment to get your stuff done. After pulling the floorboards and finding a local carpenter with a table saw, I was able to fabricate the access ports to the starboard side bilge. I got immense pleasure from the excercise in woodwork, countersyncing screws, sanding and finishing the access hatches and putting it all back together again.
Pane 1 - Blue tape outlines the cuts in the floorboard, pulled away from the starboard captains chairs.
Pane 2 - securing the braces for the floor boards so that the new openings do not weaken the structure
Pane 3 - Gluing the braces - liquid nails is great stuff
Pane 4 - The finished product - clean looking access ports that are solid to walk on and do not rattle.
02/26/2009, La Cruz
We arrived at 1am Tuesday in La Cruz, looking forward to hanging out in the Marina after being on the hook (at anchor) for 4 weeks. At anchor, we always have one eye and ear open for what is going on around us... winds, anchor holding, power and water management, rocking and rolling with the swells. In the Marina, the power and water is endless and there are noooo swells.
We are at dock 3 at Marina Riviera Nayarit, populated with 10-20 other boats that are going west to the South Pacific in the next 30-45 days. After 5 months of cruising, the conversations with other boats come easy and frequently. Dietmar and Suzanne from Carinthia are here and throw a "welcome back" dinner, inviting Richard and Suzanne from Kuamoana as well.
Bending Time - Over the past weeks, we have built a list of 75 items to complete before we head to the Marquesas. In classic manic driven form, I hit the ground running, wanting to ensure that we get a fast start and are on a path to getting everything done by March 15th. All the supplies from the US will arrive next week, so this week is focused on lining up vendors to fabricate stainless steel, electricians and riggers. It also helps greatly that Carinthia has rented a car for the next two weeks, making it MUCH more efficient to get into PV in 20 minutes for supplies and provisions. MUCH easier than the 1 hour chicken-bus ride or the $35 taxi ride. We have already knocked off 15 items, giving us confidence we will make our date. SJ and Theresa would be proud of our project management skills!
Bending Space - We need to bring enough food on board for 30 days, which really means 60 days, in case something goes wrong. Conventional wisdom and sailing orthodoxy says 6 lbs per person per day.... Do the math... That's 720 lbs of provisions for 2 of us! Add on top of that the fact that the South Pacific is not populated by Wally-worlds or Costco's, much less Cost Plus or Whole Foods. This means we have to think way in advance about what we want and where we will store it. To make space we have purged clothes, un-needed supplies and goo-gaws, and cut into the boat to find more storage. Interestingly, Hunter saw fit to NOT open the bilge on the starboard side of the boat, but weighted the boat with 100 gallons of diesel, galley stores, washer/dryer and settee (dining room) seat storage on the port side, resulting in a 2 degree list to port. I learned from another Hunter 466 owner that the bilge on the starboard side was wide open. Sure enough, I pulled the floor boards and found 3 compartments for storage. Finding a local carpenter with a table saw, we cut up the floor board and punched holes similar to the other floorboards, added bracing, sanded and finished for a clean looking increase of storage of 15 cubic feet.
The compartments on the left hold 3 batteries providing 675 amphours of power, good for 2 days of cruising. The bottom left compartment contains the manifolds for the 4 water tanks, twin water pumps, gyro compass, starting battery and 3 bilge pumps. The bottom right compartment holds one of the 4 25 gallon water tanks. The other 3 compartments are empty for the time being.
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/