03/19/2009, La Cruz
Quite the adventure today with the Mexican bureaucracy trying to check out of the country. The horror stories are legion over the years of boaters trying to get out of Mexico, getting the run around at all phases of the process. It's supposed to be simple: Get the local port captain to start the Zarpe process, give him 30 bucks, check out at immigration, then go back to the port captain with your stamp from immigration and get your zarpe.
Last week boats that tried to check out took 4 days to go through this process. The port captain was gone, then out to lunch, then immigration was closed, then they were on a field trip, etc.
In our case, we budgeted two days to complete the process. We started bright and early this morning, got to the port captains office at 9am... nobody there.... oh yea, he's on Nayarit time, the rest of the place works on PV time (an hour earlier) We start the Zarpe process, pay our money, then head to PV for immigration. Before we do, we check in with the local harbormaster to see if immigration is coming out to La Cruz, which they had done earlier in the week. With an air of authority he says no, we have to go to PV. Road trip! All 4 of us pile into the kia and headed to PV. When we got there the guy with epaulets on his shoulders said the immigration officer had.... survey says? GONE TO LA CRUZ! He said he would wait 30 minutes for us to get back to La Cruz to stamp our paperwork. Problem is, with traffic it takes 45 minetes to get from PV to La Cruz. We race back, with Rina's fingernails in my thigh the whole time. When we arrive, he stamps our paperwork, then we head back over to the port captain to get our final stamp. Rina proceeds to start the process, then the immigration officer comes into ream the port captain for not organizing all the checkouts and we get stuck in the middle of the argument. We sat for 30 minutes waiting for the port captains signature, not saying a word, as the look on the port captains face said it all. He was not a happy man. Bottom line is we are checked out and ready to go as far as Mexico is concerned.
03/19/2009, La Cruz
Last night we were excited to be joined by daughter Alyssa, fresh off a plane from Santa Cruz where she wrapped up school for the year. She will join us on the crossing to the Marquesas and stay with us until June, in Tahiti, when she will return for summer school.
Work is pretty much done on the boat, with all systems ready, the boat fueled up, and fully provisioned except for presh produce, which we will pick up tomorrow. We decided to buy some additional insurance and add 30 additional gallons of fuel for the crossing. We added a board across two stanchions and secured each can, then filled them. Once we arrive in French Polynesia we will trade them with locals, with or without fuel for hard to get supplies.
On Friday the bottom of Follow You gets cleaned, and boy does it need it. Sitting in the marina over the past 3 weeks has allowed barnacles to form and they are getting pretty big. I dove on the bottom earlier this week to clear the watermaker thru-hull and got scratched up pretty good feeling my way under the boat.
Our crew is getting a little anxious given the 2800 mile 25 day journey ahead of us. We noticed a little tension with Carinthia as their departure day approached, and we are now feeling it... is the boat ready? are we ready? how will we deal with rain squalls, the larger seas, etc... The lesson from Carinthia is a good one, as we received word from them today that things are well after 7 days at sea. They have fallen into a daily rhythm, dodging squalls from 5-11pm, using radar to find the cells moving toward them from astern. They have blown out their screecher, but otherwise the boat is performing well. They suspect it blew due to the fact that they are much heavier than they were. See the gallery for pictures of Carinthia's departure, where you can clearly see the waterline low in the water at the bow.
In our case, we are indeed heavy, but still have 2 inches of waterline showing. It will be interesting to see how she handles with the added weight.
03/14/2009, Puerto Vallarta
After a week of intense boat preparation, Rina and I decided to get off the boat for a day and play tourist in PV. We rented a car and headed to PV for lunch, to hit the big mall for some sandals, attend the boat show and hear some music at a La Cruz club.
We found Le Bistro down near the river in the Romantic District of PV, enjoying wonderful food and a great bottle of wine. We then headed to the mall, which was dead, falling prey to the same economics inflicting the U.S. Fortunately a Nike store and Liverpool Department Store had what we coveted. Then it was off to the boat show across the street. Boat shows have been a twice a year pilgrimage for us for 5 years, so we (I?) was pumped. What a let down. 10 bucks to get in, and there was 4 booths, a bunch of lame power boats and cars on display. Took all of 20 minutes to see the whole thing and then we bailed. Then it was back to La Cruz for a nap and then dinner and music at Octopus's garden. Tatewari, a 4 piece Flamenco-Rumba band wowed us for 2 hours. 2 awesome guitarists, a bass and percussionist filled the house with intricate rhythms that we will not soon forget.
03/13/2009, La Cruz
Living on a boat sometimes requires the abililty to improvise solutions to problems. West Marine and Home Depot are rarely close enough to help. Case in point. We forgot to turn off the watermaker before coming back into the marina. We got settled back in our slip after a nice sail and quickly sucked up some seaweed into the watermaker inlet. The watermaker pump started squealing and we quickly turned it off to investigate. After finding a veritable seaweed salad in the sea strainer, we also noticed that the screen had fallen apart. No Problemo! Rina gets out her heavy duty sewing kit and proceeds to sew the screen back together. Meanwhile I go diving under the boat to figure out if I have more seaweed stuck in the thru-hull. Diving in the murky water of the marina is a challenge, and I have to feel my way to the thru-hull, cutting up my hands on the many barnacles that have grown onto the bottom. I fortunately find no blockage, and after showering the muck off, start pulling hoses apart to find the problem. Remember our encounter with a little fish? This time no fish but lots of seaweed stuck in the 90 degree elbows of the intake. After 30 minutes of coaxing the green stuff out of the plumbing, we finally restore good waterflow.
03/12/2009, La Cruz
Our last 7 days have been filled with construction projects working with vendors and installing all the stuff that came down in our recent shipment from the states. The biggest of these was the stainless work, providing a support structure for the solar panels, a mount for 800 feet of nylon line on a spool and our stern anchor. Carlos and the rest of the stainless crew did a very nice job but required lots of attention to get the design details right. Then the rigger showed up (a week late) but did a great job helping ensure our rig was up to the task at hand. Next the electrician showed up to survey the rough-in of all the electrical cables for the solar, and then to top it off, "Teapot Tony" the Yanmar engine guru showed up ahead of schedule, and I was close to losing it, moving between 4 vendors at the same time feeding them what they needed to know for what seemed like an eternity. Four days later, the intensity has subsided and all of the big jobs are done. See the gallery for detailed pictures, but in short:
1. New stainless support structure for two 175W Kyocera solar panels, connected to the arch and the stern pulpits. Lots of fine tuning required getting them level and low enough where they don't conflict with the traveler. They also provided a base for the satphone antenna and stern light, removing a flimsy pole mounted to the starboard rail.
2. Two new halyards, one replacing the useless topping lift, which can be used as a spare main halyard, and a second halyard made of spectra, which is VERY strong facing forward, which will be used as a topping lift for the new whisker pole, but also can be used in an emergency as a replacement forestay or shroud. Along the way Jorge inspected and lubricated the in mast furler and main halyard, re-tensioned the forestay and fixed the jib furler so it furls more cleanly. We found two shackles at the top of the mast that were loose, normally buried inside the mainsail that could have easily come loose on the long passage. They both now have stainless wire holding them together for safety.
3. The trusty Yanmar turbo-diesel is now trustier after Teapot Tony installed a relay between the starter switch and the starter. Refer to our earlier blog entry about starter motor drama, but this will solve the intermittent starting problem. We also changed coolant and transmission fluid, adjusted valves, aligned the propshaft and blew out the carbon on the turbo exhaust blades. She's now purring nicely.
4. The new solar panels are delivering 15 amps at peak sunlight to the batteries, and over the course of the day, should deliver about 100 amp-hours, which will supply everything the fridge/freezer needs and about 60-70% of our daily needs, dramatically reducing the need to run the generator.
5. Installed the 6-man Viking offshore liferaft just in front of the companionway. Easy install, then Rina built a nice sunbrella cover for it.
03/09/2009, La Cruz
The picture above does a pretty good job of showing an overview of our passage to the Marquesas. We plan on leaving March 21st weather permitting, and arriving in Hiva Oa between the 10-15th of April. The boats that are leaving now are running into light westerly winds and making only 80 miles a day. Visual passage planner says we will average 144 miles a day, but we are planning on a more conservative 125 miles a day.
Leg 1 is usually the most difficult, and many cruisers motor this section due to the fickle winds off the coast of mexico. Our strategy is to quickly get out to the Northern tradewinds, about 2-300 miles offshore, which are more consistent in speed and direction. Leg 2 and 3 takes us to just above the equator, where the wind usually dies somewhere around 5-8 degrees North latitude. Whenever that happens, we will turn due South and motor across the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) to avoid the frequent squalls and thunderstorms. (Leg 4)
We will stop right on the equator to toast Neptune with a bottle of Vueve, take a swim, then keep going until we run into the Southern tradewinds, where we will turn west again and sail downwind to the Marquesas. (Leg 5 and 6)
During our passage, we will be communicating with the fleet every morning to provide our position and let them know everything is alright. We will plan on doing daily blog updates via satphone where you will be able to watch our progress on the "current location" section of the blog and hear how the crew is faring on this long passage. If we miss a day or two, please do not fret, as sometimes life does get busy on the boat. Knowing that you all will be watching closely will motivate us to update it, however. We will also have email aboard from our fyfm2008 email account only, but please make your messages short and with no attachments, as there is a filter that will defer all messages larger than 10Kbytes. If you do a text email, rather than html, you can easily write several paragraphs and get under the 10K filter. Further emergency contact information will be provided to Gene Wollen, who will be monitoring our passage.
If you have any questions about the plan, whether or not we have lost our sanity, ask now, as we will be largely "off the grid" in just under two weeks.
03/06/2009, La Cruz
Check out the March Latitude 38 for an article, including Rina and I, about people who have attended local sailing schools and went on to cruise. The interview, by John Riise, was conducted while we were in Barra, via a skype call on our computer, which was a first for John. He especially got a kick out of the fact that we bought the boat before we really knew how to sail her.
Rina and I took many classes at Club Nautique in San Francisco Bay, then Orange Coast College's Alaska Eagle, with a trip down the Baja coast. We followed that up with a series of more and more challenging voyages with the help of friends and family over the last 5 years. Special thanks goes out to Gene, Corey, Pep and John for their guidance, inspiration and assistance.
We are still learning TONS out here every day, and the humility engendered by stubbing our metaphorical toes is wonderfully grounding. We expect to be on a steep learning curve for quite a while as we head west.... frankly it freaks me out a bit, but I (we?) love a challenge.
You can find Latitude 38 online at http://www.latitude38.com/eBooks/Mar2009.html
03/06/2009, La Cruz
Over the past month we have been fine tuning our float plan for the South Pacific, working with friends and family to coordinate visits with us and make sure we have all the navigational aids we need for safe passage through the region. Here is the current plan, subject to change and the vagaries of mother nature.
Big news is that we will be joined by 2 crew for the crossing to the South Pacific. We had such a great time with Jan Selderijk on the way back up from Ztown that we decided to invite him for the the crossing to the Marquesas, giving us 3 qualified crew. Our 4th crew member will be daughter Alyssa who will join us for 2 months before starting summer school at Gavilan college in Gilroy.
Depart PV on or about March 21st
20-30 day passage to Hiva Oa, Marquesas 2800 Miles
Arrive Hiva Oa April 15
Crew: Allan, Rina, Alyssa, Jan
Marquesas April 15 - May 5
Visit Hiva Oa, Nuku Hiva, Fatu Hiva, Tahuata
Crew: Allan, Rina, Alyssa, Pep and John
May 5 - May 9 - crossing to Tuamoto Islands 450 Miles
Tuamoto Islands May 9 - June 2
Visit 3-4 islands, some combination of Makemo, Tahanea, Raraka, Kauehi, Fakerava, Toau, Apataki, Rangiroa, Tikehau
Pep and John depart Mid May
June 2-6 - crossing to Tahiti 350 Miles
Crew: Allan, Rina, Alyssa, Jan
Society Islands (Tahiti) June 6 - July 15
Visit Tahiti, Moorea, Huahine, Raiatea, Tahaa, Bora Bora, Maupiti
Megan arrives early June for 2 weeks - Schedule TBD
Alyssa departs Mid June
Jan Departs early June
Megan arrives for 2 weeks early June
Jeffrey arrives for time TBD in June
July 15-21 crossing to Cook Islands 610 Miles
Cook Islands July 21- Aug 15
Visit Rarotonga, Aitutaki
Aug 15 - Aug 22 - crossing to Vava'u/Tonga 862 Miles
Vava'u/Tonga Aug 22 - September 22
Visit Vava'u/Tonga ( more islands TBD)
Sept 22 - Nov 15 TBD
Nov 15 - Passage to New Zealand via Minerva Reef
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.