03/25/2010, La Paz, Mexico
Well, it's time to leave La Paz and start our journey to Mazatlan on the mainland. It's been busy week getting as much done as we could. Not having a car has made it a bit tougher and slower with every task. The shuttle controls our schedules as to when we can go anywhere unless we want to shell out for a taxi and that can get expensive.
We arrived last Thursday and took the rest of the day to get settled and just look at the other boats and take a nice LONG, HOT shower not having to worry about how much and how long we stood under the water. On Zephyr, you stand in a room a bit smaller than an old phone booth and turn on the water and wet as much as you can and then turn the water off. Soap up(don't forget to shampoo at the same time)and then turn the water back on(careful--don't get scaled because you got the mix wrong)and rinse as quick as possible. You can forget about the shampoo mantra of"rinse and repeat". That just isn't going to happen. The joys of a nice long shower are truly one of the perks of coming back to civilization.
Friday was off and running. Tracy did the laundry as I hiked all over town trying to round up parts and equipment. The rest of the week just sort of blended together with odd jobs and errands to and from town. We made it to City Club(like Costco) on Monday to stock up on bulk items. Surprisingly, we didn't really buy a tremendous amount of food as we still have quite a bit left even though we had been gone for the better part of 2 1/2 months. Yeah, we had bought a few things in Loreto, but not that much. Zephyr is a big boat and can hold a lot of food. We had really stocked up well before we left the US.
I actually made my first phone call in over 4 month yesterday. I had to buy a phone card to get it done(actually several) as I had several companies that I had to discuss problems with. Being off the internet, we found that we had gotten well over 1,000 emails. I had to look at most and delete those we didn't need and place phone calls to some that we had to make urgent contact with that an email wouldn't take care of. It takes a long time to go through that many emails. I took a few hundred a day and slowly plowed through them. Gee, what fun!?!
So tomorrow, we take off for Mazatlan with a stop at Los Muertos on the way. We had stopped there on our way North back in late December and will probably spend one night there before the big crossing. Leaving from there, it's only 193 miles. If we leave from the islands(Los Santos) just Northeast of La Paz, it's 226 miles. Either way, it will take us an over night passage to get there. We expect a full moon in a few days so we will have plenty of light to allow us to see all that is around us as we cross the Sea of Cortez.
We'll be filling up with diesel and gasoline(for the generator and out board) as we leave La Paz. We're about half full of diesel so it's not really that big a deal, but it's always better to play it safe. Several other cruisers are leaving in a day or so so we expect to have some company during our crossing. I guess time will tell if we are alone out there.
Stay tuned, more to come as we set off on the next part of the journey.
03/21/2010, La Paz, Mexico
We continued today with more jobs. Tracy took on defrosting the freezer while I got the job of removing the black water tank in the stern head(OH BOY!!)
The freezer plate in the freezer gets covered in ice and needs to be defrosted about every month or so just like the freezers of old. No such thing as "frost free"on a boat. There was quite a bit of ice on it and as we had planned to buy more meat for the freezer today, we needed to make sure it was nice and clean and ready to go. Out came the hair dryer and the scraper and in she went. I meanwhile took off the wall panel that covers the tank and headed in for a smelly job.
For quite some time, the stern head has been malfunctioning. It continually gave off bad smells when used and would pump back in when you flushed what had been pumped out after the previous use. I'd tried to clean out the breather valve but the installation was so tight that there was no way to get to it with out removing the tank. Out came the screws and off came the hoses(yuck!!). I crammed paper towels into every hole in the tank(of course some of the paper towels fell out as the tank was removed--yuck). There were were 6 brackets that held it in place all with 2 screws in them. Each brackets screws had to be labeled so that the proper screws went back in the proper holes they came out of. After a good hour, out it came.
We carefully took it off the boat and onto the dock where I could better check it out. Yep, the vent on the top of the tank was totally blocked. I pulled out my electric drill and reamed it out. It was now nice and clear. I cleaned the bottom hole(where stuff comes out) as it has some "stuff" stuck to the pipe. Back in it went. We had to align the pump out pipe on the top with the pump out fitting that goes through the deck. Once it was on, I wedged the tank in while Tracy made sure the screw holes lined up. In went the screws and the tank was fastened back in. Then on with the rest of the hoses and the clamps tightened and we were done--sort of. I stuck paper towels under each fitting to check as it gets used the make sure that there are no leaks(yuck). Tracy had cleaned the wall behind and under the tank and then scrubbed the tank before it was put back in. Might as well get rid of anything that might bring on an odor. Now we will see if we have solved the problem.
Once Tracy was done with the freezer(I had yanked her away to help me several times) we had a lunch of left overs and headed for the 1330 shuttle to town. We had provisions to start buying. We been clued in as to where the local "farmers" market. Great vegetables and meats at good prices and much fresher than what is available at the big box stores. We bought four kilos(8.8 pounds) of really good looking hamburger and two really thick rib eye steaks. They will cut the steaks to any thickness that you want and they packaged the hamburger in kilo bags to make it easier to freeze when we got back to Zephyr. Tomatoes, onions, limes and cucumbers were just some of the veggies we bought. We've gotten in the habit of taking cloth bags to make the trip back easier and these bags don't break.
We then took off for the local Issste store. It's government controlled so the prices are as low as possible. More great buys of more things we needed for our next journey. We were the only "gringos" in the place and we had other customers staring at us as we shopped. I guess not that many cruisers visit their store. We were a bit out of place. Tracy had asked around when we got here as to where it was and was repeatedly told by locals that they had never heard of the place. I guess it is a secret place meant for locals to use. We had been shown this type of store by the Linda and Dale off Moxie when we were in Escondido a while ago. We then headed to the local tortilla factory next door and bought a good supply of flour tortillas to shrink wrap for the future. They were still warm. We bought so much stuff that we took a taxi back to the marina.
As we were taking our provisions to the boat, another boat was trying to come in to the marina and didn't like where they had gotten assigned. We helped them tie up to the end of the dock until it could get straightened out and another slip assigned. We helped them get into their slip once the decision was made by the marina as to where they wanted them. They had just come over from the mainland and will now be making their way up the Baja side.
With everything on board, I headed off for the showers. After what I had been working on this morning, I thought it was a good idea to clean my self up properly. Boy--it sure is nice to be able to stand under a never ending stream of hot water and not having to worry about running out of both hot water and water. Ah, the luxuries of being at a marina. I talked to another cruiser on the way back to Zephyr. They had come into the marina expecting to stay a week and have now been here two months!! They had gotten stuck in the La Paz vortex. You come in and never leave.
Tomorrow, I have fans to install fans and plugs to replace. Plus, there is a swap meet at one of the local yards this afternoon that we will be heading for. Lets see what we can find that we might need someday.
The journey continues.
03/20/2010, La Paz, Mexico
We're back in La Paz after being gone since January 10.
We spent the night of the 17 in Ensenada De la Raza(24 28.363N 110 22.802W) out in the islands as the only person in the bay. A bit open for our tastes but at least we had it to ourselves. Well sort of. We were nailed by LOTS of BoBos. These are little flies that buzz you and try and get all over you if they can. Thank God they don't bite plus they are not the fastest flies in the world. Not to hard to kill two or three in one swat.
I put on my scuba gear and took a look at Zephyr's bottom. Not too bad all in all. A bit of growth in a few areas that I got knocked off and cleaned up. I didn't have the proper amount of weights on my belt so it was hard to stay down. I had Tracy hand me down an extra weight to add to my belt. With it just in my hand, I sank nicely to the bottom(15 feet or so). I wasn't the smartest guy in the world as when I took the belt off to add the new one, up I went. I kept the belt in my hand so I was floating upside down. I pulled my self back down and sat on the bottom with the belt in my lap until I could get the weight added and then I was fine. Interesting feeling floating upside down.
We watched boats heading North and South all afternoon. It's a major pathway to the islands with lots of pangas passing and sail and power boats looking for a place to drop their anchor for the night.
We headed into La Paz on Thursday morning. Of course, there was little wind and what there was was from the South so we had to motor all the way in. I guess you can't always have good sailing winds though we have enjoyed them on our trip South from Bahia Concepcion over the last few months.
We're now at 24 10.952N 110 18.226 W if you are Google Earthing us. I'm sure there are lots of pictures of the area. With luck, I'll get many of our up in the next few days.
Yesterday was spent running or at least walking errands. Tracy spent the day at the laundry getting our mounds of dirty clothes and sheets washed. I took off in the 0900 shuttle for down town. Lopez Marine the first stop. We'd made a list and I had lots of things I needed to get. The hardest to find was small thin bungie cord to fix the DuoGen. It holds the pin to the body of the unit so it won't fall off as you change out the wind prop for the water prop. After a year, it had finally broken. I got lucky and found some at Home Depot here.
I hit at least 8 store in my trek and was smart enough to take the "Collectivo" buses around when I had bigger distances to cover. The one I took from Walmart went all over town before finally getting somewhat close to the marina where I could get off and walk the rest of the way. There is really no formal bus system here, just a bunch(lots) of guys traveling around town in small vans or buses picking up people for 8 pesos(really cheap) and you get off when you want. Not so bad as long as you get lucky and get on the right bus. If you don't, you could end up way out of your way.
We had our last steak from Costco last night for dinner. Ah--the joys of a fine piece of red meat. Add in a nice baked potato and a bottle of wine and it was a nice dinner. We had our last lobster the night before. Don't cry for us, we're bearing up as well as we can. We will probably be off for the local "City Club"(like Costco) this afternoon. But first, it's time to rip out the stern holding tank for the head and see what is going on back there. It's just not doing it's job right. You have to take the good with the bad I guess.
It was into the low 90's on Thursday when we got in. That's the hottest we have been in a long time. Last time we were here, everyone was wearing their Winter coats(in the mid 60"s). We put tarps over Zephyr to keep it a bit cooler inside. The furr people aren't taking the heat that well.
Well, it's time to get back to work.
Responses to comments and questions:
George and Celeste--Shadow is still moving right along. He has come back to decent health since his set back back in early February. We're just taking each day as a gift having him here with us.
Dave--you asked about Pilot House boats. Not so many though they have their uses. It would keep you out of the elements. We've seen far more ketch rigged boats than we expected. Two masts keep the sails smaller and easier to handle. Not to many "new" boats though.
As to the comments I made earlier about the restaurant in Escondido, I was just telling what I had been told by some people that had been there. Nothing personal. We really enjoyed Escondido and Loreto and the folks we met there. We only ate there once, the day we arrived.
If you have nay question, feel free to ask. I have access to the internet so I can at least see your responses.
03/17/2010, El Cardoncito, Isla Partida
After yesterdays winds(20+ knots) we decided to move a bit farther South from Ensenada Grande. We'd explored it enough and wanted to see more before our move to La Paz on Thursday. So we upped the anchor and took off for somewhere South of where we were. We were looking for a nice secluded and small cove to spend a day or so in. The first one we came to that would fill the bill, won. Just 3.8 miles South of Ensenada Grande was the small cove of El Cardoncito, still on Isla Pardita. As we neared it, we were surprised to 's find it empty. It's small enough, the cruise guides say it is good for just one or two boats. A cute little cove with a nice sandy beach at its head.
In we went and down went the anchor. We didn't bother with a way point on our chart plotter as it is so small. We dropped the anchor (in 15 feet of water)and pulled back on the chain to set it in the sand on the bottom. Nope, it dragged and would not dig in. It just bounced along the bottom hitting stones. Up came the anchor and we tried a different place. Down went the anchor. Same thing--it just bounced along the bottom. Up it came and over we went to try a different place. Same thing. We just kept shifting our location looking for a nice piece of sand for our poor anchor. At the fourth try, it finally set in the sand on the bottom. A whopping depth of 13 feet of water. We were at high tide(a 5 foot range) so we would end up with 8 whole feet under the keel. Still a good depth for us. We had left Ensenada Grande at 0900 and with the anchor problems, we were not settled in till 1020. We were thrilled to get the place to ourselves. When we had come North, there had been another boat in the anchorage and we had passed it by in the belief that it would only handle one boat(safely). Suddenly, on the horizon was another sailboat. He was coming in!!!! Rats!!! Spoiled again!!! He came in and tried to drop his anchor in the same place we had. Hey, guess what? His didn't set either. Up it came and down it went. Sorry, no go. Up it came and down it went. Nope, only this time, he snagged a big hunk of coral and brought it up. The two boys at the bow, knocked it off and they tried again. They asked if we had had problems as they pulled up their anchor and I told them it had taken us four tries to get ours to stick and hold. Each time, they move closer and closer to poor Zephyr. On his fourth try, he finally got his anchor to dig in. He's about 80 feet from our starboard side. If we both swing in opposite directions, we might hit each other. All part of the fun of cruising--right?
While he was getting anchored, we plopped Puff in the water for a nice trip to shore. With Dragon on the stern, in we went. This small cove shoals out quickly so we had to use the oars to get the final distance to shore. I don't want to ruin the poor prop on Dragon by hitting some rock on the bottom. There is a well on shore that was dug by 8 fishermen back in the 1940's to provide fresh water for any fishermen that stopped by. A beautiful piece of stone work as all the sides are covered in dry stacked stone. No concrete was used. I knew the Mexicans were good with stone work, but this was amazing. It's a good 20 feet from the top of the well to the bottom of the water. Someone even left a line next to the well so you can see how deep it is. It's marked out with knots at each foot. The water is about 8 feet deep. Once we had explored the shore and beach, we returned to Zephyr.
The folks(parents and two teenage boys) on the other boat had settled in and jumped into the water to explore the shoreline where there are lots of fish. They took along their spear to catch some fish for bait for later fishing. After they returned to their boat, suddenly, on the horizon came a 40 foot catamaran from the Moorings Charter Company. They were coming in to join our group. They just knew there would be room for them in our little cove. Just after we dropped our anchor, the winds had started piping up and were now blowing in the high teens to low twenties from the head of the cove. The two of us were already swinging around our anchors quite nicely in the wind. In came the catamaran, passing in front of the other boat and pulling right in front of us--up wind!!! OH C--P!! Just what we didn't need. A Mooring boat right in front of us and up wind with the forecast for these 20+ knot winds to last the rest of the day. If their anchor slipped and dragged, they would come right back on us!! Tracy just stared at them. OK, glared would be a better call for what she gave them. I looked at the other boat(already at anchor) and remarked "Well, at least they have good insurance. They are normally amateurs at best" They asked if we thought that they were too close to us. Having anchored in the Pacific Northwest where people anchor close enough to you that you can spit on each others boats, they were fine even though 80 feet for down here is quite close. I assured them that they were just fine though we kept a close vigil on the positions of both of our boats and their relationship.
There were seven people on board the catamaran all lounging on decks with one person at the wheel. In they came and stopped right in front of us just as the wend had stopped. They didn't drop their anchor but just sat and stared at the cove trying to decide if they wanted to stay. Suddenly, a big gust of wind rips through the cove. They swung to the right with the man who had been at the wheel, rushing to get back to it. He had gone to the bow to see what they had under their boat. Once under control, he returned to the bow. Boom--along comes another big gust and they started swinging to the left and dropping back on us. OK, they had had enough and took off out of the cove and headed for the next cove North(Ensenada el Cardonal). Once they were gone, we had no more visitors. The winds continued till just about 2000 and then slowed up a good bit as the lands around us cooled in the evening once the Sun went down.
Tomorrow, off again to see another cove South of here, slowly making our way closer and closer to La Paz. The Marina Palmira confirmed our reservation this morning so we are all set to arrive day after tomorrow. Back to civilization!
03/11/2010, Ensenada Grande
Yesterday, the wind shifted and came out of the South, right into the bay causing all the boats anchored here to rock and roll a good bit in the swells that came in. By afternoon, it had shifted back around and started coming out of the North again. We're protected from all but South winds and waves in this little bay. Mother Nature just wanted to play with us again.
We woke up to the rhythmic sound of thunk, thunk, thunk, over and over again as something moved inside Zephyr. A sound every now and then is ok, but over and over is not. As Zephyr moved at anchor in the swells, the sound just kept on thunking. If you have followed our blog for a while, you know we have had problems with our steering ever since we started sailing Zephyr. The bracket that controls the rudder post keeps coming loose. We lost steering the first time as we fought 40 knot winds and 20 foot seas on our way North from Newport Oregon in July of 2008. I had to crawl under the mattress in the stern(getting thrown all over the place) and get down into the bilge and tighten the clamps. I had stainless steel shims made to make the fit tighter between the bracket and the rudder post. Unfortunately, as we sail, these little buggers shift and that is what it had done. The thunking we heard was the rudder post moving back and forth inside the bracket(again). Up came the mattress and in I went with two wrenches and apart came the bolts and in went the shims(one had popped out the top of the bracket) and once tightened, the thunking stopped. Once we get back to civilization, I think I will try and find a better solution for this problem. I figured that having applied "Lock-Tite" to the threads of the bolt would have solved the problem. Guess not since the shims moved.
I grabbed my needle and thread and stitched up a seam on one of the pockets on the dodger(covers the cockpit). The thread had come undone and it needed to be redone before it got worse. It's better to tackle these projects as soon as they crop up so they don't get out of hand.
Other than that, we practiced our Spanish(computer program) and sat and read the rest of the day. The winds were picking up and we just decided to stay aboard for a change. Lots more boats came and went as the day progressed with pangas full of tour folks coming to visit the middle cove here. A large power boat dropped their anchor in the middle cove and pulled out their toys. A jet ski and their water skis plus a big dingy with a big motor. Their kids spent the afternoon buzzing around the bay making as much wake as they could. All three kids took turns at the wheel of the dingy zipping between all the other boats at anchor. Heaven forbid they should go out where there are no boats and do it there.
The winds came back over night and we are now set with 20+ knot winds from the North and they're forecast to continue through Tuesday. I've emailed Marina Palmira in La Paz for a reservation to stay there as of this Thursday for a week. We will see how long it takes to get all our jobs done and get ready for the leap to the mainland. Heaven help my credit cards.
03/11/2010, Ensenada Grande
The past two days here at Ensenada Grande have been spent basically exploring and playing games. Oh, and watching boats come and go. We took off in Puff with Dragon on Friday morning exploring the different coves here. The cruise book for the neighborhood each tell a different story of the three coves. Which is good for which weather. The North cove(where we are) is supposed to be better for the North winds as they would zip right over us where we are tucked in while the South cove would get more swells from the North as they came around the North point of the bay. Well, since it was still blowing at 20-25 knots, we thought we should investigate and see if any of them were better in the wind we were having..
We were getting good winds(as far as the DuoGen was concerned) as they flowed over the bluffs to the North that protect this cove and while the swell wasn't bad, it was still a howler in the rigging. The middle cove is open yet a beautiful beach to play on. We found that when we went ashore, the winds were just about gone along the beach. They by passed this cove(at least the beach). During the day, dozens of tourist in big boats and small pangas come and flock to this beach, many returning from a trip to Los Islotes where they can snorkel with sea lions. One of the CruiseWest.com boats(he took off sometime early Friday morning) was already anchored there when we showed up on Thursday afternoon. They'd set up umbrellas, tents and chairs for all their customers. We had been surprised that so many went ashore in the winds we had been experiencing. Now we knew why the beach was so popular. While the others got lots of wind, this one didn't. As we putt putted around to the South cove, we were hit again by the winds from the North blowing over the bluffs and valley. The cove there is quite shallow near the back and I jumped out of Puff a good 150 yards from shore and the water only came up to just above my knees. I pulled Puff to shore and we walked the beach. Behind the beach is a small lagoon full of fish (small) and crabs(small) all set up in their own little eco system. At the back of the cove is a trail heading for the other side of the island. We headed back to Zephyr, picked up our frizbee and headed back to the middle cove and got some exercise. Along the way in, we stopped for a few minutes and chatted with the folks aboard the Mooring boat that had anchored there. They had come in about an hour before. I don't think the daughter(mid 20s) liked the sailing experience. As they sat in the cockpit having lunch, she still had her life jacket on. Once we left the beach, the folks aboard the Mooring boat came ashore. We returned to Zephyr and the winds in the North cove.
With Friday being so windy, few boats came into any of the three anchorages as most don't like going out in this weather(chicken). I think only three boats showed up all day. The forecast for Saturday was for more winds out of the North to Northwest, back in the 20-25 knot range. What did we get---maybe 10 knots all day. It was the perfect day for sailing up the coast and many boats did just that. I decided to walk the trail that lead off the back of the South cove that took you to the other side of the island. I made it ashore by 1000. We had pulled Puff aboard the previous night as the winds were howling past her as we had just pulled her up to sit along side Zephyr but out of the water on our hoist. We normally jut hoist her up and let her dangle through the night in a sling made for inflatable boats. This time, the wind was so strong, that we decided to just pull her all the way back on board rather than have her flop around beside Zephyr. We'd already taken Dragon(our outboard) off and stowed it on the railing at the stern. It's much safer and quieter that way(and less strain on the rigging).
I packed some bottles of cold water and some crackers and cookies(along with a VHF radio just in case) and took off for the South cove. The sign at the base of the trail said it was a difficult hike and was 2.5 miles and would take 4.5 hours. Man, what was I getting myself into? Off I went on the trail(what I could find of it) for the first 200 yards. After that, you really had to search for any kind of path. I finally decided to just stay in the arroyo and climb over the rock and boulders that had been deposited there over the last thousands of years. Up I went, rock after rock, boulder after boulder. Every once in a while, I would see some sign in the dirt(what there was of it) that someone had been there before me but who knows how long ago. It rarely rains here and that would be the only thing that would erase the foot prints. As I set out, I saw lots of lizards, most not afraid of me, and lots of small squirrels(about the size of large mice) and one lone rabbit with big ears. Luckily no rattlesnakes. I found stacked rocks along the arroyo marking where someone else had climbed. I added a rock to the top of the stacks every time I found a set. I finally arrived at the top of the canyon about 1130 after an hour and and half climb. I ended up on a 450 foot cliff at the top of a box canyon over looking the eastern shoreline. Waves were crashing onto the rocks below me. It was an incredible view and not a boat to be seen. I plunked myself down and has some water(lemonade flavored) and the small package of cookies(for a completed hike). I could use the fluids and the sugar. I started the decent about 1150 and again, stepped from rock to rock all the way down. I know my legs will be telling me something(OW!) later tonight. When I arrived at the beach, there was a nice canopy all set up on shore with a nice Mexican family having a picnic. A dingy was bringing food and drinks ashore from their large yacht anchored just off the cove. It's rare that you see any one from Mexico traveling their own waters, especially in their own boat. We have found that there are more Canadians than Americans down here. I had a nice chat with a gentleman from Switzerland that was about to start the same climb I had made. They had charted a boat from the Moorings(even had a captain on board to skipper the boat). His wife really didn't like the water and sailing that much, he told me. I stopped at the Moorings boat as I headed out and had a nice chat with the Captain. He takes the folks where ever they want to go. I know the charter is expensive, but adding a Captain to the package and it really goes off the chart, money wise. As I rounded the point off the cove, there was another Moorings boat in the middle anchorage. It was the same boat that had been there the night before that had blown a block as they had come South. I had watched them leave the cove earlier(headed North) in the day as I had headed over to the South cove for my hike. Apparently, they had come back. Another boat had joined us in the North anchorage. We now had 7 boats in the bay.
As the day continued, more boats came in, mostly from the South as they made their way up the Sea of Cortez. The yacht from Mexico left in the late afternoon and a bigger one(lots bigger) came in just as they were leaving. Another boat joined the Moorings boat in the middle cove and several joined the group in the South cove. About 1600, the Mooring boat in the middle cove took off again. As they headed out, they hoisted their sails(amazing) and headed North. A half hour later, they showed up heading South. Leaving that late, God only knows where they were headed to.
It continued to be a lovely day for a sail for the rest of the day with beautiful sunshine and gentle winds. We will see what tomorrow brings