We made it into Topolobampo yesterday in the late morning about 1030 after a 236 mile trip that took us almost 50 hours to complete.
We cast off our lines and headed out of Mazatlan in the early morning to catch the early morning breeze as we set off Northwest toward Topolobampo. It was slated to be just over 200 miles so we expected at least a 48 hour trip or two nights on the water.
The winds piped up and we took off with all three sails(Genoa, forestsail and main) all up in the breeze. The wind was cooperating coming from the Southwest so we had the perfect wind to keep us moving. While the winds were in the 10 to 12 knot range, we were moving along at 4 to 5 knots. Not to fast nor to slow. We slid up along the coast about 10 to 12 miles off shore. During the morning as the wind slowly shifted coming more and more from the West. This was creating a bit of a problem as we were slowly being pushed toward the shore. There is only so far a sailboat will point into the wind and maintain a course and we were slowly reaching that area. Sailboats typically can only sail up to 45 degrees into the wind. Some will make it to 40 degrees. Since we were slowly getting pushed toward shore, we decided to tack(turn) and head farther from shore. We rolled in the Genoa sail and turned through the eye of the wind and unrolled the sail on the opposite side and off we went. When we sailed across the Sea of Cortez, we had done it all on one tack. Now we were going to have to work at maintaining a course toward out goal. "Serious"sailing! After our turn, we headed about 10 more miles off shore before we turned again toward the North. Again, the wind kept pushing us closer and closer to shore. After a short trip if about 8 miles, we tacked again and headed back off shore. We'd gone 18 miles to cover about 6 miles toward our goal. At 4 to 5 knots, that takes a time to accomplish. Out we went again. This time, when we tacked, the wind was a bit better and we could head more in a sort of Northerly direction. It was taking us back to shore, but would be a bit farther up the shoreline. We'd covered about 40 miles toward Topolobampo and sun was about to set and we were closer to shore than we wanted to be. With the setting Sun, the wind was beginning to die and that would really slow us down. So, in came the Genoa and down came the forestaysail and on came the motor(1900hrs) and back Northwest we went. I'd laid in a course on our Garmin chartploter so we would know about what heading we would need to go to get to Topolobampo in the shortest time. We changed course and took off. We left the mainsail up to better control Zephyrs rocking in the swells. Through the night, we kept on the move.
We'd heard from our friends(Rollande and Angus on Periclees) that they had had some problems making way North behind us. They had waited for the afternoon to head out from Mazatlan. Their progress was so slow through the water that they turned back to Mazatlan to get their bottom cleaned. It had been quite q while since they had had it done and they figured it was so loaded with growth that it was slowing them way down. They could only get 4 knots of speed out of her. Once cleaned, they would continue their journey on Friday afternoon. NO ONE starts a voyage on Friday!! It's just not done(don't have a clues as to why) since they had "officially started" on Thursday, they were safe from that curse. They arrived here a few hours ago in a lot less time than it took us, but we did it the hard way. We sailed even if we could only do 3 knots. When they hit that speed, they turn on their engine.
During Tracy's watch(2300 to 0300) she spotted fishing boats off toward the shoreline. Several of them. She kept watching them to make sure there would be no problems with the course we were taking. Suddenly, they started flashing lights toward Zephyr. Oh Oh, we were in a spot they didn't want us in. Fishermen down here typically use LONG LONG nets to catch their fish. These nets can string for miles across the water. We were obviously entering a "Net Zone". These things can get caught up in your prop and reek havoc with your transmission as well as any further progress through the water. Tracy quickly turned Zephyr away from shore and took us farther out into the Sea of Cortez. Apparently, that was the right thing to do as the lights stopped flashing at us. About 8 miles later, she turned us back North and on we went.
During the next day, some fishermen in a panga stopped by to check us out and see where we were going. They had come out from Altata, a small town along the shoreline we had passes on our way up the coast. We chatted--me in my pigeon spanish and they in their pigeon english. They told us where they were from but really wanted to know where we were headed. I called them over and tossed out some cold Cokes for them. It pays to be neighborly. We watched as they took out some glasses and ice and downed them. On we pushed.
During the afternoon, we saw a whale and one of her calfs playing in the water off Zephyrs starboard side. Mom was pounding her tail in the water over and over. A few minutes later, they were gone. That was about all the aquatic life we saw. Now birds were a different matter.
During the night, Tracy was repeatedly chasing Boobies off poor Zephyrs deck and rigging. Some, in trying to get off Zephyr, stuck their beaks and necks through the netting that runs along our lifeline. Tracy had to grab the birds and pull them out of the net and then try and throw them overboard. all the while avoiding their long sharp beaks. These guys wanted a free trip. Unlike past trips, we had no visits from squid on our decks. My watch(0300 to 0700) was eventless(boring).
On our second day, another panga with fishermen stopped by. Again, with eachs lack of language skills, we found out that they were on their way out to lay out their nets and wanted to make sure we would not be anywhere near them. Off they went, farther off shore. Several of the boats here in the marina had run across fishing nets on their trip along the coast. We were making such good time, we figured out that we would arrive at the outer buoy of the harbor at 0530, well before sunup. We slowed our speed down so we would arrive after the Sun came up.
The winds obliged about midday the second day and we could raise the sail again and sit back and let Zephyr be in her element. We took off, silently this time toward Topolobampo. On we pressed into the night. During the early hours of the evening, a boobie landed in the top of the mast and settled in for the night. Nothing I did phased him in the slightest. He was there till HE decided to leave.
When I came up on watch at 0300, the wind had died again or what there was, was not from the right direction. At the speed we were doing, it would be another full day instead of 6 hours when we would get into Topolobampo. In and down came the sails and on came the motor and off we went again.
Tracy came up about 0700 and we had a nice breakfast sitting in the cockpit as the Sun came up. We were now slated to arrive at the outer buoy about 0830. We'd been lucky and had gotten an email from Periclees that they had gotten from the folks at Marina Palmira in Topolobampo. They had included Google Earth shots of where the marina was and how to get in the harbor. In we went between the buoys with breakers pounding the surf line about a quarter mile to our right. Some of the biggest surf we have seen along our voyage. As we went in, I electronically marked on our Garmin chartplotter where all the interior buoys were so I could email their coordinates to Periclees. They had never been in here either. The channel wines it way along with shallow areas off on both sides. We passed our first Mexican Navy vessel as it zoomed past us heading out of the harbor. You watch your depth sounder all the way in. We were down to 6 feet below the keel at one point.
I kept radioing the marina(as well as the Port Catain) to let them know we were coming in. We got no answer to our repeated calls so we just headed in following the pictures the marina had sent Periclees. They were a BIG help finding the Marina.
Marina Palmira Topolobampo has only been open for 6 months and is still very much under construction. They have 10 to 12 slips available with power and water and another 12 to 14 with no power. We, of course, took Zephyr right into a slip that had no power nor water. So we backed out and went into a slip that did. I sat down later and email Periclees with the waypoints so they could get in safely.
We headed up to check in with the Marina. As it turns out, Alberto, one of the men that helped us in, is the manager of the marina! How's that for hands on. We sat down and worked it out. It ended up at $107.00 for a weeks stay. That works out to about $15.00 per day. One of the cheapest places we have been and as it turns out here is why it is so cheap. There is not much here at the marina. No laundry and only cold showers(no hot water). They do have wifi, but it doesn't reach the dock. If I want to go on line, I have to walk up to the offices. Not a big deal really. They couldn't be nicer here showing us what is around the harbor and making arrangements for anything we need. They have a man on the dock all day and guards on sight all night with a gate that requires an electronic key to get on the dock as well as off. Security to the max! Staying here does have it's perks. If you want a hot shower, the marina bought the local hotel(the only hotel in town)and you can walk over (a ten minute walk) and they will give you a room to use for taking a shower. OK, so it's not right here at the marina but that's not to bad.
We had a nice quiet night sleep though I will be taking off the rudder for the Hydrovane so it stops clunking back and forth as the swell here in the harbor hit it. So we're now at 25 35.971N 109 03.512 W for all you Google Earth fans out there. We've made arrangements to stay for a week so that we can visit Copper Canyon farther inland. Tracy is going to go with Angus and Rollande while I stay on Zephyr and take care of Shadow. He is constantly asking for more food to wolf down every few hours. We don't want to leave him alone. I'll go up on our trip South later in the year when we return here.
We walked into town this afternoon to see the sights. We'd been told by Alberto (manager of the marina) that there was only one restaurant in town and that was at the hotel. Well, we found lots of small eateries along our walk and stopped in at one for a delightful meal of two cokes and four Carne Asada(steak) tacos for about $3.80!! Food here is much cheaper than out on the Baja. they were great tacos. You could have 5 on corn tortillas for 25 pesos or 4 on flour tortillas for 30 pesos. They came with condiments of salsa(lots of cut up tomatoes and onion with jalapenos), sliced onion in a brine, a tomato based hot(spicy) sauce, as well as a guacamole sauce. We have yet to be disappointed with any meals we have gotten from the street vendors or small cafes along our trip. Normally, they have better and certainly more tasty food than the larger restaurants and at a much better price for us cost conscientious cruisers where every dollar counts.
We passed a political rally as we passed through town and wandered along their new Malecon(shopping area along the waterfront). Let me tell you, the Mexicans know how to party when it comes to going to a political rally. Free food, free tee shirts and sandals as well as a band and cartoon books(with the candidate inside) for the kids. People were streaming into the party. There were hundreds of people there all having a great time with music and games(a trampoline for the kids had been set up) to keep every one happy. What a show!!!
We have a marina dock party pot luck set up for this afternoon about 1700 so that will be fun getting all of us together for fun and food as well as lots of story telling about each others boats and where we have all been during our travels.
04/09/2010, Half way to Topolobampo
We're half way up the coast to Topololbampo from Mazatlan after a night of motoring. We sailed till about 2300 and then the winds died or what was left would have pushed us much to close to shore. We had to tack repeatedly to stay away from the coast as we headed Northwest along the shoreline. Once the winds died, we had no choice but to start the motor. She is still purring right along so we are making good progress.
Last night on Tracy's watch(2300 to 0300) a booby decided we were a good place to get a free ride from so he made himself at home on deck. When Tracy went forward to get him off, he stuck his neck through the netting we have on the lifelines and got himself stuck. Tracy had to grab him and pull him out. What does he do but shove his head through the net again. Another rescue and off he flew. Never said they were the brightest birds but they sure are persistent.
We hope to be into Topolobampo by 0800 tomorrow morning if all goes well. Hopefully the winds will come back and we can put up the sails again. We'll let you know how it goes.
04/07/2010, Marina Fonatur, Mazatlan
We ran the last of our errands today. The bus dropped us off about a mile from the Pacifico Beer Factory(free samples!) but couldn't get in for the free tour. We didn't have on the right clothes,etc. You need to wear long pants, real shoes, no cameras and no back packs. We failed miserably. The tours are at 0900, 1100 and 1600. We might have made the 1600 if we had come back, but the tour was full. Oh well, next time.
We hit several stores during our trip back to Zephyr. Ley for some more food, then over to the local fabric store to get a mesh weave "fabric"(more like plastic)to cover the port lights and dodgers windows. It's a cream color fabric that will reflect the sun and heat out but you can still see through it. We plan on making covers for all the window that we can with what we bought.
Next, over to Henderson's Meats. We'd picked out some steaks and had him bring in some extra lean hamburger for us. They vacuum pack all their meat and freeze it so cruisers like us don't have to. It saves a lot of wear and tear on our freezer unit.
Back to Zephyr to store it all and then off to dinner with 8 friends off other sail boats all from different marinas around Mazatlan. We had the first pizza we've had in months and months. A nice change and it gives us something else to eat(leftovers) during our trip to Topolobampo over the next two days we will be out. Tracy had started the day cooking a casserole for us to reheat when we are out moving along. It's a lot easier than cooking the entire meal while underway.
Once back at Zephyr after dinner, we took the sail cover off as well as the canvas that covers the port lights and got ready to be underway tomorrow morning. It's about 200 miles to Topolobampo so we have a ways to sail. With luck the wind will be in our favor. The forecast says it should be just fine for our trip. I'll let you know as we move along how we are doing.
04/05/2010, Marina Fonatur, Mazatlan
Well, it's been a year since we set out from Port Townsend, Washington on our new adventure and what a year it has been. We've traveled over 6,000 miles since we left.
People told us we would never make it to Alaska but we did. More told us we would never make it to Mexico, but we did. It's been a big learning experience for us both. Not only systems but learning about ourselves and each other. Sure, we have been married for 38 years, but for the last two years, we have been just about inseparable. It's that way when you live on a boat. Where the heck can you go? Unless you are at a marina or close to shore, you must deal with the everyday events that shape our lives. The highs and lows. The good and the bad. We had to face what ever came our way and we have.
One of our strongpoints is that we complement each other. When a question arrises, we can talk to each other and one of us will normally have the right answer. When we were pulling out the black water tank in the stern head, I got stuck as to how to do it easily. Tracy took one look at it and came up with a solution. When I go crazy, she is sane and vice versa. One of us is always grounded in reality(more Tracy than me). It is truly one of our strong points. This past year has been tough on both of us. The learning curve has been extreme. Many cruisers we talk to have had their boats for years, not just the few we have had Zephyr. Many have even built their own boats so they know all the ins and outs of what is where and how it runs. We jumped from a nice 26 foot boat to a big complex 45 footer that was going through midlife crisis. But we worked at it sometimes getting frustrated and down right mad but we fixed what needed to be fixed and made it to places people told us we would never make it to.
We're now down in Mazatlan, planning to head North for San Carlos for the Summer haulout and storage while we are back in Denver for a few months. Then, back to Zephyr for more projects and travels.
It's been a fun year with plenty of ups(Juneau, Alaska & Mexico) and downs(two more transmissions rebuilds) but here we are. Still ready to go and see more of what the world has to offer.
While in Marina Fonatur, we have flushed the outboard motor, marked the main halyard and reefing lines with whipping thread, cleaned and oiled(yes, that's right--oiled) the teak on the small rail that runs around the upper section of the deck and in front of the dodger. We've washed with fresh water and lubed all the deck hardware so it will run properly once we set off again. It helps to get all the salt out of the blocks. Cleaned the cockpit and straightened up all over Zephyr and met lots of new friends here and at another marina. It's been a busy week and we expect to be here till Thursday. The winds will hopefully change to be out of the West by then. At least that is the forecast.
So the jobs continue as does the fun of the cruising lifestyle. The good and the bad. It's what makes life out here so interesting and fun.
04/01/2010, Marina Fonatur, Mazatlan
We've moved again. Now we're at the Marina Fonatur about 9.6 miles up the coast from where were in the old harbor of Mazatlan. The stink from the sewage processing plant were just a bit to much for us to handle when the wind blew just in the right os should I say the wrong direction.
We'd taken a bus through town to take a look at the different marinas on Tuesday afternoon. Marina Mazatlan was nice but the office was closed for lunch when we got there. We wandered around and found a nice restaurant for our own needs and then walked down the short distance to Marina Fonatur. It's a government run marina that have different branches along the Sea of Cortez. We'd used one of their mooring buoys in Escondido when we were there a while ago. Most of the tour books don't talk about this one as it was just built in 2006 and is still little known. Those that do talk about it tell you to not bother to go there as it is always booked up. Well, we took a shot and we got a slip. It was reserved for another boat but they won't be in until April 10 so we can stay until then. Now Marina Mazatlan charges $1.30/foot/day to stay there. That gets really pricy fast. We've paid $120 for seven days here plus water and electricity. Believe me, that is a great deal. We jumped on it like white on rice.
We upped the anchor yesterday morning and took off. There are only certain times that you can enter the harbor as the tidal current going in and out of the small bay where it is located can reach 4 knots. Plus, it is shallow in some areas. We needed to be here by just after 0900. Up came the anchor at 0730 and off we went. What we hadn't expected was FOG!!! nice thick pea soup fog. We haven't seen fog like this since we were up on the Northwest coast. Cruise ships were entering the harbor and blowing their horns. We squeezed in between the fishing boats that were going out and took off between cruise ships entering the harbor. We had the radar running so we know what was out there.
We were slated to come into a slip with the finger that you tie up to on the port side. Something we hate as when Zephyr is put into reverse(good for stopping before you hit the dock)she slides to the starboard side--away from the dock. The marina promised us help when we got in. Either we got in early(we radioed ahead)or the two guys got lost on the way to the marina. We came in a bit hot and we took out the electrical tower on the dock. For some reason, they have placed all of them right where the bow of the boat goes into the slip. I popped the hinges that hold it down and it fell over. Apparently, we were the second boat that day that hit the little electrical towers. A few screws and it was all fixed. We're now located at 23 16.124N 106 27.366W for you Google Earth fans.
We check in and got introduced to other people on the dock and had a nice lunch and then we started in changing the valves in the stern head. We'd ripped out the black water tank last week to fix the vent and now it was time to replace the valves that keep what is flushed out out. The walls are so close to the sides of the head that I had to rip out the entire head to change the valves. To say I stunk when we were done was an under statement. I left Tracy to clean up the "water" that had escaped the head during the rebuild and took off for the showers as fast as I could.
We had a nice dinner of left overs and settled in for a quiet evening. Well, sort of quiet. There is a bar upstairs above the marina office that was playing music till about midnight. At least it was nice music.
Today, Tracy's off with a girls group exploring the town while I tackled some more projects. I finally got the main halyard and reefing lines marked with whipping twine so we will know where to stop winching in when we engage the reef on the main sail. I washed down the deck and flushed the outboard with fresh water to get the salt water residue out again. It should make the motor last a good bit longer as long as I do it regularly.
We expect to be here for a week or so exploring the region and Mazatlan before we set off North up the coast.
We upped the anchor again yesterday morning after a somewhat rolly night behind Isla Cardones. Not bad, but we wanted to be a bit closer to town. So I put out a call when the local VHF net started at 0800 as to popular anchorages and was directed to the old harbor just inside the breakwater. Good holding ground and a dingy dock nearby so we can get into town. What they didn't tell us is that it's right beside the sewage processing plant and when the wind blows just right, you know what Mazatlan had to eat yesterday(YUCK). It's not all the time, but it can be a bit strong. We're now anchored at 23 10.933N 106 25.350W for you Google Earth fans.
Once we dropped the anchor and got squared away, I took off for below decks to install more fans. It's a whole lot more humid and that makes the heat that much more intense than it was on the Baja. Even before I got started, we had visitors from China Girl, one of the boats at anchor with us. Jay and Kelly had worked their way down the coast as we had a bit later than we had last year. I had heard the name of their boat before and asked them if they were the China Girl that had been the boat people on the Amigo Net(SSB net for cruiers)had been searching for last year. We had heard a call or bulletin on the Net that Kelly's father was worried about them as they hadn't reported in and were over due. Yep, it was them all right. Nice to hear the ending of the story as we had never heard if they had been found. They clued us in on the ins and outs of Mazatlan as they have been here for a few weeks.
After a nice lunch, I started in on the fan for the stern berth(where we sleep). It has lots of good port lights and a big hatch above us, but if there is no wind, it can get real ugly back there. I tapped onto a line I had put in for a 12 volt outlet and ran extra wires to the port lights on both the port and stern sides(making sure I fastened them down every 18 inches). We bought a fan made by Caframo specifically for the stern berth that has a built in timer on it that can be set to run for 2, 4 or 6 hours. This way, it will shut off during the night when it gets cooler. A good idea that actually works. I had to remove lots of things from assorted bins along the side to get the wires run where I needed them. Out came lots of books(our library) and assorted things we had put away for long term storage. One bin had a tenant--a long legged spider that had made web all over the inside of the cabinet. He won't be a problem anymore. I drilled holes, ran the wire, attached lugs(round rings) to each wire so they could be mounted to the bus bar, and labeled it along it's run so that I will know what wire is when I look at it sometime in the future. It's a god idea to label all your electrical lines when you run them for future reference just incase something goes wrong and you need to find that line. I got the first fan done about 1700. It takes a while to lay in wire and do it right. Lots of things have to be moved and panels removed. The second fan will have to wait till we access the effectiveness of the first one to see where it should be placed. I have already laid in the wire so just picking the place and a few screws are all that are left to do.
We had planned to have one of our rib eye steak we bought in La Paz for dinner, but the wind was so strong that there was no way to light the barbecue to cook them. So instead we had a classic from our stores--Tuna Helper Tettrazini. It's so old that is isn't even made any more. It may have been old, but it made a nice dinner.
Little birds are flying all around Zephyr and Blue hasn't seen them yet. It will be interesting once she does. She is the hunter aboard Zephyr. The boys don't seem to care. Snowshoe will tag along with Blue, but she does the hunting. He'll play with it once she catches it but that's about it.
Two cruise ships (Holland America's Costerdam and Norwegian Star cruised into port a few minutes ago so the town will be full of tourista. I think we will avoid the downtown section today. I'm sort of sorry I installed the fans yesterday instead of going into town. There were no cruise ships in yesterday to clog up the streets and restaurants. We've cut back on restaurant food recently. While in La Paz, we only ate out once and that was at City Club(like Costco) after our shopping. We just don't seem to be near a restaurant or we are working on Zephyr when meal time comes around.
I'm amazed at how much dew is all over Zephyr in the mornings here. We had some in La Paz, but not much and it was gone as soon as the Sun came up. It starts collecting on deck late in the afternoon and by Sun down, it has already laid down a layer. Over night, it really gets wet with droplets all over the place. Any thing left in the cockpit is even soaked at the moisture gets in and on everything that is outside.
Today(Tuesday) we are off for town to explore. We'll hit the busses and wend our way around the city(avoiding the tourista). We want to stop in and see the marinas up the coast to see what they have to offer and how much they charge. We don't expect to stay in one for a long period of time, but a few days of luxury(hot showers are a luxury out here)is always nice. Today , it is supposed to be in the 80's so nice and warm.
I'll let you know how the exploring goes in our next post.