It's now Tuesday and the past few days have flown by. As I said in my last post, Saturday we got settled in and early Sunday, Periclees with Angus and Rolande showed up. Let the party begin!!
We invited everyone on the dock to a pot luck dinner on Sunday evening with drinks starting at 1700 with dinner to follow. With the Sun now setting after 1900, it makes the evenings much better for entertaining. We were joined by Brad and Lisa as well as their two kids(Zack and Kat) off the catamaran farther down the dock. Sharon and Dick off Last Resort(next to us) begged off as Dick has a cold. It was a great get together with everyone having a wonderful time swapping stories into the evening. Brad and Lisa had had problems getting on the internet. They had been given the wrong password to log on. Once I clued them in(hey, it free from the marina) their daughter(14) took off for below, grabbed their big antenna and got logged on. She wanted to do some surfing and email friends. A great couple with nice kids. All the kids we run into out here are some of the nicest kids we have ever met. Well rounded and very intelligent for their ages. The party went well into the evening.
Yesterday, Angus, Rolande, Tracy and myself joined Jesus(Alberto's assistant) for a tour of Topolobampo in his car. We went all over town seeing the new power plant(runs on Oil and makes a lot of the power for Sinaloa). Jesus took us to the "bat cave" to see the bats. They must have been all asleep as we didn't see a one. Around the town to visit the Malicon(water front shopping and tourist district) and out to Malviri Beach for lunch at one of his friends restaurant. We returned to the marina with some leftovers, said goodbye to Jesus and took off for the bus stop around the corner. We were off for Los Mochis, the next "big" town inland.
We wanted to see the town, visit the bank(none in Topolobampo) and get train tickets for "Copper Canyon". It was time to explore Mexico's mainland. Tracy and I had made the decision that one of us would go and the other would stay aboard Zephyr and take care of the kids. With Shadow still needing repeated feedings about every 5 to 6 hours, we felt there was no way we could both leave at the same time. So we decided that Tracy would go first and I would go when we return to Topolobampo later in the year. She would be chaperoned by Angus and Rolande off Periclees. So off we went for the 30 minute trip with the other locals(darn few tourists here) for Los Mochis. At a cost of 18 pesos each--about $1.50, we rode the 21 kilometer trip inland. We haven't seen another "gringo"(other than the few folks around the marina)anywhere in town. This place is off the beaten path and isn't visited often. Few cruisers know about Marina Palmira and their great deals, but word will get out over time.
Once into Los Mochis, we took a short taxi ride to the train station for tickets. There are two different "classes" of trains down here. First Class leaves every day at 0600 for the all day trip up the mountain and runs about 980 pesos. You get slightly wider seats and a food car for things to eat. The "Second Class" train leaves on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday at 0700 and takes a bit longer to get up there as they stop along the route to take on and let off locals. It also costs about HALF as much as the "First Class" train. Now you don't have a meal car, but there is a food cart that serves sandwiches and snacks along the way. Brad and Lisa and the kids had gone on the "Second Class" train for their trip and saw no reason to shell out for the "better" train. That's a good $40.00 that can be put to better use. Apparently, it's quite the tourist place up there with several hotels and "bed and breakfasts" to stay in. Angus took his computer so I expect to get an email from Tracy sometime during their trip. I'm not sure when they will return. I expect that Tracy will be coming back first as Angus and Rolande expect to spend a good four days up there. The return train arrives in Los Mochis about 2330 so heaven only knows when I'll see Tracy. Getting back to Los Mochis that late, it might not be the easiest thing to get a taxi back to Topolobampo. TIme will tell.
Meanwhile, as I sit typing this, I have a big slab(1 kilo-2.2 pounds) of beef cooking away in the pressure cooker. We bought it while in Los Mochis at one of their meat stalls that we found during our tour. I added red wine, onion, garlic and of course some jalapenos and peppers to add some zip. It just got done with it's 45 minute "cook". I turned off the heat and the pressure is now getting released so we'll see in a while how it turned out. With this bunch of meat, I cam make my own tacos and burritos while Tracy is gone. Hopefully the jalapenos and peppers I added won't be to hot as they came in a can as "Chiles Jalapenos en Escabeche" or Jalaopenos in a brine. I added a small can of Rajas Rojas de Chiles Jalapenos en Escabeche, or assorted peppers in a brine(I think). Once I get to crack the lid, I guess I will find out if the meat is edible.
Last night, we had a blind wine tasting on Zephyr. We had discussed it the previous evening during the pot luck. In our previous life, Tracy and I had bought some very expensive wines(wine snobs that we were) and had brought them along with us on our cruise. There was no reason to leave them back in Colorado. We had been discussing "Two Buck Chuck" wine(really cheap wine) available all over the West coast at Trader Joe's. Brad and Lisa had never heard of it. That's when the idea came about to put a bottle of "Two Buck Chuck" up against one of our "better wines". Sadly, Brad, Lisa and the kids had decided to take off for the Baja on Monday morning so they missed the "tasting". I did give them a bottle of "Two Buck Chuck"--Charles Shaw Wine to take with them for later enjoyment.
Tracy set it up with separate glasses for each wine. So Angus and Rolande joined us in the our cockpit for the tasting. Out came the Charles Shaw, a Merlot and a glass of Chateau Cantenac Brown Margaux from 2000 that we had lovingly store away. Tracy and I had taken several classes(like I said-wine snobs) on proper wine tasting so we gave quick lessons and we tasted each wine. I had no difficulty tasting the difference as the Merlot was a lot harder wine than the Margaux. Angus got it right as to what was the Margaux. Rolande picked the Charles Shaw as the expensive wine.
As cruisers, we have come to appreciate what ever bottle of wine we have in front of us. It no longer matters what it costs(well it does now). It matters that we have something to enjoy with friends and loved ones as we travel. I could have bought a LOT of Charles Shaw for what I paid for the Cantenac Brown, but that was in a previous life. We have come to appreciate many types and inexpensive wines during the past two years aboard and expect that we will continue to do so. The sad part is that the cheapest wines we have found were back in the good old USA. We wish we had brought more.
The meat just got done. I tried a small piece. While a bit chewy, it is full of nice flavor and will be just fine on tortillas over the next few days.
Well, that's about it for now. More to come as the day progresses.
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.