04/30/2010, Guaymas, Mexico
Yesterday was a day of exploration. We took an early morning bus to San Carlos to check out the local yards to see which would be best for hauling out Zephyr in June.
We started at Marina Seca in San Carlos. These are yards that are all over Mexico and I think controlled by the Mexican government or at least set up by them, much like the Marina Fonatur's that are all over the Sea of Cortez. This yard is quite a ways from the water and requires a travel down some city streets to get your boat to the yard. In San Carlos, they use a hydraulic trailer that has arms on it to lift the boat and put in on the trailer. Then it is trucked across the road and deposited on the yard. The rest of the yards we visited all use a lift like all the rest in the USA. They have straps that hang under the lift and they cradle the hull as it gets lifted. At Marina Seca, they have two yards--one for work and one for storage. You can have you boat put in the "work" yard so that you can do things on your boat. In the "storage" yard, you are not allowed to work on your boat. In order to make it a rotating "work" yard, the longer you stay, the more they charge you per day. Instead of getting cheaper, it gets more expensive. All of the yards we visited are dirt yards, not a piece of concrete anywhere. The Marina Seca yard in San Carlos even has what are called "hurricane polls". These are large steel polls driven into the ground that you boat is hook onto to keep it from falling over if a hurricane should hit. Last year, San Carlos got over 25 inches of rain in one day and the only boats that fell over were the ones attached to the "hurricane polls". They might be good in a wind, but they aren't worth a darn in lots of rainfall.
After our conversation with the nice folks at Marina Seca in San Carlos, we made reservations for a haul out on June 12. We can move it up or delay it as necessary, but we had to at least get our name on the list for a haul out. The alternative is to leave Zephyr in the water all Summer. Many boats do exactly that. There is some work we need to do upon our return in October and we really wanted zephyr out of the water and available for the jobs we have planned.
We walked down to Marina san Carlos and toured their place running into Mike from Tazmo. We'd met him the day before in the "cruiser's lounge at Marina Singlar in Guaymas. A real nice guy that has been down here for several years and knows the area well. After a nice lunch in the local cafe, he offered to take us around San Carlos and Guaymas and show us the sights. For the next several hours we had a guided tour of the entire area. All the yards, both in San Carlos as well as Guaymas. Plus just about every kind of store you could imagine from hardware to restaurants to grocery stores. We got back to Zephy well after 1800 exhausted from a day of going everywhere.
After visiting all the yards, we still feel that the Marina Seca in san Carlos is the best yard for Zephyr. She can be taken out without having to dismantle the rigging and that is an important feature. The Marina Seca yard in Guaymas only has a typical lift and the yard is on a slant(also dirt) so Zephyr wouldn't sit level.
Chris and Rani on Ladybug 2 showed up early in the day and took a slip down the dock. We'd met them in Mazatlan and they had gone back to the Baja for a few days until crossing again to Guaymas so they can have their boat hauled in a few days. They are getting pulled out at the Marina Seca yard in Guaymas. When we visited that yard earlier, we saw Angus and Rolandes boat, Periclees. We'd been with them up the coast from Mazatlan but parted at Topolobampo a week or so ago. They were in a hurry to get home. Luckily we have no real reason to rush other than to beat the heat of the Sea of Cortez during the Summer.
One thing I left off in my post about Punta Lobos, was all the shells we saw there. There were tens of thousands of cone shells littering the beach in all sizes and colors. We've never seen so many of them at any beac we have visited so far in our journey. It was amazing to see so many in one location.
We were lucky enough to have the "Miss Guaymas" pageant at our marina last night. It started just after 2000 and went till close to midnight. Tons of people and 8 contestants vying for the title to continue on to the Miss Sonora on a few weeks. The organizers spent all day Wednesday setting up the stage and lights with flogs flying all over the place. Quite the show.
I'm sitting in the laundry room as I type this getting all the clothes clean. It's nice to have "big" washers to get the job done. Civilization does have it's perks I guess.
I have to go up the mast again. When we were in Bahia Santa Barbara down the coast, we had a frigate bird perched on the top of the mast. You could clearly see him in the light of the anchor light. Since that night, we haven't been able to see the anchor light at all. On the night before we left Punta Lobos, we left Puff in the water and I motored around Zephyr after sunset. No light!!! It still works in the "strobe"(flashing light) mode as well as the "navigation light" mode(red, green and while lights), but not in the "anchor light" mode. Not sure what has gone wrong unless the photo cell that turns it on at sunset and off at sunrise has malfunctioned. This will be our fourth Orca Green light to have failed since we installed the first one in September of 2008. To their credit, Orca Green has replace every one that has gone wrong. I guess we will see what is happening when I get up there. Then the emails will start to get a replacement.
That's it for now. The dryers have just stopped.
04/29/2010, Guaymas, Mexico
We made it to Guaymas yesterday afternoon after a truly uneventful motor from Punta Lobos. There was no wind at all so on came the engine and off we went. We saw a few bobbing bottles which might mean trash or it might mean a net or it might mean a lobster pot on a string. You never really know until you sit them so you try to avoid them if at all possible.
We'd gone ashore on Tuesday to explore the sand dunes(miles of them) and take a nice walk. What we found was a surprise. We stumbled onto some towns dump!!! The entire end of Punta Lobos is a landfill with trash everywhere. Most buried but lots exposed to fly around in the wind. As we brought Puff ashore(glad we had our Danard wheels on), we saw some sand bags just above the high water mark. Thinking they were to stop erosion from storms, we crested the bluff and saw tons of trash. Tire marks everywhere as heavy machines buried it, or tried to. The entire end of the beach was littered. As we hiked farther East, it was much cleaner. I know towns have to get rid of their trash, but by the ocean where it can wash away seems a bit a a bad place to put it.
A word of caution, the electronic charts for this area(actually most of the Sea of Cortez) are WAY OFF. We were no where near where we were charted as being. As much as 3 miles off. So if you are coming down here and planning on just using electronic charts(Nobeltec, Garmin, etc,) don't put your total trust in them. You could easily go aground and loose your boat. We routinely are going over dry land as we cruise along the coastline. At least, that is what our chart plotters tell us. Be careful out here. It's not the good old USA as far as charts go.
As we had 50 miles to go, we took off at first light--0615 and headed out as the Sun began to rise in the East. Not another boat in sight. All we had seen for the past week or so was pangas and their fishermen(most tried to sell us fish or lobster or blue jelly fish). No cruisers---either power or sail. The wind was forecast from the Northwest or North but there ended up being none, at least until we enter Guaymas harbor. Then, of course, it piped up to the 15 knot range and was nice and steady.
We radioed the Marina Singlar(Mexico's national marina) to see if they had any space. With everyone being at Loreto Fest, we felt good about there being room. Yep, no problem. We were even given a space with starboard tie up which Zephyr prefers. At least we were told it was a starboard tie up. It was actually a port tie up. The girl on in the office didn't know Port for Starboard(left from right). Tracy had to frantically change the line and fender arrangement as we neared the dock. I'm sure the guys waiting for us thought we were crazy. As Guaymas harbor is quite shallow--depth sounder kept hitting zero, she had to act fast or we might run aground. In we came and with the two mens assistance, we got all tied in. When I checked in at the office, I taught the girl there the difference between Port and Starboard. A very nice girl but she had never been taught the difference. Now she knows. I even drew it on her marina map for her so she will not forget it.
We settled in and got cleaned up on board, taking out the trash we had accumulated over the last few weeks and got equipment cover and stowed.
It's been two years today since we moved on board Zephyr in Newport, Oregon and boy has it been an education. Some times it feels like a lot more than two years as we have done so much and gone so far in that time. Counting all the places we have gone, it's well over 7,000 miles. Most of the first year was spent fixing, replacing or remodeling Zephyr as she entered her mid life crisis period and was ready for some intense changes. By far, the first year was the hardest. Since then, it's been much easier as we learn more each day, but at least we are traveling more and seeing lots of sights and meeting lots of wonderful people as we cruise along.
Now that we are here, it's time to look for a place to keep Zephyr over the Summer months when it's hurricane season in the Sea of Cortez. The insurance company really appreciates us keeping her safe. We'll be talking to other cruisers and seeing what is available. We need a lift that can take Zephyr out with out having to take off her back stay as the SSB antenna is now clipped on to it and we would hate to have to remove it. I expect we should have her out by early June. There is still more to see on this side and we want to explore as much as we can over the next weeks until pull out. Plus, I have to go back to Colorado and get one of our cars so we can all go home for a while. We have lots of stuff that needs to be cleaned out of the house. We were such pack rats in our pervious life. Not so much any more.
I expect I will be able to up load some pictures while I am here so stay tuned. I have lots to up load.
04/27/2010, Punta Lobo, Mexico
We're now in Punta Lobo, 64 miles farther up the coast. The last two days had been spent doing some chores while we waited for the right forecast of Southwest winds. We've now covered 4122 miles since we left Port Townsend in April of 2009.
We did the laundry on Saturday as it had been quite a while since we last saw a laundromat. Tracy pulled out the "Wonder Wash", our washing "machine". It's more like a short stubby bottle with a screw on lid that sits in a frame so it can be turned over and over again. It's the first time we have really "used" it for all the wash. We bought a "wringer"at Downwind Marine in San Diego before we left there and we attach it to the folding ladder(laid on its side) we use to get on and off Zephyr when we are at a marina. Out came the soap and spot remover and the tea kettle to heat the water and off we went for several hours spinning the Wonder Wash. Each load is not much bigger than maybe 7 shirts as the "washer" is not the biggest thing. Put in the clothes, add soap and hot water and close the top. Grab the handle on the side and start spinning. Two minutes to a load for the "wash". Amazingly, when you open the "washer", pressure gets released. The ads for the unit say it's caused by using hot water and is supposed to get the clothes cleaner. Tracy washed and I took the clothes out and put them through the wringer and hung them out to dry. I'd strung our "jack line"(long nylon strap that goes from the bow to the stern)to use as our clothes line. Out came the clothes pins(every boat must carry clothes pins). We had laundry from the bow to the stern by the time we were done. We had to wait on the socks till line became available. And you guys think cruising is all fun and games!!
Tracy watched the winds over the last several days and compared them to the forecast. Every forecast had them slowly shift from the North to Northwest through out the day. We'd found that they tended to shift from the West to the Southwest as the day progressed dying out as the Sun set. That type of wind would be perfect for the trip North. I'd gotten suckered by the forecast so we had spent one extra day due to the continued forecasts of North to Northwest winds. With Tracys observations, we decided to take off Monday (yesterday) and get out of Punta Rosa--also known as Bahia Santa Barbara.
Sunday afternoon, two fishermen in the their panga had stopped by on their way back to shore to see if we wanted to trade for some fish. They asked(more like sign language) if we had any cigarettes.. That's one thing we don't carry. We did offer them two cokes and that was just fine. For the two cokes, we got three nice Sierras just like we caught a few days earlier. Two smaller and one bigger fish. We've been visited by several pangas during our stay in Santa Barbara but we think more of a curiosity than as a "customer". One even took pictures of us with his cell phone and another brought his kids out to see us as they went around Zephyr. I guess Bahia Santa Barbara doesn't get to many visitors. For a wide space in the coast line, it's not a bad place to spend a day or so. If the winds had been less, I'm sure we would have gone ashore to walk the beach. Once we had the fish, I proceeded below and started the butchery. Out came the cutting board and our filleting knife(just recently sharpened) and in I went. I cut here and there and managed to get some nice looking fillets of fish out of them. Tracy went at them later and cleaned them up. We've since had them in fish tacos and another meal served with homemade tartar sauce(not available in Mexico). All in all, we got three big meals out of the fish. It was nice to have a fisherman come up and want to do a trade.
Anyway, after Tracy's wind observations, we upped the anchor yesterday at Sun up and took off. This side of the Sea of Cortez is loaded with fishing nets as there are lots of fishermen along this side of the coast. Some use flags to show where they have put out their nets and some just put out pop bottle(or any kind of bottle) to show where they are. As we headed out, I stood at the bow and watched carefully for these nets. Lots of boats get caught in them and they can really mess up your prop and shaft, not to mention your transmission. We by passed one and made our way out going between two other nets. Unfortunately, we had to do this under motor as we needed the maneuverability to go around or pass them. We ended up motoring almost 12 miles before we felt clear enough to continue. We'd had to start out heading South to avoid the nets that had been placed in the bay with us.
Once clear, up went the sails and off we went. The winds were out of the West and that allowed us to hit a narrow slot of air to make progress Northwest. As we moved along, we had to keep a good watch for pangas and their nets all along the coast. We headed out a bit more, but still found nets. Pangas came at us at high speed to make sure we stayed away from their nets. We finally ran over one but it never snagged on Zephyrs hull. The bottles are attached to lines to allow the nets to hang deeper in the water to catch more fish. By late in the afternoon, the winds started to die and we started the engine to do some engine assisted sailing to try and make better time. Tracy had called the winds right as they slowly shifted a bit more from the Southwest as the day progressed. On we went as the Sun slowly dropped below the horizon for a beautiful sunset. Punta Lobo is a wide spot along the coast with no cove involved, just a small hook in the coast to anchor behind. We arrived just after 2100 with the radar and chart plotter running to show us our location. We've found our chart plotter to be as much a 2 miles off so we proceeded carefully mainly using the depth sounder and visual as well as the radar to "see" where we were. Once we hit 25 feet, we dropped the anchor. We were a way from shore, but we'd rather be a bit farther out than too close in case a bit wind comes up. We set the anchor drift alarm incase we drag our anchor. We routinely set it for about 150 feet range of movement to give the anchor some leeway.
As we progressed North, Tracy made a great meal with the last of the Sierra--lightly batter coated and fried with the home made tartar sauce to go with them. Along with some fruit cocktail, we had a nice dinner in the cockpit as we moved Northwest along the coast.
This morning, we awoke to a deck covered in water like it had rained(which it hadn't). There is so much dew along this side of the Sea of Cortez that your entire boat get soaked each night. We had anchored a good way from shore and upped the anchor and moved a bit farther in toward shore. We're now anchored(27 16.675N 110 28.216W) in about 15 feet with lots of chain out to keep us set. Today, we will launch Puff and go ashore to explore. I don't think too many boats stop here as they go North or South as the one of the panga that passed us today took our picture as they passed. Most cruisers just head out from Guaymas and go straight South or from Topolobampo straight North. We prefer to stop if possible and explore to see what the mainland side has to offer. Some times the wind stops us as it did in Bahia Santa Barbara, today it is relatively calm so we will head in. I'll let you know what we find.
04/22/2010, Bahia Santa Barbara
We're still in Bahia Santa Barbara trapped by North winds. It blew for most of yesterday from the North to the West making it down right tough to try and make it anywhere North of here unless we motor and we really don't like doing that. So here we sit and here we wait. The latest forecast is for the winds to change in a few days or so, but who knows, it's changed before. That's how we got trapped here. The forecasts had all been for winds from the Southwest for the foreseeable future and it changed in the blink of an eye.
Meanwhile, it's a bit cool here with us actually switching to long pants and socks until it gets a bit warmer in the afternoon. The highs are barely getting into the 70's and for here, that's down right cold. It should be in the mid 80's by now. The cards come out for playing and books get read and videos get watched and we wait. We are under a sort of "boat arrest" if you will all controlled by Mother Nature in her infinite wisdom. It's not like we are on a tight schedule. We had just planned to get to Guaymas and San Carlos to find a good boat yard to hold Zephyr so some work can get done and she can be stored till hurricane season is past. We want to make sure the insurance company stays happy with us. We're covered for just about everything, but hurricanes are not in the policy.
So stay tuned for more updates. Meanwhile, I have a deck to wash as boobies camped out on the top of the mast and decorated our deck last night. These birds are fearless. I walked up to one to shoo him(or her) off and he(or her) just stood there like I didn't exist. IT didn't move until I reached out to pet it. He(or she) them flapped its wings hitting my arm and took off squawking all he way. We get circled regularly and have been found to be a good perch to keep their feet dry.
On thing I forgot to tell you about was our leaving Topolobampo a few days ago. As we beat our way out of the bay and out toward the farthest West buoy, we got nailed by a big wave. Up went Zephyrs bow and down she went into the big ditch between the waves burying her bow in the next wave. We got our decks cleaned by all the water we took over the bow. It filled the scuppers(side decks) with lots of water and covered the decks almost back to the cockpit before draining off. We were smart enough to have closed and battened down all the hatches ad port lights before we left the anchorage so at least all the water stayed out of the boat. The waves hadn't looked anywhere big enough to do what they did. It pays to be prepared before setting out.
We also caught a Sierra as we headed North. We put out our drag line and just sailed along waiting. About 30 minutes later, I looked back and there was something trailing our boat. He was about 28 inches long with beautiful gold marks on his side. We pulled in the line and hoisted him aboard. As Zephyr just kept moving along under "James" (our Hydrovane) control, We sat on the stern and slowly carved him up with a filleting knife. I did better this time and got several nice(yet small) fillets out of him. Not enough for a meal by any chance, but Shadow seemed to like them. So we keep on trying. Apparently, Sierras are one of the most common fishes in the region. We're still waiting for our first Mahi Mahi. All in good time.
More to come as the wind blows--still from the North darn it.
04/22/2010, Bahia Santa Barbara
It's been a fast last few days and I'm sorry I haven't kept you up to date as to what has been happening. To keep it short, we are on the move again.
We left Marina Palmira in Topolobampo back on the 17th and headed out for a short 5 mile trip to Bahia de Obuira, a BIG bay right beside Topolobampo. A nice place to drop the hook(25 35.368N 109 02.77W) and settle in. With Tracy back from Copper Canyon, it was time to move on. We'd been told of Obuira by Jay and Benita off Moon Angel. They had stayed there a while ago and used it as a base for side trips in their dingy. We took off with Angus and Rolande off Periclees and spent two days around the bay looking at islands and "jungle". The cruise books say that Obuira is surrounded by "jungle". Sorry, it's more like tons of scrub brush, cacti, and small bushes full of thorns. I know because I got to pull cactus thorns out of my arm when I miss stepped during a hike with Angus off Periclees. We'd gone ashore with plans to hike one of the ridges on the hills that surround the bay but it proved to steep and too dense with brush to allow us to make that hike. So we set out instead for a different hillside to hike. Tracy and I took two dingy rides back to town(a mile or so to the North)and had lunch at the wonderful taco stand we found the first day we got to Topolobampo along the Malecon(water front district). The second trip was to drop off trash and try to have dinner there, but they had run out of flour tortillas. We stayed there till the 19th when we both(Periclees and Zephyr) moved to a small spot near(25 32.872N 109 06.388W) what they call "Dolphin Cove". A small cove where dolphins let you come up beside them as they swim along. We tried to get over to the cove, but it proved to shallow to allow Puff to get even close. We kept running aground with Dragon as we putt putted along. We dingied to the beach during the afternoon and were amazed at how much trash there was. This was so different from other beaches we have visited in the Baja. It was really sad to see so much trash was scattered along the sand. I'm sure it is just things that have washed up during the tidal shifts during the day from Topolobampo, but boy, it was a filthy beach that had showed lots of promise when viewed from our deck. Each evening, we had a get together with Angus and Rolande for dinner and games either on Zephyr or on their boat.
On the 20th, Angus and Rolande took off for Guaymas to begin getting ready for their pull out and Summer storage. Actually, they don't intend to return to Periclees till next February when they will take off again. We may get lucky and see them again when we get to Guaymas in a few days. A great couple--lots of fun.
We headed over to spend one last day on a place referred to as "The Hook"(25 34.529N 109 09.729W). Just as you enter Topolobampo Channel, if you turn left, you pass a long spit of beach that hides the "Hook". It's a small cove made really for catamarans that draw less depth than boats like Zephyr. We stayed right outside the cove and had a nice time walking the beach. This beach, while it had some trash, was no where near as bad as the last one. Tons of birds and a herd of burros meandered along the shoreline braying as they went. We're used to the call of birds, but the braying of the burros added a different feel to this beach.
We consulted several weather sites--Buoy Weather, Don Anderson on the Southbound Cruiser net, as well as GRIB weather files(shows how the winds will be in a certain map area) and decided that Wednesday was the perfect day to head out as all the forecasts said the winds would be coming from the Southwest or South for the next four days. So we upped the anchor and headed out bright and early on Wednesday morning headed for Bahia Santa Barbara. The winds were from the Southwest as forecast at 10 to 15 knots, so all sails went up or out and off we went at 5 to 6 knots. We were moving right along. Bahia Santa Barbara is a nice 90+ miles North of Topolobampo so we knew it would be a "short" hop for us. An easy day trip. About 1900, I turned on the Southbound Net on our SSB (short wave radio) to listen to Don Anderson again for an update of his forecast. Suddenly, the forecast that had been perfect the day before was going down the tube fast. Now, a "Norther"(a big blow with winds from the North) was forecast for early Thursday morning and at least through Friday. I called in for clarification and got the same forecast again. You can radio in for a specific area forecast if you need one. It's one of the nice things about nets on the SSB radio. The winds had been so great that we had changed plans early in the afternoon to head farther North toward Punta Lobos about another 64 miles farther up the coast from Bahia Santa Barbara. With the winds being so good, we didn't want to waste them by stopping so soon if we could make it farther in one tack. Plans got changed with this new forecast and we decided to shift back for Bahia Santa Barbara. It was closer(now 35 miles) and more protected from a North blow. With winds forecast to be in the mid 20 knot range, we wanted some protection from the wind as well as the waves and the swells that would follow the wind. At 1930, as the Sun was setting, we changed course and took off again for Bahia Santa Barbara.
By 0330, we were about 8 miles out from our destination when Tracy saw two red lights on the water a short distance ahead of us with bright lights on the horizon. We've had several friends run over fishing nets that are set adrift in the water from panga fishermen along the coast. She rightly figured out that the red lights showed the ends of the nets. Instead of blindly wandering in and possibly getting caught in the nets(wrapping them around the prop--bad), we changed course and reversed ourselves. It was now 0400. We dropped the sails as the winds had started getting fickle and started the engine. Instead of heading North, we slowly headed South at about 1.5 to 2.5 knots to await the sunrise. The moon had long since set and it was now quite dark out there. As always, better safe than sorry. At 0600, I reversed our course and headed back North. We were now about 12 miles South of Bahia Santa Barbara with the Sun getting ready to rise in the East. I crashed for about an hour. Well, not really as the swells had started to turn and smash into us on the port side over and over. The winds had shifted during the early morning and were now coming from the Northwest as forecast. We plowed through the waves getting knocked around quite a bit. Down below got a bit messy as things that had been stowed came loose in the turmoil. Snowshoe and Blue stayed in the cockpit with us while Shadow stayed in the galley lying on the floor. He stays there during most of our trips now. About 0900, we pulled into Bahia Santa Barbara, just North of Punta Rosa in 25 knots of wind and dropped the hook in 25 feet of water. We're now safe and sound at 26 41.005N 109 39.498W. We stowed all the gear on deck and settled in for the blow having a nice breakfast in the cockpit. We'd put up one of the sides of the cockpit cover earlier so we were somewhat sheltered from the wind as we sat there. After breakfast, we both headed for the stern berth to catch up on some of the sleep we missed the night before. As I climbed into bed, a panga full of fishermen passed our stern. I went on deck and waved as they passed. I'll be checking the forecast later today to see how long we may be here. I expect we will be staying till at least Saturday and maybe Sunday as once the Sea of Cortez gets stirred up, it takes a few days for the waves to settle back down. I'll keep you up dated as to what our schedule will be.
More to come.
04/17/2010, Marina Palmira, Topolobampo
We expect to head out today with Rolande and Angus from Periclees to find an anchorage around the corner farther in the big bay beside Topolobampo. We got a waypoint from Benita and Jay off Moon Angel where they spent a week a short while ago. Jay and Benita are friends we met way back in Brownsville, WA in February of 2008. We've stayed in touch ever since.
Tracy got back from Copper Canyon about 0030 on Friday morning. I'd stayed up and met the three of them at the gate after the taxi dropped them off. All three had had a wonderful time. She spent yesterday resting up and playing the tourist again as we took one last trip to Los Mochis to see what else the town had in it's city markets. I don't think they have any big box stores. at least we didn't see any. We tagged along with Rolande and Angus and had a great time.
So we set off today for a few days at anchor before we head farther North progressing toward SanCarlos/Guaymas for our haulout for the Summer. I'll let you know how the rest of the trip goes. I'm getting eaten by bugs as I sit here typing this post and these suckers have sharp teeth. Oh, Topolobampo's mascot should be the rooster. I've never heard so many in the morning--or noon --or night for that matter. Sunrise is a state of mind for these guys.