Boy how time flies. It's been quite a while since I updated the blog and lots of water has gone under our keel since then.
We arrived in La Paz on December 20th and set about numerous repairs and upgrade that are too numerous to list here. We made a list as we headed South from San Carlos so that we(or I) wouldn't forget any of them. We were up to 33 by the time we pulled into the dock and got Zephyr into a "dock" mode from a "transit" mode. We didn't have to be so paranoid about leaving latches on doors and drawers off. When in transit, every door and drawer has to be locked down so it can't possibly open a spill its contents on the floor. Dock mode--not so much. We did a bit of shopping to refill the larder of fresh veggies and meat and that was about it. The biggest thing we got done was the forward head. She's a thing of beauty now. You takes your thrills where you can folks. A broken head(toilet) is something you dread but is a fact of life. When we get to Puerto Vallarta at the end of the week, the stern head is next for an overhaul.
Anyway, Christmas was spent with a pot luck dinner on the dock with 70 other cruisers and their families that flew in for the holiday. We sat with two other couples--George and Celeste off Neried and Paul and Karen off Gigi. George and Celeste journeyed South with us from Port Townsend last year and got caught in a bit of government red tape before they could cross the border. Because of that, they cam South almost a year after we left San Diego. Paul and Karen, we met at San Juanico after our crossing from San Carlos. They had been in San Carlos for 7 months waiting for parts to come from the US before they could take off. They had left before us and spent time North in Bahia Concepcion before coming South. George and Celeste are staying in La Paz for the next few months and Paul and Karen left the same day we did except they are headed for Mazatlan before coming down the mainland coast.
We left last Monday, December 27th for Ensenada de los Muertos. The same place we had been just over a year ago as we headed North into the Sea of Cortez. Now we were headed South and out of it. As the seas were flat with no wind, we were forced to motor most of the way. About 5 miles out, we finally got a bit of wind and up and out went the sails. If you got em, use em. One thing we did find was that our water pump has developed a nice leak. Of course, only when its running and only at normal running speed. At Idle, it's just fine. We could have returned to La Paz, but we pushed on anyway. We just have to pump out the bilge on regular intervals, that's all. We got in there(23 59.215N 109 49.620W) late in the afternoon after covering 55 miles and planned on being out of there the next morning and that is just what we did.
Tuesday, we took off for Bahia Los Frailes(23 22.863N 109 25.286W), where we had gotten stuck for the better part of a week last year when a Norther(winds in excess of 30 knot) blew through and there was no way to make any kind of progress North. We spent the time with 12 other boats before we broke free. Again, some motoring and some sailing before we got in there again, late in the afternoon. As we ere pulling in, a pair of whales started playing and breeching about 70 yards off our port side, having a great time playing around. We on the other hand, not so much as one of the last thing you want to do is get up close and personal with a big big whale. They eventually passed us(with a fisherman and a couple of tourists in tow taking lots of pictures. Wednesday, we were set to make the crossing to Isla Isabela, about 215 miles to the Southeast.
We upped the anchor and took off early in the morning a we had lots of miles to go. As luck would have it, the winds, and not much of those, lasted about 5 miles. On came the engine and off we went with the ever present rumble of the "iron jenny" under our feet. No wind that day and no wind the second. We had to time our arrival as there are reefs around the island and we wanted a clear view of everything so there would be no problems. This made us journey at a wopping 4 knots all the way over!!!! I can walk faster than that but that is what it took to get us in about 0900, the morning of the third day. We passed 8 or 9 pangas(fishing boats) as we came in and saw several lined of nets that we really wanted to avoid as they can play havoc with your prop if it gets in there. We pulled in and "dropped the anchor(21 50.541N 105 52.923W) just after 0900. After not getting much sleep for the last 48 hours, we both opted for naps through most of the day until we felt rested. We spent most of the afternoon "vegging" and getting ready to head for the mainland. We'd thought of going ashore at Isla Isabela is a large nature refuge for birds. The anchorage spot we ended up in is primarily rock and just about no sand so there was no real way to make sure the anchor was "set". With it being so rocky, the place has a reputation of swallowing anchors--it lets them go down but won't let you bring them back ups as they get wedged in the crevasses in the rocks. We attached a "trip" line to the anchor so that it resist getting pulled up, I could pull the "trip" line and yank it free. A "trip" line is just a line attached to the opposite end of the anchor so it pulls the thing free should it get stuck with the point in a rock or in a coral bed. We got lucky and had no problems. Well, ok one. The trip line I played out from the bow as the anchor went down was 50 feet long and we were only in 25 feet of water. As the line floated, it slowly wrapped itself around the keel and rudder forcing me to have to jump in the water to release it. While there, I checked the zinc at the tend of the prop--looks great. I tightened the line and dove down on the anchor while there and saw it had wedged itself into a nice fissure in the rocks. As long as the wind remained from the North we were fine. Because of this, we decided to not leave Zephyr and explore the nature preserve. Zephyr is more important than that.
We upped the anchor again yesterday(January 1) and took off for Matachen. A sleepy little bay just outside the town of San Blas on the mainland. Oh, by the way, we are back in the tropics after crossing the Tropic of Cancer on the way South. It's not any warmer but we have got to be getting down into warm water eventually. We got lucky and had wind. Yes, that's right, wind and from a usable direction. We hoisted and rolled out the sails and took off at a wopping 4 to 5 knots!!!! About as fast as our motor had taken us but this was "free" movement. No diesel involved. With the mainsail up and the jib and genoa out, we were off. We plied out way Southeast along a course that would take us where we wanted to go. As the wind slowly moved around toward the North, we changed our sails position as the day passed. Another sailboat passed us early in the afternoon. We think they had their motor going as well as their sails up, but couldn't prove it(darn cheaters). We decided to take drastic measures as our speed was such that we wouldn't get to Matachen till about 2000. Much too late for a safe entry into a strange and unknown harbor. Down came the sails and out came the spinnaker. The biggest sail we have. With a big "womp", she popped open as the "sock" we store her in was raised. We were off!!! Our speed took off as did Zephyr. With the winds from behind us now, we were flying along at over 8 knots. Unfortunately, not quite in the right direction, but we changed that by shifting the sail from the starboard(right)side to the port(left) side of the boat. We stayed in the 7 to 8 knot range as the winds increase to 20+ knots. Now, this sail is not really meant for winds much higher than that though we have foolishly had it up in winds as high as 35 knots(WOW)and looked like crazy people as we were doing it. So after about 18 miles, we, we hauled it down again and pulled back up the mainsail and let out about 60 percent of the genoa and again, we were off to the races. Our speed staying in the mid 7 knot range we were now set to pull in about 1630 and that is exactly what we did. With Tracy behind the wheel and me out as "deck monkey", we had a great day on the water using just about every sail we have on board. Most several times.
We pulled in along 8 other boats and checked in with the Port Captain and got settled in for the night. We had heard of a tour of the La Tovara river, we made plans to do it today. We left Zephyr early(0730) and headed in so we could beach Puff and walk to the embarkation point for the river tour. As there were only the two of us(the parking lot as deserted) we had to pay a bit more as the boats normally hold 12 people but it was worth it. We had our own guided tour stopping along the way to point out birds, snakes and lots of crocodiles. We visited a refuge for the crocs at the far end of the river and then journeyed back to a natural spring that is protected from the crocs by a big steel fence. By the time we got there, there were lots of people swimming and having a great time. As we had not brought out suits, we just did a bit of shopping and headed back to our boat and back to civilization. It was one on the most enjoyable side trips we have made since we took off 20 months ago for Alaska. We have unfortunately been side tracked by jobs on Zephyr just about every time we pull into a port. With a good bit of time we have planned in Puerto Vallarta, we will have lots of time for more adventures. Once back from our trip up river, we returned to the beach where we had stashed Puff and had a great lunch of beer, coke and shrimp and fresh caught fish. You can even see your dinner get filleted after you place your order. Not that's fresh! Once we finished lunch we hike back to the small village we had walked though earlier and bought some banana bread as well as some coconut bread that the area is famous for.
We returned to Puff and with her wheels attached, slowly pushed her back into the water with numerous natives on the beach watching and taking pictures and videos of us. Matachen is a very shallow bay so we walked a good 150 yards off shore before we hopped into Puff and rowed out till we were deep enough to start Dragon and home we went. The generator is running and batteries are getting refueled so we will be set to take off for Chacala tomorrow. It's only 22 miles so a nice easy trip. We're due in Puerto Vallarta on the 8th and have lots of time to get there.
Stay tuned. I'll try and do better with my posts.
12/26/2010, La Paz, Mexico
In the last post, I went into all the different things that we end up doing when we come into port or even when we are out at anchor, but it's not always work. Yesterday for example, we attended a Christmas part here at the marina along with 70 other cruisers that are in the marina. Lots of people brought family favorites and turkey and ham was provided. We even volunteered to cook one of the birds in our oven. OK, actually only half of a turkey as just about all of us have small ovens that couldn't hold a whole turkey. We took along bacon wrapped cheese as an appetizer for everyone. We sat with some new friends--Paul and Karen off Gigi, a couple of Australians. And some old friends--at 16 months, that's as old as you normally get with friends--George and Celeste off Nereid. They had journeyed down the coast of the US with us last year and we met up again here in La Paz.
The cruising life has been good for us as it has dragged us out of our hermit shells that we had been in for so long. We regularly sail into a new harbor or cove and meet up with folks on boats we have already met or meet new friends and have each other over for dinner or just drinks and snack in the cockpit.
While we don't normally take lots of time for sightseeing when we get into big towns, we meet some really great people and have seen things that we had only dreamed about while we lived in Colorado. Plus, it's a whole lot warmer here than it is home in Colorado and that is just fine with me. Tracy may like to shovel snow, but it's no where near the list of things I like to do so being down here where it's nice and warm is just fine.
So take what I say with a grain of salt. Yes, there is lots of tasks that need attention. Some important and some not so important. At least we have the ability to make the decision as to what we "want" to do and what we "must" do before setting off again and that is a great way to spend our lives out here.
So to all of you snug in your homes and beds, we're just sitting here in shorts and a tee shirt enjoying what ever life throws at us. That's not so bad, is it?
12/25/2010, La Paz, Mexico
It's been a while since our last post so let me catch you up on what has been going on.
We pulled into La Paz, Mexico on the 20th and tied up to a great dock at Marina Palmira. Of course, all the wind that we had planned to bring us South came from the South so we were forced to motor the whole way for the last 60 miles or so. No big waves, just a tad frustrating since we had hoped to continue the great sail we had from San Carlos to San Juanico earlier this month.
We pulled in with a long list of things that we needed to get done or things that needed to get ordered so our son could bring them down when he joins us in Puerto Vallarta next month.
Now most think our days are spent lounging around and having margaritas and chips while reading a book. Sorry, that's not how it goes. First we got checked in at the marina and started cleaning up poor Zephyr. We still had dirt all over her left over from out extended stay in San Carlos. We had engine repairs as well as many systems to check over to make sure they were back up to snuff. We wanted to tighten the steel cable that supports the front of the mast to the deck, but when we lifted and removed the roller furling gear(allow us to roll out the bog sail at the bow), we found that part of it has broken. Not sure when, but now we have to order more parts and hope that they will be in stock. Mail as well as parts delivery here in Mexico is spotty at best as to wether you will ever get what you order. I guess we will see if they have it in stock when i call the factory on Monday before we set out again.
The head(also know in the civilized world as a toilet)in the bow of Zephyr has been acting up. It stopped allowing me to flush it several week ago. I taken it apart and tried to fix the existing parts(heaven forbid I have a repair kit for it) all with no success. Once we got in here, we took the first available shuttle to Lopez Marine and got a full repair kit with all the valves and seals necessary to totally gut and rebuild it. In I went, screw drivers and wrenches in hand along with lots of paper towels. Out with the old and in with the new. Guess what??? It still didn't work!!! You flush it by pumping a handle up and down. Ours pumped once or twice and then you couldn't push it all the way to the bottom. Only thing left was the hose between the head and the black water storage tank. The next day, we headed back to Lopez Marine and got new hose. Hey, guess what?? The fitting on the back of the toilet was 1.5 inches while the one one the top of the tank was only 1.25. The hose fit one but was not about to make a good seal on the other end. I slathered on as much caulk as I could and cinched the hose down with three, yes that's right, three big hose clamps. I let the caulk set over night to make sure it was good and hard. Wednesday, I tried it again and boy, that caulk sure didn't do it's job. That poor hose leaked like it was, well, a hose. Off to town again in the shuttle to find some kind of shim or a 1.25" hose that I could fit over the existing pipe. Boy, the cruising life sure is fun!!! I finally found some vinyl strips at Home Depot(those guys are every where). I also remembered that I had brought a small chunk of hose back with me that just might fit it. When we got back to the boat, I tried the small chunk and it fit perfectly. It was exactly 1.25". Off with the old new hose and on with more caulk and then the small chunk of hose and back on with the new hose and more caulk. Again I had to wait till the next morning to give the caulk plenty of time to cure and so I climbed into the front locker while Tracy gave it a few good pumps and it was sealed!!! Apparently the old hose had layers of calcium build up over the many years of use by Zephyrs previous owners and had shrunk to less than half of it's normal diameter and with Zephyr getting laid up over the Summer, a chunk of that calcium had collapsed and blocked the hose. That was one job I was glad was over. taking out the old hose was LOTS of fun.
I finally got up the mast yesterday afternoon and got our radar reflector installed. The poor thing has hung from line on our mast ever since we left Newport Oregon many many months ago. Now, with the help of some stainless steel fabricators in San Carlos, I had the brackets to do the job right. Tracy used our supper duper drill with the winch and up the mast I went. Out came the drill--attached to a special line so I wouldn't drop it --and an hour later, the holes were drilled and the bracket attached and the job was done. Of course we waited to do the job until there was a nice wind to blow me around as I dangled from our main halyard 40 feet about ground but that all part of the fun of the cruising lifestyle don't you know.
There were lots more things we did, but I've ranted long enough. I hope all of you had a Merry Christmas and will have a great New Year. Keep on checking the blog. There's lots more rants coming.
12/16/2010, Caleta Partida--east side.
Mother Natures playing jokes on us again. It's just about unheard of for there to be South winds in the Sea of Cortez this time of years but we have them in spades. They started a days ago a we neared Isla San Francisco and have been going ever since. We changed anchorage in San Francisco to avoid them and it worked until we upped the anchor yesterday morning and headed out for Ensenada Grande on Isla Partida. While only 17 miles distant, we had to sail 30 miles to get there as there was no easy route to get there except to go back and forth across the waterway tacking over and over until w pulled in and dropped the anchor(24 33.500N 110 23.868W). The wind was still flowing into the anchorage make where we were on a "lee" shore. That's something you try and avoid because it means that the stern of your boat faces the shore so if your anchor drags, you could be in a world of hurt fast. With the winds in the high teens to low 20 knot range, I set myself up for a night watch "sleeping" in the main salon close to the companionway so that if the drag alarm(goes off if the GPS says the boat has moved) goes off, I can get on deck asap. It sounded at 0115--wind change made our position change and again at 0145 when it changed back. Other than that, it was an uneventful night.
With that being said, we opted to not say a second night as the forecast was for the same and instead, headed for the East side of Isla Partida and the backside of a nice cove called Caleta Patida where we dropped the anchor(24 32.122N 110 21.764W) We had the place to ourselves as we watch several boats on the West side of the island get blown all over the place. We had the wind, but not the swell so we were sitting as pretty as you please. About 30 minutes later, a big power boat(Serenity) showed up. We'd anchored a night at San Francisco just a few days ago. So here we sit and here we wait for the next weather forecast to tell us where we may be heading tomorrow. We'll let you know when we get there.
12/13/2010, Isla Colorado
We upped the anchor this morning ready for a nice sail South. Instead, the wind started coming from the South making sailing that way impossible. So on went the engine and off we went. We decided to stop at Punta Salinas(24 54.856N 110 37.703W) on Isla San Jose just a few miles South of Mangle Solo where we had sent the night. Punta Salinas is the sight of an old salt mine that closed down years ago. Sorry, no pictures as I'll be posting this on our SSB radio. We pulled in about 11:30 and got Puff and Dragon in the water before breaking for lunch of curried chicken on crackers. We may be out cruising, but we still enjoy our food.
Once done, we headed ashore for some exploring. Surprisingly we saw numerous sets of foot prints as we came ashore. While we know it gets written up in the tour books, many places like this get passed by as it's closer to more of a main stop like San Evaristo and Isla San Francisco. Several abandoned buildings and lots of discarded pieces of machinery dotted the landscape with numerous pools full of seawater and salt crystals. While it may have been shut down, Mother Nature still makes the seawater evaporate and the salt get left behind. I'll post the pictures when we get to La Paz in a few days.
We returned to Zephyr and set out for Isla San Francisco. An island with a great harbor made for exploring. We spent several days here months ago and are glad to be back. We dropped the anchor shortly after 1500(24 49.300N 110 34.308W) amongst three other boats. One from National Geographic--the Sunbird. Full of lots of tourists and crew. They had taken over the beach for an afternoon of swimming(water at 75 degrees) and kayaking. They are now having a nice dinner party ashore with drinks and more. We expect them to be gone if not tonight, early tomorrow morning.
So here we sit, the wind has now died and we are safely at anchor and will probably spent the next day of so here hiking, exploring and of course fixing things on Zephyr.
Next stop, Ensenada Grande.
12/12/2010, Mangle Solo
We upped the anchor and set out just after 0900 for a run to Mangle Solo(25 01.756N 110 42.300W), a seldom used anchorage on the West side of Isla San Jose. As we were preparing to set out, we got a radio call from Karen and Paul on Gigi. W'd met up with them at San Juanico and had expected them to join us in Los Gatos as they had at Agua Verde. Instead, they stopped and spent he night at the anchorage just North of us--Punta San Telmo. A little wide spot on the way South. They had already set out and were a good hour ahead of us on their way to San Evaristo, a snug harbor about miles South of Mangle Solo. With the rollie seas and no wind, we were both forced to use our engines again. While no Northers had been forecasted, afternoons are full of good wind, but leaving to enjoy them can make you arrive at your next destination late in the day after the Sun has gone down.
So off we went, engine purring nicely. Twenty three miles later, we pulled in just as the winds were beginning to develop. We're now sitting in 17 to 20 knot winds completely protected from the rolling waves of the sea by a nice large headland off our bow. As the anchor went down in 20 feet, Zephyr began to fall back and with 10 feet of chain out, she buried her anchor fast and deep. Zephyr's bow swung around into the wind as the anchor grabbed below us. It was one of the fastest I have ever seen our anchor set without Tracy having to put us in reverse. On went the snubber(length of heavy gauge three strand nylon line with a hook on it to hold the chain) and we were set. Now the wind can blow and make our wind generator do it's job and we can sit nice and comfortable and let the day pass. So far, we haven't seen another boat--not while out coming South or since we have been at anchor.
Tomorrow, off for Bahia Amortajada, just 12 miles South of here. I think we will wait till the wind starts so we can have some fun with the spinnaker. It's been a while since we flew her and heck, adrenaline is good for us. Meanwhile, we sit and read as the job I had scheduled to do(attach a preventer line to the boom--keeps the boom from flying across the deck if the wind changes) will just have to wait till the wind lessens.
More to come.