01/29/2011, Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico
Here is a stab at the reality of life as a cruiser. Especially if you live on a sailboat.
1. You are not really a sailboat. You are a power boat with a different form of auxiliary propulsion. We have found that we have to motor about 75% of the time as the wind is either non existent or it's from the wrong direction. When you buy a sailboat--check the engine before you buy it. New sails are loads less money than a new engine.
2. Everything cost twice as much as what you think it should cost. Once you stamp "marine" on the label, it may not be any better but since it goes on a boat and everyone knows that all boater are rich, the price doubles. An air horn at West Marine used to cost about $20.00(no longer available). At Walmart, the same horn that was non marine was about $10.00. It's that marine thing.
3. Planning does no good as most plans go right out the window as you cruise. Weather changes and so does the date. Things break as you get ready to leave and so does the date. S__t happens and the date changes. Everything out here is written in either sand or jello. What you plan rarely happens.
4. Get as big a tank on board your boat as possible. Both water and fuel. I should have said diesel as no smart person uses gas on any kind of big boat. They go boom in the night. The bigger the tanks, the farther you can go and the fewer stops you have to make. Many modern boats come with a small 40 gallon tank. If you make 6 knots per gallon, your range is limited. We carry 215 gallons at 1 gallon for each 6.5 nautical mile. I can get to Hawaii from here on a full tank(and a prayer). The more water you have the better unless you have a spare $5,000 for a water maker. And then you have to hope they don't break down. Out here, bigger tanks are what separate the cruisers from the wantabees. They carry lots of jerry cans on their decks. We do, but only for the gas we need for the generator and outboard motor. We carry about 26 gallons plus 5 extra gallons of diesel incase I have to change out the fuel filters along the way.
5. Learn the language of where you are going. At least give it a try. The locals love to hear us struggling with their language. We've learned a lot of Spanish since we got here. A few more years and we might be able to speak it. Well, maybe not.
6. Don't overload your boat. People have to eat everywhere. It might not be your favorite food, but learn to eat what the locals eat and where they eat. It's cheaper and probably tastes better. Look for a local food vendor along the road or a small restaurant along the road. How crowded are they? If busy, it's got to be good. You can eat at these little food carts lots cheaper than in a fancy restaurant.
7. Take the time to learn your boat. Inside and out. A little knowledge is good but a lot is LOTS better. Take classes if you can on electrical(12 volt especially) as well as a GOOD diesel class. Not one that just shows you parts of your engine. One that shows you and allows you to take an engine apart so when something fails, you might have a better understanding of what it takes to fix it.
8. Take as many spare parts as you can for just about every system on board. We carry spare water pump, fresh water pumps, starters, alternators, fuel pumps(2), and lots more that I won't list here.
Be prepared for what is to come and it will be less of a surprise when(not if) it happens.
01/23/2011, Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico
It's been almost two weeks since my last post so it's time for some catching up. As I type this, I have bread rising in the galley. Time to get back to basics.
We arrived in Paradise Village here in Nuevo Vallarta back on January 8th and got settled in. A through cleaning and Zephyr looked much better. We toured the grounds and walked the beach seeing all that was available to us. Xander, our son, was due in on the 11th so we wanted to see what there was to do here. Several pools and a great stretch of beach with several bars along the water line.
We tackled a few projects before Xander got here. We filled the water tanks as three of four were just about empty. The fourth was still full as the valve to turn it on had not been turned on. No clue why but once on, it gave up it's water. This year, I made sure to put the hose in the right deck feed so that I didn't pour water into our diesel tanks as I had last year at the same time. All other projects were put on hold till Xander left as we wanted to make sure we could take Zephyr out for a sail over to La Cruz for a day with a stop at Las Tres Marietas Islands for some snorkeling.
Xander showed up right on time with lots of badly needed boat parts to repair more things that had bitten it over the previous few month. The most needed was the replacement aluminum extrusion for the Hood roller furling. It came in a 75 inch long box. The TSA was sure to open it for inspection(and they did). What we learned later was that what our rigger told us during the refit--"You have a series 800 furler" was wrong! We have a series 900 furler. All the parts Xander brought down were too small!! RATS!!!! We found that out the Sunday before Xander left so he got to take several sets of parts back home with him. When I called Hood on Monday, they said not to bother sending back the extrusion as it would cost to much and be too much of a problem to do so. That simplified Xander's trip home.
We had a great week with Xander even taking a jungle excursion where we rode burros up a mountain, did a zip line(steel wires hooked between trees in the jungle)trip through the jungle and several shots at repelling down waterfalls into pools at the bottom. The company had encouraged us to bring a change of clothes. All went well till the trip in the BIG power boat back to the marina where we are staying as Xander's back got screwed up by the repeated pounding we took going through the waves and surf. With rest and good drugs and a trip to the local chiropractor, he left last Tuesday with while not a great back, at least one that was better.
Once he left, the jobs started. I'd made a list of about 40 things that needed to be done as well as a list of items that needed to be ordered. As I was walking back to Zephyr last Sunday, I had a conversation with a fellow cruiser--Steve on Far Fetched--his brother is coming down to Nuevo Vallarta in a few weeks and would be able to bring us down the rest of the parts we needed. We couldn't have gotten luckier. Now at least we would get the right parts. When we checked out the roller furling once we got here, rest of the bottom extrusion had split so the entire Genoa sail can no longer be used till it got fixed.
Got to close now as I've run out of time with this connection. I'll be back with more shortly as the bread rises.
OK, the dough is rising again so I have some time to continue. It's a tough life down here.
While our list is long, most of the jobs only entail an hour or so of work. One of the worst was replacing the raw water pump that cools the engine. For those of you that haven't been following our journey, our pump took a turn for the worst just after we took off from La Paz earlier this month. It had probably been going bad for quite a while, this was just the first time we had actually seen water belching from it. At idle--not a drop(that what you see when you check your engine at start up as you prepare to leave the marina). At 1750rpms, it was throwing our water like a slow faucet. Once we slowed to 1350rpms, it was just a steady trail of drips. Easily manageable. As any good cruiser, we carry a spare(along with a spare starter, alternator, fuel pump, and too many more to name here. We'd bought it even before we left Port Townsend at the beginning or our journey. It's not so much as to if it will fail, it's more of when it fails. They all do. In I went, wrenches, screw drivers, and pliers in hand. An hour or so later, out it came along with a nice chunk of hose as it wouldn't come loose from the pump even with the hose clamp off. Onto the work bench(yes, I have an honest to goodness workbench on board) and into the vise(yes, a vise too) and off came the brass fittings that the hoses connect to. I took out the old impeller and installed it in the new pump(pushed water though the pump as it spins), sealed it all up and put it back on the engine. Once done, Tracy started the engine as I leaned over it(yes, our engine room is that big) to watch the pump and fittings. At 1300rpms--just fine. At 1750--just fine. At 2000--just fine. Finally at 2400--it was still perfectly sealed. NO MORE WATER!!!! All in all, about a 3 hour job. Not bad never having done ours before. I'd changed one out when I took the class at Mack Boring in Newark(great class), but not one like ours.
The next day, I put a call out on the local net that all the boaters listen to to find someone that could rebuild it. Hey--I know I will need another one somewhere down the road--sorry-water. One guy had taken his into the work yard in La Cruz--10 miles north of here. A repair kit was $250(plus labor)--dollars while a new one would be $350. He opted for a new pump. Another boater suggested I contact "Butch". He could rebuild mine with no problem--and a whole lot cheaper. I called him and he stopped by earlier this morning a picked it up. All told, maybe $100 to have it all fixed and ready for a new life. Sure beats $350!!
So anyhow, that's how things are going here. Odd job after odd job. We have pretty much made up our minds to do the Puddle Jump in either late March or early April. We'll be heading across the Pacific for Tahiti. Like I said earlier--It's a tough life down here.
I'll be posting some pictures later so stay tuned for more.
01/11/2011, Nueva Vallarta
We made it into Paradise Village here in Nuevo Vallarta last Saturday after a quiet trip down the mainland coast of Mexico. Most times the winds were either nil of didn't develop till well into the afternoon as we were just a short distance from our destination. So unfortunately, motoring was the normal order of the day. CLear across the Sea of Cortez with a short sail from Isla Isabela to Matachen near to San Blas.
We continued to motor into Chacala and spent two days rolling back and forth from side to side as the wind kept us in a position where the swell rolling in from the ocean threw us day and night from side to side. Not a pleasant experience. We left after the second day and headed for Punta de Mita at the beginning to Banderas Bay just North of Puerto Vallarta.
Again, a rollie anchorage as the swell just kept on coming. Just one night there and then on to La Cruz, a big stop over for most cruisers that come South. We spent two lovely days there having fun and attending a nice pot luck dinner where the local yacht club provided free hamburgers. The problem there was that they thought they would have about 40 people attend but in reality, almost 100 showed up(hey, it's free food after all). They quickly ran out of burgers. I being one of the smart folks there, got in line early and got one of the burgers as well a good selection of everything else. Tracy made brownies and they really went fast.
We upped the anchor and again motored the last 6 miles to Nuevo Vallarta and got in about 1130. They stuck us in a 71 foot slip next to a Nordhaven 55 foot trawler that towers over us. Actually, we're one of the smaller boats in the marina.
We spent the rest of the day cleaning and washing all the salt and dirt off her decks and now she is safe and sound.
Stay tuned, more to come as we settle in.
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.