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.
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.
12/07/2010, Puerto Escondido
We took off last Thursday at 0900 heading back into the Sea of Cortez. Having been hauled out last June 12 for a short Summer respite ended up at well over 5 months. Oh well, our house looks better and many things got taken care of on Zephyr before she had her hull splashed on November 27th just after Thanksgiving and my return from Denver. We took up residence at one of the slips in the marina till Monday when we moved out to a buoy. Cheaper and more fun than staying in a marina. We finally disconnected from the buoy and headed out on December 2 for a return trip to the Baja. A lot more fun and more anchorages than simply heading back down the mainland coast.
Our first stop was San Juanico, an old and favorite stop on our trips up and down the Baja coast. For the most part, it was a straight shot at 180 degrees or due South from San Carlos(27 56.699N 111 03.743W). At 100 miles, an easy trip. Winds were forecast to come from the Northwest so it would be a nice sail. We figured a normal running speed of 4 to 5 knots which put us coming in early the next day. As luck would have it, the best laid plans normally go astray. Instead, we had one of the best sails we have ever had. After motoring for just over a hour, we hoisted the sails once we were clear of the coast and zoom, off we went. Winds were in the mid to high teens with gusts into the low 20 knot range. Zephyr was in her element and with a nice clean bottom(no scuz) we were regularly hitting into the high 7 knot range with our max speed at 9.5 knots. We zipped along with all three sails up--main, genoa and jib having a great time. At sun down, we knew we would arrive in the middle of the night. Not our normal procedure. It has just about been a standing order that we only enter any harbor during daylight hours for safety sake. Not this time.
When we were about 2 miles off shore, I went below and turned the key to start the engine to bring us into the bay. Tracy hit the start button with NO effect. Just a slow grind and then nothing. There was a problem with our starting battery. OK, I hit the switch that joined all of our batteries--house and start banks into one big bank of batteries. After a minute or so, with a turn of the key, she started up. I'm sure you could hear my sigh of relief clear into the harbor. Into gear and on we pushed. We had been here before so we already had a good feel of the bay as well as points in our chartplotter as to where we had anchored before. There were a few other boats in the bay as we pulled in but none near our last anchorage spot so we just pulled in and I dropped the anchor(26 22.096N 111 25.813W). Tracy put the engine to reverse so we could set the anchor and NOTHING happened. We had no reverse gear. For those that have been following our posts over the last few years know we are already on our fourth transmission since we set off in July of 2008. With the anchor down we weren't going any where so I headed for the engine compartment on the double. Tracy had heard some strange noise as we crossed the Sea of Cortez but I had looked at the propeller shaft and coupling joint and all appeared fine. What I had missed was where the propeller shaft joins the transmission. There are normally four bolts holding the shaft to the transmission. As I watched, the fourth and lost bolt fell out!!! The transmission was fine, we simply weren't attached to it. This was not something that normally happens but as Murphy's Law would have it, if it could, it will happen and it clearly did.
Both of us were tired after such a sail but we knew we couldn't go to bed with no way to get us out of trouble is something should come up during the rest of the night. So out came the tools and I changed into cloths already stained from previous jobs and dug in with Tracy at my side. I gathered the bolts and a part that was a cap to hold grease inside the fitting and went to work. The cap was bent but with a wrench(no hammers were handy) I pounded on it till it would fit back in place. Far from perfect,it would fill the bill till I can get a replacement. Back the the compartment behind the engine and in I went again bolts in hand. About 30 minutes later, we were all bolted back together. We coaxed the engine back to life and tried out the transmission and propeller shaft. It rotated just fine. Job done just after 0400. We fell into bed and awoke several hours later
Next job, fix the battery connections for the start battery. Off came each wire which was then brushed with a wire brush to clean away any corrosion and then each connection was coated with my new copper based grease to help with the connections and all the wires were reattached. Since then, no problems have arisen at least with the engine, transmission or propeller shaft. The forward head(commode) on the other hand has given us some concerns. It won't flush.
I took it apart and changed out the "joker" valve. This gizmo keeps what ever you have flushed out out. It won't come back. It still wouldn't flush so we emptied the forward locker where the hose goes carries the "stuff" out of the head. With Tracy pumping the pump that forces the "stuff" out of the head, it still wouldn't function. So off with the hose that connects with the tank(and you thought we were out here having fun didn't you)and stuck it in a bucket(gee what fun) and had Tracy pump again. Thank God I have a bad nose! With the hose cleared, we checked the air vent(it was fine) and put it all back together again. Now it pumped fine but what we pumped out and out the hose just came streaming back in. I needed another "Joker" valve to replace the one I had already replaced. It's a good thing I carry spares of just about everything. I finally replace it this afternoon. We still had one functioning head on board so it wasn't critical. She now works just fine.
With a big Norther headed our way, we made plans to head off for Isla Coronado. A Norther is normally a three day event where wind will blow at any were from 20 to 30 knots with no letup. We were well protected in San Juanico but didn't want to spend three more days there. We had already made the pilgrimage to the South shore to look for the rock I left behind last Spring when we were there. It was unlike any rock I had ever seen before. If you check out pictures, there are some there that show it. Unfortunately someone had beaten me too it and it was no where to be seen.
We upped the anchor on Sunday morning and headed for Isla Coronado(26 06.274N 111 16.443W) about 20 miles farther South. Leaving at about 0930, we pulled in shortly after 1400 and dropped the anchor after a very rollie trip south. The winds were from behind us the the seas were full of swells in the 3 to 4 foot range with bigger ones in the 6 foot range coming by to visit every now and then. We rocked from side to side the whole way down the sea. Once at anchor, the winds continued till about 2000 when calm came over the anchorage but the swells continued to rock Zephyr from side to side through the night. Strangly, it remained calm through the night even with the Norther in the forecast.
This morning we took off for Puerto Ballandra on Isla Carmen. A short trip of 8 miles but again in rocky seas that through us all over the place. We pulled in just before lunch and dropped anchor(26 01.204N 111 09.832W). In the anchorage with us was a Liberty 458, a cousin to our boat. It was "Evergreen" that we had met just before we hauled out in San Carlos. They came out a few days before we did. About 30 minutes after we dropped anchor, they took theirs up and headed for Puerto Escondido. We expect to meet up with them there in a day or so weather permitting.
So now we sit here with wind blowing nicely outside getting a few more jobs done inside.
Tomorrow is another day. I guess we will decide what to do then.
OK, it's now tomorrow and we have upped the anchor and set off again. this time, back to Escondido to deliver some Emmitts Irish Cream. We met Dale and Linda on SV Moxie way back when we were tied up to the Police dock in San Diego and came across them again when we got into Puerto Escondido last Spring. Dale loves Irish Cream and could not find any down here in Mexico so while we were in Colorado, we picked him up a nice bottle and have brought so we can deliver it to them. So we upped the anchor this morning and headed out before the supposed Norther starts up again and got here about 1300. We tied up to a buoy and motored in in Puff(our dingy) and got all registered for two days here before we head South again for Agua Verde and on to La Paz in a few weeks. The goal is to be in Puerto Vallarta by the first week in January. From there, we have not a clue as to what or where we will be doing or going. TIme will tell.