02/20/2011, Puerto Vallarta
Here it is, another Sunday in sunny, warm Mexico. It is really an oddity when there is total cloud cover. Banderas Bay has been getting some fog of all things this past week, but it burns off by Noon and it too becomes sunny and cloud free. We see the news from Detroit, of all places, so we can see how awful the weather has been for you all up North. No wonder the tourists flock down here by the droves.
I've been stitching lately, and finished up the piece in the picture. It is a chart that we picked up in a tiny store in Juneau, Alaska when we were there a year and a half ago. It is called "Berry Pickers" and show how the native Alaskan women dress. It is sort a dress affair over their parkas. I used to see them dress that way when my family went to the dog races outside of Fairbanks when we lived up there in the early sixties. Anyway, I started it last summer in Denver and have been stitching on it on and off. I'm great at starting tons of projects, but finishing them is really hard for me. I probably have fifty different stitching projects in the works in various stages. You just have to be in the right mood for the right project. I brought lots of snow related projects, but stitching a snowman when you're sweating like crazy doesn't seem right!
Bill is still studying for his General license. His test is next Sunday at 9 a.m. at the Vallarta Yacht Club. Hopefully, he'll pass the exam. He is studying hard enough, so it shouldn't be a problem for him. He memorizes things much easier than I ever could.
This morning continued scrubbing the topsides of Zephyr with Comet and a scrubby pad. The teak dust from stripping the teak got into the fiberglass and suddenly the top looked awful. This afternoon, I'll start putting wax onto the topsides to seal it all back up again. All of our "goods" will be arriving in Puerto Vallarta on Monday, so we will be screaming busy with the roller furling and all the other projects that are product dependent with things that are coming Monday.
There is always something to do on a boat.
02/12/2011, Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico
Bill was feeling up to getting hauled up to the top of the mast to finish out the last eleven steps. There are 33 total. I figured each on took Bill about 45 minutes to finish. The only things he dropped: a pair of sunglasses and a Sharpie he was marking with. The lenses popped out of the sunglasses when they hit the deck after their journey from 60 feet up. One lens stayed on the deck, but one bounced, bounced and went down the scupper. I just happened to look down the scupper and saw it pressed down against the covers we put over the teak. I put my hand under the scupper and lifted the cover...well, of course the lens missed my hand and went into the water. I quickly fished the sinking lens out and voila all the parts to reassemble Bill's shades. Whew, I'm glad as they were his favorites.
I think tomorrow, Bill will be under the aft bunk putting the hydrolic lines back in so we can bleed the lines and have steering again. I make a great step and fetch it person while he works his miracles.
The estimated date for leaving Puerto Vallarta for the Marquesas and beyond is March 25. It really is dependent on weather, but we are getting the list peeled down and are getting rid of lines on the list.
I have started making meals and freezing them, so on the passage I won't have to always spend so much time in the galley. I really believe in one hot meal a day is important on passage. I'm going to try to put up 10 days worth of dinners so if the seaway is rough, I can just throw something in the microwave or oven.
Some interesting estimates you might be interested in:
We think this passage will take between 25 and 30 days. We will be sailing 24 hours a day. We will be covering about 3,000 nautical miles. Most likely we will be going only 5 to 6 knots (about 6 to 7 miles per hour). We will be doing four hours on and four hours off for our watch system. Just try to think about every single thing you will eat in a month...no stores in the middle of the ocean. We have to have anything and everything we will be eating on board when we leave. We will be fishing, but from what I've heard, most people only have caught one or two fish the whole way. And finally, usually a boobie bird hitchhikes most of the way....that will give the cats a thrill, huh?!
02/11/2011, Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico
Here we are in Paradise Village Marina, the sun is bright, the temperatures are near perfect a light breeze is blowing. What more could one want????Personally, I would much rather be at anchor, but the work goes on and here we sit. I'm not complaining...life here is great.
We really haven't seen much of Puerto Vallarta, we still haven't been in the downtown section. I'm sure tourists get to see more than us.
The air quality some days is great and we can see the mountains behind PV and other days the inversion is worse than Los Angeles. The people here are wonderful. The Mexican culture in general is so helpful. They really bend over backwards to help or to find someone to help with a particular problem.
We spent last Wednesday in La Cruz for the Puddle Jump Seminar on Radio Communications. After that was over we went out for dinner with Paul and Karen from Gigi. We all chose Phillo's a cruiser hangout in La Cruz. With dinner's chosen we settled back with great conversation. Bill and Paul's dinner came, another ten minutes went by and Karen's pizza came. They all finished dinner and no food for Tracy. An hour went by and still no food for me. An hour and a half went by and finally my meal showed up. I think they had to find and kill the chicken. It was delicious though. We ended up taking a taxi back to Paradise Village. It is always fun to kibitzs with friends.
Bill is in agony today. His back muscles started to tighten last night and by this morning he can barely move. I've given him some Flexeril and hopefully they will unkink a bit. He is sitting on the setee and wincing at every move. I don't think he'll be going up the mast to work on mast steps today.
Bill's 60th birthday was yesterday and we celebrated by having our last two U.S. Costco steaks out of the freezer along with beautiful asparagus and a baked potato. Bill even opened up a bottle of our "really good" wine, a Margaux from Chateau D'Issan...yumm. I'd made an Apple Crisp for dessert and Bill went up to the small store in the Village and bought a small carton of Haggen Daz Vanilla ice cream to go with the Crisp.
This is definitely high living in a marina. It has all the comforts of a great resort and marina in the States. There are hot tubs, swimming pools, Mc Donald's, Subway and even a Baskin Robbins. A friend of ours bought a milkshake there and it was $10 USD. It is definitely not real Mexico, but it is nice to get lavished upon. I'm not sure I'm really comfortable here, I personally would rather be at anchor in La Cruz. Bill is perfectly happy with his internet and tv connections. Either way, the work continues. It has to be finished before we can leave.
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.