01/07/2006, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
I have been having a great time with Titima here. I managed to pick up a cold virus somewhere. Thank goodness for Titima's strong constitution she only had one down day fighting it off. I was still hacking and she was fancy free. Titima arrived on Christmas eve and I immediately whisked her off by bus to La Cruz on the north Banderas Bay. Philo's Bar was having a cruiser potluck where the highlight of the evening was Santa handing out gifts to some of the town children. Philo came down from the states five years ago. He stopped here, bought a bar and has been doing this each year except one year when he took off for the South Pacific only to get an offer he couldn't refuse to buy his boat by a French couple in Fiji. So he came back.
Great fun seeing the glee of the children.
Christmas day we met other cruisers and local gringos at the P.V. Walmart parking lot in the morning. Vera, a transplanted Washingtonian, has been here 50 years. She has dedicated here life to helping the poor here and is involved in the Children of the Dump organization. We came together to load deliver and handout 500 chickens, bags of rice and beans and clothing to the families that live in the local land fill. Poor dirty little kids living without much hope of better. No education, no medical care. I wanted to devote a day a week to help Vera while I am here but realize now that I won't be here that long to do much.
I brought Laule'a into Marina Vallarta on Dec 17 for 6 weeks to have an easy access place while Titima is here as well as a place to leave while I fly back to the states in Jan. Titima leaves on Jan 5 and I have a ticket to Oakland on Jan 10 returning Jan 24. I might return earlier because I have so much to do on the boat still.
I finally got boat insurance through a Dutch company. $2400 per year all the way to Thailand.
Titima and I have been exploring around to find some decent authentic local food. Hard to do in this tourist crazy scene. This week the numbers of international tourists have been matched by the Mexican tourists from Guadalajara and Mexico City. Today we were invited to a dinner at a small restaurant in the country by permanent resident cruiser gringos that I met through the VHF net. Delicious seafood cerviche and beers in a backyard setting. Horseback rides, donkeys, local kids and dogs wandering through. Concho, the owner, used to manage Marina Vallarta and his brother Eric is the port captain at Nuevo Vallarta where the Paradise Village Marina is located. Concho was too big hearted to want to continue putting up with the money grasping owners of the Marina and got out.
There are so many gringos down here interested in buying into the property scene. Some of the cruisers have sold their houses in the states and are impressed by the investment and living opportunities in the Mexican Riviera. Building is everywhere with beachfront property out of sight. The area is a natural hurricane hole with large mountains on the north and south protecting it. But the Mexican political and financial systems are primitive.
I am anxious to get going out of here but I am here until March. The sailing, hanging out and the seafood can't be beat. Not to go unmentioned, the whale watching is great.
I am recovering today from seeing Titima off back to Bangkok yesterday. I am still awestruck by her and it is a heart breaker to see her go. All the more impetuous to get this show rolling to the South Pacific.
08/01/2005, Northern California coast
Ike and I finally left Tacoma motoring toward Seattle on July 5, 2005. Since Ike arrived in early May we had been working feverishly to prepare the boat for the trip to Thailand.
I had started the big push to get the boat ready even before my Thai princess came to visit from Bangkok for two weeks in April. The galley was torn out right down to the hull to replace the refrigeration. I had borrowed a mini refrigerator from (ex) brother-in-law Jim to be able to live on the boat. It was propped up in the cockpit making the boat look like one of those live-a-boards that you see sometimes. You know a boat floating on the water with the sole purpose of providing residence and every real measure of seaworthiness long since in decline. The sawdust swirling on the dock and the bits and pieces of building materials stacked around were the give away that heavy work was going on below.
I drove her to the airport with a longing growing in the hole left by her flying back out of my life. Seeing her a couple of weeks every four months seemed to keep us in perpetual honeymoon. We talked about the unreality of it all. Could we make it together really? No way to tell when it all seemed so much bigger than life - like the love of a lifetime. The drive back to the boat was lonely.
Laule'a rounded Browns Point and headed north toward Seattle. We would stop overnight in Seattle and visit friends Mike and Ellen.
Excitement for the grand adventure to come was traded back and forth with the fear of leaving your old life completely behind. My last day at work was June 3rd and now I am spending my retirement money. My hope is to find something in Thailand to make a living for a few years until Titima is ready to travel with me.
The lights of Seattle came into view and we motored into the Bell Harbor marina for the night. We were at the foot of the city. Seattle is going to occupy a fond place in my memories.
Ike and I walked in the rain along the waterfront looking for a restaurant around 10:00pm.
Mike and Ellen drove over the following day and took us to Trader Joe's to buy provisions.
We headed out to San Francisco at 1:00 PM motoring into a strong breeze. Around sunset the wind backed off so we took the opportunity to swing the autopilot compass in calm water. The autopilot settled right down after that and the boat didn't wander on its coarse.
Ike and I took turns dozing off in the cockpit all night as we neared Cape Flattery for our turn south down the coast. Near sunrise with Ike asleep I decided not to stop at Neah Bay for fuel thinking we wouldn't need much to make it down the coast. The gauges showed about a quarter full. That should be about 60 gallons or about 400 nautical miles of motoring.
Our weather check on the high frequency radio showed a gale blowing off the coast with 30 knot winds from the south. With overconfidence I decided we could manage that for a day or two. Anything to get sailing again as the winds were dead on the nose all the way from Tacoma and we were getting started late for a delivery trip via Hawaii, Micronesia, the Philippines to Thailand. The worry of typhoons and pirates in the Philippines was plaguing my thoughts more and more. The route was the most direct and we should have been off to a start in April not July.
We put up the staysail and reefed main into a 20 knot head wind. Our course put us well west of the coast. The sea state was rough and confused with swell and wind waves from several directions. Ike got seasick. As darkness came the wind increased to 35 knot gusts and after shortening sail for the night I decided to turn on the engine to motor sail in the rough conditions. Maybe this would get us through the bad weather quicker. A quick check of the VHF weather told us we would have these conditions for the next week. The engine started right up, ran for a few minutes and died. After spending an hour trying to get the fuel lines bled of air I gave up. "Let's head back in toward the coast and catch Grey's Harbor by morning" . I said. Ike was ready for anything to get out of the terrible seas we were in. We were spending lots of time picking up and stowing all the gear that was getting loose below. The violent movement was testing all our hold downs and we were loosing the battle. My laptop in its leather case on the middle of the aft bunk found it way to the sole bending a hinge. Cabinet doors were coming open spewing their contents onto the sole where they whistled back a forth from side making it impossible to walk around. All the books were off the shelf in the main cabin. Meanwhile on deck a heavy rain was falling and both Ike and I were soaked. Never once did we worry about the seaworthiness of our boat. It seemed very capable of staying afloat.
Our plan to head south east toward the coast was thwarted by the gale. The wind was dead on our nose on that coarse. Reluctantly we decided to turn downwind and head back to Neah Bay some eighty nautical miles back north. Without engine power I wanted to be careful to stand off the coast in case the wind shifted around to the west. I have great respect for the rugged Washington coast and I didn't want to get to close in the dark. My other concern was our batteries. We had been using the radar, autopilot and computer non-stop and the drain on the batteries would mount up if we were indeed out of fuel and the diesel generator wasn't usable. Trying the start the generator confirmed my fears. It started and ran a few minutes then died. Were we out of fuel? The gauges showed between an eighth and a quarter of a tank in both starboard and port banks. Without radar in the driving rain we couldn't see anything.
Going downwind quieted the motion of the boat somewhat. The wind picked up even more and blew the rain in under the dodger. The boom brake which had worked quite well in dry conditions was useless when wet. We had to get the main down some more and then the problems began. With a Leisure Furl main we should be able reef going downwind. With the autopilot to hold us dead down wind we could just lower the main. The problem was my intermediate backstays. I had wanted to install running backs but hadn't got to it. The intermediates are permanent and extend back far enough to catch the upper part of the main as it is being whipped around by the following wind. The upper sail battens began to get hung up on the intermediates. Enough chaffing was done to free two of the batten pocket closures. One flew overboard and the other we recovered on deck. Now I know what should have been obvious. The intermediates had to go and be replaced by running backs.
With the main sail reduced to a handkerchief there was nothing to hold up the boom. Now the action of the boom brake was bouncing the boom off the top of the new dodger laying paint onto the sunbrella canvas covering. The make matters worse the port main line winch was ripped apart by the violent motion of the boom and most of it disappeared overboard.
So finally back at Neah Bay it is safe to say the shake down part of the cruise was performed. It would be two weeks before we dared head out again.