Due West Adventures

The sailing adventures of Captain Kirk & Heidi, Tosh and Tikka Hackler . . .

07 April 2017 | Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, MX
26 February 2017 | Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, MX
30 January 2017 | La Cruz, Nayarit, MX
24 December 2016 | Banderas Bay, Mexico
20 December 2016 | Banderas Bay
27 November 2016 | La Paz, B.C.S. Mexico
14 November 2016 | Bahia San Carlos Mexico
17 October 2016 | San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico
30 September 2016 | San Javier, B.C.S.
25 September 2016 | Puerto Escondido, B.C.S Mexico
12 September 2016 | Puerto Escondido, B.C.S Mexico
04 September 2016 | Nopolo Norte - Loreto
12 August 2016 | La Paz, Baja California Sur
30 June 2016
24 May 2016 | La Paz

Ho Ho Ho!

24 December 2019 | Puerto Vallarta
Heidi & Kirk Hackler
Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays to all of our family, friends, and readers near and far.

We had hoped to slip our lines last week and sail a few days south to Barra de Navidad by Christmas. Since the town is named "Christmas" we've heard it's a fun place to be. But apparently, Neptune has other plans for us right now. We're still working away on a few critical boat projects that need to happen before we can leave...including a few items that cropped up in our recent marine survey that must be remedied in order to bind our new insurance. Nothing major, just time-consuming...

So lest you all think we're just hanging out in hammocks, barefoot in the sand, sipping on umbrella drinks, think again... As any cruiser will attest, the day in the life of a cruiser is often more work than the daily grind at home. But at least it's warm, and you can tell the boss to take a hike, literally!

As we had often heard but not really experienced living in the Pacific North Wet, the lower latitudes can be very hard on boats. Especially when you're not actively using them all the time. So it's been a summer and fall full of repairs. Thankfully Kirk is about the handiest man around and can fix or repair just about anything (but prefers not to work on refrigeration or diesel engines if he doesn't have to.) And he's always grateful for any help or information from others, including Youtube!


Kirk's Cave

Kirk started the summer installing brand new Dyneema lifelines (these are made of high-strength synthetic line rather than plastic coated wire.) Then he moved on to work under the cockpit, in a very SMALL, tight-squeeze space (see photo above). Luckily he doesn't have much fat on his bones and isn't claustrophobic. To get into the "cave" he has to slither in on his stomach and pull himself along. Once inside there is just enough room to roll over onto his back and work above his head.

So what exactly was he doing back there? For starters, installing our long-awaited cockpit shower (more on that later), replacing the diesel fuel filler hose (original hose almost 40-years old was super dirty and making a mess), installing a manual engine stop cable (see below), and then there was our friend the auto-pilot. Remember our Lewmar auto-pilot? The one that broke coming down the coast of the US, and got replaced with a "new" one under warranty in La Paz three years ago? Yeah, that one.


The black pull-handle to the right of the orange SmartPlug cord is our new manual engine stop cable.

For you non-boaters, an autopilot is a very important piece of equipment (or crewmate!) when you're sailing short-handed (ie: only two people.) Hand steering in big seas and/or heavy weather can be very tiring, and sometimes you have to trade helmsperson every 30-minutes to an hour. As you can imagine, without an autopilot to help steer in these conditions, we'd only be able to cat-nap, which would lead to further exhaustion, loss of judgment, and potential injury. No bueno. So the auto-pilot is a critical crew member.

At the time Lewmar sent us the replacement three years ago it appeared to be refurbished rather than a brand new unit as it was supposed to be. The bottom sat all cattywampus and lots of sealant gooed out around the edges. Not the "Swiss Watch" look of our original autopilot. We were concerned enough about this "new" unit that Kirk took a bunch of photos and sent them back to Lewmar, saying we didn't feel like it was "new", even though they assured us by the serial number it was. So we installed it and used it for about six months in 2016, from La Paz to San Carlos in the Sea of Cortez and back south to Puerto Vallarta.

Since then it has not been used, as Due West has sat in her slip in the marina. So back to Kirk working in that tight space under the cockpit, 96° in the shade! He thought that as long as he was under there, he should check out how the autopilot was faring. And what did he find? About ⅛" of play in the tiller arm. While that might not seem like a lot, it was enough slack to cause the autopilot to keep searching for its course and not work to steer the boat.

So Kirk removed the 45-pound autopilot, which was about 3" above his nose as he lay on his back! And brought it to our friend Ben, the motor-whisperer who had repaired Due West's engine last summer. When Ben and Kirk opened up the case, they were shocked to find the bushings in the gears were badly worn and the chain between them drooping. We're thinking this autopilot had way more than the 200 hours we put on it.


Ben opening the old "new" autopilot, to discover worn bushings and saging chain.

So more photos were taken and attached to the original three-year-old email to Lewmar where we had stated that we didn't feel this was a new unit. Imagine our surprise, when Lewmar finally agreed and sent us another "new" autopilot! Maybe they were just tired of dealing with us!? Whatever the case, we are grateful for this new crew member, which will be installed for Due West's Christmas present so she doesn't have to work so hard steering.

And the autopilot was just the tip of the iceberg. All in the span of about two weeks, we had a myriad of things go wrong. And Mercury wasn't even in Retrograde yet! Heidi's 18-month old MacBook Pro died mid-use with no rhyme or reason. Because it was still under warranty, it had to be sent back to Apple in the US for repair. But it turns out that you can't just mail a computer in for repair, it has to be hand walked into an Apple store by a person!? Who knew? We were grateful for our cruising friend Lisa who was visiting her sister in the states and agreed to be the computer mule! So while we had to pay the FedEx from Mexico to the US, the rest was covered, including a new hard drive, motherboard, and keyboard?! Wow... not sure if it was a lemon to start with, or what caused all those parts to suddenly fail, but Heidi is grateful to have it back and fixed under warranty! Thanks, Lisa and Apple!

We have also been shopping for new yacht insurance. Thanks to climate change, the increase in hurricane activity in the Caribbean has resulted in many payouts over the past several years. So insurance companies are dropping boats like hot potatoes for being "too old" (over 30 years) or "not valuable enough" (under $125K). Since our last out-of-the-water marine survey was almost 5 years ago, we knew we had to get a new one done to qualify for insurance. (For you non-sailors, a marine survey is like getting an appraisal of your house, although usually, homeowners insurance doesn't require that!) So we scheduled a haulout to paint the bottom, change our zincs, lube the prop, and check all the underwater running gear.


Happy to have Jim Knapp, Marine Surveyor, and Rigger, splice the shackle end of our new main halyard!

But finding a marine surveyor here in PV wasn't an easy task. Luckily for us, our good friend Jim Knapp, a marine surveyor in Gig Harbor, WA, (please contact Jim if you're ever in need of a fantastic marine surveyor!), was looking for a little R-n-R work-vacation in Mexico. Big thanks to m/v Noeta for helping Jim & Karen with their plane tickets.

We are so grateful to Jim and Karen for coming to visit, and for Jim's survey and expertise on a few boat projects. We had scheduled the haulout for Due West a few days before Jim & Karen's arrival, so we could have the bottom painted, and Jim could survey the bottom out of the water. Then return Due West back to her slip with us, and do the rest of the survey at the dock. Best laid plans... We should know better than to make plans!

A day before our haulout, Kirk ran the engine to make sure everything was good to go... and it was for a bit, until it wasn't. Michael P. Engine died, and Kirk thought it was an air leak, but he couldn't figure out where it was coming from. With no time to trouble-shoot before our haulout, we punted and decided to tow Due West the half-mile down the marina to the boat yard using our trusty dinghy, Aventuras, with our 15 HP outboard.


Big thanks to Liz & Travis for their help towing Due West to the boatyard!

To have a few extra hands, we asked our friends Liz and Travis to join us. Non-sailors, they are both whip-smart and take directions well, that's all we needed. So with Kirk and Travis in the dinghy, and Heidi steering Due West with Liz as her first mate, we made our way to Opequimar (Oh-pecky-mar) boatyard. We knew the engine would run for a couple of minutes before dying. So Heidi fired her up and Kirk aligned Due West with the haulout basin before untying the tow line. Heidi drove straight in with Liz tossing lines to the boatyard crew. A perfect landing! THANKS Liz & Travis!



After Due West was all blocked up on the hard, Kirk went to drive the dingy back to our slip, and the outboard wouldn't start. WTF?! If you know Kirk, you might know that his nickname is the "Outboard Whisperer". He was born with an outboard attached to his hand, and can pretty much diagnose any outboard issue by sound! He has fixed so many sailing friends outboards over the years, Heidi thinks he should hang out a shingle! And so he knew right away it was the emergency kill key. Which he had just replaced a year ago?? Musta been made in China...Thankfully we had another spare, so all he had to do was row the half-mile back to the slip. Good exercise!


Our tow boat, the fishing panga "Bony".

Four days later Due West had a fresh bottom, and Jim had finished the out-of-water survey. So with Jim and Karen as crew, we thought we might be able to nurse Due West's engine, Michael P., long enough to get us back to the slip since the outboard was still inoperable at the time. Silly us, we should have known better! Halfway back to the slip, Michael P. engine died again, no go! Thankfully we hailed a tiny fishing boat passing by, "Bony", and tossed a tow line to the nice pescador (fisherman) and his young son. They were able to get us right back into our slip, and grateful for the $400 pesos we offered them. ($20 US) A great day's wage for 30 minutes of work, well worth it to all of us.


Before and after a shiny-cleaned and repaired dinghy.

Back at the dock, Jim proceeded with his survey, while Kirk fixed the outboard and took Aventuras out for a spin. Outboard working great again, imagine his surprise to return to the slip taking on water?! Yikes, where was that water coming from? So Kirk hauled the RIB dinghy (rigid aluminum hull with inflatable pontoons) up on the dock to take a look. From that vantage point, it was easy to see that the Hypalon pontoons were delaminating from the aluminum bottom. Not happy about that with an AB dinghy! So one more thing added to the "repair before we go list." It's the only time Kirk has ever allowed 5200 to be used! (5200 is a super-goopy adhesive sealant that not only gets everywhere but once it's hardened, is virtually impossible to remove.)


Jim & Karen chilaxin'.

In between Jim's time surveying Due West, we made sure he and Karen had a good tour of PV and ate lots of great Mexican food! We also took a day off of boat work to hang out at the La Cruz Sunday Market and visit with our mutual friends Pat & Alexa and kids on m/v Noeta. All too soon Jim and Karen had to fly home. We're so grateful for their friendship and help aboard Due West, and the fun times together.


Visiting m/v Noeta: Kirk, Alexa, Heidi, Jim, Karen, and Pat.

Back to Michale P. engine and the fuel system air leak... what was up with that? Serendipitously, while Kirk was just beginning to attack the air leak, we had a knock on the hull (for you non-boaters, when you visit someone's boat you always knock on the hull and give a shout, "Ahoy Due West".) It was our Canadian friend Mike from s/v Kitty Toes, who we hadn't seen in a year. And Mike just happens to be a diesel mechanic, so when he heard what was up, he offered to help Kirk troubleshoot and get Michael P. Engine going again, once and for all!! It turns out it was an unusual situation where a bad o-ring in the fuel filter created an air leak, causing a back siphon into the fuel line. Don't worry if you don't understand that... it's complicated!


Kirk priming the fuel filter.

We are grateful to Mike for his ability to understand the situation and his help in remedying it! Fingers crossed, Michale P. Engine is now fully operational again... ready to roll as soon as we finish up the remainder of the niggly "repair before we go list" We don't want to bore you with too much detail, so suffice to say the list is shrinking daily and the light at the end of the tunnel is near.

A couple of tips for cruisers, things we've learned the hard way:

Tip #1: If you can help it, don't ever purchase a Whale Pumps Twist Deck Cockpit shower. This is the most inept shower system you can imagine, with a stiff and heavy hose and a showerhead that doesn't swivel... it's fixed and wants to spray straight UP, not down. Kirk has tried to re-work this shower about ten times to no avail, it's a very poor design.

Tip #2: In tropical hot climates, don't leave disposable batteries inside any small devices like flashlights and handheld GPSs etc. This might not be rocket science, but since we liveaboard in the tropics, and don't always use everything every day, it was a harsh reality to discover just how many batteries had leaked and ruined small electronic equipment. Best to remove batteries from small devices in the hot weather if you're not using them consistently. We'll be asking Santa for a new handheld GPS this year, let's just hope we've been good enough! :-)


Dinner aboard s/v Wings: Jimmy & Robin, Kirk, Judy, Heidi, Don & Lisa, photo by Fred.

Friends are starting to arrive in PV for the holiday or the winter season, and we were so glad to get in a good visit with our Seattle sailing buddies Jimmy & Robin from our Charisma racing days 20-years ago, for dinner aboard s/v Wings with Judy & Fred in La Cruz. It's also been fun to see our friends from Toronto, Wai-Lin and Ian. We thought we'd just miss them with our schedules, but since we're still here, it worked out!



Many thanks to all of you who've purchased Heidi's new book, the 90 Day Food, Mood, & Gratitude Journal. She is thrilled with how well it's been received by friends, family, and clients, as well as the Health Coaching community. She's also super excited to further her wellness education, by studying Functional Medicine over the next two years at the School of Applied Functional Medicine starting in January. If you or someone you know is sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, and not getting help from the traditional routes, Heidi is looking for more clients to work with for her functional medicine clinical case studies as part of her curriculum and would love to talk with you. Please reach out.

While we didn't make Barra de Navidad for Christmas, we still hope to be there for New Year's Eve to meet up with several other cruiser friends. In the meantime, we're grateful to Judy & Paul for hosting several of us sailing orphans for Christmas dinner at their condo. In spite of all the boat projects, we are so happy to be back home, sleeping in our own bed. And Tosh and Tikka are thrilled to be home too. They love exploring every new nook and cranny that gets opened up to work on a project. Plus Tosh loves playing with Kirk's tools!



May the love and spirit of the holiday season remain with you throughout the new year.

Peace on Earth, and LOVE to all of you.

❤️🎄
Heidi, Kirk, Tikka & Tosh


Vessel Name: Due West
Vessel Make/Model: Passport 40
Hailing Port: Seattle, WA
Crew: Captain Kirk & Heidi Hackler + Tosh & Tikka
About:
Captain Kirk and First-Mate/Navi-Girl Heidi untied the dock-lines in Seattle in August 2015 and set sail for Mexico with our two-kitty crew Tosh & Tikka. We've been in Mexico since then.  
 
Kirk grew up sailing in Seattle and has been boating his whole life. [...]
Extra: See pix of our boat here: Due West Interior Photos and in the Photo Gallery.
Home Page: http://svduewest.com
Due West's Photos - Sailing Cuba Part 2: A Normal Amount of Fun!
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Sailing Cuba!
Cuba sailing crew: Kirk, Heidi, Val, Kelly, Capitana Teresa, Gustavo (taxi driver), and Rob.
Our replacement Catamaran <em>Carlos</em> has seen better days, but he (?? aren
The charter base tienda had LOTS of bottled water, lots of boxed fruit juices (with lots of sugar added), and about 7 different kinds of Cuban rum (“What’s the normal amount of rum for 6 people for 6 days? Let’s get one of each bottle and sample them!”) This photo shows literally half the small provisioning store. Oh, and the result of the Rum taste-testing? Havana Club 7 is by far our fav! Luckily we can get it in Mexico, though it costs 3x as much as in Cuba! The US is SOL on Cuban Rums...
Kelly chats with José the “produce guy” about procuring our fresh fruits and veggies. José showed us a laminated card with photos of all the types of produce he could potentially get us, coaching it with “not everything available.”
Grateful for the produce that José was able to find for us!
Though photos weren
Our cruising route from Cienfuegos to the Canarreos Archipelago, 70-miles offshore. These remote and mostly uninhabited, flat coral atolls with mangroves are very reminiscent of the Florida Keys
Overnight Oatmeal was a quick, nutritious breakfast for our early morning passages.
Kat & Willie, this one
Val enjoying the "Blue-Jello" water as Kelly coined it. Kelly had never been ocean sailing before and couldn
Sailing in Cuba is all Thumbs UP... This photo was taken just before our wayward hitchhiker flew into the cockpit!
A close-up of the helm seat - we thought you fellow boaters would appreciate this jerry-rigging. Somehow the seat must have broken, and they
While Heidi was driving she noticed a large bird flying straight for the boat on the port side. She actually ducked, then realized it would have likely hit the main sail, so it must have dodged behind us? Suddenly it flew into the cockpit and landed right next to Kelly, both looking very shocked… but apparently that was just it’s natural look! It didn’t stay long enough for anyone to grab their camera (found this photo on the internet ©SandyScott, FL.) It
This is not us... as the photo was taken from our boat. But we were very close to the powdered sugar white sand beach on Cayo Largo... Somehow we never managed to step foot on a single beach in Cuba? Don
Val, Teresa, Kirk
Marina Cayo Largo and the tiny-town there is tucked back in the mangroves of this coral atoll island in the Canarreos Archipelago. As Nigel Calder said in his Cuba Cruising guidebook, "There
Baby mangroves sprouting up to form a new island. Can you see the heron fishing among them?
Heidi and Rob holding tight to the tow line, thankful for the lift from m/v Safari after our dinghy ran out of fuel in the channel into Marina Cayo Largo!
Taberna El Pirata, on Cayo Largo, serving a side of flies with lunch, and a side of mosquitos with dinner, and really mediocre food. But it
After the long dinghy ride debacle, we were all very hungry for a very late lunch. The picture at the top of the wall menu (which didn
This Cuban band was good and fun! (Check out the video link in the blog.) They were being attacked by the mossies as much as we were, while they were dancing and slapping, they finally got a young boy with a napkin to swat the mossies away from them. We retreated to the boat, but when the marina is built in a mangrove swamp, there
The small town on Cayo Largo mostly houses employees who work at the all inclusive resorts, or at the bank, small tienda, tobacco store, museum, and turtle sanctuary.  This is one of the employee housing dormitories. Employees work for 20-days straight, then get 10-days off to go home via ferry boat. Rinse and repeat. The bank was a funny place, we wanted to take a photo but no phones/cameras allowed. There were at least 10 employees in there, but only one teller open. And the waiting area had a very old, tired, bottomed out floral couch and recliner chairs to sit in. Hilarious!
This BEAUTIFUL Loggerhead Sea Turtle at the turtle sanctuary was about 18" long. The adult male we saw out at sea was almost 4
This interesting mural was on the outside wall of the tobacco store. We din
The Canarreos Archipelago islands are flat coral atolls covered in mangroves and other scrub trees. They are comprised of 17 islands (with cotton ball clouds!) and about 350 islets, and is almost as long as the Florida Keys. The two largest islands of the archipelago are the only inhabited islands: Isla de la Juventud at the far west end, and Cayo Largo del Sur at the far east end. Cuba exports a lot of spiny lobster, and much of it comes from these islands.
The lobster fishermen who sold us these beauties for $5/ea. asked not to be photographed. And you don
Kirk and Rob watching for the Green Flash which Rob had never seen, and was skeptical about… while we never saw it in Cuba, we HAVE seen it in Mexico and in Florida!
Sargassum, a type of seaweed-looking algae (apparently edible) was everywhere we sailed or dinghied.  For hundreds of years it was only found in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, but with climate change and warming waters, it has been plaguing the Caribbean Sea and beaches for the last few years. In Yucatan Mexico it now piles up 8
This escape hatch was in the hallway between Val
This photo is of one of the lobster fishermen retrieving our Rocna anchor and chain from the macrame mess that it had figure-eighted itself around two coral heads. BIG HUGE THANKS to the crew of Tropicana and the Lobster Fishermen for retrieving it for us and returning it to the charter base. (And for the photos of the anchor retrieval! )
Val and Heidi had to thread a line from the chain to the bow, under the trampoline. The anchor roller was under the tramp, at the aft edge of the trampoline. Grateful for small, dexterous fingers, they worked the line forward one square at a time until they could tie off the buoy to the chain and toss it over the bow. Then we cut the chain and left it all behind... an eerie feeling!
The infamous rusty bolt-cutters that wouldn
Back at Marina Cayo Largo again, at least the view was awesome and very Caribbean! It fueled our fire to get <em>Due West</em> to the Caribbean sooner than later!
Sunset over the mangroves from Marina Cayo Largo was very reminiscent of the Florida Keys.
Early dinner at 4:30pm, Kirk & Heidi enjoying their mini pizzas with Capitana Teresa
Teresa had brought gluten-free pizza crust mix for Heidi and Kelly, but because we never found flour anywhere in Cuba, everyone ended up getting GF pizzas. And no one was any wiser. We each got to design our own personal-sized pizzas with ingredients like: fresh tomato slices, fresh pineapple slices, green olives, ham, onions, peppers, garlic, and Cuban cheese. YUMMM, a delicious way to start our night watch, along with gluten-free brownies too, (which got scarfed up before we got a photo!) THANKS Capitana Teresa for feeding your crew so well! :-)
Val and Heidi bundled up for our night watch. Even in the tropics it gets chilly when the sun goes down and it’s blowing 20kts in your face! Heidi’s cozy hat from her brother Paul has constellations on it, including the Big Dipper and Orion, and we saw both that night.
This little fishing boat was actually in Havana Harbor, but looked just like the ones at the entrance to Bahia Cienfuegos—which no one got a photo of as we were dodging around them at first light. They were about 15’-18
All packed up and ready to go... on to our next Cuban adventure.
Bel and Gustavo arrived in his taxi-van to pick us up at the Platten Charter Base just as planned. It was so wonderful to see Bel again! We had missed her cheery smile, laugh, and demeanor and were all excited for her to  show us around more of her Caribbean island home. Rob, Val, Bel, Kelly, Heidi, Capitana Teresa, and Gustavo, (photo by Kirk.)
 
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