09 November 2019
Puerto Escondido South
07 November 2019
I left Puerto Escondido in relatively benign conditions. The heavy winds of the last couple of days had disappeared. But a surprisingly large swell remained as a reminder of the blow. Altere rolled uncomfortably as I motored to Agua Verde, an anchorage I have been in several times now. I began hoping there would be room in the one very small south facing cove tucked behind a reef that would allow me protection from the waves. As it turned out, there was only one boat anchored when I arrived. In the high season, the entire bay would be filled with boats. It is a beautiful bay with green foliage and red blooms a reminder that the rainy season just ended. Because of the swell, the surf was up at the beach near the small community on the south shore, noted for the queso fresco, or goat cheese, that they sell. I would not be rowing ashore on this trip.
The next day, I motored further south to Puerto Los Gatos. Despite having little wind in the last day, there was still quite a swell running. This made me wonder if there was wind in the northern gulf still. I entered between two reefs and anchored in about twenty feet of water, still rolling from the waves wrapping around the reef into the cove. This is a beautiful spot with red sandstone rocks around the cove.
I was now retracing the steps I had taken last fall along the same route. My next stop was San Evaristo, a charming fishing village of about 25 houses ringing a lovely bay, the mountains of the Sierra de la Gigante in the background. Here I was awakened early in the morning by the sound of he panganeros headed out to fish. The sunrise looking out across the gulf was beautiful.
These travel days were hot and there as very little wind. In addition, it was exceptionally humid. There were some clouds in the sky and in the mornings a low mist over the sea. I would take what I call a boat shower, bathing with a washcloth to save water, and within twenty minutes I would be feeling sticky again. A couple of times I took a shower in the cockpit. I have a garden sprayer hooked up to a kitchen spray nozzle. I did this at Isla San Francisco, where the heat and humidity continued.
I was tiring of the humidity and of the insects. This close to the end of the rainy season, there were tiny flies in many of the anchorages. For that reason I decided to bypass Isla Espíritu Santo and get closer to La Paz, finally dropping the hook in Caleta Lobos. I was about 10 nautical miles from the city and in full view of a cell tower. My phone told me that I had 144 email messages since I had last had service. Not surprisingly, five of them were important.
Guaymas to Puerto Escondido
07 November 2019
I left Guaymas on Monday planning to make for Santa Rosalia. I immediately had problems before I was out of the harbor. As I was trying to get sails up, my electric autopilot was acting up again, going off course and setting off an alarm. I reset it several times and still heard a high-pitched alarm. Between this distraction and my bad hearing, I missed that the engine was overheating. I turned it off and finished getting under sail. I had a cloud of steam coming out of the engine compartment.
I made the decision to sail on, given that very strong winds were forecast for mid week. I wanted to cross the gulf and get situated somewhere safe.
Winds were fairly strong and more from the west than I wished. I could point to Santa Rosalia, but was hard on the wind and bashing into big waves. Sheets of water were coming over the bow and the ride was very uncomfortable. Reluctantly I fell off and headed further south. I realized that the next port south with a boatyard and possible repair facilities was Puerto Escondido. Without an engine to charge the batteries, I would lose the ability to run the refrigeration.
I sailed all night with a double reef in the main and the jib partly rolled up. I was able to shake out the reef at sunrise. Late morning I anchored in Puerto Ballandra on Isla Carmen in flat water. This allowed me to assess the damage. I had no water in my raw water strainer. When I opened up the raw water pump, I found that the impeller had disintegrated and assumed the pieces were sucked up into the system. I replaced the impeller and poured water into the coolant system. The engine ran and pumped a little water but not enough.
I called Puerto Escondido, about 15 miles away, and asked them to give me a slip. I sailed south as the day waned. First the wind all but died and then backed until I was beating southward. Night fell and a small lower limb of the moon set behind the Sierra de la Gigante. I sailed in the narrow and shallow channel to PE under main alone in pitch darkness. I got as close to the dock as I could and dropped the sail, started the engine, and found my slip in the dark.
I was lucky in several respects. I did not totally fry my engine. And there was access to a diesel mechanic, named Laudo, at Puerto Escondido. He heard my story, listened to the engine, and then with a certain confidence, began to work. The pieces of impeller that were hiding at the heat exchanger were removed. A belt and a hose which heat had damaged were replaced. And a thermostatic element of my generator was replaced. He solved all of these problems created by my stupidity. It was expensive, but I learned a lot.
It was a stressful week wondering what this would cost and how far off schedule I would be. So I was incredibly relieved when we ran Altere around the anchorage without problems on the second day of work.
Back to México
05 November 2019
So the next two days were spent driving through the desert. I stopped for a night in Tuscon and then crossed the border at Nogales. Interestingly, when crossing the border, you talk to no one. Further down the road, you get a travel permit and can purchase Mexican car insurance. No customs officers were checking to see if I had brought any boat equipment with me.
From outside of LA to just outside of Guaymas the roads were very good and relatively uncrowded. One of the hazards of driving in México are the topas. We would call them speed bumps. I think they are probably a wheel alignment mechanic's dream. These are not always well marked. They may have once been painted, but that was a long time ago.
Another concern is the policia. In Guaymas, when I was leaving my hotel to go to the boatyard, I took a wrong turn. There was a wide triangle, no one was coming, so I made a wide u-turn around it to get back the way I had come. Unfortunately, this was in full view of the policia transito. He walked over and in a very practiced manner told me that the ticket would be 1600 pesos and I would have to go to the police station to pay it. After ascertaining that I had about half that much in my wallet (my other money was hidden), he said that I could pay him 750 pesos on the spot.
So I went to the boat and was met by Eduardo, who had helped me several times before decommissioning and recommissioning the boat. I did a bit of work but was able to schedule the launch for the next day. After the splash, I took the boat across the harbor to Marina Fonatur Guaymas.
We worked steadily for about three days. We put the running rigging back on the mast using the messenger lines we had left in their place. We put the canvas and sails back on the boat. We cleaned and polished things and took care of a myriad of other minor chores.
Guaymas is a desert when it comes to good restaurants, especially near the marina. It is an industrial town with a lot of obvious poverty. There is a malecon around part of the bay with statues and a fountain, both of which have fallen into disrepair. Many storefronts need a paint job. At the same time, people are very friendly. I went back to the same Loncheria at the Mercado where I had eaten before, and the same gentleman who had been there last spring greeted me with a warm smile. On the street, I witnessed acts of kindness. And, like everywhere else in México, I saw families together.
Sailing in Newport Harbor
04 November 2019
In an earlier blog I described buying a daysailer for summer play. After we bought the boat we got to talking with a man in line at West Marine in Gig Harbor. When the subject of the Harbor 20 came up, he told us that he was from Newport Harbor where there are many of these boats. He put me in touch with several very useful resources in that area. I was now on my way to see Peter Haynes, one of those people who had been very helpful on the telephone.
So after spending the morning replacing tires that were ready to disintegrate on my aging Subaru, I met him at his boat. There are about 140 of these boats racing in Newport Harbor. On race nights they have A, B, and C leagues. And there are many race nights in Newport. Peter gives seminars teaching people how to rig and sail these boats. Given that I am still trying to figure out the boat, I had struck gold.
At the dock he showed me how many of the features of the boat are supposed to be set up, from the rigging to the electric motor. In addition, Peter had added a number of his own little innovations to make operating the boat a lot easier or sail better. I took many photos for reference. Then we went out on the harbor. There was some breeze, which gave me a chance to experience how one powers up or depowers this boat for differing wind strengths. We also practiced throwing in and shaking out a reef while sailing.
Needless to say, I was in seventh heaven. I was sailing on a beautiful sunny day in SoCal and soaking up sun and information. After sailing a bit, we tied up at Newport Harbor Yacht Club. Members were getting boats ready for a two-on-two team racing regatta the next day. I took more pictures and learned a bit about how they were preparing these boats. I also met Philip Thompson, from whom I had already purchased some equipment for our Harbor 20.
Then we went up to the Yacht Club bar for a beer. This was not the exact same bar where the boat had been conceptualized, because the building had been remodeled, but I was in the same place. Eventually we had to sail back and put Peter's boat away. I thanked him profusely for all of the help.
03 November 2019
Back in the northwest, I began to make plans to head back to the tropics. I thought a lot about how to get back to Guaymas where I had left Altere. In the end I decided to drive this time.
I think I thought that the drive would be very pleasant; just me and my audio books and the open road. I also wanted to stop and visit Elisabeth in Portland in her new digs. And then I wanted to stop in Southern California and visit Newport Harbor where there is a large fleet of Harbor 20s . In my mind, I underestimated the distances and time I would be spending sedentary in a vehicle.
So I had a nice dinner with Elisabeth in Portland. She has become quite a chef. Her fish sautéed in garlic and tomatoes was to die for. And then I drove south. Evergreens and rain gradually gave way to mountain mist. Then once over the Siskiyous, Mount Shasta rose in the blue sky surrounded by dry hills. Passing through more dry country reminded me of the fires that had plagued California the last two years. Eventually the hills flattened out into fields of the Central Valley.
I made an overnight stop in Stockton. Leaving the next morning, I drove past some of the places I had lived while working and going to school there. And then I was out on "the 5" as they call it here, driving between the fields and the edge of the coastal range. The scenery became monotonous. Harvest over, the fields were dry save for the occasional verdant orchard. Eventually I was climbing over the Tehachapis and descending into the chaotic and crowded City of Angels.
Seattle has its traffic that is subject to gridlock. The LA basin's version of bad traffic seemed much worse. Not quite as crowded as in the northwest, but within the crowds were many cars that were moving 10 to 30 mph over the speed limit. Large trucks often moved out to pass each other reducing the space between myself and the speedsters. It was truly frightening.
But I eventually found a hotel in Newport Beach.
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