Due West Adventures

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

24 December 2019 | Puerto Vallarta
15 December 2019 | Puerto Vallarta\
03 October 2019 | Puerto Vallarta
10 August 2019 | Puerto Vallarta
27 June 2019 | Puerto Vallarta
22 May 2019 | Cienfuegos, Trinidad, y Viñales, Cuba
16 May 2019 | Canarreos Archipelago, Cuba
25 April 2019 | Havana, Cuba
17 March 2019 | Puerto Vallarta
25 December 2018 | Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico
26 August 2018 | Puerto Vallarta MX, ABQ, NM, and SEA, WA
01 May 2018 | Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico
24 December 2017 | Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco Mexico
02 November 2017 | Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
11 October 2017 | Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
16 September 2017 | Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
29 June 2017 | Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, MX
26 May 2017 | Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, MX

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
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 - Cuba-Conga! Part 3: Cienfuegos, Trinidad, y Viñales
Photos 1 to 68 of 68 | Main
Panorama of Valle Viñales, the best is yet to come...
Cienfuegos is where we chartered the sailboat. For perspective, by boat it was about a 1-hour motor across the big bay to the narrow opening (dodging freighters, ferries, tugs/tows, and fishing boats in this large port.) By car from Cienfuegos it was about a 90-minute drive south to Trinidad
Welcome to Cienfuegos, one of the larger port cities in Cuba, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site for it’s old colonial architecture.
Palacio de Valle, built by the Italian architect Alfredo Colli in 1913-1917, was the home of a Sugar Baron. Moorish-style former mansion is now a government operated high-end hotel. See more interior pix in photo gallery.
Our traveling buddies in Cuba: Val, Rob & Teresa, Kelly (back row), Heidi & Kirk at Palacio de Valle, Cienfuegos.
Beautiful example of Moorish architecture detail at the front entrance to Palacio de Valle Hotel.
Another example of Moorish architectural detail in the interior of the hotel, amazing complexity in the designs.
These present-day hotels were once Sugar Baron mansions.
Juxtaposed to the classical colonial buildings were “modern” 1960’s-era buildings, like this fancy hotel (in need of a paint job.)
Propaganda billboards were very common along the highways, like this one of Ché saying something along the lines of: “Actions speak louder than words.”
"A single Revolution, 60-years of New Victories"... another of the many propaganda signs along the highway.
Main Square, Trinidad.
Trinidad has cobblestoned streets with lots of horse carts. Even the public transportation is horse carts. These guys are delivering drinking water by horse cart... it’s a bit like stepping back in time.
In Trinidad, every house or shop seems to be painted a different, vibrant color. They also have ornate window and door grills, some resembling bird cages, fitting for their local pastime of building bird cages for their pet songbirds.
This is a government food ration stores in Trinidad. Cubans use a ration booklet and are allowed a certain amount of subsidized food per month. For example they can buy for very reduced cost:  7 lbs of white rice, 1/2- lb of black beans, 4 lbs of white sugar,  3 lbs of brown sugar, 5 eggs per person for the month, and a few other items. They can buy more of some things, but the extra above the rationed amount isn
Like cities around the world, parts of Trinidad are definitely more run down and in need of repair than others...
Drinking Canchánchara in Trinidad.
Ché’s figure is found on just about any souvenir trinket you can think of, like these pieces of leather?? Everywhere in Cuba we saw his image so much more often than images of Fidel.
Just like in Mexico, you can pretty much find the same Cuban trinkets in every town.
When Heidi opened up one of our gear bags, she discovered a BIG surprise! Kirk’s PFD (personal flotation device, a.k.a inflatable life jacket), had prematurely inflated! Nearest we can figure, the ‘jerk to inflate’ tab must have gotten caught on something in the bag, and been jerked. Thankfully this occurred after our sailing adventures, so we no longer needed it on this trip!
Taxi-driver Gustavo leading the way down a colorful street to find dinner… too bad the restaurant he had in mind was closed.
More Cow-bell! Val rocked the Maracas with the restaurant house-band. If only the food were as good as the band, LOL!
Old town Trinidad was beautiful at night. We had planned to take in some Cuban music but were all too tired from our overnight sailing passage the night before.
Main Square of Trinidad.
The Romantic Museum with art and period pieces from the Sugar Baron era.
The formal dining room of the former Sugar Baron Mansion that is now the Romantic Museum. In Spanish-style, the whole house was built around the courtyard with all rooms opening up onto it.
Heidi loves this photo juxtaposing modern Cuban pop-art against the 200+ year old painted walls in this Sugar Baron mansion-turned-gallery. This room was likely once an upstairs bedroom.
"Thank you sir for permitting me to live one more day." Is this about The Revolution or about the Catholic Church?  Draw your own conclusions.
Kirk took this photo of a 1956 Chevy blocking a street in the outskirts of Trinidad, he loves the grittiness… it’s one of his favorite photo of the entire trip!
Cuba map showing Viñales in the Piñar del Rio province.
The majestic Valle Viñales with its magotes is a popular tourist destination in Cuba.
The blue Casa Particular show where we stayed, and the green starburst shows the farm we rode horses to through the beautiful valley.
A delicious lunch at Restorante Vera consisted of:  grilled red snapper or pork served with family style sides of black bean soup, Moros y Cristianos (“Moors and Christians” - a.k.a. black beans and white rice!), a salad of cucumbers, shredded cabbage, fresh sliced tomatoes, and cooked carrot slices (interesting!), plus fried plantains chips, maduros (sweet fried plantains more like fried bananas) and boiled yucca root.
Inside the "Indian Caves" stalagmites and dripping wet stalactites overhead.
Exit from the boat ride on the river portion of our "Indian Caves" tour.
Kelly, Val, Heidi, Teresa, Rob, and Kirk disembarking from the Indian Caves boat ride.
Kelly, the farm-gal, was all too happy to hang on for an "8-second" ride on Tomás, the Water Buffalo!
This multi-colored spectacular Mural de la Prehistorica, stretches for 40 yards across a limestone outcropping at the foot of the Magote Pita. What was most interesting to us about this larger-than-life painted mural were the 1”-wide painted gray stripes, evenly spaced across all the colors. It seems hard enough to paint this behemoth mural, let alone painting even strips across the whole thing. (See inset) Note dog, and people on horseback for scale.
Other than farm animals, this Gecko and blue lizard were about the only wildlife we saw in Viñales.
The rural neighborhood in Viñales near by where we stayed.
Traditional Viñales wooden homes.
Newer cinderblock homes are now starting to be built as well. This was similar to the casa we stayed in.
Early morning view from our Casa Particular, looking across the farmland.
Feeding time for the plow animals.
Early morning tobacco field being plowed by oxen.
Vaqueros getting the horses ready for our ride.
Vaquero Yaniel and Bel, just before Bel
And we
Between the Ears: The countryside was so beautiful with the iron-rich red soil (supposedly what makes the Cuban tobacco the best), the verdant greenery, and the magote hills all around.
Lefty and Pancho! Kelly got a good sized horse, but Kirk
Riding past more Viñales Valley fertile farmland, so beautiful!
A tobacco field and drying shed that we rode past on the way to the Finca Brisas del Valle.
Our Finca (farm) tour guide Agnes and Heidi at the Brisas del Valle snack-bar where you could get fresh coconut water, mango water, guava water, coffee, and rum, all grown on this finca. A super-SMALL-world sidebar: back in Puerto Vallarta we recently found a new-to-us Cuban restaurant, CoHabana, and met the proprietress Jamie, who turned out to be from Viñales! We showed her our recent Cuban photos and when we got to this one, she exclaimed, “OH! That’s my friend Agnes!” Jamie hadn’t been back to Cuba in over 10-years, but recognized her friend. Too cool!
Thirst-quenching Coco-fresca is one of Heidi
Kelly, asked if she could plow a row of the tobacco field. They were astonished as they’d never been asked this before! But they gladly let her try. Afterward, Kelly said it was really hard work, and she’s used to doing farm work! This is the first step in growing the tobacco. The rows are plowed three times before they sow the seeds.
Cigar Rolling 101:  learning the process. Kelly, Teresa, Val, Heidi, and Bel our trusty interpreter!
Harvesting the Tobacco leaves: The leaves are back-breakingly picked by hand and draped over the picker’s arms, then slid off their arm as a unit onto wooden rails.
Pulling the Harvest to the Drying Shed ~ The oxen pull the picked tobacco leaves on the wooden rails back to the tobacco drying sheds. The leave seen here still on the stalks were leaves that were not chosen to make cigars, and will later be turned into cigarettes, used in herbal remedies, or plowed back into the ground for compost.
The Tobacco Drying Shed ~ The wooden rails are hung up in the tobacco drying sheds. Here they will dry for about a month. In the back you can see the fresh green leaves, and above the leaves are more cured. As the leaves dry, the rails are moved further up into the rafters, and the fresh green leaves are placed on the lower levels. The barns have palapa (palm frond) roofs and walls with openings on each side to let a little sun and breeze blow through and help with the drying process.
Closeup of drying tobacco - the leaves at the top are almost ready for fermentation process, while the greener ones at the bottom will be moved up higher as they dry making room for more new green leaves on the bottom.
This cute little boy is helping his dad and learning the plowing process at the same time. If we hadn
This “Marlborough Man” Palillo, has been a tobacco farmer and cigar maker his entire life. He showed us how to roll cigars, and said “If you don’t like smoking cigars in Viñales, you don’t like anything in life."
When in Rome… Kirk hadn’t smoked tobacco for over 50 years, but after watching Palillo hand-roll this cigar with honey, and listening to his promo about the “best cigars in the world”, Kirk couldn’t resist taking a puf, and giving his best “Ché” impression!
The farm grows sugarcane and guayabitas to make Guayabitas del Piñar, a speciality rum of the region. We all bought a bottle, and it was really nice rum.
Sunset over the town of Viñales as we said adios... we hope to be back again some day. The Valle Viñales was definitely the highlight of our trip to Cuba!
As a surprise for Kirk, Bel arrived in a Classic 1953 turquoise Chevy to take us to the airport! So sad to say our goodbyes to everyone. This had really been a trip of a lifetime us. Bel, Heidi, Kirk (in car) Val, Kelly, Teresa, and Rob. BIG THANKS to all of you!!
A fascinating read if you want to learn more about Cuban History, and some info that your US history lessons may have left out...