Stupid Boat Tricks - "When Will I Learn!" Edition
22 March 2020 | La Cruz, Banderas Bay, Mexico
Way back in January, as we left Tenticatita Bay for a day sail (aka dumping the heads out at sea) with Aunt Stephanie and Uncle John aboard, I noticed that our Yanmar temperature gauge was reading very high before the engine even reached normal operating temperature. We watch the temp gauge like a hawk since experiencing two cooling system blockages over the years. We immediately reduced RPMs and limped back to the anchorage to investigate.
John and I did some temperature checks with a digital thermometer on the thermostat housing and found that the temps were ok and suspected either the sender or the gauge. Later on, thanks to some long-distance troubleshooting with Shawn Wurzner, we confirmed the gauge was fine, so I went to the spares kit only to discover that my Yanmar temp sender was not the correct one. Hunter had replaced it with their own to maintain compatibility with the Hunter (not standard Yanmar) instrument panel.
We ordered the right sender from Hunter and scheduled maintenance here in La Cruz. And since we were opening up the fresh-water system, we might as well clean out the heat exchanger, which was previously causing overheating at high RPMs. If were bashing home, we may need 3200 RPMs now and then. So we called Steve Mechanico and his son in to help out. Recall that Steve helped us replace our exhaust hose last January. And since were doing the heat exchanger and thermostat, we should probably change the trans fluid, do a full cooling system flush and repaint the trusty Yanmar where rust had started to form from various abuses over the years. Good thing we did, as we found a broken clamp, one leaky hose, another that was bulging, two that were chafed and a turbo coolant hose that was clearly fried. Par for the course for an engine with about 4000 hours on it. After 2 days we had a thoroughly serviced and shiny engine.
And them the moment of truth… I started up the engine and the temp gauge was still pegged! Doh! Oh well, we now know that the temps are stable and with a fresh heat exchanger and thermostat, odds are low that we will have a problem. So later that night I woke up t and remembered one thing Shawn recommended that I did not do. He suggested re-seating all the connections to the gauge and even running a wire from the gauge to the sensor to bypass any wiring issues. When we did our initial troubleshooting we thought we confirmed the gauge was working by grounding the sensor wire at the engine, pegging the gauge.
The first thing in the morning I popped the instrument cluster out and cleaned all the connections and reinstalled. I quickly turned the key and what do you know, the gauge was back at zero where it should be. I let the engine warm up and sure enough, the gauge works fine.
After years of cruising and many humbling episodes of Stupid Boat Tricks, I really thought I had cured myself of immediately jumping to the more complex troubleshooting steps rather than the simple things first. Apparently not.
Where is SV Follow You?
20 March 2020 | La Cruz, Banderas Bay, Mexico
Wow, sorry for dropping off the face of the earth since...errr... November, but just did not have the inspiration... Here's the short version: We kept heading South until the weather got warm, which was Banderas Bay where we spent Christmas and New Years. We enjoyed wonderful visits by family and friends and 2 months in the Barra De Navidad area before heading back to La Cruz. We even got to visit New Zealand for Lewis and Alyssa's birthday, where we were joined by Megan and Anthony as well. The 6 of us enjoyed the Bay of Islands on sv Levana and did an adventurous 50 mile "coast to coast" bike ride across the North Island.
Which takes us to today and the changed world we live in.
Here's the current situation down here in Mexico.... We are hunkering down in Marina La Cruz in Banderas Bay, near Puerto Vallarta. As the U.S./Mexican Border was closed for most non-commercial traffic today, we will likely be here for some time. We have full fuel tanks, a working water maker, solar panels and 60 days of food aboard in case we need to leave, but so far, Mexico is handling the situation well. Rina went to the store this morning and there were no empty shelves. Most of the Gringo tourists have left so hoarding has not been a problem. The closest virus case is 100 miles away in Guadalahara but Rina and I are taking all precautions to seclude ourselves and keep healthy. We know that virus testing here is even more behind than in the U.S.
We will continue to monitor the situation here and in the U.S. and our plan is once the situation stabilizes in California we will make our way back up to San Diego. That could be 4 weeks or 4 months.... we just don't know. If the situation in Mexico degrades, we are prepared to head out to Sea and find a safe and secluded anchorage somewhere to ride it out.
allan and rina
Sprinting to Santa Rosalia
11 November 2019 | Santa Rosalia, Baja, Mx
We were in a hurry to head north as the customary north winds were on hiatus and we had 5 days to get as far as we could. Our goal was to sail 335 miles to Bahia Los Angeles, where the desert like conditions and relatively few cruisers make the experience special. Each day we sailed or motor-sailed 50-70 miles, getting as far as Santa Rosalia, 175 miles North, before the North winds returned, making further progress difficult. The winds were not the only challenge. In November, conditions are often balmy, with temps in the mid 70's and water temps in the low 70's. We were bummed as we watched the water temps slowly decline from 84 in La Cruz, 78 in Muertos, 75 in La Paz and a chilly 68.5 in Santa Rosalia. The forecast was for lows in the 40's in Bahia Los Angeles, so we decided to head South to Bahia Conception and further South for warmer temps.
Our only other visit to Santa Rosalia was by car in 2009 as conditions were grim for a sail, with 4x4 wind waves (4 feet tall and 4 seconds apart) all the way from Puerto Escondido.
We spent a week at the Marina, hanging out with sv Vaya, Lil Gem, and Isabella at the local restaurants and bars, catching some "football Americana" and good tequila. Unusual for this time of year, we also got a couple inches of rain.
On the way up the coast our genset died and we spent hours troubleshooting. I have an intimate relationship with this little 1 cylinder Kubota engine, with only a couple of sensors to distract from the basic principals of a simple diesel engine. Careful readers will recall we refurbished the heat exchanger this summer but it was not throwing any heat related errors. Instead it was not producing any amps, over-reving and shutting down after 15-20 seconds. 10 years ago we had similar problems in Tonga and the problem turned out to be defective capacitors. I dutifully inspected the capacitor, which I had last replaced in 2017 as a precautionary measure, putting the old capacitor into spares. Capacitors can be dangerous, as they maintain a charge even if disconnected from a power source. I put two rubber gloves on and carefully placed an insulated screw driver between the two output wires but did not get any discharge. This was a clue... I exchanged the capacitor for an older one and as I wrapped them with insulation and placed them back inside the genset noticed a minute bit of wire exposed on one of the capacitor leads. Upon further inspection it seemed that the capacitor lead had grounded on a sharp edge of the air intake and stopped the genset from producing any amps.
After taping up the exposed wire and carefully wrapping them and the capacitor with insulation, Rina and I crossed our fingers and fired up the genset. Within 3 seconds, amps came rushing into the batteries and the genset purred with a 100 amp load.
It's funny how failures like this affect us, as we have lots of redundancy with our power generation, but when we go from 3 sources (solar, main engine alternator, genset) to just two of those, we get a little anxious. This results in us cutting way back on our power use, turning off the fridge/freezer at night and watching every amp coming in from the solar to make sure it goes to the batteries. Once w
e went back to 3 sources of power, we relaxed greatly, splurging on a movie on the big screen while at anchor a couple of days later!
Bashing to La Paz
06 November 2019 | Bahia de las Muertos
When we left La Cruz in Banderas Bay on November 4th for the Sea of Cortez we were looking for cooler weather. Our last two nights in the La Cruz anchorage were hot and sweaty so we looked forward to cooling sea breezes as we sailed North. Conditions were light for the first 12 hours as we motor-sailed up the coast towards Mazatlan. Our plan was to take advantage of light nearshore north winds to get as far north as we could before cutting 200 miles across the Sea of Cortez on a beam reach for Los Frailes, the first of two anchorages below La Paz, or if conditions allowed, Bahia De La Muertos, some 55 miles further South.
Crossing the sea is usually a mixed affair, with a variety of sea and wind conditions. Looking at our log book, which, thanks to Rina's insistence, we dutifully capture course, speed over ground, wind speed, lat/long, sailing conditions, the state of our batteries and our Racor fuel filters, weather conditions and water temp. As usual, our overnight conditions were rolly, with wind waves coming from many directions over the course of the next 48 hours. Luckily we had an almost full moon, helping us to interpret the waves and adjust our course for the best ride.
We were buddy boating with sv Clarity, a Beneteau 46 and mostly stayed in contact for the first 36 hours when they dropped off the VHF and AIS radar somewhat mysteriously. Our attempts so reach them from our Iridium Go to their Garmin InReach was futile. Seems like these two satellite comms providers make it difficult to impossible for our differing systems to communicate in anything close to real time. Messages were inconsistent and delayed by hours, making them irrelevant at times. We learned days later that a crew member of Clarity had Bronchitis that eventually became pneumonia, forcing them to divert to Cabo San Lucas where she was fortunate to recover in a hospital before returning to the boat a week later. We felt conflicted not being able to help, as we did have the appropriate antibiotics aboard and with Rina's medical training (First Responder) and our satellite phone could have rendered aid.
After two days of mixed conditions crossing the Sea of Cortez we found ourselves 20 miles from Frailes as conditions mellowed and the sun rose, so we decided to turn north for the 70 miles to Muertos. Arriving late in the afternoon in calm conditions it felt great to turn off the motor and enjoy the anchorage. The winds increased to 15-20 knots from the North over the next couple of days, so we enjoyed walking the beach with the dogs and enjoying the lone Palapa restaurant in the anchorage for cold beer and spotty internet.
We left for La Paz on November 8th in calm conditions and looked forward to berthing at Marina Cortez so Rina could enjoy her favorite beer battered shrimp tacos at the dockside restaurant. We ran our Watermaker to top off our tanks in the hours before we arrived in La Paz. As I went through the normal start-up routine with the trusty Cruise-RO 30GPH Watermaker, something did not seem right. Pressures were not quite right and sure enough, as I tested the salt levels in our test stream, we were showing 1200 ppm of salt content. Uh-oh. After checking for all the simple stuff it was clear that something was seriously wrong. As luck would have it, Rich Boren, owner of Cruise-RO Watermakers lives in La Paz and once we got cell service around Playa Ballandra, were able to start trouble shooting. We were looking for a quick two day turn around in La Paz before heading North and now we had a big project on our hands. Luckily, with Rich's help we confirmed that one of our membranes was bad. After arriving in La Paz, I pulled the offending membrane out, jumped in a cab and an hour later was installing a new membrane and the system was back in operation. After changing oil/filters in the Main Engine and genset, doing laundry, defrosting the fridge/freezer, washing down the boat and re-provisioning, we were ready to head north.
Mini Refit in La Cruz, MX
03 November 2019 | Marina La Cruz, Mx
After hauling out and getting fresh bottom paint at the La Cruz Shipyard, we relocated full time from Paradise Village Marina to Marina La Cruz to be closer to some of our favorite restaurants and live music hangouts. As October progresses, more and more people are returning to their boats, cleaning off the residue of over 100" of rain and getting ready to go sailing after the hurricane season ends on November 1st. The morning cruisers net on VHF 22 has come alive, with close to 40 boats checking in now.
Unfortunately, we still had a long list of things that we wanted to get done before heading up into the Sea of Cortez for an extended off the grid passage. Here's a run-down of the jobs Rina and I have tackled over the past 3 weeks. With any luck this work will pay off with less maintenance and chores to deal with over the coming months.
(lots of pictures in the gallery)
1. Our Mastervolt genset was getting cranky at the end of last season, shutting down due to high temperature intermittently. After troubleshooting to confirm that none of the sensors were bad, we suspected the heat exchanger was becoming clogged. We have never serviced the heat exchange in 12 years, so it was the likely suspect. We took the heat exchanger back to the US with us and Marine Radiator in San Diego rebuilt it. After installation, water flow is much improved and no high temp errors.
2. We were having intermittent issues with our fridge and freezer compressors... making odd noises and not holding temperatures as they used to. After having them recharged we decided to add some additional cooling fans to the compartments under the settee seats. The keel coolers do a good job, but the compressors work much harder when the water temperature is 88 degrees.
3. While the fridge and freezer were dormant, we also took the opportunity to repaint all the internal surfaces. Looks like new!
4. Rina sewed new SUP rack arm covers with Sunbrella so the black foam does not disintegrate... and it matches the bimini no less!
5. Repaired broken seams on the stern shade cover. The sun in Mexico is brutal, even on UV thread.
6. Sewed tears in spinnaker bag from UV damage and picking it up in the wrong places.
7. Rina made new black fleece fender covers to cover up our aging grungy fenders.
8. Removed the life raft and raft rack to inspect and clear the deck for new gelcoat paint on the non-skid.
9. Repaired hairline cracks in the gelcoat toe rail - these are mostly cosmetic, but some are holes where the original layup had some voids just under the surface. We usually do gelcoat repairs every two years, fixing the top 5 ugliest cracks, just to keep the boat looking good.
10. The biggest job was laying down fresh grey gelcoat on the side decks. Over the past 16 years the decks have worn and were not as grippy underfoot as they should be. We also noticed very small hairline cracks forming some places on the deck. Antonio and his team did a great job preparing the decks and laid down 2 coats of gelcoat. No more cracks and nice and grippy again.
11. One of the biggest questions when redoing the non-skid was whether to pull the stanchions. The easy way was to tape around the stanchion legs, but it clearly was not the right way to go. Lewis gave me a role of butyl tape a couple of years ago and this was a great opportunity to pull all the stanchions, de-rust them and re-bed them correctly. I'm glad I did because they look great on top of the new gelcoat.
12. Re-Installed the genoa and preventers we took off for the summer
13. Replaced our spare halyard that had somehow gotten frayed halfway up the length. Used a needle and waxed thread to sew one to the other temporarily so we could hoist the new one up the mast and back down. Much easier than getting hauled up the mast to run it by hand.
14. Tuned up the dinghy motor. After a long summer it was running rough and we also had a blocked lube fitting so that the motor would barely turn and was clearly a safety problem. Antonio recommended a local mechanic who rebuilt the carburetor and somehow cleared the grease fitting. (I tried and failed!)
15. Our 15-year-old SSB whip antenna was looking sad, so we pulled it down to put a fresh coat of white paint on it.
16. Repainted the salon windshield shade covers.
17. Last year in La Paz we were docked at Marina Cortez when a big windstorm came through and jammed our stern swim ladder into the dock, cracking the gel coat, which proceeded to rust out over the next 8 months. Antonio repaired the cracks and we refurbed the swim step. The joys of polishing and refurbing stainless steel are hard to underestimate. (Yea, Rina was right again, I should have tied the boat further away from the dock)
18. Polished 100 gallons of diesel fuel. As much as we tried to prevent it by sealing vents and lubing the gaskets of our filler cap, water penetrated our primary fuel tank. We stalled coming off the dock quickly purged the water from our Racor 500 filters and motored from Paradise village to La Cruz, purging 2 more quarts of water through the Racor filters. UGhhh!
19. Over the course of the last year several light switches became intermittent. One of the benefits of having LOTS of time and not much of a supply chain is pulling tiny switches apart to see if they can be fixed. I batted 500, fixing one while having to scavenge a switch from an unused fixture for the other.
20. Our companionway steps are like your hallway leading from the front door. Between us and the dogs, LOTS of traffic. We pulled them apart and cleaned them with teak cleaner and put a fresh coat of teak oil on them and they look great!
21. Because our dogs are not, shall we say "smart", we have puppy nets around the bottom half of our lifelines to stop them from ending up overboard. Had to remove them when redoing the decks.... 4 hours later in the hot sun, they are back on.
22. Our cockpit folding seats were looking pretty sad. After 12 years of heavy use, the blue and red sunbrella was stained and the inner cushions had collapsed. We did a minor fix a couple of years ago, stuffing extra foam into the voids, but this time we did a full rebuild. New foam and a very cool looking new Sunbrella pattern (Silica Sesame). Rina's expert sewing skills, along with her trusty Sailrite sewing machine did the trick.
23. After pickling the Watermaker for the summer, we learned that the pickling solution tends to stick to the 3 way valves, making them freeze. Cruise RO was fantastic about replacing the valve and giving us new recommendations on how to avoid this in the future. Best of all, after disconnecting and reinstalling a bunch of water lines to the valves, there are no leaks!
24. And then we had to get ready to leave...
a. Take on 100 gallons of diesel
b. Refill the propane tanks
c. Provision food for 3-4 weeks
d. Repack stern lazarettes. Why does it feel like we always have too much to fit??
e. Dive on the hull and clean the light fuzz of algae that had grown over the past 4 weeks, inspect the prop, and most importantly the leading edge of the keel that kissed a sand bar at 4 knots as we were leaving Paradise Village. The dredge was working at the time and in hindsight we should have stayed close rather than split the channel.
f. Hoist the outboard motor and mount it on the rail.
g. Pre-make 3 days of passage meals in a hot rolly galley
Now it's time to get our sea legs back with a 50-60 hour passage up the coast.....
allan and rina
Sailors vs. Boaters
18 October 2019 | La Cruz, Banderas Bay, Mexico
For the nautically challenged, a cleat hitch is a simple but effective knot for securing a line to a cleat. No amount of additional turns around a cleat will improve the holding power of this simple but effective knot.
Haulout in La Cruz Part 2
20 September 2019 | La Cruz, Mexico
Peter Vargas and his team at SeaTek Yacht Services in the La Cruz Boat Yard did a fantastic job refreshing our aging bottom paint, sanding down to the gelcoat, laying down 2 coats of primer and 2.5 coats of black Amercoat ABC3 ablative bottom paint. His team also made the hull look new again, replacing scratched up striping and buffing out the boot stripe to return the faded blue to its original sheen. While not cheap, it’s still cheaper than the States and the quality is top-notch. A six pack of beer for the team now and then doesn’t hurt either.
In a couple of weeks, we head over to Marina La Cruz to get our non-skid decks refreshed and do final prep for our departure in November. We’re headed way up north in the Sea of Cortez…. But we’ll save that story for another day.
Hauling Out in La Cruz
14 September 2019
As luck would have it, we were scheduled for a haul-out to repaint sv Follow You’s bottom the day before Hurricane Lorena was supposed to hit us. Generally speaking, a hauled-out boat in the yard is safer than being in the water during a hurricane but it still gave us the heeby jeebies. We rented a very nice casa a couple blocks up from the boat yard with a huge yard for the dogs to run and pool to bring our core temperatures down after mornings working on the boat.
13 September 2019 | Nuevo Vallarta
During the entire time we were in the States, Rina and I obsessively checked the weather, looking for signs of hurricanes forming and heading up the coast. Climate Change not-withstanding, the hurricane patterns in the eastern Pacific are pretty consistent. Early in the season, they form below Mexico, head northwest and die out well offshore. As the season progresses, hurricanes tend to get closer to the Mexican coast and in late September can curl directly into the coast, dropping 10+ inches of rain in 24 hours and do significant damage.
We prepared sv Follow You for the eventuality, with extra dock lines and chafe gear, sails removed, and thru-hulls closed. We also had E2 Yacht Services, an excellent boat-sitting service, run by expert skipper Eugenie Russel, watch our boat and report to us weekly on the state of batteries and look for water intrusion. As luck would have it, no hurricanes threatened while we were away, even as rain and lightning were almost a daily occurrence.
Within a week or so of arriving back in Puerto Vallarta, Hurricane Lorena roared up the coast and threatened Puerto Vallarta. Sv Carinthia reported 85 knot winds in Barra De Navidad, so we were prepared for the worst. Luckily, Cabo Corrientes, the tall mountain guarding the south entrance to Banderas Bay, did what it almost always does, bouncing the storm back out to sea. We saw winds of 15-20 knots and rain but were not seriously threatened.
Quixotic back in the water
18 July 2019 | Port Denerau
Lewis and Alyssa celebrating the now refreshed topsides on sv Quixotic
We splashed the boat on schedule and headed to Port Denerau
to celebrate getting out of the hot and dirty yard. In our slip, surrounded by superyachts, we finished putting the boat back together, including a whole bunch of non-skid for the now VERY slippery decks. The last non-skid went on just as a huge rainstorm approached and I headed to the airport to fly back home. I slept all the way.
Off to Fiji!
12 July 2019 | Vuda Point, Fiji
In early July while enjoying daily workouts and yoga at the Paradise Village Resort Spa (3 bucks a day for the Gym and 90 minute Yoga class!) we received a call from Lewis and Alyssa in Fiji, who proceeded to outline how they had just hauled Quixotic
for a complete topsides overhaul. It seems that their charter guests were starting to drop comments about the topsides looking tired. Never ones to equivocate, Lewis and Alyssa decided to pull the boat and repaint the topsides before the charter season was to begin in a couple of weeks. Rina and I listened, shaking our heads in disbelief.... How were they going to get all that done in a couple of weeks? We never underestimate these two, however and they had a plan.... Anything that could not get done before they put back in the water would just have to wait.... It would also mean 14-hour days in the yard for them.
After ending the call, Rina and I decided that I was going to Fiji to help. We called them back and offered my assistance, which was graciously accepted. What fun! 2.5 weeks of working on boats in exotic ports!
Two days later I was headed to LAX, where during a hectic 3-hour layover I sprinted to West Marine for boat parts and Costco for 6 sets of queen sheets for the next charter season. It was quite a sight fitting the sheets in a huge duffle in the back of a Lyft as we sped back to the airport. Some 12 hours later I landed in Nadi airport and hugged my daughter. This was going to be fun!
Every day started early with a fresh breakfast by Alyssa as we went over the plan for the day. Then we headed out for errands to locate parts or other supplies and then to the boat. Alyssa and Lewis had pulled all the hardware off the topsides, some of which had not been off in 30 years. For a week and a half, I sat where you see me above, meticulously cleaning and restoring winches, clutches, turning blocks, traveler tracks and a bunch of miscellaneous stuff. For lunch we walked over to the Boatshed Restaurant in Vuda Point Marina
, where my favorite dish by far was the local favorite Kokoda Salad, cold poached fish in lime juice served in fresh coconut milk.
While I toiled outside, 3-5 Fijian painters methodically fixed weak areas in the fiberglass, sanded and prepped the topsides before laying down 3 coats of base paint and 5 coats of high-quality white paint. Meanwhile Alyssa was working on refreshing several systems and some of the paint inside the boat.
11 May 2019 | Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
Megan first visited Costa Rica in 2003 while in high school, delivering wheelchairs to disadvantaged kids and fell in love with the country. Fast forward 16 years and now she's in love with Anthony Corrao. What a beautiful setting for a wedding. 40 people braved multi-connection flights and a 3-hour ride to Manuel Antonio National Park to attend a beach-side wedding under threatening skies. We had tents set up as a contingency but despite rain the days before and after, the skies cleared for 2 hours while Megan and Anthony were wedded on the beach as 7-foot waves crashed in the background.
Between the cool Manuel Antonio vibe, hikes to local waterfalls and 3 days at Tabecon Hot Springs in the northern part of the country, we have fallen in love with the country too.
Season's End is Near- Time to head North
06 April 2019 | Zijuatanejo
After a little over a month in Zihuatanejo we are ready to head northwest up to Banderas Bay. When we arrived in Ztown there were 30+ sailboats in the anchorage and now we are down to about 4 as the great migration started.
Winds will be mild so it hopefully will not be much of a bash. Planning on about 40 hours at avg 5 knots to get back to Barra De Navidad for a last hurrah at the Isla Grand Marina and their wonderful pool, then we will look for a weather window to get around Cabo Corrientes and into Banderas Bay where we will be summering over at Paradise Village Marina at Nuevo Vallarta. 207 miles from Ztown to Barra and 136 further to Nuevo Vallarta.
Of course we can't leave the anchorage without one more party with Carinthia and SeaGlub tonight... this time on Follow You!
As the season comes to a close in the next month, temperatures will start to rise and peak in July-September. High humidity and 90-95 degrees with fickle wind, lots of rain and hurricane threats will keep us close to home. The boat will mostly be tucked into the Marina during hurricane season while we visit Costa Rica in May for Daughter Megan's wedding and then back to the states for a couple of months in late July. In between we hope to do some inland road trips, knock off a couple of big boat projects and prepare for next season....
Party on Carinthia!
03 April 2019 | Zihuatanejo
When Rina and I cruised 10 years ago one of our best boat buddies was Dietmar and Suzanne on Carinthia. Even our meeting was epic.... new to cruising and having just arrived at the Kona Kai marina in San Diego with our Baja Haha crew of brother Philip, his wife Josie, Corey and Bernice Wurzner, we all piled into our little 9 foot dinghy with cocktails in hand and started cruising the marina at dusk. We waved to various people on their boats, with Phil and Corey tossing jokes back and forth until we found our cups were empty. Crap, I guess we need to go back for a refill... Just as we were turning the boat, we heard "Hey, do you guys need a drink?" That was the dulcet baritone of Dietmar Petutschnig on his Lagoon 440 Catamaran. We all look at each other and our empty glasses and said WTF, let's do it. Several refills later we stumbled back to our boat.
That began a long friendship that included cruising Mexico, French Polynesia, Tonga and New Zealand together over a 2 year period. After returning to work in 2010 we stayed in contact, visiting with them in Fiji and their home in Las Vegas.
As our cruising plans solidified over the past couple of years, we were always chatting with Dietmar and Suzanne wondering when our boats would be in the same anchorage again. As luck would have it, Carinthia was slowly making their way from Panama up to Mexico as we headed south to Zijuatanejo. After getting a good weather window to cross the Gulf of Tehuantepec below Acapulco, they finally arrived around noon and anchored behind us. Both Follow You and Chris and Monica on SeaGlub could barely wait for them to get their anchor down when we dinghy'd over to welcome them.
In classic Dietmar style, out came Panamanian beer and Tequila.... at noon.... after a couple of rounds we returned to our boats to sleep off the buzz only to return that night for an epic bbq dinner on Carinthia.... Just like old times.... great to be in the same anchorage with you guys again!
B-ball Zihua Style
20 March 2019 | Zihuatanejo
Like most small towns in Mexico, the local square is the center of community life. In Zihua’s case, they also have a basketball court, with lights and stands integrated into the square. On most nights once the heat has subsided, the court is busy with league play, with kids as young as 7-8, women’s leagues and old guy leagues. It’s all run very well and at times VERY competitive. Last night was a great example, with a back and forth game between a bunch of small-ball twenty-somethings and a much slower late-30’s team with an avg height advantage of 6”. It was like watching the late 80’s post-up style Detroit Pistons vs. today’s Golden State Warriors. The small-ball team easily outran the big guys, with endless full court passes, long bounce passes and great outside shooting.
The stands were full of multi-generational families. At one point during a very competitive game, one of the player’s grandma was having some difficulty coming down the steps. The guy with the ball looks at the ref, calls time-out and walks over the help his grandma down the steps to her seat and gives her a kiss. The ref hands the ball back to the guy who inbounds it and the game continued. Nothing like a little generational respect...
Around the court, vendors set up bouncy houses for the kids, tables with food and various other stuff for sale. While there were certainly tourists around, the focus was clearly local. On weekend nights they turn the court into a stage and hold their version of “Mexican Idol” or “the voice” with high production values and screaming crowds. Pretty amazing slice of small town culture.
Stupid Boat Tricks – Check that knot edition
15 March 2019 | Zihuatanejo
One of our most important pieces of anchoring gear is the flopper stopper. For us on mono-hulls, there is nothing worse than the boat rocking back and forth endlessly, especially at night when trying to get some sleep. Here in Zihua we get wind waves from the south or from the wakes of the many water taxis and fishing pangas. The flopper stopper does pretty much what the name says, stopping your boat from flopping side to side. In the few times we have not deployed it in rolly conditions, the inside of the boat rattles endlessly, with every pot, pan and plate dancing inside the cabinets.
On our last entrance to the bay after a couple of nights at Isla Ixtapa, I put the flopper stopper out and tied it to the shroud as I normally do. At least I thought I did. At 3am Rina wakes up and says "I think the flopper stopper broke" as we were dancing back and forth with the pots and pans rattling away. I usually sleep through that stuff, but not Rina. I dragged myself up on deck and sure enough it was gone. But rather than the chafed-through line I was expecting, there was no sign of it at all. There was only one reason.... My crappy knot. Over the course of 12 hours, it had slowly loosened itself and the whole contraption ended up on the bottom of the bay.
The next day I noticed that Memo, the local diver, was making the rounds to several boats to clean algae and barnacles off their hulls. I jumped in the dinghy and ran over to see if I could get him to retrieve the flopper stopper. He asked how deep, and when I said 5 meters, he said no problem.
But how was I going to convey where I thought the stopper was? My Spanish, while fine for ordering a beer or getting a check, isn't strong enough to convey where the boat was last night and where it is now. So out came my trusty powerpoint skills and a little Google translate to help get the point across. First, I showed him pictures of what he was looking for, then my best estimate of where my boat was last night in relation to where the boat currently sat. Most nights the winds come from onshore, a shift of 180 degrees from the daytime breeze.
It was clear that Memo was experienced in retrieving stuff from the bottom of the bay, even when the visibility on the bottom was about 18". I dropped an anchor from my dinghy where I thought he should start the search and he tied a red string to the anchor and let out 1 meter of line and then searched in a circle around that perimeter, searching in murky water mostly by touch. He then let out the string another meter and did the same thing. After 3 passes, and having covered a circle 6 meters in diameter, he stumbled over the stopper and brought it up to the surface. Took only about 10 minutes thanks to his methodical approach.
When I asked Memo "Quanta Questa?" he said "Trescientos". 300 pesos...That's about 15 bucks. It would cost me way more than that to replace it so I said "no, no, Que tal unos setecientos pesos?" (700 pesos) He just smiled and said "Muy Bueno!" Muy Bueno indeed, as many a sleepless night was averted thanks to Memo.
05 March 2019 | Zihuatanejo
The Zihua Guitarfest
was a blast, with several acts each day and night, including a main stage right on the beach. Eric McFadden and Omar Torrez, above, rocked the place with latin/flamenco style originals and amazing fret work.
Later in the week there was a strange disruption in the audience as a bunch of people got up from their chairs during the performance and were looking down. Was it a crocodile? They are known to prowl the estuary and creek…. What the heck was it? Luckily no…Instead of a croc it was 100’s of baby sea turtles emerging from the sand and heading for the water! While the music continued, the audience cleared the path as the little guys sprinted to the water some 30 feet away. There are several turtle sanctuaries on beaches up and down the coast nearby and this is right in the middle of hatching season. Clearly the newly hatched turtles were inspired by the high energy music to sprint for their lives on Zihua’s most popular beach. Let’s hope they dodge the mangy beach dogs when they return to lay their eggs in a couple of years.
Entering Zihuatanejo Bay
04 March 2019 | Zihuatanejo
For most coastal cruisers, Zihuatanejo is the furthest point South ventured. South of here the distances between good anchorages become longer and the crowd thins out unless you are heading to central America and through the Panama Canal to the Caribbean. One of the more forbidding obstacles is the Gulf of Tehuantapec, just above the border with Guatemala, regularly seeing 25-40 knot winds with the accompanying big seas for weeks at a time on the Pacific Coast.
Zihuantanejo attracts cruisers with 2 festivals; Sailfest in February and Guitarfest in March. Zihua is like a bigger, slightly more cosmopolitan Barra, with a bustling waterfront and downtown area, the Ixtapa tourist zone just to the north and a constant flow of tourists. Even better is the dinghy valet, two enterprising guys who will haul your dinghy up the beach or into the water for you and watch it for you for 10 pesos each direction.
A Dog’s Life Aboard
04 March 2019 | Zihuatanejo
A common question for us is how the dogs like living aboard. Well, much like for us humans, there are compromises, but they have adapted very well. Knowing we would be sailing again someday, we purposely searched for breeds that were adaptable for life aboard. They needed to be small, short-haired and nimble. While both Teva and Leeloo are mutts, their mix of rat terrior, jack russel and chihuahua have made for a good combination.
The biggest transition for them (and us) was training them to do their business on a 2’ x 3’ piece of artificial grass located amidships. We started by putting piddle pads in the cabin to get them used to going onboard, and while that worked, they clearly liked the grass better. Within 2-3 days of being at sea, they were trained to walk up to the grass sitting under the boom and go. The grass is lined with heavy duty vinyl to capture everything and a line tied to a big rivet in the lining allows us to throw the whole thing overboard to clean it. Plus small dogs = small poop. As the pro puppy trainers tell us, success is based as much on training the humans along with training the dogs.
Yes, the dogs get a little seasick when the seas kick up, but the worst symptom is sleeping and licking their lips a lot. They are great watchdogs, regularly fending off other boats or paddle boarders who get too close to our boat. They love dinghy rides, as that usually means a trip to the beach where they can run until they are completely pooped out. While both dogs can swim just fine, they usually shy away from water unless its hot, when they overcome their anxiety to enjoy a good dip.
To make sure they *stay* on board, we installed white plastic box fencing on the lowest part of the lifelines all the way around the boat (see picture above, to the right) to make sure that Leeloo the klutz doesn’t go overboard.
We were concerned that the dogs would not get enough puppy socialization being mainly on board, but that has not been the case. There are lots of cruisers with dogs and just like the “kid boats” that do a lot of socializing together, the “dog boats” do the same. Many of the restaurants in Mexico beach towns are dog friendly, so we take them with us to dinner off the boat where they get to socialize with a bunch of off-leash Mexican dogs, who for the most part are MUCH more chill than their American counterparts.
The downside is that our travel flexibility is sometimes limited, and we dread having to put them on an airplane when we visit California in July. All in all, its worth it, as they bring us much joy and they seem to be having a good time too.
Barra De Navidad from 5000 feet
20 February 2019 | Barra De Navidad
Another of our favorite cruising destinations is Barra De Navidad. This small town is off the beaten track of most North American tourists, but has a small U.S. and Canadian expat community, a thriving music scene and a strong local community. For the cruiser it offers either a safe anchorage inside the estuary "lagoon", without the ocean swell or wind waves that sometimes keep us rolling in our bunk, or a marina attached to the Isla Grande Resort, offering access to unlimited electricity, water and access to the multilevel pool with the required swim-up bar. For the dogs, there is a huge grass area just off the dock so they can get long runs and a break from their little piece of artificial grass aboard.
Picture courtesy of MLS Vallarta
The Scene in Barra De Navidad
20 February 2019 | Barra De Navidad
One of the benefits of cruising slowly this year is being able to spend a long time in places we like. In our last trip to Mexico in 2009 we were 8 days offshore on our way to French Polynesia by this date. That meant we could only spend days in each anchorage rather than weeks. Barra has always been one of our favorite towns due to its laid back nature and mix of cultures and amenities. We spent a total of 6 weeks in Barra, getting a much better feel for the place.
Arturo and his son are one of several independent yacht services outfits at the marina. Arturo does everything from dive on your boat to clean the pesky barnacles that attach themselves to boats in these waters, to refill propane tanks, boat cleaning, polishing, painting and even picked up Rina from the Manzanillo airport. There are guys like Arturo in all the Marinas we visit. Hard working, friendly guys who make a good living on the docks.
Fiesta night in the town square brought out all the local schools and independent dance groups to put on a traditional fiesta for the town. The event included arts and crafts sales, silent auction and food, with all proceeds going to local community organizations and schools.
Another sunset on the Malecon, where visitors and locals congregate nightly. The Malecon is right in the center of the picture in the prior blog entry.
The 3rd annual Carlos Santana Music Festival was held on the Malecon, playing to huge crowds, with proceeds going to the Tiopa Tlanextli (Sanctuary of Light) community center in Autlan, about an hour drive out of Barra. Carlos Santa was born in Autlan before moving to Tijuana when he was 8. Great bands, including a Santana tribute band with a 11-year-old drummer who had SERIOUS chops and great beat maintenance.
Joe Bellamy Visits SV Follow You
08 February 2019 | Barra De Navidad
We were honored with a visit by good friend Joe Bellamy, the Bass/Keyboard player I have played with in Over the Edge, Tangled Roots, and Four for the Road. Joe flew down from Amador County to spend a week with us in Barra and Tenticatita. Joe is a well-travelled guy, but the sailing scene was completely new to him. After a couple of days visiting the scene in Barra we headed to Tenticatita where we could snorkel, swim, cruise the jungle estuary and otherwise show him the cruising life. Safe to say it was a revelation and based on his recent emails, is looking to schedule a return visit. Your welcome anytime Joe!
The Mayor of Tenticatita Bay
08 February 2019 | Tenticatita Bay
Tenticatita Bay is a very special place on the gold coast of Mexico, seemingly designed just for cruisers. Every year, sailboats migrate from the Sea of Cortez, pushed by the (relative) cold of winter that brings water temperatures down to the high 60’s and cool nights into the high 50’s. They stop only when the water and air are warm again, continuing South as far as Zihuatanejo by the end of the season before being chased home before hurricane season starts in June.
Tenticatita is a couple of days sail from Puerto Vallarta and just north of Barra De Navidad. The bay offers excellent protection from north swells and is sparsely populated, resulting in crystal clear water until late in the season. Re-provisioning is a 2-hour sail to Barra De Navidad.
The long beach makes for great walks for the dogs and a daily bocce ball match. That is often followed by cerveza’s at the small beach palapa facilitating the social scene among the 20-30 sailboats that congregate here for months. The “Mayor of Tenticatita” Greg King, from SV Harmony holds court every Friday night at the Mayor’s dinghy raft-up in the corner of the anchorage. Greg throws an anchor down and everyone ties up in a big circle. Each boat brings an appetizer to share, with platters of amazing food being passed clockwise among the boats. The mayor kicks things off with an interesting question for each crew to answer…. “How did you meet?” and “most embarrassing sea story” are a few examples. The stories always get a chuckle… Often that is followed by some music by one or more of the cruisers (unfortunately I did not bring my drum) and after a couple of hours, the meeting is adjourned until the next Friday.
Another unique activity here is the “Jungle Cruise”. A mangrove-lined estuary winds its way behind the anchorage and leads to another beach about 2 miles away where there is great snorkeling in “the aquarium”… Some of the best coral and variety of fish we have seen this trip. Along the way the mangroves create a full canopy above the narrow canal, making it a little harder to spy the 8-foot crocodiles lying in wait on the shores. I’m sure Teva the boat dog looked like a tasty morsel.
Pictures in the Gallery!
07 February 2019 | Barra De Navidad
So many stories will go untold but the pictures tell a thousand words.
Click on the gallery tab above and check out the Gold Coast 2019 pictures.
Lost on the Gold Coast
06 February 2019 | Barra De Navidad
Happiness is a never-ending series of good anchorages. What else can we say about the perfect conditions we have been enjoying South of Puerto Vallarta on the Mexican Gold Coast. Between Chamela Bay, Tenticatita, Barra De Navidad and a bunch of smaller anchorages in between, we have truly enjoyed our off-the-grid time.
What makes a good anchorage? A protected bay with minimal swell, a moderate surf so you can beach your dinghy without drama, clear 78 degree water for excellent snorkeling, bocce ball on the beach with fellow cruisers, a quaint beach palapa serving cold beer and fresh cocktail de cameron, long walks on the beach to wear the puppies out, good friends over for cockpit happy hour and 68 degree evenings for watching stars from the hammock on the bow.
We were thrilled to spend time with Alan and Diane Epperson from Amador County at their home in Perula on Chamela Bay. When we last visited Chamela in 2009 we missed them by a couple of days and committed ourselves to connect this time around. We joined the Eppersons and Martin and Diane Gates on a road trip to the volcano at Comala, about 2 hours in land from Manzanillo. One of our goals this trip was to get off the water more and get inland to see more of Mexico. The trip did not disappoint, with visits to small towns, great food and music, eclectic art, bird watching, coffee tasting and volcano hiking.
Sprinkle in a few two-hour sails back and forth to Barra for some marina and pool time, a super bowl party and re-provisioning and it's easy to see why people stay here for 6 months out of the year. It's that good.
Stupid Boat Tricks: "I told you so" edition
12 January 2019 | Chamela Bay
There's nothing quite like living with a person for almost 40 years...we finish each others sentences and some idea will pop into my head and 5 seconds later she suggests the same thing... She knows me better than I know myself sometimes, and more often than not, she is the voice of caution and reason while we are out sailing.
We had one of those moments on our trip from La Cruz down to Chamela Bay; while enjoying a beautiful downwind sail in 15-20 knots of balmy Mexican Riviera breeze, Rina reminded me that our two spare halyards were mounted to the bow pulpit. Sure enough I forgot to pull them back to the base of the mast prior to deploying the genoa, but caught it before fulling deploying the sail. I cleared one of the halyards and came back to the cockpit and Rina says "Are you going to clear the second one???" "No, we'll be on a port tack the entire trip, no problem!" 2 hours later as we furled in the jib with our trusty winch buddy (24V milwaukee drill with a right angle winch bit) the jib was not furling and before I new it I had blown the turning block that held the furling line. Upon further inspection, that second halyard that I was not worried about had gotten sucked up into the furling sail and fouled the normally easy process of bringing the sail in. To her credit, Rina did not rub my nose in it too much. One of these days I will learn!
On a much happier note we have enjoyed the last week in Chamela Bay, visiting with Amador County friends Diane and Alan Epperson, who own a beachfront house in Playa Perula at the north end of the Bay. The picture above was taken from their rooftop patio at sunset before a wonderful dinner.
La Cruz, MX: Musicians Heaven
06 January 2019 | Ana Banana's, La Cruz, Mexico
La Cruz Mexico, where aging expat musicians retire to play out their remaining days... Only half in jest.... the musical scene in La Cruz is vibrant, with plenty of venues to pick from every night of the week. Rina and I will pop our heads out of the boat, listen to the 3 competing bands playing in town and decide which one sounds best and then walk the quarter mile to listen. This band, average age 75, rocked the house at Ana Banana's, the local cruiser hangout, where you can get bad american cheeseburgers just like in the States! Great sound system, good lighting, an appreciative crowd and lots of cheap tequila make for a festive night out.
Another favorite hangout is Octopus's Garden,
featuring an eclectic mix of touring acts from Mexico and the States. Along with the "all you can eat" ribs night, hard to beat!
We are finally leaving the dock today, headed South to Chamela Bay, Barra De Navidad and Zihuatanejo over the coming weeks. Out of Marinas and off the grid again... yippee!
Supply Chain Interruptions
04 January 2019 | Global Gas, Puerto Vallarta
Propane is central to energy use in Mexico, especially since electricity is so expensive. It is used in virtually all houses and restaurants for cooking and heating water, so when propane distribution was interrupted, all hell broke loose. Restaurants were closing or changing their menu, local produce delivery trucks that run on propane were sidelined, and god forbid, the tourist hotels pools went un-heated. Here at the Marina, they have a guy that normally picks up our small empty tanks in the morning and returns them in the afternoon. Those tanks took 2 weeks to get returned at the peak of the disruption. Over the holidays, one rumor was that the new Mexican President, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, wanted to reset propane prices to match the international market and the local distributors went on strike. Local media attributed it to maintenance at a local propane processing plant... whatever.... in our case, we heard that if you get to the local distributor at 6am, you might be one of the lucky ones to get the daily allocation. We arrived at 645am and there were already 100 people in line ahead of us. 3 hours later we had our propane, even as the line had swelled to 500 behind us. No problemo, time we have plenty of...
Happy Birthday Rina!
02 January 2019 | Coral Street in La Cruz, MX
After days of having the boat torn up with projects, we needed a nice night out and found a wonderful restaurant in La Cruz called Masala, serving Indian infused fresh mexican dishes. A great example was Rina's beet and pear salad with a raspberry vinaigrette. Presentation was excellent and Rina was in heaven, especially since it was paired with a bottle of Moet and Chandon Bubbly. Happy Birthday!
Out With The Old, In With The New
31 December 2018 | La Cruz, Banderas Bay, MX
This is how we spent our New Years Eve.... Yanking out the old exhaust hose and installing the new one. Nothing like contorting your body into un-natural positions in tiny compartments in 90% humidity and and carving up the old hose to rip it out. The 3" hose has really strong wire running through it, precipitating the use of my favorite new tool, a Milwaukee Hackzall,
, to make quick work of removing the pipe in smaller sections. We were concerned that getting the new , more rigid hose in would be difficult given the many tight corners and small passages we had to navigate, but with Steve's expertise and 3 sets of hands it went pretty smoothly.