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.
So Where Did We leave Off?
24 December 2018 | Entering Banderas Bay
When we last checked in we were leaving La Paz for our eventual crossing of the Sea of Cortez to Puerto Vallarta. Our original plan was to head for Mazatlán for Christmas and New Year's, but we were craving the warmth of Banderas Bay so decided to hop down from La Paz to Muertos and Frailes and then cross the sea over 2 days just before Christmas. Day 1 was yet again a lot of motoring, but the wind built in and we had 24 hours of glorious sailing and entered the bay at first light on Christmas eve. We were welcomed by a stunning sunrise and had our anchor down by 9am in the La Cruz anchorage and caught up on our sleep.
La Cruz is a sailor's dream, with a boat yard, fish market, chandlery, cheap taco stands and several bars that play live music till the wee hours of the night. As I write this, I can hear a local Mexican band playing classic rock covers, with a lady drummer who absolutely rocks the house on both a djembe and a full kit, to a quartet of geriatric American expats covering pink Floyd *very* well, to a traditional Mexican brass band, including a tuba player, punching out classic ranchero ballads.
The village of La Cruz is an old school cobblestone village, with a central square that is the focal point for families, tourists, full-time expats and cruisers alike. Restaurants and bars surround the square, with a wide variety of activities to take in. With a night-time temperature of 80F it's pretty sweet hanging in town just taking it all in.
One of the bummers of our crossing was confirmation that our exhaust leak was in fact NOT fixed. While the volume of water spilling into the bilge was reduced with my last repair, it became clear that our 15' of exhaust hose for the main engine was continuing to leak water into the boat. After consulting with a couple of mechanics it became clear that after 3000 hours of service, the exhaust system needed to be replaced. The good news was that the 3" exhaust hose was available locally and a local mechanic was available to help me rip out the old and install the new. Over 3 days in oppressively humid heat, we replaced the exhaust hose and (knock on wood) got our dry bilge back. Upon inspection of the removed hose it was clear that fatigue had weakened the hose throughout, creating several leaks and many leaks to come. BIG thanks to Steve Willy and his son Ely for working with me on this project.
"Along for the Ride"
08 December 2018 | Todos Santos, MX
As Adam came aboard and we asked what he wanted to do, he said he was just along for the ride and wanted to experience what we do out here... No playing tourist, no charter ride here.... We had lazy mornings, lots of down time and no itinerary. Just enough walking the beach, hiking and snorkeling to generate hunger for Rina's awesome cooking. Adam was as easy and natural a guest as we have had aboard... Today we *did* play a little tourist, hitting Todos Santos on the way to the airport and Adam got the quintessential Todos Santos t-shirt.
Come back any time Bud!
Rina heads to San Diego next week for Megan's Bridal dress shopping and brunch and I get to hang out here with the mutts doing absolutely NOTHING. We then make the 200 mile Sea of Cortez crossing to Mazatlan for Christmas and New Years Eve, hanging out at the El Cid Marina and resort for an amazing party. We will then make our way down the coast to Puerto Vallarta and the gold coast in search of that warm weather again.
Who's joining us next? [Blake]...
Jammin in the Rain
08 December 2018 | Balandra State Park
Watch Adam and I on YouTube!
After a passage through the San Lorenzo Channel which had us motoring through the nicest rain yesterday (of course it helps to be in a state-of-the-art vessel with snug fitting canvas, clear plastic window panels and big tooth heavy duty YKK zippers), the comfort of being in a rain storm and completely dry on the water is almost indescribable. Conducive to semi muted conversations, periods of just gazing out across the waters...a whale breaches in the distance. Time well spent.
The geography of the Baja Peninsula and the islands in the Sea of Cortez are quite desert like. Saguaro, cholla and prickly pear cactus so reminiscent of the environment of the Southwest where I love to backpack...the canyons of Utah and the mountains of New Mexico...each plant spaced sufficiently apart from one another so as to garner the moisture it needs for sustenance. But here, the juxtaposition of the desert islands with the lush fish and live coral is spectacular.
The barren hilltops seem to invite wandering thought...free flowing ideas, a kaleidoscope of faces, places, ideas for music and the gentle peeling back of the layers on my psyche. Getting to play guitar with Allan as he cranks out the rhythms on various instruments was pure joy. We found out just as I was leaving home that our band, Four For the Road has a booking back in the Volcano Amphitheater on August 9, 2019. Allan is planning on being back in the county for some period during summer, so we have one more concert to perform...something to look forward to. Music still matters.
As my week-long interface winds down ... floating ... just floating ... allows me to admit just how much I needed a change of scenery...per Allan's suggestion. I don't need a vacation from my life...but to access this new world for me was just what the doctor ordered nonetheless. These sensations beget more of same. Lucky for Allan and Rina that I have a return ticket to Sacramento. Saves them the trouble of having to tell me to not let the cabin door hit me in my ... er, well ... you catch my drift.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, concludes my gratitude attack du jour.
08 December 2018 | Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida
[Sorry, but we never get tired of sunsets... even if the pics do not do them justice. While we did not get to sail much, the side benefit is full batteries and full fresh water tanks thanks to the water maker-Ed]
Leaving San Everisto, we turn south and will slowly make our way back towards La Paz. Nothing but 5-10 knot head winds heading north meant being under power the whole way. Sails were unfurled to smooth the ride, an all too common occurrence in the Sea. So...when you turn south, the winds should be at your back, right? Ha! No such luck. Out here, you are at the mercy of Mother Nature. Should she decide to grace you with favorable tail winds...you sail. Otherwise, you motor.
The four-cylinder turbo-diesel motor in this yacht requires no cranking. I mean none! Turn the key, hit the starter button and instant fire. When one has spent four and a half decades dealing with various vehicles of varying vintages, reliability and engine sizes, you can't help but be in awe of an engine that fires as readily as this one and purrs equally through chop and flat seas alike. A throw back to the Iron Age...and reassuring as hell! I am told she is stingy with fuel too. [0.86 gallons per hour to be exact! -Ed]
So with no appreciable winds, we motored to Caleta Pardita for some exploration before settling into one of the bays on Isla Pardita to spend the night. Plenty of birdlife along the way. The omnipotent gulls and pelicans are everywhere of course...the Kamikaze style of head-first fishing of these pelicans never gets old. Gives me a headache to even contemplate hitting the water at those speeds. Can't argue with nature's efficacy though. High above are vultures, soaring hawks and frigates with their improbable huge wingspans and distinctive forked tails. I was even treated to a sighting of some Blue-footed Boobies...as colorful and startling as any shorebird.
So, at age 63, another first: snorkeling. This followed a humorous 'for-the-record' recording of me doing a little demonstration of water aerobics in my 'satellite' venue. Normally taught in the pool at New York Fitness in Jackson, CA...I had purposely brought along a flotation belt and my hosts graciously provided music...appropriately, Phil Collin's "Follow You, Follow Me" for my brief workout. Will post on Facebook for the commensurate laughs.
Having never been a strong swimmer, the notion of fins, a mask and breathing tube took some getting use to. However, the rewards of viewing the underwater wonderland is what it is all about. All those years my dad kept a 55-gallon tropical fish tank is but a pittance example of the rich underwater worlds that exist. It was fitting that Allan and Rina curated my first experience. Each day a blessing, each moment something to savor...
Pulling up anchor and continuing south so as to be in striking distance of La Paz where we will return to the marina a day ahead of my departure from Cabo back home, we traveled right into the most beautiful rainstorm...big wet drops in mild mid 60 degree temps...and the rain continues here in our current anchorage of a protective bay of Puerto Balandra on the La Paz Peninsula. Canvas and plastic window panels are up. We're dry and comfortable, enjoying various activities, the checking of weather, reading, foraging and exercising my blog entry privileges...I am once again reminded...
"It's nice to have the kind of life that you don't need to take a vacation from..."
Sleepy San Everisto
06 December 2018 | San Everisto
Pretty simple concepts, really...an extension of how I have been living my life these past nine months. I eat when I'm hungry, sleep when I'm tired...and outside of a few commitments each week where I am expected to be somewhere, life similarly here on the waters of the "Sea" as my hosts have shortened it...follows this pattern.
If you can't get comfortable aboard "Follow You, Follow Me" - it's your own damn fault. Plenty of cushions, a brand-new mattress on the guest aft berth bed, proper lighting for reading, clean surfaces, a human scale Feng Shui layout to the cabin, galley and cockpit all conspire to enhance the experience. Oh...and plenty of teak wood. The aesthetics here are incredible.
As for the food, Rina's preparation of the provisioned goods is simply top shelf. The perfect alchemy of ingredients and spices sate the fussiest of palates. Believe me...I do enough cooking...bordering on a foodie mentality to appreciate the flavors she produces. Hungry on this vessel? Just wait for the next happy hour and full-flavored meal to follow. In our family, we call it an embarrassment of riches. Allan and Rina just seem to take it all in stride.
A friend recently said to me, "It's nice to have the kind of life that you don't need to take a vacation from..." The Alexopulos' embody this concept. Long careers, hard work, dues paid have now rewarded their vision and passion.
We left Isla San Francisco and continued north to San Everisto, one of the only villages we'd encounter on this trip, tucked into the back of another curved bay -- so typical of the anchorages on both the coasts and islands of the Sea of Cortez. The crude construction of the huts on the beach with thatched roofs or corrugated tin, provide shade and areas on the beach for fish cleaning. The Sierra de la Gigante mountains rise up dramatically behind town, giving it an added sense of protection from the outside world. Though only 49miles from La Paz as the crow flies, we might as well have been on the moon for the seeming lack of external influences.
The panganeros head out at different times during the day to catch fish for their sustenance. It is a time-honored tradition, born of necessity --steeped in simplicity. It reminds me of the movie "Local Hero" - the hustle and bustle of urban life in Houston Texas, juxtaposed against the austere lifestyle of a small coastal town in Ireland. My hosts and I will rent and watch this movie on Friday night, back in the harbor at La Paz.
We take the dogs to the beach via the dinghy and walk quietly, slowly...each of us enjoying the quietude and the ability to hold our thoughts in reverence. Once again, a product of the luxury of time...that un-renewable resource, becoming a more precious commodity as we age. These floating nights are conducive to solid, sensory deprived sleeping.
Hanging in the Islands
06 December 2018 | Isla San Francisco
[Talk about having an anchorage to yourself! Most of the fleet has crossed over to Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta to follow the warmth. While cooler, it's still a pleasant 75-80 every day and low 60's overnight. -Ed]
Anchored in the bay of Isla San Francisco, I am able to suspend my normal reality and just be. This goes beyond the realm of a vacation. This is a state of mind…a stream of consciousness we so rarely are able to access in our daily lives. I recognize this rarefied opportunity and as the hedonistic/opportunistic (thank you for this handle, Tom Deerfied) guy that I am, I will not squander my experience. Each moment of each day shall be savored…
Hiking Isla San Francisco
05 December 2018 | Isla San Francisco
So now, beginning my third day of floating with this couple on a magnificently appointed yacht, with every safety feature accounted for, the most up-to-date and state of the art electronic devices designed for maximum efficiency, navigation, weather, desalinization processors, monitoring of systems etc…it enables the uninitiated guest like myself to enjoy the visuals, the audio (not just as nature provides it, but my hosts’ most excellent taste in music too) the food as well as the luxury of time to allow each day to morph from morning to midday to night and then to cycle through again, seamlessly.
A Change of Scenery
04 December 2018 | Isla San Francisco
To follow your instincts, make a decision on the 'spur of the moment' is almost always the best methodology for arriving at a conclusion. When Allan and Rina were pulling out of my driveway in Volcano, CA back in June following our gig in the Volcano amphitheater...themselves heading down to San Diego and the next phase of their lives, Allan told me to seriously consider joining them aboard the s/v Follow You Follow Me for a week-long sail on the Sea of Cortez. The notion immediately resonated with me. Both of them were privy to my transitional stage of life and he knowingly stated "Come December, you're going to need a change of scenery."
After a flight from Sacramento to Cabo San Lucas, my hosts drove from La Paz to pick me up for the two-hour drive back to Marina Cortez where they were moored. Mild 75-degree weather was the first reminder that this wasn't early winter in Amador County. The last time I had been aboard their sailing vessel was in the South Beach Harbor marina next to AT&T Park in 2015 when our band mate, Dave Holob and I played the National Anthem for a whole bunch of Giants fans on a Saturday night game. (The Giants came from behind to win, thank you.)
But now I was privileged to sail with this veteran husband and wife team. They had completed the Baja Ha-Ha run from San Diego and were are on the front end of a several year, open ended plan to enjoy their hard earned sabbatical. It was like being given a front row seat to an unfurling script of two extremely compatible and loving best friends, embarking on a somewhat uncharted grand adventure. For this week, three adults (and two small dogs) on a 46-foot sailboat enables everyone to get to know each other intimately and quickly. I remember a friend from the Delta who once said "Getting an invite onto our boat is damn near impossible, but once aboard...the sky's the limit."
And Now for Someone Completely Different
03 December 2018 | La Paz, MX
Rina and Adam in front of the La Paz sign on the bayside Malecon.
Rina and I hosted good friend and fellow Over the Edge bandmate Adam Gottstein this week and spent the the entire week up in the islands above La Paz and in the village of San Everisto. Since he’s a MUCH better writer than I am, and I can’t yet get Rina to write anything, I invited Adam to be our guest blogger in residence. Enjoy…
23 November 2018 | Marina Palmira, La Paz, MX
There's nothing worse than that feeling when you see a creepy crawly cockroach scooting across your counter.... We had 2 close calls over the last couple of days when re-provisioning where they snuck aboard on the bottom of grocery bags. We were out of shape... forgot that we needed to check every bottle, can, bag for freeloaders.... we have been MUCH more vigilant. Last time we were in Mexico we had a small infestation that took weeks to eradicate.
Joe's Apartment - If you don't mind mindless entertainment and gross-out humor, it's kind of fun. The girls grew up singing the many funky songs
in the movie...
Happiness is a Dry Bilge! Now let's get out of Dodge...
22 November 2018 | Marina Palmira, La Paz, MX
We arrived at Marina Palmira in La Paz on Wednesday for a 3 day stay and immediately got to work on our maintenance and repair list.
In a classic Mexican marina move, a friendly local guy with good english skills caught our dock lines on the way in, introducing himself and suggesting that he could wash, wax and polish everything on your boat. Javier was a good guy and helped us find a source to replenish our soda water CO2 tank after an unfortunate leak drained it a couple days ago. So I asked him if he could clean and polish the shrouds to remove some corrosion called out in our last rig inspection. Javier said he could do it and we scheduled it for the next day. When morning arrived Javier introduced a young kid who he said would do the work. Classic switcharoo.... I asked him if he had ever been up a mast before.... Of course not! After a short re-negotiation we trained the kid on how to clean the corrosion with stainless steel wool and polish. 6 hours later we have a shiny corrosion free rig!
Then we went foraging for the right parts to repair the damaged exhaust hose and after visiting several marine chandleries had replacement hose, fittings and clamps.... First, however we decided to simply cut the end off the hose and refit it. This solves the immediate problem and with the spare hose, if it pops a leak further up on the hose, I have what I need to do a more comprehensive replacement of the slowly fatiguing 3" hose.
So how did it fail? The exhaust from the Yanmar 4JH3TE diesel engine mixes with cooling water exiting the engine and moving through a muffler and about 15 foot of 3" exhaust hose, including a loop 2' tall before attaching to the thru-hull just above the water line. Water accumulates in the hose until there is enough pressure to push it up and over the loop and out the thru-hull. As the water pushes over it vibrates the hose, with about 3-4" of play. After 2950 engine hours, it finally opened up several holes. To stop the flexing I attached several mount points to the surrounding structure and zip tied the crap out of the hose so that there is now less than an inch of travel at the top of the loop and almost none down where the failure was. Should hold up fine and the only remaining risk is that the fatigue has weakened the hose somewhere else in that loop. Now that I have the parts to repair that, I'm *sure* it won't fail again.
We also took the opportunity to hit the grocery store, change the engine oil, refill propane tanks, replace fuel filters, tighten transmission bolts and a bunch of other small stuff that accumulates on a typical cruising sailboat. In between all of this we have been meeting other cruisers on the dock and catching up with old friends from our last cruise 10 years ago. With an exchange rate of 20 pesos to the dollar, most things are very inexpensive... 5-6 bags of groceries was about 50 bucks! Rina said that would cost at least 200 bucks in California, and that included a couple six packs of beer.... I think we can get used that, although the mark up on the marine parts negated part of that savings....
Tomorrow we are heading up to our favorite islands above La Paz. There are over 10 anchorages at Isla Partida and Isla Espiritu Santo and the weather looks to be great for a week of snorkeling, kayaking, SUPing and hiking. These islands also get some of the best sunsets....
Remember Job 1? FAIL!!
21 November 2018 | Balandra
Living on a boat can be a very humbling experience.... You think you fixed something, only to be wrong, wrong, wrong.... The fact that I fixed 2 leaks, only to still have a bunch of water in the bilge was frustrating... It's not just A leak, but multiple leaks....grrrr....
We arrived in Balandra yesterday, turned off the motor and then listened to our bilge spew several gallons of water out of the thru-hull... So much for a relaxing afternoon in one of the most scenic anchorages
in the Sea of Cortez. One new hint to the possible leak was that the water was salt, not fresh, and warm. Salt means either then engine or a thru-hull leak, warm, narrows it down to the engine. I inspected the muffler and all the exhaust hose under the aft berth and then went diving into the aft lazarette where the hose terminates at a thru-hull. Sure enough, the connection to the thru-hull had fatigued enough to open several holes. It clearly had been there awhile and I kicked myself for not checking it more closely earlier. In my last inspection I did not move a couple of line bags that hid where the water was spraying against the hull and then running into the bilge. After moving the line bags the evidence was clear.... Thanks to my stash of Rescue Tape I was able to make a temporary repair so that we can get to La Paz and splice in a new section of exhaust hose. Very much looking forward to a sweaty morning in the lazarette repairing this thing....
RCA is under way Nate... ;-)