...and a new era dawns
16 October 2021 | Annapolis, MD
Allan Alexopulos | Thunderstorms!
Well *that* didn't take long! After several months running a logistical gauntlet, Rina and I finally settled in the Summerlin area of Las Vegas, up against the Red Rock Canyon
. Once the u-haul road buzz wore off in we turned our attention to building a plan for our next boat. Like the real estate market, demand is sky high for boats, and especially cruising catamarans. Delivery of new boats are scheduled years away, making planning a daunting obstacle. While that shiny new boat sheen was alluring, we also knew that commissioning new boats can be just as challenging as adapting a previously owned boat to our needs. Most brokerage cats are on the east coast and even more concentrated in Florida and the Caribbean. More daunting obstacles.... Do we live on the boat in Florida and then sail through the Panama canal and up to Mexico when we get a chance? Do we ship it to Ensenada at $large$ expense and then live aboard?
Oh yea, and we're going to be grandparents for the first time in March, so we're not going anywhere soon if Rina has anything to do with it. Conundrums abound.....
Over the past couple of months we kicked the fenders of several cats, Bali's, New Lagoon 42's, Leopards, etc. Between that and time on Alyssa's Voyage Norseman 43 and Dietmar's Lagoon 440 in Fiji we had zero'd in on the rough specs.... ~45' LOA, owners cabin layout, no fly bridge, no more than 10 years old, well maintained. Then we got the call that changed everything.
One of the brokers we met along the way let us know that a 2016 Lagoon 450S was just coming on the market and would go very quickly. Would we like to take a look before it showed up on Yachtworld? When boats of this caliber come on the market, they are often bought sight unseen with multiple offers and bidding wars. Would we do the same? We just settled in Vegas... is this too soon? Argg! We scheduled a road trip to the bay area to see the boat but the next day we got a call from the broker explaining that an offer was coming in and that if we had any chance of getting her, we would need to place an offer ASAP. Having recently helped daughter Megan navigate the frenzied real estate market, this felt very familiar.
We ended up putting in a full price offer, putting us in first position for the time being. Then the original buyer matched, and we had to find a way to differentiate ourselves. Once again relying on real estate tactics, we wrote the seller a letter explaining our history and our plans to cruise and that helped tip the balance. Turns out they are long time cruisers and wanted the boat to go to someone who shared that dream. We still had a problem though. This was happening way too fast as we are committed to Las Vegas for another year at least and we won't be ready to cruise for awhile.
The last piece of the puzzle then fell into place. Passage Nautical
happens to run a day charter program in the bay area, where there is high demand for catamarans that can host 12 people for the typical 4 hour day sails. After reviewing the financials for the program, it was a no brainer. With just a few charters a month, the boat will pay for itself while we figure out the long-term plan. So after an intense couple of weeks of sea trials, surveys and the obligatory paperwork shuffle, we are the new owners of SV Iliohale (ee-lee-o-hall-ey) which means dog house in Hawaiian.
We have lots to learn and are frankly intimidated by the sheer mass of this boat, but we love to learn new things, and this will be no different. Rina and I will get plenty of time on the boat to learn her systems and how to sail a cat, while we develop our longer term plan to cross the Pacific Ocean again some time in our future.
End of an Era
06 June 2021 | San Diego, CA
June, 2004 - Rina christens sv Follow You
With equal parts excitement and trepidation, we have sold our Hunter 466, SV Follow You Follow Me, and will be moving to the suburbs of Las Vegas to enjoy a land-based existence while we search for our next boat.... What will it be? We don't know, other than knowing it will have 2 hulls rather than 1. We are back in learning mode, attempting to nail down our requirements and expected cruise plans that will help confirm the right type of boat for us. We'll be headed to Florida and Annapolis to augment our research later this year and hopefully be back on the water in 2022.
Wish us luck!
Allan and Rina
21 April 2020 | Pier 32 Marina, San Diego
What a wonderful un-dramatic day and cap to an epic passage.... Leaving Ensenada at 6am we motor-sailed in 6-8 knots of wind most of the day and arrived at the entrance to San Diego Bay by 330pm. The good.... Customs and Border Patrol has an app that allows us to check in to the country via a zoom-based video app... We answered all the typical questions and the agent asks us to walk around the boat inside and out. I gave him a tour, showed him the pups and he was satisfied... The Bad? Not one question about our health, temperature or discussion about quarantine. And we were looking forward to flying our yellow Q flag! Now contrast that with our arrival at Marina Coral in Ensenada, where they met us at the dock, took our temperature, asked a bunch of medical questions, and checked us in without having to go into any office.
Our electronics mostly behaved today, with a fun new "low battery" error now and then. Doesn't matter, our confidence has been lost. Time to send the chart plotter back for repair and then see how that has been affecting the autopilot. A lot of vudu magic on the sea-talk buss me thinks...
We transited the eerily empty San Diego Bay and headed for Pier 32 Marina in the south part of the bay. Then we were approached by a San Diego police boat who questioned why we were out and about. San Diego has prohibited recreational boating. For the last two weeks the local harbor police have not had much to do, so we were an easy target. After a brief explanation of our travels we were good to go. An hour later we were in a comfy slip in the marina... the boat is not moving for the first time in 750 upwind miles and 8 days. Rina and the pups are happy as clams.
Thank you... we really enjoyed you coming along for this voyage. Your comments and words of encouragement have been inspiring to us as we slogged through the worst of it. The Baja Bash is notorious for testing boats and crew. We survived with a certain sense of satisfaction while putting up with many moments of dreadful conditions and near calamities. We won't be doing this again soon, but acknowledge the achievement. I must also call out Rina, who overcame a bunch of anxiety related to big seas and heavy winds to truly partner with me in this achievement. And then there are the pups... Watching them lick their lips and look at us with droopy eyes for days on end was finally replaced by the bliss of jumping on the dock to greet daughter Megan at journey's end. Happier puppies have never been seen. And see that look on Rina's face.... That's called relief!
20 April 2020 | Marina Coral, Ensenada
We are tucked into a slip at Marina Coral in Ensenada after an intense couple of days of sailing. We left San Quintin for a 9 hour motorsail to Colonet Bay and for the first 7 hours it was uneventful. Then I wandered into a kelp field. There is an infamous navigator
on a Volvo Ocean Race boat a couple years ago who neglected to zoom in far enough to see a reef that he eventually crashed into. That's what I did... Sitting blissfully in the cockpit until the engine bogged down in kelp because I wasn't keeping a good watch on the water. If I would have zoomed in on the chartplotter I would have easily seen the references to kelp fields. See the WD references on the pic on the right? That's weeds/Kelp! Instead I had to punch the throttle to make sure we didn't stall out. Once again the shaft shark did its job and cut through the thick green strands of kelp that threatened to immobilize us in the middle of a forest of kelp. Rina also warned me about zooming in and against getting to close to shore, but did I listen? Nooo....
We eventually busted out of the kelp field and found a decent anchoring spot a couple miles north at Cabo Colonet, a 3 mile cliff lined bluff where the winds howled at 25-30 knots all night. We put out 150 foot of chain in 20 feet of water and at least I slept soundly. Rina on the other hand got up a several times to make sure we were not dragging. She's our virtual anchor alarm!
We woke at 2am for a 3am departure for the 13 hours to Ensenada. As I stepped into the cockpit to start the engine I heard the broad exhale of what could only be a whale. Sure enough, 30 feet off our starboard beam was a pod of grey whales. Not only could we hear them, but in what is one of the most spectacular displays of nature, the bio-luminescence
present in the water clearly outlined each whale as they ghosted by the boat. As I hauled the anchor, the bio-luminescence framed the chain and anchor as it came up and as we headed out, each wave tip was highlighted like a 70's black light poster. That lasted for an hour... We've only seen this one other time, 10 years ago in the Sea of Cortez, where a huge mass of jelly fish floated through the anchorage at Bahia Los Muertos, glowing brightly in the moonlight.
After hauling the anchor, we were joined by a Mexican fishing boat who danced with us for the next 3 hours, never more than a half mile away. Nerve wracking... We expected the worst as far as weather but were pleasantly surprised. Hugging the coast we averaged 5-6 knots in reasonable seas until just before Ensenada where we paid our dues around a prominent point and a wild beam reach in to Marina Coral.
A 6am departure tomorrow should put us into the Q dock at Shelter Island in San Diego around 5pm tomorrow. Really looking forward to being back home. Jimi Laughery at Pier 32 has gone beyond the call to make sure we have a place to call home when we arrive. We may have to quarantine for a couple of weeks, but we can't think of a better place to do it.
Baja Bash Leg 3
18 April 2020 | Bahia San Quintin
We left Turtle Bay expecting the worst. The 50 miles above Turtle Bay, including Cedros Island are notorious for creating washing machine conditions, but instead we had a smooth ride for about 24 hours to the west of Cedros including a 1 knot counter current that curled up from Bahia Viscaino below and to the west of the island. By going west of Cedros we hoped to get a better angle on the expected afternoon winds forecasted at 14 knots.
Things were peachy until around 11am when the autopilot drive stopped. All our normal troubleshooting failed us again and we hand steered for 2 hours contemplating our options as the winds built from 10 to 20 knots on the nose. We decided to head for Bahia San Quintin about 65 miles northeast of us to further troubleshoot and potentially swap out the autopilot for the backup. We turned towards the bay and for the next 6 hours bashed in 20-22 knots of wind towards our destination. Irony of ironies, I turned the autopilot on after a couple of hours and it worked flawlessly all the way here. No matter... our trust has been broken and our go forward plan must consider that it could go out at any time.
Hand steering during the day, while tedious, is reasonable for both Rina and I to handle. At night it's a different story. We have no moon so we can't see the waves at night and with just a compass to steer by it can become downright dangerous and highly fatiguing. And we are out of practice too... Most cruising boats use their autopilot to steer 95% of the time, and we are no different.
For these reasons we have decided to harbor hop for next 3 days to San Diego. 41 miles to Colonet Bay, then another 50 miles to Ensenada, and finally 49 miles to San Diego, arriving Tuesday.
This schedule has been lauded by both the Admiral and the puppies, who in what must be a record, did not go forward to do their business for 24 hours until our anchor was down in this bay.
Baja Bash Leg 2
18 April 2020 | Bahia Tortuga
It was a dark and stormy night... err.. scratch that... It was a cold and overcast morning when we woke from 7 hours of glorious in-interrupted sleep. I reached over and felt the lightly insulated hull near my pillow and it was cold and damp.... We haven’t felt that in 2 years. That fact... a boat that for the first time in 2 years was about 58 degrees down below, would be the key point in our delayed departure from Bahia Santa Maria.
After arriving in the bay late Monday night and getting some rest we completed a bunch of boat chores on Tuesday; transferring fuel, cleaning strainers, checking oil and engine hoses and getting out additional layers of clothes buried deep in storage. After some comfort food for dinner (chicken and shitty rice - don’t ask) we turned in for an 8am departure on Wednesday.
We rose to the aforementioned cold boat, layered up, cranked up the trusty Yanmar and weighed anchor. As we headed out of the bay Rina hit the autopilot and got an error. No problem I thought, we have been fighting the chart plotter and auto pilot on and off for months and usually found a way to keep it working. After looking at this error though, something was very different. “No Drive Found” was a new one. We stopped our departure and did a factory reset, which often cleared errors, but not this time. After resetting the autopilot It would not go through its normal commissioning routine. Something was up.
Ok, what next... we floated out of the bay at 1 knot as Rina and I discussed what to do next. We decided to go check connections in the downstairs nav station and perhaps hook up the backup autopilot that I had configured for just this kind of scenario. The problem was both autopilots use the same drive unit, and the drive can’t be found. Oops. As I sat at the navstation my history of overthinking repairs came to mind. Stop, I thought, what’s the simplest explanation... The drive was working fine the day before. Sailing maintenance guru Nigel Calders guidance came to mind... check the electrical first.
I got out the digital volt meter and started poking around. I’m a novice electrician at best, as evidenced by my putting the red and black probes on backwards before realizing my mistake. There are several DC buss bars in the navstation for all the electronics and as I checked them one by one I concluded that there was no DC voltage present where the drive connects. I reseated the connectors to no avail. Next I followed the source wires to the back of the main electrical panel and as I pressed down on the wire connector where it connects to the breaker Rina yelled that she had signs of life from the autopilot. I reseated the connector and put the autopilot through its now working commissioning routine and we were back in business.
So why did the DC connection fail? Remember how cold the boat got overnight? My hypothesis is that the lower temperature created enough resistance between the connectors to stop the flow of power. And remember the last edition of stupid boat tricks where the temp gauge started working again after I re-seated a connection? Same thing! Sailboats are exposed to a wide range of environmental conditions and we suspect that we may be in for more phantom failures if we don’t proactively go through systems and check the simple stuff like re-seating electrical connections.
We left the bay after a delay of about an hour, and as we turned the corner north were wondering what conditions awaited us. Luckily we found the sea state moderate and light winds and were able to head almost directly to our next stop at Turtle Bay. We angled slightly east to minimize the remaining speed bumps, but overall it has been a smooth ride. As seas flattened further we headed straight for Turtle Bay, enjoying 6+ knots at times. The pups were *much* more comfortable while still a little seasick enjoyed their meals for a change.
We just pulled down the latest weather and conditions should remain moderate over the coming days, so after doing a fuel burn analysis have decided to not stop at Turtle Bay and just make directly for San Diego.
STOP THE PRESSES!
Just as we were passing Turtle Bay we heard a large thunk on the hull and realized we ran over a hard plastic float marking a lobster pot. These are notorious around Turtle Bay. Luckily I stopped the prop and while it rumbled under the boat, it thankfully did not damage the prop. The line did get caught in the prop and as as I powered back up, the “shaft shark”, that is, a blade specifically designed to cut away errant lines shredded what was left and we were free. Given there was no moon we decided to put into Turtle Bay to confirm no damage and wait for first light before proceeding. The anchor was down by 2am and we set our clock for 7am for the 3rd leg of our trip home.
Arrived in Bahia Santa Maria
14 April 2020 | Bahia Santa Maria
Arrived safely in Bahia Santa Maria after a challenging 45 hours…. The world goes by very slowly at an average of 3.8 knots.
We prepared well for rounding Cabo Falso, just above Cabo San Lucas, and we timed it perfectly, getting North of Cabo Falso in moderate seas and 8-10 knots of wind. While expecting winds to increase in the afternoon with the associated wind waves, the predicted West swell was manageable. What made life tough for the next 24 hours was the larger sets that came through every 30 seconds or so that acted like a speed bump, slowing us to 3 knots. Several times the bow dug deep into the wave, bringing a wave of water over the bow and washing the deck as far aft as the dodger. The sails and motor would power us back up only to have the next set repeat the process. We experimented with various angles to the wind and seas to stop the bashing, which took us 30 degrees off the rhumb line, adding time to our passage. In the daytime we could see them coming and at least prepare ourselves. At night, until the moon rose around 3am, we were blind to the oncoming wave train. Sleeping in these conditions was tough, with Rina and I taking 2 hour shifts both day and night. The off watch would sleep on the leeward side of the cockpit, warmed by two seasick puppies. Did we say it was cold? OMG, it has been too long since we had to layer up... Socks? what are those? Yea, we know, welcome back to reality.
The challenge going forward is managing our fuel use given ~500 miles of remaining upwind passage in front of us and the oncoming weather. The cruising grapevine has confirmed that Turtle bay is open but they do not want you to leave your boat to come ashore. Will the fuel guy be willing to come out and top us off? We can’t really take that chance, so we have to manage our fuel as if we need to make it all the way to San Diego. Good news is that fuel usage is right where we expected, at .88/gallons/hour at average 4.3 knots over the entire passage. Using the data from our first leg, we updated the passage plan as follows:
* Depart Bahia Santa Maria Wednesday 1000 for Bahia Tortuga, 225 miles, 52.5 hours, arrive 1700 Friday
* Depart Bahia Tortuga Friday at 1900 Friday, 348 miles, 73.5 hours, arrive San Diego Tuesday 0300
* Weather considerations are forcing a quick departure, with just enough time to transfer fuel from our jerry jugs to the main tank, clean the sea strainer, check the oil and give the puppies a chance to use the astroturf on the deck without it pitching wildly.
* If the weather window does not materialize, or the strong winds come sooner than expected, we may find ourselves in Turtle Bay for a week or longer.
Using the updated data, we should still have 20 gallons to spare before cutting into our 20 gallon reserve, so we are likely ok, and as the hard core among you will remind us, we can always sail!
The Baja Bash
11 April 2020 | San Jose Del Cabo
Rina and I are both excited and anxious to be departing San Jose Del Cabo Sunday at 5am for San Diego. We have done the Bash twice before and know it can be miserable or just merely uncomfortable. It's all upwind and the drone of the motor and constant vigilance with systems, sails and the sea state can be exhausting. The pups are going to hate it but we've got some good all natural puppy downers to make it easier on them.
Weather around Cabo Falso looks good but expect Sunday afternoon to be a challenge, with winds 18-20 on the nose. The good news is that if we can get to Bahia Santa Maria overnight, we are well positioned for lower winds beginning Wednesday as we continue North.
Here's the current float plan, assuming the current wind forecast, but very much subject to change based on actual conditions and the morale of the crew, including the pups.
• Depart 0500 Sunday for Bahia Santa Maria - 193 miles, 39 hours @ avg 5 knots, arrive Monday 1930
• Depart 0500 Wednesday for Bahia Tortuga - 225 miles, 45 hours @ 5 knots, arrive Friday 0100
• Depart 0800 Friday for San Diego - 405 miles, 81 hours @ 5 knots, arrive Monday 1700
Bashing to San Jose Del Cabo
09 April 2020 | San Jose Del Cabo
We are tucked away in our slip in Marina Puerto Los Cabo in San Jose Del Cabo after a 50 hour passage from Banderas Bay. Average speed about 4.8 and burned .9 gallons of diesel/hour. Not bad considering we were bashing into oncoming seas 90% of the time.
Overall, the passage was fairly uneventful, with winds up to 20 knots on the nose the first night, but as we moved north both the sea state and winds slowly decreased. We had one 4 mile detour south our first day as we encountered long fishing lines and a couple of guys in Pangas waving us off. If we would have hit those unmarked lines at night, they could have easily wrapped around our prop.
We had a couple of interesting experiences along the way.... On day one hundreds of dolphins followed us for hours. What made these dolphins special is that they would jump 4-5 feet out of the water at times, or other times come up to the boat, jump as they breathed in and slapped their tails at us.
We experienced a truly unique phenomenon (for us). As the sun set on our first night out, a full moon rose 180 degrees behind us.... then we watched overnight as the moon tracked over the top of us and set on the water dead ahead of us just as the sun rose 180 degrees behind us. That happened 2 more times. You might say duh, one goes up and one goes down, but to have the moon full and both hitting the water at the same time was very unusual in our experience. As usual the pics do not do it justice....
Looks like we have a weather window to get around Cabo Falso on Sunday, and from there it's 8-10 day to get to San Diego weather permitting.
Time to Escape
04 April 2020 | Nuevo Vallarta
The last several weeks have been interesting to say the least. Along with the rest of the world, we have been socially isolating and following a very disciplined hygiene regimen. Unfortunately, we have not seen the same discipline among everyone in the cruising community or the locals in Nuevo Vallarta. We always knew it was about getting the timing right to get back to San Diego once we had confidence that the proverbial curve was flattening. We also wanted to depart Mexico before either the virus took hold here or the bureaucracy would get in the way. Sure enough, port captains in Mexico signaled that they would be closing ports to "leisure vessels"... the question was whether that applied to cruising vessels as well. After a week of rumors, we confirmed that "vessels in transit" could still move between Mexican ports with proper paperwork.
The next rumor was that Mexican port captains were not processing exit Zarpes for ports outside Mexico. Some destinations, like French Polynesia are not allowing boats to clear in, instead sending them to Papeete in Tahiti to put their boats on a mooring and a mandatory flight home. Ugh! While Hawaii requires a Mexico Zarpe, daughter Megan went down to the CBP office on Shelter Island in San Diego and confirmed first-hand that they did *not* require a Zarpe. Yay Megan!
Long story short, we got exit papers from Nuevo Vallarta to Ensenada, and set sail for San Jose Del Cabo, where we arrived Wednesday to refuel and look for a weather window around Cabo Falso, just west of Cabo San Lucas. Right now it is looking like a departure Sunday for our 8-10 day bash up the Baja coast to San Diego. We will stop in Bahia Santa Maria, just north of Bahia Magdalena and then in Bahia Tortuga before the final passage to San Diego. It's all upwind, which sucks... the dogs hate it, Rina hates it... For me, it's a puzzle... How can we minimize fuel consumption and bashing while maximizing the ride comfort. We have 200 gallons of diesel aboard and based on our trip from PV, we averaged .9 gallons an hour at an avg speed of 4.7 knots. At that rate, we will motor sail 147 hours at avg 5 knots and burn 132 gallons, leaving a comfortable margin of safety. Of course if we bash at 2 knots, the calcs change dramatically, so we'll have to be careful. We can also get fuel in either Bahia Tortuga or Ensenada if we need to.
It aint gonna be pretty, but we're gonna get home one way or another. Wish us luck!
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