06 June 2007 | Ventura
It was a long six weeks in San Diego. After a number of setbacks and delays our engine was completely rebuilt, installed and tested.
After a brief sea-trail in the bay, I took off single-handed for Ventura via Catalina Island (Debbie had a previous family commitment in San Fransisco). The trip consisted of two legs of about 12 hours each.
Conditions for the first leg to Catalina were moderate to brisk. I motor-sailed the entire way. Fortunately the engine ran like a top. Every hour I checked it to be sure nothing was amiss. In the sailing department there was plenty of wind too and I had to reef the main twice.
After a late arrival at Moonstone Anchorage,Catalina I managed to pickup a mooring and grab 2 or 3 hours of sleep. Then before first light I was off again. This time for the final leg of our trip home. It was uphill all the way with the wind eventually building to about 25-30 knots with rough seas.
I bashed my way along the coast and across the channel to Ventura. It was a very welcome sight when I drew close to the harbor and found a small committee (Debbie, Jeff Beller and Chris Thompson) just inside the entrance waiting to help me dock the boat.
We are finally back in Ventura after being gone almost six months. Flame is tied up in her old slip and we are getting reacquainted with our friends here.
I will write a final post script after I have a chance to reflect on our adventure.
FAIR WINDS from the crew of Flame!
Festa do Espiritu Santo
28 May 2007 | San Diego
Yesterday we attended the 97th Festa do Espiritu Santo parade and celebration. It is an annual event put on by the Portuguese Community of San Diego. Portions of Roscrans, the main street in Point Loma were closed to vehicles most of the day for the procession of lavishly costumed children.
I would also like to wish everyone a Happy Memorial Day. Having returned from Mexico recently I can tell you that regardless of political persuasion or current opinion of our Nation's involvement in world affairs there is no place I would rather live. I am grateful for our freedom and thank those who have served this Country and made personal sacrifices to secure those freedoms.
Shrink Wrapped and Ready To GO
25 May 2007 | San Diego
Our engine block is back from the machine shop finally! We saw it today with our own eyes in the back of our mechanic Jim's truck.
Over the weekend he will assemble the other components and test run it. After a new coat of paint it should be ready to install either Monday or Tuesday latest.
We feel pretty darn confident that the boat will be in Ventura by next weekend.
19 May 2007 | San Diego
In case you are wondering; we are still waiting for our rebuilt engine to arrive. Last word was it "should" be back from the engine shop on Tuesday. Our fingers are crossed.
It is almost a month since we sailed into San Diego Bay. It is nice here, but we are definitely ready to get moving towards home.
More soon - I hope.
09 May 2007 | San Diego
Bad News: The repair parts came in for the fuel system, but after installation it was apparent that the engine problems were much more extensive. So instead of further attempts at a quick fix we elected to completely rebuild the engine.
Overhauling or repowering the boat was on our list of things to do at some point in the future, but we did not anticipate doing it this soon and certainly not away from our home port.
None the less, we are happy with our decision and are well into the project. As you can see - the green beast has been removed from her lair and is on the way to the urgent care center.
Good News: We hope to have the boat repair job completed within two weeks, but in the meantime we are enjoying our new surroundings at the Bay Club Marina on Shelter Island. We have a side-tie here until the repair work is done. After all the engine problems and difficultly finding a place to keep the boat this is a welcome change. We are beginning to relax and feel like we are on vacation.
What Sailors Do While Waiting for Parts
28 April 2007 | San Diego
Today Frank Slater took us sailing aboard his beautiful Outbound 46 Ocean Dancer. Sabine, a graduate student from UCSB also joined us. While outside the Bay we saw many of the racers participating in the Newport to Ensenada race. We were glad to be on the boat we were as the race this year is proving to be a VERY slow one. We've noticed many of them choosing to take a DNF and retire from the race here in San Diego. We toured inside the Bay going under the Coronado Bridge. Somehow it doesn't feel natural going under a bridge with a 65' mast, but we cleared no problem. It was good to have a day away from Flame's boat issues.
27 April 2007 | San Diego
You can't go far using a diesel engine without clean fuel. In our case it is turning out to be a big and expensive pain in the neck resolving the issues created by using contaminated fuel. One of the important steps you must take before re-starting the engine is to clean the tanks and add new fuel or clean the existing fuel.
The first challenge in this process before we could even get started was getting the boat to the fuel dock, but hey this is a sail boat isn't it? So after spinning the boat around into the wind at the SWYC guest dock and with a big shove we were off. It turned out to be downwind to the fuel dock so we just used the jib initially and rolled it up early. We were still moving along at a good clip as we approached the dock. Thankfully with some good line handling by the crew we landed without incident.
The actual fuel polishing entailed getting access to the tanks, removing the sending units, inserting tubes in the tanks and cycling the fuel through special filters. Since we have SO MUCH gear on-board it was a major effort to move it out of the way to even get near the tanks. After a good bit of toil and sweat I managed to clear the way and insert the tubes. The boys on the fuel dock did their thing and after about two hours of fussing around we had clean tanks and clean fuel.
We are now ready to get on with the repairs once the parts are on hand! We also relocated to the public docks by the customs/police dock. Hopefully we will have more good news for you on Monday.
27 April 2007 | San Diego
San Diego is a great place to visit when you do it by choice. Right now we are here by necessity, not by choice. The engine remains down hard awaiting parts (fuel injection pumps).
We had some forward movement with the repair job yesterday. It was touch and go whether the two forward injection nozzles would come out of the engine head without further damage. Fortunately after some clever improvising by our mechanic, Jim Wilson, the recalcitrant injectors came free. We all breathed a sigh of relief.
On the parts scene we had some bad news. Two of the injection pumps have to be shipped from Germany and will not arrive until Monday. So our departure date is slipping. I guess that is just part of cruising and we need to stay flexible even in the USA.
25 April 2007
Life is Good
25 April 2007 | San Diego
Life is good. Scott drove down to San Diego to visit for the evening. I've missed him terribly. It was great seeing him again.
24 April 2007 | San Diego
Our engine work is progressing. The fuel injection pumps are trashed and will required replacement. The jury is still out on the injectors. One is out and can be rebuilt. The other two do not want to come out, but our mechanic (Jim Wilson) is improvising a special removal tool that we hope will work tomorrow. Apparently there was so much water in the fuel that the filters could not contain it and prevent the damage.
I am beginning to think a new engine (not a Volvo) would make more sense than piecemeal replacement of this one. We just hope none of the other cruiser doing the Bash with us experience the same problems with bad fuel. We believe it must have been from the fuel that we took on at either from Turtle Bay or Mag Bay.
In the meantime, Debbie is out making new friends on the dock at Southwestern Yacht Club. We met Frank Slater who has a beautiful Outbound 46. He took Debbie shopping at the Marine Corp Recruit Depot where she stocked up on all the essentials. If the other SWYC members are like him - this is a very friendly place indeed!
We still hope to be out of here by the weekend, but I would call it 50 - 50 right now. The good news is that Scott, our son, is driving down from Newport tonight to visit.
Sight for Tired Eyes
23 April 2007 | San Diego
After 84 hours at sea we arrived in San Diego. It was a most welcome sight. We timed our arrival to enter the harbor after sunrise and when the customs dock would be open. We had to sail in to the dock and we managed to land without dinging up the boat or ourselves.
We had to be careful on the the final segment of our passage and conserve amps since the engine was not available to recharge the batteries and it was overcast which diminishes solar panel output. The key was to have enough power to run the autopilot, lights and electronics. We also hand steered alot for the first time during the trip to further minimize power usage.
We are glad to be back in the USA. Going through Customs was a breeze, but the engine repair is another story. Looks like we picked up bad fuel along the way that is going to necessitate removing the injectors and pumps, polishing the fuel and replacing all the filters (3rd time).
We will give you an update when we know more.
21 April 2007 | Near Cabo Colinet
Well our low RPM problem changed to NO RPM. Despite repeat efforts to resurrect the iron beast it remained silent. So now we are back to strictly being a sailboat again.
Without an engine we decided it would be best to forego stopping in Ensenada and continue sailing all the way to San Diego. There diesel mechanics and parts are readily available.
This will make for a long leg (all the way from Turtle Bay to San Diego), but we should actually get there sooner than orginally planned.
The weather is brisk and bumpy. Since we are going dead to weather we will be on our ear all the way (healed over).
Never a Dull Moment
20 April 2007 | West of Isla Cedros
We left Turtle Bay last night at midnight. We are making good time and happy to have made 40 miles of Westing in spite of the large seas. We hope this is our weather window to get us all the way to Ensenada. From there it is just a hop, skip and a jump to the good ole USA. One other boat also left with us - Molida. The other boats "vacationing" (i.e., stuck waiting for good weather) in Turtle Bay decided to wait a bit to let the seas calm down more. Hopefully we'll connect with Dick and Rick from Solitude, Chris and Gary on Sophia, Sean and Adrienne from Tiki Iti and Mike and Ralph from Grey Spirit in either Ensenada or San Diego. As you might expect, sharing weather info and discussing passage strategies is the prime focus among cruising neighbors in anchorages while awaiting weather windows.
Murphy has been at it again. Shortly after dawn we picked up some kelp and lost engine RPM. Despite our best efforts to back down, go forward, back down, etc. we could not clear it. We surmised that the kelp must have been wrapped securely around our prop shaft - ergo the RPM problem. So it was over the side for me to clear it. You kinda get the hebe jebes (sp.?) jumping in the water 40 miles offshore in 8-10 waves. Fortunately the wind was down which made it a bit easier. To our surprise the shaft was clear and the kelp gone. It must have been coincidental that we got kelp and the engine issue at the same time. OK - so now my analytical mind tells me it must be a partially plugged fuel filter. So we dig out a spare, shut the engine down and change the filter and clean up the mess.. Alas, no joy - we still had our RPM problem. So we gave up and decided to be thankful the engine was still running, albeit, at a lower RPM.
Right now we are making about 5.5-6 knots on a straight course to Bahia de Todos Santo/Ensenada. If all goes well we should be there on Sunday. Keep your fingers crossed.
Daily Grind in Turtle Bay
18 April 2007 | Turtle Bay
Arriving in Turtle Bay yesterday was a big deal for a couple of reasons. We're in a good place to weather the predicted blow (40-45 knot winds). Fuel is available. Food, although limited, is available. Most importantly, we're that much closer to being home. As soon as our anchor was down we were hailed on the VHF radio by a boat named "Tiki Iti". We'd met Sean and Adrienne while in Agua Verde. They've been here two weeks waiting for a weather window north. Once we finished our conversation with them, Chris Catterton (formerly from Ventura), hailed us. He had arrived the day before and has been occupied trying to resurrect his autopilot which failed as he entered the bay. These unanticipated meetings are always fun. Last night we had dinner ashore with both groups.
A typical day starts at 7:30 AM listening to the all important "Nets" - the Sonrisa Net and the Amigo Net. These are our most reliable resources for weather information. After the nets the cruisers in the anchorage often get on the VHF to discuss their interpretation of the weather and what their plans are. Today, no question, stay put with the first possible weather window being Saturday night or Sunday. Later this evening we'll all take the boat taxi ashore for dinner and beverages.
At the moment, I'm baking bread. Paul's finishing yet another book. We've both read more books/day these past couple of weeks than ever before. Hopefully Paul won't run out of books. Ever since we purchased a "bug zapper" for Flame, electrocuting flies has become a sport. This morning Paul was studying fly behavior to develop a strategy for more successful fly eradication. Never in my wildest dreams. We need a weather window soon.
17 April 2007 | Turtle Bay
After checking the wind at 2 AM we decided to press on from Asuncion to Turtle Bay. Although we did have to reef and unreef a couple of times, the wind direction was generally favorable and the seas were not too rough. We made a relatively quick passage arriving at Turtle Bay shortly after noon. Since we had stopped here on our way down we felt like this was familiar turf. It looks like the next weather window for going North will not be until Sunday so we will have an opportunity to get reacquainted with the village and do some minor reprovisioning. We are now over halfway home!
16 April 2007 | Bahia Asuncion
After a windy, rough passage from Abreojos we arrived at Bahia Asuncion just before dark. Our plan is anchor and catch a quick nap until 2 AM. If the wind is light then we will depart and try to reach Turtle Bay before noon and avoid the stronger afternoon breeze and waves.
Waiting for Another Window
15 April 2007 | Bahia Ballena/Abreojos
Mother Nature gave us a reprieve from the big wind for most of our passage from Cabo San Lucas, but at dawn with the wind beginning to build again we decided to head for the nearest safe anchorage. We are now securely anchored near Punta Abreojos in a very large bay that we have all to ourselves. The sun is shining, however, there is a brisk breeze blowing from the West. Looks like we will be here at least one or two days. Based on the latest weather reports there may be another brief window to head North on Monday night or Tuesday. If that holds we will again press on to Turtle Bay. Until then we plan on reading and relaxing.
14 April 2007 | Underway Between Mag Bay and Turtle Bay
We are finally underway again heading Northwest. We departed Mag Bay in the wee hours and managed to get by Cabo San Lazaro without any problems. Outside Baja the weather has not been favorable for passages North and the predication was for those conditions to continue for another 1-2 weeks. After a pow-wow last night between all the North-bound cruisers holed up in Mag Bag, we all decided to make a dash North if the wind was light when we got up. So here we are 185 miles from Turtle Bay and 35 miles offshore. So far the predicted winds have not materialized. We have been making great progress all day. Plan B is to crack off to either Abreojos or San Juanico if the going gets too rough. Keeping our fingers crossed.
P.S. - I guess we are officially a power boat now or I am just plan greedy. Although, we are sailing close-hauled with the jib and full main - I still have the engine on full cruising RPM. Sure is nice to be able to point straight to our destination, pinching our brains out in big swells and a moderate breeze and still be able make close to 7 knots VGM. Either that or I am a chicken to be out here any longer than I need to.
One Down - Two to Go (or Three or Four)
10 April 2007 | Bahia Magdalena
After one night at Cabo San Lucas we took off for the first big leg of the "Baja Bash". This leg is a 172 mile non-stop beat which includes rounding Cabo Falso and Punta Tosca (capes and points tend to have stronger wind and waves). We were fortunate that the weather cooperated - not perfect, but not bad. Our passage took 34 hours which is pretty good time all things considered. This was an uphill slog with the wind basically on the nose. Following conventional wisdom we motor sailed almost the entire way, but we also tried to keep the mainsail full and contributing to our forward progress.
Despite some anxieties about the weather forecast - we made it here in good shape. It looks like we may have to wait for several days until a predicted blow passes through. No problema - we have plenty of time, food and books to read .
So Long Sea of Cortez - Hello Baja Bash
08 April 2007 | Cabo San Lucas
Arrived in Cabo at 9:30AM after a 23 hour passage from La Paz. Considering the forecast for atypical Southerly winds in the Sea of Cortez, the trip was rather tame. I equated the forecast with the old story of walking to school uphill in the snow both ways (southerlies are not what you want when you're heading south). Fortunately the winds were light making for a smooth journey.
Cabo is windy today making the decision to anchor here and rest up an easy one. Hopefully tomorrow the winds will be kinder. The trip up the Pacific Coast is known as the "Baja Bash". The distance, direction and strength of the prevailing winds can make it unpleasant. The guide book strategy for leaving Cabo is to check wind conditions in the harbor at midnight and if calm, leave at first light. We're hoping to test that approach in the morning. Fingers are crossed!
Time to get some rest.
On a Mission
08 April 2007 | Enroute La Paz to Cabo San Lucas
The weather forecast looked reasonable for the next few days so we began our trip home in earnest. We left La Paz yesterday heading South towards Cabo San Lucas. After a quick sail out of La Paz and down through the Cerralvo Channel we have been motoring all through the night.. We are about 20 miles from Cabo. Our plan is to fuel up and turn North. We may have to wait a day or two if we can't get fuel on Easter Sunday or if the weather at Cabo Falso is too rough. Right now the wind and seas are calm, but that will likely change as we approach the Cape. The next leg is to Bahia Santa Maria which is about a 36 hour passage. Typically this time of year the wind and seas are right on the nose for the entire trip up the Baja Pacific coast. We expect to motor a lot of the time, but will take advantage of any opportunity to sail when it is advantageous.
The sun is beginning to rise - Happy Easter!
J Cruise La Paz
05 April 2007 | Marina de La Paz
J Boats are just never really very far from each other. J/40 Mal de Mar (Ed and Cindy Huckins) had invited us over for cocktails along with J/133 Tenacity (Gil Maguire). Cindy met Gil by knocking on his hull here in La Paz - you know, he IS a 'J" boat. Of course we've known Ed, Cindy and Gil for many years. Anyway, we traded stories. Ed and Cindy did the "Ha-ha". Gil raced down in the Del Rey to Vallarta race. All 3 J's will do THE Bash home, beginning with Flame next week. Great stories, great fun....small world!
Good Friends - Great Times
04 April 2007 | La Paz
Arrived in La Paz today. Guess who was four slips down. Allegro. Great to see Jim and Mary. Went to dinner with them. Jim showed up with jewelry for Mary and I - what a Gent! Great to see them! Will be here until Saturday, then will head south to Cabo and gradually make our passage upwind.
01 April 2007 | Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida
Greetings from Ensenada Grande. The coves we've been at recently have been beautiful and even photos may not do them justice.
We left Isla San Francisco this morning for Isla Partida. As we motor sailed, Paul noticed a boat off to our port, headed in the opposite direction that looked familiar. A few minutes later I had a delightful and lengthy conversation with Rob Miller of "Ocean Fever" . We learned of Jim Graves' finger misfortune (I'll be EXTRA careful with our windlass) and the grounding in La Paz. Interestingly enough, when we were in La Paz we took our dinghy in those same waters that Ocean Fever went aground and were surprised how quickly the water became shallow. Anyway, as it turned out they were headed where we stayed last night and visa versa. As the old saying goes, two ships that pass in the night. It was great to have contact with a familiar voice.
Ensenada Grande is amazing - crystal clear green water, fish below who can't escape your view. Phenomenal geology. I wish I knew more. Will take photos and talk to Mike Leary and Big Lar. Today we explored by dinghy. Tomorrow we will hike first, then snorkel in the afternoon. We'll stay here at least one more night, possibly two before heading further south.
Oh yeah...how about ucla. Yes, that is without capital letters. Their last performance was underwhelming. I will listen to Monday's game, but certainly not with the same enthusiasm.
On the Hook at the Hook
31 March 2007 | Isla San Francisco
Well we finally left San Evaristo. It was a brisk, short sail down to Isla San Francisco. I think I am really getting lazy . On our sail down all we did was unroll the jib. It just seemed like too much effort to pole it out. Even so we moved along at about six knots with the small head sail up and no main sail.
The cove is picture perfect with a circular white beach open to the West, but well protected from other directions. It is called the Hook because of it's shape and location on the island. We took the kayaks ashore and hiked up a steep hill to the top of a ridge that afforded a great 360 view. It is rugged country down here.
No luck with the fishing here. They seem to be smarter than I am and just keep taking my bait as if the hook doesn't exist. Oh well.
Out Like a Lion
30 March 2007 | San Evaristo
March is living up to it's reputation - only down here it has been the strong North winds. The forecast for the beginning of April is "light and variable winds". Not good for sailing, but it beats having too much wind.
We are still in Evaristo. Today we got off the boat and went for a hike. Evaristo is a very small village. Not much here except for the panga fishermen and salt pans that are used to evaporate seawater and harvest the salt to sell.
During our hike a pit bull decided to adopt us. At first it was a bit intimidating, but after a while we got used to him trotting along beside us. We were not the only ones intimidated - he spooked two Mexicans riding by on horse back. Fortunately, they did not fall off! We couldn't shake him until we got back in the dinghy.
On the way back to the boat we met a French couple who have been cruising their boat "Croque" for 18 years including across the Atlantic, around the Caribbean and South Pacific. The other boat in our part of the anchorage is a couple from Ventura on "Esprit" who completed a circumnavigation recently. We are definitely novice cruisers in this crowd.
Tomorrow it's off to Isla San Francisco - maybe (weather???)
25 March 2007 | Isla Danzante
We are now at what is known as Honeymoon Cove on Danzante Island. Yesterday we motored South from Ballandra to here. I guess this marks the turning point for heading back to Ventura. Our plans are to slowly explore the islands between here and La Paz on the way South to Cabo San Lucas. Then it is the long beat back up the Pacific coast of Baja to Southern California.
Flame is anchored in a beautiful, little one boat spot on North side of this cove. Yesterday several kayakers paddled across from the channel to our cove and setup tents on the beach. They were from Oregon on a week long kayak trip. It is amazing how much gear they stuff into those kayaks!.
The sea life here is abundant. On the way from Ballandra we were entertained by a humpback whale in close proximity to our boat. He keep slapping the water surface with his flippers, breaching and seemed to be almost communicating with us. We also saw a ray cruising around the anchorage area.
There is a strong North wind predicted for Wednesday - so we are heading South today to an anchorage with good protection from wind in that direction.
24 March 2007 | San Evaristo
Weather is everything when you are cruising. Fortunately there are great sources of weather information that we can access via our SSB/Ham radio. A strong North wind was predicted for today. With that in mind we opted to motor down the coast from Agua Verde to San Evaristo.
We are currently anchored in the primo spot on the North side of the anchorage with great protection from all wind directions except South. San Evaristo is a popular stop for cruisers heading North or South along this section of the Sea. There is a small fishing village on shore and lots of pangas on the beach.
Yesterday we got a chance to explore the beach area a bit, but today we will probably stay on board to keep an eye on our anchor. The wind is gusty, but only about 20-25 knots. We are dug in well and do not anticipate any problems. The wind is expected to subside tomorrow afternoon. Assuming that occurs we will move over to Isla San Francisco to an anchorage called "The Hook". In the meantime we will catch up on our reading and maybe do a bit of fishing. Tough life!
Anchor Down in Puerto Ballandra
24 March 2007 | Isla Carmen
We had a brisk, close hauled, single tack sail over from Loreto to Puerto Ballandra. It was only a nine mile trip so we made quick work of it with the small jib and a full main. There are two other boats in the cove with lots of room to spare. One catamaran cruiser is here that we met at the grocery store in Loreto and also our friends on Blue Pteron. The anchorage is well protected and the island itself is uninhabited. It is fairly large (~17 miles long) and feels a bit like Santa Cruz Island at home.
We took a long hike today - great exercise, but we did not make it to the other side. There is a small hut on the beach that serves as a fish camp that the panga pescadores use occasionally. Chances are we will move on tomorrow to a new location. The long range forecast is for a Norther around the middle of next week so we will be watching where we go with that in mind.
Debbie is keeping close watch on the NCAA tournament via her Sirius radio. She is rooting for UCLA which has made it to the final four - so she is happy about that.
Groceries and the Internet
22 March 2007 | Loreto
Two things that we need to keep Flame going besides diesel is food and a connection to the world back home. The latter is particularly important to my first mate. You can only go for so long before you are hungry physically and mentally! Today we got lucky and satisfied both those needs. We decided to motor North about 15 miles to Loreto and try anchoring in the open roadstead outside the panga breakwater. Along the way, Debbie was able to find a weak signal from a wifi server near Punta Nopolo. We motored in closer until she had a good signal and then took care of business (including uploading pictures to our blog text entries). You never know when this will happen - so we were very pleased, especially since we were that far offshore.
After doing the internet thing we continued on to Loreto. Fortunately the weather early in the day was calm enough for us to anchor and both go ashore. We visited the old mission there, got our groceries and lunch to boot. It was a quick, but fun stop. We hurried back to the dock and rode our dinghy back to the boat. The sea and wind was beginning to build so our timing was good to get underway. Our next stop is Puerto Ballandra on Isla Carmen.
21 March 2007 | Puerto Escondido
Agua Verde has been like the proverbial mill pond the past few days - about as flat and calm as an anchorage can get. The weather has also been sunny, warm and basically down right pleasant. Ashore the bay is large and picturesque. It is like a page torn out of a sailing magazine advertising the ideal tropical cruising destination. Flame has almost had the bay to itself. There have been only a handful of boats here, two of which we met in Mazatlan (Blue Pteron and Cuervo) and a third that we quickly made friends with (Danzante).
We thoroughly enjoyed our time here which included cruiser potluck dinners on Blue Pteron and hiking, but time has come to move on. The weather looked good to continue North so we took off and motored 3 1/2 hours up the coast to Puerto Escondido. We are now anchored in the "Waiting Room" which is a well protected outer cover, albeit fairly deep. There is a beautiful inner harbor, but the Mexican government charges exorbitant prices to moor there so almost nobody uses it. Too bad somebody missed the econ class on the relationship between price and demand when other alternatives exist.
We will probably stay here several days and take advantage of the opportunity to visit Loreto about 15 miles North of here. Loreto is the oldest continuously occupied settlement in Baja with a number of historic buildings. After that it is off to the local islands - weather permitting.
18 March 2007 | Agua Verde
Debbie and Paul
We arrived in Agua Verde on the Baja side this morning after a 46 hour trip from Mazatlan. Unlike our earlier passages we had very little wind and benign seas. With the exception of a few hours of sailing last night, it was motor boat ride all the way. What we were told by another boater anchored here was that in the Sea you either have no wind or too much wind. Based on Flame's experiences, I'm inclined to believe it.
The other surprise was that you can be in the middle of the Sea of Cortez and be startled to discover that the depth is declining precipitously. We would see it drop to less than 20 feet then go immediately off the scale (over 400 feet deep). None of our charts or guide books showed these pinnacles. It can be rather alarming not knowing if it's going to continue to decline or not. Certainly interferes with catnapping at night. Fortunately we never touched bottom. Today we learned (courtesy of Steve on Danzante) that it probably was a false reading caused by thermo-clines or deep scattering layers in the water. Sure would have been nice to know that last night, but I did have an abandon ship plan already worked out in my head just in case!
We left Ventura on Dec. 22nd. Today is the first day I've felt we were cruising. Agua Verde is a beautiful cove, not unlike what you'd find on Santa Cruz Island. Ok, there are a few palapas and a small village onshore, but nothing really commercial as far as I know. We certainly don't have internet (darn). Other than someone who came on the VHF to sell ice, you can't buy anything.
Once I get some sleep, I look forward to kayaking and swimming. While we are VERY grateful to everyone who brought us boat parts, we are pleased to be away from marina. If we're going to be in a marina we'd rather be in Ventura .
The Big One
17 March 2007 | Lower Sea of Cortez
Well we are a little over half-way on our passage from Mazatlan to Agua Verde on the Baja side of the Sea. The wind is light and the sea is calm. We have motored most of the way except for several hours last night. Although we would prefer to sail, these conditions make for a easy trip. Going in this direction is normally upwind and can get rough this time of year.
Yesterday we scored the big one - a four foot long dorado. It was a beautiful fish and certainly the biggest one I had ever caught. It filled the cockpit and by the time it was subdued and filleted - there was blood all over. Fortunately a little seawater and the cockpit was clean again. We will be in tacos pescado heaven for quite a while.
Today Debbie enjoyed listening to the exciting Ohio State-Xavier NCAA game over Sirius Satellite Radio while I read. If you only heard the final score you would never would have known how close Ohio came to losing. She's hoping UCLA and Ohio State will play each other in the semi-finals.
We have the sea all to ourselves. Not another boat in sight for hours - just endless water. The stars were out by the millions last night. It was very peaceful when we were under sail. Only about 19 hours to go.
15 March 2007 | Mazatlan
One of the best parts of cruising is the ease with which you develop relationships....It's also one of the toughest. Tomorrow morning we'll be leaving Mazatlan and saying goodbye to some very dear friends. To my left in the photo are "long time" friends Kathy and David from Seattle. We met when they were staying on the guest dock at Ventura Yacht Club - the laundry room to be precise. We caught up with them in Puerto Vallarta and again here in Mazatlan. We explored and shared a hotel suite with them in Guadalajara. It was like a slumber party for adults. We chatted past midnight. Anyway, tomorrow we'll sadly say so long, at least till next year (???). You can bet we'll stay in touch. Newer friends in the photo are Jim and Judy. Chances are they'll catch up with us in a week or two in Baja and we'll get to know them better. They're hanging around Mazatlan a little longer. It's a way of life in the cruising community. It almost reminds me of my Army Brat days where lifelong friendships are made in a short period of time. Cruisers are a warm and wonderful group.
14 March 2007 | La Noria
We became touristas yesterday. It was a five hour tour by bus to a small village named La Noria and the adjacent Osuma Ranch.
It was relaxing and easy since we had a tour guide who told us all about the area and it's history.
The ranch is a restored and fully functioning tequilla factory that dates back several hundred years. They had lots of antique equipment and machinery that was formerly used by the jimadores.
Friday we plan on leaving Marina Mazatlan and crossing the Sea to the Baja side. Our weather guru is predicting benign conditions. It's a two day crossing so let's hope he is right!
09 March 2007 | Mazatlan
We did some exploring today in Mazatlan's historical district and downtown area. Once again we used local buses to get there. The marina area is about 10 miles North of the city so walking was out of the question.
Like many towns in Mexico there was the main plaza and the adjacent cathedral. Nearby was a huge indoor farmer's market where you could buy just about anything. There were small booths for every type of food you can think of. It was all quite visceral with the fish, chickens, cattle, pigs, etc. in various stages of processing and laying out on the counters in a manner not normally seen back home in the super market. Fun to visit and we would probably shop for vegetables there, but we would be more choosy about where we buy meat.
We did a lot of walking and sightseeing. We hiked up to the light house at the entrance to the old harbor and commercial port. It is said to be the tallest natural light house in the Americas. I don't know if that is true, but I can vouch that it is one heck of alot of steps to climb to get to the top. We had a great view of the city and harbor once we reached the summit and a good workout to boot.
We are settling in to marina life here for the next two weeks or so and then will venture further North on the mainland side of the Sea.
08 March 2007 | Mazatlan
Arrived in Mazatlan this morning after a 22 hour journey upwind from San Blas. Coincidentally upon entering the harbor, we followed "Andante" friends of ours from Puerto Vallarta, into the marina. Pretty unlikely considering we were coming from 130 miles away and they from 10 miles down the coast. Looking forward to having dinner with them this evening and sharing stories.
06 March 2007 | San Blas
Today was jungle cruise day. Along with four other sailboat cruisers we went on a half day panga ride into the jungle. The banks of the winding channels were thick with mangrove trees and other exotic vegetation. All kinds of birds, turtles, iguanas and crocodiles (big and little) were present in large numbers to greet us. It was a serious photo opportunity on the way in for camera buffs and a fun ride zipping back out the jungle at high speed (or at least it seemed that way in the narrow channels).
We stopped at the crocodile farm and saw the critters up really close. They are ugly, very prehistoric looking and have lots of gnarly looking teeth. You don't want to run into one of these guys in water when they are feeling hungry. It could ruin you whole day. San Blas is a small community. Fun to visit, but not to stay for very long. Tomorrow it's off to Mazatlan for us. Just need to double check the tide tables and make sure we have enough water to leave the harbor.
Shallow Water and No-See-Ums
05 March 2007 | San Blas
Took another hitch up the coast today from Chacala to San Blas. Benign conditions prevailed again although we did sail for several hours. Whales, turtles and dolphins kept us company along the way. It was a great day to be outside on the water heading to a new place.
Entering the harbor into the estuary proved to be a bit of a nail biter. We crept in and watched the depth finder as the water got really, really shallow. It bottomed out at 7.6 feet. Since we draw at least 6.5 feet (and maybe a few inches more with all the cruising gear we have on board) that meant we only had ~1 feet of water under the keel. We would not have gone in under those conditions without local knowledge. Fortunately Norm was on the VHF to guide us in. He is an institution here who has been helping the cruising community for years. We certainly benefited from that help.
After anchoring near the shrimp boat fleet we went ashore and met Norm and the other cruisers in port. He filled us in where to find things of interest to cruisers including RAID. The no-see-ums here are a real problem if you are not prepared. We covered all our ports and hatches with netting and sprayed the boat and ourselves. So far it seems to have worked. Will keep our fingers crossed that we can avoid that nuisance.
Tomorrow we go on the jungle cruise up the estuary. Will give you an update then.
Buenas noches amigos.
Palapas in Paradise
03 March 2007 | Chacala
We made a short hop up the coast today, from La Cruz to Chacala. It was another easy trip. Not much wind, but the engine ran fine thankfully. Chacala is a small cove consisting of a beach lined with palapas, fishing pangas and a small RV/trailer parking area. By the looks of things on the beach there appeared to be mostly Mexicans vacationing here. About the only gringos around were us and the three other sailboats anchored there.
Not a lot going on of special interest here, but it does make a good stopping point before venturing further up the coast. I also took the opportunity to go for a swim and finish cleaning the bottom (no wet suits needed here!). We will depart tomorrow AM for San Blas.
03 March 2007 | La Cruz
We are finally on the move again. After much discussion we decided to slowly head North instead of continuing South. Today we anchored at La Cruz (10 miles North of PV). There are about 30-40 other boats here. Many of the boats were further South and have begun their migration North towards the Sea of Cortez. Our immediate plans for the future are to stop at Chacala, San Blas, Mazatlan and then cross over and up into the Sea.
It felt good to finally leave PV. Although it was fun, especially seeing our friends from Ventura and being on the same dock as the Impossible crew (in photo above), we were tired of marina living. With all the large power boats there and the full marina we felt almost claustrophobic.
Since we had just completed a significant repair job on the engine, we were a little apprehensive about the first trip. After motoring for about an hour today it appears the repair worked. There was still a noticeable increase in engine temperature at low speed, but that should go away after further bleeding of residual air in the cooling system. Also, the best news was no leaks! I can now testify that RTV silicone really works when you don't have the right gaskets available. Yeah!
Vallarta Yacht Club
25 February 2007 | Nueva Vallarta
Crew from Deke Klatt's "Jaded" and Ryan Cox's "No Name"
J-24 Mexican Nationals
25 February 2007 | Nuevo Vallarta
We changed hats this weekend becoming sailboat racers again. I filled in for Jon Avery (who was recovering from a bicycle accident) as crew on Deke Klatt's J-24. The event was the Mexican J-24 Nationals in Banderas Bay near Nueva Vallarta. Also, racing from VYC was Ryan Cox. After two days racing with 42 other boats - Ryan Cox was the overall winner and Deke Klatt finished in 8th place. Debbie and Jon were the VYC spectator fleet aboard Flame cheering the home boys on.
The J-24 Worlds begin here in a week. Fortunately, Jon will be back in his normal position on Jaded - so I can go back to being a laid back cruiser.
FedEx ala. Jon
22 February 2007 | Puerto Vallarta
Getting boat engine parts in Mexico is a hassle, but thanks to the internet and our good friend, Jon Avery, we now have a replacement heat exchanger. Jon went above and way beyond normal expectations. He took the initiative to trace our waylaid shipment from Volvo and hand carry the parts to us. Our good fortune was that he was coming down here to race with Deke Klatt in the J-24 Worlds and was sooo willing to help out.
Thanks to Jon - After the regatta this weekend, we should be able to complete our boat repairs and resume our journey. It's time to move on.
21 February 2007 | Flame - Puerto Vallarta
Walking back from dinner tonight we saw these two very familiar and welcome faces. Deke and David arrived having towed Jaded from Ventura for the J24 Mexican Nationals and Worlds in Puerto Vallarta. Being the thoughtful gents they are they showed up with beautiful roses. Jon arrives tomorrow. Flame is happy to have company and we're all looking forward to the upcoming sailing.
XV Aņos Celebracion
21 February 2007 | Guadalajara
This past weekend we took a bus (Primera Plus!) to Guadalajara with two other cruising couples. It was about a 5-6 hour ride, but the bus was comfortable with lots of leg room. I'm beginning to think this bus thing is not a bad way to go if you have the time.
We stayed in the Hotel Frances which first opened in 1610 (that not a typo). Guadalajara is the state capital for Jalisco. It is a big city with non-stop action. Just wandering around downtown or a taking bus to the suburbs you can see all kinds of activities. We were treated to everything from a huge flee market to the Jalisco State Band. In one suburb town of Tlaquepaque we peeked into the large cathedrals and discovered a Mexican tradition in process.
The XV Celebration is the coming out of 15 year old girls. It is a big deal with a church ceremony, elaborate dresses and a party to rival any wedding reception. As we walked past one of the cathedrals, the mass was just ending and the honored girl (Carla) was outside with her family. We talked with them, took their picture and the next thing we knew we were invited to the reception/party. It was very special to be included in their private (~200 people) party. We danced and celebrated with them. It was truly a unique cultural experience.
We also visited museums, government buildings, stores, restraurants, etc. It was great to be able to see a slice of Mexico away from the coast. We have a new appreciation for the generosity and friendliness of the people here.
Off the Hook
15 February 2007 | Puerto Vallarta
Well we have been in Puerto Vallarta almost three days. I've been told that I am remiss in not updating the blog (Uncle Steve was worried about us) - so here goes it. We made the short trip from La Cruz to Puerto Vallarta under power. Although, the charts are not very accurate in this part of Mexico - PV was easy to find. There were three HUGE cruise ships at the harbor. This is a major tourist destination.
We have a slip in Marina Vallarta for the next 2-3 weeks. It is a beautiful setting, but the marina is falling apart. At least we have 3 out 4 dock cleats to secure the boat and the water works (but you have to use pliers to turn it on). Debbie had to call the office to get an electric meter installed so we could have shore power. She also signed up for internet. So we are all set.
This is a fun place. Lots of nice restaurants, shops, etc. We also connected with our friends on Andante (Seattle) and Mal de Mer (San Diego). We met both of these couples on the VYC guest dock. It was nice to see the familiar faces and compare notes about our cruising experiences so far.
PV is a very old city. We have not done much exploring yet, but we did take the short bus ride to el centro. The malecon was alive with activity including large, professional looking sand sculptures and other art. The streets are cobblestone with lots of cars and buses whizzing by. We had a nice dinner there with our friends, David and Kathy (Andante) and together managed to find our way home without any trouble.
Today we did another short bus trip to Nuevo Vallarta and back. This is where the J-24 Mexican Nationals and J-24 Worlds will be held over the next several weeks. Vallarta Yacht Club and Paradise Village Resort/Marina is a great location for this event. The VYC J-24 contingent should be arriving around the 22nd. We look forward to seeing them.
11 February 2007 | Puerto Vallarta
Mass transit is alive and well in this part of Mexico. Buses go everywhere. You just look for one that has your destination handwritten on the windshield and flag it down. Today we took the bus from La Cruz to PV and back. It was easy and cheap ($1.40 one way per person). We also got to take in the local culture a bit during our ride. On the way to PV a traveling salesman pitched his wonder vitamins to a captive audience on the bus. On the return trip there were two clowns with face paint doing a comedy routine and giving out balloons to the kids. It was fun and very entertaining.
In PV we explored the marinas and located a friend's boat there. Then it was on to a highlight of the day - shopping at WalMart! After filling several shopping bags and our tummies at the Cafe we caught a bus back to La Cruz. Food is readily available down here - although you may have to study the labels a bit to decipher the Spanish.
On returning to our dinghy at the beach we discovered that it was soft on one side. Looks like another boat project - finding and fixing the leak. Oh well. I think I am going to brush up on Cruising 101. Only one serious activity per day is allowed with the rest of the day reserved for goofing off. My project list is getting out of hand.
Tomorrow I may just veg - Buenas noches.
Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?
09 February 2007 | La Cruz
Sometimes you wonder if the effort required to deal with the minor and sometimes not so minor inconveniences of cruising on a small sailboat is worth the rewards. This question comes into sharp focus when the weather is bad or breakdowns occur. Our latest problem is the heat exchanger (we think). Salt water is going where coolant is suppose to go and vice versa. Not good for the engine. And you know that Volvo is really proud($$$) of their parts. So we may have another delivery from home - this time by Avery Express. Thank God for good friends!
We are currently at anchor in La Cruz after spending the previous night at Punta de Mita. This anchorage is host to a large number of cruisers. There are upwards of 30 boats anchored here and room for more. We have only met a few of the cruisers, but are impressed again by their friendliness. We will probably be here 1-2 weeks and then move on to a slip in Nuevo Vallarta (if we can get one). It will be easier to fix the iron genny there.
It is a small world. We ran into a familiar face tonight at Ana Bananas (a local cruiser hangout/restaurant) - Chris Catterton. Never know who you will bump into even 1,100 miles from home.
P.S. The answer is yes (re: Juice vs. Squeeze). You just need to roll with the bumps and look forward to the good times. Right now we are in good time mode. The anchorage is ideal for cruisers. The water is great and the weather is fantastic.
06 February 2007 | Isla Isabela
Today we went ashore on our kayaks. Our first stop was the South cove where there is a fish camp with a few fishermen and the site of an inactive, decaying frigate bird research facility. The birds are EVERYWHERE. Their nests are about head level in the short trees. You could see baby chicks in various stages of development and the males with their impressive red neck sacks bellowed out. Another interesting creature were the iguanas. The ones we saw were about 12-16 inches long and very prehistoric looking. As Debbie was taking their picture I pointed out to her that there were two more right next to her feet. She jumped back.
Then we went around to the East side and hiked the trail to Lago Crater in the center of the island. It is a good size lake, but a very dark (stagnate) green color. Along the way we passed numerous blue footed booby birds. They nest on the ground in the sand. You could see them sitting on their eggs or hopping around making various sounds.
All in all not quite Jurasic Park, but very interesting, especially being able to get so close to nature. The wildlife mostly ignored us and rightfully so - it is their island.
Tomorrow we depart for Banderas Bay.
Really Cruising Again
06 February 2007 | Isla Isabela
We have transitioned from marina living and are back in the full cruise mode. It feels great!
Arrived at Isla Isabela at 1030 this morning. Our greeting committee was three pairs of whales having a great time frolicking on the surface not far from our boat. This island is small, but teeming with birds and other wildlife. Tomorrow we will explore the island.
The water is still a bit cool, but it was fun to finally go swimming today - 75 degrees. I also took the opportunity to do some in the water boat maintenance. I dove on the anchor to be sure it was securely set and cleaned the bottom and found a surprise - part of a fishing net and some small polypro line were wrapped around the hub of our prop! That explains why our engine had stalled occasionally when idling in gear. It also may explain why the engine temperature was somewhat elevated. I think I will make checking the shaft/prop a regular part of my anchor check routine. Debbie snorkeled.
We had another surprise when attempting to start the engine after the morning net - the starter begin to spin uncontrolled. I had to disconnect all battery power to get it to stop. Fortunately it was an easy fix. A battery cable had shifted enough to touch an unused terminal on the solenoid that cause the starter to energize. I am keeping pretty busy fixing stuff.
We are anchored behind a large rock just off of the East side of the island it reminds me of Little Scorpion at Santa Cruz. There are several other boats here. Although, this is an isolated island it is a fairly popular stop for cruisers. The weather conditions are benign which is good for the anchorage, but not so good for sailing. The outlook for the rest of our passage in a day or two to Banderas Bay is for a motor boat ride, but I not complaining after our nice sail from La Paz.
Timing is Everything
05 February 2007 | Sea of Cortez - Southern Crossing
To take advantage of a great weather window for crossing the Sea, we decided to skip the islands on the Baja side and go straight across. This has turned out to be a good decision. This crossing has been like a dream so far. We have had beautiful sailing conditions day and night. This is our second night at sea. It is so mellow and pleasant out that we decided to keep the cruising spinnaker up (unless the breeze or seas pick up). We are making 7-8 knots over the bottom. The wind is on the beam and very consistent. We have had the sheets tied off all day and hardly ever had to adjust them. The boat just keeps rolling along under autopilot - perfectly happy to have us along for the ride as passengers.
The only problem we had was with the diesel while charging the batteries the engine quit. Turned out the fuel filter was clogged and there was also some water in the bowl. Apparently, at either Turtle Bay or more likely Magadalena Bay we got some bad fuel in our jerry jugs. I had noticed some debris in the bottom of the can (after pouring it into the boat!) so we bought a baja fuel filter for the next can, but I guess it was enough garbage to gum things up. Hopefully that will take care of it. After changing the filter the engine fired right up so we are optimistic.
We can already notice that it is starting to warm up as we get closer to the mainland and further South. Early tomorrow we should arrive at Isla Isabela. We will have some good material to report on then and eventually some pictures to boot.
05 February 2007 | Southern Crossing Sea of Cortez
We finally left La Paz yesterday about 10 AM. Said our good-byes to new cruiser friends and fellow VYC members. The VYC contingent included Anne & David Chase, Steve and Brooks Jensen, Rob Miller and Rudy & Susan Nodar. Small world, but two weeks was plenty of time visiting La Pa. We were glad to get underway again.
Our boat is fixed (new/rebuilt anchor roller, new solar controller, new bar-b-que regulator and new PC). Hopefully, we have all the bugs worked out now and will only need to do routine maintenance in the future.
We are on our way to Bandera Bay via Isla Isabela. This is a fairly long (for Mexico) two night passage. We have had beautiful sailing conditions (broad reaching in 20 knots of wind with a full moon) throughout the first night. Currently the cruising spinnaker is up and we are sailing at 7 knots. Isabela is a bird sanctuary and national wildlife preserve. It is also a good stopping point for us to arrive in daylight, explore the island and depart to arrive at our next stop again in daylight.
We will probably go from here to La Cruz or all the way into Nueva Vallarta. This is on the mainland side in the middle of Banderas Bay. It should be considerably warmer there.
VYC at Marina Costa de Baja La Paz
02 February 2007 | La Paz
Ventura Yacht Club Members enjoying La Paz aboard Mimee - Brooks, Rob, Anne, Steve, David, Paul, Debbie
Seņor Murphy Alive & Well in La Paz
31 January 2007 | La Paz
Our beautiful bow fitting is back off the boat. After we installed it I noticed cracks in the vertical metal strap that attaches to the hull. They appeared to be stress cracks next to the holes.
Removing the fitting was not easy. I can attest to the strength of 3M 4200 caulk. Even though it only cured overnight it still took a concerted effort by five people to pry it loose.
Fortunately, the cruisers here were more than willing to help. Also, Dave Chase and Anne Fitzgerald were here as well. So between me jumping up and down it, Debbie and Anne grinding the halyards tight and the two Daves pounding on it we were successful.
The down side of this is that we are now delayed leaving La Paz until the fitting is welded and reinforced. I have also learned that "manana" does not mean tomorrow - what it really means is not today.
On the plus side, we found the defect before it failed and it will be super strong when the repair is completed. Also, the weather has warmed up and the sun is shining. Hopefully, it will stay that way.
Our second challenge of the day was computer related. It seems both of our computers are having issues. After we turn them off they do not want to turn back on. We decided to buy a new notebook PC and have it delivered by Jensen Express (Steve and Brooks Jensen arrive on Friday and will be staying on Mimee with the Chases). The logistics of completing the purchase long distance made it complicated, but Debbie persisted and with Steve's help they got the job done.
Murphy's final blow for the day was our "new" solar controller that David Chase kindly delivered to us. Turns out that it was defective and no replacements were available from the supplier. So - Jensen Express will be delivering a different model controller from another company that will hopefully arrive at Steve's house before he departs for Mexico.
Third time's a charm
29 January 2007 | La Paz
Done.... Went by the welder's shop for the third time today...our anchor roller stem fitting was done! Beyond that, we were pleased with the price. Got the impression they expected us to negotiate. We were pleased, worth every penny. In fact, we paid more than the bill. Carting it back to the boat drew attention. Installing it turned into a dockside event complete with groupies and cocktails. Important part...it is installed. Flame can now sail. Anne and Dave arrived. Will meet with them tomorrow. May go to the local islands this Wednesday and return Friday. We'll see. Ahh...life is good.
Hot Off the Press
28 January 2007 | La Paz
Well we are almost locals now! Found the nearest tortillaria - Gladys'. It is kind of a hole in the wall (like a lot of small businesses here). Inside two women were hard at work pressing, cooking and cooling tortillias. They stopped to make a dozen special order "grande" burritto size tortillas for us. Yum.
Yesterday we stopped by the welding shop to check on the status of rebuilding our stainless steel stem fitting. Although they have made a lot of progress it was still come back "manana" or in this case Monday. They are doing a great job, but it is taking longer than anticipated. We are hoping to not get a rude surprise when we get the bill (it's a T&M job).
El Viejo ... y el Mar?
25 January 2007 | La Paz
We call this guy behind us Mister Boat Pants. The sculpter was thinking the Old Man and the Sea, but I don't think he quite pulled it off.
We are still in La Paz. Our stem fitting is being rebuilt/straightened and a second anchor roller added. It should be done tomorrow. According to the welder it will be "mas fuerte" - I hope he's right.
We are having fun getting to know the town better. Definitely getting our walking in. Also took a dinghy trip up to Marina de Baja and saw where Mimee is located.
We moved the boat to better slip located on the inside section of Marina de La Paz. We don't even notice the current now which is a marked improvement from our previous spot.
The weather is beautiful. Life is Good!
22 January 2007 | La Paz
We are getting into the swing of things here at La Paz. There is a very active and friendly cruiser community here. The day starts out with a lively VHF net on channel 22 every morning where you can get the weather, help on where to buys things or obtain services, information on activities for that day or upcoming events and so on. There is also a small cruiser club house at Marina de La Paz where cruisers gather for the morning coffee hour. Some cruisers have been either returning here or staying full time for years.
We have done a lot of walking our first two days here. You can find most anything you need, although, you may have to hunt around a bit to locate it. Tomorrow we will look for a machine shop and stainless steel fabricator for a small boat project/repair.
Our current plans are to stay here through February 3rd to connect with Anne and David Chase and Steve and Brooks Jensen who will be down here using Mimee. We will then head over to Mazatlan (subject to a good weather window) and on to parts further South. We will likely return to La Paz in April when we go up into "the Sea" after it warms up.
La Paz Sunset
21 January 2007
La Paz at Sunset.
Life as a Princess
20 January 2007 | La Paz
Ahh....It's taken a while, but I have finally experienced life as a princess. You see, today was the perfect day. We left Los Muertos at about 5:00 AM bound for La Paz. Although dark, the weather was perfect (ok, tolerable) 10-12 knots on the nose, gusting to 17...but it didn't last. We motored through the Cerralvo Channel - a place that is known for wind and high seas. For Flame it was a calm passage where we caught 3 fish. In fact a blue fin tuna is marinating as I write. I baked bread, something I've come to enjoy. When in VHF radio contact we hailed Marina de La Paz for a slip. We had tried to arrange reservations some time back and were put on the waiting list. Neil, of Marina d La Paz assigned us a slip - an unexpected surprise. Life is good. Flame is in her slip. There are washers and dryers which means CLEAN SHEETS. We have internet access, restaurants, water, electricity...all the things I used to take for granted. We've had contact from Steve and Wendy Bott (S/V Elusive) - friends from Ventura. We're looking forward to having dinner with them tomorrow night. Paul's happy. He's hosing off the boat. I'm going to take a REAL shower. I AM a princess and a cruiser. Life is good.
18 January 2007 | Bahia de los Muertos
We left Los Frailes today before dawn on our way North to Bahia de los Muertos. In the process we thoroughly violated a cruising rule about not sailing upwind. Now mind you our J/Boat is well suited to both upwind and downwind sailing, but our bodies are not made for a continuous uphill slog in 20 knots lasting nearly 12 hours. But we made it just fine other than being worn out.
Our big genoa has not come out of the bag yet. It seems that all we get lately is heavy weather. The number 3, roller furling jib and full battened main (usually with 2 reefs) are our real work horses. Despite being low tech dacron sails they looked great in today's breezy conditions. Thanks to Gary Swenson and Deke Klatt at Ullman Sails, Ventura for helping us.
Tomorrow we will probably take a day off here to get acquainted with the cove and then move on to La Paz on Saturday.
Snowbirds in Los Frailes
16 January 2007 | Los Frailes
Well we are still in Los Frailes waiting for that proverbial weather window before sailing to La Paz. All we see outside the bay is white caps - the wind is still blowing hard. We took advantage of the delay to explore ashore today. Used our kayaks for the first time still leaving Ventura. What we found were several small communities RV'ers camped out on the beach and in a nearby wooded area. Apparently you can just drive up and stake out a spot most anywhere as long as it is not already occupied. It a very international group. Canadians seemed to be the most numerous, but we meet folks from the States, Germany, Switzerland, Argentina, and the Czech. Republic. They come here year after year to escape the cold and long winters. Their camps are very elaborate and have all the comforts of home. One transplanted Southern California, Phillipe, has been here almost 500 days (he holds the record for the gringo here the longest. They were all very friendly and interested in "boat people" like us.
Los Frailes is a beautiful bay with only limited development so far. On the beach there is a typical Baja fish camp for local fishermen with their pangas. None were in residence - presumably due to the extended spell of bad weather. I can see the day when the RV'ers may not be welcome if all the waterfront lots are sold and expensive homes built, but that is probably a long time away. There is one hotel on the bay, but it was closed.
All-in-all it was good day - got some needed exercise, Debbie got her people fix, I completed a few small boat projects in the AM. We even bought some baked treats from an enterprising Mexican off his truck which supplies the RV'ers weekly. Life is good.
P.S. - We finally had our fish tacos last night from the dorado we caught on the way here. Hopefully, that fish is the first of many.
16 January 2007 | Los Frailes
I really must be a slow learner on this weather thing. Today our trip started out smooth as we headed into the Sea of Cortez from Cabo San Lucas. It was a motor boat ride for a bit until the wind came up as predicted. Two thirds of the way there the true wind filled in to a solid 25-30 knots on the nose. The only secure anchorage was 15 miles back in the direction we just came from - so not wanting to give up those 15 precious miles, we continued on - bad decision. Many more of these and I will be on the boat by myself - so I'm starting to pay attention to the weather details.
The aftermath of the trip included a major pickup job inside the boat. It looked like an earthquake had struck us with every loose item in the boat on the cabin sole. But - we managed to get it all back in place and looking ship shape.
We had a bit of a scare today when Debbie noticed water on the notebook computer keyboard. Not good - especially saltwater that was leaking through the portlight over the navsta. We tried to turn the computer off and on to no avail. I took it apart and we put the keyboard in the oven to dry it out. Slapped it back together and presto - it works again. We got lucky this time, but I will be more careful in dogging down the ports in the future!
On a positive note - the hand line scored a nice dorado before the wind filled in. Tacos pescados tomorrow for sure.
Estoy muy cansado - Buenas noches.
Who Said Brown Pelicans Are Endangered?
15 January 2007 | Cabo San Lucas
As you can see from the picture there is no shortage of pelicans down here. They appear to be very comfortable landing on fishing boats both underway and in the slip.
Done It All
15 January 2007 | Cabo San Lucas
We're done with Cabo. Been to the chandlery, went out to eat, to the local mercado, to Costco, rode a bus, rode a taxi and walked the marina paseo and malecon. Managed to avoid buying a timeshare and all the trinkets being hawked at the waterfront. What else is there?
We found the anchorage area a bit rolly, but not too bad with a flopper stopper out. One bonus was we could get internet access via wifi from one of the beach hotels. This was great for email, skype calls and searching the web, but we paid the price in amps consumed. There wasn't any sun for the solar panels so we had a good bit of engine time recharging our batteries.
Now we are on to La Paz via Los Frailes and Ensenada de los Muertos. Provided the weather window holds we should be in La Paz on or before the 20th. We plan on staying in a Marina de La Paz if they have space.
We are looking forward to connecting with Dave and Anne Chase on the 29th. They are coming to La Paz and will be using Mimi. Should be fun!
Back in Civilization?
12 January 2007 | Cabo San Lucas
Arrived Cabo San Lucas from Mag Bay after a 25 hour trip. This is a very busy resort town with sportfishers and jet skis everywhere. Will do an update after we come back from town.
10 January 2007 | Bahia Magdalena
Well we had two firsts yesterday - saw our first WHALES of the trip and caught a FISH. Both of these events occurred during our four hour motor-sail from Bahia Santa Maria to Mag Bay. We caught the fish by trolling a handline behind the boat. It wasn't much of a prize - just a small bonita. But it did bolster our confidence and we expect bigger and better fish soon. We saw the whales as they were entering Mag Bay in groups of two. They were moving slowly and basically ignored us as they swam across the bay. It was impressive to see these large creatures in the wild up close.
We are anchored in Man-of-War Cove off of the village of Puerto Magdalena. This is a small fishing village. We enjoyed a brief trip ashore that included a stop at the tienda and a tasty dinner of fresh lobster (although we felt were overcharged - which left us with a bad impression of the village). Today it is on to Cabo San Lucas which is about 160 miles or so. It will take us about 26 hours - so it is another overnight passage. After Cabo most of the trips between anchorages will be day sails. We look forward to spending a little more time in one spot after that.
Calling All Sports Fans
09 January 2007 | Bahia Santa Maria
Arrived Bahia Santa Maria after a 36 hour passage from Turtle Bay. After sailing with high winds at the start of our trip and most of the first night we ended up motoring for the last 12 hours. Feast or famine! Bahia Santa Maria is a great anchoring spot that is well protected with lots of room. We spent the first day cleaning up the remainder of the dirt from Turtle Bay. Also had to patch the dinghy. Turned out it was punctured as we tried to wrestle it back on the boat in the 40 knot breeze at Turtle Bay. We also discovered that our bow anchor roller/stem fitting was tweaked. The anchor chain pulled up hard against one side when we were raising it and the bow fell off the wind in a gust. It is still useable, but we may try to get it straightened and reinforced if the opportunity presents itself down here.
We are enjoying the calm water and gentle breeze here. We are starting to bump into (figuratively) the same boats that we met previously on the way down. There are several boats here that were in Ensenada when we were and later in Turtle Bay as well. The cruisers are very friendly and interesting lot. (The picture is of a boat from Canada with a family of four on-board. We ended up traveling all the way to Cabo San Lucas with them in close proximity.)
We may move to the next anchorage South, Magdalena Bay, tomorrow. We hope to see some whales there.
Now for IMPORTANT STUFF. The sports fan in the family (Debbie) is feeling disconnected. I need updates. With no internet, very limited US AM radio in the evenings and the BBC there's not much focus on what's going on in the sports world...so I NEED YOU! Andy, Deke, Pam, Neil, Pete, Scott, anyone else - what's going on? I do know the Chargers are facing the Patriots this next weekend. I have no idea where we'll be or if I'll have any coverage. Was surprised to discover the Ohio State/Florida game had already taken place - I live in a submarine! UCLA, Lakers, Clippers??? Updates are welcome at the wdc4488 att sailmail dott com address.
Where are the Fish?
08 January 2007 | Enroute Turtle Bay to Mag Bay
We have about 60 miles to sail (or motor) before we reach our destination - Bahia Santa Maria. This is a large, easy in & out bay that is adjacent to Magdalena Bay. Since we will be arriving at night this is safer to enter than Mag Bay. Our passage has been a mixed bag. The wind remained strong most of the night, including several hours close to 30 knots. The boat handles well with two reefs in main and no jib (above 25 knots), but it is rather noisy and rolly at times which can be disconcerting. The wind was close to the beam and we continued to make very good time. In the morning we lost the wind and resorted to motoring. The air and water is starting to get warmer. It's 4:00PM and the cabin temperature is 80. We spent several hours trying to clean the Turtle Bay dirt from the boat by dragging our canvas covers in the water. It's getting better, but still certainly not ready for bristol boat. We just passed over Uncle Sam's Bank which is reported to be an excellent fishing area. I put out our hand lines with our new lures, but alas not luck so far. Maybe next time we will get to use Jeff Beller's big gaff hook and killer bat. Tacos pescados will have to wait. Buenas noches - Paul & Debbie
07 January 2007 | Enroute Turtle Bay to Mag Bay
Well we finally left Turtle Bay. Contrary to the weather reports the wind did not subside inside the bay. After a night of 25-30 knots it intensified to 40 during the morning hours. After consulting other cruisers and listening to the latest weather info, we decided this was a local condition or funnel effect and there was substantially less wind outside. We picked up the anchor in 40 knots of wind which made for some excitement and as we motored out of the bay we saw 50 true. After traveling about 10 miles the wind fell off to a mere 20 knots - so we are happy to be on our way again. The entire boat and our bodies are coated with dirt from the high wind blowing off the shore. We look forward to reaching our next destination in a couple of days. The gray whales should be there from their long trip from Alaska.
04 January 2007 | Turtle Bay
Laundry hanging everywhere. I guess we have lost all our dignity now. Hopefully, the yacht club will let us come back.
Life in Turtle Bay
03 January 2007 | Turtle Bay
Ok...my account of life at Turtle Bay. Yesterday was our first day of relaxation. In the morning we inflated the dinghy and visited other boats in the cove. It's quite an international group - Canadian, English, Greek and German. Each boat had their own adventure coming from Ensenada. In the scheme of things, it sounds like the big seas and wind we experienced were somewhat benign compared to the extreme conditions two of the boats encountered. Basil is single handling a Cal20 and thought he was going to meet his maker. Another boat reported 60 knot winds.
We took the dinghy ashore and were immediately greeted by Leo - Saint Leo to us. He became our personal guide, showing us where to safely park the dinghy in the view of his friend Carlos, the bar keep. Leo loaded us up in his truck (displacing at least 3 dogs) and drove us across town to the internet cafe. We uploaded a few pictures on the blog ($1.00) and walked back to the beach. Dinghy intact, we felt obliged to thank Carlos by visiting his establishment. Now, I'm not a beer drinker, but no diet Pepsi and you don't drink the water, so what's a girl to do? Guess I'll acquire a taste. Carlos spoke very little English and I VERY limited Spanish, but we managed to converse all the same. We've found the locals to be friendly and helpful.
The afternoon chore was laundry. Got out both buckets and the wringer. I washed and rinsed, Paul operated the wringer. Learned some lessons here. Do laundry in the morning so it has drying time, don't let it pile up, and denim is very difficult to run through the wringer! The novelty of hand laundering wore off quickly.
We are paying closer attention to the weather and listening to what Don Anderson (Oxnard local weather guru over the single-side band) has to say. He's forecasting gale force winds down the Pacific Coast of Baja with 21 foot seas Friday and Saturday. Based on his recommendation we'll probably stay here through Sunday or Monday. We'll keep you posted.
Observations while stuck at Turtle Bay
02 January 2007 | Turtle Bay
Ever wonder what the Space Shuttle astronauts must feel like in their space ship? I'm starting to get a small taste of it. I can see a world outside the windows, but I'm physically removed from it. It's Saturday morning January 6, 2007 and we're still in Turtle Bay, stuck inside the boat with the howling winds that have been blowing for 24+ hours. The boat is somewhat turbulent; it rocks and rolls, but it's been going on for so long now that it goes unnoticed until an unusually strong puff hits and the boat heels. We'd like to explore the bay or go ashore, but the wind is preventing us. Actually we'd like to leave and be on our way, but ...
Life on Flame is pretty basic. We have lots of good music. We eat well. I baked homemade bread yesterday. Can't remember the last time I hand kneaded bread dough. Always had the KitchenAid. Paul was at loose ends yesterday, you know the work-aholic. Today he's involved with installing more ferrites to minimize auto pilot noise on the single-side band so he's happier.
Difference in men and women: Men can handle cold showers. Women can't. Paul showered and told me the water was warm. I believed him. Turned the water on...Brrr, shockingly so. Decided heating water in the tea kettle, washing my hair in the sink and taking a sponge bath was the way to go. Never in my wildest dreams...but at least I'm clean.
Enough whining. The boat is very comfortable and we're safe. The wind's gotta subside eventually, right?
On the Hook in Mexico
02 January 2007 | Turtle Bay
Arrived Turtle Bay in the early AM today. We had a fast ride sailing all but the last hour or so. Entering at night was easy with a full moon, radar, etc. There are seven other sailboats anchored here. Sun is out and the anchorage is calm. Haven't been ashore yet. Will give you a report later.
Perfect Turns Gnarly
01 January 2007 | Near Islas San Benito
Our perfect sailing conditions ratcheted up to uncomfortable. We had 25-30 knots of wind and big seas for most of the night. We sustained about 9 knots of boat speed over the bottom for several hours, hit 16 once and a steady diet of double-digits. I'm thinking I may need to study the weather a bit closer for our next long passage (Duh). But the boat is fine and so are we. Will be very happy to drop the hook in Turtle Bay around midnight tonight. At least we will have had a fast, albeit bumpy, passage.
Happy New Year from Flame!
31 December 2006 | Near Cabo Collenet Enroute to Turtle Bay
Well we finally have some great sailing conditions. We left Ensenada around 0900 and motored across the bay. After we turned left the wind filled it. Sailed under the cruising kite until sunset doing 7-8+ knots steady. Changed to a poled-out jib and 1st reef in the main before dark. Still doing 6-7 knots. The breeze is a fairly steady 15 knots, but is expected to build to 20-22 knots. We are sailing deep going down the rhumb line. Looks like it may hold out all night. The moon is almost full. We have the ocean to ourselves currently. We will celebrate New Years when we change watches at midnight. The conditions are near perfect other than it is still a bit chilly.
31 December 2006 | Ensenada
We are leaving Ensenada this morning for Bahia San Bartolome (Turtle Bay). It's about 260 miles. We will be at sea for two days or so. Originally we had plans to make several shorter hops, but decided against it to take advantage of a weather window and avoid marginal anchorages.
Getting diesel to top off our tanks in Ensenada turned out to be an adventure. With the holiday weekend each place we went (walking with our little blue cart and two jerry cans) was "Cerrado". Finally, a good samaritan at a Pemex (gas station) took pity on us and loaded us into his truck to find fuel. In the picture you can see our new best friends.
After filling our tanks and having a great seafood dinner at Asamar's we are ready to depart. Will calibrate the autopilot compass on the way out.
29 December 2006
Sunrise over Ensenada
We're Cruising Now
29 December 2006 | Ensenada
Yes - I know it's not Tahiti or some other exotic destination, but Ensenada is in another country isn't it?
Up goes the Mexican flag to our spreaders. Today we entered the country that will be our home for the next 5 months as we explore Baja and the Pacific coast of Mexico. That flag looks new now, but by next June it will be hard to recognize.
Despite the unsettled weather earlier in the week - we had an easy night time passage. The wind was light so we motored most of the way to arrive early and get checked in.
29 December 2006 | Ensenada
We were fortunate to connect with the Heirshbergs in Ensenada. They met us at the "One-Stop" Mexico check in building (CIS) and provided moral support as we went from window to window and back and forth. It took about 2 hours to complete the process, but we were happy (although tired) to finish it before the office closed for the holiday weekend.
Stan and Diane gave us quickie tour of Ensenada including lunch at his favorite burrito restraurant and a stop at the Gigante grocery store.
They have a beautiful boat. Above is a picture of us all in their main salon.
29 December 2006
Stan explaining the fine points of a Nordhaven engine room. Lots of machinery. All very impressive and manly.
No More Excuses
28 December 2006 | San Diego
Time to go. Tonight we are off to Ensenada, Mexico. We have been in San Diego doing final preparations. Had to wait for Mexican fishing licenses (for the boat, dinghy and both of us - $306). Rick was right - better catch lots of fish! Also, had to wait for a storm system to pass and the big wind and seas that followed behind it.
We took advantage of the time in San Diego to square the boat away and explore. We rode the bus to Old Town and back. Riding the bus turned out to be easy and convenient. We also enjoyed staying at two very nice yacht clubs: San Diego Yacht Club and Southwestern. These reciprocal arrangements are great - it didn't cost us a dime. Beautiful facilities and location. We also did a lot of walking. Guess we better get used to it since we will not be driving for another five months.
We will try to reach Ensenada early on Friday and complete our paperwork/approvals to clear into Mexico before the holiday weekend starts. We hope to connect with Stan and Diane Heirshberg who are in Ensenada visiting their boat. We will be moored at the Baja Naval Marina.
Feliz Navidad Amigos
25 December 2006 | San Diego
Merry Christmas to all from the crew of Flame - Scott, Debbie and Paul
Piece of Cake
23 December 2006 | San Diego
What a difference a day makes! Had an easy trip from Catalina to San Diego. Was a motor boat ride most of the way except for about an hour with the cruising spinnaker up. Seas were calm and the weather clear. We arrived at San Diego Yacht Club late afternoon and were assigned a slip in their marina for 3 days. Looks like it's going to be a Merry Christmas.
22 December 2006 | Ventura
Yes - we really did leave this morning at 0-dark-30. The photo is proof ... the slip is empty. Too tired to elaborate now.
22 December 2006 | White's Cove Catalina
Ok - this sailing stuff is not for sisses. Our voyage began with a blustery day and big seas. The wind was 25 gusting to 30 knots. Felt like we were in the aggitation cycle of a washing machine for most of our 12 hour trip. I also got drenched a few times. Had a problem reefing the main sail and nearly lost our lower full batten. Ended up dropping the main and sailing under jib alone. Was able to fix it after we anchored. Our first day was eventful and provided us an opportunity to relearn a few important sailing lessons. Tomorrow an early departure for San Diego.
15 December 2006 | Ventura
Untying is becoming somewhat of a challenge. Our project list is down to the final few, but now the weather window may be closing for a few days. Hope to leave early next week, but both the boat and the weather have to cooperate. As you can see from the picture the galley really is done (and working well).
Still in Ventura
10 December 2006
Making great progress on the boat. Galley is completed except for some detail work (varnish, etc.). Engine has been checked out and is ready to go. Yesterday we had a marine survey done for insurance purposes. Flame is OK. Looking to depart on Thursday if we finish the remaining work and weather permitting. Starting to get excited!
23 November 2006 | Ventura
Still working to finish the galley remodel so we can leave. Hope to be done in ~ 2 or 3 weeks, but things always take longer than I estimate.