Wednesday, June 30, 2004
All is chaos. Ever since Nicole left for Iowa (a week after Trent and Deanna's wedding), we have been in a state of frenzied chaos. We want to put our house on the market in 2-3 weeks and are trying to get it as empty as possible. First, it was getting ready for a massive 2-day garage/house sale, which we held last weekend. The sale was very successful. We sold or gave away a huge amount of stuff. Unfortunately, not much of the furniture sold so we still have to figure out something to do with it.
What a zoo the sale was!
I've no idea how many hundreds of people we had wandering through our house,
but our take over the two days was something like $1400 and we were really
selling stuff cheap, trying to move as much as possible. In fact, we
discounted heavily from our set prices and gave away a lot, especially
Sunday. One lucky/poor guy, I gave about 12-15 cubic feet of electronic
components to, pretty much completely filling the back of his pickup. It
was a madhouse.
We're now trying to recover from it and continue with emptying the house. Kathryn has been separating out the stuff that Goodwill might take and trash, then boxing and bagging up. As I write this, there are 6 or 7 garbage bags of clothing in the back of the Explorer that I need to drop off at Goodwill. I've been working at dismantling the workbenches and shelves in the garage, which were built using deck screws. When I went to start the project, I found that I had sold both drills we keep at the house. I had to borrow one from Rob Tomerlin to avoid unscrewing a zillion of them by hand.
On the topic of Rob, he was doing OK Monday and had spent the day out at the vineyard, but in general has not been doing well of late. It's been a month or two since I've seen him and the time has not been kind to him. He has lost weight and aged a great deal in that short time. I'm worried about him. I should see him again when I return the drill. More later.
The house and garage are starting to look sort of empty now (at last!), but there is still a lot of work to do. Once we finish getting rid of all we can, we then have to get it cleaned up and touch up the some of the interior paint. We've also discovered that the upstairs shower is still leaking somewhere. That's got to be fixed too. We thought we had this one fixed. We just recently tore up the bathroom floor and replaced some of the structure that had rotted from the moisture. In fact, just the other day, I replaced the insulation and redid the drywall under it (it actually leaks into the garage, right on top of the furnace and hot water heater.
In the mean time, I am dealing with selling a bunch of climbing and electronic gear on Ebay. I had 25 auctions all going at once and am now dealing with getting shipping addresses, boxing stuff up, determining shipping costs, collecting the money and getting the stuff shipped (hopefully, the right box to the right address).
Meanwhile, work goes on. Jeff and Hal are out of the office this week, so it's just Marty and I handling everything. Kathryn is working 3 days a week in Petaluma, some random time for a lawyer in Healdsburg and still finishing up the last of the Healdsburg Jazz Festival work (silly girl volunteered to do the accounting for it, then the guy who was going to do the pre-event ticket sales backed out leaving her with that task). When I spoke to her his morning, she said another 10 hours or so would do it.
All in all, we're feeling a bit frazzled at the moment.
Saturday, July 3, 2004
We're still working to get the
house emptied and cleaned up in preparation of putting it on the market in a
couple of weeks. I'm on a break from the task right now. Tomorrow,
I think we're going out to the boat to get some work done there. The plan
is to finish emptying stuff out of it and wash out and rinse down all of the
lockers, etc. If we have time, we've still got some prep work left before we
can revarnish the outside teak. I've also got to rig up a ground plane
for the SSB (probably a full days work right there), and get the SSB, antenna
tuner and modem installed and tested. Lots of other stuff to do, but
little of it can’t be done after the departure.
We're overdue for a bottom job (sanding and painting anti-fouling paint on the bottom of the boat) and a few other maintenance items that have to be done while the boat is out of the water. We haven't yet decided whether we'll do them up here or down in Ensenada. If we do it here, I'll be taking the boat to Napa and back (about two days each way). Going down, I'll probably spend the night anchored in Richardson's Bay and coming back, either Richardson's Bay or Drake's Bay.
Hopefully, between now and October first, our scheduled departure (90 days and counting) we can find some time to actually sail the boat a few times. When you actually sit down and count them with an eye to getting things done, it’s amazing how few weekends there are in 90 days.
Wednesday, July 14, 2004
Preparations for departure continue here.
The house is getting to be pretty empty now, in fact, without all the stuff to muffle sounds, it's developing a minor echo inside. I finally have been able to spend a little time working on the boat again (I don't remember when the last time I was down to the boat, but it was sometime before Trent and Deanna's wedding). I managed to spend a few hours Saturday cleaning lockers then washing them with a bleach solution to remove all traces of mildew (the bane of boaters) then all day Sunday working on something called a "ground plane" in preparation to installing the SSB. An SSB is sorta like a marine version of a ham radio. This is the radio that will let us talk with other SSB operators up to several thousand miles away. It is also the device that with the addition of a special kind of modem will let us send and receive email right from the boat. One of the early requirements we laid upon ourselves was that others must be able to send us messages even when we are sitting at anchor in a remote lagoon somewhere.
Daisy (our other dog) found a new home today with Kathryn's sister, Ann and her husband Dan in Berkeley. There was some concern that their elderly dog, Scout (an Aus. shepherd) might have a problem with her, as he was quite territorial when he was younger. Kathryn said that she stopped and got some REEEAAAL yummy bacon flavored doggie treats on the way there and just kept shoving them in Scout's face while the two dogs got to know each other. It seems that for some strange reason, this convinced him that having Daisy around was a good thing. We just got an email from Ann telling us that Daisy ate a good dinner tonight, so she seems to be accepting the change well.
David has graciously offered to store a couple of pallets for us in his warehouse. So we’ll have a place to keep those special Xmas ornaments, and a few other things that are just too precious to get rid of. Thanks!
We hired a new programmer at the office. He’s bright, just out of school and YOUNG! It doesn’t seem all that long ago that college grads seemed OLD. Now they’re all just kids. It’s amazing how my perceptions change over the years. Sometimes I think that the only thing that hasn’t changed is me. <grin>
We had dinner with Rob and Greta at a BBQ on a mountaintop along with Phil and Anemic (another couple that are mutual friends). I bought an albacore while I was down at the boat and we chopped it up into steaks and grilled it. Yummy! I’m happy to say that Rob ate well, but this last round of chemo really took a lot out of him. He’s lost 50 lbs. that he will admit to and his appearance has aged beyond his years. Let’s all keep our fingers and toes crossed for him and think good thoughts.
We will be putting our house on the market soon and I think we’ve settled upon a realtor. We promised one couple that came by the yard sale that we’d offer it to them directly (splitting the realtor’s commission) before listing it as soon as we decided on a price. Kathryn called them today, but they were a little distracted and said they’ll have to get back to us. It seems that their daughter was in labor and they were on their way to the hospital when Kathryn called.
Thursday, July 22, 2004
Today was an interesting day.
I think I mentioned earlier that we discovered a leak in the plumbing for the drain of the downstairs bathroom sink. I watched today as the contractor removed the sink and vanity from the bathroom as well as a section of the wall and flooring and finally, the door between the house and garage. It turned out that the builder had used the wrong kind of cement in a few places on the drain pipes. This caused the plastic to crystallize and crack in 4 separate places. On one of them, it was broken almost all the way around. There was only about an inch of material holding it together. That dark area in the lower left of the picture is the only good material left. The white color is all dried soap scum and minerals from the water that has evaporated over the years.
Unfortunately, The water has caused some rot in some of the flooring support structure. This extends to the structure under the base of the door to the garage.
It’s been sitting all day with a fan on it to dry it out and tomorrow, the contractor is coming back to finish ripping out the damaged pieces and start rebuilding it.
The 2nd interesting thing of the day was on the way home from work, I stopped and got a hair cut. While I was backing out of the parking spot, so was the car directly behind me. He saw me in time and stopped, but unfortunately, I failed to see him and dinged his fender. No real damage and no injuries as I was only moving about one mile per hour, and you can’t even see anything on the Explorer, but my bumper put a dent into his fender about the size of my hand with the fingers spread. What an embarrassing, humiliating and stupid thing to do. Hopefully, it won’t cost me too much to have it fixed.
Finally, we signed up with a real estate agent to sell the house. We’ll be listing it at $450,000, which I find simply astonishing. It amazes me how much it has appreciated since we bought it. We’ve set it up so that we will accept offers for two weeks and decide which one to accept. The agent thinks it should be a quick sell and will quite possibly get offers above the asking price. This is the ONLY 4 bedroom house for sale in Healdsburg for less than $600,000, nor have any sold for less than that in the last year. This is indicative of a couple of things:
This has made it difficult to set the asking price and all of our neighbors are real interested to see what we wind up selling it for. There’s one 3 bedroom near us that went on the market a couple of weeks ago for $489,000 and it’s got a worse lot than we do (right next to the electrical sub-station), though they did a lot of work and spent some serious money fixing it up before listing it. Everyone agrees that it’s over priced, but no one really knows what the market price is. Bear in mind that our asking price is more than 2 ½ times what we paid for it.
I finished installing the ground plane last Saturday and hope to get the SSB installed this weekend and be actually talking to people over it. We’ll see if I get it right.
It’s not only been real hard to concentrate at work, but lately I find that I’m developing a case of the short timer’s syndrome. I sometimes catch myself not caring about something and have to force myself to do a good job even though I don’t care. Intellectually, I know that to do any less would be unfair to my coworkers and customers, but I down deep, sometimes I really don’t care and am really tempted to cut corners. So far, I don’t think I’ve done so, but as time goes on, it’s probably going to get harder and harder to do the quality work. I just keep telling myself that to do otherwise would be short changing people.
Friday, August 13, 2004
“Man, I’m sure envious of you guys.”
When Eric said this, I was instantly filled with an incredible sense of urgent anticipation. It honestly made me feel like a kid on Christmas Eve again.
“Man, I’m sure envious of you guys.”
I’ve heard people express this same sentiment a number of times over the last couple of months. It never before affected me this way. Why now? To understand the answer, you have to know a little about Eric and his wife Emmy.
We have been good friends with Eric and Emmy for a number of years now. They are a young couple (about 40 now) and are sailors themselves. In fact, hearing their tales of cruising Baja in “Slippery”, the boat they used to own certainly influenced our decision to take our own boat down to Mexico and up into the Sea of Cortez 5 years ago.
About 4 years ago, they pointed the bow of “Nataraja” (their current boat) into the sunset. Since then, they spent
We had just spent all day (from 10:30 in the morning to 8:30 in the evening) visiting with them aboard another friend’s boat, talking about their trip and experiences and our plans. For dinner, Eric prepared some Albacore they had caught off the coast of Oregon (Eric was once a chef in a gourmet restaurant - I will gladly play scullery maid anytime he can be persuaded to cook).
Eric and Emmy will be settling back into their old jobs in Richmond for a while to save up some money in order to do some more cruising.
“Man, I’m sure envious of you guys.”
When most say this, as much as anything else, it’s a polite formality. Were they truly envious, they would be working towards their own adventures. But, most never do. They work for a lot of reasons, but mostly they work because it’s what everybody does. It’s what’s expected of them. By and large, most people seek comfort and security, especially as they age. Very few seek adventures.
“Man, I’m sure envious of you guys.”
When Eric said this as we were stepping ashore from his dinghy, it was from his heart. He knows exactly the kind of life we are about to embark upon because he is just returning to the work-a-day world after living the cruising life for a while. But, rest assured. He and Emmy will be back out there again. Hopefully, when they do, our paths will cross somewhere out there.
Friday, August 13, 2004 (part 2)
“Stand by to repel boarders!” The call went out as we enjoyed the afternoon on a friend’s boat anchored in Drakes Bay.
There we were, laughing, swapping tales and generally having a grand old time in the cockpit of Ripple. There were 5 of us on board at the time, Don and Jan (the owners of Ripple), Kathryn and I and Emmy. Emmy and her husband, Eric had just completed the passage down from Alaska via the Inland Passage and had just the prior night arrived after a 5 day non-stop trip down the coast from Neah bay, Washington. Unfortunately, Eric missed the excitement as he had just taken their dinghy back to Nataraja to fetch the remains of an albacore they had caught on the way down and which was destined to become our dinner.
As we sat there, Don pointed out at the water and said, “There’s a dolphin!”
As I looked out where he was pointing, I saw a sea lion stick his head up out of the water and told him “No, that’s a seal.” Pinniped identification was never a strong point of mine, but I can tell a seal face from a dorsal fin.
“No, he said, I’m sure it was a dolphin.”
Sure enough, as we continued to look, not one, but two small black dorsal fins broke the surface. Then, the sea lion stuck his head up out of the water again, this time, he was closer to us and heading our way. A moment later, he was right beside us and as we were commenting on this unusual occurrence, up he hopped into the dinghy and headed right for the boarding ladder in an apparent attempt at joining the party in the cockpit.
This stirred our group into action. Don scrambled past our new friend in an attempt to get to the dinghy’s bowline so he could let it out further and thereby prevent Mr. Sea Lion from using it as a stepping-stone onto the boat. Three of the group grabbed for cameras and I was incapacitated, rolling on the floor of the cockpit laughing uncontrollably.
At some point, someone said “The air horn, quick!” No sooner said than it appeared and blasted out what we hoped was an invitation to leave. Funny, I never noticed it before, but those air horns sound an awful lot like a sea lion barking. Our slippery friend apparently thought so too, as he seemed to treat it as a greeting from a long lost friend and expressed renewed interest in joining the party in the back of the boat.
It was about this time when Don finally managed to free the dinghy line and retie it so that it floated far enough away that our would be shipmate couldn’t join the crew. While this seemed to cause him to give up his hopes of joining our immediate company, he seemed to figure that if he couldn’t have us up close, then he’s just have to settle for enjoying our company from afar. First, he spent some time scratching his back on the various protrusions of the dinghy. Then, after falling over backwards into the stern of the dinghy while over vigorously engaged in relieving a particularly serious itch, he lay down for a while.
After about twenty minutes, I guess he decided that we were a pretty boring group after all, as he slipped over the side into the water and disappeared.
Friday, August 13, 2004 (part 3 - Friday the 13th)
As mentioned before, some good friends of ours were coming down the coast from Washington. Based upon their last position report (Wednesday evening), I was predicting that they would arrive in Drakes Bay about 11:30 Thursday night. Kathryn and I therefore arranged to take Friday off of work so we could sail down from Bodega Bay and greet them.
Unfortunately, plans went somewhat awry. It all started with us getting away from work late, so we were not at the boat and ready to leave until quite late. Add in the fact that it was a cold and foggy night, and we found it easy to convince ourselves that the better plan would be to leave at dawn the next morning. Eric & Emmy would undoubtedly be tired after their 5-day non-stop trip and would want to sleep in. This would mean that we’d probably get there just about the time they were waking up. The perfect plan, right? Well, maybe not.
Up before first light, I was ready as soon as dawn broke. But, when I turned the key and pushed the starter button, nothing happened. “Grrrrr” I said to no one in particular as I dug out the electrical meter and started looking for the fault. I failed to find it, but at some point during the search, the problem just magically went away. This time, when I pushed the button, the trusty diesel came to life and started purring.
Did I ever tell you that I hate life’s little mysteries? Oh well, it’s working now. Kathryn casts off the mooring lines and climbs aboard as I back Tricia Jean slowly out of the slip. It’s kind of a tight fit around our docks, so as I got within about 10 or 15 feet of the boat behind me, I move the shift lever to forward and give it some gas. The engine revved up, but nothing happened. We were still going backwards and getting mighty close to that other boat back there.
Fortunately, I had been backing SLOWLY out of the slip and when our boats bumped, no damage was done to either one. Unfortunately, I still couldn’t get it into forward, so there was no way to drive the boat back to our slip, let alone out of the marina, so I hopped over the stern rail and onto the other boat and then over to the end of the dock so I could hold Tricia Jean off and keep her from rubbing up against other boats.
Fortunately, what little breeze there was, was blowing off the dock and back in the general direction of our slip. We eventually put Kathryn on the dock at the stern of the boat with a long line and me up on the bowsprit with another. Kathryn then eased Tricia Jean forward until I could climb down onto the dock and using these lines, we eventually got her back into the slip.
Once safely tied up, I was able to quickly diagnose the source of the problem (it was in the linkage between the shift lever and the transmission) and it took only a half an hour or 45 minutes to fix.
OK, we’re ready to go now, right? Well, maybe not. This time, when I pushed the starter button, nothing happened. We were back to the mysterious electrical problem. I eventually traced it down to the main battery switch that routes power to the starter.
Unfortunately, no matter how much I fiddled with it, I couldn’t get it to start on this time. I could have rewired around it, but by this time, it was about 8:30 so we decided to just take the handheld VHF (a walky-talky that would let us talk to our friends from the shore) and drive down to Drakes, say “Hi” and visit for a while, then on to Sausalito, the nearest place to get another one of these switches.
As it turned out, we never made it to Sausalito that day (that had to wait until Saturday). We were having such a great time visiting with our friends, that we stayed and talked until about 8:30 in the evening.
We finally made it out on the water Sunday when we took the boat out to do some fishing.
Sunday, August 15, 2004
After spending all day Friday welcoming Eric & Emmy back to the bay area and visiting with them and Don & Jan, yesterday we drove down to a marine store in Sausalito to get a new main battery switch. The rest of the day was spent installing it and doing various other boat chores. Today, we took the boat out and spent the day fishing. I’m sorry to say that we caught our normal amount of fish. That is to say, none. We did however have one strike. Nevertheless, it was a nice day to be out on the water and the first time we’ve had the boat out in something like 3 months.
As we came back into the slip this afternoon, it was just
about the worst job I've ever done at docking the boat. The fact that the
cross wind was really blowing certainly had something to do with it, and
possibly the fact that we hadn't taken the boat out of the slip in 3 months
might have contributed, but here's the rest of the story:
First the set up -
Our marina has fingers only every other boat. This means that there is no finger between us and the boat to our starboard (to our right). Also, the prevailing wind (which was blowing strongly) comes from the port bow. This means that as we come into the slip, the wind is slowing us down (good and bad - good in that it tries to prevent us from ramming our dock box and bad in that we tend to slow down and loose steerage way as soon as me make the turn into the slip) and simultaneously blowing us to starboard onto the nice, shiny (and expensive) power boat next to us (bad).
We normally come into the slip with me at the helm and Kathryn jumping off with a mooring line in hand. This is partially because I'm more experienced at maneuvering in tight quarters, but mostly because I have very little cartilage left in my knees and jumping down onto the dock is an exercise in both pain and falling flat onto my face.
Our strategy when the prevailing wind is blowing hard is for me to approach the middle of the finger at about a 30 degree angle, turn at the last second and bring the port side of the boat as close to the finger as possible so Kathryn can step/jump off, then after she cleats down a spring line (this is a line connected to the front of the boat and tied to the dock near the back of the boat and is supposed to prevent the boat from going any further forward), I power forward against the spring line with the helm hard a-starboard (the steering wheel turned all the way to the right). This forces the stern to port (the back of the boat to the left), against the dock where I can then either hand the stern mooring line to Kathryn or step down and secure it myself.
Well, anyway, that's the plan.
What actually happened Sunday was that on our first approach, I misjudged it a bit and before Kathryn could jump down to the dock finger, the wind had blown us too far away from it and was rapidly blowing us down against our dock neighbor's shiny (and expensive!) power boat. Fortunately, I quickly recovered by applying full throttle in reverse and backing out of the slip. This maneuver wound up with us pointing back out of the marina with not enough room to turn around and try again. So, we motored completely out of the marina, turned around and made our second attempt.
This time, Kathryn was able to jump down to the dock finger, but for some reason, when she cleated the spring line down, it didn't hold. As I applied forward power against the spring line in an attempt to prevent our stern from being blown against our dock neighbor's shiny and expensive power boat, the cleated spring line slipped and Tricia Jean surged forward, ramming the forward end of our slip and the storage box positioned there. Fortunately, a little judicious shoving moved the dock box back into place and except for a few scuff marks, no damage was done.
Altogether, it was a really interesting weekend.
Saturday, October 2, 2004
Location: Motoring out of Drakes Bay towards San Francisco Bay.
The last couple of weeks have been filled with a myriad of details and kind of frazzling on the nerves, but we finally got everything out of the house, ourselves and what’s left of our stuff either in storage in Dave’s warehouse, or aboard Tricia Jean, and we pulled away from the slip about 2:30 yesterday afternoon. It was a very pleasant, if slow and almost windless sail down the coast. We finally started the motor about 6:00 pm. It was a chilly, dark and overcast night as we motored around Pt. Reyes, finally dropping the anchor in Drakes Bay about 9:30 pm. At one point, Kathryn (down in the galley) handed me up a mug of tea with lots of milk and sugar in it. Man, that both tasted good and warmed me up.
While I drove the boat, Kathryn spent most of the trip down storing away the mountain of stuff that cluttered the boat. Amazingly, she’s been able to find places for almost all of it already. While we were motoring, Kathryn prepared a delicious split pea soup with carrots, fresh tomatoes, etc. which we enjoyed after arriving at Drakes. After dinner, we crawled into bed and fell into an exhausted sleep.
So far everything is going amazingly smoothly. I managed to loose the mounting brackets I had made for the solar panels, make a new set at the last minute, find the original set and leave both the original set and one of the new ones in the Explorer (which is now in Napa where we will haul the boat out of the water on Monday). We also managed to loose the carrot peeler, but so far, that’s the trivial level of stuff that’s gone wrong.
Oh, I just got a call from our real estate agent confirming that the escrow did in fact close yesterday.
We’ll spend tonight at a place called Clipper Cove on Treasure Island. A group of our friends in about 3 or 4 different boats will be there, including Eric and Emmy on Nataraj (these are the guys that just finished a multi-year trip about month ago). It’s even Emmy’s birthday today, so it will be a real celebration.
Thursday, October 7, 2004
Location: Napa Valley Marina
Man, I thought this cruising life was supposed to be laid back and easy. So far, it’s been just the opposite. Kathryn and I both feel like we’ve been pushing hard ever since we started.
Since my last journal entry, Kathryn caught our first official “good eating” fish while motoring down the coast towards San Francisco bay, a Kelp Greenling (I think it’s a member of the cod family). Kathryn prepared it with a ginger sauce and we shared it with the others we met at Clipper Cove (Eric & Emmy on Nataraj, Don & Jan Wrigle on Ripple and Larry on Lizard). It was delicious, especially since it marks the breaking of the fishing curse that has followed us ever since we took up sailing.
While at anchor, I was making an adjustment to our self steering vane which entailed standing up in the dinghy while holding myself in place (as the wind tried to blow me away) while lifting and tilting a heavy metal paddle. Things were going great until something slipped and I wound up getting knocked hard by the paddle right on the eyebrow. It raised a beautiful bump that still hasn’t gone away completely. Ahhhh, the cruising life!
Sunday, we spent all day motoring up here to Napa, arriving about 4:30 pm. While I drove, Kathryn got out the sewing machine and worked on one of the cushions (we’re cutting the long quarter berth cushion in half to make two smaller ones). All in all, a pretty uneventful day. Kathryn and I drove all over Napa that evening looking for someplace with a salad bar. We eventually gave up and I had a cobb salad at Baker’s Square.
Monday morning, they hauled the boat out of the water about 8:30 and the work began as soon as it dried off. I sanded the boat non-stop until about 4:00 pm. It felt like my arms were going to fall off! Thank God all it needed was a “light sanding”, so the new bottom paint would adhere. While I was sanding, Kathryn was masking off the teak. About the time I finished the sanding, Mary and Jon showed up with their son Tom and every body pitched in to get the first coat of bottom paint on. This was a long and tiring day. Later that evening after cleaning up, we went out for pizza.
Tuesday morning, I was up early, putting on the 2nd coat of bottom paint. Kathryn spent the time getting everything organized and ready to work on the teak. This entailed piling all of our stuff on deck in a big pile in the center of the boat, away from the teak and applying about a million feet of blue masking tape. As soon as I finished the bottom paint, we started on the first of 7 coats (3 of pigment and 4 of a clear protective acrylic enamel). Much of this work is done right at deck level, or even lower (hanging over the rail), but you can’t get on your hands and knees to do it or you’ll be rubbing against still wet stuff from the previous coat). Unpleasant, backbreaking work which lasted until it started to get dark. We then went over to Mary and Jon’s, where we enjoyed hot showers and a great steak dinner, complete with a wonderful salad.
Wednesday, we continued work on the teak. They put the boat back into the water that afternoon, but when I went to drive it away to where we would park it for the next couple of days, I had turned the wheel to the right to move away from the pier, but then the wheel wouldn’t turn back to the left. While working it back and forth, trying to free it, there was a loud “clunk” and the wheel spun freely, but the rudder wasn’t moving. I had lost all steering! Ahhhh, the wonderful cruising life!
I quickly shifted into reverse and got the boat back to the pier where I disassembled the steering mechanism. And analysis of what I found shows that a bearing race failed (due to old age probably). The extra little bits of metal floating around in the grease of the bearings caused one of them to break. The larger bits of metal from the broken bearing jammed things up and as I worked it back and forth, a critical bolt sheared off, causing the complete failure of the steering.
We then dug out the emergency tiller. Unfortunately, this was stowed at the very bottom of the big hold in the back of the boat. This storage area was crammed full of stuff in a willy-nilly fashion and cleaning it out and organizing it was high on our list of things to do, but hadn’t made it to the top of the list yet. We therefore spent the rest of the afternoon and evening emptying, then restoring everything back there.
As soon as it got light this morning (Thursday), we used the emergency tiller to move the boat so it was no longer blocking the launch ramp and got the marina guys to recommend a local machinist to assist us in repairing the broken steering.
When I picked up the phone to call the machinist, I noticed that we had missed a call from Mom last night, so I called her first. That was when I found out that Rob Tomerlin had passed away last night. His passing is hardly a surprise, but even so, the news of it came as a body blow to the gut. I’ve known Rob and considered him a friend all of my life. I’ve worked with him, played with him, lived with him and just hung out with him. I go back and forth between being saddened by his death and being pissed off that cancer should take him just when he’s got everything else going right in his life. It’s just not fair. I think we’ll call Greta again in the morning and probably drive up there either tomorrow or Saturday to give her and the Kids a hug.
I spent the vast bulk of the day working with the machinist (Bob Calvin, Machine Management). It took us a couple of tries, but the steering is now both smoother and stronger than ever before.
Work on the boat is going slower that expected (this boat’s got an awful lot of teak on it – it’s beautiful, but I’m really starting to appreciate just how much work it is). That plus the steering plus the trip to see Greta means we probably won’t get out of here until Sunday morning, or possibly even Monday morning. The link up with Mom and Laurie in Cambria is starting to look pretty tenuous. We’ll just have to see how it goes.
Wednesday, October 13, 2004
Location: Santa Cruz
Since my last entry, we finally finished the teak and it looks beautiful! We spent Saturday shopping and running up to Healdsburg to spend some time with Greta and the kids. We also took the opportunity to drop the Explorer off at Peter’s (Mary and Jon drove up there to get the canoe we gave them and they gave us a ride back to the marina).
Sunday was spent motoring the boat down to Brickyard Cove Marina in Richmond where we borrowed a slip for the night and visited with Ann & Dan who drove up from Berkeley, then spent the evening with Eric & Emmy on Nataraja (Larry showed up too).
Monday felt like it was really the first day of “The Trip”. Everything up to then was still working and preparing for the departure. We realized that we were missing our southern Calif. Charts, so I walked over to the local West Marine (about 1 ½ miles) for the chart set, then we untied the lines and headed towards Raccoon Strait and the Golden Gate for that great left turn down the coast. This was probably the fastest trip out the Gate we’ve ever done. The wind was perfect, so we made it all the way from Richmond to the Pacific Ocean without a single tack or jibe. Add a strong ebb tide whooshing us along and we were just flying along.
Once we got out the gate, the wind picked up and shifted around to behind us so we also had a real sleigh ride down the coast to Half Moon Bay. The weather was shorts and T-shirt warm and we saw a number of pods of dolphin as well as a couple of whales that came close to us. About 4:30, we dropped anchor in Half Moon Bay where the kelp flies tormented us for the next couple of days.
Tuesday we stayed put and just worked on some boat projects. Kathryn finally got the salt water foot pump plumbed in at the kitchen sink and I got a couple of electrical projects done and occasionally handed Kathryn tools. We never even launched the dinghy, let alone went ashore.
Today (Wednesday), we motored about 50 miles down the coast to Santa Cruz along with a catamaran and two other boats. After dropping the hook, David & Kate (in the red ketch) and Bob and Christine (in the blue hulled boat) came by in a dinghy to introduce themselves and say “Hi”. They are buddy boating down to Mexico together on the same approximate schedule as us, so we should be seeing a lot more of them.
Monday, October 18, 2004
Current Location: Monterey (slip A-32)
Total distance traveled so far: 221 nm
Well, we’ve been in Monterey since Thursday mid-day waiting for a weather window to open to allow us to continue south. Thursday morning, we motored over from Santa Cruz through a cooold fog, relying on the radar most of the way over to detect and avoid the other boats on the bay. Laurie and Mom drove over from Fresno, arriving in Monterey shortly after we did. We really enjoyed visiting with them for a couple of days and visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium with them. Since the last time we were here, they’ve added another huge exhibit with several kinds of tuna in it, including a small school of Mahi Mahi and several really, really large Yellow Fin tunas. If you can believe it, it’s also got a Great White Shark swimming around with the tuna. Very impressive!
Saturday, we all drove up to Healdsburg for Rob’s funeral service at the St. Paul’s Episcopal church. After the service everybody went out to Bryce’s new winery for the rest of the afternoon, then about a dozen of us all went out to dinner. I guess I’m just not used to staying up that late anymore, as I was really tired when I finally got to bed.
Sunday, Laurie and Mom drove us back down here to the boat and bid us fair winds on our journey. Unfortunately, those fair winds seemed to have abandoned us for the moment. We’d really like to get a 3 day weather window for the next leg of the trip. That will get us past Pt. Conception with a one-day lay over at Morro Bay where we could visit with Beezie Moore. In a pinch, we’ll settle for a two-day window and skip the lay over. Right now, there are strong winds out of the south and south-east (that would mean we would be going directly up wind as we head down the coast). Those winds blowing against the current would also produce some rather unpleasant waves. The forecast is for good winds on Wednesday, but with large waves to go with them. Right now, we’re considering leaving Wed. morning and at least making it as far as Morro Bay (about a 24 hour trip). It would be a rough and tiring day, but at least for now, there are no good days (small or moderate waves and N or NW moderate winds) anywhere in the forecast.
Except for the fact that we are in a slip in a marina, we are definitely in cruiser mode. We spent the day walking around and running errands. This included making it all the way to the top of what seemed to this fat old man to be a rather large hill where a bank we had to visit was (several hundred feet high and about a mile and a half from the marina). While we were up there, we spotted a Radio shack at the same shopping center, so I went in and purchased something for the boat. Unfortunately, when I got back to the boat, it didn’t work, so I had to climb that hill again this afternoon. All the walking and exercise are good for me. At least that’s what I kept telling myself over and over as I climbed that darn hill again.
Tuesday, October 19, 2004
Current Location: Monterey (slip A-32)
Total distance traveled so far: 221 nm
Well, we’re still hanging out here in Monterey waiting for the weather to improve. It was strong winds from the south and periodic cloud bursts with pouring rain all day today. Nevertheless, I climbed that darn hill again. This time looking in vain for either a new bulb for the light in the sewing machine that burned out this morning or a small high intensity desk lamp to use in its stead. The closest I came was the guy at Rite-Aid told me that they would carry the lamps at Christmas. Let’s hope we’re not still here then.
Sunday, October 24, 2004
Current Location: Becher Bay, Santa Rosa Island (off Santa Barbara)
Total distance traveled so far: 413 nm
We’ve finally made it to sunny southern California, except that it’s overcast and kind of windy here today.
The weather eventually cooperated and we were able to leave Monterey about noon last Thursday for a pleasant sail down the coast. Thursday night was our first overnight sail of the trip and it was beautiful. The moon was up for the first half of the night, then when it went down, the stars really came out. Lots of shooting stars too. Sailing at night with only the stars illuminating everything around you is an experience whose beauty defies my ability to describe. The only thing that could have made it better was if the waves had been a little smaller. It’s not that they were huge or anything, but they were rolling the boat enough that we were unable to get any sleep while off watch. Certainly, a part of the problem is that we are just not used to it yet.
Early Friday morning, while dodging another boat, Kathryn had difficulty disengaging the self steering mechanism, so she sort of forced it and something gave way. We needed some calm water to repair it, so headed into Morro Bay to drop the anchor and fix the problem. When we did so, we realized that the main gear of the vane steering was engaged one tooth off of where it should be, so all we had to do was to fix that and all the little niggling problems we’ve been having with it would go away. 2 hours and a couple of calls to the manufacturer later, we realized we needed a tool we didn’t have.
Decision time. It was 4:00pm, which meant that if we go looking for the tool, fix it, then leave, we’ll be arriving in the Channel Islands sometime in the middle of the night. So do we leave now and hand steer all the way to San Diego (our next scheduled city we plan to stop at), or fix it, spend the night and leave tomorrow?
The fact that Beezie lives so close (in Cambria), made the decision a no brainer. We called her and before we could get the dinghy launched and over to the dock, she was there waiting for us. She first took us to the local hardware store to get the tool we needed, then over to Deborah’s restaurant, the Black Cat, where we all spent the evening catching up and enjoying each other’s company. It was sure good to spend time with them again.
The next morning (Saturday), while reassembling the vane steering, I dropped a critical piece (the “main actuating rod”) into the bay (the vane steering hangs off the back end of the boat). After swearing like a sailor for a while, I dug out the wet suit, mask, fins and snorkel and went diving. Fortunately, I found it almost immediately. By noon, everything was together and we were on our way back out into the Pacific for another lovely sail. This time, the waves had calmed down quite a bit and it was a very comfortable ride.
About 3:30 pm, we sailed through a pod of several hundred dolphin. Kathryn had been napping down below and came running up as she could here their squeaks through the hull. For several minutes, there were dolphin all around us and all of them constantly jumping. One of them would leap 3 or 4 feet into the air before falling back on his side.
The night was overcast, so the stars weren’t out strutting their stuff, but it was warmer than the previous night and as I said earlier, the boat wasn’t rolling nearly as much as the previous night out so we could get some sleep.
This morning (Sunday), dawn broke as we entered the Santa Barbara Channel, having left Pt. Conception in our wake. The wind had died down, so we motored here to Santa Rosa Island and dropped the anchor. As we arrived, the wind came up and I can hear it really blowing out there, but we are snug and secure below.
Friday, October 29, 2004
Current Location: East side of, Santa Barbara Island (33 miles off the coast)
33 dg. 29.045 mn. N, 119 dg. 1.667 mn W
Total distance traveled so far: 520 nm
We spent Monday waiting for the weather to improve, but it remained windy and drizzly all day, so we basically vegged out on board Tricia Jean and remained in Becher Bay for another night.
Tuesday morning, the winds were mild, so Kathryn (determined to get off the boat and DO SOMETHING) started blowing up the inflatable kayak Jeff had given us. While she was thus engaged, I turned on the marine weather forecast. “Gale warning … thunder storms … 35 knot gusts … possible water spouts (tornados over water) … be on the lookout for deadly lightning … seek safe harbor”, etc.. I went back topside and suggested that rather than exploring the island in the kayak, we might want to make like the shepard and get the flock out of there for a more secure anchorage. By the time we got everything ready and the anchor up, the winds were already starting to blow and the rain starting to fall.
We first tried to secure ourselves into a place called Fry’s Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island. This would have given us almost 360 degree protection. Unfortunately, it was just a little too small. Had I been able to get the anchor set right where I wanted it, it would have worked, but the darn thing just wouldn’t set right away and dragged a little first. This put us too close to the cliff on one side or the other. 3 times we tried to get the anchor set where I wanted it and 3 times it dragged for a while without setting. We finally gave up and headed east along the northern coast of the island. We checked out 2 or 3 other spots, but finally decided on Prisoner’s Cove, a large cove with plenty of room in it. Just as we got there, the sky opened up. The wind was so strong, the rain was blowing sideways. This is not the ideal situation in which to anchor the boat, a process which has me up on the bow and Kathryn back at the stern driving. The sideways rain blowing into Kathryn’s glasses basically blinded her and there was no way shouted instructions could be heard above the wind from 40 feet away. There was however a permanent mooring ball in the cove. It was not normally available for public use, but we decided this was not a normal situation. Besides, there was no one there to even notice us. We therefore tied up to the mooring ball for the night.
Wednesday, it was overcast and cool, but things were calm. The first thing I did was to move a bunch of chain I had in deep storage (planning on using it if we ever got to an area that had coral heads) up into the chain locker so it was ready for immediate use. This makes us a little bow heavy, so when I get a chance, I’m going to have to find some heavy stuff to move further aft and thereby adjust our trim back to level. I also took our backup anchor (a claw type) out of storage and swapped it with the anchor we had been using as our primary anchor. I really like the claw. It sets fast and holds tenaciously. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t fit the bow roller on this boat very well (which is why it had been relegated to being the backup anchor). When we get to San Diego, I think I may purchase another anchor (called a Delta) to be the primary one. This type is also supposed to work well and should fit into the bow roller nicely. This will also give me the chance to go one size larger than what we now have. I like BIG anchors. They let me sleep soundly at night.
We spent the rest of Wednesday basically hanging out and letting things dry out. Kathryn finally got to take the kayak out for a spin and collected a few muscles we used as bait to catch dinner with. After dinner, we had front row seats for the lunar eclipse and sat watching it with the soothing sound of the surf in the background.
Thursday, we relocated over to the east end of the island, dropping the hook at a place called Smuggler’s Cove, a beautiful cove where we enjoyed a nice sunset. This move put us close enough to do a day sail from here to Santa Barbara Island. This is a small island, about one square mile in area and its rugged desolation is stunning. On the way here, we were visited by several groups of Pacific White-Sided Dolphins. The water was crystal clear and since the day was windless, the surface of the sea was glassy smooth as we motored along. Crouching out on the bowsprit watching them as they swam ahead of the boat, it seemed like they were swimming in the air just 5 feet away from me. This would go on for 5 or 10 minutes at a time. It may be just my imagination, but it seemed as though one of them was turning on his side every now and then and staring back at me. It was really a magical experience.
Saturday, October 30, 2004
Current Location: Silver Canyon Landing (S. side of, Catalina Island)
33 dg. 19.118’ N, 118 dg. 23.432’ W
Total distance traveled so far: 554 nm
Today was another pleasant, but windless day. We motored about 34 nm over to the south end of Catalina Island where we anchored in about 25 feet of clear water. As I was standing up at the bow, I could see the anchor on the bottom. I know as we move into the incredibly clear waters of Mexico, this will become commonplace, but this is only the 2nd time it has happened so far (yesterday was the first).
We set up the dinghy and went ashore, and had a little excitement as we landed on the fairly steep, pebbly shore. I’m still uncertain as to the exact sequence of events, but I was in the back of the dinghy driving and Kathryn was in the front. As we hit the shore, Kathryn hopped out and jumped into the water. She got a little tangled in the bow line at the same time a wave hit the back of the dinghy and before you could say “Uh oh”, she was lying prone in the sandy, turbulent water. Fortunately, it wasn’t all that cold. I guess we’re going have to get better at bringing the dinghy into shore.
Tuesday, November 2, 2004
Current Location: San Diego
32 dg. 43.62’ N, 117 dg. 12.152’ W
Total distance traveled so far: 629 nm
When was the last time you saw the Milky Way?
We left Catalina Sunday evening, just as it was getting dark for a nighttime trip down to San Diego. Once again, it was completely windless, so we motored the entire way. So far, it seems like the two kinds of wind we’ve had the most of are too little and way too much. Such is the way of things I guess. I try hard not to argue with the weather, as it just irritates me and changes the weather not at all. But, sometimes it does get a bit frustrating. Anyway, as we were pulling away from the island and darkness slowly fell, the stars came out and the Milky Way was filling the sky with a bright band of light from one horizon, across the top of the sky and down to the other horizon. A suitably descriptive superlative escapes me. I just stared up at it in awe for a couple of hours. Eventually, I put Holst’s Planet Symphony on the CD. It seemed only appropriate.
Sometime later, the almost full, blood red moon rose through the haze on the eastern horizon. As it first crept into view, it was so dark as to be almost invisible. Inching up into the sky over the next hour or two it gradually became brighter and brighter until it dominated the heavens and illuminated the boat and ocean around us. In a way, it was a disappointment as the Milky Way faded into invisibility.
It turns out that that stretch of ocean is a busy one. During the night, we passed 4 or 5 cruise ships, a few freighters and tankers, a fishing boat with a net out, a cable laying platform and a few smaller private boats. One of the smaller boats, a 50’ Ketch from Canada was making the identical passage we were (leave Catalina at dusk and time it to arrive at San Diego at dawn) and we played “Dodge ‘em” with them all night. We were rarely much more than a mile apart and often less than a half mile (it may sound like a long way, but this is actually closer than we like to be to anything when sailing at night). Fortunately, the radar makes keeping track of everything around you quite easy. Without it, it can become very easy to let all the various lights confuse you, as there’s really no way to tell how far away any of the lights are.
The first thing we did when we got here was to go by the fuel dock and top off our diesel tank. While we were sitting there an aircraft carrier come into the harbor. Man those things are huge. They look really top heavy too, as though they should fall over onto their side. We then got a temporary slip at the Cabrillo Isle Marina on Harbor Island. We then did some running around, including making contact with Ashley to pick up our mail, which she has been collecting for us.
We’ll be here in San Diego for a couple more days as we accomplish a variety of boat projects, reprovision, get our paperwork in order to take the boat across the border, then head out and south into Mexico.
Saturday, November 6, 2004
Current Location: San Diego
29 dg. 57.112’ N, 115 dg. 48.209’ W
Total distance traveled so far: 830 nm
Wow, what a week!
Wednesday, Nov. 3: We spent the day running about a zillion errands and had a nice lunch with Ashley. Only two of the errands were of note. The first involved a Costco run. After one wrong turn, we found it, and started battling the typical Costco crowd while we filled our shopping cart until it was massively overloaded, then waited in the typical long Costco line. When it was finally our turn to be checked out, my Costco card (which I had through my company) wasn’t any good. It seems that on Aug 4, it had been deactivated. I’m sure Jeff must have told me about it, but I sure don’t remember it. It was a waste of a good portion of the afternoon, but not the end of the world.
We then headed for Wal-Mart. Through a combination of less than excellent directions provided by the marina and an Escher-like freeway system, we wound up missing at least 6 turns in a row (usually from being in the wrong lane and with traffic too heavy to get there from where we were in time. Missing the first one was bad enough, but after that, the rest occurred while we were on an unfamiliar and complicated freeway system and struggling to get back onto the route for which we had directions. All the while, as we were driving in circles, I am right on the edge of becoming disoriented and laughing hysterically at the absurdity of it all. We finally get back to the boat and spent until about 10:00pm storing everything.
Thursday, Nov 4: After some more last minute scrambling, we were finally able to leave the slip about 11:00am and 2 hours later, we were in Mexican waters at last. We spent all day Thursday with a perfect wind and made really good time down the coast. When the sun went down (we just love those Mexican sunsets!), the wind pretty much died with it and we ghosted along all night. At one point, I was talking on the radio with the Captain of the “Island Princess”, a huge cruise ship and he mentioned that his radar was indicating that we were doing less than 2 knots (about the same speed as a very slow walk), “Is that right?” he asked. Like I said, not much wind that night. No problem though, as we have officially left schedules behind us now that we are in “Manana Land”.
Friday, Nov 5: Not much to report here. Just a perfect sailing day with perfect sailing wind all day. I did manage to catch our first Mexican fish. Unfortunately, it was another mackerel instead of something real yummy like an albacore or dorado. We enjoyed another incredible sunset and I got to see my first green flash ever. If you’re unfamiliar with this phenomenon, do an internet search on “green flash”, it’s pretty cool. We had fresh winds all night this time and so made really good progress.
Saturday, Nov 6: About an hour and a half ago, at 08:30am, we dropped anchor at Punta Baja. This is a small point about 200 miles down the coast. We’ll rest up here for a day, catching up on our sleep and letting our personal batteries recharge. At the same time, we’re using the solar panels to recharge the boat’s batteries. Kathryn’s up in the v-berth sleeping as I type this. She did two night watches last night (I did two the previous night), so is a bit more wiped out than I am at the moment.
Tomorrow morning, we’ll depart for another 24 hour sail down past Cedros Island to Turtle Bay where we’ll probably stop for a couple of days before continuing on.
Monday, November 8, 2004
Current Location: Isla San Benito Oeste (west of Cedros Island)
28 dg. 18.2’ N, 115 dg. 34’ W
Total distance traveled so far: 933 nm
We had a really nice sail down to this beautiful island group with good winds almost all the way, arriving just before dawn. We hove to (a way of “parking” the boat in mid ocean so it’s barely moving) for a short while until the sun came up before actually approaching the islands. The three small islands form an arc and provide a very beautiful and protected anchorage. Looking down into the water, you can see the towers of kelp disappearing into the depths. Looking out at the islands themselves, you see a rugged rocky shoreline that looks as though some giant sculpted it. There is a small fishing village on the island and a couple of the fisherman came by to say “Hi” and to invite us to visit their village. One of them, Ramone, spoke very good English (far better than my Spanish) and asked if we liked lobster. After agreeing that we did, he said that they would be back in a few minutes. They were going to ask their patron if they could give us a couple. Sure enough, a few minutes later, they were back. This time, Tony, their patron (boss) was with them and they handed us 5 small lobster for our dinner. In return, we gave them a couple of cans of spam and 2 beers for which they seemed very pleased. They stayed awhile and shared a little of the history of their island. It seems that back in the early 1900’s, there was someone who killed someone else and the rest of the villagers felt in great danger from this guy. Their fathers lived here then and they built a wooden raft on which to escape the island and the killer.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
Current Location: South end of Cedros Island
28 dg. 5.2’ N, 115 dg. 19’ W
Total distance traveled so far: 959 nm
We split yesterday between exploring Isla San Benito Oeste (checking out the elephant seal colony, etc.), working on the boat and just resting.
This morning, as we were raising the anchor, Ramone and Eddie came by again in their panga (an open fiberglass boat with an medium large outboard used by virtually all the fisherman) to say “Good bye”, and gave us a gift of 5 more lobsters as a going away present. We gave him the only two magazines we had on board. We really enjoyed these guys. Not because of the lobsters (though they were certainly nice too), but they were just nice people. It helped a lot that Ramone’s English was good enough that we could actually converse. It turns out that when he isn’t working as a fisherman, he’s working to become a commercial pilot. Perhaps the next time we see him, we’ll be flying somewhere in Mexico and he’ll be up in the cockpit.
The wind blew fairly strongly all yesterday and last night (15-18 kt gusting to 25+) and continues as I type this. As a result, our sail over to Cedros was a fast one and we had the anchor down by about 2:30 this afternoon. This area of Cedros is very reminiscent of Death Valley. As far as we can tell, nothing grows anywhere and the hills are all different colors. It makes us wonder what the minerals are that are causing the colors. The wind is just a little more than we want to deal with in the dinghy, so it looks like Cedros will have to do without our footprints this trip.
Our current plan is to leave here tomorrow morning for an 8 hour sail (assuming the wind keeps blowing) down to Turtle Bay (Bahia Tortugas on the local charts). This will be another quick overnight stay as the next morning we take off on another 48 hour leg down to Bahia Santa Maria, about ¾ of the way down the coast of Baja. We expect to spend 2 nights there resting up for another long 30 hour leg. This one will take us past Cabo San Lucas at the tip of Baja and up into the Sea Of Cortez to an isolated anchorage called Bahia Frailes.
Unless we look like we’re going to need something, we’re going to bypass Cabo San Lucas. While this is a beautiful bay, on our Last trip down here we really didn’t enjoy the large tourist trap it has developed into. Large hotels line the beach and there is a constant cacophony of jet skis and ski boats towing a half dozen tourists around riding on a giant inflatable banana. We figure we can do without that. Our next populated stop will probably be La Paz (the capitol of Baja California Sur), where we will formally check into Mexico, with stops at the Port Captain’s and immigration. We haven’t discussed it yet, but I suspect we will be there for at least a few days as we reprovision, visit the best ice-cream shop in the world (no doubt more than once), and possibly even take in a movie. We spent a week or two there last time while dealing with a blown head gasket and found that we enjoyed La Paz.
Thursday, November 11, 2004
Current Location: Turtle Bay
27 dg. 41.17’ N, 114 dg. 53.35’ W
Total distance traveled so far: 994 nm
As we left Cedros, we discovered that our wind vane steering had slipped a cog on it’s main gear again, so rather than turn around and reanchor so I could fix it, I hand steered the boat all day to Turtle Bay. We had really good winds for the first 2/3’s of the way, then as we were passing Isla Natividad, the winds dropped considerably to around 8 knots or so. This was still enough to move the boat, but after flying along the way we were all morning, it seemed pretty slow. We dropped anchor amid about 4 other cruising boats and several more work boats for a quiet late afternoon and evening. The village here has grown considerably in just the five years we’ve been away, with several new buildings of significant size and some pretty fancy looking homes on the cliff overlooking the beach.
The afternoon forecast was for “honkin’ winds for the next several days”, so this should be a fast, if bumpy trip down to Bahia Santa Maria.
Saturday, November 13, 2004
Current Location: Punta de San Roque
27 dg. 10.18’ N, 114 dg. 23.65’ W
Total distance traveled so far: 1039 nm
I was able to fix the vane in just a few minutes this morning and we made our departure from Turtle Bay without ever getting off the boat. The winds were quite light as we left, so I had all regular sail up and were still only making 3-4 knots. Then, about 9:00, it picked up until I reefed the main. True to form, the wind then moderated half an hour later, so I unreefed it. Shortly thereafter, I reefed it again, then double reefed it, then dropped the staysail (the middle sail of the three our boat has). Eventually, I dropped the main altogether, so we were just flying our yankee jib (by far the smallest regular sail that we have). By the end of the day, we were still doing 5-6 knots with just the jib up. In addition, the waves were getting so big, that they were overpowering our vane steering and I was back to hand steering again. Rather than spend an uncomfortably, rolly night hand steering, we ducked into Punta de San Roque, arriving just as it got dark and dropped anchor amid more than a dozen pangas.
We left the anchorage shortly after the sun came up and as we did so, one of the pangas came up to us and offered to trade some lobsters for beer or wine. It’s hard to believe, but we declined.
Right now (noon), we’re underway and making good time with the winds about 15 knots and building.
Monday, November 15, 2004
Current Location: Anchored at Bahia Santa Maria
24 dg. 45.8’ N, 112 dg. 15.7’ W
Total distance traveled so far: 1228 nm
Saturday afternoon was great fishing. I used a hand line all afternoon and caught a total of about 10 skipjacks (16”-22”), all of which we released, one that was either a yellowfin or yellowtail tuna about 26”) which we kept and cleaned, one small (24”) dorado (also known as a dolphin fish or mahi-mahi) which we released and something so big, it broke my steel leader. We were also entertained by a pod of about 20 dolphins as they played under the bow of our boat for 10 minutes.
The winds quieted down in the evening and never really picked back up. Early Sunday morning, I watched as 3 storm cells drifted past us a few miles away. The leading edge of one of them generated a funnel cloud that came very close to touching done and turning into a waterspout (a tornado over the water). Needless to say, I immediately dropped the sails and started the engine and put a little distance between us. We spent the night and all day Sunday basically becalmed. Every now and then, a little puff of breeze would come by, but most of the time, we were moving at somewhere between 0 and 1.5 kts. During the entire day, we made about only about 12 miles of progress.
When the forecast we listened to Sunday late afternoon predicted calms for the entire Baja coast for the next few days, we bit the bullet and started motoring the rest of the way to Bahia Santa Maria (another 70 miles) and arrived here about 8:45 this morning (a little over an hour ago).
We had one little bit of excitement last night. I was on watch about 10:30 pm when I suddenly noticed the smell of boiling engine coolant. A quick glance at the gauges showed that the engine temperature was pegged as high as the gauge would go. I instantly shut down the engine and went down to investigate. It turned out that we had broken the fan belt. After putting a new one on, refilling the coolant reservoir and waiting for the engine block to cool down a bit, I fired it back up and everything was good as new. This does point up one of the differences between cruising and living in a house in a city. Out in the middle of the ocean, you have to be self-sufficient. There’s no AAA, no neighborhood mechanic to fix it for you or even an auto-parts store to get the parts at. You have to be prepared to handle problems like this. As it was, it was a minor issue and we were back underway in less than an hour. If we had not had the parts, the tools or the ability to do the repair ourselves, it would have been a much more painful experience. So, in preparing for a trip like this, you try to predict everything that can go wrong. Prioritize them in terms of how big an impact the problem will have on you and make sure you have everything on hand to deal with it before you leave. That’s why we have so much redundancy in the boat’s critical systems (2 water tanks, 2 ways to generate electrical power, 2 propulsion systems, 3 ways to get the water out of the tanks, etc.). We also keep a lot of spare parts and tools on board and can repair almost anything on the boat ourselves. So far, we’ve been lucky. We’ve been pretty much able to deal with everything that has come up.
There is a mixture of about 8 sail and power boats anchored here, including (if you can believe it) one very large power boat with it’s own helipad, complete with little red helicopter. I can’t imagine how much money you’ve got to have to own toys like that.
Kathryn’s just announced that “Now I really am worn out.” (she just did some laundry – remember, there’s no washer and dryer on the boat) and is about to collapse into a horrible heap for the rest of the day. I think I’ll join her.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
Current Location: Underway, 60 miles from Cabo San Lucas
23 dg. 24.6’ N, 110 dg. 47.9’ W
Total distance traveled so far: 1342 nm
We spent a couple of days catching up on our sleep and puttering about the boat. Kathryn worked on a sun awning she is making, and I tried to track down an air leak in our fresh water plumbing and repaired a dorade that got ripped off while bringing the dinghy aboard in a strong wind the other day. (A dorade is a little box that sits on the cabin top with a little wind scoop sticking out of it. It lets fresh air in, but keeps any water from wind, rain or spray out.) Nothing really exciting happened. We never even put the dinghy in the water, let alone left the boat. Just slept, read, puttered and repeated until we felt well rested. We BBQ’d the rest of that tuna we caught for dinner – it was great.
Yesterday at 08:30, we left Bahia Santa Maria in light winds that slowly built up during the day and continued all night, so we are making great time (overall average of almost 6 kts). At this rate we will be passing Cabo San Lucas and entering the fabulous Sea of Cortez sometime tonight. We’ve decided not to stop at Cabo. Our consumables are holding up well (fuel, water, propane, food – except for bread) and as beautiful as the harbor is, we really did not enjoy the city all that much last time we were down here. Add the fact that if we stop, we have to check in (an onerous procedure which entails wandering all over town for half a day, visiting the Port captain, Immigration, the bank, back to the Port Captain and Immigration, and one other office whose name I forget at the moment to pay some port fees) and it’s just not worth it. We’re going to head on up the coast to a small bay called Bahia Frailes and anchor there for a couple of days of great diving, etc. It looks like our first port of call will be La Paz sometime around Thanksgiving.
Friday, November 19, 2004
Current Location: Bahia Frailes (40 miles north of Cabo San Lucas)
23 dg. 22.5’ N, 109 dg. 25.35’ W
Total distance traveled so far: 1450 nm
We’ve finally made it to the Sea of Cortez! We entered it sometime after midnight last night. The exact time is hard to say, because while we had good, even great sailing winds all the way to Cabo San Lucas, as we approached to within a couple of miles of Cabo, the wind just shut off. We then spent something like 4 hours, sitting there, in sight of Arch Rock (the actual southernmost point of the Baja peninsula). Just sitting there. In those 4 hours, we actually moved about a mile and a half.
Since it was night, we could not actually see Arch Rock. What we could see was it’s dark mass 2 ½ miles away, blocking the shore lights. The harbor is lined with hotels and other businesses and is as brightly lit as anywhere else I’ve ever been. It was actually a nice view. One of the things we love about Baja, is that the air is crystal clear. You can see seemingly forever with no haze or smog dulling your vision. This can make for some really stunning vistas.
Coming down from Bahia Santa Maria, we had a few close encounters with the local wildlife. To begin with, shortly after we got started, Kathryn saw a large bill fish (marlin, sailfish, ???) jump about 100 yards ahead of us. Then, about 15 minutes later, I saw it (or another one) jump about 75 yards behind us. A few minutes later, Kathryn saw it jump yet again a little ways off to our right. Our last sighting of it was when it swam just under the surface, swirling the water just 20 yards behind us. This was very close to the hand line I had out and am kind of glad that he didn’t take my lure. Later the same day, we I spotted our second sea turtle resting on the surface. I changed course to get a better look and was about 30 feet away when he decided we were too close and disappeared into the depths.
Then last night while becalmed off of Cabo, there I was, sitting in the dark cockpit while Kathryn slept down below when I suddenly heard something break the surface of the water and make a “whooooosh-hssst” sound just off to my left. A minute later, it happened again, this time sounding like it was just a few yards away. About the 4th time this happened, I had a flashlight out and was ready for it. As soon as I heard it break the water’s surface, I swung the light over to it and was just in time to see the dorsal fins of a pair of bottlenose dolphins disappearing into the water. They stayed with the boat for almost half an hour, sometimes on the left, sometimes on the right, sometimes ahead of or behind us. They never got closer than about 15 feet away, but were usually within about 50 feet. In a way, it was kind of spooky sitting there alone in the cockpit listening to them coming to the surface and breathe once or twice a minute but not being able to see them. With absolutely no wind blowing, the sound of them breathing was really loud.
Eventually, I got bored with just sitting there and not moving, so started the engine and started motoring. It was not long after that that a gentle breeze started up and we were sailing once more. Eventually, the breeze built up into a good sailing wind. The 40 mile trip up the coast to Bahia Frailes was up wind (as will be most of our sailing for awhile) and it seemed really strange. We’ve been sailing almost exclusively downwind for well over a thousand miles. When you do so, the waves cause the boat to roll quite a bit, but you are sailing basically upright. In sailing into the wind (actually tacking back and forth every couple of hours), there was far less rolling from side to side, but our world was now tilted onto its’ side about 20 degrees.
We arrived here around noon and dropped the anchor in a nice quiet spot. We somehow got up the energy for a quick swim now that we are in the land of warm water and when I swam over to the anchor to check and make sure that it had buried itself in the sand properly, I found a couple of puffer fish guarding it. Unfortunately, it was too deep (37’) for me to get all the way down and play with them. They’re fun to play with as they swallow a bunch of water, turning themselves into an 8” ball with ½”spikes all around it and little teeny tiny fins sticking out that are barely able to move the fish.
We’ll stay here for a couple of days and rest up from our two nights of sailing, then move another 45 miles up the coast to Ensenada de los Muertos (cove of the dead – you’ve got to wonder what the story behind that one is).
Monday, November 22, 2004
Current Location: Ensenada de los Muertos
23 dg. 59.3’ N, 109 dg. 49.6’ W
Total distance traveled so far: 1497 nm
We spent last Friday laying about, napping, reading and basically recovering from the long sail from Bahia Santa Maria. A south-east wind came up on Saturday which put us on a lee shore (the wind and waves trying to blow us onto the shore). This is not the preferred way to anchor. Unfortunately, there was only one small anchorage nearby that provided protection from a SE wind, and we suspected it was already chock full of boats. As soon as the wind came up, about 6 of the boats there at Frailes immediately raised anchor and headed for it. I decided that we were fine where we were, but I did pull the dinghy out and stow it so if the winds increased to the point where I felt there was any danger, we could head out. Many non-boaters find it surprising that just about the safest place to be in all but the most extreme (hurricane-like) weather is out on the water. Anchored near shore, there are any number of things that can go wrong, and if any do, you have precious little time to react before your boat gets blown ashore onto the rocks or beach or whatever else is downwind. In this case, the winds had a long way to go before they became a cause for any real concern and the forecast was for the winds to start dying down. However, I always try to have not only a plan ready to go if something goes wrong, but a backup plan ready behind that. Fortunately, as predicted, the winds started dying down and we had an uncomfortable night as the boat rocked in the chop left over from the afternoon’s breeze, but that was all.
Sunday morning, we upped anchor and headed about 45 miles north to Ensenada de los Muertos. On the way, I hooked not one, but 2 dorado on my hand line. The first was a large one, about 4’ long that hit the line so hard, it broke another of my steel leaders (I’m starting to loose faith in them) and escaped, leaping way out of the water over and over again as he tried to throw the lure (I hope he managed to). The second one was a smaller 26” one. This one we landed and filleted. Kathryn prepared a delicious dinner with this as the centerpiece (breaded and fried with a little curry) accompanied by a lentil and feta cheese salad and fresh baked bread. Man! That was a good dinner.
We arrived here at Muertos about 4:30 yesterday afternoon and has it ever changed since the last time we were here. Last time, there was an abandoned warehouse of some kind and 3 or 4 of us cruisers anchored in the bay. Now, there are two resorts, a few beachfront houses, something called the “Giggling Marlin Beach and Yacht Club” and the beach is lined with pangas and small boats that I suspect are used to take tourists out fishing. There were about a half dozen boats also anchored here when we arrived, but all except two took off this morning.
We met Jean and Mark from the boat Costa Vista. They are from Shearwater BC, Canada (about half way between Vancouver Island and Alaska) when they rowed over in their dinghy. Their plan is similar to ours, so I suspect we will be seeing more of them as the trip progresses.
Tomorrow, if the winds cooperate, we’ll probably head over to Isla Ceralvo, a short 8 or 10 mile sail from here.
I’ve got to say, I’ve been a little disappointed with the weather so far. First, it was all the time we spent waiting for the storms to pass up in California at a time of year when it is usually great sailing. And now, ever since we turned the corner and entered the Sea of Cortez (admittedly, it’s only been a few days), it’s been cool and overcast most of the time. When the weather is cool like this, it makes it less inviting to jump over the side and do some diving. Our recollection of our last trip was that it was hot and sunny virtually all the time. Hopefully, the hot weather will return soon.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Current Location: Anchored at the south end of Isla Ceralvo
24 dg. 0.7’ N, 109 dg. 50.5 W
Total distance traveled so far: 1508 nm
Tuesday: Left Muertos about 8:30 am for the short trip up to Isla Ceralvo. The day was very reminiscent of when we were here in 1999, but windier. It took several tries to get the anchor set. The wind is fairly strong and from the west instead of the predicted NW. Because of this, it is really blowing along the shoreline instead of from the shore out to sea as we had expected. I therefore wanted to tuck up in as close to shore in one of the cove-like indentions as possible to get as much protection from the wind generated waves as possible. Unfortunately, the bottom here is small patches of sand amid a bunch of undersea rocks. The rocks don’t endanger us any since they’re 20’-25’ below the surface, but I want the anchor to be in the sand where it can dig in.
The first try I missed and the anchor landed in the rocks, so I hauled it back up and…
The second try, I thought I hit the sand, but when we tested it but putting the engine in reverse and giving it full throttle, it didn’t hold. So I hauled it back up and…
The third try, I knew I hit the sand because I could see it on the bottom. But when we tested it, it didn’t hold. I think what was happening was that the sand was not very thick, so the anchor couldn’t dig in. So I hauled it back up and…
The fourth try, I managed to hit right in the middle of a big sandy area, but I screwed up and let the anchor drop down the wrong side of the bob-stay. This is a thick wire that goes from the end of the bowsprit down to the hull of the boat right at the waterline. As I lower the anchor (which normally is stowed on the bowsprit), it slides right past the bob-stay. This time, it somehow managed to get on the wrong side of it. If I were to leave it like this, then whenever the boat comes up tight against the anchor, it would be putting some serious pressure against the bob-stay. This is not good. So I hauled it back up and…
The fifth try, it landed in some rocks, but when we tested it, it held. By this time, my arms are REALLY tired. We have a winch to hoist the anchor with, but it is muscle powered and hauling 300 lbs of anchor and chain up off the ocean floor 4 times is about 3 times too many. So, I said the heck with it and put on the mask and fins to check it out. It was wedged pretty good and the chain kind of looped under another large rock, so as long as the wind kept blowing from this direction, we’d probably be OK.
We had a nice though rather short dive in the afternoon, it was a little murky, maybe 20’-25’ visibility, but lots of different kinds of fish and lots of them. This was really the first sight seeing dive of the trip. Up until now, either the water’s been too cold to make it inviting, or the weather has been unpleasant enough to keep us out of the water.
After we came back to the boat and rested up, the wind shifted to the NW (a much better direction for anchoring along this shore) and increased in strength to the point where I decided we needed to move a little deeper where there is good sand to anchor in. As I was hauling in the chain, I got it only a little way in and it wouldn’t come any further. It was obviously caught on a rock. We tried driving the boat this way and that, but couldn’t get it loose. So on come the mask and fins again. As I floated on the surface, I could see how it was well and truly wrapped around a rock. Telling Kathryn to wait 5 seconds after my fins disappeared then let out 20’ of slack, I took several deep breaths, hyperventilating to purge my system of CO2 then headed for the bottom 28’ away. It helped that I could pull myself hand over hand down the now vertical chain and get down there quickly so I could sty down as long as possible. I was able to unstick the chain. I moved it completely away from the entangling rock, but it took every last second of time I could stay down. I then shot up to the surface like a rocket.
We then moved the boat out to deeper water and dropped the anchor once again (I think we’re up to try #6 now). In my zeal to get this over with I let the chain out too fast and a loop of it was draped up over the anchor (I could just barely see this from the surface). So on come the mask and fins again. As I’m floating on the surface, I asked Katheryn to back it down slow. As I watched the chain come tight, the loop of chain caught under the one of the flukes and flipped it upside down. As a result, the anchor could not dig in. Time for “Deep Diving Dan” to go to work again – this time 37’ down. I impressed myself. I was able to make it all the way down there, grab the anchor and flip it over, then zoom all the way back to the surface (it seemed like a mighty looooong way too!) all in one breath of air. After that, it seemed like a good time to take a break, so after climbing back aboard and drying off, I curled up with a book for the rest of the afternoon.
Wednesday: As I do every morning when I get up, I checked the state of our batteries and had a bit of a surprise. We had somehow managed to consume about 83 amp-hours of electricity during the night. This is 2 to 3 times what it should have been and about half of what we can use before we start shortening the life of our batteries.
I guess this would be a good time to take a minute to talk about electrical power on the boat. Basically, we have a bank of batteries that supply all of the electrical power that we use in the boat. During the course of any 24 hour period, any number of things use some of it. This computer I’m typing on, the cabin lights in the evening, the anchor light, lots of stuff. On average, we have to put as much electricity back into the system as we take out. Otherwise, sooner or later we wind up with dead batteries. We have two ways to do this, the solar panels and running the engine. Since running the engine is noisy, disturbing our peace and tranquility, uses fuel and means that periodic maintenance and repairs occur more frequently, we very much prefer relying on the solar panels. This means that we try to budget our electrical usage to no more than our panels can produce. Complicating this is the issue of clouds and how much we swing at anchor, the two things that can dramatically reduce the effectiveness of the panels. The affect of the clouds is obvious, they block the sunshine. Swinging at anchor affect them because it becomes impossible to keep them properly aligned with the sun and to keep the shadows off of them. We thus try to keep our electrical usage to a minimum.
One of the biggest optional consumers of power is our refrigerator. Optional in the sense that we really don’t need it, but would really like to be able to keep it turned on. Certain foods last longer and cold drinks are a really nice treat. For the first month and a half of the trip, we found that if we really scrimped (use the kerosene lamps instead of the electrical cabin lights, etc.), we barely had enough to also use the refrigerator. Unfortunately, a few days ago, it developed a problem and we turned it off (hopefully we’ll get it fixed in La Paz) so we’ve actually had a surplus of power. It’s been really nice to use the much brighter cabin lights in the evening and we’ve really been enjoying it. So using 83 amp-hours during the course of a single evening is something that has to be stopped. It turned out to be something simple. I had turned the radar on as we were approaching Isla Ceralvo to check how far away it was and when the cover got put back on the display, it never got turned off. It was thus merrily transmitting away all night and using up the battery power. Mystery solved.
Fish! Lots of fish! I had a couple of great dives today. We had taken the dinghy to shore and while Kathryn tried her hand at surf fishing, I headed for the water. The first thing I ran into was a school of thousands and thousands (I later decided it had to be tens of thousands) 4”-5” anchovie like fish. I don’t know what they were, but they were shaped like an anchovie except their bodies were almost transparent. They were in about 5 feet of water and I just floated transfixed by them. As long as I remained motionless, I didn’t seem to bother them and they would swim all around me staying about 3 feet away. When I started swimming, they would rapidly scatter in all directions but the school was so large (at least 100 yards long), I was still surrounded by them. As I floated there just watching them, they suddenly became all agitated and in about 20 seconds, I could see the reason. A small school of hungry looking larger fish swam by. They looked interesting, so I followed them for awhile but soon became distracted by a group of iridescent blue fish near the bottom so I dropped down to get a closer look (the water was still only about 6‘ deep). While doing so, I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye and looked up to see the heads of two small spotted moray eels sticking out of a coral head watching me. These were just little guys, only about an inch and a quarter in diameter and I’m guessing, no more than 2 ½ feet long. So I sat and watched them for a while before moving on. This is how the whole dive went, just one fascinating thing after another. I saw 4 grouper, some needle fish and many, many more fish that I couldn’t identify. I sure wish I had had the camera with me.
Thursday, November 25, 2004 (Thanksgiving)
Current Location: Anchored at he south end of Isla Ceralvo
24 dg. 0.7’ N, 109 dg. 50.5 W
Total distance traveled so far: 1508 nm
Sort of a non-typical Thanksgiving so far. We had another great dive this morning, though the water clarity could have been better. I tried the camera with its’ underwater case for the first time and in amid the shots of fish that had just disappeared behind a rock while the digital camera woke up and decided to actually shoot a picture, I managed to get a few good shots. I’m sure I’ll get better at it, but meanwhile, I am very happy with these results. This afternoon, we just hung out and enjoyed each others company. Not much luck fishing while at anchor. Kathryn caught a couple of puffer fish and a needle fish, but nothing yummy. My hand line didn’t catch anything either, so we had a taco casserole for our Thanksgiving dinner.
We’ve decided to continue on towards La Paz tomorrow, stopping at Puerto Balandra overnight. This puts us into La Paz sometime Friday, probably before noon. We’ll probably spend several days there, possibly as long as a week. I’m really looking forward to ice cream, fresh water showers and all the other things civilization brings.
Friday, November 26, 2004
Current Location: Anchored in Puerto Balandra (near La Paz)
24 dg. 19.3’ N, 110 dg. 19.8 W
Total distance traveled so far: 1541 nm
Spent the day moving to this beautiful little cove about 10 miles from La Paz. Think white sandy beach, crystal clear water and isolated. We’ve been experimenting with towing the dinghy instead of bringing it aboard, folding it up and stowing the pieces away, then reversing the process when we get somewhere. This was the first time we tried to tow it in any kind of waves. Everything was going really good, it wasn’t taking on any water and was following us very nicely, not jerking on the towline or anything. I should say it was going nicely right up until we looked behind us about 10:20 this morning and there was no dinghy back there. OOPS! So we turned around and retraced our path until we found it about 1/3 of a mile behind us. I must remember to tie it on more securely.
I caught a few more skip jacks, one very large one and two small ones. Unfortunately, while they are editable, they are not very palatable. Their flesh is gray, tastes gray and gets mushy when cooked. So they were released. Just as we were coming to an area where there were some shallow rocks several miles from shore and I had to be very careful of my navigation, while desperately trying to spot a buoy that marked the safe passage, another fish took my hand line. I rapidly pulled it in, but didn’t recognize it. We hadn’t caught any of these before. I didn’t have time to look it up to see if was any good to eat, so we quickly took a picture of it and released it. I dropped the hand line back into the water, waited for it to reach the end of the line and was hookng up the bungee cord I use as a shock absorber when I caught another one. This time I very quickly hauled him in (it was the twin brother of the first one) and released him. Without redeploying the hand line, I went back to trying to spot the buoy while Kathryn looked up what they were. It turns out they were sierras and VERY good eating. Darn! I wish now that I had kept one of them. So instead of a delicious fish dinner, we had leftovers.
Thursday, December 02, 2004
Current Location: Anchored in La Paz
24 dg. 09.497 N, 110 dg. 19.372 W
Total distance traveled so far: 1552 nm
We’ve been relaxing in La Paz for about a week now, so I thought I’d better generate a journal entry so people wouldn’t think we’ve disappeared off the face of the Earth. The anchorage here is pretty full, so the boats are tucked in fairly close to each other. Add in the fact that there is a fairly strong tidal current and the boats are swinging every which way. Some boats tend to swing more to the current (which reverses itself every 6 hours or so) and some stay oriented to the wind, which has been steady out of the north. As a result, some of the boats occasionally get a little closer to each other than is comfortable. In fact, we twice decided to pick up the anchor, move a boat length or so and re-drop it. Because of the tight quarters, I was unable to let out as much chain as I would have liked, but this solved itself Monday morning.
We finally went ashore, eager for the long awaited shower, fish tacos form Gonzales’s Super Taco stand and some of the best ice cream in the world at the shop with the polka dot tree out front. The marina was closed until Monday morning, so we didn’t get the showers, but the tacos and ice cream were as good as we remembered. 2 out of 3 is not only not bad, but in this instance, it was pretty darn good. We also enjoyed the chance to just get out and walk around for awhile.
Sunday, we basically did more of the same (more tacos, more ice cream and more walking).
Monday morning, the wind started increasing, until it was eventually gusting to 30 kts (33 MPH). Because of this, we spent all day Monday on board, just watching things. About 8:15 that morning, the boat just downwind of us started dragging it’s anchor. This put not only that boat in danger (the seawall was only a couple of hundred yards downwind of him), but several other boats that he was likely to collide with or foul their anchors and cause them to start dragging. Fortunately, the owner was onboard and he quickly hoisted and reset his anchor, then a short time later, left and rented a slip in the marina. This was a bit of a relief to us, because it then allowed us to double the amount of chain we had out (the more chain you have out, the more secure your anchor is).
Tuesday, it was still quite windy, but it had calmed down a little and we now had high confidence that we would not swing into anyone and that the anchor was well set and safe. We therefore braved the wind waves and took the dinghy into the marina for the long awaited showers.
They were great!
We’ve spent the rest of the time walking around, getting ourselves and the boat formally checked into the country, enjoying more tacos and ice cream and just in general enjoying ourselves. I’m not sure when we’ll leave to go spend some time on the islands diving, fishing, etc., but it will be at least a couple of days. One of the things we have to do, getting a 10 Year Import Permit for the boat won’t be done until they come out and inspect the boat and verify that what I put down on the forms is correct. So for now, we’re just having a great time.
Sunday, December 12, 2004
Current Location: Anchored at Isla del Espirtu Santo
24 dg. 27.917 N, 110 dg. 22.929 W
Total distance traveled so far: 1572 nm
At 07:54 this morning, we hauled our anchor out of the sand and were under way, having spent the last two weeks relaxing and enjoying La Paz. It’s amazing how quickly the time went. I can really understand how a lot of cruisers get “stuck” in La Paz (One guy I ran into said he stopped for what he expected to be a 3 day stay there. That was 3 years ago and he was still there. It’s not that we actually did all that much, although there was plenty to do. While we were there, there was everything from the Subasta (a large, annual, cruiser organized auction and bazaar, the benefits of which go to tuition and school lunches for local poor kids), to a domino tournament, lots of musical events and a wide variety of other things. It’s just a very comfortable place to be.
La Paz is not very touristy at all, especially compared to someplace like Cabo San Lucas. Overall, it’s probably the politest and most courteous town I think I’ve ever been in (if you ignore the practice of a lot of cars driving around for an hour or more late at night honking their horns and shouting whenever the local school sports team wins). It can also be a very inexpensive place to live if you stay out of the restaurants, and even they are no more expensive than in the states, and often less.
But in any case, we are now out cruising again. About 12:30, we dropped the anchor here at Isla del Espirtu Santo, a nearby island, but it should have been called Gnat Island. There are indeed a lot of them and I’m not sure why. We haven’t seen them other places, but for the first time in the trip, I sit here with insect repellant on.
On our first dive, we had about 25’ or 30’ of visibility, not exceptional for Baja, but lots better than most places up north. We also encountered swarms of little tiny stinging jelly fish. These guys were really small, from about 1/32” to 1/8”. So small, that they were basically invisible. You could sure feel them though. I’ve been out of the water an hour now and I can still feel where they got me. I came back to the boat with a large (4”) clam that’s destined to be the centerpiece of our dinner tonight. Hopefully, I’ll find some more of them.
After Kathryn got back from her dive, we moved the boat to a different place on the island, hoping to get away from the gnats. It seems to have worked. The water clarity here was even worse than the first spot, probably because we’re now in a small bay with a mud bottom. Because of this, after a short dive to check the anchor and a quick survey of the local fish population, we spent most of the afternoon rowing around in the dinghy bird watching and marveling at the way the sandstone cliffs have become sculpted by the wind and rain over the eons.
We enjoyed a quiet dinner in the cockpit, just as the sunset was ending and darkness was enveloping the bay. The wind had died down to a light zephyr that gently caressed us as we sat there in our shorts and T-shirts. There was no swell, so the boat was rock steady and the loudest noise was the tiny ripples slapping against the dinghy. It was so quiet, that Kathryn could hear a cricket over on the shore about a hundred yards away. At one point, a shrimp boat that had been anchored about a mile away started up and headed out to do his night’s labor. Even from that distance, it seemed really loud.
I really enjoyed the city, but it’s nice to get back to the peace and quiet we find out here in the remote areas.
Monday, December 13, 2004
Current Location: Anchored at a small islet off of Isla del Espirtu Santo
24 dg. 29.053 N, 110 dg. 23.913 W
Total distance traveled so far: 1574 nm
This morning, we moved about a mile and a half over to a small islet just off of the main island where visibility was at least 50’ or 60’. There was an underwater rock that we could possibly swing over, so I grabbed the mask and fins and jumped in to verify that it was at least 10’ or 12’ beneath the surface so we wouldn’t have to worry about it (when the water is this clear, it can be hard to tell just how far below the surface something like that is). As soon as I jumped in, I was promptly and viciously attacked by another swarm of tiny jellyfish. This time, they got me mainly on the face, just about everywhere the mask doesn’t cover. I think we’re going to stay out of the water for another day or so, until we can get somewhere else (which hopefully won’t have the jelly fish).
After settling in, we went for a dinghy ride around the islet to check it out. It’s incredible. It is made up of 4-6 layers of different kinds and colors of rock and one of cobble filled soil. The layers are everything from dark black to red, to orange, to light grayish purple with absolutely sharp boundaries between the layers. The layers vary from 10’ to at least 100’ thick. One of the layers, the light grayish one is a thick layer and has weathered into some of the most fantastic shapes imaginable. It really is incredible.
Later, I took the dinghy out trolling for fish. The first thing I caught was a 2 ½’ needlefish. These things are pretty weird looking. As long as it was, at it’s widest, it’s body was no more than ¾” in diameter. Just the mouth was 7” or 8” long and tapered to a sharp point. It was a real pain to get the hook out, because it was over an inch down this long tube of a mouth. I had to return to the boat to get a pair of needle nose pliers to remove it.
After releasing it and starting fishing again, I almost immediately hooked another needlefish, but fortunately, while fighting it, it threw the hook. Back to fishing again. I was no more than 50 yards from the boat when I hooked a 38” dorado (just about the best eatin’ fish around, they sell it in stores and restaurants as Mahi Mahi). Fighting it on the light tackle I was using was a real challenge. It jumped at least 8 times. It would take the line out and I’d work him back close to the dinghy and he’d take the line back out again. This happened over and over again until I finally had him up next to the dinghy and he was too exhausted to fight anymore. These are beautiful fish. His body was a bright golden yellow and his pectoral fins a brilliant blue. Unfortunately, as they are removed from the water and begin to die, their colors rapidly fade and so are difficult to get a good picture of.
So, there I was. Sitting in the dinghy, now about 75 yards from the boat drifting with the wind, a 38” dorado alongside the dinghy and no way to get him aboard (I had neglected to bring the net or gaff with me). I tried bringing him in close enough to get a hand under him and flipping him over the side and into the dinghy with one hand while I held the rod with the other, but it rapidly became clear that that wasn’t going to work. Remember, this is a good sized fish, over a yard long and while exhausted, he was still very much alive and not cooperating. I wound up starting up the outboard and slooowly towing him back to the boat where I called for Kathryn to get the net and help me. We eventually got him aboard and have invited him to dinner tonight. Yum!
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Current Location: Anchored in a cove on the west side of Isla del Espirtu Santo
24 dg. 30.474 N, 110 dg. 23.419 W
Total distance traveled so far: 1575 nm
We met Rick and Liz from the boat Sara Elizabeth today. They are anchored just a little ways from us. We were swapping recent events and I was real proud of the dorado I caught from the dinghy yesterday, then he told me about the one he got yesterday. He was walking along the beach when he heard a “Slap, Slap, Slap…” behind him. When he turned around, here was a dorado flopping around on the beach and a needlefish flopping near him. All he can figure is that the dorado chased the needlefish right up onto the beach where they were both stranded high and dry. Liz said that she was wading, looking for clams and came across a halibut in the sand, which she managed to capture by hand.
After we left Liz & Rick, we went into shore where we found a well that had supposedly been dug by shark fishermen back in the ‘40s. There’s water in it, so I think we’re going to head back there later with a bucket and some soap to wash ourselves. Following a trail back up the wash from the well, it ends at yet another incredible rock sculpture. This one was like an amphitheater with all sorts of strangely weathered rocks around it.
Thursday, December 16, 2004
Current Location: Anchored Caleta Partida between Isla Partida & Isla del Espirtu Santo
24 dg. 31.996 N, 110 dg. 22.699 W
Total distance traveled so far: 1578 nm
After spending two stationary days, we moved a whole 3 miles today and the only reason the trip was that long was that we wanted to get far enough offshore to dump some kitchen garbage.
Caleta Partida is a volcanic crater that collapsed eons ago and when it did, it cut an island into two smaller ones (Isla Partida & Isla del Espirtu Santo) leaving a circular bay that is almost entirely landlocked between them. There is a fairly narrow entrance to the west that we came in through, and a very shallow, serpentine route to open water to the east. Except for those two openings, we are pretty much entirely surrounded by cliffs. Very picturesque, but the fish aren’t biting.
I got some more jellyfish stings on my neck again when I went diving at the last cove, so I am going to wait and let them clear up before tempting fate again. This means that I won’t be doing any diving here, which is too bad, as the water is very clear and inviting. I suspect that we’ll put at least a little mileage under our keel as the next stop (Isla San Francisco is about 20 miles away. We went ashore and explored for awhile today, but there isn’t anything really exciting to report except that we’re at a YABA (Yet Another Beautiful Anchorage).
Friday, December 17, 2004
Current Location: Anchored in an unnamed cove on Isla Partida
24 dg. 32.261 N, 110 dg. 23.540 W
Total distance traveled so far: 1581 nm
Kathryn and I went out fishing in the dingy this morning. One of the fish I caught, a trigger fish, managed to get down into the rocks and wedge himself in. I thought I was never going to get him out (or my lure back). But, persistence won out. After a 10 minute struggle, I finally managed to get him out of the rocks and up to the boat where I could release him.
While out trolling in the dinghy, we came across a cozy little anchorage that we just couldn’t resist, so instead of making the jump to Isla San Francisco as our next movement, we just moved a short distance up to a very small unnamed cove just to the north of the entrance to Caleta Partida. This cove could more accurately be described as a fjord. It is over a half a mile long, but the cliffs are less than a hundred yards away on either side of us. If I tried real hard, I could probably come close to casting a lure all the way over there. Where we are anchored, the water stays deep (15-30 feet) from one cliff until almost all the way over to the other. The high cliffs on either side of us also give us excellent protection from the wind, so it doesn’t have a chance to develop any chop. It’s really cool!
I couldn’t resist and went for a long dive after we got here and was not attacked by jellies (YEAH!!!). In addition to the usual multitude of fish, the sandy bottom between the rocky cliffs is full of scallops, clams and other bi-valves. There are even some muscles living in the sand, which is kind of strange. This is the first time I’ve found them in sand. They usually attach themselves to rocks. Here, when you dig them out of the sand, they have attached themselves to a ball (about the size of a tennis ball) of small pebbles.
Saturday, December 18, 2004
Current Location: Anchored in an unnamed cove on Isla Partida
24 dg. 32.261 N, 110 dg. 23.540 W
Total distance traveled so far: 1581 nm
One of our friends asked for some information on our electrical system.
Electrical system details:
Yes, it is 12 volts. We have 3 deep cycle batteries supplying the "house" totaling about 360 amp hours and one dedicated starting battery. These two groups are normally completely isolated, so we can't run down the starting battery by leaving too many lights on or leaving the radar going (but who would ever do something that stupid - oh yeah, we did). However, we do have a gizmo called a "battery combiner". This device watches to see if there is an incoming charge and if so, closes a large relay, connecting the two groups together so they both receive the incoming charge. It doesn't matter if the charge is coming from the alternator, the solar panels or (if we ever get one) a wind generator. As long as there is an incoming charge source, both battery groups get charged up, but when drawing on the batteries, one group cannot discharge the other. For emergency starting purposes, we do have a switch we can throw that manually combines them in case we ever need to use the house batteries to start the engine with.
For charging, we can run the engine which will give us almost 40 amps if the batteries are quite low, but normally, it outputs a max of about 30 amps. We also have 4 solar panels, 2 50-watt ones and 2 75-watt ones. These are normally mounted along the rail with one 50-watt forward and one 75-watt aft on each side. The wires that plug the panels into the boats system are extra long and the mounts are very easy to detach, so when we are sitting at anchor, I can quickly and easily detach one or both of the panels on the shady side of the boat and move them so they can get some sun.
The solar panels connect into the batteries through a device called a "charge controller". This basically monitors the current condition of the batteries and adjusts the amount of charge it lets through to accomplish 3 goals. Charging the batteries as quickly as possible, preventing the overcharging of the batteries and maximizing the life of the batteries.
In theory, under ideal conditions and in a perfect world, I should be able to get 15 or 16 amps out of the panels. Unfortunately, this assumes conditions that never exist (sun directly overhead, the panels pointed directly at it and absolutely clean, no shadows, etc.). In practice, the most I've ever seen is a little over 13 amps with 9 or 10 amps in good conditions far more common. Now that we are not turning the refrigerator on anymore, this is plenty. Back when we were using it, it was just barely enough.
Helping us keep track of all this is the "Link 10 Battery Monitor". I am soooo glad, one of my friends (Eric of the boat Nataraja) talked me into buying this gadget. After having lived on a boat without one and now with one, I will state categorically that no boat should be without one. It's basically an integrating ammeter that by pushing a button cycles its' display though the following values:
The battery monitor lets me know at a glance whether the solar panels are keeping up with our usage, or if, over the course of a day, we are using more than the solar panels are producing and if so, how much more.
Or refrigerator (which gave up on us about a month ago), uses a 12V compressor which draws about 5 amps when it's running. The compressor still runs, and the evaporator plate cools off, but it doesn't get nearly as cold as it used to (just cool to the touch whereas it used to be able to make ice cubes). As a result, when we turn it on, it now runs nonstop and the icebox never really gets cold. From this I infer that it the coolant probably needs to be recharged. What I don't know is why it suddenly needs to be recharged. It didn't slowly get worse and worse, it was working one day, and not working the next.
Things I'd do differently:
- If I had it to do over again, I'd definitely go with 4 75-watt panels instead of a mixture of 50 and 75 watt ones.
- I'd probably put in a 4th house battery, bringing my total capacity up to 480 amp hours. This would mean that we could go that much longer when things are cloudy without running the engine.
- I'd install a wind generator (about a third of the boats down here have them). This would give us plenty of power to use the refrigeration. As it was, if we used the kerosene lights almost exclusively at night instead of the electric, the panels were just barely keeping up.
Monday, December 20, 2004
Current Location: Anchored at Isla San Francisco
24 dg. 49.319 N, 110 dg. 34.237 W
Total distance traveled so far: 1602 nm
We moved up to Isla San Francisco this morning. It’s about 20 miles north of where we were and had the anchor down by about 12:30. I guess we may have to remember how to interact with other people again, as there are 4 other boats here. Including the Canadian boat Costa Vita with Mark and Jean aboard who we first saw back in Frailes, then were anchored right next to in La Paz for over two weeks. Whisper and Full Moon who were also in La Paz while we were are here too.
We did a little exploring in the dinghy and went around to the east side of the island and found a place where agates were eroding out of the cliff by the beach. They ranged from the size of a pea or smaller to one Kathryn found that was too big to dig out of the ground (at least a foot long). The color of most of them was clear to white, although a couple of greenish ones were found. There were also a lot of really nice shells just lying on the beach. It was pretty obvious that this place doesn’t see human footprints too often,
Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Current Location: Anchored at Punta San Evaristo
24 dg. 54.787 N, 110 dg. 42.177 W
Total distance traveled so far: 1611 nm
Wow! We traveled a whole 9 miles today. Considering what we’ve been doing for the last week and a half, that’s a lot. Well, at the moment, we are back over on the coast of the Baja peninsula. We’ll visit some more islands later, but for a while, we’ll be working out way up the coast. As usual, as soon as we had the anchor down and settled in, I went diving. The first thing is always do is to go look at our anchor as it sets on the bottom. This is to make sure that it is well dug in and not just snagged on a rock or something. As I did so, I found a chain hook laying on the bottom right next to the anchor. This is a metal hook attached to a piece of strong nylon rope and it is often used as part of the anchoring mechanism. At first, I thought I must have knocked one of ours overboard as I was dropping the anchor, but upon closer inspection, it was one someone else had lost. The hook is even the right size for our chain, so now I’ve got a spare.
I next swam over to some nearby rocks to check out the fish population. I ran into another huge school of anchovy-like fish. The school was so thick, you couldn’t see through it. It was really neat, as I would swim through it, the school would part, keeping just out of reach. If I floated on the surface above it, a hole would open up just below me and I could see the bottom, but everywhere else, all you could see was this mass of little fish.
There are 5 other boats here, including one that came in after it got dark. This is more boats than we’ve seen in one place since La Paz. It feels downright crowded.
Thursday, December 23, 2004
Current Location: Anchored at Punta Nopolo
25 dg. 00.754 N, 110 dg. 45.516 W
Total distance traveled so far: 1618 nm
We left the crowd at San Evaristo this morning and made our way about 7 miles up the coast to this tiny anchorage where we are the only boat here. There is a very small fishing village here (6 homes and nothing else), so we went ashore to introduce ourselves and ask their permission to anchor here for a day. I’m sad to say that this effort really strained the limits of my Spanish and none of them spoke ANY English, so our conversation was necessarily kind of short. They were all very friendly, though the kids were a bit shy. Even the dogs were friendly. As we arrived, they were filleting some sharks and packing the meat into salt.
We’ve had fairly strong north winds for the last couple of days and are kind of hoping that they will quiet down some as we’ve got a couple of passages in front of us that are comparatively long. The next one is about 40 miles up to a place called Agua Verde. This is supposed to be an especially beautiful anchorage and one we wanted to visit on our last trip, but just didn’t have time, so we are really looking forward to it. What we are not particularly looking forward to is fighting our way directly into the teeth of 20-25 kt winds for 40 miles. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Friday, December 24, 2004
Current Location: Anchored at Punta San Evaristo
24 dg. 54.787 N, 110 dg. 42.177 W
Total distance traveled so far: 1625 nm
I should have mentioned that the village at Pt. Nopolo is completely isolated. The only way in or out is by boat. There are no roads and not even any foot trails that we could find. Yesterday afternoon, as we relaxed on board, they butchered something that looked like they may have been goats. Preparing for the Christmas feast no doubt.
Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that on our way up to Nopolo, a manta ray jump out of the water about 40 yards from the boat. He was about 7 feet across and leaped completely clear of the water by about 3 feet. He was also turned so that he was facing us, so it was a pretty impressive show.
The weather forecast this morning indicated that the north winds were not only going to continue, but increase for a couple of days. This would make the ride north slow and very uncomfortable. So, we held a planning meeting and decided that it was time to turn around and start making our way back south. I think we will probably stop in La Paz for a few weeks and see if we can find some intensive Spanish language instruction. Our visit to Pt. Nopolo really made clear to us just how weak our Spanish is. When we leave La Paz, the current plan is to cross over to the mainland and continue south to Isla Isabella, Banderas Bay, Puerto Vallarta, Manzanillo, Zihuatanejo and ????.
This morning, we had a high speed, down wind, down wave run back to San Evaristo and will probably make it back to La Paz not long after Christmas.
Christmas Eve in San Evaristo:
A few days after we started this trip, in early October, one of the very best friends I had in this world passed away after a long battle with cancer. Among other things, he was a wine maker and I wound up with four bottles of his wine. One labeled one that he was selling, and three unlabeled, privately bottled bottles of zinfandel than Kathryn and I helped pick the fruit for last year. Earlier this evening, I opened the first of those bottles. I couldn’t call it a great wine, but it is a very, very good one and after tasting it, I will let the other two lie in our cellar for another year (actually our bilge, the coolest storage area we have) and by then, they may likely qualify as “great”.
It has been a tumultuous year for us. Family and friends have passed away, and we have forsaken the “normal” life of work, mortgage and such for a sailboat and the far horizons.
Here, on this traditionally family centered holiday, it is now just the two of us in a remote anchorage. The full moon has just risen above the ridge to the east of us and we have our family’s traditional chili and corn bread (a bit unusual, but for us, it is traditional and it really fits in with the Mexican surroundings we find ourselves in) and Kathryn made us some fudge as a special treat. In the absence of our family, it really makes me realize just how much I love Kathryn and how lucky I am to have her. I miss our kids and the rest of our families terribly, but as long as we’re together, everything will be OK. It sounds a little trite as I reread what I have typed, but it is what I am feeling.
A number of people have emailed us and wished us “Merry Christmas”, and I wish we could be back home enjoying it with them, but this year it is just the two of us.
Well, enough of this melancholia, it’s time for me to go whup Kathryn in our nightly card game of Gin.
Sunday, December 26, 2004
Current Location: Anchored near Pt San Marcial
25 dg. 28.419’ N, 111 dg. 01.141’ W
Total distance traveled so far: 1663 nm
Well, Christmas has safely come and gone. We had my family’s traditional chili and cornbread Christmas Eve dinner, and then on Christmas, Kathryn prepared roast beef, gravy and such. Of course, the roast beef came out of a can, but we enjoyed it. I am pretty sure it’s the first beef we have had since we left the U.S..
As I mentioned before, we turned around the other day and went back south to San Evaristo. When we got there, the wind in the anchorage was really gusting. It was so strong, that it would form little ripples, then the wind would just blow the tops off of the ripples and send the spray flying. It made dropping the anchor very interesting. Every time we would slow down and come to a stop, the wind would rapidly blow the bow down and then start blowing the whole boat towards the uncomfortably close rocks. It took us several passes before we finally got the anchor down where we wanted it. I was up on the bow during almost all of this, trying to get the anchor down and Kathryn was at the helm. At one point though, we got dangerously close to the rocks and from my vantage point up on the bow, it looked like Kathryn was being unsuccessful in driving the boat away from them and I rushed back to the cockpit, grabbed control of the wheel and engine controls and spun us around away from the rocks. This was probably unnecessary and the lack of confidence I displayed in her abilities certainly hurt her, but the technique she was using to turn us around had failed twice while I was up on the bow, causing the wind to blow us ever closer to those rocks and I wasn’t sure that if she tried the same thing again and it failed, I would be able to keep us off the rocks.
We stayed at San Evaristo Christmas Eve and Christmas day, but the winds were so strong and uncomfortably cold, we just hung out down below (reading, playing cards, etc.).
Then, this morning, we woke up to a beautiful, warm, sunshiny day with almost no wind. We held another planning meeting (our 3rd in three days) and decided to turn back around and head north again. It’s amazing how much the weather affects your outlook on things.
About 8:00 this morning, we fired up the trusty diesel, hauled the anchor back aboard and once again pointed our bow north. We made it about 38 miles with warm sunshine and little or no wind the whole way.
The fishing has been poor lately, but according to one of the fishing guides we have, that is to be expected in this part of Baja. We did have a little fishing excitement though. While I was trolling my hand line behind the boat today, the bells I have on it to alert me of a catch started jangling. When I looked back, I had caught a sea gull! We were pulling him along the surface of the water as he fought to get control of this little plastic squid he had just caught (my lure). Fortunately for him, a bird’s beak has little in it for the hook to catch on and eventually, he gave up and let the lure go. We last saw him flying away with a very disgruntled look on his face.
We are now anchored in a little cove just south of Pt. San Marcial and about 10 miles from Agua Verde where we will probably settle in for a few days. The geological scenery here is incredible. Knife edge ridges coming down to the water, arches, 100 foot tall spires sticking up out of the water and the cliffs all have some really beautiful banding of different layers and colors of rock. Red, green, yellow, pink, tan, there is almost every color of the rainbow. The water is real clear also, so I’ll give diving a try tomorrow morning.
Monday, December 27, 2004
Current Location: Anchored in Agua Verde
25 dg. 30.917’ N, 111 dg. 03.735’ W
Total distance traveled so far: 1678 nm
We woke up to a spectacular sunrise this morning. First, the eastern sky was alight with golden fire. Then, as the sun rose a little higher, it faded a little and the entire sky started glowing with various shades of rose, orange, gold and red. It was truly impressive.
As I mentioned yesterday, the rock formations around where we were this morning are absolutely fabulous. After the sunrise faded out, we took a dinghy ride exploring and enjoying all the different formations. There are spires rising out of the sea, arches (including one up on a ridge top) and the coolest of all was an incredible sea cave we found.
There are lots of small caves in the area, both sea caves and those above sea level. This one is something special though. Unlike the others, which are only a few feet, or at most a few yards deep, this one seems to go on forever. It isn’t mentioned in either of the guidebooks we have here, so discovering it was a special treat.
The walls of this really long and narrow cave rise vertically up out of the water only about 12 feet apart and converge to form the ceiling about 35 feet over our heads. As we take the dinghy further and further back into the cave, the walls get slowly closer and closer together and the ceiling slowly drops down towards us. Then, the roof suddenly drops down to about 10 feet and the walls close in to about 6 feet apart. This is wide enough for the dinghy (though not wide enough to use the oars), but nowhere near wide enough to turn it around in. About this point, it’s also starting to get pretty dark even though the cave opening is pointing towards the rising sun, letting lots of light in. This is also when we really start noticing that there is a current drawing us further and further into the cave. It is also about this time that we start hearing a deep rumbling “Boom! …… Boom …… Boom!” coming from the far recesses of the cave as the incoming waves, magnified by the slowly constricting vertical walls slam into the back of the cave somewhere off in the dark.
It was really cool!
Later in the dinghy ride, we came across some people anchored in the next cove, about a mile north of us. We met Jan and George in “Clair de Lune” and had a nice long chat with them. They’ve been roaming around Baja and the mainland for a little over a year now and were currently working their way south to cross over to the mainland for awhile. They gave us lots of advice as to where to go and things to see that was really appreciated. They also told us of their mast failing up near San Carlos. Apparently one of the tangs on a shroud failed and the whole mast broke in half and came tumbling down. They were able to repair it by having a sleeve made that slid inside the mast and joined the two halves. That kind of an adventure I’d just as soon avoid.
The weather was calm with warm sunshine again, so about 11:00, we pulled the anchor up and motored around Pt. San Marcial to Aqua Verde. This bay has 3 areas where you can anchor. When we checked out the first one, there was the mast of a sunken sailboat protruding about 10 feet out of the water. I don’t know what the story behind it was, but it was really sad looking, so we crossed the small bay over to one of the other anchorages. Just as we got there, a little tiny manta ray (only about a foot across) leapt 3 or 4 feet out of the water as if to welcome us. The water here is a bright green in color. There must be some mineral that leaches into the water and promotes the algae growth. It’s pretty, but I had no desire to go diving in it.
We did have one minor mishap yesterday afternoon. Kathryn made some salsa and bean dip and as we were enjoying it with some chips, I broke one of my upper teeth (the one just behind the eye tooth). The outer half of it just broke right off. It’s not painful or anything, though it is a little temperature sensitive. I’ll have to find a dentist when we get back to La Paz.
We had the bay all to ourselves, but just as the sun was going down, Sequoia, a boat that we first saw down in San Evaristo showed up. After checking out all 3 anchorages though, he chose the next one over from us, leaving us to enjoy our solitude and the surroundings.
This morning, as we were sitting and discussing some things we may have done in La Paz, a couple of little black dolphins came into our small anchorage and swam and leaped around us for about half an hour. What a wonderful backdrop to our conversation!
Among other things, we discussed the possibility of having a new foresail made. The one we have is really showing it’s age. This brings up the question of whether we just have a new made that is essentially identical to our old one, or something different. Our old one is a small yankee-cut jib. It gives the boat a very traditional look when we are flying all three sails (jib, staysail and main), but we are very tempted to have a larger genoa made instead and shift to what’s called roller furling at the same time.
For the benefit of the non-sailors out there, our current jib is lifted into place by pulling its’ head up to the top of the mast with a rope every time we want to use it. Then, when we want to stop using it, lowering it back down and securing the sail so it doesn’t flap around in the wind. This means that someone has to go forward to the front of the boat each time to accomplish the job. In calm seas, this is no big deal, but when things are really rocking and rolling, this becomes a much bigger issue since you have to climb out onto the bowsprit (that thing that sticks about 5 feet out in front of the boat) to do it and it’s not at all unusual to have waves washing past your feet (or if it’s really rough, your knees). Needles to say, climbing out onto the end of a wildly rocking bowsprit in rough seas in the middle of the night is not something we like to do.
Roller furling on the other hand, deploys and retrieves the jib by wrapping it tightly around and around the forestay (the wire going from the tip of the bowsprit to the top of the mast) and it has the distinct benefit of letting you do it quickly and easily from the safety and comfort of the cockpit in the back of the boat. We had roller furling on our last boat and it’s REALLY nice. Unfortunately, it would cost us something like an extra $3,500 or $4,000 to add the roller furling, so it’s a tough decision for us.
Well, Agua Verde was nice, but all things considered, not nearly as special as the guidebooks would have us believe, so we are taking advantage of another windless day and motoring north again, this time to Isla Danzante. We should arrive about 3:00 this afternoon.
Tuesday & Wednesday, December 28 & 29, 2004
Current Location: Anchored at Isla Danzante
25 dg. 48.537’ N, 111 dg. 15.483’ W
Total distance traveled so far: 1700 nm
Good news! Wes and Karen Fox, our friends who are now in Thailand on their boat Caprice have reported in: “We're OK - but it's not pretty on land. Hard to e-mail as it's busy. Details later.” We sure look forward to the details.
We spent two nights anchored at a beautiful little cove on this island and were treated to some pretty intense bird shows. Mostly a mixture of pelicans and cormorants, but there were some frigate birds as well as a few others. The would get into what I can only describe as a feeding frenzy with dozens diving into the water in the space of a few seconds, often quite near the boat. Then, a couple of them would fly off to a new spot a hundred yards or so away. Within a minute or two, the whole group would relocate to this new spot and start into a new feeding frenzy. A few minutes later, a couple would move to yet another new spot and the whole performance would repeat itself.
We also got a little rain while at Isla Danzante and I think I should mention how the rain related nomenclature changes as you move from place to place. In Calif., when the forecasters say “A 10 percent chance of rain”, it seems to mean that there is about a 10% chance that you will see some rain. When I lived in the Pacific Northwest, it meant that you could expect to have it rain for about 10% of the day. Similarily, in Calif., when they speak of a ½ inch rain, they mean that a half an inch of rain will fall or has fallen. But down here, the same phrase sometimes means one drop of rain every half inch. It is an interesting difference in semantics.
The water here was clear, but still had the green cast that was so strong in Agua Verde. It gave the water a very “cold” appearance. Between this and the cool weather, I didn’t manage to go diving here even once.
We did decide, once and for all (I think) that this would be our northernmost point this time. We’ll turn around from here and start making our way back south.
Thursday & Friday, December 30 & 31, 2004
Current Location: Anchored at Pt. San Marcial
25 dg. 30.246’ N, 111 dg. 1.039’ W
Total distance traveled so far: 1729 nm
Had a great time here. Clear water (though still had a greenish cast) and warm weather, so finally made it back into the water and found lots of fish to watch and enjoy. I also managed to catch a couple of them while trolling in the dinghy, though lost a lure when another one of them made it down into the rocks. The two I brought home were a Mexican Hogfish and some kind of a rock fish that we were unable to identify. Kathryn prepared them with a ginger, garlic and soy sauce preparation and they were both delicious.
Another boat showed up just before dark on New Years Eve, “Vida Deriva” (Life Adrift) with Walt, Gabor and ??? aboard, so we spent the evening aboard her enjoying drinks and conversation. Vida Deriva is a 54’ aluminum ketch that Walt built himself over a 5-year span. It’s seemed huge! The room would sure be nice, but when I think of the cost and headaches that come along with a boat that size, it makes me appreciate Tricia Jean all that much more.
Saturday, January 1, 2004
Current Location: Anchored at Puerto Los Gatos (Port of the Cats)
25 dg. 18.140’ N, 110 dg. 56.780’ W
Total distance traveled so far: 1742 nm
It was a very light wind day, so we drifted along under our Asym. Spnnaker making anywhere from 0.8 to 3 knots all day and arrived here about 5:15 in the evening. Just before we got here, Kathryn caught a fish, a filescale triggerfish which we BBQ’d for dinner. The flesh of this delicious fish has a firm texture with a flavor reminiscent of lobster. We had it with limejuice and a little garlic butter and thoroughly enjoyed it. More rain Sunday morning, but when it cleared up we went exploring and found a whale jawbone and some vertebrae on the beach and the rock formations have really vivid colors.
Monday, January 3, 2004
Current Location: Anchored at Punta San Evaristo
24 dg. 54.787 N, 110 dg. 42.177 W
Total distance traveled so far: 1770 nm
We spent two nights at Puerto Los Gatos, exploring (got some great photos), fishing (no luck there unless you count puffers), getting sprinkled on and just hanging out. There were a couple of dozen puffer fish hanging out right under the boat and whenever anything disturbed the surface (such as emptying a bucket of water, etc.), they would all rush up to the surface to see if it involved something to eat.
No wind at all today, so we motored down the coast to San Evaristo and anchored in the southern anchorage as that one had more protection from the small SW swell that was coming in. About an hour after we got there, a couple of other boats came in, including a chartered catamaran (Moorings, the company that charters boats out of La Paz, has their logo on all of their sail covers, so they are easy to recognize) that dropped anchor right next to us trying to get out of the swell. The skipper called us on the VHF radio, asking how much chain we had out, letting us know how much he had put out, asking if we felt crowded by him and offering to leave the radio on all night so we could call if we felt the boats were swinging too close to each other and he would move. I told him not to bother, we usually turn ours off when we go to bed and anyway, if we got too close, I’d just reach out and knock, knock, knock on their hull to wake somebody up (grin). He then identified himself as Mike, the owner of Amazing Grace, a catamaran he, his wife (Tanya) and dog (Sophie) live on in La Paz that we were anchored right next to a month ago. He sometimes hires himself out as a skipper for the charter boats. It really is a small world (NB: During our upcoming stay in La Paz, we got to know Mike, Tanya and Sophie and played a number of games of Mexican Train dominoes with them).
We never left the boat during the two days at San Evaristo. The weather was overcast and drizzly, so we just hunkered down, read books and such. Tuesday evening we did relocate over to the northern anchorage (about a third of a mile away) as the forecast was for the north winds to kick back in. No sooner did we have the anchor set than the other two boats left in the southern anchorage moved over (Mike had left earlier in the day). I’m not sure whether we all listened to the same forecast, or if we just looked like we knew what we were doing, so they followed us over. Sure enough though, no sooner had it gotten dark, but the clouds disappeared for the first time in several days, the stars came out and the breeze had shifted around to the north.
Wednesday, January 5, 2004
Current Location: Anchored at El Cardonal anchorage on Isla Partida
24 dg. 32.999 N, 110 dg. 23.144 W
Total distance traveled so far: 1799 nm
After enjoying a beautiful sunrise, we got underway early as we had about 30 miles to cover. The wind was 10-12 knots so we raised the asymmetrical spinnaker and were instantly doing 6 knots through the water. This is a good speed for us as we generally consider anything over 4 knots as making good progress. As the morning went on, the wind increased until we were doing about 7 knots and discovered that 6.5 is about as fast as we can safely tow the dinghy downwind. As the waves approached from behind, the dinghy would catch them and surf, surging forward so fast it would start to dig its bow into the next wave, taking on a little water. If this kept up, the dinghy would soon be swamped. So we dropped the spinnaker, bailed the dinghy out and raised the main. We were still moving right along at about 5.5 knots.
Well, the wind and waves kept increasing, so when we reached 6.5 knots again, I put a double reef in the main (this makes it about half its normal size) and we were off and running again. As we approached Isla Partida, the wind continued to build, but the waves got bigger even faster. I had tied the dinghy alongside the boat, which held its’ bow a little higher than just towing it along behind, but the waves were so big, that as the boat sunk down into the trough of one and the dinghy lifted on the crest next to us, it suddenly started flipping up on its side and shipping a whole lot of water.
This was serious, as at the speeds we were going, if the dinghy filled completely with water, the pull on the bowline would either break the bowline, or possibly even damage the dinghy.
I quickly dropped all sail and let the boat drift sideways to the wind while I bailed out the dinghy. This was a rather interesting process and would probably have been comical to watch. There I was, leaning over the side of the boat, timing everything with the waves, so that when the dinghy rose up and we sank down, I would reach down and scoop up a bucket of water. Of course, more often than not, if I were trying to scoop water out of the bow, it had all rushed to the stern and vice versa. But persistence won out and eventually, I had removed virtually all of the water.
OK, having the dinghy tied alongside is obviously not going to work in these waves, so let’s let it trail along behind us as we motor slowly. After all, we’ve only got about a mile to go to reach the anchorage. Well, that was the plan anyway. As I’m untying the bowline, a particularly big wave hits the boat. My foot slips. I go down to the deck, banging my big toe (Ouch!) and the bowline slips out of my hand. The darn dinghy has escaped us again and is slowly (actually not all that slowly) being blown away from us. The last time it got loose, it was a calm, windless, waveless day and retrieving it was simple. This time, we’ve got the wind gusting somewhere above 25 knots, and the waves are 7 or 8 feet high. This is going to be FUN!!!!!!
I grabbed the boathook and Kathryn drove the boat downwind of the dinghy then turned up into the wind towards it. Unfortunately, as she did so, she lost sight of it behind the bow and it slid by out of reach of the boathook. Fortunately, after a few minutes of skillful jockeying (forward… reverse… more throttle… no, forward and left… well, anyway, you get the picture), Kathryn had brought us close enough for me to snag the bowline and recapture the errant dinghy.
We finally made it into the anchorage here where we are completely protected from the waves and got the anchor down. The wind is really gusting from nothing up to 20+ knots and back down to nothing, so the boat is swinging back and forth pretty wildly, but at least we’ve stopped rockin’ and rollin’. In fact, in spite of all of our dinghy adventures today, we had the anchor down by 2:00. Not bad for a passage we expected to last all day.
The current plan is to continue into La Paz tomorrow where I’ll get my tooth worked on and we’ll do a variety of other things (including, I think, some Spanish lessons), so we are likely to be there for awhile and these journal entries will become less frequent until we head out again.
Thursday, January 6, 2004
Current Location: Anchored in La Paz
24 dg. 09.497 N, 110 dg. 19.372 W
Total distance traveled so far: 1824 nm
Before I forget, I was rereading the journals I’ve sent out and realized that I missed telling about something interesting that happened the other day. The morning we left San Evaristo to head south, I was up in the cockpit enjoying the sunrise when I heard what sounded like someone firing a .22 rifle not far from us. First, I would hear the “Crack!” of someone firing, then a fraction of a second later, another “Crack!” that sounded like an echo off the nearby cliff. Then several seconds later, another “Crack, Crack”. About the third or fourth time this happened, I got up to see who it was. What I saw was really pretty amazing. There were two small manta rays that would leap out of the water at the same time and only a few feet apart. What I was hearing was the sound of their wings slapping the water when they landed. This display went on for a couple of minutes. Every 5 or 10 seconds, they would leap about 4 feet out of the water in the most amazing synchronized ballet.
We had an unexpectedly mellow sail today. The wind was still gusting between zero and 25 in the anchorage and as we left and sailed away from the hills surrounding the anchorage the wind steadied down to about what it was at the same time yesterday, that is about 15 knots. We therefore kind of expected today to be a repeat of yesterday (less the dinghy problems as we had pulled it out of the water and stowed it up on deck). The seas were even bigger than yesterday morning, but this made sense since the wind had been blowing all night and had a chance to build the waves up to the 7 or 8 feet we were seeing.
We started out with a double reef in the main and the jib up and figured it would be a fast trip into La Paz, probably getting there by about 1:30 in the afternoon. Surprisingly, it was just the opposite of yesterday. As the day wore on, the winds slowly dropped and the waves slowly moderated and our boat speed slowly dropped. At some point, I unreefed the main completely and we temporarily sped back up, but the wind continued easing. Sometime later, the wind vane could no longer hold the boat on course so I unhooked it and started hand steering the boat (something we don’t do much of). Finally, at about 2:30, when we were still 7 miles from La Paz, our boat speed was down to 0.7 knots between gusts and 1.5 knots in the gusts. Going this slow, it becomes difficult to hand steer the boat so I gave up, started the engine and motored the rest of the way.
We were able to anchor in the exact same spot as last time even though the anchorage is even more crowded than then. The number of boats comes as something of a surprise, as I figured that with all the boats that have crossed over to the mainland, this place would have emptied out somewhat.
After putting the boat away, we jumped into the dinghy to go get our first real showers in almost 4 weeks. Unfortunately, the outboard wouldn’t start. Desperate for showers, we made a real dumb decision that I came to regret. I decided the current wasn’t all that strong and rowed us in. This was no problem, as it was down wind and down current to the marina. The problem was that while we were taking our showers, the tidal current increased until it was all I could do to make headway rowing against it on the way back to the boat. I had to row for all that I was worth, without pausing (as soon as I would stop rowing, the current would push us rapidly back towards the marina) until we finally made it back to the boat. I was so exhausted, I sat in the dinghy for over 10 minutes until I could get the strength up to climb into the boat and collapse for the rest of the evening.
Friday, January 7, 2004
Current Location: Anchored in La Paz
24 dg. 09.497 N, 110 dg. 19.372 W
Total distance traveled so far: 1824 nm
Kathryn is my hero!
I worked and worked on that dinghy engine this morning, but could not get it to even think about starting. I even went so far as to call the marina to tell them we would be needing a slip for a couple of days until we could get it fixed. The person I needed to talk to was out of the office and they asked me to call back in 45 minutes. While we were waiting, Kathryn went to work on the outboard. Sure enough, she got it working. Did I marry the right person or what? She not only enthusiastically goes cruising with me, she fixes the outboard when it breaks. I am truly a lucky guy.
I tracked down an English-speaking dentist this morning and was able to make an appt. for this afternoon. After examining the tooth, he referred me to another dentist that he felt was better equipped to handle it. I was able to get in to see him briefly and at 5:00pm on Monday, he will do a root canal and install a stud that a crown will be fitted to. Oh joy!
Kathryn has signed us up for some intensive Spanish lessons starting with a field trip to Todos Santos (over on the Pacific side of Baja) tomorrow. The same guy that gives the lessons also organizes Spanish language cooking classes given by some of the local cooks that Kathryn is thinking about.