Saturday, January 8, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored in La Paz

24 dg. 09.497 N, 110 dg. 19.372 W

Total distance traveled so far:  1824 nm

We had a fun day today.  Raymundo, our new Spanish teacher also teaches a class over on the Pacific side of Baja in a town called Todos Santos and he organized a picnic/BBQ on the great beach over there.  So we, along with about 7 of his young students (ages 6-12 from the English classes he teaches) piled into a huge Dodge van he calls his “Morman car” and he drove us over to Todos Santos where we hung out and explored the town for a few hours while he gave some classes over there.

About 1:00, we all piled back into his van and headed for the beach where 8 or 10 of his local (adult) students met us.  Raymundo and his 20 year old son (also named Raymundo) proceeded to set up a BBQ and then he prepared this huge meal, the centerpiece of which we all promptly dubbed “Pescado Raymundo”.  You start with a large pan (about 12” x 18” and 6 “ deep) and thickly layer the bottom with sliced ripe tomatoes.  Add about 5 or 6 pounds of fish (in this case, fresh marlin). Fill the rest of the pan with a mixture of thickly sliced onions, sliced poblano peppers, mushrooms, green onions and a few thickly sliced potatoes.  Add a little water, margarine, mayonnaise, salt, mustard, dried chilies and probably a few other things.  Seal the pan with foil and put it on the BBQ.

Remember those potatoes?  The main purpose of them is apparently the same as those little plastic things they stick into turkeys on Thanksgiving that pop out when the turkey is done.  He explained to us that when you sample a potato and it is done, it is time to take the whole thing off the fire.  Sure enough, the whole thing was perfectly done and absolutely delicious.  He also prepared a cabbage salad and some beef for some tacos.  All in all, a great time was had by all and it was 8:30 in the evening when we finally got back to the boat.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored in La Paz

24 dg. 09.497 N, 110 dg. 19.372 W

Total distance traveled so far:  1824 nm

Not a whole lot has happened the last few days.  Kathryn and I are taking an intensive Spanish class 3 days a week now.  It is Mon., Wed. & Fri. for 2 1/2 hours each day, with just the two of us and the instructor in the room) and even though we've only had two classes so far, I feel like we're really getting a lot out of it.

I now have a temporary crown on my broken tooth which will be replaced with a permanent one sometime in the near future.  The dentist's offices are a little different here than up in the states.  So far, I've been in two and they were both one-man operations.  No receptionist, helpers or other staff of any kind.  The first was a two-room office, a small waiting room and another larger sized room with the dentist chair in the middle of it.  A small stool for the dentist and a small counter completed the scene.  The overall feel of the office was far removed from the almost sterile, operating room like treatment rooms that dentists in the U.S. use.  He does crowns for about $130, but felt that this other dentist was better equipped to do this particular job.

The other dentist, is more expensive ($250) and while he also is strictly a one-man affair, his treatment area is at least very similar to those found in the U.S..  He even has the X-ray and other equipment you expect to see when you go to the dentist.  His English is about as poor as my Spanish, but we seem to be able to make ourselves understood, though sometimes we have to resort to gestures and such.  In any case, I find that I am far more comfortable with him than with the first one.

I've been a little under the weather for the last couple of days.  I seem to have picked up some kind of a mild flu-like bug.  I am feeling noticeably better this evening than I did last evening though so hopefully, when I wake up tomorrow morning, I'll be back to normal.

This Sunday, we will be going on another road trip with our Spanish teacher. This time, we will be going to Bahia Magdalena (further north on the Pacific side) to do some whale watching.  This is where the gray whales come to have their calves and there are supposed to be a huge number of them there.  We will be going out in a panga (small, open, outboard driven boat) to get up close and personal with them, so it should be really exciting.  It also will include another BBQ similar to the great one last weekend.  Once we are back in La Paz, I'll let you know how it all went and hopefully get some photos posted somewhere where you can see them.

A strong wind picked up yesterday afternoon, filling the anchorage with whitecaps and keeping everyone rocking around a little.  It stayed with us all last night and during the day today, so the rough water coupled with the fact that I am not feeling all that well kept us boat bound today, splitting our time between reading and studying our Spanish. 

Our Spanish teacher is EVIL!  He assigns way too much homework. 

The wind moderated just about the time the sun went down this evening and the whitecaps are gone, so it looks like tomorrow will be another nice day.  Let's see... Spanish in the morning, then pick up our new (custom made) lycra anti-jellyfish suits ($40 each), then another dental appointment at 5:00pm (the dentists and many other offices all close for a few hours in the middle of the day, then reopen at 4:00 or 5:00 for awhile).  It is going to be another busy day in La Paz.

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored in La Paz

24 dg. 09.497 N, 110 dg. 19.372 W

Total distance traveled so far:  1824 nm

Bummer!  Raymundo never showed up to take us whale watching, so we’ll have to go some other time.  I guess we will find out tomorrow at the Spanish lesson what happened.

I’m alone here on the boat as Kathryn went into town to do some grocery shopping.  I was up in the cockpit reading a book, soaking up some rays and letting the sun bake the last of this flue-like bug out of my system when I happened to glance up and here were about 100 pelicans sitting quietly in the water around me.  One or two is pretty common, but 100?  This is definitely unusual.  Then, as I was looking out at them, a large black dolphin (or very small whale of some kind) broke the surface right next to the boat.  Apparently he and the pelicans were feeding on a school of some fish as I watched them for almost 15 minutes.  The pelicans would take off, circle around a couple of times then all dive down to the water in a small area.  Shortly thereafter, the dolphin would surface nearby, then after a bit, they would fly off a short distance and the pattern would repeat itself.  It was really interesting to watch.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored in La Paz

24 dg. 09.497 N, 110 dg. 19.372 W

Total distance traveled so far:  1824 nm

Not a whole lot had happened this past week.  I am pretty much over the flu bug I picked up, but now Kathryn is suffering through it.  She is finally feeling quite a bit better today though and by tomorrow, she should be pretty much over it.

Raymundo had car problems and spent all of last Saturday night stuck somewhere out in the middle of the desert.  That’s why he didn’t show up to pick us up for the whale-watching trip.  After discussing it with some others who did manage to go, we’ve decided to wait 2 or 3 weeks.  Apparently, after the whales have a chance to get used to the pangas (small outboard driven boats), they will come right up to them, sometimes even letting themselves be touched.  So we’ve decided to wait a little in the hopes that we will be able to get right up to them.

Today we ordered the new jib.  After thinking everything over, we’ve decided to stay with a hank on jib.  The cost and hassle of buying and getting the roller-furling installed was just too much.  The new jib is quite a bit larger than our old one, which should make our downwind sailing both easier and faster.  For you sailors out there, it is about a 95% jib with a high clew (about 5’ off the deck).  This gives it at least 50% more sail area than our old yankee jib.  Which should reduce the weather helm we experience when sailing a very deep broad reach.  We’re also trying to locate either a spinnaker pole or a whisker pole so we can pole it out when running. This should really tame it and keep it from constantly collapsing and refilling.

It will take about a month to get the new sail made, so we are committed to delaying our crossing over to the mainland until at least then.  Meanwhile, we continue to study our Spanish.  In fact, as I type this, Kathryn is over at the table making up some flash cards.  I'm not sure we are going to stay in La Paz the whole time, we may decide to spend some more time out at the islands and return to pick up the new sail.  As always, we are just taking it one day at a time.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored in La Paz

24 dg. 09.497 N, 110 dg. 19.372 W

Total distance traveled so far:  1824 nm

While preparing for this trip and once in awhile in an email, people have occasionally used what I refer to as the “C” word (“courage”) to describe us and what we are doing.  I have always poo-pooed it as it really doesn’t apply.  This afternoon, though, we went to a dominos get together (where a bunch of cruisers get together and play the game) and met Maggie, to whom the term really does apply.   She just spent her first night on a sailboat, having flown down here to join her sweetie after getting rid of most of what she owns.  Prior to this, she has spent a total of one afternoon sailing in a small boat on San Diego Bay.  From here, they intend to cross the Pacific to the Marquesas Islands and beyond.

Over a number of years prior to our leaving, we did everything we could to prepare ourselves for cruising, including a 2 month trip down here in our previous sailboat.   Yet Maggie (who, by the way looks to be a few years older than Kathryn and I) has no idea what it is like to spend day after day cooped up on a small boat that is constantly moving.  She has no idea what it is like to live within the constraints imposed by living on a boat (lack of abundant fresh water, electricity, etc.).  This lady has given up the comfortable life on land to live on a boat.

Now that’s Courage with a capitol C.

Raymundo (our Spanish teacher) is something of an interesting character.  Last Friday, he again failed to show up and the explanation we got was that his mother had run out of some medication and was having hallucinations, one of his grandchildren was experiencing a dysentery like illness, another child (I forget whether it was another grandchild, or a niece/nephew) had some other ailment and yet another family member was also ill.  He took his mother to the clinic in Todos Santos and when he bumped into another close family member, and had to ask, "What are you doing here?"  Quite the soap opera. 

Then, yesterday, he was late picking us up and explained that he had drunk 13 beers the previous night had had a real hard time getting started that morning. 

On the other hand, I find his teaching style works very well for me.  Yesterday, after the alcohol laden night, he said he couldn't handle a morning in the classroom and took us out into the desert (el campo - literally, "the countryside") to a place he called Canada Diablo (Devils Wash).  It had rained lightly off and on for the previous 36 hours so the bushes and trees were all pushing out their blossoms and such.  There was even a little running water in the wash.  It would spring out of he sand, run along the surface for 10 feet or so then disappear back into the sand and pop up again a little ways down the wash. 

We spent a few hours wandering around while he pointed out the various plants, how they were used by "la gente pobre" (the poor people) and telling us various stories (in Spanish) usually with something we had come across in the wash as part of the story.  I now know how to make a perfume out of the blossoms of one of the trees that grow there (the primarama).  One of the really cool things he showed us was the profile image of a woman on a rock.  It was pretty amazing, showing the shadow image of a woman from the knees to the top of her head in about 2/3 scale.  The image was almost perfect.  I could not draw one nearly as well.  Yet, it was formed entirely naturally from different shades of the quartzite crystals in the granite.  I examined it closely and believe it to be genuine, not created or enhanced in anyway by anyone.

All in all, it was a most interesting day.

Tuesday, February 8, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored in La Paz

24 dg. 09.497 N, 110 dg. 19.372 W

Total distance traveled so far:  1824 nm

Wow!  It’s been a week and a half since I’ve written anything in this journal.  I feel guilty about it, as though I was a kid in school and skipped doing an assignment or three.

For the most part, we have been spending our time studying our Spanish (classes 3 days a week and more individual study every day) and running errands. 

Running errands is extremely time consuming since our major transportation is by walking.  It seems that even the simplest errand uses up at least half a day.  First, we have to dinghy into the marina and then walk to where we are going.  If it is a major shopping trip, then we walk into the town center to catch one of the myriad small busses (called collectivos) to the shopping center. 

The colletivos are all individually owned and they come in a variety of shapes and forms, from vehicles that have been cobbled together from large vans (and are usually in serious disrepair) to a few relative new purpose built small busses that are in really nice shape.  They each have their own route that they follow.  Unfortunately, there is no schedule or route map available to help you decide which one to get on.  Instead, they have various destinations or streets that they visit written on their windshields.  As a result, it is easy to get onto the wrong one and find yourself heading away from where you wanted to go.  This has happened twice to me.

Last Thursday, I accidentally put on a good show for a bunch of people.  We had gone to a local restaurant that’s right on the beach to join a bunch of other cruisers for an afternoon of dominoes (such exciting times we have here in La Paz!).  When the games broke up, we were getting into our dinghy which we had landed on the beach right in front of the restaurant when I lost my balance and fell face first into the water (clothes and all).  No harm was done, but I now get a lot of strangers coming up to me and asking if I’m the guy that….

It’s interesting that Kathryn and I each approach studying Spanish a little differently.  For our individual study, she spends a lot of time going over the worksheets our teacher has given us and reviewing about a zillion flash cards that she has created.  On the other hand, I usually work on reading a novel I bought that is in Spanish (Isaac Asimov’s Foundation).  This is a very time consuming effort that requires numerous passes over each paragraph and page, but I think that it is really helping my comprehension.

I first read a short section (no more than a page) and glean as much of the meaning of it as I can without assistance.  At the same time, I create a list of any words that I either don’t have a clue on or that I’m just not sure of.  I then go over the (usually long) list with a Spanish/English dictionary and write down the translations of the words.  The next step is to reread the section, referring to the written down translations, and try again to understand what was written as much as possible.  At this point in the process, I usually have a pretty good idea of what the author has written, but there are always some words that are not in the dictionary I have and usually there are also a bunch of idioms that don’t seem to make much sense (I never realized just out idiomatic our speech and writing are until I started this process).  I have the English version of the book on CD, so the next step is to listen to that section in English while reading the Spanish, sometimes going over the same line several times before I “get” it.  Then, to fix it in my memory, I reread the page many times over a period of a week or more.  The process would be a little easier if I could find an English copy of the book, but so far I have been unsuccessful.  This is a little frustrating since I have purchased this book at least twice over the years (it’s one of my favorite books).  If we can get anyone to come visit us, I’m going to ask that they bring me a copy.

WHALES!     Thar be whales!

We went whale watching over on the Pacific coast at a place called Lopez Mateo and had an absolutely wonderful time.  So many gray whales that we all lost count.  We spent about 2 hours out in the panga (a small outboard driven boat) and much of it was within about 25 feet of these great beasts.  That was about how close the mother’s seemed to be comfortable letting us get to their calves.  Though at one time, one of the calves surfaced right next to the panga, close enough to reach out and touch.  I was sitting on the other side of the boat, so was unable to do so myself, but it was still really exciting.  One mother had just recently given birth and was resting on the surface with her tiny (in whale terms) calf.  She stayed there for about 15 minutes before taking her baby and disappearing beneath the surface.  The calves would also “spy hop” occasionally.  This is when they come straight up until their head is out of the water so they can look around.  When we got back on shore, Raymundo (our Spanish teacher and the organizer of the trip) had a great meal ready for us.

They are predicting rain for the next couple of days.  It hasn’t started yet, but it sure looks like it’s trying to, so we’ll probably not get out much until the weather improves again.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored in La Paz

24 dg. 09.497 N, 110 dg. 19.372 W

Total distance traveled so far:  1824 nm

A wet day in Paradise.  Sometime last night, it started raining.  Now, I’m not talking about the light sprinkles that we’ve experienced before down here, but RAIN.  Every now and then, it eases up and then returns with a vengeance.  About an hour ago, one of the boats announced on the radio that they had measured 2 ½” since last night.  This is especially unusual since the pilot charts show that the average rainfall for La Paz for the month of Feb. is zero inches.  The forecast is for the rain lessening tomorrow, then the sun coming out Sunday.

We had a Spanish class this morning and managed to time our dinghy ride into the marina with one of the lulls, so stayed relatively dry (except for Kathryn’s shoes as she was the one who was first into the dinghy and bailed the rain water out of it).  Unfortunately, we just got soaked on the ride back to the boat.   We were both wearing our foul weather jackets, so our upper halves stayed dry, but our bottom halves were thoroughly soaked.

We’ve now got the boat’s diesel heater going full blast and it’s 77 degrees with 76% humidity here in the cabin so the wet clothes hanging all over the place are drying out pretty quickly. 

I’ve just finished reading a book by Jimmy Buffet, “Tales From Matgaritaville”, a series of vignettes about life in the Keys and some of the local characters (not a great book, but I found it entertaining).   It seemed appropriate, so I had a couple of pina colada drinks somewhere along the way this afternoon and so am feeling quite mellow right about now.

Today was our last Spanish class.  We have been promised our new jib sometime next week and as soon as we have it, we will be making our way across to the mainland and further south.  In a way, I will miss the Spanish classes, but between Raymundo’s flakiness (he missed another class Wednesday) and the fact that a couple more people who’s Spanish is significantly behind ours have recently joined us resulting in our getting a little less out of the classes, I am also kind of happy to see them end.  I had hoped that having more people in the class would mean that Ramundo would be more motivated to show up for the classes.  Unfortunately, this has not proven to be the case.  He always seems to have a good reason, but the fact of the matter is, about 1/3 of the classes never happen.  Instead, having the others in the class simply means that it is taught at a lower level than what is probably optimal for us.  I’m still happy with the improvement in my Spanish abilities while we’ve been here, but Kathryn seems less so, especially since it has been a pretty major expense for us.

On our way south before we cross over, we’ll make overnight stops at Ensenada de los Muertos and Bahia Frailes on the Baja peninsula before we cross over.  These are both places we’ve already been, so they will just be a place to drop the anchor and get some sleep rather than someplace where we expect to do a lot of exploring.  Once we get to Frailes, as soon as the first weather window shows up, we will make the crossing.  Our first stop will be a small island called Isla Isabella.  The whole island is a bird sanctuary and the diving is supposed to be great there, so we are really looking forward to it.  Especially since it’s been over a month since we have been in the water (except for my little accident the other day).

After Isla Isabella, we will proceed on to a large bay called Banderas Bay.  There are numerous anchorages and dive sites there that we hope to explore, so it’s hard to say just how long we will be there before heading further south.  Puerta Vallarta, a relatively large city and resort area is also in Banderas Bay, but we have not yet decided whether we will visit there.  To do so means we would have to “check in” and “check out”.  I have described these procedures that take a minimum of half a day each elsewhere, so I won’t go into any detail here, but it means that we have to visit a variety of places around the city and pay a variety of fees for the privilege of being there.

We expect to make it to Zihuatanejo (also known as “Z-Town”) sometime around late March.  This is another area that is very cruiser friendly and so will probably stop there for awhile.  It also happens to be where Kathryn and I spent our honeymoon.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored in La Paz

24 dg. 09.497 N, 110 dg. 19.372 W

Total distance traveled so far:  1824 nm

Good news!

The packet with our tax stuff arrived yesterday (thanks Laurie!) so we got our taxes filed today and our new sail arrived this afternoon.  So, the plan is to go out on a little test sail tomorrow morning as soon as the wind fills in so we can check out the new jib then (assuming there are no problems with it) when we get back, do a final provisioning, get our checkout paperwork done, stock up on fresh fruits and vegetables Friday morning and leave La Paz for the mainland and points south.  After over a month here, we are both looking forward to setting the sails and doing some cruising again. 

Carnival started last night and runs through Sunday so it was very, very noisy last night and it continued on to the wee hours of the morning.  This is also motivating us to make tracks out of here.  By the way Dave, the fireworks last night were OK, but nothing compared to the shows you put on.

The detailed plan (assuming everything happens as it should) has us actually leaving mid-day on Friday for a short hop over to Puerto Balandra, a beautiful small bay just a few hours from here.  We stayed there for a night as we originally came to La Paz back in November.  From there, we will have a long day down to Ensenada de los Muertos, another place we stayed at on our way here.  From there it’s down to Bahia Frailes, yet another place we’ve been before.  If necessary, we will wait there for a good weather window then we head across to towards the mainland, stopping for a few days to enjoy Isla Isabella, a bird sanctuary.  From Frailes to Isabella is a distance of about 215 miles, so that leg should take us almost two full days.  This will be longest nonstop sailing we’ve done since we were coming down the outside of Baja over 3 months ago.  I’m really looking forward to it.

Friday, February 19, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored in Puerto Balandra

24 dg. 19.594 N, 110 dg. 19.986 W

Total distance traveled so far:  1846 nm

It finally happened.  At 9:09 this morning, our anchor was up and we were underway.  Our departure from La Paz was delayed a day as we had the sail maker make a minor change to our new jib.   I just want to remind everyone that now that we have left La Paz, we no longer have any internet access so the only email that we can send and receive is (the yahoo account will not be checked again until we find ourselves in a populated area).  This is the one we access through our high frequency radio and cannot accept any attachments, so please don’t try to send any photos to this email account.  Don’t let that stop you from emailing us though as we sure do enjoy getting your letters.

Staying an extra day also gave us a chance to enjoy the Carnival parade last night.  We then wandered around the Carnival for a while.  Picture the midway of a county fair with the crowds literally shoulder to shoulder, an incredibly high noise level and a distinctly Mexican flavor.  It’s quite an experience.

We also discovered Paradise Found two nights ago and it’s probably a good thing that we didn’t find it a lot sooner or we’d both be a lot fatter and somewhat lighter in the pocket.  I’m not sure why we didn’t try it sooner; it’s right on the beach and we have walked past it many, many times.  This is a small hamburger stand that is up against a restaurant/bar called The Racing Club.  First, you have to understand that Mexican style hamburgers are very little like U.S. style burgers.  In fact, they barely rate the name “burger.”  The patty of a mexican hamburger (called a hamburquesa) is paper thin and almost an after thought.  The patties in the burgers we found at Paradise found, however were definitely big and tasty.  Clark (the proprietor) then piles on the extras until there is sometimes too much for just one bun and as you eat it, you are often on the verge of having the whole thing explode in your hands.  He has about 15 different varieties, of which I sampled two (it was so good, we went back last night), their version of an In-And-Out burger and something they called the Ultimate Cheeseburger.  My mouth is watering as I type this just remembering how good they were.

Today was a very short day.  As I mentioned, we didn’t leave until about 9:00 (after picking up our sail (again) and taking our last fresh water showers for awhile).  We had the anchor down here at Balandra by about 1:00 this afternoon.  We saw some whales on the way up and a couple more later as we were relaxing in the cockpit (which we often refer to as “the veranda”).  The water here is just crystal clear.  It’s by far the clearest we’ve seen anywhere on the trip so far.  Neither of us went in though for two reasons.  First, it’s just a white sand desert down there that goes all the way to the beach.  It’s beautiful, but kind of boring to dive in.  But mostly, it’s because as we were getting here, there were hundreds of dead and dying puffer fish floating on the surface.  I’ve no idea what killed them and we can see lots more swimming around on the bottom, but if there’s something in the water that is nasty enough to kill these fish, we don’t want to be swimming around in it.

The weather today was warm and windless so we motored all the way here.  We didn’t even try to raise the sails (not even our new one!).  In fact, for most of the day, the surface of the water was glassy smooth.  Couple that with the crystal clarity of the water and as we were coming to anchor, it was like we were just floating in mid-air 20 feet off the bottom.  It was really cool.

Wednesday, February 20, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored in La Paz

24 dg. 09.497 N, 110 dg. 19.372 W

Total distance traveled so far:  1869 nm

Well, as you can see from our “Current Location:” above, we are back in La Paz.  I know I said we were leaving.  In fact, I know I said we had left.  We did leave, honest!  However, the best laid plans, etc.  It was another windless morning, so we were motoring as we left Puerto Balandra this morning. About an hour and a half after we left, we noticed that the engine temperature was about 20 degrees higher than it should be.  A quick investigation showed that we were about a gallon low on coolant.  This posed a real question since as part of changing the heat exchanger zinc a few days ago (non-sailors should not worry if they have no idea what this is, it’s just a routine maintenance thing on a boat), I drained the old coolant and replaced it with new stuff and it was full at that time.  Further investigation showed that not only was the fresh water pump on the engine leaking, it was leaking at the rather rapid rate of 2 gallons per hour.  This means that it would take about 90 minutes to completely drain our cooling system.  Not a good way to run an engine.  So, we turned around and are right back in the same spot we spent the last month and a half (I had to top up the coolant level every 15 minutes on the way back).  Tomorrow morning, I’ll try to find a place that can either sell me a new pump or rebuild the old one.  If I can find a place to sell me a new one, then we can be out of here Tuesday.  If not, then ???????

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored in Puerto Balandra

24 dg. 19.594 N, 110 dg. 19.986 W

Total distance traveled so far:  1886 nm

The primary radio we use to talk to other boats is the VHF radio.  The official hailing channel (channel 16) is normally the one boats have their radio set to so they can hear when others call them.  The conversations on the hailing channel are usually kept very short since everyone has to share this one frequency.  A typical example might be something like:  “Wind Spirit, Wind Spirit, Wind Spirit this is Fast Forward.” …. “Fast Forward, this is Wind Spirit.” …. “Hi Wind Spirit.  Shall we try 68?”…. “Roger, Wind Spirit is switching to 68.”  Both boats then change channels to 68 and go talk about whatever they want to without bothering all the other boats or tying up the hailing frequency. 

As I said earlier, the official hailing frequency is channel 16.  However, often times in harbors where there are a large number of cruisers hanging out, there is an unofficial hailing channel that the cruisers use.  La Paz probably has no less than 75 cruising boats with people living aboard every day of the year and during some seasons, it is probably 3 or 4 times that many.  Rather than tie up the official channel, we all use channel 22, leaving 16 for the local fishermen and such.  This also makes possible the important “Morning Net.” 

“What,” you may ask, “is a morning net?”  It is time set aside (in La Paz it is 8:00 in the morning) when someone called the “net controller” comes on the radio and runs through a set of topics.  The net controller duty is usually rotated among the permanent cruiser residents of the area (for instance, Mike of Amazing Grace is the net controller on Mondays).

In La Paz, it usually goes something like this:

“All right, it’s 8 o’clock and the net is now open.  Everybody please turn your radios to high power so everyone can hear you.  Let’s all listen up for any emergency traffic……. Nothing heard, so Boone, do you have today’s weather for us?”

Boone (from Maracay) then comes on with the weather forecast.

“Very good!  Mystery Tide Guy, how about today’s tides?”

The Mystery Tide Guy then comes on and gives the times and heights of the days tides.

“Mel on Tea N Honey, did any new mail come into the clubhouse?”

“Good morning Mike.  Yes we have 2 letters for Kismet, a large envelope for Tricia Jean, …”

Several local cruiser oriented business are then asked if they have anything for the net.  You might get a response like “Coast Marine has some parts in for Blue Sky, …”

“OK, moving on to announcements.  Anybody have any announcements?”


”Go Sabath”

“Hi, I just wanted to remind everybody that there is a dominoe game today at 4:00 at the Chow Molino restaurant next to Marina de La Paz”.

After several other announcements, the next topic is introduced.

“OK, local assistance.  Anybody need help with anything?”

“Tricia Jean”

“Go Tricia Jean”

“Hi, does anybody know where I can either get a fresh water pump for a Perkins 4-108 rebuilt or buy a new one?”


“Go Destiny”

“Yeah, Tricia Jean, get with me after the net.  I just had mine rebuilt, they did a great job and it only took them a few hours.”

“Thank you Destiny, I’ll call you after the net.”

“Blue Suede Sue”

“Go Blue Suede Sue”

“Thanks Mike.  Can anybody tell me if there’s a bus that goes out to the airport in the mornings?”

“Yes, it leaves from …..”

There is anywhere from a few to a dozen or more calls for help in finding stuff or other assistance.  Then comes the final topic”.

“OK, swaps and trades.  Remember, down here in Mexico, we only swap or trade stuff, we don’t sell it” (apparently, you get into legal or sales tax issues if you openly sell things).  There is usually a whole bunch of stuff that people are either trying to get rid of or looking for.  “Coconuts” is the code for money, as in “I’d be willing to swap it for about 25 coconuts” (this means $25).

This is the morning net, which generally takes from 30 minutes to an hour.  I’ve left out a bunch of minor topics, but you get the idea.

It was through the morning net Monday that we met Hubert from Destiny.  He not only told us where the pump rebuild place was, but drove us down there in his car.  He is an old German guy with a fairly strong accent and seems like the nicest guy around.  Later, Kathryn was talking with Hubert outside the Club Cruceros (a cruiser’s club) clubhouse when another cruiser that we’ve seen around and has been introduced to us variously as “the local communist” and as “the club political correctness officer, mentioned that Hubert once had his picture in Life magazine.  Hubert’s face immediately turned very dark and he became very upset, storming off without a word.  The story is that the photo was taken of him when he was 21, wearing his Nazi uniform and standing over the body of a dead Jew about 65 years ago.  You meet some very interesting people out here.

 At 1:16 this afternoon, I made the following announcement over the cruiser hailing channel, 22:  “Attention the fleet.  This is Dan and Kathryn aboard Tricia Jean.  The anchor is up and if we can get all of the chewing gum and bailing wire bits to hold together, we are out of here!  Take care and thanks for all of the memories.” 

Thus we left La Paz.

We had a very nice upwind sail back to Puerto Balandra.  The wind was somewhat light and shifty at first, but soon enough, it settled in to a comfortable 12-15 kts.  There were a few puffy clouds in the sky, but by and large, it was a warm sunny afternoon.  We even saw some whales.

We even caught a fish.  Just as we were making our approach to Balandra and I was thinking that I should pull in the line, the bells start ringing on the hand line.  I quickly reach over and start hauling it in and whatever it is, it is really giving me a fight.  I know it is not a Dorado, as they always jump a lot and this guy was staying deep.  I finally get him close to the boat and he is about 10 feet beneath me.  I can see he is a good sized fish, at least 3 feet long, but the wind has made the surface of the water too rough to see clearly enough to tell what he is, but our mouths are really starting to water.  When I finally get him to the surface, we were in for a huge surprise and a bit of a disappointment.  He turned out to be the granddaddy of all skipjack.  This is a fish that we have caught a lot of, but they are not very good eating.  Their meat cooks up gray and mushy and tastes gray and mushy.  Yet, this one is almost twice as long and at least 2 or 3 times as heavy as the largest one we have ever caught.  That in itself was quite exciting, but it would have been nice if it could have graced our dinner table as well.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Current Location:  Underway, crossing the Sea of Cortez

23 dg. 55.121 N, 109 dg. 44.351 W

Total distance traveled so far:  1935 nm

We had a really nice light wind sail yesterday.  For much of the day, the wind varied from light to non-existent, but we were in no particular hurry and it was coming from the perfect direction (behind us to the left), so we had a very comfortable broad reach almost all day.  As evening approached though it began to die altogether, so after discussing it, instead of sitting out there all night with the sails flopping around, we fired up the motor for about an hour and dropped the anchor in Ensnada de los Muertos just as it was getting dark and had a perfectly flat anchorage all night. 

As we got in to Muertos, there was another sailboat already there, but it was too dark to see who it was.  Lo and behold, when we got up, it was Ceihlidh (pronounced “Kay Lee” – I think it’s Celtic or something) from La Paz.  They were anchored about a hundred yards from us for a few weeks.  As we were both leaving the anchorage, we called them on the radio and they told us they were heading down to Frailes (about 45 miles down the coast) to hang out for a couple of weeks before returning to La Paz.  We told them that we were pointing our bow across the Sea of Cortez to Isla Islabella and they ask us if we had heard about Magdalena (another cruising boat).  Apparently, they had been anchored on the eastern side of the island when a strong east wind blew up trying to blow them onto the shore and rocking them with some vicious waves.  For some reason, they were unable to get the anchor up and unwilling or unable to cut it free and escape to the safety of the open ocean.  The description was that the chain started to actually saw it’s was through the boat and after two days of this, something finally gave up and the boat was lost on the rocks.  The people aboard were OK.  They had been rescued by some pangeros, but the boat was lost.

This is a scary and sad story.  It illustrates that the dangerous part of cruising is not being out on the ocean, but rather something happening that causes the boat to go ashore or strike a reef, etc.  In such a situation, if unable to recover the anchor, I would have abandoned it, probably with some kind of a float so I could come back later and find it when things settled down (those things and the chain attached to them are expensive).  Now, I don’t know the whole story and can imagine some complications that would make leaving the anchorage difficult to do, so I am not about to criticize these people.  But, I am of the firm belief that the epitome of good seamanship is never letting yourself get into a situation where good seamanship is required to get you out of it. 

Well, as I was down below typing this, the wind has died so we are just sort of drifting along at the moment.  I think I’ll go up on deck and fiddle with the sails for awhile.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Current Location:  Crossing the Sea of Cortez – 100nm East of Cabo San Lucas

23 dg. 00.322 N, 108 dg. 07.399 W

Total distance traveled so far:  2040

We started yesterday morning with an easy sailing breeze but about mid-morning, it turned into very light and variable, so we were going quite slowly for most of the day.  This also means that we had to hand steer since when the wind is that light, the steering vane can’t control the boat.  Towards evening, we started the engine and spent the entire night motoring and letting the autopilot steer.  Then, at dawn the winds suddenly started blowing at about 20 knots off the port quarter (from behind us and to the left), so up came the sails again.  I was having a real hard time getting the wind vane to steer a steady course.  Every time I set it and let go of the wheel, it would almost instantly take off to either the left or right and not recover.  I tried everything I could think of to get the sails balanced in order to minimize the load on the vane, but I just could not get it to work right.  I eventually wound up dropping the main altogether, so that we just had the new jib pulling us along, yet it still would not hold the course.  Finally, after about an hour of fighting with it, I noticed that it the direction control on the wind vane had been set just backwards from where it should have been.  So when the boat veered to the left, instead of correcting back to the right, it was steering he boat harder and harder to the left and vice versa (now, I don’t want to say which of us had set it this way when we raised the sails, but her initials are Kathryn Sieck).  I reversed it to the way it should be and guess what?  It was suddenly steering the boat on a nice straight course!  I’m just embarrassed that it took me so long to figure out what the problem was.  This is really the first time we’ve had this new jib up in any wind and I was really starting to worry that something was seriously wrong with it that I couldn’t see or figure out.

By this time, I was pretty tired since I had been up since midnight, so I went below to try and get some sleep while Kathryn watched things.  Unfortunately, we’ve got some pretty good waves coming from at least 3 distinct directions and this coupled with the fact that no main was up meant that the boat was rocking and rolling pretty erratically and sleep proved illusive.  After an hour and a half, I gave up and went back up to the cockpit where Kathyrn and I chatted for awhile before I finally got enough gumption up to raise the main again (with 2 reefs in it).  This settled things down a lot and we are now moving right long at almost 7 knots.  At this speed, we will arrive at Isabella before dawn tomorrow.  Something tells me though that the wind is going to slow down again after awhile.  If not, we’ll heave to offshore and wait for daylight.  This is a maneuver that basically “parks” the boat out on the open ocean so that it is barely moving.

Sunday, February 28, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored at the south end of Isla Isabella

21 dg. 50.524 N, 105 dg. 52.929 W

Total distance traveled so far:  2184

What a magical place!

To begin with, as we were approaching the island, a pair of humpback whales gave us a 20-minute show better than anything you’ve seen at Marineland.  They were leaping out of the water over and over again, sometimes one at a time and othertimes, the pair of them would leap in unison or one after the other.  Usually, they would come about 4/5ths of the way out of the water, until only their tails remained in the sea but sometimes, they would fling their entire massive bodies completely clear of the water, rotating in the air and falling back into the water on their sides, causing a mountainous splash.  They were almost a mile away when this started, yet these animals are so huge, we could clearly see them as the left the watery depths for their momentary flight.  As this wonderful show continued, they were working their way towards us as at the same time we were sailing towards them until at our closest approach, we were less than 300 yards away.  This may sound like a long way, but trust me, for this show, it was like having ringside seats.  Most impressive!

It was just before the sunset when we finally got the anchor down in this ruggedly beautiful anchorage.  There was one other boat already here, a power boat that left just as the sky started to lighten this morning, so we are now alone.  After it was fully dark, we shined a light down into the clear water around us and it was just teaming with life.  The first thing we noticed, up close to the surface were some free swimming wormlike things, 4-10 inches long and maybe 1/8 inch in diameter.  They were bright white in the light with some faint dark stripes.  In the 10’ circle of light from the flashlight, there were up to a dozen of them slowly swimming by.  Deeper down, there were some tiny things that were hard to make out as the water surface was rippled by the breeze, but there were a bunch of larger fish, 12” – 16” long feeding on them.  These larger fish were very shy of the light, so were hard to see well.  As soon as you shone the main beam of the light at them, they would disappear into the depths.  All we could tell was that they were tan colored “fish shaped” fish and had really long ventral fins.

Finally, add thousands and thousands of birds: a few pelicans, frigate birds, boobies and who knows what else, constantly flying around and their distant cries forming a very pleasant background noise to everything.

We are really looking forward to getting off the boat and exploring this place.  I’ll right more about it later.

Monday, March 1, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored at the south end of Isla Isabella

21 dg. 50.524 N, 105 dg. 52.929 W

Total distance traveled so far:  2184

Finally went diving for the first time in over a month yesterday and it felt really good to get back into the water, especially since it’s a little warmer here than it was further north.  We didn’t go diving at all while in La Paz.  The water there is both quite murky and we were afraid that it was pretty polluted.  I spent most of my time in the water yesterday working on getting the hull clean.  Even with the new bottom paint we put on in Napa, we have a good crop of barnacles growing.  Most of them are about 3/8” in diameter and the average spacing is about one every 8” all over the hull.  The prop was a different story.  The bottom paint doesn’t stick at all to the metal prop and it had a very healthy crop not only of barnacles, but also a huge number of red limpets that were up to 1 ¼” across.  We had noticed that while motoring, we did not seem to be going as fast as we used to.  Hopefully, with a clean prop our motoring speed will pick back up.  I was only able to get about a quarter of the hull cleaned off before I was completely pooped. 

The bottom cleaning job would be a lot easier with scuba gear.  I’m wondering now if I did the right thing when I left my tanks and stuff with my brother, Dave.  On the other hand, the reasons I didn’t bring them are still valid.  They are difficult to store and once they are empty, I would have no way to refill them until we reach civilization again.  Of course, I could also put a compressor on the boat, but we again come up with the problem of where to install it (not to mention the cost of one). 

Our 37’ boat may seem like it’s a big one, but we are constantly dealing with space and storage issues.  Just imaging taking everything your home and life and compressing it down to something that’s 37’ long and 13’ wide.  This includes not just your entire house, but your garage, patio and storage shed too.  Don’t even begin to feel sorry for us though as our back yard is truly wondrous and enormous.  Every now and then, we also get to watch things like those leaping whales from our “veranda.”

After tiring myself out so in the morning, all I did the rest of the day was to do a little exploring in the dinghy.  I also went out to check out that boat that was lost a couple of weeks ago.  I had the name wrong in my earlier journal entry.  The boat’s name was “Maxine”.  It was a small wooden ketch, perhaps 30 or 32’.    At some point in it’s grounding, it lost its’ keel and ripped a large (3’ x 4’) section of the underwater portion of the hull away from the frame.  It has come off the beach.  And is floating on its’ side and just barely awash about ¼ mile offshore.  Its’ anchor must have snagged something on the bottom, as the boat is not drifting around.  From what I can see, it was in pretty rough shape even before the accident.

I think we are going ashore tomorrow to do some exploring, then back into the water to do some more hull cleaning.

Wednesday, March 2, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored at the south end of Isla Isabella

21 dg. 50.524 N, 105 dg. 52.929 W

Total distance traveled so far:  2184

After finishing up the job of cleaning the bottom yesterday morning and loafing during the middle of the day, we went ashore yesterday late afternoon.  It was really cool.  The frigate birds nest in small trees, with their nests only 6’ or 7’ off the ground.  This means that as you walk around, they are generally just above the level of your head.  Now, bear in mind that these are not small birds.  Their wingspan must be at least 6’ long, their bodies are between that of a chicken and goose in size ad their beaks are a good 7” long.  And none of the birds on the island have any fear of man, so you are often walking with one of a bunch of these large birds just a couple of feet from your head and looking at you as though to ask “What are you doing here?”  And their nests are everywhere.  You can’t avoid them.  The only places the frigates are not is where there are no trees.  That’s where the boobies come in to play as they nest on the ground everywhere there are no trees.  You can’t avoid them either.  When you get to within about 4’ of them, they will complain at you with an angry look on their face.  If you get any closer, they will typically pick up a piece of grass in their beaks and hold it out to you.  I’m not sure if this is some kind of a bribe to try to get you to go away or what, but since their nests are often only 4’ or 5’ apart, it’s very difficult to walk around without getting up close and personal with them.  There are also some brown iguanas on the island.  We came across two of them in our short walk.  The first was about 2’ long including his tail (which is about half of the total length) and he just ignored us to the point that Kathryn came within inches of stepping on him (she had not seen him) and he never flinched.  The other iguana we came across was about half that size and quite shy.  He disappeared into a hole as soon as we got close.  There are supposedly some marine iguanas on the island too, but we have not yet been over to the western side where they are said to hang out.

We just had an interesting encounter with a few of the pangueros (fishermen).  They came by the boat asking if we had any fan belts.  When we offered them one of our spares, they compared it to their broken one and while it was not an exact match, they seemed to think that they could make it work.  In exchange, they gave us a large fillet of what I think is grouper.  At least it looked like a grouper though I’ve never seen one that was reddish orange before.  Kathryn is preparing it now for lunch and I’ll let you know how it tastes.

We haven’t really discussed it yet, but I suspect that we will be leaving Isla Isabella tomorrow evening for an 85 mile overnight sail to a small town called Las Cruz, over on the mainland, about 20 or 25 miles north of Puerto Vallarta.  We will be going there rather than Puerto Vallarta for two reasons.  First, there is no anchorage at PV, so we would have to rent a slip in a marina if we went there and second, there is no Port Captain in Las Cruz.  This means that we will not have to spend a half-day and some money doing the paper work associated with checking in (and out again when we leave).  There is a bus that runs between the two places, so we can still take advantage of the stores, etc. in PV for provisioning.  We also hope to get some charts there for Ecuador and French Polynesia.  Since PV is a popular provisioning and jumping off point for boats crossing the Pacific, we expect such things to be available there.

Saturday, March 5, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored at La Cruz

20 dg. 44.568 N, 105 dg. 22.842 W

Total distance traveled so far:  2265

Well, this is just a quick note to let everyone know that we once again have the anchor down.  At about 1:00 pm, we dropped the hook at La Cruz.  This is a small town on the Mexican mainland in Banderas Bay, about 280 miles from the tip of Baja.  La Cruz is quite a bit more rustic than the cities such as La Paz with very little tourism related stuff.  Instead, there are busses into Puerto Vallarta, about 20 miles further down the coast. 

The trip here from Isla Isabella was not terribly exciting, just light to moderate winds about half the time and dead calm the rest of the time.  The most exciting thing that happened was about midnight last night when Soy Libre, one of the boats that had been at Isabella, passed us.  They were motoring and we were just drifting along under sail.

We expect to stay here just a few days before pushing further south.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Current Location:  Underway to Chamela

20 dg. 08.862 N, 105 dg. 41.738 W

Total distance traveled so far:  2342

It’s hard to believe that we spent a week in La Cruz.  The time went so fast that I don’t even know if I can reconstruct it.  Let’s see, we got there Saturday afternoon and pretty much slept and lazed about the rest of the day. 

Sunday, we just hung around the boat and a cruiser hang out called Anna Banana’s on the beach since the marine stores were closed. 

Monday, a group of us figured out how to take the bus into Puerto Vallarta and ran around going to the various marine stores looking for stuff. 

Tuesday , I think I ran into a time warp or something as I can’t recall what happened on Tuesday.

Wednesday, we made an excursion into Demonia Blanca (White Demon) to the house of Rick, a former cruiser (Mitidis II) to borrow some charts to make copies of.   That was also the day that Kathryn tripped on one of the uneven sidewalks and hurt her knee.

Thursday, I went into Paradise Village in Nueva Vallarta to find a boat called Velocity and get some of the charts that he had borrowed from Rick.  I then got all of the charts to the copier. 

Friday, I picked up the charts from the copy place.

Saturday, we returned all of the charts Velocity who will get them back to Rick and finally got the anchor up about 2:00 pm.

La Cruz is a fairly small Mexican town with dirt and cobblestone streets, no major stores other than a few small tiendas and restaurants.  I would guess that it has a few thousand residents.  It is almost untouched by tourism other than the fact that a fair number of low budget cruisers are there since it has one of the few decent anchorages on Banderas Bay.  Bear in mind, this is only a decent anchorage, not a great one as it is completely exposed to any waves coming from the west and waves from the north-west are refracted around Punta Mita and come through the anchorage.  The entire time we were there, it varied from fairly rolly to quite bouncy.  There is no dinghy dock, just a somewhat stony beach in front of a small restaurant (Anna Banana’s).  At times, the surf makes this beach very difficult to land or launch your dinghy without swamping it (let along keeping everything in the dinghy dry).

About a 10-minute walk from the beach, you can catch a bus that for 15 pesos ($1.40) will take you into Puerta Vallarta, about 25 miles south of La Cruz.  This bus ride takes about an hour and sometimes there is even live entertainment, though usually this is only in the afternoons.  It is common for musicians to get on, play a song or two, collect tips and get off at the next stop.  It seems like I spent half of the last week on this bus going to or coming from PV and the other half walking around looking for stuff.

Puerta Vallarta is a large and modern city.  There is almost always 1 or 2 huge cruise ships docked there.  Andy (from Soy Libre), Rick & Sandy (Summer), Gary (Bay Fill) and us all figured out how to find and take the bus and made an excursion into PV together on Monday.  We met Soy Libre and Summer at Isla Isabella (they knew Bay Fill from somewhere else) and all of us are heading down the coast on roughly the same schedule.  Summer is planning on going through the Panama Canal while Soy Libre (with Andy, Mary Ann, their 4 year old, Andrew, their niece, Kati and her boyfriend, Mathew) are going all the way to Ecuador, then the Galapagos followed by crossing the Pacific over to French Polynesia. 

During our outing, we all stopped at a small roadside food vendor and had some birria (sorta of like stew without the vegetables but lots spicier) that was incredibly good.  It was run by a couple.  Her name was Mary Elena, but I don’t recall his name.  Kathryn got the recipe from Mary Elena and has already used a modified version of it for a pot of beans she made the other night and they were really good.

At one point, we were coming out of a farmaceria (pharmacy) and Kathryn walked past one side of a VW van while I walked on the other.  Suddenly, her head disappeared and the van shook violently.  She had tripped on a hole in the sidewalk and gone down, bruising her back and banging her knee extremely painfully.   As a result, she spent a couple of days just hanging out on the boat letting it get better while I did all of the running around.  And run around, I did.  Everyone will be glad to know that I am getting lots of exercise as this cruising life entails a tremendous amount of walking around in strange cities, getting lost and (very) occasionally finding what you are looking for.  I spent the entire week either riding one bus or another or walking in the hot sun.

Our main goals were two-fold.  First, to locate some charts and cruising guides for Ecuador, French Polynesia and New Zealand and also to find a VHF handheld (a walky-talky that we can use to talk to the boat from shore or use in an emergency if out boat radio ever fails) to replace ours that died a miserable death.  We were very successful with the charts, borrowing and making copies of about 100 individual charts and 2 cruising guides.  We were also able to swap a huge amount of information around on CDs between the boats heading south.  We were also able to talk a professional delivery skipper who just finished preparing the information for a new cruising guide (Charlie’s Charts of Central America) to give a seminar to people from about 7 boats that are heading south.  The VHF was another matter.  The only one I found was a model I don’t like and VERY expensive ($350).  Fortunately, I was able to contact Downwind Marine in San Diego via email who are selling us a very nice one for $147 + $62 shipping and the package will meet us in Zihuatanejo.

During one of the days when there was high surf on the beach, I didn’t get the outboard shut down in time and managed to bang the prop against a stone.  Normally, when you do this, there is a shear pin in the assembly that breaks before anything else breaks.  Not this time.  5 years ago, on our last trip to the Sea of Cortez, we broke the shear pin and didn’t have another one, so I fabricated one.  It would seem that the one I fabricated was the right size, but too strong and malleable instead of brittle.  It bent rather than breaking, damaging the prop.  It is still usable, but looks like it could fail at any time, so we are now just put-putting along in the dinghy instead of running our outboard at it’s full rated 3.5 hp.  As a result of this, some of my running around PV was in search of a new prop.  A task at which I failed miserably.  Fortunately, Downwind can include one in the package they are sending.

We are currently underway, having passed Cabo Corientes (a prominent cape that forms the southern boundary of Banderas Bay) and heading for a place called Chamela. We had good sailing winds yesterday afternoon and evening, but they died about 11 o'clock last night.  We drifted slowly along under very light zephyrs, but eventually they died too, so about 10:00 this morning, we started motoring in order to get to Chamela while it's still light.  Hopefully, with wind will start back up and we can shut the engine down again.

Sunday, March 13, 2005 (addendum)

Current Location:  Anchored at Isla Colorado in Bahia de Chamela

19 dg. 33.142 N, 105 dg. 06.413 W

Total distance traveled so far:  2366

Dropped the hook in this isolated but somewhat rolly spot at about 15:45.  There is a red tide happening, so we have elected not to go swimming.  Hopefully, there will be some wind tomorrow for the sail down to Tenacatita.

We sure had an interesting variety of sea life today while heading towards Chamela.   There were lots and lots of jumping dolphins.  These were a different species than we have seen before, slightly smaller than the familiar pacific white-sided dolphin, dark grey with some white speckles on their backs and do they ever like to jump.  Many of them would leave the water spinning like a fast turning top.  There were even two (or maybe the same one twice) that didn’t spin, but leaped fully ten feet out of the water!  We had several pods of these dolphins visit us during the day and a half long trip down here.  We also passed through an area with a bunch of sea turtles.  For several miles, we almost always had at least one or two in sight.  Towards the end of the turtles, we started seeing manta rays swimming just beneath the surface.  Sometimes, you could spot them by their wing tips just sticking out of the water.

As we got close to Chamela, we sailed into an area of red tide. I don’t know what kind of algae or plankton causes this, but the water is extremely murky and has a red tinge to it.  Kind of yucky actually.

We chose to anchor in an out of the way place here in Chamela instead of the normal anchorage where a bunch of other boats were.  Neither of us were willing to go diving in the red tide, but it was a beautiful, if quite rolly, anchorage with waves crashing into rocks and such all around us.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored Tenacatita

19 dg. 17.812 N, 104 dg. 50.239 W

Total distance traveled so far:  2396

Because of the red tide, we just spent the one night at Chamela before continuing on south another 30 miles to this quite tranquil bay.  It’s been quite awhile since we’ve been in a nice still anchorage and it’s going to feel so nice to lay in bed tonight and not have the boat rocking about.

There is a small river that empties into the bay very close to where we are and we took the dinghy up it a couple of miles to a lagoon that it drains.  The river is lined by mangroves and often, is so narrow that the foliage on the right meets up with and intermingles with the foliage from the left bank some 20’ over our heads so much of the time we were going through a tunnel in the trees.  There were lots of birds, mostly a white egret-like bird whose legs were black on the front and bright yellow on the back.  I can see the reason for the black on the front of the legs to evolve, since that would make them harder for the fish that they hunt to spot them, but why the yellow on the back?  There were a lot of other birds too, but none in the profusion of the egrets.

As we were leaving the river and crossing its’ bar back into the ocean, it suddenly got quite shallow and Kathryn (who was driving at the time) had a bit of a problem getting the engine shut off, so the prop hit something (again) and broke the shear pin. Since we were right in the surf line, I immediately unshipped the oars and started rowing away to get us past the breaking surf before stopping to replace the shear pin (we carry an extra and the tools needed to replace it along with us in the dinghy).  As I was doing so, one of the blades of the oars broke right off.  These are aluminum, oars with hard plastic blades, and it the bottom 4/5’ths of it just snapped off.  You know, it’s often been said that cruising is just working on your boat in exotic places, and to a large extent this is true.  We’ve been very lucky this trip as far as Tricia Jean goes, especially when compared to our last trip to Baja in ’99.  It seemed like I was continually fixing one thing or another on the boat that trip.  This time though, dinghy related problems seem to be plaguing us.  First, the outboard was acting up, then the plastic seats in the dinghy failed and we had some new mahogany ones made, then the damaged prop, then an oar lock broke and now, the broken oar blade.  It’s a tough life out here in Paradise!  I’ll jury rig a new oar blade, either out of some plywood I’ve got on board, or some plexiglass that Andy on Soy Libre offered to loan us until we get into Zihuatanejo and (hopefully) can replace it.

It looks like we may make it to Zihuatanejo a little sooner than we originally expected.  We had thought to arrive there about the last week in March, but it’s only about 220 miles from here.  That’s about a 48 hour sail if we go straight through.  We will likely stop someplace along the way, but that still puts us there about a week sooner that we had expected.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored Tenacatita

19 dg. 17.812 N, 104 dg. 50.239 W

Total distance traveled so far:  2396

We are stil hanging out at Tenacatita, a very pretty bay about 360 miles down the coast of mainland Mexico below the tip of Baja.  Kathryn has spent the best part of the last couple of days working on a shade awning for our cockpit, finishing it this afternoon.  Made from a combination of sail cloth and a fabric called Sunbrella, it extends from the front of our dodger all the way back to our back stay, completely shading the cockpit.  As the season progresses and we make our way further south, the need for such a shade structure has become more and more apparent.  Now that it’s finished, our cockpit will be far more comfortable in the heat of the day.  She designed it so that we can even keep it up when we are sailing.  The only compromise is that in order to see the wind indicator at the top of the mast, we will have to lean out past its edge.  I wish you could see it, as she did a great job of it.

I’ve spent the last couple of days, mostly loafing about, splitting my time between reading and studying my Spanish, i.e. reading my Spanish novel.  I’m getting faster at understanding what I read, but it’s an awfully long process.

We just finished watching the sunset.  Not overly impressive, as it was a clear sky with no clouds and there are hills to our west, but enjoyable nonetheless.  There are about a half dozen boats anchored around us and the first thing we noticed was the light form the sun turning yellowish orange, then the hulls of the boats falling into shade.  As we watched the shade line climb slowly up the masts of these boats, the light gradually grew oranger and oranger.  Finally, even the tops of the masts were out of the direct sunlight.  As we continued to watch, the shadows on the hills to the east of us grew longer and longer and the quality of the light continued to redden.  Finally, the shadow line rose to include even the tops of the hills and as everything continued to grow darker, the stars slowly emerged.

We will probably stay here for another day or two as it really is a nice quiet anchorage where the rocking and rolling of the boat is barely discernable.  Our current plans have us going directly from here to Zihuatanejo, then possibly stopping in Acapulco (though probably not) before working our way down the Central American coast and on to Ecuador where we will probably park the boat for awhile as we explore inland.  From Ecuador, we hope to go across to the Galapagos Islands, then the Marquesas in the South Pacific. 

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Current Location:  Underway

18 dg. 46.146 N, 104 dg. 12.183 W

Total distance traveled so far:  2447

We left Tenecatita yesterday morning based upon a weather forecast of “15-20 kts from the NW, increasing up to 25 kts in the afternoon and continuing through the night and the following day,” a perfect sailing wind for making good time down the coast.  What we found out here instead was 5 or 6 kts.  We therefore raised the spinnaker and poked slowly along all day.  The nighttime routine that we have found works the best for us is for me to get some sleep as soon as it gets dark, leaving Kathryn on watch.  Then, sometime around midnight, I will get up and relieve Kathryn so she can sleep.  Sometime around dawn, after she has once again arisen, I will again go down for a few hours of sleep.

The 5-6 kt breeze was still blowing when I went to sleep last night, so we left the spinnaker up while Kathryn stood watch.  I may have some of the details of what follows wrong, as I was asleep the whole time, but as I understand it, at some point, the wind died altogether, so she took the spinnaker down (by herself).  Shortly thereafter, a breeze started up again, so she raised the jib.  It proceeded to shift direction a few times requiring her to tack back and forth, then once again, the wind died altogether.  After sitting there for some time with the jib just slatting back and forth as we rocked in the swell, she finally dropped it and started the engine.  At some point, it overheated, so she shut it down and investigated (remember, I’m still sleeping soundly away up in the V-berth) and found that there was no coolant even though we had just checked it that morning before we got underway.  Unfortunately, when she went to refill it, she discovered that the coolant holding tank had suddenly developed a large hole in the bottom of it (about 3/8” in diameter).  My best guess is that unbeknownst to us, it had been slowly corroding away over the years and then finally gave way.  Anyway, she sat there for quite awhile until another breeze came up and she hoisted the spinnaker again but as I understand it, it died even before she could get it all the way up.  This was at about half an hour after midnight and is when I woke up and she related all this to me.  What a horrible evening watch.  On the one hand, I wish she had awakened me so I could have helped but on the other hand, I’m glad she dealt with it all and let me sleep.

I patched the hole by smearing a bolt with an epoxy product called J-B Weld and shoving it in the hole.  We’ll see if my patch works later as I’m giving it a good long time to cure.  The rest of the evening was uneventful as a very light breeze came up, just enough to barely move the boat and let me steer, but it remained essentially constant for the rest of the night.

One very cool thing did happen while I was on watch.  I’ve no idea what was causing it, but for the 2 hours before dawn, every few seconds, there would be a very brief (1/4 – ½ second) bright flash in the water, causing a circular spot (from 1 to 3 feet in diameter) to glow brightly.  It looked for all the world like someone was down there a few feet in the water turning a flashlight on then quickly back off.  Several times, it happened right next to the boat and it looked like it was several feet down.  It was the same green color as the normal phosphorescence, but incredibly bright and almost a point source rather than the more generalized glow of disturbed water or the streaks that fish sometimes make at night.

About dawn, the wind picked up to about 8 kts and shifted to the SSE, almost right from the direction we are trying to go so we have been beating into it all day.  It’s about 2:00 pm now and the wind seems to have died altogether again.  Oh well, eventually we’ll get down to Zihuatanejo (our current destination), but at this rate, it’s going to take awhile.


Just after I finished writing my last journal entry, we decided to see if my patch of the engine coolant tank worked.  Kathryn hauled in the hand line I fish with, as she didn’t want to deal with the possibility of catching a fish while testing the engine.  As she pulled it in, there was a sea turtle with the line wrapped loosely once around its’ left front flipper.  It swam right up to the boat from the stern and we were able to clear the line easily, but then it kept swimming toward us until it got whacked on the head by the paddle that sticks down into the water from our self-steering vane.  When this happened, it lifted its’ head out of the water and glared at me for awhile, then continued swimming right past the paddle and under the boat.  Staying under the boat, it swam slowly up the starboard side with us following along and leaning over the rail to watch.  Then when it got to the front, it turned around and swam down the port side.  When it got back to the stern, it just sort of hung out there for a while before finally turning away and slowly swimming off into the distance.  Since we were just sitting almost motionless in the water, it was a real temptation to jump in and go swimming with him.  Especially since we have finally left the last remnants of that red tide behind and the water was crystal clear and inviting.

Oh yeah, it also looks like that patch is going to hold so we have an engine again.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored in Zihhutanejo

17 dg. 38.445 N, 101 dg. 33.170 W

Total distance traveled so far:  2624

We finally made it into Zihuatanejo Monday afternoon.  I had expected the trip to be a fast 2 day one and that we would probably have to heave to for awhile to wait for the sun to come up before entering the harbor.  In fact, it took us over 3 days to get here.  We had light and contrary winds almost the whole way.  I guess that the old saying that “if you are in a hurry, don’t go in a sailboat” is really true.  Even though longer than we had expected, it was a very good trip in many ways.  The weather was very pleasant, we had some interesting sea life encounters (more on this in a minute) and best of all, we seem to have finally found a watch system that lets us both get enough sleep to keep us rested and alert.

On the long, multi-day passages we’ve done on this trip, Kathryn has had some problems getting in enough quality sleep.  This is no big problem for shorter one day or day and a half trips, but she was really starting to suffer on longer trips than that.  The reason why has been something of a mystery since this wasn’t a problem on our last trip.  We did, however, have a third watch stander along with us, Kathryn’s nephew Ben.  In any case, her inability to sleep while underway was going to really put a crimp into our plans if we were not able to overcome it.  Fortunately, we seem to have finally found a solution that works for us.  Basically, I go to bed just after sunset while Kathryn stands watch.  Then sometime around midnight, I get up and relieve her until dawn at which time, I go back to sleep for a few hours (we also sometimes take naps sometime during the day.  This makes for some pretty long nighttime watches, but having that long stretch of uninterrupted sleep is making all the difference.  On this last leg, she was OK after the first night, better after the 2nd and even better after the third.  This bodes really well for future long legs of the trip.

You’ve already heard about our up close and personal encounter with the sea turtle and that was really cool.  Later, not long before we got to Zihuatanejo, we went through an area just packed with fairly small jellyfish swimming at and near the surface.  At the densest point, had we thrown a bucket overboard and brought it back in full of water, there might have been a dozen jellies in it.  They were packed together that closely!  It was really a fantastic sight.  There was no wind at the time, so we were motoring and after awhile, we shut off the engine and drifted to a stop.  The water was very calm with a glassy surface so we could see down into it really well and we probably spent close to an hour just leaning over the lifelines staring down into the water at them.  During this time, we also saw our first sea snake.  It was a lot smaller than I expected, no bigger in diameter than one of my fingers and about 18” long.  It was a very beautiful bright yellow and black in color and as it was swimming among the jellies (they had thinned out some by this time), it went by us no more than 8 feet from the boat.

Most of you know us well enough to know that neither Kathryn nor I are very social people and are just not very good at meeting people and making friends.  Heck, I lived almost across the street from a couple in Healdsburg for close to 15 years and still don’t know their names.  It may come as something of a surprise to you then to learn that within a few minutes of dropping the anchor here in Z-wa (as it’s often called) dinghies from two separate boats that we have made friends with came by to welcome us into the anchorage and to catch up on things.  The first one was Mark from Costa Vida (a Canadian boat).  We first met Mark and Jean very early in the trip.  As I recall, as we dropped our anchor into the Sea of Cortez for the very first time this trip, at Frailes, it was right next to their boat and we have crossed paths with them a number of times since.  From here, their next leg is a long one.  They are pointing their bow west and crossing the Pacific for the Marquesas.  No sooner had Mark gone back to his boat than Dennis from the trimaran, Summer came by.  Dennis and Sandy are relatively new friends, having first met them at Isla Isabella, then later for a few days at La Cruz.  From here, they will be making a fairly high speed run along Central America down to the Panama Canal, cross through it and then head back to the US, so we probably won’t see them again.

The cruising community is a really interesting one and one that I am really enjoying.  Like any community, it has a wide variety of personality types and probably more than its’ fair share of “interesting” ones.  You meet people, get to know them for a few days and then you go your separate ways, but as you work your way along, all of these boats are weaving a tapestry with the various paths they follow and after awhile with the different threads intertwining and crossing back upon themselves.  Thus, after awhile it is quite common to drop the anchor somewhere and find friends already there waiting for you or arriving there sometime after you.  You are constantly meeting new people, but at the same time, the old friends keep popping back up.

This is not our first time in Zihuatanejo.  13 ½ years ago, we flew down here for our honeymoon.  In fact, we are anchored very close to the hotel we stayed at and can even see the very room we stayed in.  I sometimes wonder who those people are that are in the room now.  We have spent the last few days wandering around town, running errands and figuring out where things are.  As cruisers, you spend a lot of time doing that, especially since you are doing your wandering on foot.

Yesterday was Kathryn’s birthday, so after a long day of wandering, we had dinner at a restaurant.  This is something we really don’t do very often since we are on a very tight budget, so I wish I could say that the meal was a wonderful one.  Alas, while mine was very good, Kathryn’s was a bit of a disappointment.

The good news is that the package that Downwind Marine sent us got here this morning so we again have a functioning VHF handheld radio (this means that one of us can take the dinghy into shore or have the other drop us off and return to the boat and still be able to call one another and ask them to come get us) and an undamaged prop for the dinghy.  You know, one of the lessons my father tried to teach me as I was growing up was that “If you buy cheap, you buy twice.”  I’m afraid that I did not take the lesson very well to heart and for the most part, got away with it when living in the US.  Out here, where getting anything replaced is next to impossible, I am beginning to realize just how true that saying is.  The VHF is a case in point.  The one I had was a relatively cheap one and when it got wet, it died a horrible death.  In the US, I would have just run out and picked up whatever was on sale to replace it, but when I tried to do that in Puerto Vallarta, in the entire city, I found only one for sale.  It was one I didn’t like and they wanted $358 for it (3 ½ times what I paid for the cheap one in West Marine), so we went without for some time.  Had the handheld been just a convenience item, we would probably still be doing without, but it is a fairly important piece of safety gear too.   In the event of a disaster, if we ever have to abandon ship, it gives us a way to talk to those that are trying to assist us.

Friday, April 1, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored in Zihhutanejo

17 dg. 37.817 N, 101 dg. 33.603 W

Total distance traveled so far:  2624

After a few days anchored out by the hotels, we moved about 3/4 mile across the bay to a small cove that has been a much more peaceful place to hang out.  Over by the hotels, jet skis and small outboard powered waterski-type boats and water taxis were constantly going by.  Some of the boats were pulling giant yellow inflatable "bananas" that tourists pay to ride on, some of them were pulling parachutes on long ropes behind them (another popular tourist ride) and some of them were just buzzing about.  The noise and chop was starting to get a little irritating.  We are now in a fairly small cove and for the last several days, have been sharing it with 1 to 3 other boats making things a tight enough squeeze that we have all put out stern anchors in addition to the main anchors off our bows.  This way, as the winds and currents change, we stay in the same place and don't swing around.  You can pack the boats a lot closer together doing this. 

Of course, it is possible to pack them a little too close.  When Windsong, a boat that has been here a long time wanted to leave, we had to move and reanchor as the line to their stern anchor went completely underneath Tricia Jean and out the other side.  When moving, we got our stern anchor up without a hitch, but when we went to raise our bow anchor, it came up with the line to Soy Libre's (another of the boats anchored here) stern anchor hooked on it.  We quickly got things straightened out and got ourselves moved over so Windsong could get her anchors up, then said our farewells to her a little later as she pulled out and headed south.  Hopefully, we will cross wakes with Shirley and Dave again in Central America somewhere.

Our plan when we leave here has us making one stop before leaving Mexico in an area of picturesque bays called Huatulco, but probably no large metropolitan areas for quite awhile as other than Acapulco (which we will not be stopping at), there just isn't much.  After Huatulco (which will be about a 330 mile sail from here) we will be doing our longest non-stop sail so far, a little over 600 miles.  This takes us across the Gulf of Tehuanapec, past Guatemala and into El Salvador.

The Gulf of Tehuanapec is a 250 mile sail through an area renown for its' strong winds.  We will no doubt wait around Huatulco for a while waiting for an advantageous weather window to do this crossing.  We will also not be stopping in Guatemala as it has acquired a recent reputation of being "cruiser unfriendly" with very expensive and obnoxious check-in/check-out procedures.  We may, however, leave the boat in El Salvador and explore Guatemala some by land.  Ironically, it has just the opposite reputation for land based tourism.

Since I've no idea what the availability of my blood pressure drugs will be in Central America, I decided to stock up on them here in Zihuatanejo.  The effort to do so has really made me wish I had done so in either Puerta Vallarta or La Paz.  In one sense, it is easier here in Mexico than back home in that no prescription is needed for most drugs.  On the other hand, whereas in the states, you'd just go into any pharmacy, hand them the prescription and come back the next day to pick it up, it has been something of a challenge here in Zihua.  The largest and best stocked pharmacy that my initial search discovered was in the town's only supermarket, about a half mile dinghy ride followed by a 1 1/2 mile walk in the hot sun away.  They only had a 2 week supply of the one medication and none of the dosage I need of the other, but on Saturday, they said they could order all I wanted and I could pick it up on Sunday.  "Gee", I thought, "just like in the States."  Well, Sunday, they said there had been "una peuqena problema" (a small problem), but they would be there on Monday.  Monday, they told me they would be there on Tuesday.   Tuesday, they told me they would be there on Wednesday.  Wednesday, they told me they would be there on Thursday.  I was getting a lot of walking in (which is in itself very good for the blood pressure), but finding having to do all this walking somewhat frustrating.  6 months ago, this would have driven me right up the wall and driven my blood pressure through the roof.  After six months of cruising though, I pretty much just shrugged it off and resumed my search of the various pharmacies around here.  I finally found one where they had some of what I wanted and when I asked "Tienes mas?" (do you have more), she ask how many I wanted.  When I asked her how many she had, she went in back to check her stock, then came back to the counter and pulled out a walky-talky.  After jabbering away for a while in Spanish much too fast for me to follow, she said that she could get 3 more in 10 minutes.  So I hung around and then some couriers from other pharmacies started showing up and dropping them off.  "Cool!", I told myself, "I've finally found the mother-lode."  After they had all shown up and I paid for them, I asked her "Tienes mas en la manana?" (Will you have more tomorrow?)  When she said "Si", I knew I had finally found the right place.  We went through the same routine Thursday morning and when finished, she asked me how many I wanted in all.  When I told her, she said that if I was willing to leave a deposit, she would guarantee that they would be there Friday morning.  The upshot of all this is that I now have a 6 month supply of the med.s I need on board and won't have to worry about it for awhile.

In some of the anchorages we've been in, we've been quite a ways from a dinghy landing.  We've only got a 3hp outboard on our dinghy, so it takes quite awhile to make the trip into town and back to the boat sometimes.  We've also had some "issues" (it's quite noisy, has no transmission - just forward, and can be kind of unreliable) with the outboard and so we've decided to keep this one as a spare and get a brand new one.  We went down to the local dealer last Tuesday and they didn't have the one we wanted, but said they could order it to arrive on Friday and quoted us a very good price, even less than we would have paid in the States.  So, we put down our deposit and ordered a new Mercury 5hp 4-stroke outboard which is about the maximum that our dinghy can handle and should allow us to really zip right along.  Yesterday, we went in to ask what time we could pick it up the next day and they told us that it couldn't be had.  They could get either the 4hp or the 6hp, but not the 5hp and if we wanted it, one of the employees would drive up to Guadalajara on Friday and pick it up for delivery to us Saturday morning.  After thinking about it, we decided to go with the 6hp even though it is going to cost us another $120.  So tomorrow morning, we get to pick it up and we'll be really zipping around in the dinghy now.

Sunday, April 3, 2005

Current Location:  Anchored in Zihhutanejo

17 dg. 37.817 N, 101 dg. 33.603 W

Total distance traveled so far:  2624

All is well aboard Tricia Jean.  The weather has been quite warm, clear skies and a bit muggy.  This means that jumping overboard every now and then to cool off is a pleasant treat.  I’ll be going in this afternoon to give the bottom a quick scrub and am actually looking forward to the task.

We were able to pick up our new Mercury 6hp (4 stroke) outboard yesterday morning and are extremely pleased with it.  I’ve lots of good things to say about it.  First, obviously is that it is lots faster than our old one.  Whereas the old one could push the dinghy with me aboard at 6.5 kts on a good day when everything was perfect (glassy smooth water, etc.), this one cruises comfortably along at 8-10 kts up on a true plane in normally choppy water and will go 12.5 kts under full throttle at which point, the dinghy starts to become a little “squirrelly” with the steering becoming uncomfortably sensitive, etc.  This may not sound like much to you guys accustomed to flying along the freeway at 70+ mph, but it sure seems like you are just flying over the water.  It’s also lots quieter than our other one.  In fact, when idling, you can barely hear it. It even has a transmission, Forward - Neutral - Reverse.  Our other one doesn’t.  When the engine is on, it is thrusting forward and you get reverse by turning it around all the way until it is pointing backwards.  It should even get better gas mileage and you don’t have to mix oil with the gas.  All in all, it is a much nicer outboard than our old one.

Having gotten the new outboard, we will do our paperwork checkout Monday morning and expect to actually pull the anchor up and head south some more Tuesday morning. 

Kathryn is busy with the sewing machine again.  This time making us some courtesy flags for the new countries we will shortly be visiting.  For you non-sailors out there, these are small national flags that you fly whenever your boat is in another country.  The Mexican one we have been flying is store bought and is actually the same one we bought for our first trip down here.  I’m afraid that it is showing it’s age though as it’s getting a bit ragged and the green color has faded to a bluish color.  Fortunately, it only has to last another week or two before we leave Mexico altogether.  We started looking for the store bought ones back in Puerto Vallarta, but have been unable to find any, so Kathryn has taken it upon herself to make them.  She has finished 3 so far and I am really impressed with how good they look.

Tuesday, April 5, 2005

Current Location:  Underway south of Zihhutanejo

17 dg. 25.647 N, 101 dg. 23.318 W

Total distance traveled so far:  2641

This is just a quick note to let everyone know that we are underway again.  We left Ziuatanejo this morning and are continuing our way south.  We will be underway for several days (at least 4).  Our next expected landfall is Huatulco, just short of the Gulf of Tehuanapec.  If you look at a map of Mexico, down towards the bottom of the country, there is an area where it gets real skinny, just before the Yucatan Peninsula.  The Gulf of Tehuanapec is the gulf of water just to the south of the skinny spot.  This tends to be a real windy area because there are no real mountains in the skinny spot and the winds from the Caribbean just come screaming across the land and out across the Pacific.

We have spent most of the day passing hundred of turtles sleeping on the surface.  One of them even had a bird (a yellow footed booby) resting on its’ back.

Thursday, April 7, 2005

Current Location:  Underway south of Acapulco

16 dg. 32.167 N, 99 dg. 40.152 W

Total distance traveled so far:  2654

It’s 3:30am right now, and it is a still, dark and windless night with no moon.  We have been motoring since the wind died completely about midnight.  Half an hour ago, a light breeze came up, and I went up on the bow to untie the jib so I could raise it again.  To my surprise and delight, when I got there, there were a half a dozen dolphin swimming under the bow.  I sat down on the bow pulpit and watched them for 20 minutes as they wove their fascinating patterns of phosphorescence through the night.  The water has a glassy surface on it right now, so as they would swim under the glow navigation lights on the bow, they would for a moment come into view and I could clearly see them almost as if it was during daylight.  Then their paths would take them out of the small area illuminated by the red and green nav lights and once again, all I could see was the glowing green trails they left in the water as they zigged and zagged around the front of the boat.  It was quite a show, and one of the many special treats that make this whole trip so enjoyable.

As we expected, there has not been much wind on this passage.  In fact, during the entire trip, light winds have been far more common than brisk ones.  No complaints though since as much as I enjoy sailing along in a good breeze, just being out here on the water even when there is no wind is good for the soul.


Later, about 05:00, while it was still full dark (it gets light about 07:00 or so), I started seeing those bioluminescent flashes in the water I described a few days ago.  This time though they were all on the port side of the boat and they would flash much more often than the other night, often several in a fraction of a second.  I went forward, leaving the lights of the cockpit (GPS, radar screen, etc.) behind and I discovered that it was a dolphin zig-zagging around on that side of the boat as though he were feeding on something.  I don’t know if he was just disturbing whatever is making the flashes, or if this was what he was actually feeding on and his biting them was causing them to make the flash, but it was amazing to watch.

Friday, April 8, 2005

Current Location:  65 miles from Huatulco

15 dg. 39.555 N, 95 dg. 09.905 W

Total distance traveled so far:  2908

We’ve seen a variety of sea life since the last journal entry.  One thing I don’t think I mentioned about the turtles is that most of them are just sleeping on the surface.  At least, I assume they are sleeping.  They’ve been sitting on the surface long enough for their backs to dry out.  A lot of them also have a bird sitting on their backs (usually a booby).  It looks like one of the pictures right out of the B.C. comic strips.  It also seems like the further we get offshore, the higher the percentages of turtles with birds.  At times, there would be 6, 8 or even 10 in sight around us at the same time and this would go on for miles.  Dave Tomerlin wrote to say that “There are accounts from Spanish ship logs from the 16th century that describe ships having to plow their way through tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of turtles”.  I can’t really claim to have plowed my way through them, but we have been sitting in the cockpit and heard a loud “Clunk… Clunk” and then had a turtle appear in our wake.

We’ve also seen more sea snakes.  There appear to have been two different kinds so far, both of them yellow and black.  One is bright yellow and jet black in a kind of scallop pattern along their sides and the other is almost all a dull black with bright yellow stripes along the side and a yellow bottom. 

There have been more dolphins also, almost all of them at night which is really fun to watch as they streak through the bioluminescent plankton, leaving a long trail behind them.  The trail makes it real easy to see just how maneuverable these guys are as sometimes their trails have a right angle (or even tighter) bend in them as they made a high speed turn.

There have also been a number of large mantas jumping out of the water.  They are usually off in the distance somewhere, but sometimes pretty close too.  It great to watch as these large rays leap into the air with their wings flapping away as though they are trying to fly through the air as easily as they do through the water.

A few minutes ago, we were up in the cockpit playing some gin when we heard the loud “WHOOOOOOSH” of a whale taking a breath.  When we looked up, there were a couple of fin back whales swimming away from us.  At the same time, over on the other side of the boat a pair of mantas jumped no more than 40 yards from the boat.

We should make it into Huatulco sometime tomorrow, so we can go back to a regular sleep/waking pattern.  I think we may also take a trip inland to Oaxaca (wah-ha’-ca) while we are there to visit the Mayan ruins.  This will be a 3 or 4 day trip and will be the first time we’ve slept off the boat since last Oct. 1st.  It will be weird sleeping in a bed real again.

Saturday, April 9, 2005

Current Location:  Anchor down in Huatulco

15 dg. 41.517 N, 96 dg. 13.888 W

Total distance traveled so far:  2965

It took us less time than I anticipated to get here, we dropped the anchor in Bahia de San Agustin about 9:00 this morning making it exactly 4 days from Zihuatanejo (Huatulco is actually a series of about 10 closely spaced small bays).  I’ve no idea how long we will stay here, but probably at least a week since we want to visit a variety of the anchorages, make a trip inland then wait for a good weather window before heading out to cross the Gulf of Tehuantepec.

After getting here, we took a couple of hours to settle in and in my case, take a nap before jumping in the water and diving on the coral reef here.  We are of mixed opinions, I thought it was a really nice dive with lots of fish that seemed to have no fear of us and good visibility, but Kathryn thought it was just so – so, mostly because while we were in the water, some tour boats showed up and dumped a hundred or so people into the water to enjoy the reef.  The funny thing about that to me was that while we were wearing weight belts to neutralize our buoyancy in the water, those people were all wearing water-ski style life jackets.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Current Location:  Anchor down in Huatulco

15 dg. 45.839 N, 96 dg. 07.298 W

Total distance traveled so far:  2978

We’ve been hanging out here in Huatulco for a week now, and enjoying every minute of it.  Where we first anchored got a little bumpy when the wind kicked up a bit, so the next morning we moved about a half mile down the coast to the next cove and dropped the hook next to Jay and Janika on Alkahest and Bruce, a single-hander on Fifth Element.   These are people we first met in Zihuatanejo.  The two boats are buddy boating as they work their way down the coast.  They moved on the following morning, and we had the cove all to ourselves for the following 3 wonderful days before Steve and Portia on Dream Caper, a catamaran showed up.  They were having some trouple with their starboard engine, so the next morning moved onto Bahia Santa Cruz, right next to the actual port of Huatulco where there is a marina.  We’ve basically spent our time diving and relaxing, anything but work as the heat and humidity sap us of almost all initiative.  There are huge numbers of beautiful fish around the reefs and rocks here and most of them have no fear of you.  In fact, I’ve had them try to swim right through the glass plate on my mask and there is one kind that will peck gently on our legs if we hold still long enough.

Sitting at anchor, we accumulated a school of a few hundred fish of a few different kinds under the boat.  Most of them are about 8 inches long and at night, you can see them disturbing the phosphorescence in the water, looking down into the dark water yo see constant glowing motion.  These also have no fear of us and when I was scrubbing the bottom of the boat clean, they would often swim between me and the boat as I was scrubbing away.  We’ve also collected a bunch of little 3 inch fish that like to hide out in the thru-hulls (the various drains and salt-water pick-ups, of which we have 4 below the water level).  We don’t mind them hanging out in the drains, but when they are in the salt-water pick up for the toilet (when it flushes, it uses salt water from the ocean), they sometimes get sucked into the pump where they clog it.  At one point, Kathryn had to partially disassemble the pump 3 times in a single hour to remove the remains of some poor fish that were clogging up the works.

Yesterday, we moved to the port of Huatulco, where we anchored for the night while we did the paperwork check in for this area.  We should technically have come straight here, checked in then gone back to explore the various bays and coves, but no one really cares. 

This morning, after completing the check in procedure and topping up our diesel tank at the fuel dock, we again moved a short distance and are now in the marina (Marina Chahua) for the first time in 6 months.  We are actually tied up to a dock, plugged into their electrical system and have a fresh water hose connected to their water system.  It’s quite a change after living on the hook for so long.  In fact, as we were coming in here, we went through a minor Chinese fire drill when one of us said “What about the dock lines?  We are going to need them.”  Needless to say, we dug them out of a locker and had them in place in time to pass them to people on the dock as we pulled into the slip. 

There are a bunch of boats that we know here in the marina hanging out and waiting for the next weather window to cross the Tehuanapec:  Soy Libre, Bay Fill, Alkahest, Dream Caper and Fifth Element are all within shouting distance of us.  Last night, there was a pot-luck get together here at the marina with about 30 or 40 people attending, most of whom we had at least met and many of them friends.  Afterwards, we had drinks and conversation with Gary on Bay Fill until about 9:30 then walked back to Huatulco where we were anchored (about a mile). 

We will spend a little time getting to know the local town, La Cruzacita, then on Tuesday, I think we are going to take a 7 hour bus ride to Oxahaca for a couple of days where we will visit some Mayan ruins, museum and also some of the local weavers (the area is know for them, kind of like the Navajo blankets in the Four Corners area, but different.  We will then do a final provisioning and leave for El Salvador on the next weather window.  As I mentioned before, this will be the longest non-stop leg we will have done, about 600 miles and should take us about a week.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Current Location:  Anchor down in Huatulco

15 dg. 45.839 N, 96 dg. 07.298 W

Total distance traveled so far:  2978

Just a quick note to let people know that I just posted a web page that Kathryn prepared with some more pictures on it.

If I did it right, you should be able to just click the link.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Current Location:  Anchor down in Huatulco

15 dg. 45.839 N, 96 dg. 07.298 W

Total distance traveled so far:  2978

I’m finding that I am not adapting to the heat and humidity as well as I had hoped.  It just drains he energy and initiative out of me and I am getting a little tired of being constantly drenched in sweat the instant I begin even the mildest exertion.  For instance, it’s 9:15 in the morning, 86 degrees in the cabin and even though I am just sitting here at the computer, there is a bead of sweat running down my temple.  The fan we use in the V-berth at night plugs into a cigarette lighter style plug and we use it in he cabin during the day.  The damn thing goes back and forth between not working at all and having a short in the plug causing the fuse to blow.  I’ve used up all of the fuses I have and gave up altogether on that cursed fan last night.  As a result, between the heat and being pissed off at the fan, I did not sleep well at all last night.  Unfortunately, there are no places I have found to get others closer than Puerto Vallarta.  As we continue on our way, we won’t come to anywhere where there will likely be a marine store until we get to Panama.  That is months away and we are not even sure we are going to stop there.  Lying in bed last night, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’m just not cut out for cruising the tropics and if I shouldn’t just return north.

Hopefully, when we get to Oaxaca in a couple of days, I’ll be able to find somewhere that I can find some new 12V plugs.  I need at least two since the one on the laptop also developed a short and literally melted.  At least, being in a marina at the moment, we have 110V shore power and I can plug the laptop into that, but as soon as we leave, if I have not found some new plugs, it will mean that the only way we can use the laptop will be to turn the inverter on and plug it into that.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Current Location:  Anchor down in Huatulco

15 dg. 45.839 N, 96 dg. 07.298 W

Total distance traveled so far:  2978

Hi everyone.  We just got back to the boat this evening after being away since last Wednesday morning.  We had a great trip to Oaxaca about which I’ll write more later.  The next weather window for crossing the Tehuanapec is expected to open Tuesday and has been described as “the best one so far this year” so we are going to try to get everything done to leave with it.  Since Kathryn broke a tooth in Oaxaca and we need to find a dentist to evaluate it and let us know whether we can 1) ignore it for a while, 2) get a temporary crown on it and deal with it later in El Salvador, or 3) it must be dealt with now, we are unlikely to leave on Tuesday, so we will be shooting for a Wednesday departure.  His should be no problem since the weather window is shaping up to be a long one.  In one way, leaving a day late will actually be a good thing.  It will mean that thee will be about 6 boats a day ahead of us giving us reports on the conditions ahead.  It will also mean that we will get a day’s advance notice on the conditions on the river bar at Bahia del Sol, where we plan to stop in El Salvador.  I haven’t written about this yet, but the river bar can be real “harry.”  The last two groups of boats to cross it have had some problems.  We just got the word tonight that one in te last group had a breaking wave board them from astern and drop about 100 gallons of sea water though the hatch and into the cabin.  Here’s an edited report from the previous group:

The bar was no problem for us but was daunting to say the least! We had been talking to an American woman and her Canadian husband. I am not sure how it works, but think they must be paid by the hotel to be pilot boat for incoming vessels. They are REALLY nice people and were wonderful help for us. The breakers all along the shore were HUGE! The opening with it's sand bar was not very big. They gave us lots of info and they were in a panga on the other side of the bar telling us when to turn and that a wave was coming to power back and let it raise our stern and push us along. It worked fine, one though did break over our stern but no problem. At one point Farewell started to broach. But Bob gave it some power and got the rudder to straighten us out and we kind of surfed in at 11 knots at one point having only 5 feet of water under our keel, but with no problems. Happily for us, all went well. Now, you know we saw lots of tidal river bars in the northwest, but never had any experience that even came close to that! The six boats that crossing the Tehuantepec roughly at the same time as we did all crossed the bar this morning. One, the tri, entered first with no problem. The other five did not fare so well. One lost his engine at a critical time but was surfed in OK, another broached and recovered OK, a third broached and was surfed in sideways, and the last poor guy broached and knocked down. All are safe, some have wet boats and all have a great story to tell the folks back home!”

We are obviously going to be taking this bar crossing very seriously.  Our options if conditions are not to our liking are basically to drop the anchor a couple of hundred yards offshore in about 40’ of water and wait for conditions to improve or to continue on to another (easier) bar crossing to a place called Barrias.  Bahia del Sol is a cheaper place to stay and far more convienently located for exploring inland since Barrias has no town close by, so if we can get in, we would really like to stay at Bahia del Sol.

Well it’s been a long day, so I’ll write more later.  Also, to repeat myself, we will probably be quite busy for the next couple of days so it’s likely that those who have sent us emails in the last few days will have to wait a little longer for a reply.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Current Location:  Still in Marina Chahue in Huatulco

15 dg. 45.839 N, 96 dg. 07.298 W

Total distance traveled so far:  2978

After seeing the dentist, we decided to go ahead and get a crown on Kathryn’s broken tooth before leaving Mexico, so we will be sticking around for a week or so.  About 8 boats left this small marina this morning, so it seems pretty empty now.

The Oaxaca trip was a lot of fun on a lot of different levels.  There were 9 of us that all left Huatulco for Oaxaca on the same large, air conditioned, Greyhound style bus complete with in-flight movies.  There was Kathryn and I, Frank and Shirley from Wind Song, Steve and Portia from Dream Caper and Andy, Mary Ann & 4 year old Andrew from Soy Libre.  Now, since the two cities are only 86 miles apart as the crow flies, would you care to guess just how long this bus trip took?  Would you believe over 8 hours?  Granted, we went a little ways east to Salinas Cruz before north to Oaxaca, but not all that far.  The problem is that there are really tall mountains between the two cities, like over 10,000 feet tall!  Also, for virtually the entire way, we were on really tight and twisty roads.  Fortunately, the bus had a good air conditioning system and the seats were very comfortable, even for someone my size.

All of us except those from Soy Libre stayed at the same hotel (the Hotel Francia), just off the center of town (Oaxaca has about 300,000 people).  The rooms (470 pesos ~ $45/night) were pretty basic, but clean and with plenty of hot water for the showers.  They also had the all-important ceiling fans over the beds.  We often did things as a group (going out to dinner or ice cream, taking tours, etc.).  It was really nice being out exploring new places with a group of friends.  We spent all day Wednesday on the bus, then on Thursday, all 9 of us visited the oldest cathedral in the city (built between the 16’th and 17’th centuries, 400 years ago!), some of which is still a working church, but most of which has been converted into a cultural and archeological museum.  I was really impressed, but frankly found the huge amount of resources and wealth that went into this cathedral a bit offensive, especially when taken into the context of the incredible poverty of the surrounding area.  300 – 400 years ago when this thing was being built, virtually the entire population of the area was just barely surviving at the subsistence level.  Even today, it seems like there the vast majority of people live in what in the U.S. would be considered incredibly sub-standard conditions.  Many live in shacks that look as though a strong wind would blow them over.  Another very large group live in small 1 – 3 room cinder block buildings.  Since these are invariably unpainted and rarely have any kind of a garden or decorations, just little cinder block buildings plopped down on the raw dirt, they have a very unfinished look to this gringo’s eye.

Friday, the six of us at the Francia all went on the same tour of some nearby attractions.  There were about 10 all told in a large van (what Raymundo back in La Paz would call a “Morman car”) along with the bi-lingual tour guide.  The first stop was Monte Alban.  This was an incredibly impressive archeological site that was inhabited from about 500BC – 850AD.  Look it up in Google, but the photos you will see can’t do it justice.  To create this city, they first had to level off the top of an entire mountain and this was all done by hand, without even any metal tools.  They then built the various pyramids, buildings and ball courts.  I came away from this place absolutely amazed by what they had been able to accomplish.  Unfortunately, very little is actually know about the society and culture that created this unbelievable place.  Other stops included a couple of different artisan communities, one of which create some wonderful carved wood animals (one of our bulkheads is now inhabited by a large green lizard) and the other produces a unique black, glazeless pottery style.  We also did a brief visit to another 16th/17th century church, nowhere near as big or well preserved as Santo Domingo in the center of town, but with an almost oppressive feeling of age about it.  Add in a stop for lunch midway through the day and we certainly had a busy time of it.

After a large lunch on Friday, we just had a light dinner and went out for ice-cream, but on the way back to the hotel, I decided to have a hot dog from one of the street venders.  This turned out to be a big mistake.  A VERY big mistake.  Now, I’ve eaten from a lot of different street venders and, in fact, others had eaten from this one on other occasions, so I thought nothing about it.  Unfortunately for be, by midnight, I was not feeling well and spent much of the night regretting that hot dog as I repeatedly vomited and experienced diarrhea while my body purged itself.  About dawn, the purging stopped, but feeling weak and tired, I spent almost all day in bed anyway.  Finally, in the late afternoon, I was up and roaming around and feeling normal again.

Steve, Shirley, Kathryn and I spent Sunday coming back to Huatulco, but instead of taking the huge bus, we took a more direct route in a 10-person van.  The more direct route only took 6 hours to traverse those 86 linear miles and took us through some breathtakingly scenic areas.  There was one mountain-top town we stopped at (I think we were over 8,000’ high at the time) that was especially nice.  The temperature was pleasantly cool, with clouds occasionally working their way around the ridges all around us and the buildings perched along the almost knife edged ridges.  The foliage was primarily pine trees and ferns and the tops of the ridges were clear of any trees (probably cut down for fire wood years and years ago), so the view was stupendous.  Our driver took his driving seriously, just as a race car driver does.  We only had three near accidents on the way back and eventually, we just sort of developed a fatalistic view of things and almost stopped being scared.

While at dinner Saturday night, Kathryn bit into an olive in her salad and unexpectedly hit the pit, breaking a corner off one of her molars.  She’s in no pain, but since there is a good, English speaking dentist here in Huatulco, we’ve decided to have it repaired here since where we will be stopping over in El Salvador, out next stop doesn’t have a town real close by an so we doubt if there will be a dentist available.

I just reread my journal entry from a few days ago regarding the problems I’ve been having with one of the fans.  Boy, you can sure tell that I didn’t get enough sleep the previous night and was grumpy!  Like anybody’s life, the one we are out here enjoying has days and nights that run the gamut from great to well, let’s just admit that a few of them seem less than great (though to paraphrase what they say about fishing, “the worst day cruising is better than the best day working”).

Fortunately, while in Oaxaca I found a source of those cigarette style 12V plugs.  They aren’t the best of quality, but you can’t beat the price, only $0.55 each so I bought 10 of them and now have enough on hand so that when one gives me any trouble, I can just cut it off, throw it overboard and put a new one on.  Throwing something overboard that’s been misbehaving can be a tremendously satisfying act.  Watching it hit the water, drop behind you as you sail on and then disappear from view, knowing that it will never again be seen by mortal man can bring a great sense of triumph over the inanimate object that has been giving you grief. 

The fan that was having problems has now been permanently mounted in the V-berth area which is great for sleeping, but left a distinct lack of wind in the cabin during those hot, still days.  Fortunately, I was able to buy 3 of those 12V fans used in computers ($11 each).  These are great!  Not silent, but at least as quiet as our other cabin fan, they move a lot of air, last for years under continuous use and draw almost no power.  I used some coat hanger wire to rig a bracket so that one perches on the back of the nav station and it is merrily pushing a nice breeze over my head and upper body as I type this, relieving me of much of the discomfort caused by the 94 degree heat in the cabin today.  The beauty of it is that the way I rigged the bracket, you can quickly turn it around and point it at the starboard side settee, the most comfortable seat in the boat for reclining with a book.  At some point, I’ll rig up another one so that one can point at one of us reading while another points at the other using the computer at the nav station.

While in Oaxaca (by the way, it is pronounced wah-ha’-ka and Huatulco is pronounced wah-tul’-ko) I also picked up some rechargeable AA batteries (Ni-MH) to use in the CD player on night watches.  I usually listen to either music, or audio books on those long night watches and have been using a 12V adapter that plugs into one of those darn cigarette lighter kind of plugs.  This works, but when I get up to scan the horizon I have to pause it and take the headphones off or risk accidentally unplugging it since the power cord isn’t all that long.  I’ve also been known to accidentally step on or trip over the wire, usually causing the CD player to go flying from the cockpit seat and crashing to the floor about 18” beneath it.  This does not do much to lengthen the life span of one of these CD players.  Now, I can keep the CD player with me in a little fanny pack and never again loose my place in the book I’m listening to.  I could have used regular batteries, but their availability down here and cost makes this option prohibitive. 

Oh yeah, I almost forgot.  I also replaced the 12V plug on the laptop so it now runs directly off the boat’s batteries again.

Sunday, May 1, 2005

Current Location:  Back at the inlet near Sacrificious

15 dg. 41.770 N, 96 dg. 13.526 W

Total distance traveled so far:  2805

Not a whole lot exciting has happened in the last few days, just a very laid back existence.  We filled up the water tanks and left the marina last Thursday, anchoring off a small beach just outside of the marina.  When I went in to pay the bill, I was surprised to see that we had been there for 13 nights.  I guess the old saying that time flies when you are having fun really is true.  It really didn’t seem anywhere near that long, but when I thought about it, we really had been tied to the dock for almost 2 weeks (the first time since San Diego).  We went for one quick swim, but the water off the beech was really murky, so just spent the rest of the day hanging out.

The following morning, we moved a whole mile back over into the main bay of Huatulco, back to where we had been anchored by the Port Captain’s office.  Just as we were leaving the boat in the dinghy, a fellow cruiser who was rowing an engineless inflatable dinghy in the freshening breeze flagged (a difficult task) us down.  It turned out to be Joe from Panacea, anchored about a half mile away (and upwind from where we were).  He told us that it looked like his boat was dragging its’ anchor and asked if we could give him a ride back out to it.  Kathryn then hopped into his dinghy and rowed it over to Tricia Jean while I ferried him out to Panacea using out great new 6hp outboard.  When we got there, we found that his boat was not dragging after all, it just appeared to be from a distance from the way it had swung about on it’s anchor chain when the wind changed direction. He let a little more chain out just be safe and we then returned to Tricia Jean and continued on our separate ways.

Kathryn and I first located the park headquarters in a nearby building and paid the park entrance/usage fee for 5 days (technically, we should have done this when we first arrived), then went back into town. Where I bought some wire and switches to use with the 12V computer fans I bought in Oaxaca.  We then found an internet place and checked our broadband email ( where people can send us pictures and stuff.  We found some pictures of Brian and his girlfriend, Brigid, sent to us by Christian and some photos that Emmy had sent us of their sailboat, Nataraja (they are removing the teak decking, a MAJOR job).  Afterwards, we found a nice air conditioned restaurant where we sat and enjoyed a chef’s salad and some melon juice before returning to the boat and resting up from our exertions with a nice, lazy siesta.  That evening, at 7:30, we went back into town for Kathryn’s dental appointment (she broke a tooth in Oaxaca when she bit down onto an olive pit).

The following morning (Saturday) we once again moved the boat.  This time, we went back up to that inlet near Sacrificious that we had enjoyed so much when we first got to Huatulco.  Before we could get underway though, we were suddenly surrounded by hundreds of pangas and other boats.  It would seem that there was a fishing tournament starting that morning, the starting time was 7:00am and where we were anchored, that all had to come right by our boat as they left the protected harbor.  There was also so much unintelligible Spanish chatter on the radio that we turned it off.

On the way to the inlet, there was a catamaran coming the other way that turned out to be our friends, Steve and Portia on Dream Caper.  They had left the marina 2 days before we did to enjoy some time out at the anchorages and were returning back to town for a dental appointment for Portia.  We turned the radio back on for awhile and had a nice chat with them. They will probably be leaving to cross the Tehuanepec next Wednesday (weather permitting), so will be at least a day or two ahead of us.

When we got to the inlet and dropped the anchor, we were the only ones there and were pleasantly surprised to find that the water was a lot clearer than when we left.  Clear enough that as I was standing up on the bow, I could see the anchor in the sand.  After getting the boat settled in, I jumped in to dive on the anchor and make sure that it was properly dug in and noticed a few small jellyfish, so when I got back to the boat, we both donned out lycra anti-jellyfish suits before going for a nice long dive.  I’m pleased to say that our suits protected us wonderfully (thanks Mom!) and the dive in the clear water was a great one.

Afterwards, while enjoying a recuperative siesta, Kathryn heard some chain running out somewhere and when we popped our heads up and looked around, there was Soy Libre sitting about 75 yards away from us with our good friends Andy, Mary Ann and 4 year old Andrew settling into anchor.  They had tried to hail us on the radio, but we had turned it off because of all the chatter.

Monday morning, we will return to Huatulco for Kathryn’s next appointment.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

Current Location:  Huatulco’s main harbor

15 dg. 45.100 N, 96 dg. 07.690 W

Total distance traveled so far:  2812

We had some great diving at the inlet and saw some beautiful moray eels (these were white with brown and a few yellowish markings) hiding in the coral heads.  I also found a largish octopus hiding in a honeycombed rock.  It’s hard to say just how large he was as I was unable to convince him to come out and play with me, but his suckers were between 3/8” and a half inch across.  He was a mottled reddish brown in color and I was disappointed I couldn’t get him out of his hiding hole.  While I was prodding at him, trying to get him to come out, he threw a chunk of partially eaten squid at me. I’m not sure if this was a peace offering, an attempt to give me something to eat that would (hopefully) satisfy me, or a mistake on his part, giving up his lunch like that.  We also enjoyed some of the most brilliant phosphorescence in the water for the two nights we were there.  Anytime anything disturbed the water, such as a fish jumping, or just swimming through it, the water just turned bright green.  When I went up to the bow and looked down, the anchor chain was just glowing green all the way to the bottom every time the bow of the boat would rise up on a little swell.  When you threw a cup of water overboard, it was as if you were throwing bright florescent green paint.

For some reason, our new 4-cycle 6HP Mercury outboard has started to foul its’ spark plug occasionally.  I first noticed it on a long run over to a nearby bay to check it out as a possible anchorage.  It just very slowly lost power.  So slowly that I didn’t notice it at first, but by the time I got back, it was putting out no more power than our 3hp Nissan.  When I pulled the plug, it was coal black with carbon soot, so I put a new one in and cleaned the old to keep as a spare.  Then last night, after no more than an hour or so low-medium speed usage, it was fouled again so bad that Kathryn had trouble keeping the engine going without using the choke.  I cleaned it again, made sure that the choke linkage was working OK and that the air intake was clean, then went on a 10-minute high-speed ride as a test.  I just got back and if anything, the plug is cleaner than when I put it in.  Any of you out there with small engine knowledge have any thoughts or suggestions?

Sunday, May 8, 2005

Current Location:  Maguey (one of Huatulco’s bays)

15 dg. 44.227 N, 96 dg. 08.707 W

Total distance traveled so far:  2813

After a number of delays (broken drill, crown not back from the lab, etc.), the dentist finally finished with Kathryn’s broken tooth Friday evening.  This dentist apparently works quite late since the appointment wasn’t until 8:30pm.  We also have a weather window opening up on Monday for crossing the Tehuantepec, so we decided to get out of town for a couple of days and relocated to this quiet little bay just west of the main bay.  Four horses come down to the water from somewhere every morning and play in the surf for a few minutes then just sort of stand around for awhile before disappearing back into the woods.  There is a beautiful cream colored sand beach that the waves gently wash up and we are anchored no more than about 75 yards off of it.  We are the only boat in the bay and it’s wonderfully peaceful.  I spent part of the morning just sitting up on the bow watching and listening to the surf and the birds and just thinking.

One of the things I found myself thinking about was what it is going to be like going back to the “real world.”  Where will we live?  Will my company be able to hire me back?  If not, how hard will it be to find work?  That kind of thing.  I know that this is still quite a ways in the future, but someday I am going to have to face these issues.  For now, they are all a big unknown.  I know that they will all work themselves out when the time comes, but it is still a big question mark hanging out there.  For all I know, we may not even wind up back in the bay area.  Living on the boat may be a financial necessity at first and it is virtually impossible to find anywhere that you can do that anywhere in the bay area.  We are on the (years long) waiting list for live-aboard permission back at Bodega, and hopefully, we will have come up to the head of the list by the time we get back, but who knows?  I guess there’s plenty of time to worry about that stuff later. 

We will be moving back to the main harbor later today, doing the paperwork check-out of Mexico tomorrow morning, running a few errands and then heading out to cross the Gulf of Tehuantepec, probably leaving about 5:00pm which puts us right at the beginning of the worst of it the following dawn.  We will  bypassing Guatamala and expect to make our next landfall in Bahia del Sol, El Salvador for a total distance of about 500 miles.  This will be our longest non-stop run to date.  If all goes well, we will be motoring for all of the first two days or so to get through the Tehuantepec.  As I’ve said before, this can be an area of fierce winds which generate some very large waves.  Boats that get caught in one of these frequent storms (called Tehuantepeckers) sometimes get blown hundreds of miles offshore.  Hardly the end of the world, but it would be a long, rough and uncomfortable ride.  Like most people, we will be keeping 4-5 miles offshore.  If the winds do start up (which can happen quite suddenly), we are told that we will have about an hour before the waves build up.  This will give us just enough time to get real close to shore, perhaps as close as ¼ mile where the waves haven’t had a chance to form.  Staying this close in will require constant vigilance with the radar and depth sounder as we will be traversing a narrow path with the beach on one side and big waves on the other, but it is doable.  The forecast is for very light winds so that dodging inshore won’t be necessary, and that we will be able to motor along on autopilot all the way across at a comfortable 5 miles offshore, and the forecasts have been right for the last several windows, so we really expect this to be a lot of todo about nothing.  However, it’s better to be ready with a plan and not need it than to need a way out and not have one ready at hand.

Monday, May 9, 2005

Current Location:  Underway

15 dg. 45.683 N, 96 dg. 03.038 W

Total distance traveled so far:  2816

Just a quick note to let everyone know that as of 3:00pm, we are FINALLY underway again and enjoying a nice sailing breeze as we broad reach our way to El Salvador.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Current Location:  Underway

15 dg. 14.708 N, 93 dg. 07.330 W

Total distance traveled so far:  3005

Hello from the far side of the Tehuantepec.  Actually, we are still in the gulf, but have gone past where we need to be concerned about the gale force and above winds that can sometimes blow through this area.

There is a 90 mile gap in the mountains that run down the length of Mexico that the winds from the Caribbean can just blast through when there is a high pressure in the Caribbean and a low pressure system in the Tehuantepec.  There are two strategies used for crossing the gulf. One is to go straight across the gulf, exposing yourself to the potentially huge waves that this area can generate when the 40-50 knot winds kick in.  These waves are so large that boats find it impossible to make any progress and have to turn down wind and in the direction of the waves and run for it.  It is not unheard of that boats wind up getting blown 100-200 miles out to sea when this happens.  The other option is to follow the coast around.  This is about 30 miles longer, but when the winds kick in, it allows you to move up to within a quarter mile of the coast where there is not only something of a wind shadow, but where the waves have not yet had a chance to form.  Also, since the winds are blowing off the land and straight out to sea, you also have the option of just dropping the anchor and waiting it out.

Three boats chose to go straight across, Reflection, Panacea (both single-handers) and Mita Kuluu.  This option is attractive to single-handers since it is dangerous for them to sleep when they are too close to the shore.  The rest of us all followed the coast (called the “one foot on the beach” method around here).

We were the first of about 10 boats to leave Huatulco when we got underway about 3 in the afternoon and had a very nice sail until the sun went down when the wind failed altogether.  We then started motoring slowly, timing it so that we would arrive at the beginning of the gap in the mountains right at dawn.  This way, if the winds did kick in, we would be dealing with the worst of them in daylight.  All through the night, there was a group of 4 other boats (Ocean Rider, Wind Song, R Dreams and Passage) sitting in a tight little group about 2 miles behind us.  Somewhere behind them, Soy Libre and Wanderer were bringing up the rear.  Watching this on the radar all night, I couldn’t decide whether I felt like an outlaw trying to get out of Dodge ahead of the posse or a mother duck leading a bunch of little ducklings.  All night long, the VHF radio was alive with the chatter going back and forth between these boats as we chugged through the night.  I suspect that most people are like us and don’t sleep very well on the first night of a passage, so we were all using the radio a lot.

About dawn, a strong (but not gale force) wind started up blowing right from the direction we wanted to go, bringing with it some pretty good chop so that for a few hours, we were all pounding our way into it.  Then about 9am, the wind backed a little to the left about the same time that our course shifted a bit to the right and we suddenly found ourselves with a wonderful sailing breeze that, as the day wore on, continued to slowly back making the sailing better and better.

Around mid-day, we went through an area where the pangeros were actively fishing.  They had long lines out that were hundreds of yards long.  At each end of these lines, there would usually be some kind of a flag sticking out of the water, though sometimes, it was just a stick sticking up out of the water (I guess those flags had been worn out and torn off at some point).  Then periodically, along the line between the endpoints, there would be floats of some kind.  Sometimes these were small Styrofoam blocks, sometimes they were just Clorox bottles.  At this point, the wind had dropped to the point that we were all motor sailing (both the sails up plus running the engine) since this whole area was somewhere we didn’t want to dawdle in.  We needed to get through it and past that gap in the mountains as fast as we could.  The last thing we wanted to do was to get one of these long lines tangled in the prop, so we were all up on the deck straining our eyes for these things and the radio was once again alive with people calling out that “there’s a black flag about 200 yards to port of me” or some such.

Sometime after we got past all of that, the wind picked up enough that we were able to shut the engine down and just enjoy sailing along until the early evening.  Fishing was good if all you are counting are numbers.  I caught 11 fish that afternoon.  Unfortunately, they were all skip-jacks which I consider unfit for human consumption except in an emergency.  Another boat that went through in the previous weather window reported that they had caught 19 skip-jacks in a row, so I guess I have nothing to complain about.

About 6:30pm, the boats were strung out over many miles and we were sailing with about 8 kts of wind when in the span of no more than 5 minutes, the wind made several shifts of 90 degrees or better and tripled in strength until it was blowing a constant 25 kts with gusts somewhere above 30.  Once again, the radio comes alive with boats reporting what was happening to them.   Where we were, the wind finally settled down so that it was coming at us from the east (right where we wanted to go, of course).  Wind Song reported that they had a north wind.  Other boats reported different directions, but all had about the same wind speeds.  When we checked the radar, we could see that a local rain squall had developed about 11 miles ahead of us and this was causing the havoc.  We dodged out of the way, but long before it got to us, it had disappeared just as rapidly as it had appeared.

After the squall had dissipated, it seemed to have sucked all of the energy out of the wind and we were back to motoring, which we spent all night and much of the following morning doing.  Enough of a breeze picked up a couple of times that I set the sails and killed the engine, but within a few minutes, each time I had to turn the engine back on.

Today has been a mixture of complete calms and some nice sailing weather.  The only down side to today is that the mosquitoes have found us, a few bees have also made it out to us (7 miles offshore) and a booby decided to rest awhile on one of our spreaders and poop all over our deck.

Oh yeah, before I go, I almost forgot to mention that the other day, as we were motoring back from Maguey to the Huatulco main port, a massive manta ray (12’ – 15’ from wingtip to wingtip) leapt from the water no more than 30 yards from the boat.  It was just incredible.