Saturday, December 5, 2015

Final note


The deed is done. We have parted from Gosling. We left early this morning for our trip inland and our winter of RV-ing with our trailer, Rosita Casita (Fran’s idea).

In the last few days since Virgil arrived we have been briefing him on all that is Gosling, both good and bad. It has been an 8-year partnership between us and her and we consider that we are intimate with her qualities and her quirks, but how do you impart such knowledge to someone in a matter of hours and hope that you haven’t missed anything important? Then I think back to when I first stepped aboard in January 2008. Fran had sent me ahead, from Puerto Vallarta, where we were vacationing with friends, to ‘bond’, she said. For the first few weeks before Fran arrived, I lifted deck-boards, rummaged near-inaccessible spaces, traced plumbing and wiring and examined, trialed and prodded everything I could. When Fran arrived she did her exploration. Where we were stumped or needed assistance there was no shortage of expertise from the professionals in and around Shelter Island in San Diego. All of this was done with very little input from the former owner, who lived in Oklahoma, and a healthy dip in our bank account. Trial and error were the rule. Lucky for us, not too many errors, but after those 8 short weeks we considered ourselves ready and we sailed south to Mexico without many problems, especially after we finally got around to the “renaming ceremony” in Turtle Bay.

Guaymas is a world away from the boating centres of California and, although there are a few really good techs, it is a far cry from San Diego where, literally, anything can be accomplished, for a price… At least Virgil got the benefit of our in-depth knowledge of Gosling. How much he was able to swallow and digest remains to be seen but, at least, he will have a direct contact, by e-mail, should any mysteries come up.
Virgil's boat now. Scottish flag aloft.
 
It was hard to say goodbye but goodbye it was as we drove out of Marina Seca Guaymas that morning on to new adventures. This time, we will be relying on the Mexican road system and the few unknown (except what is written in our ‘new’ 2009 edition of a Mexican RV site guide). No longer will we have to watch out for adverse winds, currents, anchors, sometimes stubborn engine, that shore break when landing with the dinghy, birds landing on the mast instruments, ships in the night, toe stubbing and shin skinning, rocks and reefs, tsunamis (we endured 2 of those), microbursts, lightning and the other myriad collection of things that make life as a cruiser so interesting and attractive. Yes, we will miss the sunsets, sun-downers, (henceforth, ‘happy hour’), secluded anchorages, trolling for the big ones, whales, dolphins, all those places only accessible by sea, our cruising friends (in that element), etc, etc. Now we will be cursed by road tolls, gas fill-ups every 3-4 hours of driving and RV park fees every night.

Thanks to all of you faithful followers who I have bored to tears with my ramblings but, obviously, kept you motivated to come back for more.

Fran and others have asked me to start another blog about our land travels. We have decided to call it Travels in Rosita Casita. OK, Fran decided on that name. The trailer is a Casita (brand name) and Rosie is with us…..

Fair winds and a following sea, Gosling……

It should appear soon at http://rositacasita.blogspot.com

Postscript:

The day before we left we attended Ariana’s wedding. If you recall from previous entries Ariana was the former office manager of the Fonatur yard, a lady we had known and loved since our first arrival here in 2008. She had been let go from her position in a political ‘re-adjustment’ just before we departed, the previous year (mentioned in an entry a few back). It was a beautiful ceremony in an old church in Guaymas, followed by a reception in the courtyard of her former place of work. We arrived at Fonatur to find a 40-50 kt wind blowing with chairs and tables and decorations being blown hither and yon all over the courtyard with several items broken or threatening to fall off the dock into the harbour. For the next few hours it was mayhem as we re-organised tables, chairs and all the other bits into the more sheltered areas of the yard. A few hours later, after the wind died down, we re-organised everything back to the original plan and the reception went off as planned. All of this didn’t phase the newlyweds or any of the guests. We guessed that this was to be expected and certainly not a negative omen. As the small contingent of gringos, it was a very pleasant experience to be treated as members of an extended Mexican family by all the attendees.
One happy couple
 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Gosling's Final Chapters


15:00, 24 October 2015, passing thru Grant's Pass, on our away to Mexico

Well it had to come someday. This will be my last few blog entries for Flights of the Gosling.

We have finally found a buyer who wanted her bad enough to give us a decent amount so we are on our way, trailer in tow, back to Gosling to remove our stuff and turn her over to the new owner.

A month ago we had our winter cruising plan formulated, spares bought and packed and a few friends arranged to meet us along the way to Zihuatanejo where we are going to attend Kirk and Charlene's (Freedom Kirkland) wedding. Then the unexpected happened, we got an offer on Gosling and since then we have been on an emotional roller coaster with the sale being on, off and complicated by silly misunderstandings, that, thankfully, have now been resolved.

It all began a few weeks ago when Fran and I received a phone call for our broker, Marisa, while we were driving between relatives in Ontario. Marisa announced that she had someone very interested in Gosling, an American, raised in Scotland, who has been working in the US for some time and looking for a "cheap”, quality, solid boat to bring back to Scotland. Over the next few hours his lowball offer was rejected and our counter-offer was tabled. We left it at that as the potential buyer wanted to do extensive self-survey. We have to commend Marisa as she stayed with him the entire time in a hot dusty boatyard while he did his thing. In the end his only concern was that the rigging was more than 10 years old so he had to get estimates on replacing it. Apparently his insurance company insisted on this point, even though the existing rigging is fine. Our attitude was: Too bad, so sad, get another insurance agent....

So, a few days of pins and needles passed waiting for another offer. Finally, after further negotiation we arrived at a compromise price that we were happy with. The next step was to be a sizeable deposit and paperwork to be signed by a specific date. At that point we were in “sold mood”, re-jigging plans, advising our cruising buddies of our altered plans and making a list of all the stuff we had to do to complete the transfer of ownership and how we were going to bring back what we weren't going to include in the transaction, dinghy, anchor, spares, tools. The list is long!

The promised day came and passed with no communication from Marisa. A few days later she called saying that she hadn't heard from him but was still hopeful as he was travelling and hard to get hold of. She also mentioned that he had intended on going to La Paz to look at boats but was confident that she had talked him out of it insisting that Gosling was the best boat he would ever find at that price and condition. Good on ya, Marisa! By then we were now back in “cruising the winter” mode.

Well, the worry-warts that we are we contacted our friends Erin and Damon (Nomad) at marina Palmira, La Paz, asking them to keep an ear out for someone called Virgil purchasing a boat in La Paz. Almost immediately we got a response saying that, indeed, a 'Virgil' had bought a boat called Raven Wind.

Well, needless to say, we were ticked off but, hey, sailing another season in Mexico would not be a bad thing. We called Marisa with our findings and she immediately called Virgil asking “what gives?” Virgil was dumbfounded and insisted that he was not 'that' Virgil and that he had full intentions of buying Gosling and that she was the best boat he had seen in his searches. (Back in sold mode). A date was reset for the funding and paperwork and it just so happened to be the day we had planned to leave for Mexico. Needless to say, we were apprehensive of leaving without that warm fuzzy 'sold' feeling. It took an act of faith to leave the cruising extras in the garage at home and add on some RV-ing extras. We were a few miles into Washington state when we got the confirmation that the deposit was in the bank. We breathed a sigh of relief and re-adjusted to the reality of an RV winter adventure along the coast of Mexico watching our cruising friends pass by offshore. It will be an emotional next few weeks!
 

Friday, 6 Nov, Marina San Carlos

Well, the deal is done and sealed. We are no longer the owners of Gosling but we are camped beside her in the yard and have been slaving over her for the past few days. Already we have seen friends leave on their boats after getting them ready for another season. Rolande and Angus (Saren Sea) splashed yesterday and are now across the bay at the Fonatur Marina waiting out some weather before beginning their winter odyssey. Jennifer and John (Spinnaker) are feverishly working on their boat so they can do the same. This is the time of year when most boat owners arrive to get their boats ready so there is a lot of activity around us.
 
 
No comment necessary

 
Done deal!
 
We have been busy clearing out our stuff from Gosling.  Fran had it spot on then other day when she said that everything she touched brought back memories of happy times cruising. We had not realized how much we had onboard until we began taking loads off and trying to find places to store it until we are ready to return to Canada in April. Luckily we have friends with room in their storage lockers to help us out. The trip home will be anything but comfortable with the cases and bags of stuff filling both truck and trailer.

It has been very hot during the daytime but mercifully cool at night so we are sleeping well. It is very dry, dusty and those little thorny seed pods, the goat heads, are ripe and get into everything afoot. They can be very painful when stepped on, a regular occurrence, since they are very hard to see on the ground.

 Fran had a mini-sale here on Wednesday and it was quite successful. We sold both dinghies, the Engel freezer, we had obtained in Panama, and dozens of other items we no longer need. Tomorrow is the big marine swap meet in San Carlos. We should be able to really reduce our inventory there. This will be a momentous event for me. I normally buy more than I sell but I don't need anything.... Well, we will have to wait and see though. There must be something.......

The new owner has been delayed so we have full reign of Gosling until he arrives. That will give us lots of time to get our stuff cleared out, make her presentable and partially rigged. The summers here play havoc on boats. The heat, wind, dust and rain all play their roles in making a mess to the nice clean decks and surfaces we left behind in April. Thankfully we have lots of water for wash-downs, power for the vacuum and rags to spiffy her up.

20:00, Sunday, 8 Nov. Same, same....

It was a very good swap meet. We sold lots of stuff and took advantage of Linda and Bill's offer of space in their storage locker, which, just so happened to be just a few paces from where we laid out our stuff. It sure made a big difference back at the trailer/boat. The space between the two had begun to look like an Arab souk (bazaar) with all the stuff lying about. We are in the final stages of organizing ourselves for this RV holiday and the truck can just take so much. With Fran's kayak, the BBQ, our snorkeling gear, Fran's sewing project stuff and the various bins of food, drink and dog food, we will be filled to capacity.
 
 
Capitalizing on our junk

We are really pleased to have contributed to the possible and pending sale of Prairie Seashell. After Don passed away Lynn had to get the boat ready for sale last year. We were here and gave her a hand with the painful process of saying good-by, not only to the boat, but the boat that Don had built in their Calgary back yard. It was assigned to a local broker but there had been no activity at all, however, this past week we recommended her to 2 different couples and it looks like one of them (from Toronto) is getting very serious. We hope it goes through and relieves the heavy burden that Lynn has had to endure for the past year.

Good news, Virgil, Gosling's new owner, or should we say, the owner of Halcyon Daze, (yup name change coming up), will be here mid-week and we should have just enough time to do a decent turnover before we head off. We have Ariana's (the Fonatur Ariana) wedding to go to on Saturday and we are away early Sunday. She will be ready. We have already warned Virgil that the old girl does not like name changes so we have advised him to look up the proper ceremony, otherwise the unpredicted can and will happen. (Is that like a notwithstanding clause?)

 

20:00,10 Nov 2015, same place

We sold Prairie Seashell! Woohoo! The couple who saw her fell in love and made the deal the same night. Since then I had a chance to show Ian and Ellen's boat, Kasasa. The couple that saw her is undecided, at present, but will decide in a week or so. Wouldn't it be a coup if it sold too? Maybe I have a new vocation.... Not!

Today we had a look at our next choice of boat, an Ericson 38-200. We first saw the model in Panama, owned by Harley and April, now somewhere in the South Pacific. The one we saw today was a nice boat in its time but now in need of TLC and lots of funds to bring her back to her former glory. We are not seriously looking and the owner would have to reduce his price considerably to make us interested.

On Sunday we took a road trip to Empalme for shrimp and brought back two kilos of 'cowboys', the biggest ones. We repackaged them so that we will be able to enjoy them throughout this winter season, well, another 4 times, anyways.

Today Fran taught her second class on making Ocean Plaits out of old halyards or sheets (ropes). Look out CFSA, she'll be doing it again when we get home.

Our buyer, Virgil arrived in town this afternoon. We should be seeing him tomorrow and doing our turnover over the next few days.

It will be much more of an emotional event for Lonnie, the owner of Pandora lll, a former grand dame of the sea that had been laid up in the yard here for the past several years as Lonnie tried to bring her back to her former glory. After years of combatting dry rot and the ravages of the weather here he finally capitulated and had her crushed today. All that is left tonight is a pile of rotted timbers next to those of the Arctic Ark that suffered the same fate last year.
Pandora III - lost cause

Sad fate of wooden boats

Arctic Ark's last stand

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

2015 Finale - back to reality


16:00, Friday, 27 March 2015, Under sail, Sea of Cortez

Finally, under sail again, with the main, mizzen and genoa on a beam reach with about 12 kts of true wind speed, heading across the Sea at 6 kts, the best sailing we have done since we left Guaymas, 3 months ago. This has been a rare event this season but our sailing area and destinations this year have not been conducive to good sailing. In the winter, on the Sea of Cortez, the wind generally blows from the north, occasionally from the south or not at all. Most of our destinations took us directly into the wind this year. By the time we get to Guaymas we will have done over 1000 miles this season and about 190 hours under power. We don’t actually count the hours under sail but it would be a small percentage compared to the hours under the “iron spinnaker”.

This part of the Sea has been a disappointment and not at all what we expected. Surely the time of year is not ideal but since we left Santa Rosalia we have not been impressed. We quickly realised that there are not that many anchorages up here that are protected from the predominant northerlies. In fact, yesterday after our quick visit to the village of Bahia Los Angeles we opted to return to our “bay of wasps” when the wind picked up to 16-18 kts in the anchorage off the village.

Our visit there was also disappointing. We had hoped to get a good internet connection but there was none in the village. This town was not spared by hurricane Odiel when it swept up the Baja last fall. There was no Telcel service so the previous blog will have to wait till Guaymas. We visited the small but well-appointed museum, bought a few eggs, had lunch and managed to check our e-mails at a restaurant with a very slow internet before heading back to Gosling. The wind had come up while we were ashore and with it the waves so remaining there for the night was not an option.

Anchored not far away was a 26 ft McGregor, Schera-Lynn with Mike and, his crew, Jay. We learned that they were on their way from San Francisco to Costa Rica, yes, in a 26 ft boat designed for lakes and inshore sailing!! Coming down the Pacific side of the Baja they encountered rough sea conditions so they managed to find a truck and trailer and had the boat transported across the Baja and had just finished re-rigging her when we met them. We encouraged them to follow us back to Puerto Don Juan and had a nice evening giving them advice for their trip south. You have to love a guy who names his boat after his mother. This morning predictions were for a good northerly breeze, ideal for our crossing and good for Mike and Jay on their way south, retracing our track down the Baja coast.

So, we are now crossing to the mainland side and expect to be in Guaymas in a few days, much earlier than expected. Tonight we are aiming for a small bay on the South end of Isla Tiburon.

0830: Sunday, 29 March 2015, Anchored at Pozo Moreno

We arrived here after an 11 hour motor sail from our last stop at Bahia de los Cruces on the southern tip of Isla Tiburon. Nothing much to report on our sail across except that we arrived just before sunset and departed the next morning just before 7AM. The wind was from the NNW at 8-10 kts all day so we put up the big spinnaker, just so we could say that we deployed it this year. We flew it most of the day and recovered it later in the afternoon when the wind lightened up.

At about the same time we had a strike on our trolled fishing line, the first in over a month, and lo and behold, it was an edible fish, a sierra mackerel, a very highly prized sports fish. Within minutes of putting the line out again, another hit and another sierra, larger this time. That was enough for today. Fran noticed that the sea temperature had risen to above 70F. We had been told that the sports fish in the Sea of Cortez do not like anything below 70F and this seems to emphasize that point.
Sierra mackerel
 

Today we have a southerly wind, as predicted a few days ago. Naturally, we are headed south so it will be a bumpy ride but we are only going 14 miles to Bahia San Pedro. Fran wants to use the kayak again before we put it away. The following day we should be arriving in Guaymas.

07:00, Tuesday, 31 March 2015. Alongside Marina Fonatur, Guaymas

Another sailing season completed, our 8th and probably our shortest at just under 3 months. We are back where we started on the 7th of January with a list of tasks ahead of us to get Gosling ready for another summer lay-up.

The last few days were more of the same. We left Poso Moreno in fairly light winds but were soon pounding it moderate to strong southerlies, again, right on the nose, so it was another motorboat ride down the coast to Bahia San Pedro. Although it was just 14 miles it took us almost 4 hours to get there under those conditions. We arrived just as the wind began to lighten and anchored in another beautiful sheltered bay shared with 4 other boats. We met Alan and, our boat broker, Marisa on Chicane and John and Jennifer on Spinnaker, a Canadian boat from Vancouver.

We left the following morning for the final 30 mile leg to Guaymas. It was another day of headwinds but much milder than the previous day and we arrived in Guaymas by mid-afternoon. Our assigned berth was on the shallow side of the marina so we opted to wait, at anchor, for another few hours of flood tide before attempting our approach. By 6PM we were alongside with the help of Mike and Judy, (Pura Vida) who had arrived a few days earlier.

Other than their slips, Fonatur is not much of a business anymore. Notwithstanding a significant reduction in storage rates, there are only a few boats in the yard and the prospect for more is dim. The main reason are new rules about working on your boat and living aboard while on the hard and the lack of essential services. The continued lack of funding and support by the home office in Mexico City has contributed to this state. Most of the original staff has been replaced and the day after we arrived Ariana, the office manager for the past 7 years was fired and replaced by a non-English speaking lady. Needless to say, the language barrier will make dealing with this marina much more difficult in the future.
Empty yard at Fonatur

2030, Monday, 13 April 2015, Camping at Moab, Utah

The last entry seems so long ago, and it is! Laying a boat up for a long period is a busy and tiring time but as you can see from our location above that we survived the ordeal and are on our way home in our truck and Casita trailer via the natural wonders of Utah, Colorado and, hopefully, Yellowstone Park in a few more days.

 The day after we arrived at Fonatur we began the laying up process. Sails had to be taken down, washed, dried, folded and stowed below. Similarly with the running rigging. All lines were removed and replaced by messenger lines, thoroughly washed, dried and stowed. Every through-hull that had carried salt water was rinsed out with Salt-Away, including the engine and outboards. The water-maker was pickled, water tanks emptied and wiped with bleach, fuel tanks filled, all bright-work cleaned, polished and waxed, dinghy scrubbed, covered and lashed to the deck, the cockpit windows and any loose items removed and stowed below, the list goes on and on and on…… It took us the better part of the 5 days we had before our haul-out date at Marina Seca Guaymas. On the Tuesday after Easter we motored to the haul-out basin and hauled up on the travel lift and deposited in the yard, close to where we were 7 years ago.
 
Washing sails
 
More sails
 
Then all the running rigging

In the 2 days on the hard that followed we completed the lay-up ordeal; transferred foodstuffs, clothing and anything that we were taking back home with us to the truck and trailer, washed Gosling down, wiped down the interior, set up the boat cover, washed the bottom and scraped off any growth that had accumulated (there was surprisingly little. The paint I had obtained in Panama was still performing well), covered all blocks, lights, and other machinery to protect them from dust and sand, etc, etc, etc. The last item (and one of the first on our return) is always setting off an insect spray bomb to eliminate any critters that may have gotten used to our company in the last few months.
 
Last get-together at the Dug-Out with the Fonatur dock group
 

We left early on the Thursday morning content that all was ready. We had John and Jennifer (Spinnaker) and their cat Diesel as passengers until Phoenix.

21:30, 21 April 2015, Lonesome Creek Ranch, Kelowna, BC

Post Script: We are settled in to our cozy apartment with Jacquie and Von at Jacquie’s small horse ranch in the hills above Kelowna for the next few weeks. We are finally re-united with Rosie. She was glad to see us and made a fuss when we arrived. Good dog!!!!

It was a long and tiring drive from Guaymas but we saw some spectacular country from Arizona to Montana, including Monument Valley, The Canyonlands, The Arches and Dinosaur National Parks and Lava Hot Springs. Our plan to go through the Grand Teton and Yellowstone parks was thwarted by a cold snap as we passed through Vernal, Idaho. The temperature dropped 20 degrees (F) with snow and 30 MPH winds for 2 days. The higher roads were impassable so we stayed put for a day and took a surer route north through Salt Lake City. By the time we arrived back at the Canadian border the cold weather was well behind us and, since then, we have been enjoying a rare and early warm and clear spring. Our first stop was in Cranbrook, BC for a quick overnight visit with our old cruising buddies Steve and Linda (Warren Peace) who we had last seen in Panama last year.
 
Monument valley
Cowgirl Fran
 
Snow!!!
The trip wasn’t without its mishaps. Towing a trailer brings a whole set of variables that didn’t exist when we travelled back and forth with the van, years ago. We had 2 blowouts on the trailer and just after the summit of one of the passes in southern BC we lost the pin holding the hitch to the trailer. Luckily the safety chains and emergency trailer brakes functioned as they are supposed to. Albeit shaken up a bit we were able to reconnect and carry on within about 20 minutes. That extra pin I carry came in handy. We will continue on to the coast in a few weeks.

Thanks for looking in on us this season. All the best from Gosling and her crew.

Friday, April 3, 2015

More northerly in the Sea of cortez


0730, 5 March 2015, Anchored at Puerto Los Gatos, BCS

We are, once again, anchored in this lovely little bay, the third and last time this season. We are finally on our way to the northern part of the Sea of Cortez, and, as usual, the weather is holding us at bay. We departed La Paz 5 days ago and made good progress with favourable winds until yesterday when the northerlies filled in once more.

We are in company with Pura Vida, Mike and Judy, our friends from Guaymas who had been delayed so long at the Fonatur dock there with technical problems. They arrived in La Paz shortly after we returned from our excursion inland and decided to match their schedule to ours for the next few weeks.

It was another busy week before we finally slipped our lines and left the dock at Marina Palmira. The main task was finishing the job that Javier had begun. His refinishing work for the teak trim was quite well done and the application of a few more coats of varnish has made it look even better. After remounting all the windshield hardware all that was left to do was the teak-to-gelcoat filler, a very messy job but a necessary one. It took a while to remove Javier’s failed attempt and develop an effective technique but, once the job was done, there was a collective sigh of relief onboard and we were able to concentrate on our final preps for departure. The other outstanding task was to get the SSB functioning and that was accomplished by Victor, the ICOM technician, in La Paz, that SaM and David, on Islena, had recommended. He found a problem in the tuner and I laid out a new copper ribbon to the hull-mounted ground plate. That combination has improved our ability to communicate close to the capability we had a few years ago but we still have a high level of static for some reason.

It was difficult to bid farewell to the many old and new friends in La Paz but we had to move on if we wanted to get to the northern part of the Sea before returning to Guaymas. The weather predictions were ideal for the following few days and, with Fran is now wanting to haul out in early April, time is of essence.

For the first few days we retraced our path up the coast, stopping in at several anchorages we had already seen this season and trying to get as far north as we could while the favourable winds were with us. Day 3 saw us leaving Isla San Francisco towards the anchorage at Salinas hoping that the predicted 15-20 kt northerlies would be delayed. As we passed by San Evaristo the wind was still from the south but the sky was a heavy overcast with a threat of rain. We decided to take advantage of the southerlies and continued on to Los Gatos, where we are now. The rain did develop and was, by far, the most intense we have experienced in many years of travelling this coast at this time of year. It was a regular downpour for the better part of 3 hours and we used the rain-catcher to collect as much as we could.

We arrived at Los Gatos, to an empty bay and tucked ourselves as deep as we could to get as much protection from the northerlies that were surely coming and, sure enough, they arrived the following day blowing 18-25 kts from the NW. We were fairly comfortable but the wrap-around effect at the headland meant an uncomfortable night. Surprisingly the wind died in the early hours of the morning, completely defying the SSB weather predictions. We stayed an extra day enjoying this lovely bay and hoping that Manuel, our fisherman friend, would make an appearance but we were told by a couple of land cruisers that his wife is ill and he has taken her to medical facilities inland. We had some gifts for him that will now have to wait till our next visit, whenever that will be.

07:30, Sunday, 8 March 2015, Anchored at Agua Verde

The weather predictions are still calling for strong northerlies but we have been experiencing very calm conditions over the past few days. Agua Verde in getting more crowded as the season progresses. We arrived to a group of 5 boats and have seen the arrival and departure of several boats over the past few days. Today will be our turn as we continue to head north, this time to Puerto Escondido.

We have finally heard from Saren Sea. They arrived in La Paz a few days ago from the mainland and we expect them to join us in the next week or so. We have not sailed with Angus and Rolande since 2010 when they still had Pericles. Since then they sailed Pericles across the Pacific, sold her in Australia and, last summer, they bought Murray Grey from Jim and Bonnie, (who are now concentrating on raising their herd of Murray Grey cattle) and renamed her Saren Sea. (note: The following week we heard tat Saren Sea crossed over to Guaymas to take advantage of favourable wind conditions. We will have to see them back home this summer)

Yesterday we took advantage of the calm weather and went fishing near the big rock, Solitario, with Mike and Judy. We brought back a load of triggerfish, a cabrillo and a sculpin, but, as I was ashore cleaning the lot a local fisherman arrived and sold Fran a huge Cabrillo. I guess we are having fish for supper….. And it was superb!!!

17:30, Wednesday, 11 March 2015. Anchored in the southern area of Isla Coronado

The following morning we noticed that the shrimper we had seen on previous visits was, again, anchored in the bay. An elderly local man was paddling his panga out that way from the beach so I offered him a tow. It just so happened that he was the brother of the shrimper captain. We got 2 kg of big shrimp for our Good Samaritan work…..
Our trip up to Puerto Escondido was uneventful. It was another motor sailing cruise for the two vessels in very little wind and calm waters. We had not been to this spot in 4 years and little had changed except that the mooring buoys have just recently been re-established and the restaurant opened the night before we arrived. We had forgotten how beautiful and serene this harbour can be. We experienced absolutely calm conditions the entire time we were there. It was great to finally be able to reconnect by internet, have big water showers, do laundry, fuel and water up over the 2 days we were there.

One of our aims on this trip is to see as much wildlife as possible and, even though we have been quite fortunate with many species, we had not seen any whales. The day we left the morning radio net announced that there were whales just outside the harbour and shortly after we left we saw some telltale spouts in the channel. We got as close as we could and witnessed a sight we had never seen before; one family pod and several single blue whales! Conditions could not have been better. There was no wind and the sea was absolutely calm and they were visible for miles. We saw several others on our way to Loreto where we hoped to re-provision but by the time we arrived to anchor off the entrance to the harbour the wind had come up to 15-18 kts.  We quickly abandoned that idea and motored up to the southern side of Isla Coronado where we anchored in a relatively calm waters sheltered from the northerly wind that continued until after sunset.
 Big blue.
 
Going deep!

This morning we set out early to return to Loreto. Even though the wind came up we were not to be deterred from our shopping this time. We spent a few hours in town and had lunch at a small restaurant close to the harbour called the Giggling Dolphin. It is owned (or was) by a diver from San Diego who had set up a dive touring business in Loreto. I was blown away by one of the diving/nautical paraphernalia that was strewn about the place. Just beside our table was a hatch cover that looked familiar. Indeed it was a hatch cover from a Canadian DDE, specifically, the hatch to 12 mess on HMCS Yukon, on which I served in the early 80’s. HMCS Yukon is now resting on the bottom near San Diego, having been sunk as an artificial reef some years ago. Small world!  How the hatch ended up here will remain a mystery for now.
 

Couldn't block out the "The" unfortunately.
Naval vessels do not have the "The" prefix.

Our return to our anchored boats was difficult and retrieving the outboards was an even greater challenge in the 3-4 ft seas that had built up while we were in town but we did manage and headed back to the south side of Isla Coronado for another night. We are confident that the weather will change for the better tomorrow and we will be able to reach Caleta San Juanico before the next wind event arrives.

One feature that cannot be underestimated is how this part of the rugged coastline of the Baja has been transformed by the unseasonal wet weather. Everything is so much greener than we have ever seen it.

21:00, Friday, 13 march 2014, Anchored at Caleta San Juanico

We made an early departure from Isla Coronado into calm seas and no wind for the 19 mile run. 4 hours later we were anchored, once again, in this lovely bay along with several other boats, some we had met before. Our main aim here was to create a more lasting memento, at the cruisers’ shrine, of our visits over the past years. We had thought this one over and had noticed that the modern ‘petroglyphs’ of names carved into the local sandstone seem to have lasted best. I found the proper tools in the toolbox, a hammer, an old file (used as a chisel), black paint and a suitable candidate stone and within a few hours the task was done. Gosling’s stone will remain from some time to come.

Tomorrow, on to Conception Bay. Wind predictions are favourable but the ‘predictors’ are often wrong.

15:00, Thursday, 16 March 2015, Anchored at Santispac, Bahia Conception

We arrived here last Saturday after an 11 hour run up from San Juanico, once again, battling 12-18 kt headwinds all the way. As we approached Punta Conception the water was red with plankton bloom and directly ahead of us a huge blue whale sounded. We were too late, again, with the camera to catch it on video but it was a sight to remember. As we entered the bay we heard a rattling noise from the front of the engine. Everything was working fine so we deduced it was a noisy bearing on the alternator. It was replaced the following day with one of the 2 rebuilt spares. At the same time we also replaced all of the belts on the engine – preventative maintenance….

This is our second stop here at Santispac. We are just off a beach full of RVs and within ear shot of the main highway that runs the length of the Baja. It can be noisy at times with the big trucks using their engine brakes as they coast down the hill but once we settle down for the night (and I remove my hearing aids) I hear nothing. It has been hot and breezy during the day but absolutely still at night with cool temperatures making it easy to sleep.

We stayed here 2 days the first time, long enough to replace the alternator and partake in the pig BBQ on Sunday night at Armando’s restaurant. We also learned that Wednesday night is the BBQ rib fest at Anna’s, the other beach restaurant. Yes, it seems we are motivated by pork feeds…..

Bahia Conception has many anchorages for cruising boats to enjoy so after 2 days we moved down the coast to Bahia Coyote to join other Guaymas friends on Ashira and Windsong. Ashira had a kayak for sale and Fran had been on the prowl for one. We are now owners of an inflatable Hobie Mirage 12i, foot pedal operated (and paddle) kayak. It is quite the piece of kit but will take up a lot more room than the hookah we sold in La Paz. So much for downsizing…. While there, we did spot a whale shark cruising the shallows. We also found the ‘warm’ spring indicated in the guidebook and found the water to be fresh enough to use in our deck shower bags and filled a big bucket for washing clothes.
Warm spring

The following day we moved a bit further down the coast to Playa Santa Barbara. We were last here with Trish and Doug in mid-April 2011. We have bittersweet memories of that visit knowing that Doug’s ongoing battle with cancer is not over. We have just learned that he is undergoing another intensive bout of chemo-therapy. We stayed for part of the day, had a good swim and enjoyed a feed of scallops before heading back to Santispac for the rib fest. The ribs were excellent but do not hold a candle to those of Fat Fish in Mazatlan.

Today we took a ride into Mulege for fresh veggies and some internet work. Looks like we will be departing tomorrow for points north. We will be leaving our buddy boat, Pura Vida. Mike and Judy will be heading directly to Guaymas from here to lay Pura Vida up for the summer, then home to Portland Oregon. In a few days all of these beaches will be invaded by hordes of campers getting into the swing of the Easter holidays. The 2 weeks on either side of Easter are crazy times in Mexico and beaches are best left to the locals. I pity the land-cruisers that will remain here. One local told us that there will be over a thousand visitors to this beach (Santispac) with their tents, generators, screaming kids, motorbikes, watercraft and banda music boom boxes, each trying to drown out their neighbours.

One aspect of boating that is still bothering me after all these years is the lack of good charts in Mexico. In the past few years I have preferred to use the I-Pad with the iNavX program and the Navionics charts produced by Fugawi as my primary chart-plotter.  iNavX is a superb program but the navionics charts leave much to be desired for the cruiser. I supplement these charts with much better and more accurate electronic charts of the areas most commonly used by cruisers produced by Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer, a cruising couple who produced the guide books that are now most used by cruisers. They have since digitized the chartlets they produced in their guides and they can be accessed by the I-NavX program for an extra fee which I was happy to pay. I am very dissatisfied with the product available from Navionics. It appears to have been digitized from a sports fishing chart. In Conception Bay, for example, they have several islands that do not exist and are missing vital reefs and shoals. These companies want cruisers to buy their products but seem to be doing very little to satisfy our needs for accuracy in the areas we use the most, the inner coastal waters. By the way, Shawn and Heather are now in the Pacific Northwest producing guides of the Salish Sea and Puget Sound. There is no doubt that these will be very popular guides.

This morning we heard on the SSB net that our friends, Ron and heather, on Sun Dancer, had been towed into Huatulco by our other friends SaM and Dave on Islena. Last we heard Heather and Ron had departed the Galapagos on their way to Easter Island and then on to the Marquesas. A few days after leaving they lost their radar dome, generator and later their engine quit. They felt they had no choice but to head back to Mexicio to get repaired. Their plans are unknown but it sounds like they may be in Huatulco for a while.

20:45, 23 March 2015, Anchored at Bahia Santa Theresa

Our trip up from Bahia Conception was done in light winds and cloudy skies. We were glad to have left when later that morning we watched thick rain clouds and a thunder storm track down the coast to the west of us, right into Bahia Conception. We arrived at the Fonatur marina at Santa Rosalia in mid-afternoon. There were several other boats there some old faces and some new. Next to us was an Austrian registered boat, Cayenne with Hannes and Anna and Outrider who we had met in Puerto Escondido. We also met Kashmira, Whiz and Pegasus.

Rain!

As we arrived in Rosalia, Ron of the schooner Gold Eagle,came to visit and tell us his sad tale of the tragic loss of his vessel to the hurricane last fall. From our berth we could see her spars above the water at the old marina across the bay. The following day we took a few photos of her sitting upright on the bottom at what was left of the old marina ramp of the decrepit marina where so many boats were severely damaged or lost. Ron has given up trying to raise her. She is too badly damaged and he is stripping everything he can before he leaves for Guaymas in a few weeks aboard a lesser damaged Westsail which he now owns.
Gold Eagle, RIP

We would have liked to stay another few days in Santa Rosalia. It is a lovely town, built on the mining industry. Ownership and management of the mines has changed much over the years. The French extracted the bulk of the copper between 1885 and 1954. Since then a Canadian company had an interest but now a Korean company has control. Didn’t see any Kimche but there is a Korean only restaurant on the top deck of the Fonatur building now.

It has been a long day of motoring against headwinds to get to the next safe anchorage north of Santa Rosalia. We left just after 5 AM and arrived here as the sun was setting, 13 hours later. Luckily we had a flood tide pushing us all the way. Yes, tidal currents are a consideration now that we are heading deeper into the Sea. If we play our cards right we will have favourable tidal currents for the next few weeks.
 

15:00 Wednesday, 25 Mar 2015 Anchored at Puerto Don Juan

We didn’t delay at Punta Santa Theresa. The SSB weather reports were for some strong northerlies so we left there the following morning and headed north. The winds didn’t materialize so we had a nice 8 hour motorboat ride to this lovely, but over-rated anchorage. We had a super flood tide pushing us along and, at one point we were being pushed 2 kts faster than our actual hull speed.
Hull speed on the rear indicator, GPS speed on the I-Pad.

In contrast to the lovely colours of the mineral rich shores between La Paz and Santa Rosalia the shoreline up here isn’t that remarkable, quite drab and much drier. We arrived in this bay in mid-afternoon and were immediately beset by large numbers of yellow-brown wasps and small flies. Thankfully we have a screened cockpit to take refuge in. This morning we braved the onslaught and ventured out in the dinghy to get clams and explore the beach. We quickly discovered that the wasps loved the dinghy for some reason. After collecting a sack of clams we had to share the dinghy with the wasps until we began to plane and the wind blew them away but on arrival at Gosling we were inundated again. We have spent the remainder of the day cooped up in our cockpit, Fran reading and I blogging. We will be out of here tomorrow AM and headed for the village of Bahia Los Angeles. Hopefully we will have internet there.
Nasties!

With our date for arriving in Guaymas set at April 4th we will have to dally up here a bit looking for some wasp-less anchorages and hoping for some north winds to push us back across the Sea. We have a few possibilities but I fear that this wasp thing might be unavoidable up here.

 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Inland travelling, Mexico City and butterflies.


2100, 27 February 2015, Alongside, Marina Palmira
Note: Managed to download some of the photos but not all.. Please check again later when we are able to find an internet connection that can support the downloads. We will have lots more of photos to share.

Today is our eldest son’s Chris’, 42nd birthday. Happy Birthday Chris!!!

It has been an eventful 2 weeks since we arrived here at Marina Palmira. We have traveled inland, seen some wonderful sights and are ready to continue cruising north into the Sea. We leave tomorrow, midday.
Our trip inland began on the 12th. The airport here in La Paz is on the other side of town but, it is an international airport now with daily flights to the US. We were quite impressed with our reception on Volaris airlines. It was an easy and quick check in and we waited a few hours for our flight to depart. The terminal is quite new and comfortable but it is infested with cockroaches so we made sure not to place our carry-ons on the floor. None of the Mexicans seemed to take notice as these creatures skittered across the floor.

Because we were out of internet range for most of the time leading up to our trip Ann, (Full and Bye), had made most of the arrangements for the trip. She and Dick flew in from Manzanillo and we meet them a few hours after our arrival. She did an outstanding job!! When we arrived at our hotel in Mexico City we found ourselves in a very nice, small hotel, just a few blocks from the Zocolo, or the huge square in front of Presidential Palace and Basilica where preparations for a major concert for Saturday night were in high gear.
We only had a few days in the city so the following morning we boarded a local bus and headed for the Museum of Anthropology. What a fantastic museum!! For the next 4-5 hours we toured this vast establishment full of vestiges of former Mexican civilizations taken from many of the temples and ruins that dot the southern Mexican countryside. We all looked like geeks with those rented personal, electronic guides slung around our necks but the instruments enhanced our tour with descriptions and history. The museum was so big, the guide so detailed and the temperature so cold in the museum, that after 4-5 hours we decided that we had had enough. We skipped through the last few exhibits, missed the entire upper floor and headed back to our cosy little hotel to warm up.
Mayan calendar

Mexico is truly a foodie’s paradise. Within a block of the front door we had more choices that we could decide on; BBQ chicken, all the assortment of Mexican traditional dishes, Chinese buffets ($7 per pers), pastry shops, MacDonalds, Burger King, Starbucks, and many Mexican imitations of the US chains. It was truly hard to decide. Another feature of this huge city is that establishments are grouped as to their nature. There were whole streets of ladies clothes shops, others of men’s clothiers, hardware and electronics stores and even an entire area of musical instrument stores where Ann and Fran were able check out the prices and styles of guitars they were looking for when they went to Paracho.

The following day we took a taxi to the outskirts of the city to see the pyramids at Teotihuacan. As we approached the site we were awed by the sight of several hot air balloons flying over the ancient ruins.  Dating back to the 17th century AD this site was the centre of the largest pre-Hispanic Mexican empire. Over a period of 600 years the city grew to a population estimated at 125,000 people and spread its influence as far as Honduras and El Salvador before it was abandoned in the 8th century. The main features are 2 pyramids dedicated to the moon. Our guide was superb leading us through massive site, explaining the history of the locale in detail. His version of how the pyramids were built according to the movements of the celestial bodies, how the Aztecs, relatively late comers to the area in the 15th century, discovered the site centuries after it had been abandoned, how they marveled at the architecture thinking it impossible for mortal men to have built such things, their renaming of the pyramids after the Sun and Moon, etc, etc, etc, is not mentioned in any of the tourist guides books.  For anyone visiting these wonderful historical sites we highly recommend hiring a guide otherwise you will miss sooooo much. Dick and I climbed all of the 250 steps of the higher of the 2 temples huffing and puffing all the way.
 

Temples and baloons

 With our guide, Manuel
 
Climbing the sun
Pyramids of Egypt and Mexico share some interesting dimensions. Coincidences???
 
 
Moon pyramid
 

That evening, tired as we were from having traipsed all over the pyramids, we joined the crowds heading for the Zocolo concert. We arrived to a gathering of several hundreds of thousands of people gathered in this huge square to see and hear one of Mexico’s most popular Banda bands, something Azul. It wasn’t our type of music but it was fun to be part of the celebration. We decided to return to the comfort of our hotel after an hour or so. It was a very well disciplined crown, probably due to the massive police presence estimated to be about 2000 members.
On our last day in Mexico city Dick and I ventured into the subway system to find the bus station we were to leave from the following day. Meanwhile the girls went to the presidential palace for a tour. Later we all took the subway and train to the outskirts of the city, to the famed Aztec floating gardens that we had heard so much about. Today they don't look anything like they did when the Aztecs were here. They are probably rolling over in their collective graves knowing that their precious waterways are being abused by thousands of small pole barges carrying paying passengers, bumping into each other for headway.  Other barges carry musicians, food and drink vendors, souvenir hawkers and the like. The entire canal system is like a party gone wild. It was fun!

Playing bumper boat on the ancient Aztec waterways
 
Mexico City boasts a population of over 23 million people and because of this they have developed very efficient transportation systems to handle the daily traffic of people. The subway can get you just about anywhere in the city for about 42 cents. Buses have similar rates and the extensions of the subways are light rail systems with similar fares again. We used the metro on several occasions and were impressed with the service. Bombardier built many of the trains. A most unusual aspect of subway/metro usage are the hawkers that board the trains and sell just about anything from food, to pens, soap bubble tubes, colouring books, spirographs, toy airplanes, etc. The most irritating ones were the music vendors who carried a battery operated boom box in a backpack, belting out the music they were selling. Each vendor had a monotone voice describing his/her product and price, they wandered down the aisle and got off at the next stop and boarded another car to begin their spiel all over again.

The following day we taxied to the bus station on the north-west side of the city and bussed to our next destination, Angangueo. Situated high in the hills a few hours west of Mexico city, Angangueo, a 17th century silver mining town is the jumping off point for Mexico’s principle monarch butterfly preserves. Again we had a wonderful little self-contained hotel on the outskirts of the village. We were now close to 7000 ft and the temperature hovered around freezing at night. There no heating in the rooms but there was a generous pile of blankets on the beds. While we were here we met up with Ian and Ellen who were staying at another hotel in town and also there for the butterfly tours.

The following 2 days were dedicated to visits to the monarch butterfly reserves close to the village. Once our transportation arrived at the preserve we chose to take horses up to the viewing areas. That was a good decision because at 8000+ ft it didn’t take long before we lowlanders were winded. The two locations we were taken to were spectacular. The first day was quite cool so there were few butterflies actually in flight but the trees were covered with huge bunches, like grapes. The following day was warm and sunny and there were millions flying through the forest, clinging to trees and plants and, their dead, littering the forest floor. They arrive here in early November, breed and, the females leave in early March migrating north. By the time they arrive in Canada they have gone through 4 generations.

Bunches of butterflies keeping warm-ish....
My horsewoman....
Obligatory mug shot

 Fresh morel soup in the making, delicious!!!
When we arrived back to the hotel that afternoon Fran joined the kitchen staff to learn a few dishes. She wasn’t let off that easy and was tasked to help serve what she had helped cook. Her experience as a waitress in England was put to good use.

After our 3-day stay in Angangueo we boarded another bus for Patscuaro, another 4 hour bus ride further west. The route wound through quaint towns and fertile valleys and the centre of much of Mexico’s water-melon and avocado crops. 

Patscuaro is one of Mexico’s many ‘magic towns’ which follow strict guidelines of history, culture and architecture. It is another town similar to Alamos where we visited a few months ago before departing Guaymas. The drawing card in Patscuaro is the town’s market, in particular, the sights and colours of the fresh produce. The smells of the traditional food cooking in the stalls the sidewalk, vendors selling pottery, straw hats, wooden carvings and furniture, locally woven fabrics, clothing and rugs were almost too much for the senses. For our dinner that night we chose a couple of ladies cooking chicken and veggies on the street. It was cheap and tasty but chewy; the chicken was, surely, older hens and roosters.
Chicken feet anyone?

How about dried fish, little ones?

Hand forged tools. Check out the crow bars.
Cheap baskets
 
Fantastic colours.
Giant celery!

Mexican favoutite. Fresh veggies and fruit. Just add salt and hot sauce.
 
 
Purses made of plastic bags and pull tabs
 
We made this hat salesman's day

Our hotel (Hotel Encantada) was a lovely old 17th century place lovingly restored over the past 15 years by an American lady. Service was superb. Our room featured a small galley (which was rather redundant), 2 floors, a huge bath, in-room internet router, breakfast service and real heating….. On our second night all guests were invited to a small party where we were offered canap├ęs, margaritas, pozole (soup) and entertainment from a classical Mexican guitarist, followed by a concert from a group of 20+ guitarists.
 

On the last day Fran , Ann and Dick went off to Paracho on a guitar quest. Fran and Ann had been looking fwd to this for the entire trip. They arrived in the town renowned for its concentration of guitar artisans after a 90 min ride through rolling countryside bordered by ancient volcanos and lakes. What followed can only be described as a frenzied search for the perfect (budget dependant) guitar.
 

The following day we were back on the bus for a 5 hour trip back to Mexico City. On the metro though town we bade farewell to Ann and Dick who went to the airport for their flight back to Manzanillo. Fran and I had another night in the city but in a hotel close to the airport this time, where we were able to chill out and rest before our trip back to La Paz. We took advantage of the heated pool, sauna and hot tub, had an early dinner and stayed up to watch the Saturday night bullfights (yes they still do that) and later, part of the Academy Awards. Having been away from movies and TV for so long none of the titles meant anything so we soon got bored and slept the night away.

We arrived back to Gosling in mid-afternoon and since then we have been preparing for our departure tomorrow. The workman I had hired to do some teak refinishing did an OK job so for the past few days I have been continuing his efforts and correcting some gaffs but It now looks like we will be ready to leave tomorrow as planned. The shopping and laundry have been done, the propane and outboard fuel replenished, the engine checked, water tanks filled and the boat washed.

20:00 the following night, At anchor, Puerto Ballandra.

We are back in this beautiful anchorage 18 days after having been here with Mike and Dove. It is only 9 miles from La Paz but feels like a world away. We departed just after noon and arrived here by 1500. We were dismayed to see a couple of sea doos screaming around the bay and a large gin palace entering with speakers blazing electronic music but it is dark now and the noisy ones have gone back to the big city, leaving us in peace. It sure is nice to be back to our relaxed way of life watching another incredible Mexican sunset, reading, fishing, seeing how many Candy Crush levels we can go thru in a sitting; can it get any better?