Monday, March 31, 2008

Magdalena Bay - Cabo San Lucas

Saturday, 29 Mar 08

The other boats in the bay proved, once again, that cruisers are a breed apart. There are 2 large trimarans, Sunday, a couple from California and Stravaig (UK with a Dutch spouse). Jeff just happens to be one of the developers of the Autohelm wind vane that I have and gave me a few pointers on using this infernal instrument.. The other boats are Mischief (Victoria) being single-handed by a chap with great electronic and refrigeration skills, Gale Force with a couple from Oregon and Ka-Em-Te (Kiss My Transom) also from Oregon with Doug, a plumber and Trish, an electrician who also bakes bread and assorted buns. Needless to say, she was a very popular person after we discovered that the only bread available was Bimbo bread made with so many preservatives it will last weeks without refrigeration but tastes like soap. All of these boats are headed South. The last boat, Wizard another Californian couple is headed back to San Diego in, what will surely be a long hard slog according to the weather information we are getting on the SSB morning nets. They left the following day.

The next few days were spent beachcombing, attending to some of the items on the task list and socializing with the other boats. Fran had to come up with some interesting appy dishes for the impromptu get togethers. The tuna sashimi went over well for the first few days but freshness is all-important and it soon was past its “sell by date”. It is amazing how people can bond so quickly and how talents and resources can be shared so freely amongst a group such as this.

We also went for a wild ride to San Carlos in the Port Captain’s panga. San Carlos had a few small shops where we were able to get fresh veggies, fruit and meat but their hardware store was very well stocked. Last time I was here I only saw the dilapidated fishing dock which has had a substantial addition to accommodate small and mid-sized tankers and freighters.

With the prospect of a weather window opening up for the leg to Los Cabos most of the boats headed for an anchorage closer to the mouth of the bay at Point Belcher, the site of ruins of a long abandoned Japanese whale processing plant where whale bones still poke out of the sand. The weather predictions for the next few days promise 15-20 kt northerly winds from here to Cabo, increasing as you get 25-30 mile offshore and light and variable winds in the Southern Sea of Cortez, changing to strong northerlies by Thursday of next week. With that in mind, all boats except Mischief departed on Sunday all but one under
sail for the 175-mile leg.

1400,Monday, 31 March
We are within sight of Cabo Falso at the southern tip of the Baja. We expect to reach the harbour at Cabo San Lucas by early evening if all goes well. Conditions have changed considerably over the past few hours. For most of the trip we had 20-25 kt northerly winds with 8-10 ft seas giving us a bumpy but comfortable ride at speeds reaching almost 7 kts under genoa alone. I would not have liked going the opposite way. As we closed the coast the winds and seas have lightened considerably. We are motoring to ensure that we arrive at the port in daylight. We don’t intend to stay very long as we want to get as far north towards La Paz before the northerlies develop in the Sea of Cortez. By Thursday they are expected to be in the 25-30 kt range. So, fuel, water, shower and a quick trip to COSTCO and we’ll be off.
Later - !700
After dodging jet-skis and tour boats for the last few miles we are finally alongside a small marina at the entrance to the harbour. We have decided to splurge the $110 moorage fee just to have a shower and “free” Internet for the night. We will check the latest forecast and decide where and when from here. It is Spring break and it is loud and crowded, the complete opposite of Mag Bay so we won’t linger in Cabo. Next stops will be Los Frailles and/or Los Muertos on our way to La Paz.

By the way; Tuna again on the menu. We caught a 10 lb yellowtail this morning. What a fight! But then again we were going 6 kts under sail and I wasn't reducing sail for a fish. We got him aboard and have pictures to prove it.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

24 March 08: At anchor - Bahia de Ballenas

We have decided that we should see what we could of this coast now that we have the time since we will probably never be back this way. With Dove and Michael gone we are on our own schedule now and that is to get the boat to San Carlos by the end of April for summer storage. We anchored off the remote fishing village of Bahia de Ballenas just before noon after a 19-hour passage from Turtle Bay, some 100 miles to the north. We don't plan to stay here long as there isn't much to see and the surf makes
a beach dinghy landing an exercise we aren't willing to chance. Our next planned destination is Bahia San Juanico, 70 miles along the coast where Charlie's Charts indicates a protected anchorage off another desolate Baja fishing village.

Conditions have improved over the past few days. The cold north wind that had persisted since San Diego has given way to the more seasonable westerly and the cold humid weather has turned markedly warmer and drier. Soon we will be complaining about the heat. After departing Turtle Bay last night we were able to sail on and off in wind conditions that varied from light to near gale. By midnight the wind had died completely and we were forced to use the "iron spinnaker". The repairs done by J-G and
Mike have held firm. Although it vibrates a bit more than it should, the pulley is behaving and Fran's spatula is holding firm.

We bid farewell to Dove and Mike early Sunday morning. They left for their connection to the main Ensenada to Cabo San Lucas bus line by a small local van service. The 3-hour ride along a dusty Baja road must have been an adventure in itself. They will be missed as we continue south, especially Dove's hoard of chocolate and Mike's culinary expertise with fresh tuna. Undoubtedly they will have lots of stories to tell about their time in Gosling; about leaking holding tanks (now fixed), a propane
regulator that needs persuasion with a winch handle to turn on (on the shopping list) and carting 60 lb jugs of drinking water to the boat to supplement the foul tasting (but clean and safe) domestic water we filled the tanks with in San Diego. Bottled water and purification systems are necessary commodities in San Diego as their water is very hard and heavily chlorinated. The outboard we bought had been used exclusively in Southern Californian fresh water lakes and the mineral deposit coating the
lower leg was so thick it took several applications of CLR just to make a dent in it.

26 March 08: At Anchor - Bahia Santa Maria

We made good time towards San Juanico but, just as we were approaching the bay we overheard a couple of cruisers on VHF discussing high wind and sea warnings arriving in our area the following afternoon. We decided to bypass San Juanico and head directly to Bahia Santa Maria, which offers good shelter from the northerlies. The wind was light and sea calm for most of the day so we made good time under power. By the end of the afternoon we had caught 2 more small (3 lb) tuna and J-G got a good head
start on cleaning and waxing the cockpit. We arrived just before midnight, another blind pilotage entry, and tucked into the lee of the headland between two other boats. The temperature is still cool at night but it is the damp that gets you the most. The rigging gets dripping with water.

Oh, hold on!! a panga just pulled up with the offer of langousta. 2 - 4 packs of AA batteries and a colouring book with crayons just got us 2 decent sized lobsters for lunch. Life is tough!

We have made contact with 2 other boats that we had met on the morning net in San Diego, Mischief and K-N-T. Both are in Mag Bay so we are looking to make face-to-face contact when we get there.

Later the same day:

We left Bahia Santa Maria later in the day without setting foot ashore. Without a suitable place to beach a dinghy it was no longer as attractive a spot. Besides, the nasty weather has been delayed by 12 hours so it was time to head for the relative shelter of Man of War Cove in Magdalena Bay.

Enroute we had the best sail of the trip so far and by supper time we were anchored off the village of Magdalena Bay. Supper was tuna - again! (We caught another small one on the way in). We are in the company of several other boats here, including a big trimaran sporting a Dutch flag. San Carlos (the Baja version) is within sight. The last time I was there was in 1984 when we stopped for fuel with Oriole on our way to Quebec City and the Tall Ships event. Hopefully this foul weather will pass quickly
and we'll have a chance to do some exploring before we leave. We'll have to check in with the Port captain here tomorrow and see what the local tiendas have in fresh veg and fruit.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Puerto San Bartoleme (Turtle Bay), 20 Mar 08

Note: {26 March} Apologies for the delay with this one. We had a bit of problems communicating home to get this chapter up on the blog. More tomorrow!

We have arrived in Turtle Bay safely but later than expected. The weather is nice and clear with hot daily temperatures as long as you are in the sun. The wind is still quite cool and it gets downright cold as the sun sets.

Saturday night before we left, Fran did some damage to herself when the main door latch slammed down on her finger. This brought Mike and Dove into action and after bandages and herbal drops Fran settled down to a night of throbbing pain from her, most likely, broken appendage.

After paying all the final bills, last minute shopping, returning the car and last minute good byes to the new friends we had made in San Diego it was time to get ready to leave.

We left San Diego at 2200 on Sunday the 16th of March. It was a clear windless night, as predicted, so spirits were high as we left the boatyard. As we cruised up the channel we devoured some chunks of dark chocolate covered caramel that Mike and Dove had acquired earlier that day to celebrate our departure. When we got to open water we were met by some 4-6 ft quartering swells, the remains of the weekend storm that had given us high winds, thunder, lightning and hail. Needless to say it was a rough
ride south and the rich chocolate caramels did not sit well. Unable to sail due to the light winds and high seas we were forced to power our way south.

While some of us were down with "Queasy Stomachs" Fran stepped up to the plate and stood her watch till 0400 with Dove keeping watch from her sleeping bag on deck.

We arrived at the Ensenada Baja Naval marina at 0935 the following morning where we checked in with the authorities. The check-in procedure was much easier than expected. Because of the volume of yachties that come here they have streamlined their services and have everything under one roof, including a bank teller position. Official government offices in Mexico cannot accept payments so normally you are sent to the nearest bank to complete monetary transactions. Just our luck, it was one of the
many Mexican holidays and we had to pay double for one of the items. It took about an hour to complete everything and we were back aboard to try and arrange fuel. (¼ the price in the US). We were told that the guy who normally delivers the fuel (by barrel) wasn't working today and that we should go to the Marina Coral, one mile up the coast where we could fuel at a modern alongside facility. Lesson learned about prior homework! We had to wait until late afternoon to leave due to tide and wind conditions
but we managed to move in late afternoon, fuel up and leave just before sunset.

As we were leaving J-G noticed that the windvane was hanging precariously by its upper bracket. That took about an hour to repair. Thank-God for spare parts! David N: if you read this, send me an e-mail and I'll give you the details. It looks like it could be a common issue with the Autohelm.

We left in much the same conditions as we had earlier but we also had some wind developing so we had our first sail under genoa for an hour until the breeze died off. We continued under power throughout the night towards our next stop, Turtle Bay, a good 2-day run.

Just after noon the next day a hellish racket developed from the engine, accompanied by smoke and the smell of burning rubber. Oh shit, what now? After shutting down a quick inspection revealed a seized idler pulley, the pulley that controls the tension to the belt driving the waterpump. Time for our second sail! Thanks to Mike's help we were able to free the pulley with some of the penetrating oils we had brought with us from Canada, however, without any idea how long it would last next time we
used it we decided to save the engine until it was absolutely necessary.

Just before sunset Dove noticed action on the fishing rod Mike had put out earlier. She brought in a nice 5 lb tuna. Since then we have had some nigiri, sushi, sashimi and great seared tuna, thanks to Mike's extraordinary culinary skills.

We continued under genoa, main and mizzen but with the wind almost dead astern we had to sail off our intended track losing precious time in the process. We continued like this for the next 2 days amending our plan as we slipped back. Our delay meant that we would arrive off Turtle Bay in the late evening with the prospect of entering after dark. Without the engine to recharge the batteries we had to conserve energy and hence the autopilot was turned off. With the quartering sea steering was very
tiring but everyone performed great, even the two landlubbers. Dove benefited, no doubt, from her short time in Robertson II and Pacific Swift 17 years ago.

By 1800 the wind began to die off and the chop we had experienced since we left San Diego disappeared. We ran up the engine but after an hour it engine overheated. This time we found that the pulley had actually fallen off its shaft. After fashioning a setscrew from a spare bolt we tried again but that didn't last more than 15 minutes. Our next repair was more thorough. We disassembled the bearing and found that it was badly worn but still useable, however, it was very loose and no longer pressed
into the pulley itself. This time we repacked it with grease and fashioned a large washer out of one of Fran's nylon spatulas to hold it in place and reassembled it with a prayer or two. This time it held fine and looks like it may last until Cabo unless we can get a new bearing here.

Just after midnight on the 20th we entered Turtle Bay under a full moon, light airs and calm seas. The setup was much like a naval "Special Sea Dutymen" exercise with lookouts, radar and GPS navigation set up and Fran steering from a position where she couldn't see anything. We anchored just off the town dock in 24 ft of water in the company of 2 other cruisers. Before turning in we had a few shots of tequila to celebrate a safe arrival.

We haven't seen too much wildlife so far but just as we entered Ensenada Dove saw a school of dolphins close alongside. There was also a grey whale, the following day, that Fran had to alter for. Hopefully there will be more but the El Nina is altering conditions all along the Pacific coast.

At sunset today we had a small ceremony on the bow where we had a gulp of 2-buck chuck, expressed our wishes for Gosling's future and then broke the rest of the bottle on the anchor fairlead. Only good luck from now on…….

The plan is to remain here over the weekend. Dove and Mike will leave us here for Cabo on Sunday and we will depart early next week for Magdalena Bay. We have some exploring to do here first.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Ready, Aye , Ready

15 March 08

We are there! We have been so busy that we have not even been able to dedicate the time to writing the blog for the past 2 weeks. Our apologies if you were waiting for the next installment.

Perseverance has paid off, cash helped too. We are over budget but the boat is as ready as it will ever be. At some point in the past few days we have realized that, even though there remains a number of small projects, the important ones have been accomplished and Gosling is ready to sail, thanks, in part, to Mike and Dove who arrived early last week. They and were instrumental in getting us ready on time.

In summary, the work over the past 2 weeks:

The mast was repaired and stepped on time and Rocco tuned the rig. The crack has been cut out and the mast has a high-density plastic product as a base corresponding to the amount that was cut off, therefore the stays did not need any modification.

The traveler arrived from Garhauer last week and J-G installed it the same day only to find that the car and end pieces were not compatible with the layout. A quick call to Guido at Garhauer sorted that problem and a new set was shipped. This one was a perfect setup.

Alberto completed the engine repairs on the 14th. The exhaust part arrived late but the welder gave us priority and the gear was ready to be installed by the 12th as promised. The new part was so nice that it was a shame to cover it with insulation. Once he had completed the work we had a sea trial and all worked perfectly.

J-G and Mike worked till the early hours of the morning on Thursday to relocate the refrigeration unit. The tech arrived the next morning to recharge the system and we now have ice for the margaritas!

Several plumbing issues were also solved including replacing the hand operated bilge pump and a thorough cleaning of the water tanks. The hot water heartier is working great, probably the first time in 30 years. When the old one was removed we discovered that it still have a 220V element, no doubt the original one from build.

Fran’s pet projects included the installation of a new windshield on the hard dodger, replacing the cockpit chair and the re-upholstering of the V-berth and the cockpit cushions.

The mainsail wear marks were repaired and the foot line was replaced.

The dinghy’s rub-rails were replaced. This, apparently, is a common problem with Avon products. The local shop replaces them with rub-rails made by Achilles. The Nissan outboard was also serviced.

The liferaft arrived back tested and repacked. The service centre was very impressed

at the condition it was in after so many years. (1981vintage).

The new BBQ arrived, an E-Bay purchase.What a bargain!

Dove and Fran went to town cleaning the accumulated boatyard grime from Gosling. What a difference! It was a real pleasure to complement their work with the installation of the name-plates that Dave Deeks, a CFSA chum, made up for us before we left.

The yard here and many of the embedded businesses were extremely gracious and cooperative allowing us the use of various tools and for their advice. The staff at Yachtfinders, where we bought the boat, has also been a lot of help by allowing us the use of their phones, a computer to do our correspondence and copying/printing of material we will need on our trip South. Fran has been attending to the paperwork we will need when we get to Mexico. The most tedious task has been to prepare a complete inventory of the fitted equipment for Mexican customs. Thanks to the surveyor for listing much of the equipment and the former owner for keeping all of his receipts.

We had initially planned to leave on Friday the 14th but with a winter storm warning with gales and high seas predicted to last out the weekend we decided to delay until Sunday night (16th). The large marine swap meet at the Chula Vista Yacht Club slated for Saturday had no bearing on the decision, really... but we took advantage of it anyway and found a few things we still needed. Why hadn’t they scheduled this a few weeks before? We saw many items on sale that we had purchased over the past few weeks.

Our renaming and thanks to all party was held on Friday with a few friends we had made at Phillip’s party a few weeks previous.. The new BBQ got a good workout and we now know that we can easily fit 7 people in the salon. Cleaning up in preparation for the event was beneficial in that we were able to find nooks and crannies for most of the stuff we have to store prior to departure, including 4 cases of 2-buck Chuck. Here we thought the term was a colloquialism for cheap wine but we now know it is a brand sold at Trader Joes and it is quite decent. Even Fran, with her discriminating taste for wine, rather likes it.

Tomorrow is our last day here. The weather predictions are promising calm seas and light winds from a favourable direction so we should be away by 2200 tomorrow night to make Ensenada the following morning for a quick check in and then depart for Turtle Bay. Dove and Mike only have a week left before they have to get back to Canada so we are pressed for time and we have to see Turtle Bay and Magdalena Bay.. All we have left to do is some last minute shopping, some training and return the rental car.

The next blog entry will most likely be posted by our son Chris, in Vancouver, via a Winlink message. We haven’t been able to test the system here due to the interference here in San Diego so we are crossing fingers that it will go well once we are clear of San Diego.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Struggling in San Diego

1 March 08 – Week 4

Less than 2 weeks to go to our target date and there seems to be more jobs on the list than there were 2 weeks ago.

The engine work has still not been completed. The oil cooler has arrived but we are still waiting for the new exhaust part to me manufactured. Hopefully it will be ready by early next week. By the time Alfredo comes back to finish the engine work he will find a much cleaner and brighter engine space. J-G has spent a few evenings cleaning the space and touching up the engine. He will also see the new hot water heater that arrived on Friday. It will replace the original G&M Aquaheat heater that has not been working for a few years.

The mainmast was removed on Friday to repair the crack at its base. Rocco the rigger assures me that it should be finished by Tuesday. In the meantime I have replaced the incandescent masthead lights with LED lights. We won’t be among the many boats that run without lights at night to save battery power.

The refrigeration tech paid us a visit and sorted out a minor glitch. We now have refrigeration and Fran was finally able to empty the stand-by ice chest. Now we have to decide on moving the refer unit as it takes up too much valuable storage room under the sink and is in an overly humid location. The refer tech did suggest that I spray the entire unit, except the cooling fins, with Boeshield T-9. Developed by the Boeing company to coat the entire inner surfaces of wings before final assembly. The resultant film protects against all corrosion. It can also be sprayed on electrical and electronic assemblies.

For the past few days we had a nagging problem with the water pressure circuit that developed quite suddenly. J-G traced it to a short but all it cost us was wasted time – something we can’t afford too much of. Another battle won was an irritating leak in the shower mixing valves that would cause the water pump to come on every 10-15 minutes as the pressure leaked out.. After replacing all 3 sets of the o-rings in each unit we can finally put that concern behind us.

We have met Phillip Cooper, a young British sailor who, after years of skippering boats in the Med and UK he has decided to accept a position with a British university to head up their Maritime training division’s sailing program. He was sent to the US to buy a suitable boat and has found a real gem in a Swan 44. He is just completing the preparations to ship her to the UK via land to Ft Lauderdale and then ship transport to Southhampton. We were invited over for a sundown party on Tuesday where we met a few of the local characters, including one of the RN exchange officers. Phillip also introduced us to the local yachties’ bar, Fiddler’s Green, a locale where the elite of the sailing world hang out. On the evening we went J-G met Doug Peterson, the designer of Antares. Dennis Conner is another usual here but was away racing in Mexico.

On Wednesday we drove to Ensenidas (Newport Beach) to Minny’s a used boating superstore much like the Boater’s Exchange in Sidney but much better organized and laid out. Fran had to warn the boys not to get out before the car stopped moving. We found lots of treasures there including a 35lb Danforth anchor and many smaller needed items. On the way back we picked up a 5 HP Nissan outboard motor that we had found advertised in the local boating news. Earlier in the week we purchased a second hand Achilles inflatable dinghy.

Dove, our son Mike’s partner had a layover on Wednesday night with us on her way to meet Mike in Cabo San Lucas. It was a short but enjoyable visit, Fran benefiting the most from Dove’s professional attributes with a neck massage before bedtime. Dove’s parting words were wishes that our problems would dissipate. Within 3 hours we had refrigeration, water pressure and news from the life raft inspection facility that our 27 year-old liferaft was in excellent shape!

We have also discovered that the rules on Mexican fishing licenses have changed. It is no longer necessary to have a license for the boat, dinghy, life raft and each member of the crew. As of January only the crew needs to be licensed.

Fran has begun the inventory that we will need to present to the Mexican authorities on making our clearing in procedure. Downwind marine makes the process much easier by providing a disk with most of the required forms and a full description of the process.

More news next week.