Sunday, January 24, 2010

0910, 18 Jan 2010: Enroute to Jaltemba
We have just departed Mantenchen (correct spelling this time) Bay, San Blas enroute to Jaltemba. It is a short ride of about 30 miles and we should be in by early afternoon. We had a quiet night in calm conditions with hardly any motion. It is definitely warmer 500 miles south of Guaymas and we had to keep the fan on all night to remain comfortable in the aft cabin. Also in the anchorage was Relax (Bob and Gisele) and Alobar (Joel, Dave and Robby). Both vessels had left from Guaymas and Alobar had been in the yard with us a week before we left. The reputation of this bay being “midge heaven” didn’t pan out, however, we did use the hatch netting that Fran has made and Dave. The guys on Alobar were covered with nasty looking bite marks this morning.
The remainder of our ride into Mazatlan was uneventful. We arrived at the El Cid marina mid-morning, a few hours after high tide. There is always a surge in this marina as it is located a few hundred yards from the harbour mouth but we didn’t expect the current. This was Fran’s first experience with a cross current and our alongside wasn’t pretty but no damage occurred to Gosling or the large cruiser we brushed against…. and, with the help of Dave (Star Dancer) and George (Shamrock) we were secured alongside in short order. Lots of fenders, extra lines and a tight tie kept us from moving too badly in the slip but the noise from the lines sliding in and out of the fairleads was always present. We wrapped old t-shirts at the friction points and that helped somewhat.
Except for the surge problem the marina was very nice, with all the resort services available to the visiting cruisers. At $1.00 (US)/ft it is a good thing we hadn’t planned a long stay but it was cheaper than marina Mazatlan by 10 cents/ft. We didn’t check out the Singlar dock but it appeared quite full when we passed by the following day in the dinghy. We had quite a light show the first night with a rare thunderstorm which resulted from the storm track further north. We later found out that the same system generated very high winds in San Carlos, causing 7 boats to go ashore in the bay and a waterspout to form in Banderas Bay just off the marina in La CruzRepairs were the order of the day for the 2-day stay. I procured another piece of stainless for the wind vane from Rick Cummings (Mazatlan Marine services) and with the help from Dave& Robby (Alobar) we had it repaired in no time flat. I tried to get a tech to look at the radio but all were too busy so I decided to tackle a few last possibilities myself. Inspecting the connection to the backstay antenna I found a lot of corrosion. A good cleaning of the backstay under the connection, a slathering of di-electric grease (thanks Trish) and a new section of stripped wire made a world of difference. I then tackled the software and discovered a discrepancy in the port assignment. I was amazed to find that everything worked perfectly afterwards. Sometimes I really surprise myself!!!!
Fran contacted her friend Dianne (a fellow line-dancer from Victoria) and with her husband we all went out for dinner at Fat Fish. The spareribs and the guitarist were just as great as 3 years ago.
Saturday morning was the local swap meet, a big event in Mazatlan. In getting the dinghy and outboard ready I found another problem. The hose from the tank to the motor and the bulb were rock hard and one of the connections at the bulb snapped when I tried to straighten them out. Furthermore, someone has decided that they needed my dead-man switch key more than I did. Luckily there was an outboard motor shop just down the street and I was able to get all the parts I needed. How many more “issues” will I find? The swap meet was quite fun and we got rid of a few items and picked up a few treasures, including an older copy of the Nobletech Navigation Suite. I later found out that the copy should have included a dongle so, at present, it is just a nice box containing pretty disks….
We departed later that morning, this time fully aware of the current and using it to our advantage. Fran did a phenomenal job of leaving the dock and her approach to the fuel dock was perfect. The boat preceding us, a 60 ft with bow thrusters, had lots of problems..... Too bad they weren’t there to see our manoeuvres.
We powered down the beaches and made sail when we were out of the shelter of the offshore islands and sailed all night down the coast with a following wind and sea, dodging fishing boats all night. By morning the wind petered out and we powered the remainder of the way, some 20 miles.
During Fran’s watch she heard the bilge pump running quite often; too often! We discovered yet another loose hose clamp on the fresh water supply line, this time at the engine room bulkhead. By that time we had lost most of the domestic water supply. Luckily we are only a few days from La Cruz. We should have enough to last until then. The splashing of the water onto the hot engine also caused the propane alarm to go off. It is refreshing to know that the detector can sense almost any vaporized agent, steam in this case. A few weeks earlier it detected the propellant from the spray paint I used in the engine room. I rather expected more leaks to occur with the new, higher pressure pump. I think a re-plumbing job is in the offing to remove most of the extra joins that have been added over the years.
1830, 23 Jan 2010, Slip 9B16 Marina Nayarit, La Cruz
We have been alongside for the past 3 days, enjoying the relative calm of this new marina. There are a lot of boats here that we have met along the way; Indian Summer, Full Quiver, Alobar and Freedom Kirkland to mention a few. We are waiting out a high wind and high swell event before we proceed south. The swell is the result of the terrible weather that has plagued the Pacific coast over the past week. When we arrived we were shown the photos taken by Steve (Full Quiver) of the waterspout mentioned above.

After our departure from Mantenchen Bay we made it to Jaltemba without incident, having to power all the way in light winds. We spent most of the afternoon and evening with Bruce and Marg Walton, Victoria friends who spend a few months in a condo in Rincon de Guyabitos.
The following morning we weighed anchor and continued south, again in calm conditions, around Punta Mita and into Banderas Bay to Marina Riviera Nayarit a relatively new marina where we had stayed last spring for a few days and at half the price of the El Cid it is more affordable. An hour out of Jaltemba we caught our first Dorado of the season.

Life alongside is sometimes busier than at sea with projects to accomplish and supplies to get. Without a vehicle we have to rely on others or, more commonly, on local transport which turns an hour errand into a half-day event. Luckily we were able to share a vehicle with the crew of Alobar the other day and got our Sam’s Club shopping done in short order. Today we went to the swap meet at Marina Nuevo Vallarta where we met up with Lin and Lee (Royal Exchange) and caught up with their news of the past year. An odd swap meet for JG; he sold an item and didn’t buy anything!!!
We have been out every night since we got here, playing Mexican Train with friends and listening to jazz and rock bands at some of the local establishments. Tonight, for a change we are eating onboard (Dorado) and enjoying a movie night on Gosling (with popcorn). We expect to be on our way south by Tuesday.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

2020, Tuesday, 12 Jan 10: 12 miles west of the entrance to Topolobambo
Well, we’ve made it! We are at sea, under sail in 10-12 kt following wind and a 3 ft following sea. It is a dark moonless night and there are no close contacts to be seen. We have been at sea for the past 35 hours after leaving a day later than planned. It has been a busy day trying to rectify a few nagging issues and we have been successful, for the most part.
We had planned to leave on Sunday but as we reached the entrance to the harbour we found that the autopilot and the Furuno sounder/fish finder weren’t working and that the gearbox pressure was fluctuating. On inspecting that we found most of the gearbox oil in the bilge. The problem was easy to find; a loose blanking plug, but it took most of our reserve oil to refill. We decided that it was better to return to the dock, sort out the issues and try again the next morning.
The autopilot problem was also an easy fix. The screen prompt indicated a compass problem. After tracing wires and searching through and under storage compartments under the settees, the fluxgate compass was located. The only possible issue was that something magnetic had been stored directly above it. The depth sounder wasn’t as easy to diagnose but we have a redundant system so we were happy to leave without it being repaired.
While in the yard we spotted a plastic mermaid on one of the catamarans. It was left behind when they left so we have adopted her and will pass her on to another boat in Mazatlan. Maybe we will start a tradition. Hope she isn’t responsible for the bad luck we have had. Just in case, we’ll leave her on the aft rail, near the wind vane..... (read on)
The following morning we bid farewell to all of our friends once more and, after a compass calibration to make sure the autopilot was back to normal, we headed out once more. This time we had no new issues and we powered out into a sloppy sea with 3-4 ft swells on the beam. Once out of the shelter of land we picked up a nice 15-18 kt beam wind and put up sail. The wind kept up until mid-morning today but it was a respite of only a few hours before the wind filled in again and we have been sailing ever since. At sunset, Fran saw her first Green Flash. She is no longer a sceptic!!
Despite the new solar panels we are finding that we have to run the engine in the morning to make up for the overnight drain on the batteries. Hopefully, when at anchor, that will not be necessary but with running all the electronics we had to make up about 120 amp/hrs this morning. During her watch Fran is more comfortable with a 15 -30 minute radar watch interval so that is the big drain. The autopilot is a must (OK we’re lazy that way) and that is the second major drain item. Once we get more comfortable with the wind vane we hope to be able to wean ourselves off the autopilot.
I found the problem with the sounder today; another bad connection. This time it was my error when reconnecting the system after the paint job. The GPS feed to the VHF radio was another bad connection but not mine. We blame that one on the storage temps during the summer. Hopefully I’ll be able to sort out the pactor modem/SSB problem too so that we’ll have e-mail capability underway.
Fran caught our first fish about 15 minutes after putting the gear out, a Mexican Bonita, great eating. It was served up for breakfast and dinner today, more fishing tomorrow.
Rosie is not a happy camper. Once we leave the dock she seems terrified at all the strange goings on, especially the engine and the white floppy things (sails). She has been curled up at the head of the master bed since we left. We have managed to get her to drink a bit of water and have the occasional pee on the bow (after we bring the genoa in) and Fran has fed her a few biscuits, in bed. Some boat dog!!
Well that’s it for now. There are a few contacts now and the radar is picking them up fine. The wind has calmed to about 10 kts and we are still sailing comfortably under main and mizzen making about 3.5 kts. We’ll have to make up some time tomorrow to arrive in Mazatlan in daylight on Thursday.
The following afternoon, 13 Jan:
Well so much for the wind vane, again.... It seems to have a major failure every year. Shortly after 2 this morning we discovered that it had come out of its mounting again. It took about an hour and some gymnastic moves to dismantle and store it on deck. The scenario was almost identical to last year’s failure but this time another part failed. Very frustrating! We’ll need to find a piece of stainless tubing in Mazatlan to fix it this time. Wonder if the mermaid had anything to do with this....
I got the weather from Don on the SSB this morning. We have to hustle into Mazatlan to avoid a 35 kt blow that is due to arrive tomorrow afternoon. As he has predicted the wind has almost died in our area in advance of this disturbance.
There has been a definite change in the ambient temperature. As expected, it is getting warmer as we proceed south. No need of the long-johns we wore a few nights ago and even the sea temp has risen by 5 degrees. That should mean the presence of whales and dorados soon.
2135, 13 Jan 10
We are about 55 miles from Mazatlan, dolphins off the port bow, powering at 6 kts in a fairly calm sea. There are many more contacts tonight, fishing vessels scouring the rich banks. Since we are powering we can afford to run the radar continuously. Looks like we will be entering the marina between 10 and 11 am, well ahead of the disturbance coming from the north, if weather gurus can be trusted. Predictions are that this will be a one day event but the residual seas will last another day. We’ll stay 2 days, get a meal or 2 at Fat Fish, our favourite rib place, repair the wind vane and get Rosie back on her feet.
Fran is turned in and I am on watch from 1900-2300. We have worked out a good routine. Fran loves the middle watch (2300-0400) and I like to see the break of dawn on the morning watch from 3 on. Fran hates seeing the sun come up. By default I, therefore, get the first watch (1900-2300). We have a relaxed schedule so some nights we extend from 4 hours to 5 depending on conditions, the reading material or other distractions we are into. This normally means Fran sleeps in till mid-morning and I have an afternoon nap.
Both of us observed another phenomenal green flash at sunset. We’ll have to try to photograph it next time for all the sceptics back home.

0630 the following morning;
It has been a quiet and enjoyable night at sea. The stars are incredible in the moonless sky. Even the nebula in Orion is visible to the naked eye and the Milky Way that we hardly ever see back home is fantastic to view through binoculars.
The breeze we had last night petered out by midnight leaving an oily sea disturbed only by the ever-present swells that have followed us since we left Guaymas. As dawn approached an offshore breeze developed and we are now heading into a 5-6 knot wind. As the sky brightens the developing cumulus clouds to the west become more and more visible, a sure sign that the disturbance we are expecting is approaching fast. We expect to be tucked into the marina by that time.
The watches we have established are working out well. Fran even commented on how different and more pleasant this passage has been from last year’s passage from the Baja to Tenecatita. This one has been longer. Maybe that is the secret – getting used to the routine; are you listening Rosie? From here south it will be short overnight hops from anchorage to anchorage until we get to La Cruz and the more of the same until we reach our Tenecatita-Manzanillo cruising grounds.
We are safely tucked into a slip at Marina El Cid, a large resort, offering all of the facilities you’d expect of a quality resort. We have made arrangements to get a piece of stainless tubing for tomorrow but the repairs to the radio seem a bit more difficult to arrange.
To our great surprise we heard Lin (Royal Exchange) calling on the radio. We’ll be doing breakfast with him and Lee tomorrow morning.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Adios Guaymas

Guaymas: 2230, Wednesday, 6 Jan, 09
We are finalizing our preparations in readiness to depart . This refit has gone on much longer than expected but we have achieved much this week. The rigging and sails are on, the dingy is inflated on the dock and almost ready to be lifted onboard. The inflatable keel is still leaking and we’ll have another look at it tomorrow. It has been a problem since we bought the boat but it is not critical, just annoying as it reduces its performance and, with only a 5hp outboard, we need all the performance we can get.
We ran wires this week too. The solar panels are wired in; Trish found suitable wire in Tuscon and did a great job of connecting up the panels but running the wires was my task. That took a half day of taking apart closets, piercing bulkheads, passing the wires through the engine room and running them through almost inaccessible places to keep them out of the way. Same can be said about the wiring for the new speed sensor through the salon floor, storage lockers and under the galley sink. We also completed replacing the xenon G-4 lights with new LED fixtures but were disappointed in the noise they generate on the VHF. We’ll have to find a solution for that one.
Slowly the items littering the cabin and decks have found a home. Tomorrow we hope to finally do a proper wash down, the first since the boat was painted. Amazing how the grime piles up.
Doug has just finished his second set of chemo treatments. The first day (blue bag hell) he receives a harsh medication that hits him hard but the medication on the next 2 days is easier on his system. I hope we’ll have a chance to see him before we go.
We aren’t sure whether we will be able to get away on Friday as planned. It looks more like Saturday now. That will give us a chance to see George and Maureen Godwin, from Victoria, who arrive on Friday for a week visit with Maureen’s brother. Gil and Lexi are hoping to leave the following day. They will surely catch up in their speedy tri.
The following day: 2230
Found the leak in the dingy and fixed that, I hope. Had a good morning shopping and found some last hard-to-get bits including a dimmer switch for the compass binnacle light. The BBQ propane tank now has its own stowage tube on the taffrail made out of an 8-in PVC water main tube with swimming “noodle” foam to keep it from moving around and a piece of scrap teak railing from Phil’s (Salty) project as a base.
1330, Sat, 9 Jan 09
That’s it! We have procrastinated too long. We depart tomorrow morning on a 400 mile trip to Mazatlan. We waited another 2 days to see Shirley and Tom (Rio Nimpkish) arrive and last night we saw George and Maureen and their hosts, fresh off the bus from Tucson. It was good to get the latest gossip from CFSA. Sunday is also delayed and will follow us soon.
We are ready to go. Fran is on her way to bring the van to the storage yard where it will remain until May. The bill here is paid and yesterday we spent the better part of the afternoon washing down the boat from all the accumulated yard grime since it was painted. She looks all new again. Fishing rod holders are up, the SSB has been trialed and we got the weather this morning indicating a good window for a southern passage over the next few days. With an average speed of 5 kts we should be in Mazatlan by mid-day in 3 days.
I must close this off and post it so I can finish my preps. Only a few more items to lash on deck and we can relax, whatever that is.....
Next one from Mazatlan.