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.

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