Wednesday, March 31, 2010

La Cruz to the Baja

Fish for lunch; a pompano jack (we think)

Frigate Bird, Isla Isabella

Full Quiver race Crew

2100, Thursday, 25 Mar, 2010, At anchor, Isla Isabella
We are at anchor at the eastern anchorage at Isla Isabella, some 48 miles from San Blas. We are on our way to the Baja side and this is our usual intermediary spot on that route. It is a bumpy anchorage tonight with a moderate wind blowing between the 2 islands protecting the anchorage. We are protected from the southwesterly swell which we can hear pounding the shore on the opposite side of the point to the west. We’ll be here for at least one night and maybe 2.
Our trip from La Cruz north was uneventful. We had very little wind so we had to power most of the way to Mantanchen Bay just outside of San Blas, midge country, and I don’t use that term loosely. This place is renowned for its flying pest problem. Most visitors come away from San Blas with welts over most of their exposed bodies. We are prepared with bug sprays and fine screening to keep the tiny bugs from getting into the cabin. We soon discover that the lotions we have are not as effective as we hoped but our screens work.
We stayed one night in the Bay and followed our friends Bill and Linda (Tanque de Tiburon) into the estuary the following morning. We were joined outside the entrance to the channel by SV Last Resort who writes articles for a sailing magazine. None of us was prepared for the conditions at the bar entrance. San Blas is not known for its adverse bar conditions so we weren’t anticipating anything unusual but it soon became apparent that the SW swell and the outgoing current was producing quite the swell at the entrance to the channel. To make a long story short, Fran screamed, we surfed and Last resort got it all on video, all, that is except the part where they almost rolled over. So see the video go to You Tube and search for Knock Down at San Blas. Gosling is the dark hull boat next in line.
We were welcomed, as usual, by Norm Goldie, the unofficial greeter and self-proclaimed senior gringo of San Blas. He has lived here for some 40+ years and lately has begun to get quite cantankerous and nasty to cruisers, particularly those who have offered assistance to their counterparts to navigate the channel to the marina or the anchorage sites in the estuary. He still considers himself to be the sole source of assistance and, until this year was cajoling cruisers for a $20 “donation” for his services. He still holds court in the town square every evening offering his assistance to all who ask. There is a very good letter published in the march issue of Latitude 38 (may be online also) on the subject.
We spent 2 nights at anchor in the estuary and commuted back and forth to the Singlar marina where Bill and Linda were tied up. We took advantage of the free showers, laundry and internet as their “guests”. We also met another interesting couple, Russ and Jodie on Smok-N-Blues, aluminum Peterson 44 that used to be owned by Dennis Connors of America’s Cup fame. They are on the hard there getting the boat stripped down to bare metal. Looks like Dennis used a lot of fairing compound...
Our outbound crossing of the bar wasn’t as exciting as the entry. We left under similar tide conditions but the swell was considerably lower than the 8-10 ft we experienced on the way in. Our passage to Isabella started off smooth with a close reach but the wind soon increased and backed to the WNW, our course for Isabella. In order to make it before dark we powered the rest of the way.
Wind conditions should be good over the next few days for us to continue on our way to Muertos and La Paz.
Monday, 29 Mar10, Anchored in the old harbour, Mazatlan
We weren’t planning on diverting to Mazatlan but a predicted 30-35 kt blow down the middle of the Sea convinced us that Mazatlan was a better destination. We departed in company with Tanque de Tiburon on the morning of the 26th into a light northerly breeze that increased to 25-20 by the afternoon. The seas generated by the wind were quite uncomfortable to pound into but we made good time. Our initial ETA was about 2300 but Tanque was delayed by another broken belt a few hours out and, just 3 miles outside the harbour, their engine quit. We decided to stay with them until daybreak and towed them into the anchorage the following morning. Thankfully, the wind had died but seas were running 4-5 ft on the beam all the way in.
The wind picked up considerably that afternoon and we were quite comfortable to be in a nice sheltered anchorage. Last night Tanque thanked us for the tow by taking us out to dinner at Fat Fish, our favourite rib place.
The weather gurus are saying that the winds are diminishing over the next few days so all those bound for the Baja will be leaving soon. We have decided to depart this afternoon while there is some wind left. Now that we are further north we will have a better wind angle towards La Paz. We’ll have to leave Tanque behind so that they can get their engine repaired but we will be in good company with Optical Illusion expecting to start their crossing tomorrow morning.
2000, Wednesday, 31 Mar 10; Alongside Marina Palmyra La Paz
We arrived in La Paz at about 1000 this morning after a 2 day crossing from Mazatlan. We are tied up at Marina Palmyra where we stayed last year. There are several other boats here that we know and others are arriving in the next few days. With Bayfest next weekend and the Latitude 38 Sailfest this weekend marina accommodations are at a premium. Because of our tight schedule, we have decided to stay only a few days and we will miss both events.
We departed Maz in mid-afternoon on Sunday followed by Tanque de Tiburon. Their engine problem turned out to be a minor one so they were ready to depart with us.
The weather guru had been predicting that the northerly winds would abate that night so we wanted to get a head start. The first 10 hours were quite uncomfortable with 15-18 kt headwinds and 5-8 ft seas but by early morning the wind abated and the seas began to flatten out. The rest of the trip was a diesel powered cruise on flat seas with little or no wind. Flying fish were seen everywhere and also the odd dolphin. On passages like this we are able to chat amongst ourselves and keep up-to-date with local conditions by VHF radio. During the long night watches this becomes a welcomed distraction. Another factor that made the night passages so enjoyable was the full moon.
Tomorrow we will be going out to the Magote to swim with the whale sharks. Monday we will see about swimming with the sea lions at Los Islotes. This will be a big thing for Fran; thank goodness whale sharks only eat plankton.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Banderas Bay Race Week and bad news arrived today

1825, Sunday, 21 Mar 2010, Alongside Marina Nayarit, La Cruz
It has already been a week since we arrived, seems like yesterday. Our passage up from Tenecatita was good and, for the most part, quite smooth. We had to power most of the way but we did manage a few hours under sail. We made it in just under 24 hours arriving at dawn after rounding a calm Cabo Corrietes. The weatherman got it right this time.....
We arrived at the marina with the boat show in full swing and preparations for the Banderas Bay Sailing Race week in high gear. Many friends were here or arrived within a few days. Kirk (Freedom Kirkland) and Bill and Linda (Tanque de Tiburon) were already here and it was nice to meet up with them again after so long. It was amazing to see the changes to the marina forecourt after just a few weeks away. The entire boat show site, that had been a quagmire of mud with heavy machinery working day and night to fill in, is now a solid surface. The boat show wasn’t very elaborate and consisted mainly of power boats, engines and outboards (all Mercury products), condo developments and a few local marine oriented companies exhibiting their wares, however, the local government found it important enough to shell out some serious money to beautify the streets to the marina and the marina property itself, not to mention the great expense of the filled in forecourt. They even had the Mexican navy exhibiting their stuff, providing security and the usual power, stewards, food, drink, etc for a “by invitation only” cocktail party on the last night. We didn’t have our cocktail regalia so watched it all from the dock.
Race Week was a blast. J-G volunteered to crew on Full Quiver (40 ft, Beneteau First) with Steve and Linda (Warren Peace) and John (Naida). Steve’s (Full Quiver) brother and sister-in-law also participated. After a few days of practice we raced for 3 days eking out a 3rd place out of 9 boats. After day 2 we were in a 3-way tie for 2nd place with a Columbia-Tripp 43 and a J-80 driven by a hot crew. On the last day the J-80 smoked us but the Columbia that had pressed very hard on previous days, fell back early and stayed out of the running.
1900: We just got an e-mail informing us that our good friend Vicki has succumbed to cancer. We had such a great time earlier this month with her and her husband Bert on board . We will surely miss her but we are also fortunate for the quality time we had on board with both of them.
We will be leaving here tomorrow morning and heading north to San Blas to stage for a crossing to the Sea of Cortez. We will try to make it directly to Isla Partida or Isla San Fransico and get some quality “Sea” time before heading to Mazatlan where Fran will leave to return to Vancouver to look after our daughter-in-law after her surgery. She plans on being away only 10 days so we hope to be able to make it back to the Baja side in time for the Loreto Fest, an event we have managed to miss for the past 3 years.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Waiting for a weather window in Tenecatita

We only stayed overnight in Barra this time and left the following afternoon after refuelling and taking water. Our departure from the fuelling dock was really slick with J-G using the dinghy as a tug to swing the bow around into the wind. We crossed over to Maleque and had a lovely afternoon with Bert and Vicky. After a rocky night in the anchorage we departed for another of our favourite anchorages, Cuestacomate, (the secret anchorage) where we enjoyed another excellent ceviche at the palapa restaurant that we have dined each time we have passed by. The following morning we headed to Tenecatita, about 12 miles up the coast.
We have been at anchor here in Tenecatita for the past five days amongst a large group of boats, 22 at last count but that number changes daily with vessels departing and arriving. Most of the vessels are starting to head north towards Banderas Bay, many to attend the racing series beginning on the 16th, some to assemble with other cruisers heading for the Marqusas while others are beginning their migration to northern ports where they will store their boats for the summer.
This year's group is quite different from last year when we had a "mayor" and lots of organised events on the water and ashore. There are many kid boats here this year and we seem to be in the midst of that group. Yesterday the water around us was alive with children (3-9) swimming, diving off boats and being ferried in to play with those aboard the boats around us. An ex-pat Canadian on a catamaran called Watchagonnado seems to be the nucleus of the activity. It is nice to hear the giggling and shrieks of joy as they dive off the boats and swim back to the boarding ladders.
This is an ideal anchorage for relaxation and the enjoyment of the cruising life. The long beach is bordered by the estuary at our end and the village of La Manzanilla about 5 miles away. There is only one hotel on the beach and it is relatively quiet with very few occupants this year. There is a small daytime restaurant on the beach but it is open only on weekends when campers set up on the beach adjacent the estuary. There are very few lights ashore so nights are dark and stars are bright. The fresh water from the estuary brings a lot of material down from the lagoon so biological activity in the bay is enhanced with many species of birds, fish, and night-time phosphorescence.
It has been a relaxing few days. Rosie has had her daily runs on the beach, a rare treat this year, and Fran and J-G have been able to snorkel every day. Steve and Linda (Warren Peace) arrived a few days ago to wait out, with us, the strong winds around Cabo Corrientes. According to Don, the weather guru, things should calm down by the weekend so there will undoubtedly be a mass exodus come Saturday.
We are also waiting for Steve and Pam (Full Quiver) to arrive from Barra. They should be here tomorrow. J-G and Steve (Warren Peace) will be crewing on Full Quiver for the race series. Following that we will carry on up to the Sea of Cortez for a few weeks until Fran has to fly back to Vancouver to attend to our daughter in law who will be undergoing a serious operation. Hopefully recovery will be quick and Fran will be back in time for a few final weeks before putting Gosling away for the summer. We intend to make for Mazatlan for the period she is away. J-G will have the boat to himself and will be able to get a lot of projects accomplished in that while Fran is away.
We should be away from here by Friday or Saturday and we hope to make the transit to La Cruz non-stop, weather permitting.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Heading North

1930, Monday, 01 March 2010: Barra de Navidad
We are back at anchor at Barra de Navidad for a few days after departing Las Hadas this morning. We had Bert and Vicky Blattman aboard for the past few days, good friends from Victoria, who are holidaying in the town of Melaque. They joined us last Friday and left us after we anchored this afternoon. It was great seeing friends from home. Vicky and Bert had been aboard last year for a day-sail. This time they got to experience a few nights at sea, well, at anchor, at sea.... As we left the bay we were all treated to the sight of a mother and calf fin whale cavorting a few hundred feet for the boat.
On Saturday we had another of those strange phenomena that is making this season a memorable one. During the SSB morning net we learnt of the earthquake in Chile and the tsunami warning that had been issued as a result. The next few hours were spent informing all the other boats and ensuring that they were away from shallow water by the time the tsunami wave reached our location. Although it wasn’t expected to cause any problems no one wanted to tempt fate so all boats weighed anchor and headed for deep water. The predicted time of arrival of the wave was 1106. We got word at 1111 that the wave had passed us by and was only 0.2 of a foot, measured by one of the Mexican weather buoys offshore. When we got back to the anchorage it was more obvious that something had occurred. People ashore reported a period of low water (1-2 ft) and a small rise when it arrived but unusual currents were observed for several hours in the marina harbour. Another box to tick off on the boater’s list....
We weren’t able to see much of the Winter Olympics during the past 2 weeks but we were determined to see the last day’s events and closing ceremonies. We were fortunate to get access to a large screen TV with coverage in Spanish at a local restaurant. It wasn’t quite the same as the hockey play by play we are used to back home but the excitement was the same and with a good representation of both US and Canadian supporters we applauded the winners and raved at the success Canada earned overall. What a show the closing ceremonies were! It made us proud to be Canadians even though the beer was Corona.
We finished our 4th and last lesson in Spanish on Thursday. We’d like to think we have improved but only time and practice will tell. If nothing else these lessons made us realize a lot of bad habits and misuses of words and expressions.
While here we have taken the opportunity to revisit Colima, the state capital, and Comala close to the volcano. Four years ago we had done this on our own; this time we went with a tour guide (actually, the ex-husband of our Spanish teacher who is a taxi driver). It was well worth the extra few dollars. We saw many extras including an exotic fruit farm, brick factory, Mayan ruins and a very nice museum dedicated to the Mexican Artist, Hidalgo. While in Colima we saw the annual horse parade, a real treat, with dancing horses and every kind of livery.
The remainder of our time at Las Hadas was spent in an idyllic haze. We had full use of the resort’s superb pool and grounds, all for a paltry $30/week docking fee. We spent our time relaxing, swimming, chatting with newfound and old friends and wondering what we would do next week when this was all behind us. It was hard to bid farewell to the “gang”: Steve and Linda (Warren Peace, Whiterock) who have been there for the past month and plan on remaining for another few weeks, Pam and Steve (Full Quiver, San Francisco) arrived just a few days ago, Kristen and Ned (Bristol Blue, Seattle), who were with us previously in Barra, Hal and Cathy (Airborne, Vancouver) and many others too numerous to mention.
While there we also bid farewell to Christy and John (Indian Summer) who were headed South, We heard from them on the net this morning that they were departing Zihuatanejo for Huatuco in the next day or so.

Las Hadas with Vicky and Bert

The Colima volcano and Mayan ruins