Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Mazatlan for Christmas

Merry Christmas from Gosling

Christmas tree

Christmas Eve Dinner

Tanque de Tiburon entering under tow

Rosie and her pal Amber

Ernie and his pals at the pool.

Pork anyone?

14:00 Christmas Day 2010
It is hard to believe we have been here for 4 days already. Time flies when you are alongside, especially in a resort atmosphere like this one. We are an hour away from our Christmas dock party. Fran has a Pollo Navidad (Christmas chicken, marinated in fruit juices) in the oven. Somewhere in the marina there is another pollo and a turkey, which has been cut in two so that it will fit in 2 boat ovens. This will be a pot luck event so you never know what will be contributed. They are so much fun. I will be preparing a vat of Moosemilk, a Canadian Navy tradition that is also very popular in the other two services of Canada. Hopefully no-one will fall off the dock after imbibing....
The saga of Tanque de Tiburon continued this week. After leaving Topolobampo their engine quit after 12 hours so they had to sail the rest of the way. They had good wind conditions, for the most part, and sailed down using their genoa only, arriving off Mazatlan yesterday afternoon. Conditions were too choppy and windy to attempt a tow into the narrow harbour opening so they anchored out in the lee of Deer Island for the night. We tried in vain to get them going under their own power but the engine refused all attempts at resuscitation. This morning we went out at 7 a.m. to tow them in with our dinghies tying them up alongside to give them steerage way. Conditions were almost ideal with light winds but with a 2-3 foot residual sea from yesterday’s blow. By 08:00 they were tied up alongside at Marina Mazatlan and ready for a hot shower and a good nap before coming to the dinner.
It is really nice to see the boats all decked out in their finest Christmas decorations. Some are more permanent dwellers here so they are decked out to the 9’s with lights everywhere. We cruisers have to find places to store these things and, with most boats, storage space is at a premium and we are one the minimalists among the group. We have several strings of solar powered lights and a few strings of 110v that we can use when connected to shore power. Our Christmas tree (a palm tree shaped fir tree) folds up into a small box and Fran has made some sea shell decorations.
Last night we had Christmas Eve dinner onboard with Pam and Steve. (Full Quiver) Fran made her usual Christmas Eve fare, tourtiere, a dish she learned from my mom but has improved on. In past years the ingredients have depended on where we are. When we visited Australia she made it with kangaroo meat. Here it was the more traditional pork.
Some of our friends will be leaving this week and heading south towards the warmer waters of Banderas Bay and the Gold Coast (Tenecatita-Manzanillo) area. That’s where we will be heading once we leave here with a stop in San Blas to deliver some things for Kirk (Freedom Kirkland). Tanque also has a few items for him and Kirk will be bringing down some hinges for me to finally re-assemble the table.
0800, Tuesday, 28 Dec 2010
The Christmas party was a blast. The moosemilk and Fran’s Naniamo Bars were very well received and will most likely become a tradition with Gosling from now on. As expected the variety of food was amazing and the Mexican Pollos were the juiciest we have ever had. Everyone had a great time and no-one went for a swim off the dock, however, many of us retired to the resort hot-tub afterwards and all made it back to their boats.
The ranks are beginning to thin out. Four of our companion boats have left and more will depart before the week is out. The others will stay until after the New Year, like us. We will be having a cabinet made for the master cabin while we are here. This is a project J-G has wanted to do for the past 2 years but with all of his good tools at home in the workshop and the need for precise measurements and compound curve drawings it has always been one of those “round to it” items. There is a good carpenter working a few of the boats in the marina and we hope to get it done before we leave.
Next issue, in a week or so. Everyone have a great New Years and a great start to 2011.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Refit completed - departing Guaymas

Mexican Junkfood

Skating in Mexico

Departure morning; high fog bank but clear below.

19:15, 17 Dec 2010, At sea, enroute to Mazatlan`
We are finally at sea, on our way south. It is a clear night with light winds and a calm sea. The moon is directly overhead, waxing to a full moon in another few days. Orion, my favourite constellation, has just risen in the east and somewhere between Bellatrix and Alderbaran the star “Jean-Guy” is burning a hole in the sky. (Fran named the star for me as a Christmas present a few years ago). There are no visual or radar contacts. We have been under power all day because of the calm conditions and the engine is purring like a kitten (OK, a big kitten). We had a large pod of dolphin’s visit us outside the harbour approaches this morning and a wonderful green flash at sunset, good omens. Fran is in her bunk and I am standing the first watch of the evening. Manasea, Plan B and Tanque de Tiburon are in company but spread over a 30 mile path astern. Life is grand!
It was a great feeling to cast off the lines this morning and head out of the harbour. We have seen so many of our friends leave over the past few weeks and have received e-mails that many are already in Mazatlan enjoying the pre-Christmas events. For the past few days there has been a lot of fog in the area and all the way down the coast. Nights have been very damp with heavy dew and we were worried that we’d be delayed but this morning, although overcast was clear. Once we got away from the coast it cleared up and we has a sunny but calm day. It is nice to relax once again, something that hasn’t been on our menu for the past month.
It has been a very busy week since launching on Monday. Storing and organising the living areas was the biggest task. Omar returned and checked the engine alignment and it was near perfect, testimony to his last alignment 2 years ago. I must admit that the vibration we used to experience is all but gone. The machining of the shaft seems to have corrected that. Doug and Trish finished wiring of the grounds, solar panels and a new shore power connection port. The original was in the cockpit and was always in the way. All of the jerry cans and fuel tanks were filled and lashed to the guardrails. They look much better with the covers Fran made to match the new sail covers. This year we have quite a variety: 100-1 and 50-1 mixture for the outboards, high test gas for the generator, diesel for the main engine and 2 cans of potable drinking water. Last year the containers were covered by old t-shirts to protect them from the sun. The last task was to stock up on cervesa and put the car in the storage yard for the winter. Fran did that yesterday.
0610, 19 Dec, at Sea
It is twilight, day 3 of our trip south to Mazatlan; the eastern sky is aglow in pink and gold promise of another beautiful sunrise. It has been a cool night but not as damp as yesterday. The company has changed somewhat. Tanque de Tiburon is experiencing alternator problems and will have to stop in Topolobambo to replace it with his spare. Plan B is also stopping there to sort out a leaking cooling system. Manasea is forging ahead; his trimaran much lighter and swifter than us. We have heard Rich on Third Day calling in on the radio and he appears to be paralleling our track towards Mazatlan from the Cabo side.
Yesterday was a quiet day with decent winds on the stern which gave J-G the opportunity to try out a few sails that we brought down with us that came with Antares, our last boat. The heavy (3 ½ oz) spinnaker will probably stay but the Tall Boy will be going. What an odd sail, a cross between a drifter and a jib, some former owner’s race breaker. We’ll probably end up giving that one away just to get rid of it. We’ve also discovered that the new stack pack sail cover scheme has lowered the mizzen boom by a few inches. Now the boom interferes with the outboard engine storage mounts. That will be a harder one to sort out. Note: the easy solution was to re-insert the outer lug on the foot of the sail to the boom track. It now clears the mounts .
One never has the time to get bored on these long passages. There is always something to fix or adjust, normal routines to be followed like taking and logging fixes, listening and participating in the morning and evening radio nets, checking the engine state, fuel levels, and such. Keeping a good lookout is very important out here. Fishing activity is everywhere and already Phil (Manasea) has had to go swimming twice to free his boat from floating fishing lines. All that considered, there are Spanish courses on CD to listen to and many books that have to be read. The more we read the lighter the boat gets, at least in theory. They normally get exchanged for other books to read.
Then there is Rosie, our live mascot. Since we left she has not ventured very far from the aft cabin bunk. Yesterday we managed to get her to do her business on the bow after shutting down the engine and finding course that minimized roll and pitch. She managed to eat a bit of food and Fran makes sure she has a drink on a regular basis. She will bounce back to the party dog we all know as soon as the first line is on the dock.
2100, 19 December, 60 miles to go.
It is an absolutely beautiful night. The moon is full and bright enough to give us a horizon as we motor down the coast on a sea of glass. There are lots of fishing vessels bobbing in the distance and the temperature is much more pleasant than last night. Earlier we had another fantastic sunset and our third “Green Flash” in a row. On the down side we have not caught any fish since leaving Guaymas. We’ll have to check what colour of lures are working before our next leg south to San Blas in a few weeks.
It has been a pleasant day. We sailed most of the morning until the wind died. With the engine on and foresail down Rosie has braved the decks and, on a few occasions came up by herself to do her business. Is this a sign that she is getting used to this way of life???
We have been called by Bill (Optical Illusion) and Pam (Full Quiver) from their berths at El Cid. It will be nice to catch up to everyone. On the other hand, we heard from Bill and Linda (Tanque de Tiburon) that they were pulling into Topolobambo this morning to effect repairs to their electrical system, engine and gooseneck. Linda believes in the “3” principle of bad luck and is confident that with 3 problems they will be safe for a while. Plan B is following about 60 miles astern with his engine problems unresolved. Phil is 10 miles ahead, still dodging the fishermen close to shore but, thankfully, not dealing with their equipment today.
2100, 21 December, El Cid marina Dock B-35
We made it without incident and tied up alongside at 0900 on the 20th. Bill (Optical Illusion) told us that there was only one berth left and that we should take it before anyone else did. Good thing we followed his advice because there were several other boats that were refused later on. One of them had chosen to go for fuel before taking a berth. Too bad for them and hooray for us. Good thing we had a reservation. It was a nice reception with many of our old cruising acquaintances already there. We were also warmly greeted by Cliff and Lynne (Taya) from Vancouver, on their first season in Mexico. Cliff admitted to having read our blog and having been inspired. Somebody actually reads this thing!!! If there are others out there please leave a short note in the comments section.
The boat is now in festive colours with our Palm tree Christmas tree on the bow and several strings of solar Christmas lights. We are minimalists compared to others boats in the marina which are adorned with miles of light strings. One even has a reindeer and tree, all in lights. We will be celebrating with a dock Christmas dinner on Christmas day. So far there are 26 people participating, including Linda and Bill, (Tanque de Tiburon) who are now fixed and departing from Topolobambo tomorrow morning. It should be a fun week.
Hope all of you have a safe and wonderful Christmas and New Year.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Afloat again - Refit week 3

We're off to the "splash zone". Fran is taking the ride.

Reworked shaft. Notice the machined taper.

Concentrate now! Thou shall not sew fingers...

Bottom paint - again...

Doug and Trish hard at it.

Happy 60th, Fran!!

20:30, Monday, 13 Dec 2010

Gosling is afloat!!! We launched late this morning. The engine started up on the first push after a six month rest and we moved over to the marina side to complete the preps for sailing. There is a weather advisory for later this week so we are now expecting to sail on Friday for Mazatlan where many of our cruising buddies are heading.
Needless to say we have had a very busy week. With the help of Trish and Doug (Ka-Em-Te) I doubt that we would have completed in time. Trish did some stellar work on the boat’s ground and bonding system. She also ran a ground from the inverter to the engine, a detail that was omitted by the original installer regardless of the highlighted notes in the installation instructions. Today she was connecting the new solar panels. Doug spent a few days cleaning and greasing the through-hull fittings while Fran sewed up a storm with her new (used) sewing machine making covers for winches and the jerry cans. Francisco and his son Alejandro filled the mounting holes for the old wind vane and repainted the transom. While all of this was happening, Omar, the mechanic, was replacing the cutlass bearing. He was able to remove the prop with a crude but very effective home-made puller when 2 other commercially made ones failed. With the shaft off the boat and at a machine shop to be cleaned and trued J-G set to the dirtiest job of the refit.
He had done some of the bilge under the engine a few years ago when we replaced the engine mounts but last season we noticed that the drain from the engine bilge to the sump was partially blocked. With a pressure washer borrowed from Francisco (painter) and our small wet/dry shop vac he thoroughly cleaned both bilges and cleared the plugged passage. Somehow the wet/dry vac survived the ordeal with the help of lots of degreaser and the pressure washer.
J-G had been concerned about the lack of enough sacrificial zincs on the hull. After looking at home at all the local and internet suppliers he had given up and hoped to get something adequate locally here. He mentioned it to the owner of the machine shop and within 2 days they were cast, machined and installed for a fraction of the price up north, another testament of Mexican ingenuity.
The last item before launching was to apply the bottom paint. This time we used a Sherwin Williams product, Proline, 55% copper, to which we added a kg of copper dust to the 5 gal pail. J-G applied 2 coats using up 3 gals. The remainder is going to San Blas with us in early Jan for Kirk’s boat (Freedom Kirkland).
The headliner panels were finally installed. What a difference! The pure white reflects the light from the new LED lights we have installed (Source LED). Although the lights still give RF interference on the VHF their brightness is amazing, much better than the old halogen lights and at a fraction of the electrical consumption.
The launching is always a production number. This time the travel lift couldn’t fit between the 2 boats beside us so Horacio, the yard manager, had to move one to make room. When the straps were applied we had lots of cardboard sheets available to protect the new paint job. Once lowered in the water and all of the thru-hull valves checked for leaks the engine was stared and we were free once again.
We have removed all of the gear we won’t need for this season off the boat and into the van for storage. It is almost as full as it was when we drove down with sail bags, covers and various things we will need when we get back next May.
Since we arrived at the dock we have had Trish onboard connecting up the new solar panels. J-G has set up the mainsail and tomorrow when the wind is light we’ll put up the genoa. There are still lots of small jobs to get done, stuff we have been piling up in various locations has to be stowed, fishing equipment set up, flags hoisted, engine oil, oil and fuel filters changed, water tanks filled, fuel topped up for the boat, generator and dingy, last minute provisioning, some minor caulking and teak oil applied to the toe-rail, plan the passage to Mazatlan, and, finally, getting everything secured and stowed for sea. When we start rocking and rolling it is often too late to lash things down.
Two days ago we bid farewell to Relax, heading for the Baja and this morning to Rio Nimpkish on their way to Mazatlan. We also learned a few days ago that Steve on Full Quiver came down with a serious case of the flu during their stopover in Topolobambo. John and Barb (Naida) decided to wait until he recovered and they left yesterday morning for Mazatlan after a 3-day delay.
On Thursday we celebrated Fran’s 60th birthday with friends at a restaurant in San Carlos. Bill and Linda (Tanque de Tiburon) had just arrived the previous day so this was our first contact with them. They had a lot of items for us and other boats we will see in the coming weeks. The most important item for J-G was a new cordless drill/driver. He won’t have to borrow anymore. They also brought down Fran’s new waterproof camera that J-G had purchased online. Looks like Tanque will be sailing south with us. Hope things go better this time; last year we had to tow them into Mazatlan.
We are hoping to catch up with Reno and Nina in Mazatlan when their cruise ship comes in for the day on the 28th. We really want them to see what cruising on a budget is. After the opulence of the cruise ship it should be interesting to see their reaction.
Many thanks to Doug and Trish for their tireless efforts to get us ready and to Bill and Linda for volunteering to be the shipping agents for many of the Canadian boats.
The rink on the town square is up and running. It is covered during the day and doesn't open till 2100. Skate rentals, helmets and ice time all for the equivalent of about $4.50. No hockey sticks or pucks. It will be here for a month. Kids and adults line up for hours to get a chance to try something rare to this country. How they make it work with the daytime heat is a wonder. It opened up the night of the Christmas parade and the night of Fran's birthday.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Pre-launch refit - week 2

The town's outside rink - won't be long now.

Gosling's New Look

Thanks to Dave (Canada Goose)

Pinata killer Fran

Guaymas, Monday, 6 Dec 2010
It has been one of those very frustrating weeks of one step forward and 2 back. We are progressing, but finding some of the chores difficult if not impossible to do while others are taking much longer than anticipated. Forgetting parts at home doesn’t help either. The hinges for the salon table are somewhere in the workshop where the table was refinished over the summer. There are also a couple of wooden mouldings there, part of the head-liner framing. Those we can replace here but the hinges are a British product and there is nothing close available here.
We are waiting for the mechanic to show up to remove the prop and replace the cutlass bearing. The prop was last removed just after we bought the boat and is refusing all attempts of removal so far. The fact that it is on a 1 ¾ inch shaft doesn’t help. Normal prop pullers are designed for smaller assemblies. Hopefully the mechanic will have done work on fishing vessels.
The plan to swap out the solar panels has gone by the wayside and we have had to look for other solutions to install the 2 new ones on the rail. Mounting brackets are difficult to find here but the brackets for the Scotty rod holders will fill the bill nicely for now.
This week we finally took the plunge and removed the wind vane. It was a difficult decision to make but one that has given us peace of mind. It has been the source of constant trouble for the past 3 years so this season we were planning to replace the entire mounting assembly, however, the prospect of having the mounts welded by Sr Hernandez, a very good but notoriously unreliable local welder, had us concerned that it would hold us up. Mike (Tazmo) had shown an interest in the gear since he first saw it so it was sold even before it was removed. The scars left from the mounting brackets then had to be filled and the entire transom repainted. Now we have a very bare and pristine transom.
One of the most essential tools I have is a rechargeable drill that Fran gave me for Christmas some years ago. It has a saws-all and a circular saw attachment so is a very versatile tool. I even had one of the batteries rebuilt last summer but, as (bad) luck would have it, the charger has given up the ghost. I am lost without it. We just managed to get friends, who will be arriving later this week, to get us a new Dewalt drill/driver combo to replace it.
Over the past 2 days we have re-rigged all of the running rigging and have put up the new “stack pack” sail covers. What a difference they will make to the appearance of the boat and the stowing of the sails. Fran also had a cover made for the dinghy by our German friend Elke.
One of the chain plates had been showing a bit of corrosion that appeared to be a crack so it was removed and re-welded. More piece of mind.... Before the end of the week we will have to take apart the furler in order to tighten the forestay. This should simplify furling the foresail when under pressure, something that has bugged us for some time now.
Fran has now recovered from her falls (stitches to come out today) and has been sewing winch covers while the dinghy has been out for a new cover. She has been borrowing a Sailrite machine from a friend but has now decided she would rather work with a sturdy Singer type, one that can do both heavy and light work. She has found one at a local Singer repair shop, and will pick it this week. Soon she’ll be making the fuel and water container covers and curtains. She has started making up winch covers using a borrowed machine.
On Sunday night we were invited to Elke’s 60th birthday party. It was a pot luck affair with Ted (the refer man) cooking up tempura onions and shrimp. The highlight of the evening was the piñata that Fran brought. Fran survived the 3rd Sunday unscathed even from the swinging piñata sticks.
Hope this week goes better.