Saturday, December 31, 2011

Topolobampo to Barra de Navaidad

Fran's garden. Chives not too plentiful!

0900, Tuesday, 27 Dec 2011, At Sea
We are on day 2 of our passage south. We are powering in 12 kts of NW wind and we are heading SW. We spent most of yesterday and last night under sail with main and mizzen in winds ranging from 12 to 25 kts. At some points we were touching 7 kts hull speed, about our max so far in Gosling. Seas are about 4-6 ft so we did roll somewhat and it was difficult to get any sleep. We’ll be napping on and off today.
We had a very quiet Christmas at the marina dock, just the 3 of us. It was cold and windy night again with gusts in the 30-35 kt range. It lightened a bit on Christmas morning and the sun was able to overcome the wind-chill and warm us up a bit. Santa brought J-G a fancy Swiss watch and a Kindle, lots of candy and a feather rose for Fran. It was fun to open the gifts from friends and family that we had brought with us. Rosie got a multi-coloured, super-bright mini-dog light that makes her look like a Christmas tree at night from her doggie God-parents (Rick and Jane). We’ll never lose sight of her again.... For something different we went to a restaurant in town for a late breakfast. There are very few choices in Topo and the hotel/restaurant is owned by the same person who owns this marina.
Tourtiere for Christmas eve dinner, Yum Yum!

We departed early on Boxing Day in a calm sea. It took 2 ½ hours to get to the end of the channel where we found 12 kt winds and 4 ft seas but, thankfully, all in the direction we were heading. By the afternoon the wind had increased to 15 kts and we were able to fly the spinnaker for most of the afternoon. Just before sunset a large pod of dolphins came in for a look and Rosie went nuts running up and down the deck and barking her head off. At least she gets her exercise that way. J-G tied a line to her floater coat just in case she slipped through the guard rails at the bow. We have netting from there to the midships embarkation points.
0700, Wednesday, 28 Dec 2011, At sea
Yesterday was almost a carbon copy of the previous day except that the wind is lightening and the sea is calming down. We flew the spinnaker all afternoon but the lightening winds made that a challenge. By sunset the wind had dropped to 10 kts, still on the stern, making for very slow progress south. We decided that wasting any more time getting to our destination wasn’t a desirable option so we flashed up the engine and powered all night. This morning the wind is even lighter so it looks like we’ll be a powerboat for the next few days unless conditions change.
It is getting significantly warmer. Two nights ago we put on all the warm clothes we have to stand our watches but last night we didn’t need all those layers. This morning, with the wind abating it is actually a pleasant 70F in the cabin.
We passed by Mazatlan, about 30 miles off, in mid-afternoon. Steve and Linda (Warren Peace) departed from there yesterday and they are some 30 mile ahead of us. I doubt we’ll catch up unless they insist on sailing but with only 3 days left to get to Barra I think they will be powering as well.
We have decided to miss La Cruz and continue on to Barra. Our reason to stop into La Cruz was for Fran to get an appointment at the Chiropractor in Bucerias but after contacting him by e-mail we have learned that he is away until after the New Year. If all goes well we should arrive on the 30th. We were going to stop in Tenecatita to visit an old family friend, who we discovered, much to our surprise, has been living in La Manzanillo, for the past few years. Had we known last year we would have made contact when we went grocery shopping there after the Tsunami. After an e-mail exchange we will see them while in Barra. They are only 20 minutes away by road.
0800, Friday, 30 Dec 2011, The Aquarium anchorage, Tenecatita Bay.
We arrived in this beautiful anchorage as the sun was setting yesterday; another beautiful Mexican sunset. We weren’t going to reach Barra before dark so this was a good option for a quiet night. Our friends Hal and Cathy on their catamaran, Airborne are the only other boat here. What a difference in temperature! We are now officially complaining about the heat. It was 80 in the cabin but it is cooling off as evening sets in. The sea temp is 82. We had to take a dip to cool off before turning in
The shoreline here has changed significantly since we were here last. A few years ago all of the squatters, vendors and a few well-established residents were dismayed to learn that they were being evicted. Within a few days the beach was cleared with bulldozers and all access roads and gates were blocked. The area had seen a lot of controversy about the ownership of the cove for many years and finally the more influential party, with backing from the local police and others validated their claim through the courts and, finally by force. Today there are just a few newer buildings that have been built since then.
Yesterday we powered down the coast with our sails up to catch any wind. The land and sea breezes that came up assisted us for short periods but to arrive here by sunset we needed the extra propulsion of the engine. We had a great nature day with turtles, dolphins and 2 pods of whales, one of which surfaced about 50 ft from the boat. But the only fish we caught was the bad tasting Bonito, so they went back to the sea.
0800, New Year’s Eve, 31 Dec 2011, Barra de Navidad.
We are enjoying a beautiful morning in one of our favourite anchorages. There are 21 other boats here including Warren Peace and Optical Illusion, the two boats we were hoping to catch up to for New Years. There are several other boats that we have met here over the years; Manasea, Windward Bound and Jake. We expect to be here for a week or so before we continue south to Manzanillo.
We arrived here mid-day yesterday and immediately went to the fuel dock to replenish what we had used since Topolobampo. We took on 230 litres of fuel, which translated to a usage rate of .82 imp gals per hour. We also filled up the water tanks, a chore that we will have to be diligent on this trip. We would have liked to be independent on that front with a bigger watermaker but the new batteries took precedence this year.
We have had a few maintenance issues over the past few days. The shower drain pump for the fwd shower has decided to pack it in so we are now looking for a new impellor for that pump. Last night, when removing the cover off the BBQ, I heard a splash and discovered the small control knob on the regulator had popped off. It is still useable but with difficulty. I also broke the tip off my casting fishing rod when launching the dinghy. They say crap comes in threes so I should be OK for the next few days.
All the best everyone on a great 2012.
(Pictures will be posted soon)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas in Topolobampo

1730, Marina Palmira, Topolobampo, Mexico
We are alongside this outback marina in an isolated little fishing village come commercial port since yesterday afternoon. The wind is howling through the rigging and dust is flying everywhere. We are sharing the docks with another couple in a cruiser. We really hadn’t planned to spend Christmas here but until this gale blows itself out we don’t have much choice. Hopefully we’ll be able to leave by Sunday afternoon. We will proceed directly to La Cruz (Puerto Vallarta) and make up the time we have lost.
We launched as predicted and spent 2 days at the fuelling dock finishing off a few projects, fuelling and getting the engine looked at by Omar (the best mechanic in Mexico). He arrived late Tuesday night determined to get us away as soon as he could. After a 3-hour session, adjusting our valves, changing the raw water impellor (and chasing all the bits that had broken off the old one), we were good to go. Lesson: change the impellor every year. It costs less than having a mechanic locate and remove all the broken bits.....
That night we experienced our first significant rainfall in Guaymas. Although it only rained for a short time, it was long enough for us to finally locate the leak in the aft cabin, the one right over J-G’s pillow. We’ll know if we were successful in plugging that leak with the next rain, whenever that will be.
After saying our farewells to everyone we left Guaymas for Mazatlan. We were a full day behind Warren Peace which was also headed there for Christmas. That afternoon we realized that we were missing our Mexican courtesy flag. It was beginning to look pretty ratty at the end of last season so we had packed it up to bring home for repairs. It is still there, ratty as ever. Fran came up with a solution. We have a sewing machine aboard and lots of white material. Red and green was more of a challenge until Fran looked into her tea-towel drawer and lo and behold a red and a green set of Christmas tea towels. She produced the flag in no time, complete with artwork.
Fran's creation
Where's the dolphins??

The following day we heard that a gale was headed our way with winds 35-50 kts. Although the wind would be in our favour we would arrive at the harbour mouth to the Mazatlan marinas well after the gale hit us and there was no doubt that the entrance would be closed. It was an easy decision to divert to Topolobampo, just a few miles ahead of us and the only safe haven between Guaymas and Mazatlan. The entrance is a bit complicated but it is well buoyed for the big ships. The problem is that the big ships don’t use the secondary channel to the marinas and this is one of the few commercial ports that do not have an updated and detailed harbour chart. Luckily we got within internet range shortly after arriving at the outer buoy and were able to download the waypoints for the channel from the Southbound Group’s file page. One of the fishermen also gave us directions by waving us away from the shallows and his nets.
This marina is a nice change from Singlar. It is well maintained and the marina crew seem to be a happy bunch. Everyone has been very courteous and helpful. The owner of this marina also owns the Palmira Marina in La Paz where we have stayed several times. Here he also owns many of the power boats tied up at the other docks. Hope he is making money in La Paz this weekend because he isn’t making much here with just 2 paying boats. He does have a good plan for this marina. Topolobampo is expected to grow into one of the more important big ship seaports on the coast and he is counting on significant economic and population growth in the next decade and he wants to cash in on the pleasure boating traffic. Already it is the doorway to the Copper Canyon. Boaters stop here, leave their boats and take the bus to Los Mochis to the railhead to do the Copper Canyon tour.
Our best wishes to all for a very Merry Christmas.
Marina Palmira

Eduardo fishing for Lisas, the easy way...

Saturday, Christmas Eve,24 Dec 2011
It was one windy night last night but it died suddenly at about 1AM then set back in by dawn. We had supper with Ralph and Barbara aboard Pacific High (the cruiser mentioned above). Throughout the evening we were buffeted by 30-40 kt winds. When we left we discovered that tgheir stairs and Ralph's sandals had been blown off the dock. With conditions like that in the marina we can well imagine what they would be offshore.

All the best for a very Merry Christmas from Gosling in Topolobampo.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Last week of refit

Fran and Santa Mike

Fran's new boots

Spiffy prop

Our new transom logo

Sunday, 18 December, Still on the hard in Guaymas
This should be our last night on the hard. We are due to launch in the morning after a long 3 week refit and we are eager to get back on the water. The lift was repaired last week and we have finished all of our critical projects. The van has been moved to San Carlos and parked in a friends’ yard waiting to be driven back to Sierra Vista where it will wait for us until our return in May. The bottom has been painted yet again and we have an interesting looking “green” propeller with zinc-chromate primer and a Prop-Speed coating. We have managed to find a home for much of the stuff we brought down. Anything surplus to our needs was put back into the van to be brought home or sold during the last few weeks. The old LTH golf cart batteries that we replaced were sold off in pairs, the last pair leaving today. What a relief it was to get rid of those, but I must admit that there still was a lot of life left in them, maybe not enough for our next few years but most of the people who bought them were looking for a temporary relief for dead or dying battery. Yesterday we had to buy another 12 volt starter bank battery after finding that one had died completely. Our last task today was to rig a line from the end of the keel to the rudder to prevent any fishing lines or nets from fouling the prop. The catamaran “Airborne” had a similar system and it looked like a grand idea. The theory is that any lines or nets will slide from the keel, along the line and under the rudder and not pop up between the keel and rudder. We have added another 110 ft of anchor cable giving us about 300 ft and still lots of room in the anchor cable locker.
We also took advantage of the time on the hard to do some interior refinishing. Fran sewed up a sunshade for the front windshield and a new 4-way wind-scoop after finding the last one had become brittle over the summer. J-G installed the repaired propane controller that had died the “night of the scorpions” last season and also installed the AIS receiver and all of the refurbished woodwork that we had brought down.
Fran now has a new set of cowboy boots. She has wanted a pair to line dance and ride in for a while now and found a place in town where she could get them made to measure. She initially ordered a goat and cowhide pair after being told that ostrich was 4 times more expensive but when she went to pick them up she was told that they had run out of cow hide and had to use ostrich – no extra cost. She actually hugged the salesman! With the boots she also got a free belt but it was too large but it did fit J-G, so now we both have our Christmas presents.
Tonight we had a wee cocktail party aboard with Patty and Tony (Forbes and Cameron, who are folk singers of repute), Susie and Ron (Gold Eagle), and Arlette and Dick (Quatro de Mayo). Susie is a Mexican so we had to translate all of our stories to Spanish so she could understand. Too bad we are leaving. She has been a very good sounding board for our poor Spanish for the past few weeks and we have learned a lot from her.
Steve and Linda (Warren Peace) should be leaving any day now for Mazatlan. They splashed a few days ago and have been fixing some last minute problems. They are due to be in Mazatlan in a few days and will save us a spot. We hope to be there for Christmas and leave for Banderas Bay on the 26th or 27th and hope fully make it to Barra de Navidad for New Years.
Hope the weather cooperates. It will be a very dark couple of nights on our way down to Mazatlan but we have done that before.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Getting ready: Refit week 2

Compa Juan's, our favourite taco bar

Wednesday, 7 December, 2011. On the hard at the Guaymas Singlar Yard

We are half way through week 2 of our refit. Although the boat looks like a gypsy caravan with all of the bits and pieces strew about the deck, cockpit and cabin spaces, projects are progressing well and there is a glimpse of light somewhere in the tunnel ahead of us. Today was a good day. Fran finished making her sunshade for the windshield and J-G finished putting the fwd head back together with a new thru-hull, a new pump and all new hoses. Another project, the lightning ground on the hull was replaced with a 12” by 12” sheet of 1/8 “ copper sheet, a recommendation from Nigel Calder the boating electrical and mechanical guru who conducted a seminar in Victoria last summer. We have also scrubbed and disinfected the water tanks, a big job and messy job. There is much left to do but the major items that are required for us to go back in the water are done. There are always the unexpected tasks and one has been the rebuilding of the port lazarette cover that was badly delaminated. Luckily there are lots of people working on boats and lots of expertise to tap into. One of our neighbours in a refrigeration expert and he has given us reassurance that our system is sound and has offered some advice on how to reduce our power consumption. We are also getting ready for our insurance survey that is due every 5 years.
However, there is a major problem: The travel-lift is out of commission and has been for the past 4 days. We weren’t planning to splash before next week anyway. Hopefully it will be fixed by then. The Singlar facilities across Mexico are run by a government agency, and they are now a millstone they have been trying to sell for the past few years. In August they raised the prices 61% across the board. Needless to say that was not a popular event with the cruisers using the facilities. There will be very few, if any, returning here next season and those in the yard now are hurrying to complete their projects as quickly as they can. The powers to be in Mexico City have been funnelling money from one facility to another to cover expenses and, although, this is one of the few that show a profit, there is no money left in the coffers for maintenance. That is why the travel-lift problem hasn’t been reported to Mexico City yet. They are hoping to get the repairs done under the table so those of us ready to splash before the end of the year can do so. We are forever hopeful...
In the next week we’ll be re-rigging and getting Gosling ready for sea. All the lines and sails are littering the deck at the moment but Fran has the Christmas tree ready.... The new batteries are also ready to install and, hopefully we’ll get that done before the weekend. With a swap-meet on Saturday that will be a good place to get rid of the old ones. Saturday is also Fran’s birthday. J-G will have to think of something special before then. We also have a new boat name and home-port decal for the stern that has to be installed along with a number of new improvements such as a new and more powerful solar controller, the repaired propane controller that crapped out late last season, a noise cancelling speaker system for the SSB and an AIS system that locates and identifies shipping.
It has been very cold here for the past few days. Nightly temps have been close to 50F and daily temps in the low 70’s. We have had some strong winds that have shaken the boat on its stands (we actually live on the boat while in the yard). This morning the anemometer was registering 23-26 kts. We haven’t had to resort to a heater yet but that second down duvet has been handy, not like the spinnaker J-G had to sleep under the first night he was on the boat in San Diego in early 2008. The Americans and Mexicans are amazed at seeing us in shorts and t-shirts while they are in long pants and ski jackets. We just tell them we are tougher skinned but, in reality, we don’t have any winter clothing with us except for what we were wearing on the way down. The weather should be improving by the weekend but the El Nina conditions that have redeveloped over the past few months will be giving us some very different weather patterns this year. Hopefully its effects won’t follow us down the coast.