Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas in Guaymas

2000, 26 December 2014 - Alongside Fonatur docks, Guaymas

Well Christmas is done, the lights and tree have been stowed in the bilge locker for another year and Gosling is ready to sail. (that was the plan)....
We have had a nice Christmas here with the other cruisers at the docks. There are 4 other boats and Ian and Ellen in their van up in the parking lot. They were here for the past 2 nights so that they could participate in the pot lucks and fun but have now departed for their road trip. Christmas Eve was on Golden Heart, (Cynthia and Lee from Duncan, BC) hosted the gang and Fran’s tourtiere was a hit, as always. Christmas dinner was on Gosling with a Pollo De Navidad, a Mexican Christmas staple, a chicken marinated in fruit juices that cooks to the most delicious chicken you will ever taste. To back that up Ian made up a South African dish, babutti (sp), a lightly curried meatloaf. All this topped off with Fran’s trifle, liberal amounts of tequila, mescal, wine and Ellen’s homemade Baileys. How we were able to play Mexican Train afterwards is anyone’s guess. We wrapped it all up at about 21:30 after a round of Tums. Good thing we stocked up with the Costco bonus container before we left the US.

Greg and Janis (Gitana), Ian and Elln (Kasasa) Christmas dinner in Gosling
You want what for Christmas??????
Today, after the tree was taken down from the bow, we were able to set up, the genoa on the furler, the last of our sails to rig. The rig was tuned last week so, essentially, we are ready to go. We did a total wash-down yesterday to get rid of the remainder of the boatyard dust and the crap that keeps coming down from an osprey that has taken up residence on top of our neighbour’s mast. When the wind is just right he lands a stream of white crap right over us. If the boat wasn’t occupied he’d be getting a few slingshot loads up the oiseau (yes, I know, French for bird, but appropriate here, huh?)Thankfully we have lots of water here at the dock so wash-downs are easy.
Not much happening on the Malecon this year, in fact, it has been really quiet. There is a go-card outfit that has set up shop but he isn’t getting much business, unlike the skating rink that was here 4 years ago. Locals are walking around all bundled up in jeans and parkas while we Norte-Americano gringos are still in shorts and t-shirts. They don’t seem to notice. We will soon have to give in if the temperatures keep dropping. Days are comfortable but evenings get quite chilly and the 3 comforter nights are the standard now.
We are still being plagued by antenna problems. The VHF radio has been acting up and a VSWR test has revealed that the cable we installed last month is suspect.
20:30, 30 December, Same location
We spoke too soon…. When Omar came to do the valve clearances he discovered a problem that has now been sorted out. It has taken a few days but he is very much in demand and we have to wait our turn. The VHF radio that we thought was working OK at launch turned out not to be. The techs were called back and they found a short in the masthead plug and we now have excellent range and reception. This time alongside has given us the time to get a few more small projects done, mostly cosmetic in nature and normally not critical enough to earn too many ‘round to it’ points. The main accomplishment has been the re-design and installation of the anchor chain fairlead. The Bugel anchor that we obtained in Panama was not compatible with the original fairlead and needed an extension to get it away from the bow. We had lots of scrapes after last year’s trip, all of which were touched up by Francisco last month. The new fairlead is a modified cantilever arrangement with a heavily modified stainless steel fairlead adapted to the existing bronze arrangement. Ken (Naughty Moments) may be able to recognize it as his old one. It hasn’t had a trial by fire yet but we hope to be reporting positive results in the next blog after we use it a few times. Fran has been busy creating a new batch of sourdough starter, making a bunch of ‘bake-in-the-mason-jar’ rum cakes that she has been handing out as Christmas and New Year gifts. She also began making ocean plaits after asking other boaters on the dock for old halyards. While doing the laundry she showed one of the halyard donors how to make one. Now, Fran is  of this as a nice change from chair caning……. She also made a new set of fender covers.

Modified standard fairlead (sorry no 'pre' photo)
Installed with original pin and sheave
Set to go with added protection of a stainless sheet 'bib'.

New tan fender covers

Ocean plait - our new gate mat.
We have had a wonderful few weeks here. Canadian boats have outnumbered the American boats for most of the time but we are now equal and we have added a few more invitees to the Annual Cruisers’ Party at our place next August. The cruising camaraderie is a special bond that is not easy to describe but it is real and enduring as many will attest.

Well, if all goes according to plan we will be sailing southwest tomorrow morning towards Bahia Conception or San Juanico. Pura Vida (Mike and Judie from Portland, OR) should be in company. It is tempting to remain here for New Year’s Eve but these delays have gone on long enough, and besides, the winds should be good for a crossing tomorrow. For the next few weeks we will be in poor internet conditions. We will be in La Paz by the 17th to pick up our son and daughter-in-law for a few weeks of cruising the islands.

Now if that pesky Arctic air can deviate a bit further north so that we can get some decent warmth back to this country......

Fran, J-G, Gosling and Rosie (in Kelowna) wish you a happy and prosperous New Year, filled with love and happiness. All the best for 2015. 


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Finally waterborne!

21:30, 12 December 2014, Still in Gabriel’s yard

Hard to believe that we are still here, on the hard after almost 6 weeks but we see the tunnel, and maybe the light at the end. Not sure, as it might be a train coming but there is a light…..

The mast is up and the lights, VHF and wind systems are working, the painting is finished and we have begun to get at the list of chores to ready us for a mid-week splash next week. Over the weekend we will get the bottom paint done and shift any excess stuff to the truck and trailer where it will be stored until we get back. Early next week we will move the truck and trailer to a storage location in San Carlos where we stored the van when we were here last. In a way we will miss the crowded comfort of our little Casita on wheels with our dusty patio and party lights, but the indescribable feeling of being afloat will make up for it until it is time to return here. It will be time to strike out the Christmas tree and the decorations for the last week before Christmas. We hope to be in Bahia Conception for the holidays.

Our visit to Alamos was a very nice change to the daily drudgery of the boatyard.Alamos is a beautiful colonial town that appears to have been bypassed by progress as we know it. It has been the domain of the rich for decades, fueled by the rich silver mines that surround it. It has the requisite church and associated park with its requisite band shell, indoor market which spills out into the adjacent streets, a few trinket shops and a set of carnival rides to support the religious festival that was occurring while we were there. The main part of the town is made up of huge squares bordered by streets. Like many of the colonial Mexican towns each square is divided into properties with living quarters built around a courtyard. Over the past century this town has been discovered by Americans and upper class Mexicans. Entire squares have been bought and combined into mega homes with absolutely stunning courtyards. Our hotel was one of these, a combination of 4 properties painstakingly redeveloped over the past 20 years by an American entrepreneur and his family. The Hotel Los Alamos is now one of the top 5 star mid-sized hotels in the world.
Our hotel, Hacienda de Los lamos

The bar had over 560 different tequilas and mescals ranging from $5 to $125/shot.
We tried the $10 cheapies and loved them.

07:30, 18 December, Last day on the hard.

Yahoo! We are splashing in a few hours!!! Our work has progressed to the point that we can do the remaining bits afloat. The hull has received its coat of anti-fouling, seacocks have been serviced, the engine has been run up, anchor and dinghy recovered and the mess of accumulated junk around the boat picked up and trashed. Amazing how the stuff collects. My precious saw horses have been adopted by friends who will store them for us until our return in April.

We moved back aboard Gosling 3 days ago and, yesterday we made the final commitment by driving the truck and trailer to San Carlos and putting them in the storage yard for the next 4 months. The Casita was a comfortable alternative and we are glad we had it while working on the boat. Thanks to Ian(Kasasa) for driving us back to the boatyard otherwise it would have been a long and complicated bus adventure.

Our plan, today, is to go directly to the Fonatur docks, as is our normal routine after a stay at Gabriel’s yard, to clean the yard dust and grime, complete the rigging (including tuning of the rig), installing the main and genoa and completing the transition from our summer storage state to a proper sailboat. We also have the techs coming back to finish some work on Saturday. The time there will also allow us to start on the list of mall projects that seem to pop up continuously. On that list is varnishing the woodwork, a recurring chore for all boaters. Thankfully we have very little exterior teak, but what we have is still a pain to maintain.

Ian and Ellen will be splashing on Tuesday and Fran overheard Ian saying that he was preparing a Christmas Eve South African meal. (He is in a quandary though. Normally the main dish is elephant…..) The thought of something exotic (not the elephant) was sufficient to have her insist on another change of plan.  Now we are spending Christmas with them at the Fonatur docks and will be leaving for the Baja side on the 27th (the 26th is a Friday, bad karma to leave on a Friday….)

Better get ready for the lift.
Prepping the slings
Lifting. Note the left front tire... scarey but OK (after the fact)
Gosling, back in her natural element
20:30, 19 December, Fonatur dock, Guaymas

It is a howling black-ass night out there but the wind in the rigging is music to our ears (OK, it is irritating at times) and the slight rock of the boat is nice after all these weeks of anticipation.

Our launching went well. It is always a scary sight to see your home away from home transported from the relative safety of the yard to the water by a contraption that appears on its last legs, but appearances are deceiving and we made it without a hitch. Once lowered into the “ditch” we did the rounds of the likely places for a leak to happen and, apart from a slight drip at the “dripless shaft seal” (which disappeared after the shaft began to turn) all was well. The straps were released and, with help from the travel lift crew we turned Gosling around and headed into the bay. 25 minutes later we were nestled into a slip at the Fonatur docks and began our list of outstanding chores beginning with repairing a leak that we discovered halfway here. It wasn’t where we expected a leak and it probably didn’t open up until we began to motor over but it was sufficient to get the bilge pump operating a few times. Sometimes you have to be a contortionist to work on a boat and this was one of those jobs, a worn out fitting linking some drains to a seacock under the engine room deck and behind the water heater. My multitude of spares (the cruiser packrat syndrome) came in handy this time and the problem was resolved after a few scraped knuckles, swearing and a bucket of sweat, oh yes, and a t-fitting, some hose that I got from Steve (Warren Peace) last year and a few clamps. Better than new!

Today the mainsail was rigged, Forestay reconnected (it had to be removed for the travel lift), the boat washed down, outboard tested and the boat readied for “tech Friday”. Omar will be here to tune up the engine, Salvador will be checking the systems he installed last week and Jesus will be tuning the rig.

Apart from the wind it is very quiet for a Friday night in downtown Guaymas. Mind you it is a cold evening. Fran like to gauge the nights by the number of duvets we use. She had 3 last night, but then she hasn’t been feeling all that well lately. For the last few days she has been having stomach pains and trouble sleeping. Yesterday she decided to seek medical advice. At a nearby walk-in clinic she was seen by a physician who did a very thorough examination and gave her a prescription, all for a $3.00 fee (no typo, three dollars). The drugs were almost 8 times that much, and, 24 hours later, we are happy to report that she seems to be on the mend.

We were surprised to learn that Phil (Manasea) is in the yard here. He just launched last week from the same location as us but found some leaks on his way over. He was hoping to get south for Christmas but now it looks like his repairs will scuttle that plan.
Only in Mexico, a truckload of piƱatas

20:00 the following evening, Fonatur docks.

After a very windy night and morning the air is very still but this blow is supposed to last for another few days. Hopefully we’ll be able to get a better night’s sleep tonight. Shit, just as I write this I can hear the wind picking up… Well the Christmas tree is anchored in place with lots of lines. Last year the top actually blew off and I had to go diving after it. That won’t happen this year. The water is too freaking cold, and, besides we have lashed it together quite well.

Another busy day and much accomplished. The BBQ is back in operation after a rebuild with a new burner and other bits and the main outboard is working great after a carburetor cleaning. Seems to need one every year on our return, even though we drain the fuel out of it before we leave. The Christmas tree is up and lit, the electronics are working as well as can be expected. We will have to live with a reduced VHF range until the new antenna arrives in the New Year. Fran is feeling better and all is well with the world. Oh, yes, and the malecon is absolutely quiet, a rare event for a Saturday night.

Today is our youngest son, Michael’s 40th birthday. God, we are old!! Happy Birthday Mikey. In mid-April 1974, HMCS Skeena returned to Halifax from a spring deployment in the Caribbean, the magic happened, and Chris slept through it all….

Next blog will be delayed until we reach some sort of efficient internet capability. Once we leave here we will be heading to the Baja where service leaves a lot to be desired.

Merry Christmas everyone and the very best in the New Year.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Has it been a month already?

21:00 Saturday, 29 Nov 2014 Still on the hard

Stifling yawns at 21:00 and Fran asking me to get my ass to bed. This is the cruising lifestyle when lights out is a few hours after sunset (3 hours in our case) and the entire boatyard population is quiet and, all are most likely, already asleep. Just a few lines and I will follow suit.

Whoever coined the phrase ”One step fwd, 2 steps back” must have been a sailor. It has been a week of stepping back and forth with projects hitting glitches because of a variety of reasons, and now it is Saturday. Gabriel only allows workers to be in the yard a half day on Saturdays. To top it all off it is dense fog out there, with lots of dew. That means that the masking and primer work for our upper deck touch-up work isn’t going to be done this morning. Francisco (our painter) needs the humidity level below 30% and, although, the weather has been ideal all week, he was occupied on other projects. So, now we are hoping for a dry sunny beginning to next week.

We have accomplished a few things this week. The mast is down and resting on my homemade saw horses and the parts needed to rewire the mast have been ordered or purchased. The wire alone for the masthead light set, 52 ft of AWG 12 in 4 colours and a 30 ft piece of 3 lead AWG 12 for the steaming and deck light added up to well over $300 at the only source in San Carlos. The VHF wire is still outstanding and it will be available on Tuesday. The problem we had passing the new lead for the wind indicator was very obvious once we had the mast opened up. Most masts have an inner tube where such wires are passed to protect them from chaffing by the lines that run in the mast core and to stop them from rattling. Kemp masts of Southampton (UK) had a unique solution for this. The inside of the mast has a track, similar to the track for the sail on the outer side. Initially the one inch aluminum tube had a series of slugs attached and these slid up the track and, voila, a solid, non-moving protective shield through which the wires had been passed, only our tube had become detached and had slid down to the mast base. When we removed the mast we found shorted wires and evidence that the lightning damage had affected the tube, its fasteners and its contents.
OK, Fran try to look like you are enjoying waxing the mast!!
20:00 Sunday, Same place

The replacement tube is finished. Spent most of the day on the 56 ft of 1 ½ in PVC tubing. The slugs are attached, sections glued and riveted and it is ready to be inserted into the mast. Tomorrow we get the wiring bundled and ready to send up the tube. The mast has been waxed and polished, the standing rigging has been cleaned, blocks serviced and all corroded fasteners on a variety of fittings replaced. Curious passers-by have been satisfied by my BS and all is well with the world; and we actually took some time off this weekend. Yesterday we spent much of the afternoon with Bill, Linda, Ellen and Ian at the Soggy Peso, a beach bar at Algadones Beach where Catch 22 was filmed. We finished the afternoon off with a sundowner at our patio; a 12x12 outdoor carpet from Walmart, folding chairs and table, froo-froo lights above, cocktails and nibblies, all this while they are digging out from the first snowfall back home. Life is grand….

New PVC tube

Old aluminum tube (with gravel...)
Slide and slug arrangement

With sunset at 17:45 nights are long. Good thing we have lots of movies and TV series to watch. Just finished the first season of Hell on Wheels. Great series!!

21:30, 2 December, haven’t moved….

A frustrating few days but tomorrow should be better. The painting was begun yesterday with most of the upper-deck large surfaces. The colour is off slightly due to the aging of the initial coat but the remainder will be adjusted to match. Francisco is being run off his feet with all of the projects he has and today the humidity was too high for him to continue our job. We’d rather wait for ideal conditions than to have him rush the job. Tomorrow we should have the mast all ready to re-install but the painting schedule will dictate when that will happen. We made some progress today obtaining bottom paint and prepping the prop for its annual treatment. This year we will try non-ablative bottom paint. Another technique gaining popularity is to heat up the prop and apply Lanacote to the hot surfaces but Lanacoat is a scarce item here. Maybe next season.

Ready for paint
Francisco mixing paint. Notice his high-tech equipment!
Somehow it all comes together.
19:30, Saturday, 6 December 2014, same, same

PROGRESS!! Yes, indeed, the last few days have seen some definite progress. The mast is ready and will be re-rigged next Wednesday. Jesus and Salvador were impressed with my tube and even more so when it went in without a hiccup. Passing the wires through was an easy process after that. Meanwhile Francisco was finally able to paint the trim surfaces and the hull. All that remains is the non-skid fixes and he hopes to do that on Monday or Tuesday, weather permitting.
Jesus (rigger) and Salvador (electrician) Mast is ready!!

Last night was the annual Christmas parade in Guaymas. These are nothing like what you’d expect up north. It seems like every children organization; kindergartens, schools, clubs, etc. dress up their wards in some Christmas theme, put them in the back of a truck or a trailer towed by a truck (with a massive sound system in the back blaring out some form of Christmas carols) and parades them down the main street of town. There are the odd school band, a few floats (with more kids), ambulances, fire trucks and police cars, driven by the lucky ones who weren’t required for crowd control (supervisors probably) and an occasional glimpse of Santas (with really lousy beards). The street is packed with crowds milling around for a good view while masses of policeman try to push the crowds back to the sidewalks. Interspersed in the milling throngs are food carts, carts full of cheap Chinese light-up crap, balloon clowns, candy apple and candy floss sellers and a handful of local entrepreneurs selling baked goods out of Tupperware containers. For reasons unknown, it takes forever for the parade to wind its way down the street. By the end of the first hour we had had enough and squeezed our way through the crowd to our favourite taco stand. Then we had to do the trek back through the crowds on the Malecon to the car. The food carts here are bigger and have churros, fried bananas, corn (plastered with sour cream, cheese and whatever fire-pepper juice you want to apply, bags of chips and cheezies that you also spice up with fire juice and wonderful hot dogs that have to be sampled to be appreciated. We settled for the churros, essentially a straight piece of donut with your choice of cream, goat milk caramel, chocolate sauce or strawberry puree. Ain’t Mexico grande….

Big day in San Carlos today; swap meet at 8AM followed by the annual Christmas bazaar on the waterfront at the marina. Essentially more junk, but nicer and most of it hand-made instead of coming out of a shipping container from China. Fran just loves this event while I am much happier at the swap meet.

Tomorrow, something entirely different. We are off on a bus tour to Los Alamos, a small town about 3 hours north-west of here. The tour is organized by Mike Mulligan, a local (and well known in the US) balladeer in the style of Jimmy Buffet. It was a good opportunity to get bonus points from Fran when the offer came up, especially with her birthday coming up on Wednesday. It will be good to get away from the boat for a few days and sample more culture. No more Christmas parades, please!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Deja-Vu. Sweating it out in Guaymas at Gabriel's yard.

20:30, 18 Nov 2014,  On the hard, Gabriel’s yard, Marina Seca, Guaymas

Well, I have procrastinated long enough. We have been here for 10 days, to the same yard we were in Fall of 2009. This time we are living just beside Gosling in our Casita trailer, that we towed from Canada and have been working doggedly getting Gosling ready for another season. Progress is slow but steady and we hope to be in the water in a week or two or three....
Interesting sign in Nevada. Didn't stop to taste 'samples'

After a lovely month with friends just outside of Kelowna we bade goodbye to them and our faithful pooch, Rosie, for another winter. Don’t know if she will be thanking us as it is freezing there now but the sweltering temperatures here would not have been comfortable for her in her winter coat. We took a long torturous route through Idaho, Nevada, California, Arizona and finally, Mexico. It was a new drive for us and the scenery was superb. We stayed with good friends in Coeur D’Alene and visited more in Palm Springs and Sierra Vista where we had Thanksgiving dinner with Bill and Linda (Tanque de Tiburon) and Ellen and Ian (Kasasa) before finally making the border crossing at Nogales. The stress of the trip evaporated once we had crossed the border checkpoint. Although we got the “red light of death” (inspection required light) our search was just a cursory one and we were on our way within 10 minutes. A more formal search would have been expensive! We spent the night in San Carlos and arrived in Guaymas about noon. Compo Juan’s seafood stand was open so we had our first feed of seafood. It is Shrimp season in Guaymas, the shrimp capital of the world. Check out the ones we bought last weekend in Empalme. These giants are called “Cowboys” (no idea why). 3-4 make a full meal.
Thanksgiving at Bill and Linda's

Having the Casita to stay in makes for a more comfortable arrangement while we work on the boat. We have been doing some refinishing in the V-berth so the entire contents of that space is strewn throughout the remainder of the boat and mainly in the aft cabin. Today we had an electrician installing a new inverter-charger so the contents of that space is piled up in the cockpit. Tomorrow he will be installing the new wind system so the contents of the salon will have to be moved to….wherever. Good thing the painting in the V-berth is done and that the upper deck is dry with no chance of rain. This would not have been the case back in Panama.

The cruisers are arriving back to their boats in droves. Just in the last few days there have been about 10 arrivals. The yard is getting busy as are the tradesmen. Omar has finished our engine repairs (injector pump and injector service) and Francisco has begun the paint touch-ups but he has so many other jobs on the go that it will be a chore to get him to finish by our deadline. Once the electrician is done we will be able to re-arrange the boat to a more habitable state and get on with the real work of getting her ready. There are sooo many things to do…. Nothing new, there always are at this stage.

Fran has set up our huge outdoor carpet with the folding chairs and table just behind the Casita. It seems to be the focal point for evening cocktails (OK, a beer and chips) and we have already had a Friday night get together. Our friends Ian and Ellen (Kasasa) are just a few boats away.
Fran on the patio
A few days ago Ellen pointed out a chrysalis suspended on one of their boat stands. It was later identified as a monarch butterfly chrysalis and after a few days were fortunate enough to see the butterfly emerge. What a treat!
Notice the gold lattice on the seam

3 days later

Later the same morning. We missed the "Launching"

We have had our share of grief these past few months. 2 very good cruising friends have passed away over the summer. Bill (Optical Illusion) died just a few weeks after their boat was delivered to Victoria from Panama and Don (Prairie Seashell) passed away in Calgary just a few months after putting the boat in storage here in the yard. Lynne has just left here after spending a few days to get the boat ready for sale. It was sad to see her go leaving the boat that Don had built in the back yard over a 12-year period and where they has spent so many happy times.



21:00 Next evening

Another long frustrating day. Salvator completed the Inverter-Charger setup and it is working great, however, the installation of the wind instruments has hit a snag. Drawing the wire down the inside of the mast has proven impossible and, while at the masthead, Salvator found that the VHF antenna is on its last legs. Looks like the lightning strike in panama had another victim. Good thing we had disconnected the radio from that antenna. Our hopes for a fast turnaround are now dashed as we have to face the onerous task of removing the mast to make effective repairs. Certainly hope the insurance company still answers the phone when we call next.
New Inverter-Charger

Salvador was up and own the mast like a yoyo that day.

After Salvator finished his work in the stbd lazarette we had the opportunity, while it was empty, to paint it in a nice “battleship grey” like the storage locker under the vee berth. Funny how things you have always wanted to do to your boat always get done when she goes up for sale. With all the improvements Gosling is getting, whoever buys her will get a boat ready to sail away. It is amazing how many people looking for boats just look at the “bargain junkers”, and believe me, there are many in every yard. They sell cheap but the great majority will need tens of thousands of dollars in repairs, upgrades and so much TLC that the purchasers can’t expect to sail away for months if not years. Another thing few realize is that most replacement marine products are difficult, if not impossible, to get in Mexico. Most suppliers are in the US and do not ship to Mexico for fear of lost shipments, a genuine and justified phobia. Many cruisers use border mail drop offs or shipping companies and drive the 5 hours to Nogales to pick up their stuff. Then they face the border officials and a considerable duty, not to mention another 5 hour drive.

23 November 2014, same location

Work continues, albeit slower than expected. J-G has been afflicted with another bout of prostatitis. He seems to get them twice a year and always at the wrong time. His last one was a few days before departing Panama on our way north last January. Although he managed to make it through a swap meet we had organized for Saturday morning he was wiped for the afternoon and evening. After having so many of these, the sequence of events is quite predictable. For the next few days, mornings are OK but afternoon naps are a must. Hopefully he’ll be better on Wednesday when the mast will be removed. Before then he will have to make 3 saw horses to lay the mast on while it is being serviced. Today he managed to land the dinghy, prepare the mast for Wednesday and started the servicing of the outboard. Then he crashed!

Enough. Gotta post this tonight.




Monday, March 31, 2014

2013-14 Finale. it was a great season.

What a week! The final preparations for storing the boat always are a very busy time when trying to fit in so many various facets of cleaning, storing, repairs, deciding what has to come back with you, finding others with vehicles that can take heavy of bulky items back, socializing with friends who you won't see for another 6 months or more and trying to keep some level of sanity without biting your partner's head off. The stress gets worse as the final departure date looms. In the past, when we drove back and forth, it wasn't an issue. You could delay a day or two, but these last 3 seasons we have not had that luxury and we are bound by the flight schedules made all those weeks ago when the cheap fares were available. Fran, our personal travel agent, takes care of all arrangements finding cheap flights, hotels and bus transport online.

The last blog entry had us just departing from Topolobampo with Adagio, after a short stay to avoid a windy passage.

Shrimper with pelican rigging

Topolobampo approaches with Adagio and tanker

We sailed our last day and night in flat calm seas with very little wind with the Iron Spinnaker continuing to serve us well. We arrived in Guaymas mid-day and took up a familiar spot at the Fonatur marina dock alongside a number of other boats who were also getting ready to haul out at Gabriel's yard. Gabriel does not have any docks so it was fortuitous that Fonatur has recently reduced their slip rates, however, they have yet to follow suit with their yard rates. Looks like there will be very few boats there again this year. Forbes and Cameron have been there for months completing a major refit but now they are very concerned about the rumors of new policies coming from Fonatur HQ in Mexico City. There is talk that all boatwork will be forbidding in the yard. With rates almost 3 times that of Gabriel's they are not endearing themselves to the cruising public.

Our 3 days at the dock were spent removing and washing all of the running rigging and sails, folding them on the docks and stowing them below. The process requires lots of fresh water, laundry soap, fabric softener, nice clean and wide docks and lots of elbow grease. This would be near impossible at Gabriel's yard where there are no docks and lots of dirt and sand. (Yes, you get what you pay for but at $124/mo we'll take it) While there, Joel and Chris on 40-Love arrived. They had a vehicle and their offers of assistance greatly facilitated logistics. In fact, they gave us a ride to the bus station last night.

Osprey and catch at Fonatur
Guaymas Sunset

We also saw Omar, our favorite mechanic. Within a few minutes he had diagnosed a leaky injector pump as the most likely culprit of our increased fuel consumption since Panama. He will repair that and tune up the motor when we return in the fall.

On the afternoon of the 26th we motored our last 2 miles to Gabriel's haul out slip. The following morning Gosling was lifted and transported a few hundred yards to her summer digs in the new recently completed new yard. With the lowest rates of all the local facilities Gabriel is capitalizing on the haul out and boat storage business. His original yard is near full already and his new yard should be well populated by late spring.

In the "ditch" ready to be lifted
Gosling's home for the next 6 months
These last 3 days have been a blur of frenzied cleaning, stowing, rearranging, talking to Francisco about paint touch-ups and to Marisa, a local sales agent who will be co-brokering with Kings Easton in the UK and acting as an on-site listing agent for us. We have also been discussing our electronic and electrical problems with Allan Smith, a local surveyor and our link with our insurance agent (and Marisa’s partner).

Capt Jack surfaced as we were cleaning. He had been lost for the last 4 weeks...

Also in the yard were Kathy and Hal (Airborne). They have been there all season so far and hope to splash and get a few months afloat before returning home to Vancouver.

So, now, bussing it just past Tuscon, all of that is behind us and our trip from Panama is just a memory. Our final totals for this season are 2920 miles traveled with just over 500 hours on the engine. In the six weeks it took us to travel from Panama we travelled 2620 of those miles. Unless we decide to take Gosling back to Canada sometime in the future this will most likely be our biggest season.

Tomorrow we will arrive in Kelowna where we will stay at Jacquie and Von's and horse sit while they traipse off to a well deserved holiday to Hawaii and we will be making amends to Rosie for abandoning her for the past 6 months. I have a feeling she'll be very upset when we take her home in a few more weeks. She has been enjoying herself way too much on the farm.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Boogying up the coast, PV, Mazatlan, Topo

04:00, Saturday, 15 Mar 2014.  At Sea between Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan

A cup of coffee, a clear, moonlit night, a gentle westerly swell, no wind, no contacts, the thrum of 85 horses and a functioning auto-pilot; what more could a sailor ask for? Well, OK. A nice 15 kt breeze on the beam and no engine sound would be nice. We are 60 miles south of Mazatlan and, if conditions do not change, we will arrive by early afternoon. At sunset yesterday afternoon we saw the best and brightest green flash we have ever seen as the sun set between the two southern islands on the Tres Marias group. The western sky was unusually clear, so clear that we could see the tops of clouds below the horizon. As the last of the sun’s orb disappeared below the horizon that last bit turned abright green and lasted for a few seconds. We’ve tried to capture it on the camera but have never succeeded.

We arrived at La Cruz after a pleasant overnight motorboat ride from Tenecatita. We had left in late morning in calm conditions but the diurnal wind blew up shortly after we left the bay and we were beset by 12-15 kt headwinds all day and into the evening. By 22:00 the wind had died down and, by the time we rounded Cabo Corrientes, the seas had calmed down considerably. We arrived at La Cruz almost 24 hours after departing Tenecatita. We were touched by the welcome we got from old friends when we arrived. Moshulu and Hotspur were there getting ready for the Puddlejump to the Marquesas and beyond, Cuba Libre, Lunautica and several others, we had not seen in years, came down to welcome us back and in the next berth was Kyalami, good friends of Ken and Carole. Varuna (Ann & Mitch) was also there. Last time we had seen them was in Panama. 

It was another quick and busy stop but we accomplished much. We are back in the major cruising ports now and that means that technical expertise to handle some of our problems is easier to obtain. A call on the morning net about our autopilot resulted in our obtaining a rebuilt autopilot motor (from Fran’s chiropractor, no less) and, Pieter, a technician who diagnosed and replaced a faulty rudder feedback module. Until we left the marina we were still unsure that we had solved the problem but, a few miles out we were relieved to see “Otto” steering by himself. We also replaced the dinghy we had purchased for $250 in Shelter Bay. It was beginning to show signs of “old dinghy syndrome” with leaks that were increasingly difficult to find and the poxy look of many 3M 5200 repairs. Another cruiser (Overheated) sold us a 5 year old aluminum bottom Aquapro inflatable in near-mint condition for less than half the price of a new one, with wheels! Needless to say, the bank account took another hit but this time we achieved positive results and we have something to show for it. 

The spare time we had was spent provisioning and catching up with friends after our 2-year absence. One evening we went to Philos bar and listened to a new band featuring a very talented musician from Nanaimo, George (Geo) Ulrich. 

We left Marina La Cruz shortly after 10:00 yesterday, taking advantage of a weather window before strong northerlies begin to set in on Sunday. It was a bittersweet departure. We bid farewell to Ken and Carole after a great 20-day run. They stayed the night with Kyalami and are flying out today for Vancouver.
New cardinal buoy off Punta Mita

We will, undoubtedly meet several other old sailing buddies in Mazatlan but it will, again be a short stop while we wait for another reprieve from the prevailing northerlies to make our last leg to Guaymas. One “must do” in Mazatlan will be a meal at our favourite rib place, Fat Fish.

09:00, 18 March 2014, At Sea, enroute to Guaymas

Already Mazatlan is a memory. It was a short visit forced on us by an unexpected lull in the weather for the next few days, an ideal time to head north. We are bout 12 miles out of Mazatlan with a following wind and we are heading into a 3 ft swell on the port quarter but it really is a comfortable ride so far. We are motor sailing with main and genoa and flying along at a respectable 7 – 7.5 kts. The forecast is for the wind to shift to the south and remain light for the next few days then pick up for a day or so before returning light. By my calculations it will take us about 60 hours to get to Guaymas. If we can get past Topolobampo before the wind picks up and shifts to a northerly we should be able to make the last leg to Guaymas in good time. If not, or if the weather changes early, we always have Topolobampo to tuck into until conditions improve. We are sailing in company with Adagio, a Portland, OR boat, which we met in Tenecatita in 2011.  

We arrived in Mazatlan by late afternoon in the 15th. It had been a bouncy passage up the coast with NW winds and a half to one kt. current against us the entire way. We passed by Isla Isabella during the night and had an uneventful passage until the following morning when I noticed that we were travelling much slower than expected. A quick glance astern revealed that we were towing a longline and a few Pepsi bottle floats. The line I had installed between the keel and the rudder post had done its job and had kept the line from fouling the prop but the fitting on the rudder post had caught it. After a bit of surgery, done from the deck, we were off again. Unfortunately, one of the local fishermen is going to be pissed but, too bad, so sad! You should have weighed down the line and marked it better!! 

We entered the El Cid marina in late afternoon and were welcomed by Lin and Debbie (Dolphin Tales) and Ron (Calliope). We finally re-connected with our old friends Gil and Lexie (Sunday) who we had met in Magdalena Bay on our way to Mexico in 2008. The last time we had seen them was in Golfito last year with us heading south and them heading north. Not long after that meeting they were dismasted off Nicaragua and we finally heard the sordid details of their adventure. It was, again, too short a visit but we did accomplish our main aim: going to Fat Fish for their famous ribs. Unfortunately Fran was under the weather with a head cold, so Gil. Lexie and I went and brought back takeout ribs for Fran to enjoy later. Who can beat a 2 for 1 rib dinner with a rack as big as the plate, baked potato and 2 salads for about $15?

08:00 Thursday, 20 March 2014, Alongside Marina Palmyra, Topolobampo 

We diverted here yesterday afternoon to wait out some northerly winds that would have given us 15-20 kts on the nose for the following 30 hours. Looks like another calm period starting Friday AM so we’ll have a nice overnighter for our last passage to Guaymas. Last time we were here was our ill-fated Christmas in 2011 when we had to take shelter here because of a gale. We missed Christmas with everyone in Mazatlan that year but got to Tenecatita for New Years. Not much has changed here since then except for the sand bars. We found one on our way in….
It was an uneventful passage from Mazatlan. We left a day earlier than expected when we learned that the weather window had moved up a day. Fran was feeling better so off we went in company with Adagio, a boat we had met in Tenecatita in 2011.  We knew there would be a change in the weather coming up but had no way of determining when. Geary’s forecast on SSB didn’t come through and we were out of Telcel internet range until we were half way up the channel to Topo. We confirmed the wind event and decided to wait it out. So, here we are, in a backwater marina, whiling away the hours doing a few preps for storage. This afternoon’s agenda is refilling all of the deck jugs with diesel at the station just down the street where we will pay normal prices for fuel rather than the inflated marina prices and later we’ll go out for dins with our “re-found” friends, Jeff and Jane (Adagio).
The temperature has dropped considerably since Panama. We are now wearing clothes!! The sea temp is pushing 70-75 and the ait temp is about the same. We need duvets at night to be comfortable where 2 months ago we were using ice packs to keep cool. Thank God it is warming up nicely in BC and that we don't have to go to Eastern Canada. They are (not) enjoying the coldest winter in 35 years and there is no end to it in the forecast.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Zihuatanejo to Tenecatita

17:30, Saturday, 1 March 2014 at anchor Maruata Bay

Zihuatanejo is come and gone already and we are more than half-way to Manzanillo. We have Ken and Carole (Nauti Moments) aboard for the next week or so while we do the fun stretch between Manzanillo and Puerto Vallarta.

We arrived at Marina Ixtapa early Tuesday morning. As we passed by the waterfront we got a call from Ken on his portable VHF radio saying that he could see us passing by their hotel. How cool!! After arriving at the marina, fuelling and a short nap Ken and Carole arrived settled in and helped us clean the old girl. The next morning, a more presentable Gosling sailed to the anchorage at Zihuatanejo Bay, anchoring within hailing distance from Freedom Kirkland but we went unnoticed. About an hour later Kirk and Charlene arrived from town by dinghy. He is a busy boy working hard on the organization of the week-long guitar fest that was starting on Sunday and they were expecting guests to arrive that night.

We spent a very short 2 days, visiting some of our old haunts, shopping and were able to pass on some of our experiences to a group of other cruisers headed south. Saucy lady was also there and we had a quick visit with Roy and Winnona. It would have been nice to stay a few more days and take in some of the guitar fest events but we wanted to spend our time with Ken and Carole while enjoying the anchorages further up the coast.

We left Zihuatanejo yesterday in light winds and calm seas headed north. We decided to split up the 190 mile trip by stopping here in Maruata for a half-day. This picturesque cove is ignored by most cruisers and it is certainly quiet today. We dinghied into the only protected landing of the beach at the same time that a huge school of bait fish being chased by a large contingent of Jack Crevalle. As all this was happening there were several fishermen tossing nets, young kids throwing fishing lines and the water around us was boiling with activity. There were small fish everywhere, many jumping into the dinghy. We backed off until the activity subsided then landed quickly before the next wave of baitfish came in.

This cove is an important sea turtle nesting ground and there were several traces of female turtles tracking up the beach towards the protected and fenced off hatching compounds on the beach, lending credibility to the claims that turtles return to the locations where they hatched to lay their eggs. After a walk up the beach we had lunch at the only open beach restaurant. They had a large child’s swimming pool set up with several tiny turtle hatchlings that they were keeping for 2 weeks before releasing them to give them a better chance of survival.

Turtle hatchling

2215, Tuesday, 5 March 2014 Alongside Marina Grand Bay, Barra de Navidad

We are in luxury! The marina prices are a fraction of what they were a few years ago so we have opted to stay here for 2 days. At 90 cents/ft/day it is well within our budget, especially when you factor in all of the facilities we have access to. We even had Mexican royalty here today. El Presidente was here but we mortals were not invited to the cocktail party. But, then again, none of the other yahoos staying at this resort were either. This is now a Wyndham Resort and it has quite a clientele of Canadians and Americans in attendance. No idea what the Pres was here for but security was tight with the marina access shut down, a gunboat just outside the marina and a 4 identical helicopter fleet (to confuse the terrorist element we suppose). None of them were shot down as they took off so we wonder if the paranoia factor was a bit enhanced for the event.
Two of the four identical helos.

Manzanillo was pretty boring this time.  We anchored at Las Hadas for a day and dinghied into the Las Hadas marina. We were not asked to pay the daily fee so we didn’t volunteer it, besides, we were not using their facilities anyway (except for water and dinghy mooring).  We spent the afternoon at the Dolphin Hotel’s restaurant and pool, had supper there and returned to the boat after dark.
Ken and Carole at the Dolphin resort pool

Fancy taco soup and mango daquiri

The following morning we motored to Santiago, snorkeled the old wreck for a few hours then sailed over to Carrizal cove. We had never been here before and we had heard that it was a very good snorkeling locale. We spent a few hours in the water enjoying the great reef life, one of the few places in Mexico where we had encountered live coral. A large school of herring size fish arrived as we were there along with their Jack Crevale suiters.

We stayed there the night and continued on to Barra the following morning. Once settled at the marina and after a swim in the resorts pool complex we went into town to see the Carnivale parade. We had missed the event in Manzanillo by a day so we were pleased to be able to be there for this event. The parade was simply a collection of 5-6 rickety floats with lots of kids dressed in this year’s Pirates of the Caribbean theme. Preceding them were a few SUVs with the carnival queen candidates poised on the hood or top. No sudden stops, please! The remainder of the participants were anyone with a 4X4, motor bike, golf cart or whatever, who wanted to drive down the street. Most had some kind of pirate gear on and many had this year’s choice Chinese import, colorful wigs of every colour under the sun, the brighter the better. Anyway, mercifully it ended early enough for us to have dinner at a sidewalk establishment before heading back to the boat.
No Fran, that is certainly not YOU

Mermaid kids...

22:00. 7 March 2014, At anchor, Tenecatita

It is Friday night in Tenecatita, the raft up was a success, even though we were only 4 boats, the onboard movie is over and everyone is in bed, the cruisers life….

We left Barra yesterday morning and headed directly to Cuestacomate for lunch at our special seafood beach restaurant which we have been frequenting ever since we came this way. It was a rough beach landing in the surf but the departure was textbook. We were pleased to see that the hotel/resort that had been abandoned for so long has been rebuilt and is back in business.
Cuestacomate resort

By 2 we were back on the water headed for Tenecatita. On our way we saw our first whale, that is, I sighted it first and won the “first whale sighting” derby. No prize, just bragging rights and I am bragging!! Just as we rounded the reef at the entrance our gearbox oil pressure dropped. Luckily we had enough wind and, with the headsail up we sailed directly to the anchorage, our first sail to anchor in Gosling. Thank God we had Ken and Carole to assist with the sails as we rounded up. We later found that the culprit was a bad oil cooling hose between the gearbox and the oil cooler. It looked like an imposing task and the possibility of having to go into Manzanillo for a new one was the most likely solution. Never say die! After a few attempts at fixing the problem we rebuilt the hose using a reinforced propane hose remnant that I had in the bottom of my spare hose stash. I am still a fervent fan of never throwing out scraps that can be of use at some time or other. I think Fran is also coming onside with that cruising principle.

We are here with a few boats we have met recently in Manzanillo and Barra and our very good friends, Dick and Ann on Full and Bye who have been patiently waiting for us to arrive. Unfortunately, we will only be able to spend a few days here before we have to leave for La Cruz. The weather window for Cabo Corrientes is best late Sunday so we will leave mid-day Sunday and arrive at La Cruz the following morning. Here's hoping our repair job holds....

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Chiapas to Acapulco

10:30, Thursday, February 20, 2014. Enroute to Acapulco

We are almost halfway across the dreaded Tehuantepec, renowned for its 40-60 kt winds spilling over from the Caribbean. We have chosen well. It is absolutely flat calm and this weather window will last for the next 36 hours before piping up again. Before departing from Chiapas we checked every source we could find and they all agreed so we opted for a direct crossing, some 240 miles to the mainland coast just west of Huatulco. From there we will be another 36+ hours to Acapulco and our next fueling stop. Yes, under these conditions we are motoring, however, we did get about an hour of decent sailing in just after we left Chiapas yesterday afternoon. 
There are many large turtles resting on the surface all round us. Under these conditions they are easy to spot. They appear as lumps floating on the surface, sometimes with a bird perched on them. We can get quite close to them before they notice us and dive, in fact, we almost hit one a few minutes ago. 

Mexican aircraft carrier.

One of the advantages of being in Mexico is the cheaper cost of everything. Our fuel purchase yesterday was $3.67/gal (US) or 97 cents/li. We took on 278 li, not bad for a trip of 471.5 miles, 66 hours on the engine. 

Yesterday evening we met a couple of large power boats heading for Costa Rica. Anna Mae was surprised that a sailboat would actually call him and chat. I guess they have been shunned by many sailboats but we like big cruisers. Motor yachts have ice, an essential for sundowners, but we can’t complain; our new fridge always has 2 trays ready to go now. Anna Mae seemed quite appreciative of our suggestions for their trip down the coast.  

06:45, Saturday, 22 February 2014, At sea, enroute to Acapulco 

Another dawn at sea. The eastern horizon is brightening and, before I finish this entry the sun will have risen. We have another 24 hours to go till we reach Acapulco. We have made good time and have had to slow down so as not to arrive during darkness. We are under sail in a 10 kt offshore wind and doing just over 3 kts. We will not have this wind for long so we might as well take advantage of it while we can. Once the sun begins to heat up the surface it will die and eventually reverse to an onshore breeze and we will, inevitably have to crank up the iron spinnaker again. It is nice to have silence for a change with only the whistling of the wind in the rigging, the tune played by the shaft as it free-wheels in our wake and the other varied noises a sailboat makes.  

Otto (the autopilot) is still temperamental but is holding us on a steady course. He likes the overnight passages but is very cranky during the day. We think that the problem we have with him may be heat related and that a fan will provide a temporary solution. We have asked Ken and Carole to bring one.

The last 24 hours have been uneventful. There is lots of sea life, turtles galore, the odd manta ray flipping out of the water and the occasional pod of dolphins playing at the bow.

Flying fish casualty found on deck

Our crossing of the Tehuantepec was mostly a non-event, however, by 2200 last night the wind picked up, unexpectedly, from the west, on the nose, and blew up to 20 kts for about 8 hours. It was a rough ending to the crossing with the waves breaking over the bow and spray reaching the cockpit. In the morning we noticed tiny shrimp everywhere.

Flat Tehuantepec.
Inhibitions are thrown away when you are all by your lonesomes at sea. Like most cruising couples (and the common practice on most European boats) we tend to shed our clothing while at sea.  Haven’t told Ken and Carole that yet…. Just kidding, we’ll have our nauti bits covered while they are with us. 

Au naturelle - notice the white butt. We don't get out in the sun much...

Sunrise has just happened and navigation lights - switched off. The log will be annotated accordingly. Some old naval habits persist…

20:45, Sunday, 23 February 2014, At anchor Acapulco

What an incredible skyline at night! Acapulco has got to be the most beautiful night profile we have ever seen. The bay is surrounded by hills, most of which are inhabited with their house and street lights twinkling so the bay looks like a horizontal Christmas tree. This afternoon the bay was alive with high end sailboats with their colourful spinnakers and kevlar sails racing each other in the highly competitive Acapulco Yacht Club Sunday race series.

 Acapulco racers

Now it is Sunday night in Mexico and we can hear the sounds of people enjoying the last day of the weekend. There are live bands on the boardwalk, party boats returning from their sunset cruises and later there will, invariably, be fireworks at some of the shoreline resorts; it is nice to be back to Mexico.

 We arrived early this morning after a tiring night of battling the autopilot in a nasty 15-20 kt headwind. We anchored and slept till noon, then, it was time to launch the dinghy, refuel using the deck jugs (3 times back and forth), a quick walk to the nearest grocery store for a few essentials and then back to the boat. Our life has become very predictable!! 

 This has been another long passage for us but, incredibly, it was only ½ mile shorter than the last leg from Costa Rica to Chiapas at 471 miles but 20 hours more engine. We arrived with only 9.5 gallons in the tank and that was after we had used up our deck reserves. From here on the legs will be shorter.

 Tomorrow we leave for Zihuananejo, a 104 mile run. We expect to be in by Tuesday afternoon.