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....