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.

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