This fall as we transitioned from Restless and the Alaska adventure to Carmanah and continued cruising in Mexico, a whole lot of boat projects were tackled. The biggest, grinding down and refinishing the aluminum toe rail, we’d been putting off for several years. Doing jobs like that in the heat of San Carlos is not fun. We ended up spending 10 days in the boat yard—- often starting at 4:00 am to beat the heat. But it’s done and we’ve almost forgotten the whole affair. Once we were in the water, I fitted new 1” hand rails in place of the old lifelines. Pretty nice. However, our Tecnautics refrigeration system failed when we tried to start it (spent a ton on replacing the compressor last winter) so we opted to buy a whole new pre-charged (plug-n-play) system which we drove back up to Arizona to pick up. It installed easily and we were finally off to the Baja Nov. 10. After an easy, all sail, crossing we were surprised to find a very green desert on the other side. The Baja has been getting tremendous rain this fall. We got there in time to experience two tropical storm type events ourselves. Mostly involving a whole lot of rain, several inches at a time. Kind of cool because in 4 years cruising this area, we have experienced almost zero rain and very few clouds. We had a nice Thanksgiving in La Paz anchored off the town, turkey dinner with friends at the Dockside restaurant. Pretty cool and windy though. By December we were itching to cross to the mainland for some warmer weather. The trip from the Baja to Banderas Bay usually involves at least two nights at sea but this crossing we stopped at the beautiful Islas Marias (just 1 night). The chain of 4 islands is 60 miles off the coast. We’ve always been required to skirt them by a minimum of 12 miles because the largest island has been the site of a federal prison since 1905. The prison was closed last February. Things are in limbo as government agencies work out the logistics of transitioning from prison to a National Park. We’re hoping they move quickly because except where the prison was, the islands are pristine. The reefs are covered with a wide variety of marine life and the blue footed boobies dominate the shoreline. It would be a shame to see the reefs “harvested” the way so many others have been. We’ll keep our fingers crossed. We’re currently in La Cruz getting ready to head south around Cabo Corrientes to the Barra Navidad area for Christmas
The second half of our Alaska cruise involved some surprisingly warm weather. Between Juneau and Sitka, we found our selves searching for shorts and flip flops as temps rose to the mid-80s. Forest fire smoke sometimes tainted the otherwise crystal-clear sky. In the more remote anchorages, horse flies (solar powered?) swarmed the boat and drove Lucy to hiding in the inner recesses. Luckily as we neared Sitka, they became scarce and we had very pleasant conditions to explore the area. Sitka was actually one of our favorite towns. Our friend Jolynn joined us in Sitka and cruised to Petersburg where my parents and sister Linda came aboard for the leg back to Ketchikan via the LeConte Glacier and Anan Creek bear observatory. We were able to take a more leisurely cruise down through British Columbia after cruising up and around the Misty Fjords National Monument with Tom & Luann on Liberty and Michael on Candor. We’re back on Bainbridge now getting things ready to drive down to San Carlos Mexico in October to rescue Carmanah from the sweltering boat storage yard. The summer cruise totaled just over 2,700 miles at 6.5 knots average. The trawler was a great way to do the trip because we could be warm and dry while having great view of the amazing scenery when it was sunny or raining hard. Even on 80-mile days, we never felt tired or burned out from traveling. We were definitely a little rushed though and would love to do the trip again, slower– possibly leaving the boat up there for the winter. Maybe make two seasons out of it
Just a quick post as we leave Juneau and the internet behind–heading toward Sitka on the outer coast today. It’s hard to believe that we left Bainbridge Island only a month ago. So much has happened over so many miles. Recently we explored the fjords south of Juneau. The head of Tracy Arm with the Sawyer Glacier was especially spectacular. Getting there was absolutely beautiful but a little nerve racking as we dodged icebergs and “bergy bits”. Hitting even a little chunk of floating ice could have been very bad for Restless. Approaching the glaciers, we were the only boat around, it was pretty eerie— the south glacier was calving frequently which produced surprisingly big waves. They say that when a really big section breaks off you can get up to a 25’ wave. Yikes. We got nothing like that but it was still pretty cool to just drift and wait for pieces to drop into the ocean. Our GPS actually showed us to be 2 miles inland from the edge of the glacier even though we were right in front of it. Evidently it has receded that far since our charts were originally surveyed. Wow, that seems like a lot of recession in a relatively short time. Same was true in Endicott Arm just south of Tracy. We actually overnighted there in a little side arm call Ford’s Terror. With a name like that we just had to go in and see what scared Ford so much. It’s the tidal rapids at a narrow/shallow spot in the arm that makes passage impossible at all times except high slack water (exactly). We made it through unscathed and were rewarded by the most spectacular anchorage we’ve have ever been in. Anchored all alone surrounded by vertical snow-capped peaks and water falls that drop forever it felt almost unreal. Very hard to leave. Lots more to see though. Juneau actually turned out to be a great stop as well. Nice little town of 30,000 with mountains that go straight up from downtown. Mexico cruising friends John and Nicki live here in the summer and offered to show us around and lend us their car to run errands. A big thanks & yes to that offer for sure. We hate to be leaving so soon, it’s been a blast here but off to Sitka we go. Picking up Jolynn there and then cruising to Petersburg to drop her and pick up mom & dad & sister Linda. Lots to look forward to.
Carmanah had her “Extreme Make Over” beginning in 2005— to coin the name of a popular TV show of the day. We went through and replaced or upgraded just about everything back then. Unfortunately, stuff doesn’t last forever, especially in the tropics. The replacement of worn or broken items has cut into our winter cruise a little bit this year. So far, the inverter/charger, the refrigeration, and the auto pilot all gave up. The aluminum toe rail is badly in need of replacing or refinishing as well. The good news is we haven’t let repairs slow us down too much. We made it down as far as Zihuantanejo and are now heading back up the Baja setting up for a slightly early haul-out—late April. We want to be back in Washington by the beginning of May to prepare the m/v Restless for a run to Alaska. In Mexico this year, we’ve focused on staying longer in favorite places like Tenacatita where we can swim from the boat, play beach bocce every day, dive the central rock, paddle board to the little town of La Manzanilla and hang out with a rotating contingent of our cruising friends. We’re still looking forward to visits from my sister Lisa in about a week as well as Greg & Jen just before our haul-out.
Despite a few challenges, a great season so far.
It was pretty much pitch black when we finally pulled into Bahia Frailes. Our vow to motor as little as possible mostly adhered to today as we sailed down the Baja Coast from Bahia de Los Muertos with our biggest headsail, “Old Whitie”. Arriving after dark is the toll you sometimes pay for sailing more and motoring less. Lucy however was very concerned about her shore leave status once we got the anchor down. None of us could see the shore but we could hear the surf. Frailes is just close enough to the southern tip of the Baja peninsula to get swells wrapping around from the open Pacific. I launched the paddle board and she jumped right on with her doggie life jacket and glow stick so we figured she was game to give it a go. It didn’t take much paddling before a wave grabbed us and we were flying toward the beach. Ahh, the thrill of riding a wave in total darkness. We might have actually made ashore relatively unscathed had Lucy not decided to bail on the whole program– jumped overboard –I guess she figured that it was safer in the cauldron of churning white water than riding on the board with me. Actually, her reasoning probably isn’t far off the mark. Anyway, I was able to reach over and grab the handle on her doggie lifejacket and drag dog and paddleboard ashore. Lucy was really happy. It’s a sweet stretch of sandy beach there and she had a great romp but when it was time to head back out to the boat, Lucy was quite unwilling to get onboard the paddle board. Finally, she sprinted down the beach and leaped on the board just as we had a good lull in the wave pattern. It was the right call on her part, we made it back out through the invisible breakers with out mishap. Hot showers for us both and a good night’s sleep before our departure the next morning for San Blas on the mainland coast. More great sailing with up to 18 knots of wind on the beam. We made it in 42 hours, arriving at dawn after the 2nd night at sea. Not bad.
After tying up at the marina, we discovered that our refrigeration had crapped out. Not our first equipment challenge of the season. In October, up north in San Carlos, as we were recommissioning the boat for the season, we discovered a crapped-out battery charger/inverter. Luckily, we still had use of our van and were able to drive back to the US to pick up a new one we had shipped to Arizona. Not so lucky with the refrigeration repair since we’re much further from the border. We heard that shipping to Mexico is unpredictable, unreliable and very expensive. The expensive part proved to be quite true but we were able to ship parts down in about 4 days. First the parts we didn’t need (bad advice from factory tech). Then the right part after the local refrigeration guy in La Cruz checked it out. Hopefully he’ll reinstall the unit tomorrow and we’ll be able to head on down the coast. Barra de Navidad for Christmas is looking like a good possibility. Mechanical issues aside, we’ve had a great fall sailing down the Baja. We’ve been able to hit most of our favorite anchorages and cross paths with many of our sailing friends. It really is a tight knit community of cruisers here even though everyone is often spread over many hundreds of miles of coast. But we just keep crossing paths with various boats and enjoying the time together.
We had a great spring cruising the Baja before hauling Carmanah out of the water for the summer (in Guaymas). After driving back to Bainbridge we dove into several boat projects on Restless. Although we went further north, the summer cruise focused mainly on Desolation Sound as the weather was unusually warm this season. We swam most days and actually caught salmon to complement the plentiful clams and oysters. Currently we’re working our way back to Guaymas to get Carmanah ready for launching and another cruise.
Last spring we were lucky enough to have our crew from Washington fly down to sail with us in the Banderas Bay Regatta—very fun. But, since the regatta was scheduled almost a month later this year, we figured we’d be long gone before the event started. Wrong–extensive dental work for John kept us in the PV area longer, much longer than planned. So, what the heck. We figured we’d go for it double handed or maybe even get some cruiser friends to crew. As it turned out—a ringer, our buddy Bob (aka: Bob’s Your Uncle), decided to come visit about that time and Peggy came along as well. Also Judy & Mike from Honu, Ken from Cake, Anne from Banyan, and Pat from Voila also agreed to sail with us. So, we suddenly had 9 crew (not counting Lucy) for the regatta. Yeehaa, the game’s afoot. Overall, we were a little short on racing experience but everyone did amazingly well and most importantly they seemed to have a really good time. We placed 4th in the performance cruising class—but 1st among the actual “cruising” boats. After 3 days of hard racing, we carefully put Old Whitie (our 1978 #1 racing jib) away for future campaigns then we loaded the kayak, paddle board, and dinghy back aboard. Time to blow town. 1st stop was San Blas about 60 miles up the coast. Then after 5 days of living large in the Jejene (tiny no-see-ums) capital of the world, we headed 40 miles out to Isla Isabella—an isolated volcanic island nick named “The Galapagos of Mexico”. Bob and Peggy were amazed at the wildlife, especially the blue footed boobies and giant iguanas. We departed at sunset (after a fantastic fish fry on Voila) for the Baja now only 255 miles away. It was great having 4 people to share watches but for the first time on a Sea crossing we had zero wind. Glad to finally shut the engine down after making landfall at Bahia Muertos. Down to just two crew and one dog, we’re currently in La Paz getting ready to head north along the Baja coast. The water is warming up so we’re looking forward to some swimming and spear fishing before heading back across to San Carlos/Guaymas to haul the boat out in mid May
It’s hard to believe that since Mason left in January, we’ve been too busy to update this blog. Donna has been doing much better with Instagram posts. The days are just flying by. Especially in places like Tenacatita where we get into a: Wake-up–dinghy in for a run on beach w/Lucy–do the morning radio nets–eat breadfeast—swim around the bay–go fishing—play bocci ball—beers at the palapa after—have dinner—visit—go to bed routine.
We left Barra de Navidad 1/22 bound for Zihuatanejo with stops at Santiago and Isla Grande (off Ixtapa) for a couple of days each. About 200 miles in between—very easy passage. We arrived in Zihua well before the start of Sailfest but regardless, activities were already underway. So, we signed up to take donors out for evening sails around the harbor to watch the sunset. Sailfest is an annual week-long event dedicated to raising funds to build local schools. There are many aspects to the event such as concerts, art auctions, boating, and even a chili cook off. The way we cruisers pitch in is to take people for boat rides in exchange for donations to the cause. Evening sails, music cruises (with local musicians aboard), a boat parade, and even a sailboat “race” all get people out on the water. It’s mostly gringo tourists that sign up but lots of fun is had by all. And we raised over a million pesos this time around.
Don & Emily from Bainbridge Island came down to visit us while we were in the midst of Sailfest. They’re always fun to have along and being accomplished sailor themselves, were a big help with the Sailfest guests. Our guests for the Race Around the Rock were the same bunch of fun folks from Quincy, WA that were with us last year. And we repeated the win as well. Yay!
After the event was completed, we put the boat into the marina at nearby Ixtapa and the four of us took an extended rent-a-car road trip into the mountains to see the sights with a focus on the monarch butterflies. We overnighted at the towns of Morelia, Angangueo, and Patzcuaro. All are above 6,000 ft and much cooler the what we’re used to on the coast. Highs in the 70s, lows in the 50s. The whole area felt very different than what we’re used to experiencing in Mexico. It had a very colonial feel. Many streets and buildings are centuries old–beautiful and very well kept and super clean. We saw only a few other gringos while there which was a refreshing change in its self. Outside of Angangueo, we drove up to Sierra Chincua Biosphere Reserve to view the monarch butterflies in the final phase of their pre-migratory breeding process. The males will die after breeding (poor guys), the females head to Texas on their way to central Canada (but it takes several generations). Then, one long trip for their descendants back to these mountains. There were literally millions of them around on the day we visited. Simply amazing. None of the hotels have heat so we froze our tropical adjusted butts off.
At the end of the week, Don and Emily dropped us back at Ixtapa so we could bring the boat back up to Barra de Navidad. They drove up the coast visiting some out of the way places. The sail up the coast can be against the prevailing NW winds and potentially nasty. But we had an easy trip and made record time getting to Barra after only 28 hours. Pretty much about the same time as Don & Emily. Also, our other friends from home—Scott & Gail—arrived that day as well. The 6 of us sailed up to Tenacatita and La Manzanilla for a few days of fun & sun—a little crowded but we’re all boaters so flexible enough to make it work.
After Don & Emily flew home Scott & Gail helped us take the boat up the coast to Banderas Bay where we hung out in La Cruz until their time to go home. John had several major dental procedures performed at his favorite PV dentist office (ouch) and now we’re preparing for the infamous Banderas Bay Regatta before heading north to the Sea of Cortez. Originally, we were planning to leave after the final visit to the Dentist but then made a snap decision to sign up for the regatta since we’re here anyway. We’re in the Cruising Division this year. Should be fun.
Our last blog post was clear back in November. Carmanah’s wifi booster isn’t working and we’re on the verge of getting our service with T-Mobile cancelled for “excessive international roaming”. So, basically, I’ve been too lazy to hike up to a hot spot to post updates. Donna has been doing better with her Instagram postings though.
We’re having a great season in Mexico so far. It was beautiful coming down the Baja—the ocean water stayed clearer and warmer for longer than last fall. The swimming and spear fishing were of course much better with such favorable conditions. We managed to cross the sea to the mainland before the strong winter northerlies started up in earnest. When we arrived in Banderas Bay on December 2nd, the water was still in the low to mid 80s. Our southerly pace stayed fairly brisk though as we had a planned visit from Greg and Jenn for mid-December down in Barra de Navidad. Ended up being great fun. We split our time between Tenacatita and Barra. And we had the first rain we’d ever experienced on this coast. Everything got washed. Yay. We were probably more excited about the rain than Greg & Jenn who came from winter in Boise Idaho for the sun. After celebrating Christmas with our fellow cruisers in Barra, our Nephew Mason came down to hang out with us for a week in the Barra area. He flew into Puerto Vallarta airport so we decided to rent a car for the 4.5 hour drive up the coast to meet his plane. Greg & Jenn did the same basic travel program as Mason but took a bus from the airport. The roads are pretty challenging but the drive was very scenic through the many small towns connected by farm lands and tropical forest.
In a couple of weeks, we plan to cruise down the coast to Zihuatanejo for Sailfest 2018. About a week ago, the water here turned more green than blue, underwater visibility dropped dramatically, and the water temperature went from 82 to 75. We’re told this is only a temporary condition as it’s still very early in the season. So hopefully things will be back to normal on our return trip from Z-town.