Fall – Boat Repairs Aplenty But Plenty of Fun Too

 

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.

Merry Christmas.

 

A Restless Summer

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.

 

Banderas Bay to La Paz

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

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Zihua to La Cruz

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.

Happy New Year–Baja to the Mainland

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.

Getting Back In

After one month in transition, we’re ready to start cruising.  First, cross the Sea of Cortez to the Baja.  Then work our way slowly south toward La Paz by the end of November.  Then  cross to the mainland coast (3 day passage) and work our way south to Barra Navidad (between Puerto Vallarta and Zihuatanejo) by mid December.  On to “Z-town” by February for Sailfest.

So far no big surprises with the boat.  We’ve been  reacquainting with cruising friends as we all prepare our boats for sea.  Donna posts photos occasionally on Instagram, check it out.

 

About Time to Head South

Ocean Falls was pretty much our northern turn around point for summer cruising.  That far north, we were lucky to miss a lot of the smoke from forest fires that persisted in Puget Sound up through Desolation Sound and to Port Hardy.  We were lucky to have mom on the boat for 8 weeks and dad for about 10.  Linda joined us for a week hopping aboard in Bella Bella and cruised down to Port McNeil on Vancouver Island to fly home with mom to San Jose.  After dropping dad back a Bainbridge Island, we regrouped then headed back up to the San Juans for a fall cruise that was very nice and civilized.  By late September most of the anchorages were sparsely occupied and the weather was pretty nice.  But as the temperatures began dropping into the 40s, we felt the pull of getting back to Carmanah for more Mexican cruising.  So the month of October was basically spent cleaning up Restless for winter and preparing Carmanah for the tropical cruising season.