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.

 

Summer season–cruising up north in BC

More from Baja

After dropping Don and Emily in Loreto, we spent 9 days on the outside (east) of Isla Carmen–taking advantage of the super light winds and warm weather.  Especially cool was the chance to visit Salinas for several days.  Usually the wind–both north and south whistles through this Bahia.  The former salt mining town–abandoned in the 1980s–enjoyed a worldwide distribution.  Currently it is being restored as a lodge for sportsmen hunting the “excess” Desert Bighorn Sheep that are being repopulated on the island.  Needless to say we didn’t ignore the signs saying not to hike in the interior.

We have only a couple weeks left to enjoy the Sea before heading north to Puget Sound to prepare Restless our 36′ trawler for the summer season up there.

Here are some pictures we found that I missed posting last time.

While hanging out at Bahia Salinas, we had a front row seat to watch the fascinating pelicans go about their daily routine.  The crashing splashes out of nowhere sometimes right next to the boat could surprise us if caught off guard.

The Migration North

Spring is the time we head back to the Baja and work our way up to San Carlos to prepare Carmanah for summer storage.  It’s also seems to be a time for visitors from home.  We had the whole crew for the Banderas Bay regatta, and then Bob stayed on an extra week at La Cruz (until the Churros ran out).   The day he flew home, our niece Ruby arrived to celebrate spring break from Colorado State University in the hot Mexico sun.   She seemed to have had a pretty good week and managed to hit the hot spots in Puerto Vallarta with her friend Natalie from college.  The same day she flew back to Colorado, her brother Sam arrived from Boise.  Lucky Sam, we were preparing for the 400 mile crossing from La Cruz on the mainland coast up to La Paz part way up the Baja peninsula.  He got to experience long hours of late night watches and part of one of the days pounding to windward.  But all in all, a pretty good crossing and Sam is a really good hand to have aboard.  Always interested in things, fun to talk to and knows when to jump in and help out.  He loves to fish but unfortunately, it was pretty sparse in that department.  We caught one 15 pound Black Jack that while impressive looking, is not great eating.  He did get to experience some of the wilder Baja before we finally had to head in to La Paz for his flight back to Boise State University.  We rented a car in La Paz to make the 90 minute trip to the Los Cabos airport to see Sam off and to pick up our next guests—Don and Emily from Bainbridge Island.  The drive was fun and afforded us a much needed Costco stop and we also got to see some of the interior of Baja we’ve never experienced before.  The quaint town of Todos Santos was our favorite stop along the route—lush and green and agricultural on the Pacific side surrounded by miles upon miles of desert.  An oasis on several levels.

Don and Emily got the full wild Baja experience as we slowly worked our way from La Paz to Loreto (130 miles), not a single town between.  Emily loves to hike so we did a lot of hiking on the remote islands adjacent to our anchorages—well, some hiking and a lot of bouldering, bushwhacking, and scrambling up slopes of scree.  But saw a lot of amazing country and we achieved some amazing viewpoints.  Don recently had knee surgery so had to be a little more careful.  We ate very well even though I didn’t do well fishing with the new lures —- we but did quite well with the 100 peso bills down at the panga landings.  We had no trouble finding fresh fish.  D&E flew out just in time to miss Semana Santa –holy week—a wild, crazy and very loud time here in Mexico.  We stocked up on supplies here at Loreto and are heading back to some of the more remote areas to celebrate in a quieter way.  As soon as Donna hits “Send” on our Turbo Tax electronic form, we’re out of here.

Banderas Bay Regatta

Mark rounding

Mikey, Alex, and Mike prepare for the mark rounding on day 2 of the Banderas Bay Regatta for leg 2–a reaching leg.  Good for the asymmetrical spinnaker flyers like this J-105 but not so good for us with our symmetrical kite.

the boys

The “boys” getting ready to strip the deck of non-race things before the first day of racing

ready to hoist

Mike and Mikey getting ready to hoist the spinnaker at the mark.

fred passing

Wings just to windward of us after the first mark rounding on day 2. They end up beating us by 1 point in the overall regatta.

pv yacht club

Mike, Alex, and Teri having Margaritas at our corner table in the Vallarta YC after the 1st day of racing. Yehaah.

cockpit crew

Bob trimming the main sheet by backward sighting via the reflection off Teri’s sun glasses. Pretty impressive.

Spinnaker drying

mike and spinny

Mike supervising the spinnaker drying after a fun but slightly wet day on the water. Spinnaker hoisted upside down by the two clews and the head is tied to the dock. And of course the wind always comes up with a vengeance when you do this.

patches repair

Poor old “Patches” the 34 year old spinnaker required surgery back at the condo after day two of racing. Only 9 holes, not bad. Mikey has the hair dryer prepping the spot to be taped.

on the rail

Bob, Teri, Pat, Mikey, and Mike keeping the boat flat on day 3.

dancing

The crew of Carmanah dancing up a storm at the Vallarta YC.  Yeee Haaa.

After seeing how much fun some of our fellow cruisers had in the Banderas Bay Regatta last year, we decided to arrange our schedule to be back in the Bay by February 28 so we could join in this year.  The timing necessitated leaving Zihuatanejo to head north a little earlier than we’d have liked but we did have time to revisit Barra de Navidad and Tenacatitda as part of the 330 mile return to La Cruz. We were a little afraid we’d be forced to beat into strong head winds that often prevail in the area but actually left “Z-Town” under spinnaker and often were forced to motor for lack of wind. Our friends from back home–Mike, Mikey, Bob, Teri, and Alex met us at Paradise Village (Race headquarters) two days before the regatta started. They rented a very nice condo near the dock where Carmanah was moored. Hanging out there, I did figure out where the uptight assholes that have been pretty much missing from our Mexico sailing experience do reside. They’re condo owners in Paradise Village.  I won’t go into the sordid details but now at least the mystery is solved. I’m glad that they’re congregating in this one place; we’ll simply avoid it as much as possible in the future.

Anyway, we’ve had a blast with the Bainbridge crew this week. We took the boat out the day before the regatta and did some organized practice starts with some other boats then sailed back over to La Cruz 6 miles north to participate in the Wednesday Beer Can race as a tune up. Carmanah has about 9,000 lbs of extra “cruising weight” aboard which we can definitely notice (speed wise) but she did great, finishing second behind the local sail maker. For the big regatta, we decided to switch from the Cruising Class to the Performance Race Class which pretty much eliminated the possibility of finishing very high. But, there were several fast cruising boats that were in the Performance class that we wanted to race against as they were more comparable to Carmanah. We figured that would be more fun than probably winning the cruising division. And, it was in fact very fun–very close racing. The first and second days, we finished mid fleet—ahead of the other “fast” cruising boats but behind the pure race boats with their carbon sails–not too far back though. And, on the third day we were right near the front of the fleet finishing third—but only 39 seconds out of 1st. Pretty fun. Old Whitey, our 39 year old #1 jib really came through again as did “Patches” our 35 year old spinnaker. The crew did great, just like old times back in Puget Sound. On the last day, Pat and Celine, fellow cruisers from s/v Voila joined us as well.  Celine volunteered to keep Lucy below during the race which helped us sail faster and the surprisingly competitive Pat caught on very quickly to sailing an old war horse—Carmanah. The regatta festivities culminated with a big awards dinner on the beach followed by the migration back to (brrrrr) Washington for our friends, except Bob who stayed an extra week with us on the boat in La Cruz. The local churros street vendor sold Bob enough of the doughy deep fried treats to send his oldest to private school. Yayyy Bob.

Now all the “racing” sails are stowed and we’re back into cruising mode. Our lovely niece Ruby just arrived for a spring break visit from Colorado State. We’re looking forward to hanging out with her. Next Saturday she goes home and our nephew Sam will arrive to sail with us on our crossing of the Sea of Cortez to La Paz.