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Saturday, April 30, 2011

4/30/2011 - oops

Of course I meant 3200 bytes per minute, not 3200 bits per second.

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Friday, April 29, 2011

4/29/2011 - Ensenada Grande to Isla San Francisco

We got up fairly early (for us), had breakfast, got things secured and were underway at 0930. By 1000 we were well out of the bahia and had the jib hoisted and pulling us downwind. Awhile later, we hoisted the main which was a big hassle but seemed like the thing to do. It did help keep us on our course better than the jib alone could do. We were making pretty good time until about 1115 when the favorable winds pretty much dropped off and our speed fell below 3 knots. Like every other sailboat we could see in the vicinity, we dropped our sails and fired up the engine.

It was a pretty uneventful trip although we did see quite a few dolphins with some jumping completely out of the water. These were the small black dolphins. Not sure of the species. It was a hot trip, that's for sure, especially after the wind dropped off.

We pulled in to Isla San Francisco at about 1400 and the anchor was down and secure 10 minutes later. Two of the same boats that we were anchored with at Ensenada Grande are here (s/v BunGee and s/v Sirena). We're waiting to see what's going to happen weather-wise tonight. It blew like stink at Ensenada Grande last night. If it does that here tonight, there's some question as to just how big the swells may get in this anchorage that's open to the SW.

If all goes well tonight, we'll spend another night here tomorrow which means that tomorrow we can go ashore and do a bit of hiking and picture-taking. So, wish for calm seas for us tonight. And check the YOTREPS position report for an updated position.

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Thursday, April 28, 2011

4/28/2011 - Heading north tomorrow

We're ready to leave Ensenada Grande. We plan to head out no later than 10:00 AM tomorrow. Believe me, that will be a sacrifice for Lulu who slept until 9:30 this morning. I have been listening to Don Anderson's weather on the morning Amigo SSB net. A couple days ago he was calling for some serious northerly action this weekend so we figured we'd head straight to San Evaristo. However, he's toned the warning down so we'll be heading to Isla San Francisco as originally planned. It's about 19 miles from here so we're looking at 5 hours anyway, depending on winds, etc. It's a straight shot almost due north so we're hoping for some southerly winds.

Happy to say that the new water filter is working well. However, since I had to take a few shortcuts and make a few adjustments, we have a tiny little leak where I had to couple a too-big hose to a too-small fitting. It's not even enough of a leak to drip. You only know it's leaking if you brush up against the fitting and get a drop of water on your hand. It is, however, enough to cause us to suck a little air when we pump water. Not much, but a little. I'll fix it when I have the right parts.

Also happy to report that the solar array is working great. We haven't run the Honda generator since we left the marina almost 3 weeks ago and, since then we've made water and used the sewing machine and hot knife as well as all the regular stuff (refrigeration, lights, charge the computers, SSB radio, etc. If we had one more solar panel we'd really be fat and happy. Also would like to get a KISS wind generator.

Look for an update on out YOTREPS position tomorrow night.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

4/27/2011 - New water filter

The morning was very calm so it seemed like a good time to tackle the water filter project. What the project consisted of was removing the old filter between our water tank and our faucets. It's proven impossible to find replacement filter elements in La Paz, so once we ran out of the spares we brought, I had to come up with something else. The filter is simply a particulate filter to trap scale and such the sloughs off the inside of our tank. The old, small filters were plugging up fairly often and, not being pleated paper (or fiberglass or whatever), were very hard to clean.

While we were still in La Paz I bought a new filter housing which uses the standard long pleated filters that can be found virtually everywhere. Seems like it should be pretty much child's play to replace one filter unit with the other. Like, what, maybe a 20 minute job? Uh-huh.

In the first place, the new filter housing, being taller than the old one, won't fit where the old one did. Instead of being mounted under my seat, adjacent to the tank, I had to find room somewhere under the kitchen sink. Okay, no biggie. It took about 45 minutes to remove the old housing and replumb the hoses under my seat. It cleared the space up a little, though, so that was nice.

Next, besides installing the filter under the sink, I decided to plumb in a 3-way valve so that filtered water could be sent either to the foot pump for use at the sink, or to the inlet of the watermaker for flushing the membrane following a watermaking run. This is how you're supposed to do it but, until now, I just filled a bucket and then sucked water out of the bucket for flushing. A bit of a PITA to say the least.

The whole project was really not that big of a deal. The worst part was that, not having a hardware store nearby (or any store for that matter), I had to make do with what I had on board as far as plumbing fittings and hose went. Consequently, the job isn't perfect but it seems to be working. Now that it's installed, I can refine it when we're once again in the land of ferreterias.

We plan to spend one more day here at Ensenada Grande and then head north on Friday morning for San Evaristo. There's supposed to be a 2-3 day norther coming in this weekend and San Evaristo looks like the best bet for protection as we amble north.

Side note: I thought I was losing my mind. I'd go out in the cockpit and the GPS would be on. I distinctly remembered turning it off. This has happened several times over the last few weeks. Finally figured it out. When I send out e-mail via the SSB radio, the transmission somehow turns the GPS on. I watched it do it today. Don't know if it's just on one frequency or several.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

4/25/2011 Still anchored at Ensenada Grande

We were kind of surprised when we saw some boats pull out this morning after just spending the night. I told Lulu I couldn't imagine not spending at least a couple days here. She said she could imagine living here. I'd have to agree. By late morning there were only 3 other boats here with us, all sailboats. But now, at 7:10 PM, we're sharing the anchorage with 4 other sailboats and 2 motor yachts. One of the sailboat is a bareboat charter (meaning that no skipper is supplied, just the boat) and they had so much trouble getting anchored that we're really glad they're far enough away and in the wrong direction to cause us any trouble when the wind pipes up tonight. There are acres and acres of space to anchor in so it's a mystery to my why s/v Tapatai felt the need to anchor right freakin' next to us. I told Lulu that I should have stood on deck naked and waved and hollered at them about how glad we are to see them and won't they come over for a drink after they get settled? That would have scared them off. Ah, fantasies....

Today, Lulu sewed the covers for the spare water jug and the new propane bottle and I re-bedded the mooring cleats on the foredeck. Instead of using miracle goo in a tube this time, I'm trying the bedding stuff that Jay told me about when we were still in Newport. It's basically like plumber's putty, only thicker and it comes in a roll. If it works, it's sure a lot easier (and WAY cheaper) than the other marine bedding materials. If it doesn't, well, it'll be easy to replace. I also made up two new dedicated snubber lines. After seeing what the constant strain and tugging did to loosen up our mooring cleat, I like the idea of spreading the load between two cleats by using a yoke snubber instead of just a single line. Worked good last night anyway.

After we finished working, we sat in the cockpit and read awhile. Eventually, Lulu got hot and decided she needed to swim. I beefed up the rope ladder rungs by wrapping another layer of line around them, making a larger step that should be easier to use w/o pinching one's toes between the ladder and the hull. Then, I took the dinghy out for a row.

Now it's evening and we're all fed (I made machaca-w/yellow-curry-paste quesadillas and steamed cabbage) and relaxed. After I send this and see if we got any e-mail, we'll probably relax and read in the cockpit until it gets too dark and then retire below for another episode of Heroes and Glee.

Don't see any liklihood of us heading out of here tomorrow.

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4/25/2011 - So Far, So Good

This place(Ensenada Grande, Isla Partida)is great so far. Oh, we still got the coromuel winds last night, but they didn't even start to build until 10:00. By 10:00 in our previous anchorages, we were tucked in bed because that was the easiest place to ride out the seas. I kept checking the wind direction and, lo and behold, between us and the wind was a big ol' cliff. Consequently, what seas did build up could best be described as "cute". The wind was very strong. It howled through the rigging. It almost sounded like it would build up on the other side of the cliff and then spill over in a huge gust. The boat would heel a bit (reminded me of being tied to the dock in Newport, Oregon last winter), the gust would diminish and the boat would sit perfectly upright again. Not unpleasant at all. Had a very restful night for a change.

Not sure what's on the agenda for today. We want to take the little mini-hike up above the anchorage to get the standard "boat at anchor taken from above" shot and then there's a longer hike that will take us to the eastern (Sea of Cortez) side of Isla Partida. And, of course, I still have those things on the to-do list. Lulu's to-do list consists of sewing protective covers for our new propane bottle and our extra water jug. My first task, however, will be to move the boom so it doesn't shadow either solar panel and then rig the shade cover over the cockpit.

Well, I'll get this posted and then send an update this evening.

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Sunday, April 24, 2011

4/24/2011 - OK, fun's fun, but...

Last night was our 4th night in a row spent rockin' at anchor due to the seas built up by the coromuel winds. I, for one, am ready for a quiet night's sleep for a change. Last night, just to add insult to injury, the constant working of the anchor snubber on it's cleat managed to break the sealant around the thru-deck bolts. Then, when we shipped water over the bow (yeah, that's how much we were rocking), guess whose little tootsies were suddenly getting dripped on. Another item for the to-do list.

We will be leaving Bahia San Gabriel later this morning. Not sure yet where we'll end up tonight but hopefully somewhere calmer.

Oh, and BTW, although I can post blogs via the HF radio, I can't see your comments. But, please don't let that stop you from commenting. We love the feedback and will read it all when we return to cell coverage.

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4/24/2011 - Anchored at Ensenada Grande

We got another late morning start today, but, as we didn't have very far to go, it didn't really matter that much. We got underway at about 1115 and started north. Our goal was to go up a couple of anchorages to Caleta Partida, the anchorage in the opening that separates Isla Espiritu Santo from Isla Partida. Caleta Partida is actually a collapsed volcano crater.

We passed a couple of really nice looking anchorages along the way but it was pretty obvious that they'd be victim to the same coromuel-whipped waves as Bahia San Gabriel had been. Maybe we can hit them on our way back next fall when the dominant winds should be from the north. We also got attacked by bobos along the way so maybe the anchorages wouldn't have been good even without the coromuels.

As we made the turn into Caleta Partida, we were first struck by the number of huge mega-yachts anchored there. Next we were put off by the amount of wind that was funneling through from the Sea of Cortez on the island's east side. Let's see: east wind during the day and southwest winds at night. Hmmmm. Well, at least that should keep the bobos at bay. But, we've had enough extra wind for now so we did an about face and continued north.

We passed a tiny little cove called El Cardoncito that is supposed to be large enough for one or maybe two small to medium sized boats. I was tempted but ended up passing it by without even sticking my nose in. Ensenada El Cardonal came next. It's a nice deep (meaning length from front to back, not water depth) bay but is wide open to the southwest and so, would provide no protection from the coromuels. Just around the corner was tiny little Las Cuevitas, another one or two boat inlet. Regretting passing El Cardoncito by, we decided to check this one out. Slowly we approached keeping one eye glued to the depth sounder. The closer we got to where we thought we should anchor, the more nervous I got. Seemed like we were awfully close to the stone walls. Finally lost my nerve and about-faced again. Next stop: Ensenada Grande.

Ensenada Grande was just around the next bend and looked like it should provide at least some protection from wind-induced seas. There are three lobes to the anchorage but we wanted the southernmost as it would provide the best protection. There were quite a few boats already anchored when we got there, including a mega-motoryacht, but there was plenty of room. Right now, as the sun is going down, we're sharing the anchorage with 8 other sailboats and 3 motor yachts, and there's still room.

This is another one of those picture postcard bays. White sand, turquoise water, red cliffs. We rowed the dinghy around a little bit this afternoon and, as we passed another boat, we asked if they'd been here last night and, if so, how was it? They had and they said the wind blew hard but the water never got rolly at all. Be still my heart. Could it be? Is there actually a good night's rest in our immediate future?

If tonight is nice, we'll probably stay here a few days. We want to do a little hiking and I have a couple of items to work on: install the new water filter, re-bed the mooring cleats, and fix the gas leak on the outboard. I guess we'll just wait and see how it goes.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

7/22/2011 - Bahia San Gabriel

After another bouncy night at anchor (although not quite as bouncy as the night before), we slept in again, missing the tail end of the coromuel (south/southwest wind) that we could have ridden north a ways. But, unless we are really low on fuel, I doubt that "favorable wind" will ever win over against "sleeping in". But, after breakfast and getting things stowed, we finally did get underway. Our complacency is sort of justified in that we only planned to go about 11 nautical miles.

We motored out of Bahia Falsa but we did manage to raise our sails and run downwind wing-and-wing for a half hour or so. Got to use our new whisker pole. Finally, though, speeds of under 2 knots just got to us and we fired up Big Red. Naturally, abut the time we crossed the San Lorenzo Channel, we managed to get some wind from the east but, by that time we were close enough to our destination that we didn't want to bother with the sails.

Bahia San Gabriel is the southernmost anchorage on Isla Espiritu Santo. It's wide open to the SW so we will probably get our butts kicked again tonight. But, as long as we can handle the nightly butt-kickings, we're rewarded with amazingly uncrowded anchorages. The last 2 nights we had the place to ourselves and ton

ight it looks like we'll be sharing it with one other boat, s/v Jasdip. The anchorage is absolutely beautiful. We dropped our anchor in 17' of water that was clear enough that I could see the anchor and chain lying on the sandy bottom. Couldn't see them super clearly, but I could see them. After the first anchoring drill we looked around and said, "Man! We are a LONG way from the beach!". So, we upped anchor and moved in closer.

We're actually anchored in slightly deeper water now than we when we were further out. There is a long white sand beach with turquoise water between it and us. There are some mangroves behind parts of the beach and there is a huge colony of frigate birds nesting among one length of mangroves. Behind the mangroves are the barren-looking hills so common here. I say "barren-looking" because they are actually covered with cactus and other scrubby, mean-looking vegetation aptly suited to its environment.

We spent the afternoon aboard

but tomorrow, after we've weathered the roller coaster ride and are super-sure of our anchor's holding, we're going to take a little hike that runs from our beach to Playa Bonanza on the other side of Espiritu Santo. If the bounciness doesn't run us off tomorrow, we plan to be here for at least a day or two.

We are definitely cruising now as we no longer have enough cell signal to use our Banda Ancha card, thus, no internet. So, this blog entry as well as any e-mails we send or receive will be done via HF Radio. How cool is that?

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Thursday, April 21, 2011

4/21/2011 - Rough night

In spite of the idyllic look of Bahia Falsa and Playa Tecolote, we had a less than idyllic night. In the summer, they have a south/southwest wind that comes up most evenings and blows all night. They're called "coromuels" and are nice for cooling things off. But, they can make for rolly anchorages if you're exposed in that direction. Well, pretty much EVERY anchorage from La Paz to the northern tip of Isla Espiritu Santo is exposed to the south or southwest. We expected winds but really hadn't given a lot of thought to what they might do to the sea state inside the bay. Well, last night we found out.

The winds and seas started picking up about 9:00 or so. At first it didn't seem like much of anything but, after awhile, the boat was bucking up and down like a pickanoid bull. Not since the big norther that ripped through La Paz and kept us confined to the boat in either January or February have we seen this much action at anchor. We're fairly seasoned when it comes to weathering rockin' rollin' anchorages but, as we were reading e-mail about 11:00 or so, we both started to feel kind of queasy. Finally, we threw in the towel, took some meclizine, and hit the rack. Once our eyes were closed the lurching and hobby-horsing were much easier to take. Before we turned in, I let out more anchor chain (increased the scope) just in case. The anchor was holding like iron, but still, why take a chance? A couple times during the night, I got up to check on things and we were always right where we should be.

I don't know if it was the drugs or what, but I slept until 8:30 this morning and Lulu went until 9:30. It was still rockin' and rollin' when we got up but it eventually abated. We discussed whether or not to move on but decided that, as long as we know what's coming, we'll just weather the effects of the coromuels. If we let them influence where we go, we'd have to skip Isla Espiritu Santo altogether until we were on our way back to La Paz next fall. Maybe the heavy sea action will keep the anchorages uncrowded.

Here's why we decided to go ahead and stay here another day:

If you look REALLY close between Lulu and that white umbrella, you may be able to see Siempre Sabado anchored out in deeper water.

While we were ashore enjoying the ambiance, I started watching a couple of kids(?) who were swimming out in the deep water. I was just watching to make sure they weren't headed towards our boat. But, after a little while, we saw that they not only were swimming towards our boat but they actually climbed on board! Lulu had swum in although I had brought the dinghy. While I was waiting for the check so we could pay up and leave, she decided to swim back out to the boat immediately. Ultimately, she arrived about a minute before I did. By the time either of us got there, the trespassers had left. After checking the boat to be sure nothing obvious was missing (it wasn't) I followed them with binoculars for awhile just to see where they went. I suspect that they were just resting and satisfying their curiosity but still, it's kind of upsetting to see people who aren't supposed to be there climbing aboard your boat. But, I guess all's well that end's well. We'll probably be a lot more vigilant in the future.

Tomorrow we're off. Our next stop will probably be Bahia San Gabriel, the southernmost anchorage on Isla Espiritu Santo's western side. Wide open to the south and southwest so I expect we'll have an uncomfortable night or two.

4/20/2011 - Best Beach Ever (so far)

We might possibly set the record for slowest trip up the Sea of Cortez ever, if today is any indication. We left La Paz about 12:45 or so. We were waiting for the ebb tide at 1:30-is but I got impatient after awhile. Although a nice southerly wind was blowing when we got up this morning, by the time we headed out, the breeze had dropped off to nothing. I warmed up the engine while I cleared out with the Capitania del Puerta via radio.

We really didn't have any intention of going very far today. We want to hit as many appealing anchorages as we can on our way north and several of them happen to be on the La Paz peninsula. We stopped at basically the very first possible place: Bahia Falsa. This is a small bay just south of the commercial port of Pichilingue. It's all of 7 miles from La Paz.

There wasn't another boat to be seen when we entered the bay. We motored around a bit getting a lay of the land, so to speak. Finally, we found what looked like a nice spot and dropped the anchor in 30' of water. With the anchor down, I had Lulu start backing up while I let out more chain. All of a sudden, the engine came to a dead stop. I immediately knew the cause: our dinghy painter had wrapped around the prop. I knew this was a possibility but, since I'd seen the painter floating earlier, I mistakenly believed that it was floating line. Not so much. Well, Lulu is always looking for an excuse to get in the water so I asked her if she'd like to dive down and unwrap the line from the prop and shaft. It was very hot and she jumped at the chance to get wet. It took a couple of dives to gt most of it unwrapped and then she had to resort to the dive knife to cut the last couple of wraps off the shaft. But, she got it done and we finished anchoring.

Once we were secure, we sluiced down the hot teak decks with seawater and then relaxed with a celebratory cerveza. Over on the beach there's a palapa bar/restaurant and a bunch of Mexicans celebrating the start of Semana Santa (Holy Week). It actually starts tomorrow but apparently some families got started early. Semana Santa is a time when Mexican families take to the beaches, etc. Most small businesses are closed because they are required by law to pay double-time to employees who work.

Anyway, the beach was full of families having a great time at the beach. We decided to dinghy over and have a couple of cervezas ourselves. The whole atmosphere was so serene that I just couldn't bring myself to intrude by cranking up the outboard. So, we rowed over to the beach. Our PortaBote rows quite easily so it really wasn't much of a chore.

I'm not sure how far we are from the beach but I'd guess that at least half the distance is covered by water that is less than 4' deep. It was very pretty rowing over the sand bottom through crystal clear water. Once at the beach, we ordered a couple of Pacificos and grabbed a couple of chairs under the palapa. It was like a travel magazine or a postcard or, maybe, a Corona commercial. Siempre Sabado was anchored out in the blue deeper water, and between it and the beach was a wide band of the prettiest turquoise water you ever saw. Kids were playing in the water and moms and dads were sitting in the shade watching them.

I think we'll probably spend tomorrow here as well, just for the pure hell of it. There are still 2 more anchorages on the peninsula we might try out: Playa Pichilingue and Playa Balandra. Depends on how crowded they get as Seman Santa really gets rolling. At this rate, it'll probably take us a month to reach Puerto Escondido (Loreto), a mere 120 miles away. And we wouldn't have it any other way.

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4/21/2011 - Track us

Paste this in your browser's window and then bookmark it (or make it a
favorite if you're a PC kinda guy). We'll update it daily, probably
in the evenings most of the time. I'l keep trying to find the set-up
that puts the map directly on our blog page but, until then, this
should help you keep track of us.


Wednesday, April 20, 2011

4/18/2011 Club Cruceros y Marina de La Paz

In La Paz, a cruiser has several choices about how to deal with his/her boat. There are four large marinas. However, three of them (Costa Baja, Marina Palmira, and Marina Fonatur) are all far enough away from el centro, the downtown area, that they require either a bus, a taxi, a shuttle, or a long walk. That leaves Marina de La Paz, probably the most popular marina here. Adjacent to Marina de La Paz are three small marinas: Marina Don Jose and Marina del Palmar. Between these two is an even smaller marina that's associated with one of the boatyards. However, if you want to save some money and have some privacy at the expense of convenience, you can either anchor out or rent a mooring ball. There are dozens of boats anchored out, including us.

But even anchored boats need to get drinking water, dump garbage, take showers, tie up there dinghies for trips to the store, etc. Marina de La Paz has made all of this quite convenient by providing a dinghy dock.

For 15 pesos a day (about $1.20), boaters can leave their dinghies at the dock, use the Marina's dumpsters and waste oil containers and fill their jugs with ultra-filtered (RO) water. For an additional 15 pesos per person, you can have access to the showers. So, it can be pretty cheap to hang on the hook.

Also on Marina de La Paz's grounds is Club Cruceros. This is a club, originally founded by cruisers but now open to anyone. For 100 pesos per year per person, club members have use of the clubhouse with its book exchange and DVD lending library.

It's also just a good place to sit and watch marina life or pass the time with other cruisers.

Lulu and I spent some time there Sunday while we waited for more "good stuff" to show up at the cruisers' swap meet at Marina Don Jose.

The club does lots of charitable fund raising and other good works besides just helping keep cruisers informed about what's going on and how to survive in La Paz. Check out their website for a lot more info.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

4/18/2011 - More food

We did some shopping today for our trip north. Lulu wanted a couple of real lightweight sundresses, we needed long cable ties for our porthole screens, some PVC pipe for more shade possibilities, some cacahuates (peanuts) and vanilla and some boric acid for killing cucarachas, of which Lulu has seen a couple small ones on the boat. The trip was a complete success. We found everything we were looking for.

After such an arduous outing, we figured we owed ourselves some fish tacos from our new favorite fish taco stand. However, when we got there, the place was packed! People were standing in line to get tacos and there was no place to sit. We ran another couple errands to give things a chance to cool down but when we returned, some of the people who were standing in line when we were there before, still hadn't gotten their tacos. Well, one thing we're not going to do in La Paz is stand in line for food. There are just way too many good places to eat. And we found another one.

As we were walking along Madero, we happened to walk by an outdoor vendor selling ceviche and coctels, both shrimp (camarón) and fish (pescado). Up until now, I've sort of avoided the fresh seafood street stands (except the fish tacos). Must be a latent paranoia. However, I seem to have gotten over it. We've seen so many Mexicans enjoying big helpings of ceviche at these stands that we finally decided to give it a try. We both ordered shrimp cocktails (coctel de camarón). Now these aren't those pansy-ass little shrimp cocktails you get in the States. This is a bowl full of shrimp swimming in a vinegary brine along with fresh tomatoes, peppers, and onions.

In this photo, Lulu's already eaten about half of what was in the bowl. That bowlful of shrimp cost 60 pesos (about $4.80). The coctel was outstanding but, as we were eating it, I kept seeing all these folks eating some of the best-looking ceviche I've ever seen. So, we bought a liter of ceviche de pescado para llevar ("to go"). For 130 pesos (about $10.40) we got a liter container packed with ceviche along with about 18 tostada shells, and a couple of baggies of salsas. Dinner tonight should be fairly exotic: ceviche and leftover pizza from last night's dinner at Il Rustico restaurant.

We're pretty glad the fish taco place was so busy today or we may never have tried this place.

Don't worry, Ma, we're eatin' good.

Monday, April 18, 2011

4/18/2011 - Leaving La Paz?

First, I can't believe it's been 10 days since I've updated the blog. Shame on me!

We actually are getting ready to leave La Paz. As I wrote awhile ago, we bought o whole bunch of dry goods to see us through the areas where provisioning isn't as easy as here. We're putting off the final produce/eggs/beer/club soda (or, as we say in Mexico: agua mineral o agua mineral con gas) until the day before we actually head out. As it stands right now, we should be making that provisioning run tomorrow, which means we'll be heading out on Wednesday. And where, pray tell, are we going?

Get out your map of the Sea of Cortez. What? You say you don't have a map of the Sea? Well then, go to Google Earth and bring up a picture of the Sea. La Paz is that hook way down on the inside coast of Baja California Sur. From there north, you will notice that there are a whole bunch of islands. Almost every one of those islands has at least one, and usually several, anchorages. Most are either uninhabited or have, at the most, a small fishing village. Besides the anchorages on the islands, there are also a whole bunch of great little bays and coves on the peninsula itself. We plan to stop at as many as we can fit in. If we don't hit them all this year (unlikely), we may come back and do it again next summer.

How far north will we go? You see the prominent hook on the Pacific Ocean side of Baja? Well, opposite that bay (Bahía de Sebastián Vizcaíno) on the Sea of Cortez side is Bahía de Los Angeles. This will be our northern destination. The idea is to lay low there until after hurricane season is over (November 1 in theory).

During our summer in the Sea we plan to do a lot of fishing, napping, reading, napping, swimming, and, if we get tired, napping. We're told that it gets brain-meltingly hot up there in the summer so we're gearing up for it. We've installed fans over our bunks as well as moveable fans. We also have fabric covers to provide shade in the cockpit, the cabin and most of the foredeck. We bought some shade material for side curtains as well. It's more of a screen material that you can kind of see through and might let a little bit of breeze through. It's supposed to block 90% of the sun. Lulu did the sewing but I still have to install grommets for hanging the curtains up. All of this shade has to be easily deployed and removed. The Sea is famous for sudden chubasco winds in the evenings. These are short, violent squalls that generally come on suddenly at night. It's a good idea to have your awnings down when these hit.

Lulu also made a multi-directional wind scoop for the forward hatch.

The lower portion is simply a square chimney with a big screen on the bottom. The upper portion is actually 4 v-shaped openings. And then there's a lid. No matter which direction the wind comes from, one of the 4 openings will catch it and divert it below via the chimney. Although it seems like this set-up might be inefficient because the amount of air directed below is only 1/4 of the open area of the chimney, in actuality, the wind catcher is cut large so that the wind hitting it will actually push the vertical sections back until the opening is almost as large as the chimney itself. Hard to explain but easy to see if you happen to catch it in action.

All in all, we're about ready to scoot. I'm trying to set up a deal so that our position is tracked on our blog whenever I log in to Sailmail to download e-mail or weather faxes. Once we leave La Paz, the only e-mail we will receive or send will be via Sailmail and our SSB radio. Because the connection is so slow, we have to be very careful what e-mail comes and goes. The messages need to be text only and with absolutely NO attachments. No forwards either as they are generally just silly things that we don't want to use up our bandwidth on. Also, if you do happen to send us an e-mail via Sailmail, please strip off all the previous messages before sending. But enough. More about all that later.

Oh, one more thing. Once we leave La Paz, and until we reach someplace where cell service allows us to use our banda ancha card again, all blog updates will be done via Sailmail. That means there won't be any photos until we have internet access again.

OK, wish us luck on getting our butts out of here Wednesday.

Monday, April 11, 2011

4/8/2011 - Anchored again

Well, after 2 months tied to the dock at Marina del Palmar, we're finally back on the hook. We got everything done that we'd planned to do while tied to the dock, including provisioning, cleaning the boat up, making side shades for the boat for this summer, etc.

It's really good to be back at anchor. It's just so much more private. You feel like an island and, really, you are.

The blissful state reflected in the above sentence came to an abrupt halt on Sunday afternoon. We were at La Costa Restaurant enjoying Bayfest and getting ready to hear how much loot we won in the raffles. The winners were just about to be announced when Karen "Toast" Congers stepped up to the mike with an announcement for the fleet. Seems a boat named Siempre Sabado had dragged anchor and was headed for the steel breakwater separating the bay from Marina de La Paz. Anchors had been provided by s/v Loose Pointer (thanks, Dan!) and s/v Wind Raven (thanks, Jay!) and she was now stable but the owners needed to get back aboard ASAP. Talk about a buzzkill! Lulu and I grabbed our stuff and beat feet back to the dinghy and then motored out to the boat.

Siempre Sabado was sitting way too close to the big steel seawall for comfort. A brisk north wind had kicked up during the afternoon and, for some reason, in spite of having set the anchor really well and having plenty of chain out, we still drug. Dan and Jay had gotten us stopped by deploying Dan's Fortress anchor and Jay's 45 lb. CQR. Jay had to get back to his boat because he was running out of gas in his dinghy and didn't have any oars with him. Dan stayed aboard until we returned.

Our first order of business was to secure the dinghy and get the engine started. Lulu went below and grabbed our anchoring headphones while the diesel warmed up. As soon as it was kind of warm-ish, we put her in gear and started trying to retrieve all 3 anchors.

Picture this: we have three anchors out, each with at least 70-80 feet of rode and each leaving the boat in a different direction. I had Lulu power forward as I pulled on each rode. First, our Rocna, then Jay's CQR and then Dan's Fortress. A little of this one, a little of that one. Since our anchor had dragged, it was the easiest to retrieve in spite of the weight of its all-chain rode. Once it was aboard, I concentrated on the other two. First we motored towards the CQR as I pulled line in and let the line to the Fortress out. Finally, we were right over the anchor and the bouncing of the bow tripped it, allowing me to manhandle it to the surface. I wasn't even going to try to bring it aboard at this point. Next Lulu aimed the boat to follow the Fortress' rode. Every foot of line brought aboard was a hard-won victory but eventually, the Fortress was also off the bottom and hanging just below the surface at the bow of the boat. I was seriously winded at this point. I could retrieve my anchor with the windlass but the other two had to brought aboard by brute strength and it's been awhile since I've had to do that.

We decided to re-anchor a lot further away from the dreaded seawall so I had Lulu steer a course to up near where Jay and Judy were anchored on Wind Raven.

Found a nice clear spot and dropped the Rocna. Let the boat drift back until we had deployed about 100' of chain. Then I snubbed the anchor and let the wind and current set it until I was comfortable that it was secure. Then, Lulu aimed the boat for a point about 30° away from where the Rocna was laying. We motored forward a ways and I dropped our secondary anchor, a Bruce-copy with 50' of chain backed up by a couple hundred feet of nylon line. Again we backed down. This time we only had about 60' of rode out but we seemed to be holding nicely. Let the engine continue to idle in neutral while we watched the boats around us and the GPS to see if we were dragging.

Once we were satisfied that were stationary, we secured the engine and I started to try to get the other anchors aboard and straighten out their rodes, which, by now, were a jumbled mess. When I got the CQR up high enough to see, I could see that it and the Fortress had melded in to one unit. This was going to be fun. Fortunately with Lulu's help and the use of a boathook, we managed to separate them and get them both aboard.

As I was working on the rodes, Jay went by in his dinghy. He was shouting something to me about using the anchor. I hollered back that we were all set. Then I noticed that he was drifting past us really fast and was frantically pulling on his outboard's starter rope. Clearly, he was in trouble. The wind was blowing very strongly and the seas were big and boisterous, especially for a little dinghy.

I hopped in our dinghy, started the motor and headed out to try to catch Jay before he hit the seawall. It was a VERY bumpy ride. The seas were maybe 2' which is about twice as high as the sides of my dinghy. And, with only one person aboard, there's not much weight up front and she tends to point up to the sky a bit. It was a wild ride but I managed to reach Jay and catch his painter and take him in tow about 30 seconds before he would have hit the seawall. We managed to get turned around (so we were headed into these freakin' waves) and headed back to our boats. We hadn't gone far when Jay signaled that he'd gotten his engine started so I set him loose. Now it was just a wild and crazy ride back. At one point, a combination of wind and wave laid my dinghy almost on its side and turned her around 180°. SHEESH! But, all's well that ends well. We both reached our boats safely.

Lulu fixed clam chowder for dinner, which we ate at about 7:30 or 8:00, 2 to 2-1/2 hours after this whole thing started. That was the fastest 2 to 2-1/2 hours that I can remember in a long time.

I didn't expect to get much sleep as I knew I'd be checking our position over and over again. However, although the evening was pretty bouncy, we stayed right in position. And, miracle of miracles, the wind died down in the wee hours and we were both able to relax. That's not to say that one or the other of us didn't get up every hour or two to check things out. But, fortunately we stayed put.

Today, I straightened our anchors out, stowed the Bruce and backed down under power on the Rocna to be sure it was solidly set. Then I returned Dan's Fortress (along with some cookies Lulu made). Jay said to hang on to his CQR a little longer until we're sure we don't need it. That's good since it'll give us time to get some eggs so Lulu can make them a thank-you treat, too.

So, although anchoring out is like being on our own island, it's nice to have helping hands on all these other islands around us.

BTW: we won dinner for two at Il Rustico Restaurant in the raffle.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

4/8/2011 - weird, or maybe not

This is a photo of the ship I served on during my time in the Navy (1969-1973), the USS Tolovana, AO-64, a fleet oiler. The weird thing about this photo is that it was reportedly taken in Subic Bay, Philippines in 1971. That means that, if you could blow the picture up far enough and not lose resolution, you might be able to find a 20-year old version of me somewhere on deck. Is it just me or is that sort of freaky?

Thanks to Erich Utecht for this and many other great Tolovana photos.

Friday, April 8, 2011

4/8/2011 - The race is on

This weekend is Bayfest here in La Paz. The kick-off event for the weekend was the "Rock to the Dock" sailboat race. Racing is not something Luu and I have done, nor have we had any particular desire to do it. However, when Dave on s/v Kievit asked if we'd like to crew for him and Marge in the race, we said, "sure". He assured us it would be a laid back affair. Just a chance to go out and raise the sails and have some fun. We figure, "what the heck..."

So, yesterday morning found us boarding Kievit with our life jackets and an 8-pack of Pacifico in hand. The race was to start at 11:00 at Roca Lobos. This is the rock just off the opening to Caleta Lobos where we've spent the occasional night anchored. (BTW, in this case, "lobos" does not refer to wolves but rather to sea lions).

We left the dock shortly after 8:00 for the trip out to the rock. The wind, miraculously enough, was out of the south so we were able to sail out. Once we reached the starting line area, we milled around, jockying for position while waiting for the starting gun. There were 21 boats registered for the race which, apparently, was a record. Don't know if they all made it but there were a lot of boats out sailing around by 10:45.

Positioning for the start of a sailboat race is kind of a big deal. The idea is to have yourself just behind the starting line, going as fast as you can, when the starting gun goes off. It's really easy to go over the line early while doing this and you really have to understand your boat and the conditions, plus have a huge hunk of luck, in order to pull it off. Well, the stars must have been lined up just right because we were in the perfect position, going as fast as we could when the gun went off. Dave had things figured out perfectly it seems.

The race got off to an exciting start when we found ourselves right on s/v Eros' ass. I mean we were RIGHT BEHIND them. If it had been me, I would have chickened out and adjusted my course, but Dave stuck right in there and, before too long, Eros tacked away from us. This was not to be the last we saw of them.

There are lots of tactics involved in a sailboat race. After all, you have to rely on the wind. So, if you have to tack, you have to decide if it's better to tack often and not have to get too far off the course, or if it's better to go a long ways and then make just one tack. Where is the wind going to be? What if we tack too early and can't make the mark? What if we tack too late? Fortunately, neither Lulu, Marge, or I had to give any of this much thought. That's the skipper's job. We're just deck monkeys.

Here's a sight you like to see in a race; lots of sails behind you:

We stayed our course for a really long way. The boat ahead of us, Corina, did as well. But there were only maybe 3 other boats that followed us way the hell out where we finally tacked. But we got it just right. We came about and headed right for the entrance to the La Paz channel. We even did a little better than Corina who overshot the turn a skosh.

Once we got into the channel, things started changing quickly. Up to now we were the second boat in line; only Corina was ahead of us. And, if the wind had held, we may have even finished second over the line. But, of course, the wind didn't hold. Our nice south wind pretty much died shortly after we entered the channel. We barely made the turn around the second buoy. We were just sort of bobbing around, hoping the wind would pick up before we had to drop the anchor to keep from running aground.

Apparently, there was still some wind out where we had been because the other boast were beginning to catch up to us. They weren't actually close, by any means, but they were no longer just specks either. And, interestingly enough, a couple were flying spinnakers which meant the wind had shifted to the north-ish. Perfect for a downwind run to the finish line if the wind ever reached us. In anticipation, we rigged the 150% genoa. Dave considered the spinnaker but, with such a green crew, decided it was maybe not a great idea. The big genny it is, then.

We could see the rippled surface of the water indicating wind and it was coming towards us. Trouble was, there were a bunch of boats riding that wind towards us as well. Fortunately, the wind reached us before they did and we were off again. With the wind just over our starboard quarter, there wasn't even any need to rig a whisker pole.

Downwind we ran with the other boats in hot pursuit.

How's this for a bitchin' spinnaker?

The boat flying the señorita and the catamaran in the photo above that, eventually passed us. But they're the last boats that did. The boat flying the red, white, and blue spinnaker in the photo above is Eros. Remember Eros?

From here to the finish, it was basically us against Eros. The only special rule of the race was you had to stay in the channel. We were hugging the red buoy line (right side) of the channel as tight as we could. If Eros had gotten by us on that side, they would have blocked some of our wind. Dave wasn't about to let that happen.

It was now their turn. They were as tight on our ass as we had been on theirs at the start of the race. But Dave wasn't relenting. For one thing, he just didn't look back. That was my job: look back and report what was going on.

Finally, Eros must have realized they were not going to get by us on our starboard side, so they switched to the port side. We were sailing close enough to yell at each other for quite a ways. There were numerous times that I was sure their spinnaker pole was going to hit our boom. But it never did.

The finish line was drawing near. Now it was on! Dave kept hugging that red buoy line. Eros was coming slowly up our port side. Dead ahead, there was a little Contessa 26 sailboat anchored right in the channel, right in front of Eros. They kept trying to bully us into going further right so they could pass the anchored boat without having to veer too far off course. They kept insisting that it was our duty to give them room. Well, we had nowhere to go. We were right on the channel's edge and there were anchored boats just outside that edge. The skipper of Eros was pissed but, TS. He took what I thought was a reckless chance by passing between us and the anchored Contessa at full speed. Nothing came of it but it was awful darn close.

The upshot was that we crossed the finish line about 1/2 to 1/3 boat length ahead of Eros. That put us in 4th place overall and probably, on corrected time, 2nd place. Not bad, eh?

Lulu and I had lots more fun than we expected to. It was exciting but Dave never turned into the dreaded RACE SKIPPER FROM HELL that is so common among sailboat racers. We also got some good insight into how to actually sail our boat when we head north in a few days.

So, thanks Dave and Marge, for including us and showing us a darn good time.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

4/5/2010 - Provisioning, a nuts and bolts blog

When you live in a house, on land, you call it grocery shopping. But when you live on a boat, you call it provisioning. And actually, there is a difference. Grocery shopping is something you do to try to have the stuff you need on hand. But, if you need a quart of milk or a pound of hamburger between grocery runs, you can stop at the store and pick some up on the way home. Not so on a boat, at least once you've left the marina and also left town.

In this case, you need to have on board EVERYTHING that you're going to need until you reach the next provisioning port. EVERYTHING! Just trying to figure out what "everything" is is pretty daunting. So you'll understand when I tell you that Lulu had a serious case of denial about provisioning. There's so much to think about. What if we forget something? Where are we going to put it all?

Well, our time to leave La Paz is fast approaching. The next chance we have to provision will be at Loreto which is 120 nautical miles north of here. During a passage, that would just be an overnighter or maybe a day and a half trip. But, when cruising, there are a whole bunch of basically uninhabited anchorages between here and there. Even if we leave early next week, it'll take us at least 3 weeks to get there if we do it right. So we need to have all the food on hand that we might need between here and there. And not just food. How about toilet paper, paper towels, shampoo, soap, etc? It's a lot to think about.

A lot of folks have a lot of different approaches to provisioning. Our friend Carrie on s/v Madrona is very scientific about it. She's built a spreadsheet that accounts for everything they'll need based on the meals that they will eat. Very scientific. But definitely not our style.

What we finally did was to take an inventory of all the non-refrigerated, non-fresh stuff we have on board: canned vegetables, coffee, noodles, rice, beans, etc. Then we sat down and tried to decide how much of these things we'd need to make meals for 3-4 weeks. We have no idea what those meals will be but we've both cooked enough that we feel pretty confident that we can figure something out. While brainstorming how much of the stuff on hand we'd need, we naturally came up with lots of other stuff that we'd need. The upshot was a shopping list that was pretty daunting. At the end of this blog I've included a list of our inventory from which the shopping list was created. Things like spices, unless otherwise noted, we decided that we had plenty of. Armed with our list, we hiked down to Chedraui. We managed to way overfill a shopping cart and spent over $400. But, since we're not renewing our marina rental this month and that was $400, it's kind of a wash (yeah, right). We hailed a cab for the trip back to the marina. The $50 peso fare along with the $20 peso tip to the driver for his help loading and unloading was money well spent.

We still haven't loaded up on fresh produce. We'll wait until the last minute for that. We also haven't loaded up on beer yet. That's tomorrow's mission. But, other than that, we're pretty sure we have plenty of food on board to see us through a 3-4 week period without any further additions, even if we don't catch any fish (which ain't gonna happen). I guess we'll see.

Oh yeah, where to put all this stuff. I double-decked all the crap in the "garage" (quarter berth) so we'd have enough room to stow all the paint locker stuff that used to be stowed beneath the middle settee seat. That left one fairly good-sized locker for food storage. We managed to get all the food into that locker as well as our usual food lockers located behind the settee seats. However, the toilet paper and paper towels have joined the backpacks and sleeping bag as something that lives in the v-berth during the day but is moved out to the settee at night. It;s a pain but we'll use the stuff up as we go along and everything has to be somewhere, right?

So, here's our provisioning list, such as it is:

machaca, bags: 5
chilorio, cans or bags: 4
granola, bags: 5
powdered milk. bags: 5
tuna, small cans: 10
mayo, quart: 2
cheese, lbs.: 2
bacon, pkgs.: 4
popcorn, bag or jar: 1
butter, lb.: 6
Spam, can: 5
toilet paper: 50
(the goal was actually 40 rolls but since we had 2 and they came in 24 packs...)
ultrapure milk, box: 5
club soda, case: 1
spinach, can: 5
green beans, can: 3
corn, can: 6
beets, can: 4
shampoo: 4
soap, bar: 2
deodorant: 2
sunscreen: 2
mouthwash: 2
dental floss: 3
lotion: 2
toothpaste: 4
instant potatoes, envelope: 6
salmon, canned: 3
chicken, canned: 5
(we ended up getting, unbeknownst to us, chicken salad, which was OK, too.)
black pepper: some
Pam, or similar: 2
aluminum foil, roll: 2
Ziploc bags, 2 gal., box: 2
Ramen, pkgs: 12
black olives, sliced, can: 3
green olives, can: 3
(expensive, settled for 2 cans)
beef bullion, jar: 1
chicken bullion, jar: 1
soup, mushroom: 3
soup, tomato: 4
soup, chicken, dry: 4
Italian dressing, bottle: 5
chili powder: some
(actually we didn't find "chili powder" as we know it. We settled for powdered chiles to which we will add cumin to get "chili powder")
tomato paste: 4
tomato sauce: 4
tomatoes, diced: 4
green chiles, can: 6
oats, lbs: 8
wasabi powder, can: 1
nori, pkg: 3
rice, white, lb: 5
rice, brown, lb.: 1
flour, white, lb.: 25
sugar, white, lb.: 5
sugar, brown, lb.: 2
coffee, lb.: 8
Tabasco sauce: 3
ammonia, gal: 2
bleach, gal: 0.5
beans, dried, lb.: 6
pasta, lb.: 6
charcoal briquets, lb.: 10
Gatorade powder, tubs: 5
vegetable oil, quart: 2
baking powder, pkg: 1
baking soda, pkg: 1
dish soap, btl.: 3
roach traps, ea.: 2
mustard, prepared: 2
peanut butter: 2
soy sauce, pt.: 2
parmesan cheese, can: 3
coffee, instant: 1
curry paste, can: 3
mushrooms, can: 7
clam chowder: 4
chicken soup, canned: 1
vegetable soup, canned: 3
oysters, smoked, can: 2
clams, smoked, can: 1
clams, chopped, can: 4
saltine crackers, pkg: 2
hot chocolate mix, tub: 1
jam: 2
coconut milk, can: 2
jalapeños, pickled, can: 1
beer as much as we can stash somewhere

snacks (quantities yet to be determined):
tortilla chips
potato chips
salted peanuts

fresh produce (quantities yet to be determined):

I know that for some of you, the lack of sizes on the packaging on this list is probably frustrating. But, there was NO WAY I was going to drag everything back out to find out. Suffice it to say that we generally bought the medium size unit unless otherwise notes. And some stuff only comes in one size.

Now, if you made it all the way down here, you deserve a little treat. On one of our jaunts into town yesterday, we stopped at a street taco vendor. He had fish, clam, and oyster tacos. We opted for a couple of fish tacos. Fish tacos generally tend to be a piece of battered, deep-fried fish on a tortilla. The size of the fish piece may change depending on the price of the taco but they're basically fish on a tortilla. It's the condiments that make the difference. Most places have a couple types of salsa, some limones, shredded cabbage, crema, some hot sauces, maybe some roasted chiles, and that's about it. This place had all that plus about 6 more things that could have stood as salads on their own: roasted peppers in cream sauce, cole slaw, grilled onion and vegetables, etc. It was a real treat. Here's just one example:

Lulu has declared this stand as her favorite restaurant in La Paz and it is mighty darn good.

Oh, yeah, if you're in La Paz and are trying to find it, it's on Degollado, where Madero runs into it, across the street from the front door of the Modatela fabric store.

Friday, April 1, 2011

4/1/2011 - It was 2.0 years ago today

Lulu and I celebrated the second anniversary of my retirement tonight. We went back to Buffalito Grill for a couple of medium rare ribeyes. The steaks were exceedingly tender and cooked to perfection. Seasoned just right so that we didn't even need to add any salt (and for a couple of salt lovers like us, that's saying something). Just like the burgers, the steaks were cooked over a mesquite fire. They were accompanied by grilled zucchini and scallions. It was excellent.

Can't say as I've regretted anything about the last 2 years. Retirement is GOOD!