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Thursday, October 27, 2011

10/27/2011 - Rookie mistakes

Yesterday was the day I was scheduled to fly to LAX to meet up with Keith on s/v Chamisa, the Westsail 42 that I'm going to crew on between Long Beach and La Paz. The night before, I'd gone on-line and printed out my boarding pass and yesterday morning I packed. So, as usual, I was ready to go a long time before I needed to be.

The day before, I had called out on the morning Cruisers' Net on the VHF radio asking for a ride to the airport. Rumor had it that the cab ride was around $40 one way and there are no shuttles. Fortunately, a fellow named Mike called back and said that he had to take a friend to the airport on Wednesday afternoon and I was welcome to go along. he said his friend's flight to Tijuana was leaving at 2:00 PM and, since mine didn't leave until 2:33, it should work out. I met him in person later and he said he'd pick me up at 1:15 which seemed a little late to me but he seemed confident and, since beggars can't be choosers, I said OK.

Well, by noon on Wednesday I was ready to go. Before noon actually. But I tried to be calm and cool my jets by reading until it was time to go. Finally, at 12:50 I couldn't stand it any longer and decided to head up to the marina gate and wait. Lulu came up to wait with me. Things were going along okay although I was still feeling a little hinky about how close it was between the time he was going to pick me up and the time my flight departed.

Finally, 1:15 rolled around. And then 1:20. We watched the clock nervously as Mike hadn't shown up yet. I told Lulu that if he wasn't here by 1:25 I was going to hoof it down to the taxi stand and get a cab. Sure enough, 1:25 came and went and still no Mike. I started hoofing it.

When I got to the stand, following protocol I asked how much to the airport. The ancient driver said "200 pesos." Huh? Only $16.00? I said, "Let's go." He started down the street driving kind of slowly. He asked if I wanted to go slow and I said, NO! I need to go rapido! And rapido he went. He was zooming along wherever possible, weaving his big ol' Dodge van in and out of traffic, hell-bent on getting me to the airport in the minimum possible time. My kind of hombre!

We got to the airport at about 12:35. I gladly paid him the 200 pesos and then threw in a 40 peso propina (tip) for "manejando rapidamente". He gave me a big ol' grin and congratulated himself on his fine driving.

I hoofed it in to the departure area. There was a line at the Alaska Airlines desk which I at first joined. Then I figured that, since I already have my boarding pass and I'm not checking any bags, why do I need to wait in line? I'll just proceed directly to the gate like I would in the States. Showed my pass to the first guy and he waved me through. Got to security and went through the standard procedure of emptying my pockets, removing my belt, etc. They didn't make me remove my shoes, however. Got through security with no problems and walked over to gate 3. Plenty of time to spare. This was going to be no problem after all.

Finally, it was time to board. I got in line with everyone else. Had my passport, my FM3 visa, and my boarding pass all ready. I got up to the lady that was checking passes and IDs and showed her mine. She looked at my papers and said,

"You didn't go through the main desk, did you?"
"Well you should have. They would have given you an immigration form to fill out. You need to go back to the desk, get the form and fill it out and then take it to Immigration."
"Will I be able to make the flight?"
"I hope so." (geez, me too!)

So, I hotfoot it back through Security and back down to the main desk. No one there, of course, but the guy at the Volaris desk next door listened to my plight and gave me a form. I quickly filled it out and started speed-walking to the Arrivals area where the Immigration office was supposed to be. I got there and didn't see any Immigration office. I was standing there like a dummy, just about to ask the Rent-A-Car lady if she knew where the office was when an unmarked door opened and a young lady in an airport uniform came out and motioned me over. The lady at the Alaska gate must have been in radio contact with this lady because she seemed to know all about what was going on with me. She grabbed my paperwork and ushered me into the Immigration office while telling me that I was late and I should have been at the airpoirt 3 hours before my flight was scheduled to leave. She said that I'd probably miss my flight.

Apparently this step in the process has something to do with the FM3 visa. If I just had a tourist card (FMM) I think I'd just turn it in with my boarding pass but the FM3 evidently requires something else. She rattled of some instructions to the young Immigration officer who looked none to happy about having to rush the job, but he did it anyway, such was her commanding demeanor. I explained that this was the first time I'd flown out of Mexico with an FM3 and didn't know what the rules were. I don't know if they believed me but I think they did as I'm sure I looked every bit as shaken as I felt. Meanwhile, my guide (the young female airport employee) is on the radio with the lady at the gate (I guess) and I hear my name mentioned several times. The Immigration guy stamps my paperwork and keeps his half. He gives me the other half and tells me to take care of it as I'd need it to get back into the country. Then, the young lady employee says to me, "Now, we run." and she proceeds to start running through the airport.

I'm in hot pursuit but I'm hindered a bit because my big pack is only on with one shoulder strap making running an awkward affair. But I did my best and soon, we were back at Security. As I'm emptying my pockets and taking my belt off again, my guide tells me, "Your passport is expired." WHAT????? I just got it when we were in Newport. Then, as I was filling my pockets back up and stuffing my belt into my pack, she said that she'd mistaken the issue date for the expiration date. My passport was actually good until 2020. Yikes! Don't scare me like that.

Then, finally I'm running down the tarmac to the plane. Why did they park it so far away? A young man grabs my big pack to put it in the hold and I board the plan with my small day pack. I'm just sure I've held things up and everyone would be glaring at me. But, although I was the last to board, no one seemed more than curious. It was another 20 minutes before the plane took off. Man! Was I glad to be aboard!

The flight was uneventful and going through Customs and Immigration in LA was too, although it was still stressful since I was never really quite sure what was going on. It would really be nice if they had a big poster explaining what the process was and what one could expect. Same thing would be nice at the other end. I mean, if I knew why I have to clear out of Immigration with an FM3 but (maybe) not with an FMM, I probably wouldn't have made my rookie error. As it is, I just go along and do what I'm told and have absolutely no idea why.

What the heck is a visa anyway?

Anyway, I'm safe and sound on Chamisa. If all goes well we're looking at shoving off for Mexico this Sunday.

PS: Lulu met up with Mike just after I left to go get a cab. He told her that he said he'd be there to pick me up at a quarter to one, not a quarter after one. Yeah, whatever.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

10/25/2011 - Clean fuel

The beauty of diesels is that they don't ask for much. Plenty of air and nice clean fuel is about it. The problem is that they are quite picky about their fuel being CLEAN!

The following is definitely NOT an original idea on my part. I blatantly stole it from my friend (that I've never met) Wojtek, who sails the Westsail 28 "Namaste". I recently did a blog where I was complaining about my over-the-top fuel filtration system and said I was going to get rid of the Racor 215R filter unit that I had been using as a secondary filter. Wojtek responded with the following comment:

Steve, if I can suggest, stick with this old Racor. You never know when you might need it but there is a better thing you can do with it.
I have reused my old Racor after installing dual primaries. It is sitting on the port side of the lazarette, coupled with a small electric fuel pump. Every drop of fuel that goes into Namaste's tank is squeezed thru the 2 micron filter. Have I mentioned that I haven't had to even flick to the second primary since the setup?


He then included a link to some pictures of the set-up he made for Namaste. Well, I know a good idea when I see one. So, instead of dumping the $110 filter unit and the $30/each filter canisters, I made a copy of Namaste's filtration set-up for Siempre Sabado.

Can't remember what I paid for the nylon cutting board that it's all mounted on but the fuel pump cost about $25.00, the hose was less than $3.00, the toggle switch and various fittings were in my junk "good stuff" bins.

I transferred about 20 gallons of diesel to the main tank today using the filtration system. It takes awhile as the pump only pulls the fuel through the filter at about a liter per minute. But there was absolutely NO mess and I know that the fuel I put into the tank today is so clean that my 30 micron primary filters will pretty much have nothing to do.

Our usual practice is to take our jerry jugs to a fuel dock in the dinghy and then fill our main tank from the jugs. We haven't pulled up to a fuel dock since we were in Santa Barbara a year ago. The main tank is 39 gallons so, even if she was bone dry, it would only take 2 trips to the pumps to fill her back up. Well, then one more to fill the jerry jugs for reserve. Doesn't really matter how slow the filter/pump empties the jugs since we're not tying up a fuel dock while we're doing it.

So, thanks, Wojtek for the idea and for the advice.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

10/23/2011 - Reading books on an eReader

I resisted eReaders like the Kindle and Nook for quite awhile. It was partly because I felt I was one of those people who just wouldn't be happy without a "real" book in my hands. But it was also because I'm kind of cheap. I couldn't see paying a couple of hundred dollars for a reader and then still have to buy the eBooks. Not when every cruiser lounge on the planet has an exchange library.

However, by last fall the prices had dropped to a point that seemed reasonable to me and I began to see the wisdom of having our reading material on an eReader that didn't get any heavier no matter how many books it had on it. So, for Christmas last year we bought ourselves Kindles. Trying to keep things simple (and cheap) we opted for the wifi version rather than the 3G version. If I have 3G access, I can always download books to my computer and then transfer them to the Kindle.

At first, I went through the Amazon.com library to pick out all the books that, due to being in the public domain because they're so old, were free. I downloaded about 120 books including "Dracula", "Around the World in Eighty Days", "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under The Sea", "King Soloman's Mines", "Tarzan", and the whole L. Frank Baum "Oz" series. It's been great fun reading some of these old books. They just have a certain feel about them that more modern books don't have.

Then, a young friend of ours gave me a whole file folder full of books including a lot of recent stuff. Some may see this as piracy but I see it as he gave us access to a library. There's no way we'd buy any of these books but we'd certainly check them out of the library to read. Once read, we dump the file.

Now, this is one of the places where reading on an eReader differs greatly from reading a physical book. If you're downloading stuff from Amazon (or Barnes and Noble, Sony, etc.), this may not apply. But in our case, we have about 1000 books on our Kindles. When I choose a book to read, assuming it's not one I've heard of, I'm going in cold. I have NO idea what the book is about until I start reading. Also, since they don't use page numbers, just percentages, I have no idea how big the book is before I start to read. This is pure random reading. I'm going in stone cold. And you know what? So far it's worked out great. Some of the recent books I've read were "The Art of Racing In The Rain", "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter", "About a Boy", "All The Pretty Horses", and "The Lovely Bones". I'm currently 67% of the way through "Cutting For Stone". I really had no idea what any of these books was about (with the possible exception of "Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter") until I started reading them. They're all completely different from one another and I've thoroughly enjoyed every one. In most cases, these are probably not books that I would likely pick up or even find in a cruisers' exchange library. So just for the variety and novelty of what I'm reading these days I love my Kindle as well as my eBook benefactor.

The other thing is, and I have no explanation for this, I seem to be reading books a LOT faster than I did before the Kindle. I have no idea why that would be but it sure seems to be.

But one of the coolest features is how quickly you can get a book. The other day I was reading about a book, "The Moneyless Man" on Boat Bits. It sounded interesting so I went to Amazon, looked it up, and then ordered it and downloaded it to our computer from which I transferred it to our Kindles. Just like that. Did the same thing when we were visiting my brother back in July. He had an intriguing book called "Pot On The Fire: Further Confessions of A Renegade Cook". Sounded interesting, Amazon had it in eBook format, I ordered it and downloaded it. Literally, less than a minute after I decided I wanted the book, I owned it and actually had it in hand. That's just too cool. Sometimes the prices aren't all that great, but I've gotten so many free books I think it evens out.

But, the main reason to have an eReader on a boat is the same reason our music is all mp3 files on either an iPod or a mini external hard drive (both, actually), and our mvies are on mini hard drives: because, who needs the weight of books, CDs, DVDs, etc.? We off-loaded 5 grocery bags of books when we were in Puerto Escondido. We still have the reference books aboard but all the general reading stuff is now just a bunch of zeros and ones. God help us if we have an EMP attack!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

10/20/2011 - Another shitty day in paradise

And, I mean that quite literally...

You know that big ol' derelict bird poop covered ketch tied up next to us? Well, it should have been a clue. There I was, sitting in the cockpit yesterday afternoon, minding my own business, when all of a sudden it sounded like someone was throwing gravel on top of the shade cover. And then something wet hit my shoulder and my swim trunks. Eeeeeewwww! I just got pooped on! The shade cover took the majority of it but I got hit some too. I quickly cleaned it up before it set.

The problem is that this big old abandoned boat sits here all the time with no one aboard to discourage the birds from roosting in the spreaders.

It's not always a problem for us. Only if the wind is blowing and blowing from the right direction as it was yesterday. Our shade cover helped a lot but we needed more. I pulled out another tarp that came with the boat along with the side cover that Lulu made for shade for the summer.

May look funky but at least now we can sit in the cockpit without worrying about being shat upon.

In other news:

1.) Lulu finally got to clean up the dinghy. When we were using the dink a lot and landing on sandy beaches, it was impossible not to drag sand in on your feet and on the anchor. The sand just sat in the bottom of the boat, resisting all attempts to remove it. Drove Lulu freakin' CRAZY! Today, we pulled the dink up on the dock and Lulu removed the seats, anchor, mooring lines, etc. We flipped it over and she de-barnacled and scrubbed the bottom. Then, back upright so she could clean the interior good and proper. I wish I'd gotten a "before" photo so you could see the difference. Believe me, there's a HUGE difference.

2.) If thy filter offends thee, pluck it out. And so I did. Anybody want a great deal on a used Racor fuel filter?

3.) I'm kind of embarrassed about this one. It's sort of Diesel Mechanics 101. As long as I was in the engine room today, I figured it would be a good time to check/change the pencil zinc in the heat exchanger. Sure enough, it was gone. On a whim I decided to take the end off the heat exchanger to see what kind of gunk was inside. Well, clearly this is something I need to do EVERY time I change zincs, or raw water pump impellers for that matter.

The thing at the top of the picture is a new pencil zinc. The brass piece on the left is one that the zinc has rotted off of. All the rest of the stuff is crap that was just sitting in the inlet end of the heat exchanger. Old pieces of zincs, broken off pieces of the impeller, and one zinc that looks like it rotted off its holder before it even had a chance to rot away gracefully. Left alone this stuff could plug off the heat exchanger and cause the engine to overheat. Fortunately, we never reached that point but I stand warned.

And that's how it is here today in La Paz.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

10/19/2011 - Back where we started

Yesterday we got up and headed to town with a whole list of chores. First up was to check back in at Marina Del Palmar and Marina Don Jose to see if they really don't have space. Our first stop was Palmar. We were hoping that one of the young ladies that was there when we were last here would be working. Sure enough, the one that I assume is the office manager was in the office. We asked if they had space available for a sailboat of about 30 feet until the end of November. She looked at the chart on the wall, the same one that the owner had looked at yesterday, and said, yes, they had a space. But it was way down at the end next to the huge derelict Novia Mia. We said that would be just fine. We asked the cost and she said $360 USD for a month. That's great and less than we paid last time we were here. It's amazing that they charge by the foot since the slip we're in could easily handle a 50' boat. But that's okay with us. Since we want to be here until the end of November, there are 12 days to account for beyond the month. However, the daily charge is $25 USD, so those 12 days would cost us another $300. Instead, we opted for another month at $360. We paid for one month now with the option to renew for another month on November 18 if we want (we will). When we were here yesterday and talked to one of the owners who told us nothing was available, he was probably really saying, "It's late in the day and I don't really want to do the paperwork." or "I don't have a clue how to check a boat in but I don't want to tell you that." or "If I rent out a space I'll probably screw it up and when the office manager gets here tomorrow she'll be pissed off at me." Instead, it was easier and saved face to just say nothing was available. I guess it pays to skip the owner and just talk to the office manager (who, in this case, I think is the owner's wife).

Anyway, we scurried back to the dinghy, putted out to the boat and got underway. Docking was a piece of cake but I can't get too proud since the slip is big enough, both in length and width, to accommodate a 50 footer.

Once settled, we had to deal with the shore power issue. The slip we were in only had 50 amp outlets. Since we have a 30 amp shore power cord, we were going to need an adapter. I called Lopez Marine on the VHF and asked if they had such a beast. After a little searching, Hamish called back and said, yes, they did have one in stock. We closed up the boat, donned our packs and headed to Lopez.

Once we got there, I was a bit taken aback to find that the adapter cost $168 USD! I mean, I knew it was going to be expensive but geez! Oh well, I've got to have it if I want shore power (I do!) so I parted with the dough. Along with a couple other items we bought, my pack was now full and heavy so we headed back to the boat to unload. I figured we might as well hook up to shore power to start charging the batteries while we were running the rest of our errands. Not wanting to find my new $168 adapter gone when we returned, I figured I'd at least make it a little less attractive by putting the boat's name on it with a Sharpie. Then I went to plug it in. No matter how I tried, I could NOT get that adapter into the outlet. I was about ready to modify it with my Dremel tool when I saw this on the box:

"Notice: There are two types of 50 amp outlets. One is for 50A-125V and the other is for 50A-125/250V. The two types are not interchangeable. Be sure to check which type you have before purchasing this product."

Huh? Two types? Well, judging from the drawings on the box, we bought the former type but needed the latter. Oh crap! The obvious thing to do was to take the adapter back to Lopez for a refund. BUT, I had defaced it by putting our boat name on it. DOUBLE CRAP! Lulu tried unsuccessfully to remove the name but no joy. I called Lopez to see if they had the other type. He said they did but it went from one 50A to two 30A outlets. More than we need but... I asked how much that was. "$272.00 and some change." Ye gods! There was no way I'd pay that. Hamish did say that we could bring the other one back since it didn't fit.

We loaded the adapter back in the pack and started walking to Lopez Marine. Along the way we stopped at the other marine stores to see if they had the adapters. None did although they had the separate components. We continued on to Lopez. All the way I'm wondering what kind of soaking I'm going to get for writing on the adapter.

We reached Lopez and walked into the welcome air-conditioning. Did I mention that it was really freakin' HOT out? As I pulled the adapter out of my pack I told Hamish what I had done. He didn't even miss a beat when he said, "Oh, we can probably get that off." Wow! He then refunded the full price. We went on about our business but ultimately returned to Lopez once more to buy the components to make up our own adapter. BTW, I checked the prices of the pieces at the other stores and, even though the cruisers around here often bad-mouth Hamish for being too high-priced, his prices were considerably lower than anyone else's for the component pieces.

We went downtown to the Modatela to buy some fabric for making a new cover for our bed since the previous one was ripping. On the way, we bought a blanket that I've wanted for a long time.

Also had a couple of shrimp tacos to give us strength. Then, on to the Aramburro store for more Topo Chico (seltzer) and Sangria (really good grape soda).

It was a long hot walk back to the boat and the pack was heavy. So, we needed occasional breaks. The first one was when we reached the ice cream store. A little frozen yogurt and we were good to go again. It felt really good to get back to the boat and know we didn't need to go anywhere else.

Lulu made pizza for dinner and then we both had showers which felt REALLY good.

The big boat next to us that you can see in the photo above is all wood. Poor thing would sink if they have a power failure. The bilge pump runs about 45 seconds out of every 90. And the stream is pretty good:

Just guessing, I'd estimate that it must pump about 10 gpm. That means that it pumps 7.5 gals every 45 seconds. So the boat is taking on water at 7.5 gallons every minute and a half. That's 7200 gallons per day. That's over 60,000 lbs. Wouldn't take long to sink a boat even this large with that kind of leakage. If we have a power failure and she starts to go down, I believe we'll untie our lines as I'm pretty sure she'd take the dock down with her.

Ah, marina life. It's definitely a mixed bag.

Oh yeah, I also renewed my Banda Ancha card yesterday so we now have cell phone internet access for the next 30 days. Ah, civilization!

10/17/2011 - EnRoute to La Paz

Man, we're good! We woke up at 0730 and were underway at 0745. Last night we decided that we could do all of our normal morning things, like breakfast, while underway. So we just got up, started warming up the engine and then, when it was warmed up, raised the anchor and headed out.

It didn't take long for me to get my chance to remove the offending secondary fuel filter that I wrote about yesterday. We'd been steaming along for about 4 hours when the engine slowed down and then quit. I restarted it once but it did the same thing. The main was already up so we unrolled the jib and, with almost no wind, started moving away from our chosen path at about 0.8 knots.

This time I knew exactly what I was going to do. I climbed down in the engine compartment and cut the fuel lines leading into and out of the secondary filter. One I left dangling and the other I coupled to the outlet line from the primary filter manifold. Restarted the engine. It took 2 tries to get it to get the air all purged but then she settled right in and we were back on our way. Total down time: 15 minutes. Could be my imagination but it seems like the engine is running smoother now. And, although this makes no sense since 2200 RPMs is 2200 RPMs, it seems like we're scooting along faster now too. Couldn't have been the tidal current as we were fighting it and would continue to fight it all the way into La Paz. Like I say, it pretty much had to be my imagination but it's been a long time since we've sen 4.7 knots.

We decided to anchor down by the end of Marina del Palmar where we hope to find a berth. We anchored in 15' of water and when the anchor bit in, it REALLY bit in! No question as to whether or not it's well set.

We dinghied ashore to see if we could get a berth in either Marina del Palmar, Marina Don Jose or Marina de La Paz. No joy anywhere. We'll check back with the first two but, if we can't find a spot in either of them, we'll shoot for either Palmira or Costa Baja. We'd prefer Costa Baja and it's also the most likely marina to have an opening since it's way the hell and gone out of town. But it's secure, has water, internet and power at the dock. And it does have a shuttle service to make it's distance from town a little more palatable

We celebrated being back in the city of good, easily available food by going to one of our favorite spots: El Taqueria Super Burro. We both had papas rellenas: mashed potatoes topped with butter, carne asada, mushrooms, cheese and corn and then served with the standard array of sides: salsa mexicana (pico de gallo), a salsa made of fire roasted chiles and tomatoes, an avocado-based salsa, pickled onions, cucumbers, limons, roasted chiles, and shredded cabbage. It was SO good! Saw our old buddy Mañuel from our beer store. He was glad to see us as we were to see him.

Good to be back in La Paz for awhile.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

10/16/2011 - Ensenada Blanca to.... ?

With my flight to SoCal set for 10 days from now, we decided to get back to La Paz faster than we normally would. Our normal trip would be Ensenada Blanca to Agua Verde, then Agua Verde to Timbabiche, then Timbabiche to San Evaristo, then San Evaristo to Ensenada Grande, and finally Ensenada Grande to La Paz. But, we thought it'd be good to speed that up a bit. It would take us about 15 hours to sail the 60 miles from Ensenada Grande to San Evaristo. So we figured that since the moon is just a couple days past full and the weather forecast is pretty benign, why not leave Ensenada Grande on Saturday evening, sail overnight and then spend Sunday and Sunday night in San Evaristo? That would cut out 2 overnight stays.

So, after bidding adieu to John & Patricia (s/v Trick), Ed & Lori (s/v Eileen May), Anna & Phil (s/v Seawind II) as well as Roberto and David at El Santuario, we weighed anchor and set off.

We departed Ensenada Blanca right on schedule at 1800. We had sun with us long enough to get around the corner and start heading southeast. The motor was running good and all seemed right with the world. Sunset was going to happen around 7:20 or so and the moon wouldn't be rising for another 2 hours after that so we'd have a couple hours to try to identify various constellations. We're not really all that far south but it sure seems like some of the constellations that have always been very easy to locate are harder to find down here.

The moon rose right on schedule. Looked like a big lopsided jack-o-lantern when it first came up. I was happy to see it because there was this one channel that we had to go through just after Agua Verde that had me kind of nervous. There's an off-shore reef that extends quite a ways under water. You have to go between it and the shore in a channel that's only about a mile or so wide. I know, a mile sounds like a pretty big passageway but, in the dark, with hazards underwater where they can't be seen, a mile is not quite as wide as it used to be. Fortunately, we passed through unscathed. The only casualty was our speed. Seems the tide was coming in and all that water had to go through the channel too. And, besides being narrow, the bottom rises from several hundred feet to about 50 to 60 feet so all that water had to be squeezed down. In doing so, it increased its speed against us and dropped our already slow 4 knots to 2.5 knots until we cleared the channel.

The rest of the night proceeded uneventfully. Lulu and I took turns sleeping for a few hours at a time. Listened to NPR for awhile and read a lot. It was a very peaceful night with no wind and gentle swells.

The sun came up at about 7:30 and we still had 2 hours to go until we reached San Evaristo. It was a beautiful morning and we were thankful to be passing through San Jose Channel in the daylight. As we neared San Evaristo, I got to thinking. And I think you probably know just how dangerous that can be. I had heard that we might get some heavier weather on Monday. We've been through some fairly uncomfortable seas in the San Jose Channel and weren't really looking forward to doing it again. Plus, if it did get ugly, we might get stuck in San Evaristo for a couple days. Normally we wouldn't care but this time we're sort of on a schedule. Can you see where this is going?

I talked to Lulu and we decided, what the heck, let's just push on to Ensenada Grande on Isla Partida. We should be able to get there by about 4:00 this afternoon. And so, that's exactly what we did. Bypassed San Evaristo altogether and continued on down the channel.

What little wind we had was on the nose as were these large but gentle swells. Lulu made us some breakfast and then laid down to get a little more shut-eye. I continued to read or listen to the radio. About 11:30, we switched and I went below to take a nap.

Sometime during my nap is when it happened. The engine quit.

There was a time when this would have just freaked me out. But this time, because it had been running so well for so long, I was pretty sure it was just a dirty fuel filter. Cool as a cucumber, I opened the engine compartment door and switched the two valves that gave me a nice clean primary filter. Close things up, start the engine and then listen to it die. Repeat. Repeat once more just to be sure. Yep, just as I thought. It's not the primary filter. Crappage!

Having no desire to climb into the nice hot engine room to change the other filters, we opted to sail. Raise the main, unroll the jib, point as close to the wind as we can and set the autopilot. Everything was going great except that the wind speed was pretty low and it was coming from where we wanted to go. Now, Siempre Sabado is a sweet little boat, but, loaded down like she is, she doesn't point worth a damn, especially when the wind speed will only allow us to go about 2 knots. So, we found ourselves sailing almost perpendicular to our rhumb line. Oh well, better than not moving at all I guess.

After a half hour or so of this, I figured the engine had cooled some. So I gathered up the spare filters, some tools and dove in. The little bitty filter on the engine is the easiest to replace so I tackled it first. It's located inside a little can and, when I removed the can, it was only about 1/4 full of fuel. That means that the supply was likely getting restricted upstream. But no matter. A guy can dream, can't he? I changed the little filter and fired up the engine. It died. Tried again. It died. Tried again, it didn't die. Whoa!! You mean that I might not have to change the other, harder-to-get-at filter? Cooooool.

Put the tools away, closed up the engine compartment, rolled up the jib, sheeted the main amidships for roll abatement, and started on our way. And then the engine died. Tried another couple of starts without much hope and got just exactly what I expected: no joy.

Okay, unroll the jib again, trim the sails, set the autopilot and prepare to jump back into the engine compartment as we slowly sailed away from where we wanted to go. Get the spare filter, climb back down and start removing the secondary filter. This filter is not really that hard to change, it's just kind of messy and difficult to reach. But, it is the one that I had to change so many times when we came down the Washington coast after we bought our boat in Anacortes and moved her to Newport, Oregon, so I was pretty used to the drill. With a minimum of problems I got the filter changed. We've had a small diesel leak in the engine room for a little while and now I know that this filter is the culprit. I think I got the leak slowed down while I was in there.

Anyway, climb back up, put stuff away, close up the engine compartment and try again.

Engine starts...engine dies.
Engine starts...engine dies.
Engine starts...engine dies.
Engine starts...engine dies.

Now wait just a darn minute! Okay, maybe it just needs more time to self-bleed the system. Let's try again.

Engine starts...engine dies.
Engine starts...engine dies.
Engine starts...engine dies.
Engine starts...engine dies.
Engine starts...engine dies.
Engine starts...engine dies.
Engine starts...engine doesn't die! Oh, pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease...
It keeps running. I put it in gear and it's still running. Get back on course and it's still running. Roll up the jib and, you guessed it, it's STILL running!

We cautiously start towards Ensenada Grande and the engine continues to run beautifully. Four hours later, we're there. We anchored in 24' of very clear water on 125' of chain. Lulu went snorkeling and said that the snorkeling here rivals anything we saw at Ensenada Blanca. We both had saltwater baths followed by a fresh water rinse.

Tomorrow, weather (and engine) permitting, we'll finish the trip to La Paz.

Also, once we're in La Paz, I'm going to eliminate the secondary fuel filter. That's how we ran the whole trip down from Newport: just the primaries and the little filter on the engine. I'm going to start changing a primary filter with each oil change and change the engine filter on every other oil change. That ought to head off any problems and make life much simpler to boot. And getting rid of the leaker filter will just be a bonus. Besides, the filter canisters for it are EXPENSIVE!

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Friday, October 14, 2011

10/14/2011 - Adios, Puerto Escondido

We arrived at Puerto Escondido almost exactly 4 months ago; June 15th.  We had only intended to stay a week or so but that's how the cruising life can go.  We departed today, leaving many new friends behind but we're pretty sure we'll run into them again in one harbor or another sometime.  We're headed back to La Paz but we made our first day's run an easy one: 2 hours to Ensenada Blanca where we anchored at 12:30 PM.  We have a nice gentle ripple running through the anchorage and a light cooling breeze.  There are 5 other boats here at the moment: Kashmir, Seawind II, Manta, Eileen May, and Sea Venture.  We're anchored directly out from the palapa at El Santuario in about 24' of water with a 5:1 scope.

We had originally planned to take a leisurely trip back down to La Paz, arriving somewhere around November 1st.  We need to be in La Paz in November as that's when Cody & Scott are coming to visit for a week.  Well, things change.  In the last couple of days I recieved and accepted an opportunity to help a friends bring their Westsail 42 down the Baja coast from Southern California.  Kay & Keith, who we met a little over a year ago at the Northern California Westsail Owners' Rendezvous, have been trying to get Chamisa down to La Paz.  Last year they were foiled by an injury that Kay had and, although they had made it to Long Beach so far, it looked like this year might be a repeat.  But, things happen and Kay decided to take care of her shoulder Stateside while Keith and I bring Chamisa down the coast to La Paz.  Then Kay can fly in after she recovers.  So, we're heading to La Paz at a slightly quicker pace than originally planned.

We'll spend tonight and most of the day tomorrow here at Ensenada Blanca.  Then we plan to pull out about 1800 tomorrow and do a night sail the 60 miles to San Evaristo.  With the moon just past full and Lulu's new stargazing book, we're really looking forward to that leg.  We should be in La Paz about Tuesday evening.  We'll try to find a space in a marina for all of November.  That way, I know Lulu and the boat are nice and secure while I'm gone, Lulu can have access to unlimited dock water for washing 4 months' accumulated grime off the boat, it'll be convenient when Scott & Cody are here and I can finally top off and equalize the batteries.

No photos the next few posting as they'll mostly be done through Sailmail.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

10/11/2011 - Ads

As some of you have noticed, there are a couple of ads on the side and bottom of the blog now. The concept is that they would relate somehow to something I've written in the blog. The most obvious would be if I actually mentioned a product by name. Let's try it: we took about 5 shopping bags full of books off the boat yesterday because all we ever read now are our Kindles. Okay, let's see if an ad for Kindles shows up.

Anyway, the idea is that, if I happen to mention something and it piques a reader's curiosity, an appropriate ad might show up on the side that could take the reader directly to a place where he/she could learn more. And, if they get there by clicking on the ad on my blog, I get a couple of pennies.

I've resisted doing this for a long time mainly because it goes against my 60s sensibilities. Smacks of "selling out". But I've lightened up a bit on that line of reasoning because a.) nobody really cares, b.) even Bob Dylan shilled for Victoria's Secret, and c.) a little extra taco and beer money couldn't hurt. I don't think the ads are particularly intrusive or annoying. Besides, if it's good enough for one of my favorite blogs, Boat Bits, it's good enough for me.

Monday, October 10, 2011

10/9/2011 - To market, to market

The Sunday market in Loreto is one of those things that it's easier to experience if you have a car here. Again, it's way too far from Puerto Escondido to walk. You could anchor the boat off Loreto and row in but, since the "anchorage" at Loreto isn't protected from any direction except maybe the west, and since strong northerlies are predicted this week and weekend, that option is out for all but the extremely brave or extremely foolhardy at least part of the time.

So, that pretty much means catching a ride from a cruiser with a car who also happens to have extra room and whom you haven't pissed off about something yet. Our chance came today when Richard from s/v Trinity offered us a lift. So right after the morning VHF net we met up and headed to town.

The market is a combination flea market and farmer's market.

Like any good flea market, you never know what you might find. Richard was looking for some soup bowls and found some although he could only get three instead of the four he wanted. There was a cool little GE travel iron like the one I had in the Navy. It was all Lulu could do to walk away from it even though she already has a good travel iron. It was just so cute.

The real reason to go, though, is for the food. Mostly the produce, although I'm told the meat is good as well.

We bought a kilo (2.2 lbs) of rock scallops and a half kilo (1.1 lbs) of huge shrimp for 220 pesos (about $16 USD) and so, what with all the salami and pepperoni we bought for pizzas the other day in La Paz, there just wasn't enough room in the fridge for any more meat.

We did, however, have room on the boat for produce.

We bought a pineapple, mangoes, potatoes, limons, zucchinis, and a cauliflower.

And, I got to get a couple of excellent carnitas tacos for "breakfast". I have a tendency to always order fish since we're in fish country. But I do miss my carnitas and carne asada tacos now and then.

Following the market, we stopped at the local ISSTE supermarket for a few more items and then back to the boat to put it all away. If we had a car down here, the Sunday market could easily become a weekly ritual.

Now it's time to fire up the mesquite charcoal briquets and put those shrimp on the barby.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

10/8/2011 - Restaurant of the drunk

Restaurante del Borracho. It's a misleading name, at least at 2:00 on a Saturday afternoon. Del Borracho's is kind of an institution around Loreto. The story I heard is that it's owned by an ex-biker gringo. It's highly regarded among both the gringo and Mexican communities for its atmosphere and service but especially for it's hamburgers and fries. The only problem with the place is that they've been closed the entire time we've been in the Loreto area. Seems they close down in the summer months and don't open again until early October. The other problem is its location. It's almost to Loreto which is way too far to walk from Puerto Escondido, and it's far enough out of Loreto that walking from there isn't too feasible either. Guess we could hitchhike with Del Borracho our specific destination.

But, we didn't need to. Instead, Dale, one of the Puerto Escondido regulars offered us a ride yesterday. We jumped at the chance.

Besides looking like something from out of the old west, when we arrived there was a metal sign swinging in the breeze that had just the right amount of rusty creakiness to it to give the place that little extra something.

The interior is wide open, wood, and very comfortable feeling. There are lots of interesting things hanging on the walls and from the ceiling.

The staff was extremely friendly.

Naturally, we ordered cheeseburgers and fries. The burgers were very good. They were probably 1/3 lb. burgers well-dressed with plenty of tomatoes, pickles lettuce and just a couple rings of onions. All too often we get a burger with a huge slice of onion, one tiny little slice of tomato and one pickle chip. Not here. There was enough tomato and pickle that you got some in every bite and just enough onion for flavor without being overwhelming. The buns were grilled, too, which shows that the cook cares.

The fries were nice and crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, just like they're supposed to be.

All that said, they weren't the best burgers we've had in Baja. That award still goes to Buffalito Grill in La Paz. At least so far. But it was one of the cooler places we've eaten. If we get another chance to go to Del Borracho's, and I hope we do, I think I might try the grilled Ceasar salad with chicken. Lulu's thinking about the beef stir-fry if we get there on the right day (it's a special one day of the week and I'm not sure they make it on the other days).

So, at least now, if we leave Puerto Escondido sooner rather than later, we'll at least have eaten at The Restaurant of the Drunk.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

10/7/2011 - Seasons are changing

Hard to believe that winter will ever hit Baja but last night and today we're beginning to get a hint that it really will happen. Right now, I'm sitting in the cockpit at 6:30 PM and the temperature is a cool 84°F although the breeze makes it feel more like 78°. May not seem cool to you but once you've spent months on end with temperatures in the high 90s and low 100s, 84 is pretty darn cool. Matter of fact, I think we're going to watch our shows down below tonight lest we catch a chill.

Yesterday we were at Ensenada Blanca. However, the weather reports were calling for fairly strong northers this weekend with small craft warnings on Monday. Ensenada Blanca is wide open to the north so it wouldn't be a great place to be during a strong norther. We've heard these predictions before and blew them off. Why did we pay attention this time? Well, Wednesday night we had very strong winds blowing through the anchorage from the west. No worries as we had protection from that direction and, even if we drug anchor, we'd blow more or less out to sea rather than up on the beach. However, the winds were something of an eye-opener. If this is what it was like with winds from our protected side, did we really want to weather high winds from our unprotected side? And, being from the north, the winds made the shore a dreaded lee shore. In other words, if we broke loose, we'd get pushed right up on the beach. Not a good thing.

So, about noon yesterday, after the winds and waves had laid down some, we set sail for Puerto Escondido which offers better protection from the north. Richard on the trimaran "Trinity" and Phil and Anna on the ketch "Sea Wind II" preceded us. Jay and Judy on "Wind Raven" and Jack on "Miss Maude" planned to leave later in the afternoon with Puerto Ballandra on Isla Carmen their destination. That leaves only Mick on "Kashmir". Not sure what his plans were.

We had a very mellow trip back up to P.E. The mooring we had been using in the Waiting Room was taken so we headed out to a mooring in the main harbor, even though they are pretty overpriced since the price increase earlier this summer. However, later in the afternoon while having a beer outside Pedro's teinda and discussing life with other cruisers, we were convinced to move into the Ellipse, an anchorage run by API. Since API only charges 11 pesos a day (about 1/10 what Fonatur wants for their mooring balls), we weren't hard to convince. The Ellipse would not ordinarily be my first choice of anchorages. It's small and the boats are close together. But, we were assured that the depth was mini al and short scope would do the trick. We anchored in 12' of water with about 50' of rode.

We're pretty much the furthest boat out, with the green awning.

Although the strongest winds are supposed to be Monday, we are already feeling their effect. These winds are coming from the north where Fall is definitely in the air. Right now (it's now 7:25 PM - no, I'm not that slow a writer; we had dinner in the interim) I'm sitting at the table writing this, with shorts and a t-shirt and without the fan running. Even yesterday this would have been unheard of. Going to be excellent sleeping temperature tonight. Supposed to get down into the low 70s.

So, where to from here? Well, in a week or so, when the norther is just a memory, we'll start working our way back south. Give ourselves a couple weeks to get to La Paz where we'll spend November. We'll spend a few days in Agua Verde, a few days in San Evaristo, a few more in Isla San Francisco, a couple more days in Ensenada Grande and finally a day or two in Bahia Falsa before settling back into the routine in La Paz. Looking forward to it all. We can now say we've spent a summer (minus 3 weeks) in the Sea of Cortez.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

10/1/2011 - Small world

A year ago today we left the marina at Benicia, California and arrived at the marina in San Leandro for the Northern California Westsail owners' rendezvous.

Small world department:

We were sitting at El Santuario palapa bar the other day, enjoying a couple of cold brews when a bunch of guys from the hotel (Villa del Palmar) wandered in. A couple of them had t-shirts on that advertised things like the Portland, OR fire department and some place in Tigard, OR. We struck up a conversation and it turns out that they had sailed past Siempre Sabado on the Wild Loreto Tours catamaran and noticed the Silverton, OR hailing port. Yes, we told them, we are from Silverton, and yes, they told us, they're all from Portland.

As it happens, this was the groom's entourage for the first wedding to be held at Villa Del Palmar - Loreto. Matter of fact, the wedding was scheduled for later that same evening. The groom, Dave, said that, as the wedding was to be held barefoot on the beach, it'd only take him about 5 minutes to get ready so they had time to enjoy happy hour. They all loved the whole laid-back funkiness of El Santuario. We had a great time shooting the breeze. Of course, we always love it when we run into people who think what we're doing is cool. Those, of course, are the best people and the ones who are obviously the most fun to talk with. These guys fit that category.

Eventually we parted company, Lulu and I back to the boat and Dave and friends/family to the wedding. We were actually able to watch the wedding from the boat but it was far away enough so it was hard to tell much of what was going on. However, later, when wedding photos were taken, we realized that Siempre Sabado would be in the background along with a couple of other boats.

Yesterday, Dave, his beautiful bride Heather, and other members of their entourage joined us at El Santuario for Happy Hour again. Heather showed us the DVD full of wedding photos (600 of them!) that the hotel had provided for them. The cover of the DVD box had a photo on it of the bride and groom and, sure enough, there's Siempre Sabado at anchor in the background. How cool is that?

As we were shooting the breeze, somewhere along the line the name Roger Clyne came up.

"Roger Clyne? You mean Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers?"
"You're familiar with Roger Clyne?"
"Hell yes! And the Refreshments, too."
"What are the odds? Here we are at a little palapa near a hotel in a pretty remote site near Loreto Mexico, and we run into someone who is not only from Sil;verton, but knows Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers?"

For those not aware, The Refreshments morphed into Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers for various reasons. The band holds a yearly 3-day music fest (Circus Mexicus) at Puerto Peñasco, a town on the Mexican mainland on the way northern coast of the Sea of Cortez. Lulu and I have been thinking it would be pretty cool to go sometime. Dave and Heather have been thinking it would be pretty cool to go sometime. So, our plan for next year is:

Dec/Jan/Feb: Mexican mainland, probably mostly Mazatlan
Mar: La Paz?
Apr/May: start cruising up the Sea
Jun: Puerto Peñasco for Circus Mexicus.
If the Fonatur marina in Puerto Peñasco seems pretty secure, we may just hang out through July and leave the boat there when we go back to Cody & Scott's house for a couple of months
Aug/Sep: Cody & Scott's in Oregon
Oct: Cruise the Sea southbound
Nov: La Paz

rinse and repeat with slight variations.

Of course, these plans, like every other plan we make is completely open to amendment at any time.

See ya in Puerto Peñasco, Mr. and Mrs Gleen.