For our journals in sequential order, read from
the bottom up or use these links to jump around the page. When you
reach the end of an entry, click on the "Next journal entry"
hyperlink to go to the following entry.
November 25 - February 24th
March 9 - April 1
April 6 - April 11
April 6 - Zihautanejo
April 7 - Zihautanejo
April 11 - Zihuatanejo
April 11, 2005
(Steph) It has been a few days since the whirlwind Acapulco trip to
recover our missing sail, but here's the synopsis: we have the sail!
Here's the rundown for those of you who can't get enough of tales of
the Mexican postal system (I know you're out there). Woj dropped
me off on the beach at 0600 so I could catch the 0700 bus to
Acapulco, a 4-hour bus ride. I arrived in Acapulco promptly at 1100
and took a taxi straight to the main post office. I looked through
pages and pages of names for whom packages were waiting. Not
surprisingly, our names were not listed. But I had spoken to someone
in Mexico city, the one person out of about 5 who had actual, solid
information about my package, and he said that it was in Acapulco. I
trusted this man. I was not going to give up without a fight.
I started talking to one of the people behind the desk, the first
one I encountered in this quest who spoke some English. Cool!
Anyway, he told me that they didn't have the package, blah blah
blah, the same stuff I'd heard on the phone a million times. But
then one of his cohorts overheard him and me talking, and recognized
the name and the address we were discussing. Apparently, one of the
many people I'd spoken to the day before had actually put in a call
to locate the package. They spoke together for a minute or two, and
then decided that if my package was in Acapulco, it must be at
another office called Sepomex. They gave me the number and the name
Oscar. Unfortunately, I had been given Oscar's name and number the
day before, and had no luck getting any information. Then, I had an
idea. What if I just showed up at his office? I'd had much better
luck communicating face-to-face than over the phone, so I thought I
might as well find this guy in person. I got the address, flagged
down a taxi, and away we went.
Turns out I was headed straight for the bowels of the Mexican postal
service system. I was shown into a warehouse where they were
actually sorting mail. I wished soooo badly I'd had a camera. I was
introduced to Oscar, the manager of the place. I started telling him
my story, about how a package had been sent on March 8, had cleared
customs on March 19, and since then no news had been heard. As I was
speaking, I looked down at his desk and saw Woj's name and the
tracking number for the package sitting smack dab in the middle of
his work pile. Someone else had called this office trying to help
us! Wow, my faith in the workers of Mexico's postal service was
really starting to grow. Oscar asked for a description of the box
and sent someone away to look for it.
While waiting, we talked about my travels as he initialed letters
and signed his name on many dotted lines. He also asked me if I knew
several other yachts who apparently had mail waiting for them at
this black hole of a warehouse. I wished I did, because I really
don't know how those people will ever find their mail. The only
reason I did was because Woj and I decided to take matters into
our own hands. And my Spanish skills got us pretty far, too. I've
never boasted about my level of Spanish, because it's not that
great. But compared with most cruisers down here, I'm damn near
fluent. I don't know how we would have gotten this far without the
pathetic level of Spanish I've achieved.
After 20 minutes, I started to get anxious, thinking that I might be
more effective looking for the package myself, and so offered my
services in going through their big box warehouse. He laughed me
off, said no, and excused himself. He came back about a minute later
with ... the package!!!! I couldn't believe it. I really never
thought we'd see the darn thing again.
The rest of the day entailed me dragging around the giant, heavy
package and trying to find canned chicken. I never found the canned
chicken, but I'm happy to report that our sail is safe and sound.
Today, we've been running around like mad hatters trying to get
ready for a Tuesday morning departure. Chances are slim we'll manage
to leave by noon, but we'll try our darndest.
Photos below were all courtesy of
Jeanne and Metso --
Sailing Neriede with Metso and Kelli
Wojo playing in front of a tough crowd of all
Mr. Zihua -- Juanito (© Metso)
Goh at the final performance of the festival at
the zocalo (© Metso)
Kelli playing at Baracruda (© Metso)
Goh playing a gig (© Metso)
Top of page
April 7, 2005
(wojo) Yesterday we really had an exercise in managing bureaucracy. Although
an "investigation" is currently underway by the US postal service as
to where our packages may be currently, we decided to take matters
into our own hands in the meantime. Our brilliant ideas included
having Steph chat up the local aduana (customs) office at the
airport ($7 cab ride in and $15 to get back). At least she was able
to determine that the packages were not being held at customs
anywhere. Next we decided to use the local post office for any
leads. The people working there were most gracious and helpful and
at least pointed us in the right direction and gave us the number
for the central postal service in Mexico City as well as the one for
Acapulco. (Steph: I have never had to stretch my Spanish skills so
far. It was like an all-day workout. I kept wanting to give up
because it's so embarrassing to ask people to repeat themselves over
and over so that my pathetic listening comprehension will finally
catch up. But Woj was a good slave driver, not letting me walk
away without completely understanding the people I talked to, making
me call every single phone number thrown at me, etc. etc.)
Back at the boat Steph found someone in Mexico City who was
actually able to track the big package to Acapulco. Now we're
getting somewhere. So, Steph is off to the big city of Acapulco with
all our hopes with her to recover our drifter sail for those first
light airs (1000 nautical miles to the trade winds from 105 degree
west here) and our second flopper stopper (OK, she's also trying to
get our Angel season five DVDs ...).
Now, onto more pleasant goings-on ... Last night was just one of those nights you can't
experience unless you get out there and mix with the animals a little bit.
After treating ourselves to a movie (Blade Trinity, lots of
shots of people walking around to electronic music looking really
cool in this one) we had a couple tequila shots around old Zihua and
met up with Jeanne at Rick's Bar.
Jeanne and her little friend
There was a rumor that one of the guitar festival bands, Gypsy,
was putting on a free show around midnight at one of the bars next
door. It turned out not to be the case, but we found ourselves
milling around El Centro with some of the festival musicians just
We ended up staying out 'til around 0400 playing music and
chatting up [my guitar idol] Goh Kurusawa and Kelli Ali. Kelli is
formerly frontwoman for the band Sneaker Pimps that a few of us
enjoyed a few years ago. She's now focused on doing her own solo,
pared-down music and is traveling Mexico putting together the sounds
of her next album.
Late night fun in Zihua (left to
right: Wojo, Steph, Kelli, Jeanne and Goh )
Kelli's partner Metso is also the official photographer for the
festival and was busy getting the perfect late night shot of
everyone playing on the malecon in front of the gorgeous playa de
municipal in downtown Zihua. Vive la rock 'n roll.
Friday afternoon will see this same group (and Steph and I, of course) aboard Jeanne's yacht and having a booze
cruise around the bay.
As you know "... dawn comes early on a boat
-- every morning just about sun up ..." and today was no exception. After two hours of
sleeping as quickly as we could Steph and I headed back across the
bay in Bonobo to get her to the bus to Acapulco by 0630 (ugh
I've said it before and I'll say it again. The places we've seen
so far have been great but the people we've met in these past eight
months of cruising have been totally amazing. If you go cruising for
only this reason it's completely worth it.
Next journal entry
April 6, 2005
Dozens of little
boxes of super sweet cereals (fellow cruisers: yes, the boxes were
discarded so we don't bring aboard any nasty critters).
(wojo) Folks, I don't even know where to begin this week. We have
a few things going on right now: trying to get out of here and head
to the Marquesas, tracking down our lost packages (including our new
sail) between Mexico and Acapulco, and hitting the Z-what guitar
festival as much as possible this week.
Although things are crazy right now, underneath it all we're
having an absolute blast in old Z-Town. We've made lots of good
friends here already and Jeanne from sy Nereida is always up to
something fun and interesting every night (and she's a great
Provisioning for a long voyage means enjoying
massive sausages! (Steph) Atkins at sea.
The second annual Zihuatanejo guitar festival was kicked off on
Sunday night in Ixtapa. It's hosted by the famous Rick of Rick's Bar
and, for Mexico, is incredibly well organized. There are about 20
performers from all around the world. Since it's such a small town
we've even been able to get to know a few musicians this week as
The laziest snorkel'r in the world ... there was a
gorgeous bright yellow fish swimming around the boat today and we
were too tired to just jump in.
Next journal entry
April 1, 2005
(wojo) Hard to believe that it's already April and that we've only
got about a week left of the Mexico cruising season. What a ride
it's been for us true rookies. If nothing else I hope that anyone
thinking of making the trip down here will be inspired by the fact
that if we can do it than anyone can. I've started working on a
little informal cruising guide to everywhere we've been and some
lessons we've learned along the way. I'll post it here in about
another week or so.
Z-what is really a great little town but it's growing so fast that
I'm scared that it'll look like Cancun in a couple of years. You can
find just about anything if you ask around a little. The Mexico
Boating Guide stated that there wasn't much for provisioning here
but they were dead wrong! There's a big "Commercial Mexicana" (a
K-Mart of Mexico) and even a place called "Bodega" that's owned by
Steph has been amazing about getting super organized and leading the
provisioning charge. Today we completed our fourth and last trip
into town, each time with the dink filled to near sinking. She's
even managed to find a home for every bag, bottle and can for the
supplies that are to last us up to three months. Can you imagine
trying to buy three months of supplies for your house or condo? I'm
starting to feel a little Mormon.
We have been having a little fun each day though. Yesterday we
snorkeled the reef on Los Gatas for the second time and even saw a
huge honeycomb moray eel with Jeanne. Later we had a most excellent
meal on sy Nereida complete with curries and many drink courses (I
highly recommend '100 anos' tequila). Jeanne is such a pure joy and
I know she's a friend we'll keep in touch with for a very long time.
It's definitely starting to feel more like summer. The days are
getting much warmer and the sun is almost directly overhead. With
the boom out of the way just a little we're able to get nearly a
full charge from just our big hard solar panel. Normally we put out
the full array of flexible ones as well.
Top of page
March 27, 2005
Playa de Ropa in Z-What
(wojo) No one ever said that cruising would be easy (at least no one
who's ever actually been cruising anyway). Last night we received
word that Jeanne of sy Nereida was coming into the Z-what anchorage
after dark. We wanted to be able to guide her in and made VHF
contact about an hour after dark. Getting excited about seeing our
old mate again I rushed off in Bonobo across the bay to the pier to
buy ice to start chillin' the cervesas. On the way back (I don't
have the best track record of these kind of night trips on my own in
the dink) the outboard suddenly died. I wasn't too worried since I
brought the little gas can along for just such an occasion and I
even had a little light so the pangas wouldn't run me down.
I should have know by the sound the motor made as it died (none,
when it runs out of gas it usually runs really rich right before it
dies) that I was in for trouble. I topped her up but she was dead as
a door nail. Not the slightest sigh or cough ... I assumed that in
one of our many less than graceful beach surf launching we'd put
some seawater into the little gas can and this was now in the motor
But what I think 'really' happened is that we let a bit of gas sit
way too long in the bottom half of the outboard's integrated gas
tank. Gas will separate after a couple of months into one part gas
(and oil if it's a two stroke like ours) and one part water and
alcohol! I think this explains why it immediately died on the spot
and was impossible to start again. I quickly found myself in my
usual position sitting on the floor of the dink rowing two miles
back to Mico and Steph, oh well.
The next day (by the by, Jeanne safely made it to anchor the
previous night off Playa de Ropa) Steph and I set to work in earnest
draining all the gas from the full tank, cleaning the stop cock and
all the fuel lines. After reassembly we managed to get a little
cough and the motor turned over. But the motor was still very
difficult to start (I didn't actually get it to start after the
first time for about an hour). Eventually what seemed to work was
treating it like it was flooded and shutting off the fuel cock with
the throttle at full while pulling like mad.
We had a very nice day in town with Jeanne and the other cruisers
from sv R Dreams, sv Wanderer and sv Fifth Element and when we
returned I took the dinghy for a nice long high speed bash 'round
the bay to get some good fuel in the system. It's basically back to
running as good as it was (which isn't very good). But, I did notice
that there was some 'varnish' around the carburetor which isn't a
good thing at all. I really want to pull the carb for a full
cleaning but I don't feel good about doing it without a Tohatsu shop
manual (can't believe I didn't pick one up before leaving). So, I
think we'll struggle with it 'til I can order one and have it sent
along in a couple months with the next mail drop.
By the way, in the process of draining the fuel we
found some loose extra parts inside the tank that we have no idea
whatsoever what they do (see pic to the right). If you know, please
send us and email and receive a special reward!
Note to future cruisers: before you head out bring lots of spares
for your outboard since having a dead dink is depressing. I suggest
getting a shop manual, spark plugs, the right tools (I have only
imperial stuff and the outboard is all metric), a carb rebuild kit,
a kit for the water pump and an extra fuel line. Also bring some
carb cleaner (like Gumout or OHC 'engine tune').
When cruising around in your dink it's also a good idea to carry a
few "oh shit" items: can of WD-40 (spray liberally after surf
landing/launching soaking), little bit of outboard oil in a bottle
(put this into the combustion chamber when it gets soaked), spark
plug and plug socket wrench, bottle of water (in case you get stuck
out there for awhile), and first aid kit. Trust me, having a few
spares onboard to get limping home is much better than rowing a
rubber dink for miles up wind in a swell.
Next journal entry
March 23, 2005
(wojo) Phew ... after weeks of short day and overnight hops the 210
miles from Barra to Z-what seemed like quite a haul! We'd left after
hearing Don Anderson's forecast for 20-25 knot NW'ers day and night.
Unless our wind speed indicator is broken (which it is, actually) we
never saw more than 5 knots in two days, from the south!
Oh well, it was a pretty uneventful passage and at least we now have
even a little more confidence in our trusty old Mrs. Perkins (our
diesel engine). With the price of fuel at an all-time high, however,
we would have enjoyed more sailing.
|Even though we were motoring most
of the time we did encounter lots of sea life, which for me is
good since it reminds me that we've not killed 'em all off yet.
There were numerous turtles, dolphins and interesting birds to
Steph noted lots of birds waiting out the calm on
turtles' backs ...
We arrived in Z-what and anchored near the NE section of the long
municipal beach. We'd spotted some nasty bright, red tide in the
water along the passage and luckily it seems to be dissipating. The
swells roll right into the bay and we set to work immediately on
getting the dink together so we could set our stern anchor (this was
after both of our neighbors dropped by to ask it we need assistance
getting it set). We cleaned up the decks and sails a bit, Steph
threw together an amazing paella, we watched an episode of Angel
and hit the bunk.
The next day we took the dink into town. There's a very calm dinghy
landing next to the town pier where a friendly guy named Nate will
watch your dink, and take your trash for about 10 pesos. We'd always
heard great things about Rick's Bar so we set out to find it
straight away. We met Rick and stayed on for lunch (Cheeseburgers in
Paradise, of course). Rick also has a very helpful map of Z-what (in
addition he can provide almost any service you could possibly
want/need). Z-what is really a gorgeous town which a lovely
malecon but I was still surprised to see how developed
everything has become.
Couple of boobies
Things are pretty busy in Z-what this week since it's Semana Santa
(the week leading to Easter) but we still managed to complete our
check-in with the Capitania in about one day. They do make you jump
through a few more hoops than we were accustomed to, however. You
need to visit immigration first and get your despacho (your exit
from your last port) stamped. The port captain also wants to see
proof of insurance, which is the first time we've encountered this
Speaking of insurance, in case anyone else is debating how to handle
this situation down here ... I'd heard a lot of different stories
about exactly what you "must" have down here but here's what we've
encountered: At every marina, we've been asked for a copy of our
proof-of-insurance (this is the front page of our Mexican liability
insurance we picked up online before leaving). U.S. companies cannot
provide liability coverage so you'll have to find a reputable one
and go local.
No one ever expects the insurance companies to pay a dime but
basically it will keep you out of jail if an accident occurs (e.g.,
like t-boning a shrimper at night, which we came close to doing
about a dozen times the night after leaving Barra). Mexico law is
based on the Napoleonic form which clearly states that you are
"guilty until proven otherwise." Without insurance you need to
provide the cash on the spot for any damage or it's off to the clink
until the case can be resolved (which could be months).
My friend Dave likes to say that "we write our plans in the sand at
low tide each day" and I have to agree. We were planning to head
down to Acapulco before heading further south to the Las Encantatas
(Galapagos) but the provisioning is so good here it's looking like
we'll just shove off from here. If so we'll probably rent a car and
pick up our new sail and all our mail from Club de Yates in Acapulco
after Easter, when things calm down a little.
Next journal entry
Melaque/Barra de Navidad, Jalisco
March 17, 2005
(Steph) Melaque, Barra's neighboring town, has quite the St.
Patrick's Day celebration, as St. Patrick is their patron saint (as
opposed to the Virgin of Guadalupe, who can claim most of the other
towns and cities in Mexico). The days leading up to the official day
are filled with processions, parades, a carnival, a rodeo, and
Indian headresses, a shamrock banner and smocks bearing the image of
St. Patrick. A cultural hodgepodge! (wojo) We just asked these kids
on the street for a photo and they instantly assembled into perfect
We happily made plans to meet up with our long lost friends Tom and
Maggie on s/v Aurora b, and started the day with breakfast in
Barra. We planned to spend the afternoon at Piper Lover's
Restaurant, where Woj could find the only corned beef and cabbage
for 500 miles.
Tom and Maggie brought along Bob and Diana from s/v White Swan,
whom we haven't seen since we left the dock in San Diego. These are
all friends we made when we first started off on this crazy
adventure, so it's fitting that we managed to finally reunite near
the conclusion of our time in Mexico.
After breakfast, we added Jeanne from Nereida to the group
and perused the weekly Barra market, attempting to barter for
necessities like fly swatters (couldn't talk him down) and tape
measures. We found our way to Piper Lover's, got comfortable, and
began a looooong afternoon of green beer and the signature green
drink (consensus: ingredients unknown but despite that tastes good;
alcohol level on the low side. Switch to beer). We were joined by
our good friends Sherry and Jim from Mico's sister ship,
Bailarina. From here, I'm going to let the photos take over to
recount the rest of our time at Piper's.
Mmmm ... mint-flavored maraschino cherries. Dare
Jeanne happily puts up with the American/Canadian
version of St. Patrick's Day, her first. (wojo) This day only
confirmed for me that Jeanne is a true English Rose ...
Tom gamely attempts to keep his eyes open.
I only came into contact with the green beer to
take this photo, swear it.
Woj's trophy for the most green beers imbibed.
After dinner, some of us bussed back to Melaque, where the real
party was happening. We gathered with the crowd in the town square,
where we enjoyed live music and danced for the amusement of many
Mexicans. At midnight, a huge tower of fireworks were set up and
ignited. We had been told earlier that "Melaque is the only town in
Mexico where they shoot fireworks off into the crowd!" While
I doubt that's true (lots of towns in Mexico probably shoot off
fireworks into the crowd), we did cautiously stand by as sparks fell
precariously close to us. The finale was a cross at the top of the
tower that blazed with fireworks and then launched off the pinnacle.
Yep, basically, fire was flying over the heads of lots of people.
Where it would fall was anyone's guess. It landed on a roof. The
roof didn't seem to catch fire, but we left soon thereafter because
it was absolutely freezing. We had a lovely, full day celebrating
St. Patrick's Day American and Mexican style.
Jim and Sherry -- the dancers with the most avant
garde moves, if awards had been handed out. (wojo) Seriously, that
Jim is a GOOD dancer. He acts like it's the last night of Burning
Tower of fire. Each for himself. (wojo) I wish
we'd shot a photo of the big finale which consisted of a fiery Latin cross
lifting off slowly from the top of this monster and then landing on
the roof next door starting a fire ...
Next journal entry
Melaque/Barra de Navidad, Jalisco
March 15, 2005
(Steph) We left lovely Tenacatita on Tuesday morning and had an
exhilarating sail on the short hop south to Barra de Navidad. At
least eight boats departed Tenacatita at the same time, so it was
quite the regatta as we raced down the coast. S/v Dreamweaver,
out of New Zealand, got the first photos of Mico under sail.
A beautiful sail leaving Tenacatita (wojo) This
was shot by our Kiwi friends on s/v Dreamweaver. We both left Tenacatita for Barra
around the same time so, of course, a race ensued. They beat us to
the windward mark but we still came out on top. Rick later blamed his wife for a "tactical error"
as they waited too late to gybe into the harbor. I would have
made the same mistake but luckily I called Jeanne on the VHF, before
we made our turn into Barra, and
asked her for advice!
Melaque is rumored to be quite the rolly anchorage, but our
alternative was the lagoon in Barra that is really shallow, has poor
anchor holding with a mud bottom, and gets 20 knots of wind every
afternoon. We decided to go with Melaque and put out a stern anchor
, as recommended by Terry and Tammy on s/v Secret O' Life.
What a difference it made! (Wojo -- this was the first stern anchor
we've ever set in our wee lives and it was pretty obvious to any
onlooker, but hey, it worked.)
While everyone else swung around on their anchors, rolling with the
constant refracted swell, we were snug as bugs. Putting out a stern
anchor isn't ideal, and would definitely not be safe if you really
need your anchor to work for you to its full potential. But with
light winds and the calm state of the weather, we decided to keep it
out unless conditions changed.
Next journal entry
March 14, 2005
(wojo) Another beautiful day in paradise filled with adventure ...
After the usual varnishing today Jeanne dropped by and picked us up
in Nereidaki ("little Nereida") to start the famous jungle river
dinghy trip. A lovely day was spent drifting, rowing, and
occasionally motoring through the estuary that is flanked by
Snowy egret taking flight
Someone from the heron family (wojo). Send us an
email if you know which one.
Next journal entry
March 13, 2005
Enjoying the ride from Chamela
|(wojo) We had a very easy six-hour passage from
Chamela to Tenacatita. We even set off early enough to try
to get into Paraiso for some snorkeling, but with a big swell
and NW winds we decided to press on. For weather reasons, Careyes was closed out to us as
well, but we did get to catch a glimpse of some of the new
mansions on the Mexican Riviera.
Many cruisers call
Tenacatita their favorite cruising destination in Mexico and we
can see why. The inner bay is quite protected if you head in far
enough and the community is great.
Jeanne (seven-year, veteran single-hander world cruiser) from
Nereida came in just a few hours after us and has been treating
us to ice cold beers of the world ever since.
Yesterday we took a hike with the other cruisers across the point,
through the jungle to the large beach of the outer anchorage.
We spotted our sistership s/v Bailarina rocking around in the
bay. We stayed for lunch at a palapa and sampled the local specialty Rollo del Mar ("roll of the sea"). Who
wouldn't love a seafood roll that's covered in gravy and wrapped in
bacon! Carrot always loves to take a long hike and she
definitely got her wish today.
Happy cruisers in Tenacatita. (wojo) The guy in
the top right-hand corner is Terry from sv Secret O'Life. Meeting
him was a real high point for me since I'd been reading his website
for years back in the world! He's a great guy if you run into him
down here and will only give you a slightly hard time if you eat it
coming out of the surf in your dink ...
"The aquarium" reef in the outer harbor of
Tenacatita. We missed it because the water was really cold and
cloudy during our stay.
Today we decided to postpone the inevitable jungle dinghy trip,
which is mandatory when stopping here, to put on another layer of
varnish. Have we mentioned how huge this damn project is?! We
have only four layers to go and then it's back to sleeping in and no
more getting up at 0730 every morning to work for two or three
After varnishing we decided that we needed to finally get the trash
off and even dropped by our neighbors to run theirs in as well.
There was rumored to be a few lonely trash cans near the ruins of
the McHale's Navy sets (seriously, I have to rent that Tom Arnold
movie now). The beach is great. The whole bay at this end is
almost totally undeveloped. There is only one hotel which is off-limits to dirty cruisers. They do like to share their disco music
with us every night, however. How nice of them.
We met up onshore with a few friends and stayed for a beer at the
only palapa for miles (which was even so kind as to give us ten
gallons of water for free). We took a long walk along the beach,
found some awesome shells (Jill, you'll be seeing these soon), and
noticed that it was low tide. We knew that getting the dinghy
back through the surf line was going to be challenging so we
carefully observed the sets and noted that the periods were
somewhere around twelve seconds per set.
The occasional seven- to eight-foot dinghy buster sets were the ones
we really wanted to avoid at all costs, so our strategy was to wait
for a big set of three and then go for it. Our theory was pretty
sound but in practice was something completely different. We
launched Bonobo after some big ones came in (we were laden with 100
extra pounds of ballast due to our two jerry cans of water) but it
was a long way to the breakers at low tide and we were not making
great progress as we kept dragging on the bottom. Our usual
plan is to put Carrot in the dinghy with paddle in hand to get us
moving and keep us pointed into the surf until we're deep
enough to float the outboard, at which time I'll hop in. Sometimes,
if the breakers are shallow enough, that strategy sees us easily out
into deeper water, clear of the surf line. But today, because we'd
seen tons of stingrays hovering just below the tide line, I was just
a little freaked out by the idea of stepping on one. I jumped in
earlier than normal (i.e., before the line of breakers).
At this point the adventure began -- everything was in slow-motion
but basically we took several big waves right on the nose and filled ol' Bonobo right up to her rubber gunwales. If the outboard
hadn't started up right away, and we didn't have all that extra
ballast, I'm sure that we'd have been hopelessly swamped or even
flipped, both of which would have been a disaster. But, for
every one you can walk away from ...
All of this provided great mid-afternoon entertainment for all the
other cruisers on the beach.
Oddly enough, later that night I was finally able to get our weather
fax software to start working with our little YachtBoy (full setup
for just around $100, radio and software)! Pretty cool when you
consider that a full SSB setup with install can run upwards of $7k
and a dedicated SSB WX FAX is around $2k ... Here's an early sample:
Next journal entry
March 9, 2005
Hard to believe we've already been here for a week. Banderas Bay is
finally in our wake after all this time. Luckily we still knew how
to sail as this was our first real passage in a while and it was a
twenty hour overnighter around the infamous Cabo Corrientes. We can
tell you that, yes, there is wind on the mainland side of Pacific
Mexico (we'd previously found almost none since leaving Cabo San Lucas
months ago). The wind continued to freshen as we beam reached
west around the cape. At 2200 we were reaching round the point
nicely making seven and half knots over the bottom!
The night passed without incident and just after first light we
arrived in Bahia Chamela. The weather for the previous couple
of weeks had been cooler than normal and there was very little
sun -- a pineapple express had been troubling the Sea of Cortez.
From where we'd dropped the hook on the outside of the fleet we had
a great of view of the islands behind us and the long, long stretch
of white beaches.
sv Polar Bear at anchor in Chamela
Just as we were pulling into the anchorage we noticed a large boat
with crew up the mast. It turned out to be our old friends on
s/v Polar Bear of Sitka. They'd been trying to head north around the
cape, beating into big seas and thirty knots of wind, when they broke
a shroud and then lost the engine shortly after. That series
of events will keep you on your toes out there. They reached
back to Chamela and sorted out the issues in a couple of days. The
next night Polar Bear dropped by for some cuisine a la Steph and to
watch The Wizard of Oz with Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon
playing in sync (have you seen it? Wow ... just don't forget to
start the music on the third roar of the MGM lion).
Have I talked about my buddy Dave, yet? Man, if I was looking for a
mentor he'd be tops on my list. He really has it figured out. Even
though he'd probably the single most successful person I've ever
known personally he is as philosophical, relaxed and thoughtful as
anyone you'll ever meet. And he's an amazing musician and loves to
jam. He's one of those friends where you just decide, instantly,
that you like each other a lot from the very first moment you meet.
The next day brought some good snorkeling in the protected north
side of the bay. There were so many stingrays it's amazing we didn't
step on any as we were climbing out of the coral at the beach. Polar
Bear held a perfect pot luck aboard their luxurious Tayana 52 and we
met Jeannne from s/v Nerieda who's been single handing for the last two
years. We also met Sigmund from s/v Mary T, who has just
completed a 17-year circumnavigation. Sig is so cool, right after we
met he stripped down, buck naked to not get his clothes wet as we
negotiated the breakers out of the reef (which is actually a really
The weather has just started taking a turn for the better (85
degrees and not a cloud) and we had an amazing and full day
yesterday. I feel it's time for another list representing what a
wonderful day here looks like:
0800 awake and start getting ready for the usual three hour
0830 ... but wait! Here comes the Mary T of San Pedro
tacking through the boats in the anchorage after sailing off her
0835 the skipper Sigmund wants to head over to the islands
anchorage for the day and offers to take us along. "Sig" is as
interesting of a character as you'll ever meet. He's on the
last leg of a 17 year (!!) circumnavigation. He'd just come
from the Galapagos so he was full of useful info.
0850 under sail on the Mary T (Sig 'never' uses the
engine unless something really bad is about to happen) to the
0915 Carrot is getting single-hander practice from the
horse's mouth. The wind freshens to 20 knots and we're
screaming across the bay.
1130 ... sail into the island bay and Steph drops the hook
under sail. Quite a sight. The water is so clean here you can see
the ripples in the sand twenty feet under the boat.
1300 s/v Polar Bear with Dave and Michelle and s/v
Jeanne aboard (so many single-handers down here) join us in the little
1330 we spot our friends on s/v Bailarina (another Westsail
32 from San Francisco) and take a hike across to the other side of the island.
The boobies are so tame here you could just walk over and pick them
up (not that we actually did). The views are breathtaking, but of course we've forgotten
to take our camera along -- we'd hate to break the trend so far and
actually have some pictures.
1445 ... back to Mary T for some siesta time ...
1515 ... we are challenged by the Polar Bear crew on the beach
to a game Dave invented he's calling "twelve pin beach bowling."
Twelve nearly fossilized, bright white large half clam shells are
the pins and you hunt around for a couple of nearly round rocks.
It's a close match but Steph and I rally and pull out a win in best
out of three.
1630 a nice round of frisbee in the crystal clear aquamarine
water with Dave.
1700 the sun's getting lower so it's a lively beat back to
the main anchorage on Mary T. Five tacks and we're home.
1800 Steph is tacking the boat expertly with help from Sig
through the anchored boats. We anchor under sail again (twice
in one day -- that's twice as many as I'd ever done this maneuver
1830 the 'crew' puts the boat away and Sig creates a feast of
delicious omelets and potatoes in the galley below.
2000 ... exhausted and feeling so satisfied we put the
outboard back on Bonobo and head back to Mico to watch a movie and
hit the bunk. Thanks for a spectacular day Chamela, you kicked our
Alas as rare SE wind picked up today and it was time to bid adieu to
our good friends who had been waiting so patiently to head north
around the cape. Jan from Nereida stuck around an extra day before
heading south and we decided to join her in the beautiful island
anchorage south of the bay. Steph put together a quick picnic lunch
and Jeanne provided ice cold Canadian beers. We even managed
to not get too swamped coming and going through the surf this time.
On the beach at Isla Colorado with Jeanne from
Nereida and Mico Verde off Isla Colorado
(sometimes it's very nice to be reminded of why you made this trip ...)
PS -- here's a link to a
wrote a couple months back to 48 North.
Next journal entry
Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco
February 24, 2005
Since we've been making such great progress on boat projects lately
(including finally starting the work of refinishing the massive teak
cap rails and installing yet another fan and reading light just
today) we treated ourselves to a day of play at Mismaloya yesterday.
For about forty cents you can take a bus around the bay to Mismaloya
which leads to some spectacular jungle hikes up the mountains
complete with waterfalls and sets from the movie Predator.
The littlest predator
When you get off the bus the locals are happy to point you in the
right direction up the trail. The first waterfall stop is at
Chino's Paradise where you can rest your tired feet in clean, cold
river water and enjoy the scenery. A bit farther up you'll
encounter El Eden with a slightly larger waterfall and super
fun rope swing next to the bar.
Tarzan boy at Eden
Taking a break at Chino's Paraiso
Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco
February 21, 2005
They fit! By Zeus they all fit!!
Three new stays in three days, not too bad for Mexico. It was
a rewarding experience doing all the work ourselves as we'll
know what to do when disaster strikes. I'll say that the learning
curve was diminished as the stays progressed as evidenced by the
fact that the forestay is a little too long, the jibstay is pretty
good and the backstay (the longest stay on the boat) is as perfect
as one could hope for.
We've been thinking about this work for so long now it's hard to
believe that it's actually finished. The hardest part of the
job was definitely the measuring. But, for some reason
we were most stressed at first about the prospect of doing all the
compression fittings ourselves but those are a joy to work with and
brilliantly designed for the "home" end-user market. It also helps a
great deal to have a nice long wooden run, like a dock, to stretch
your old stays upon (the fifty footer we pulled into was perfect for
the job). I'm also looking forward to not making three trips up and
down the mast tomorrow.
Carrot's first Sta-Lok fitting
More than anything else in the last couple of months we've learned
the hard way that if you're even contemplating a major project down
the road (i.e., after you've started the grand adventure) then you
need to be prepared. Bringing all the materials you'll need
for the job is ideal but otherwise plan to have your stuff waiting
for you at the next destination where you'll be performing the work
(try to get it there at least two weeks before you're scheduled to
arrive and it might just work out).
Sunset at Marina Vallarta
We're booked in Marina Vallarta 'til Friday but this place really
motivates you to get out fast. What a dump! The security
is non existent, the dock cleats are pulling out, it's expensive and
there's only one set of filthy showers for all the docks. We also
found it pretty amusing that the marina staff asked us for an $800
peso (about $80 USD) deposit for our marina keys ... come on!
I don't wanna get off on a rant here but PV also doesn't let you
check in without using an "agent." This means that you can tack on
another $40 to the port captain's fees ... ugh. We can't wait to turn
the corner on Cabo Corrientes and see what's beyond in Mexico's
Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco
February 19, 2005
YES, we're still in Banderas Bay ... ugh. But I guess it could be
worse. The good news is that we've finally received our
rigging package and have just installed the first of three new stays
We checked into Marina Vallarta yesterday afternoon after spending
two weeks in La Cruz. The first week Steph was on her own as I
flew back to the US of A to thwart the customs folks and renew my
passport. I returned to Mico with five bags of goodies.
Lucky for us I had the 'passe' light (not 'revision') when I passed
through customs at the airport! The airlines only managed to
lose one box of our stuff (all our new Pacific charts no less) so it
was better than average.
I enjoyed my brief stop back in the US but overall I think it mostly
made me appreciate all the more the opportunity to keep traveling.
My first night was pretty surreal since I stayed in my favorite
hotel in west Hollywood -- The Standard -- and as I walked in
(wearing my best rottie yachtie duds) a movie was being shot in the
lobby. Later as I was walking by Skybar Sean Astin pulled up
in a brand new Ferrari in which he was very awkwardly trying to perform
a U-turn (I also saw Chuck Zito at the Rainbow later, too -- of
The Sopranos fame).
The 'plan' is to finish up the rigging work in the next couple of
days, provision, get checked out, receive our new sail and flopper
stopper and then finally head south. If anyone reading this is
ever planning a similar trip I'd highly recommend going straight to
Chamela or Z-what from Cabo/Frailes and then work north. PV is
a black hole.
La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit
February 17, 2005
(Steph) Despite the fact that we are supposedly "living the dream,"
morale has been a bit low lately. We had expected to stay in the
Puerto Vallarta area for three weeks, which would have been perfect.
Instead, we've stayed almost two months, mostly because we were
totally unprepared for how difficult it is to get parts here. I
realize, in the future and in countries even further away from the
U.S., we will be pining for the days of ease and accessibility in
Mexico. But man, right now, we be hurtin'. And the most
disappointing thing of all is that an entire month has been taken
away from our expected Mexico cruising schedule -- we won't be able
to spend as much time as we'll probably want to in the best cruising
grounds in Mexico (along with our friends, who all departed for
those environs weeks and weeks ago).
The biggest problem has been waiting for rigging supplies (Lesson 1:
If you did not have the foresight to bring your project supplies
with you, exhaust every possibility of finding the parts in the
country you're in). We contacted our U.S. supplier about two weeks
before we arrived in PV, thinking that the parts would be waiting
for us and we could efficiently go to work on our stays. Well, a
month later, the stuff finally got in the mail, partly because there
were some unanswered questions for us from our supplier (Lesson 2:
use a phone, not multiple emails over what amounts to weeks, to
order your parts), and because his supplier had given him a
hard time about an invoice.
We had been told that our rigging equipment would be sent by a
source experienced in the ways of shipping to Mexico. So, of course,
they went right ahead and shipped via FedEx, exactly the WORST way
to get anything shipped to Mexico (and I'll hazard to guess,
anywhere). Two working days my ass. Try 10 working days and change.
And then, to add insult to injury, we were not at the specified
delivery location on the day it finally arrived, so went back to
meet them the next day, as instructed, only to then be informed that
they only deliver to that location once a week. Uh ... once a week?
How the hell does FedEx have any business at all? I think of all the
propaganda we were handed in that lame movie Castaway where
FedEx is furiously driven and single-minded about delivering things
on time. What a gi-normous LIE. And lastly, we had to fork over 1500
pesos (about $150 US) for duty on the package, which technically we
shouldn't have to pay because we have a permit to import things for
our boat. But FedEx is soooo focused on being efficient that they
don't bother managing that step and just pay the duty for you, so
you have to reimburse them to ever get your package out of their
slow, customer UN-focused hands. Anyway, long story short, we got
our package which was about the size of two large pizza to-go boxes.
We could have totally just carried this stuff with us from the
beginning, and circumvented this entire saga.
But, as usual, there is always something bright that can give us a
little reminder about why we're doing this thing. Last night, I woke
up to some strange sounds. A kind of bloop, bloop, and then a long,
upward keening sound, kind of like a squeaky door swinging open. It
was so regular, that at first I thought it was a sound emanating
from the boat. But as I shook myself awake a bit more, I realized I
could hear splashing outside. Could I be hearing whales singing?? I
jumped out of bed, climbed into the cockpit, and sure enough,
through the darkness, I could see some giant whitewater waves as
whales breached close to the anchorage. I went back to bed as the
whales made their way through the bay, and I could still hear them
singing as I fell back asleep. Today, Woj and I went snorkeling
one more time before heading back to a marina to work on our
rigging. We could hear the whales' songs much more clearly, and we
ended up just floating around with our ears underwater to hear their
La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit
February 6, 2005
(Wojo) We're finally back on the hook and lovin' it! The
first couple of days were quite stormy however, in fact we didn't
see the sun once in the past week. I almost feel sorry for the
tourists ... We are anchored in front of one of our favorite towns
in the bay, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle.
Yesterday was one of those days that is difficult to describe to
people who haven't been on their own extended adventure. We awoke
from one of the best nights sleep either of us could remember after
having spent a great night having pizza, drinking wine and playing
guitar with our wonderful friends David and Shell on s/v Polar Bear.
The night had been overcast and cool but calm with our new flopper
stopper working merrily away at its task. Around nine though
the wind once again started to build, first to 15 kts and then
peaking with gusts to around 30 within the next couple of hours.
The rain picked up as well and Mico had a nice freshwater rinse.
When the rain and wind finally abated we thought that perhaps the
big cold front had finally passed us and soon we'd be enjoying the
usual hot, sunny days again. However, as the wind died in La
Cruz big swells started coming in from some other, much more unlucky
location from around the Cabo Corrientes in the south of the bay.
At first I just thought they were very pretty since the period was
so long that we weren't getting tossed too badly. I even
called Steph up on deck to check things out. The periods soon
became smaller and the fleet was left with a bay full of
uncomfortable massive waves (some may have been in the 8 to 10 foot
range, but it's hard to tell when you're on your beam ends).
All boats were tossed around mercilessly for the next three hours. I
don't know exactly where the swells originated but I was glad to
have not been there.
Then it happened. We were sitting around the cockpit trying to
not be seasick when we heard a call on the VHF from a boat about to
get rundown by another boat in the harbor that had fouled their
anchor and was dragging. We listened for a couple more
minutes, heard another boat respond with help and then checked out
the scene for ourselves with the binoculars. The two boats
were now almost touching. The woman who had issued the first
call was trapped on her boat as the crew was in town with the dink.
Steph decided that one of us should head over and offer assistance.
I jumped in Bonobo (Mico's dinghy), grabbed the handheld VHF and
motored over. When I arrived an older gent had gone aboard the
dragging vessel to try and start her up and re-anchor. No luck
... Word of advice, ALWAYS leave your key in the ignition when
you're away on shore (maybe even a note next to the hatch on how to
start her up if it's not completely obvious)! So now this
meant that we'd have to try to move the boat with just our dinks.
I was doing OK with our little dink keeping the dragging boat away
from her neighbors but I knew that just the two of us would not be
able to re-anchor her upwind in a choppy sea. I called Steph
on the mobile and had her request more dinks to assist on the local
Not two minutes after I'd made the call to Mico the other dinghy
that was on station got too close to the dragging boat's plow anchor
(which should not have been pulled 'til more boats arrived) and was
completely wiped out. It happened in a heartbeat: the port
hull of the RIB was gashed, instantly deflated with such force that
it flipped the dink and crew into the sea. Yikes.
I now started yelling at the guy on deck to drop the hook again and
proceeded to pull the man and his wife into Bonobo. After the
unfortunate crew was onboard Bonobo we searched around over the side
for what we could salvage and quickly realized that with the big
outboard underwater we'd not be able to right the foundering dink.
I took the soaking wet crew back to their mother ship and other
boats arrived to tow the overturned dink back as well.
The dragging boat had drifted downwind enough in the melee that she
was no longer in danger of swinging into other boats. Within
an hour the owner was located and the boat re-anchored.
As the day progressed the sun peeked out just enough to prompt the
Polar Bear crew to drop by in their swim gear and take us to a nice
beach at Piedras Blancas for a little swim and walk on the Saturday
Back on Mico we quickly showered, changed and headed into town to
hit Philo's Bar (owned by a former cruiser in La Cruz) for some
music. I wish I could remember the name of the band but they were
amazing! It consisted of a family from BC that plays Marimba
from Africa and South America. They are passing through Mexico
to expand their repertoire. It was so fun to see a family
(including a six year old who does solos and leads!) all
working in harmony and enjoying themselves this much. Ergh,
wish I'd brought the camera with us that night but we'll remember it
for a long time.
It was good to return to Mico after a very long day and hit our bunk
We awoke to a completely new world from the previous day. The
sky was clear, sun shining. Time to make a big breakfast, hop
in the dink and anchor her off our favorite snorkeling spot ...
PS -- we also had leaping manta rays and big tuna right next to Mico
We shot a little
February 2, 2005
(Wojo) OK, FINE. I'm coming clean. It's been over three thousand
miles all the way from Seattle and I haven't changed the secondary fuel
filter even once during that time. Nor did I ever manage to
find the time to even learn how to do it while Mico was in her long
repose at the dock in Shilshole Marina. Sheesh!
After running around PV once again (this time to visit the US
consulate office and two hospitals to get our booster shots) and
the 45 min bus ride back to Nuevo, I knew that it was now or never
for changing that filter. I'd much rather have an air locked
engine at the dock than on the hook somewhere. I assembled my
tools, diapers and the filter and set to work in earnest.
However, I had a little trouble with some of the instructions in the
Perkins workshop manual -- namely that part about the filter being
"self-priming." Well, I can definitely tell you that priming the
filter is not an automatic process. I started the engine after
changing the filter, it ran for about thirty seconds and then died
-- I knew that I would now be learning all about the FULL version of
bleeding the engine of its trapped air. Ugh.
I went through a few steps in the bleed process and thought I was
doing quite well but the engine was still not even sputtering.
The other nice thing about doing this at the dock is that when you
kill your starter battery you can just plug it in again.
Finally I admitted that I didn't know what I was doing and called
our friendly neighborhood English mechanic "Teapot Tony" on channel
22. Earlier in the week Tony had completely rebuilt our salt
water pump and did a beautiful job (he even had a new shaft spun for
us after finding the old one was scored). I thought about calling one
of my friends here to assist, but ultimately couldn't deal with the
shame of making it this far never having changed a secondary
Tony came over within half an hour of my call and immediately took
me to school. I would have saved myself a heap of trouble if
I'd had actually filled the filter with fuel using the lift pump
before trying to start the engine (Perkins owners: to do this you
need to verify that the filter is completely full by taking the
filter-to-injection-pump line off at the filter end w/o losing the
fuel olive seal). However, it was good that this happened
because Tony took me through the complete bleed sequence for the
engine and gave me tons of useful hints and tricks (like keeping a
wrench to use on the bleed screws permanently mounted on a tether in
the engine room). After a few tries the engine roared to life
once again. I was so inspired I even changed the oil
afterwards in the 85 degree heat and cleaned up the melee before
Steph came home.
PS -- ever wonder
where we put
everything on Mico?
January 27, 2005
Cocodrilo sighting right off our dock today! Steph shot
a little video of the croc here ...
7 foot cocodrilo keeping watch of Mico
In other news, Carrot was recently interviewed about her past
life as a Hardware Technician
Guadalajara, JAL to Guanajuato, GTO
January 19-25, 2005
(Steph) We finally took advantage of the safety of the marina and
left the boat for a few days to travel inland. Guadalajara and
Guanajuato were our cities of choice. We got a great dose of art,
architecture, and urbanity. Both cities retained a lot of the
architecture and city planning left by the Spaniards, so we often
felt like we were walking around streets in Spain.
Guadalajara is the second biggest city in Mexico. The sidewalks were
packed with people at all times of the day -- from people heading to
work in the morning, to families strolling the plazas in the
evening. Woj had his shoes shined from one of 30 plaza-side shoe
shine stalls ("Mira tus zapatos" was their logo: "Look at your
shoes") in front of the central cathedral.
The central cathedral in Guadalajara
The central market is huge in Guadalajara -- get breakfast for $2,
peruse the butchers' stalls for the freshest head of goat and then
buy a Paracho guitar. We did all that. Well, we accidentally ended
up in the butchers' area and were pretty happy to leave without a
goat's head. But we didn't leave without a guitar! Woj managed to
haggle us a guitar for a decent price. We are both excited to play
again. We also went to traditional department stores for new bed
sheets and bathing suits, at 1/3 of Puerto Vallarta prices.
We also managed to do some sight seeing. There are massive murals
painted by the artist Jose Clemente Orozco in some of the government
The priest Miguel Hidalgo signs a document banning
slavery in Mexico in 1810. Housed on the ceiling of the congress in
the governor's palace (Wojo: in this mural Hidalgo doesn't look too
confident to me. I think one of the slaves picked up on this fact
and is trying to snatch the stylus away to finish the job)
Also in the governor's palace. This mural was
painted in 1937. If you look closely, you can see a lot of Nazi and
Soviet imagery, foreshadowing WWII (Wojo: if you can't see the mural
sorry about the glare)
Another impressive example of the scale of
Orozco's work. Housed in the Instituto Cultural de Cabanas
Public art is also prevalent in the many plazas and pedestrian-only
streets. We took tons of pictures of sculptures, statues and
fountains. We'll subject you to only two.
Woj made me do it. I don't normally kiss
sculpture. But don't get me wrong, if you're into it, that's cool
The highlight of Guadalajara was our night spent at Bariachi (get
it? A bar and mariachi bands, brought together. Brilliant!). At
first, I was a little hesitant, because I can't say I'm the hugest
fan of the mariachi music I've heard in plazas or had to endure
awkwardly while trying to enjoy a meal as 5 guys stand over the
table. But Bariachi had a stage devoted to their bands, and they
have to be good to play there. We were the only gringos in the
entire place, and everyone in the crowd sang along. We saw a
12-piece band with six violinists who more or less lead the crew.
They were incredibly polished, and really fun to watch. The band
members were all young and energetic, and looked like they were
having a great time. They had little dance moves worked out between
their violin parts. We wished we could have taken pictures, but the
camera was left at home that night.
Wojo asked a public official for directions to a
landmark, and upon finding the address she'd given him, realized she
had directed us to the Secretary of Tourism. Gee, thanks.
Guanajuato was another delightful city -- the center is small and
compact, with narrow, winding streets. It reminded both of us of
Madrid. It was much cooler there, as it is in the center of the
country and at a higher elevation. We are incredibly spoiled by the
consistent 85 degrees in Puerto Vallarta, but the city is so
charming that hanging out in our cold hotel room was not an option.
One of many grand churches in Guanajuato
Another church with an impressive facade
The 20th century artist Diego Rivera was born in Guanajuato, so we
toured the house he was born in. It is also a museum with a nice
variety of his works. Before then, I was mostly familiar with his
murals, famously featuring the subjects of the working man and
communism. Here, we were introduced to a much larger repertoire.
Poor Diego, however -- despite the fact that the museum is devoted
to him, the gift shop featured more items bearing his wife Frida
We also toured a museum displaying works by a huge variety of
artists that had all chosen Don Quixote (the protagonist of
Cervantes' novel) as their subject. It was surprisingly fascinating,
and now we are both determined to read the novel if we can find a
I drove Woj crazy taking pictures of all the interesting graffiti
we happened upon. Maybe you'll appreciate it.
Mexico's obsession with death is apparent
"Kinda creepy, kinda cool" (Steph). "Jaguar
man, Jaguar man, does whatever a jaguar can!" (Wojo)
Guanajuato is also famous for its annual Cervantes festival, in
which a huge number of international performing arts groups perform
their works (whether or not they're related to Cervantes). Thusly,
you can't go far without finding references to Cervantes or Don
Quixote. In the square outside our hotel, young people dress up in
costume presumably from the time in which Don Quixote is set,
sing traditional Mexican songs, and lead crowds through the winding
(Wojo) Avoid the momias (mummies) exhibition in GTO if you
ever want to sleep again.
Devotees to Cervantes lead tourists and locals
through the streets
We returned to Puerto Vallarta happy to see the boat and happier
still for the 85 degrees. Our friend Becky happened to be in town
and we just managed to catch her before she left for the airport. We
rode horses on the beach. Everyone's idea of paradise realized.
Woj's horse refused to trot much to Woj's
disappointment (Wojo: not according to Becky -- she was upset that
her horse would do basically whatever my horse was doing, usually
All Becky wanted to do was ride a horse in Mexico.
Finally! Note the cutest little colt in the world accompanying her
on the ride
Now for a few last projects in Puerto before we move on. We are
looking forward to leaving the marina and getting out there again!
Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit
January 15, 2005
(wojo) Mico's first guest, Melanie, departed for the world a couple days ago.
It was very interesting and refreshing to see our life from someone
else's eyes (and reminded us how good we have it). She was a
great sport and spent half of her trip on the hook or on passage
between ports! She also is a much better photo historian than
either of us are, so we should have some good photos to post once
she forwards the best of.
We had originally planned on heading to the Marieta isles for a morning of snorkeling (in the afternoon the
winds pick up considerably) but due to the tides in the marina here
we added on an extra day. We've sounded the channel in NV
pretty well by this point and in a blow boat you definitely don't
want to come into the main channel on a negative tide (at datum it's six
We set off for Punta Mita and headed over to Isla Marieta (the island
in the middle of the chain) the next day. While in PM we were
fortunate to briefly hookup with Nereida again.
Our passenger must have brought some good luck since we started
seeing humpbacks shortly after leaving the marina, continuing all
the way to Punta Mita!
The Marieta islands lie only about
an hour's sail from Punta de Mita and are very worthwhile.
I was reminded of the terrain of Baja from first sight.
The island was completely full of caves from top to bottom and
resembled a prehistoric block of swiss cheese. After
getting the hook down in around 10 fathoms the ladies took
Bonobo around to the windward side of the isle in search of the
perfect snorkeling spot but it was way too rough as the wind had
freshened early that day.
When they returned I decided to just try my luck snorkeling in our
little "anchorage" and swam from ship to rocky shore. It turns
out that our side is where all the tourist boats full of fifty
tourists arrive as well. The visibility could have been better
that day but it was still gorgeous underwater viewing and I enjoyed
swimming around the sheer cliffs and under the inner lagoon's arco.
Being unable to contain my excitement after swimming back to Mico
the ladies we inspired as well and set off to explore via their
Las cavas on Isla Marieta -- grrr
At Isla Marieta our anchorage was at 20 degrees 41.77 minutes N and
105 degrees 34.94 minutes W. The charts here are way off, but the
Charlie's chart's waypoints are accurate.
|Later that day we sailed across the bay once
again this time to arrive at La Cruz. This is a scenic
anchorage where many cruising boats congregate to avoid the
exorbitant marina fees of the area. We enjoyed it so much
that we decided to stay an extra day. If you stop here be
sure to dive the white rocks off the nice little beach to the
north (we were the only ones there) -- we spotted all manner of
fish and even lobsters. While in La Cruz we also
took a day trip to visit Bucerias and the ladies found lots of
Huichol art to bring the folks back home.
La Cruz cervezas with
It's never too late to trampoline!
|While in Bucerias I was standing outside the
spice store waiting for Steph while a young hombre approached me
and said "did you see the elephant?" I was a little
suspicious as this seemed like a mess-with-the-turista
scenario. He kept repeating this statement and trying to
point out where I should look. He finally took his leave
in frustration and just for fun I walked down the street a
little farther so I could better observe what he was referencing
and sure enough ... there was an elephant walking down the
street of the village (a circus was in town)!
We're currently back in p\Paradise Village Marina hoping to fit in a land excursion to Guadalajara in between boat projects.
We received our first package at the marina yesterday from West
Marine (a new VHF and two more fans) and were promptly slapped with
a big duty charge of at least 20%. We just received our
temporary import permit so we're hoping to get some of that refunded
on our next trip to customs (I don't hold out much hope, however).
In addition to the new rig next week I'll start working with a local
diesel mechanic on the engine overhead and oil leak issues.
More photos courtesty of Mel!
Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit
January 5, 2005
(Wojo) Well, here we are at long last in our berth in Paradise Village Marina for our three
week stint ... I wouldn't necessarily call the place my exact
idea of paradise'found but there are quite a few benefits.
Staying in a five star resort community living almost on top of your
neighbors has taken some getting used to -- but sleeping every night
in placid waters has let Steph finally catch up on some well
deserved sleep. We're still working on getting a flopper
stopper for our usual anchorages.
If you come here you'll need to be aware that the channel leading
into NV is very shallow, unmarked (don't use the ranges -- they
don't work) and extremely narrow. The harbormaster was kind
enough to personally escort us into our slip and even called to let
us know that we'd just missed the sandbar by three feet on the way
in (our take was that you're either on the beach or not).
After checking into the marina office we set about giving Mico a
good scrub and waxing.
The days have already gone by so
very quickly here. Although we're technically taking this
first week off as a vacation from cruising you wouldn't know it
yet. The first couple of days were spent organizing
project lists, clearing in with the Capitania here (which was
the easiest yet; don't hire an agent), getting our TIP from aduana (definitely hire an agent for this one) and preparing
for our major rigging project in two weeks with supplies from
Brion Toss. Brion's been very patient about answering all
my questions in his usual super thorough manner -- I just
emailed him the final set of photos pre-install. This will
be the first time we've done rigging work from scratch, cutting
all the wires and learning to use sta-loks etc. We'll let
you know how it goes ...
Taking photos of toggles for Toss Riggers
The estuary at Paradise Village Marina
Getting back to our accommodations here -- there are two pools each
with water sides, many bars, a yacht club, a zoo, a mall with lots
of fast food joints and a really nice beach. Honestly, though,
it was very surprising that Steph and I both had the exact same
reaction after being here just a couple of days. We were
surprised to note that we might want to speed things up a bit to try
to get out of here a bit sooner. When you're accustomed to
having lots of space around the boat in a quiet and private
anchorage, marinas are a bit tough to handle. We reflected
over beers in the cockpit last night that after being anchored out
for a couple of months one can get nearly everything they need out
of a marina in just one or two days in most cases, and then be off
This week also marks the first time we'll have crew staying aboard
Mico in her Mexico adventure. Melanie has been very kind to play
burro bringing in lots of goodies from Seattle (West Marine goodies, Perkins
parts, dinghy repair kit, oh my!). I've spent most of the
morning making room for our guest. Steph's mom Jill always says that if you
want a clean house have lots of company. I agree! Steph's
away all day in La Cruz taking a first aid class and is then off
to the aeropuerto to pick up Mel.
We have enjoyed meeting everyone here and connecting with 'old'
cruising buddies we met along the way so far. As soon as we
stepped foot on the dock there were many friendly faces to greet us.
One of these couples was from sistership s/v Alaya who
treated us to some pizzas and a tour of their lovely W32 (Vince and Jan -- thanks for letting me talk your ears off about
engine overheat issues and advice!). It was too bad they were
leaving the next day for sailfest in Z-huat (aka Zihautenejo). We'll see 'em again
down the road I'm sure.
PS -- why is it impossible to find blocks of ice in PV??!!
Punta de Mita, Nayarit
January 1, 2005
(Steph) We wish everyone luck in the new year! Our thoughts are with
the people who suffered through the tsunami -- news reaches us
slowly here, but we're as shocked and saddened as anyone.
We spent the last few days, and the First Night, in the anchorage at
Punta de Mita. It's a quiet and large anchorage just on the northern
edge of Banderas Bay. Banderas Bay is the huge bay on which Puerto
Vallarta sits. The bay has been said to be on par with the size of
San Francisco Bay. It has a depth of ~600 feet, so is a happy
playground for many large and small marine species. Whales, dolphins
and sea turtles (all of which we spotted on our day sail enroute)
frolic here, free from the threat of sharks -- apparently, the
dolphins have mounted patrols around the entrance of the bay to keep
the predators away from their newborns. Go, dolphin patrols!
Our New Year's Eve was quiet, but wholly enjoyable. We started the
evening off with a huge filet of fresh wahoo, caught by Chris from
s/v Aquamarine. We met him and his family in Chacala, and
they followed us to Punta de Mita a day later. On the way, he
spotted all the sport fishermen out for the day, so thought he'd try
his luck with throwing out a line. Not long after, he hooked himself
a 60 lb. wahoo. When he saw us in the anchorage, he waved us over
and gave us a massive fillet that fed us for two nights.
We waited out midnight in the cockpit, enjoying the glowing
phosphorescent trails of little fish swimming under the boat. Our
plan was to crack open a bottle of champagne and swim around the
boat in our birthday suits when the new year arrived. But our nights
are now ruled by what we call "Baja Midnight" -- by 10:00, if you
can keep your eyes open, you are quite the night owl. That goes with
every crew we've talked to around here. So, at 10:30, we decided to
pretend we were on Eastern time (almost -- we're on Central time
here) and break open the champagne early. What good is it doing in
the icebox anyway?
With the champagne flowing, we started anticipating our night swim.
I made the remark that I was glad for the phosphorescence, because a
shark swimming by would be immediately apparent in the otherwise
black water. Woj reminded me of the dolphin patrols, but I was
skeptical about them patrolling way up here on the northern edge of
the bay -- their resources are probably pooled in more strategic
areas. Not two minutes later, we heard the unmistakable snort of a
large marine animal taking a breath. We looked over the port stern,
and although it was a dark night, we saw a dolphin take a turn
through the anchorage, jumping out of the water three times in a
row. I am totally not making this up. What a New Year's Eve,
With the bottle empty (Mico had her share of the champagne -- we
were rolling with a bit of southerly swell, and the bottle had
tipped over twice), we stripped down, dove in, and enjoyed our
(almost) midnight swim. Swimming among the phosphorescence is
amazing -- it's like being surrounded by fireflies. We rinsed off
with water heated on the stove, the first hot
bathing-method-resembling-a-shower either of us have had in over a
month. Fifteen minutes later, the clock struck twelve and we were
treated to about 25 different fireworks displays. I think every
resort and hotel in the entire area had their own show. The closest
to us was the Four Seasons, whose golf course meets the beach of our
anchorage. Twelve miles away, across the bay, we could see dozens of
fireworks displays, along miles of beaches. It was incredible.
By 12:15, the toothbrushes had been put away and we were gratefully
climbing into bed. We remarked that my brother, Bennett, was
probably still out partying in Spain, where it was 7:15 am. Good for
him. Hope he had fun. We did, too.
Sunday brings a quick jaunt to Paradise Village, a marina resort
where we plan to stay for three weeks. One week of fun, and two
weeks of boat projects. Our friend Melanie, from Seattle, is flying
down to join us for the week of fun. We're looking forward to giving
her a taste of the cruising life, while also swimming in pools,
lounging in hot tubs, and getting daiquiris delivered dockside.
Enroute to Punta de Mita in Banderas Bay, Nayarit
December 29, 2004
We had a great Christmas in San Blas, complete with music by Neil
Diamond (thanks to the crew of Nereida).
Christmas dinner a la Steph
At the moment we're on our way into Banderas Bay with a stop at
Punta Mita before checking into Paradise Village Marina in Nuevo
Vallarta for three weeks. There's a cold front somewhere west
of us in the great Pacific that we're hoping to avoid. This
morning has classic cold front conditions complete with backing
winds and altocumulus/stratus clouds. Ever since we left Cabo the
winds have been non-existent, never more than five knots or so
(usually from the SE).
For the past three days we anchored in Chacala, which is only about
four hours south of San Blas. Not too much to say about it,
only that it's a very popular beach with the locals during the
holidaze. We met a nice couple and their daughter on s/v
Aquamarine from San Diego. We did find an amazing secret beach
around the corner from Chacala in Bonobo. If you send us an
email we'll give you a waypoint.
San Blas, Nayarit
December 23, 2004
We were very fortunate to have an easy, light wind crossing (too
light -- we motored the last day) from Cabo to San Blas.
Compared to other cruisers we've talked to we got off pretty lucky.
View of the continental shelf approaching mainland
As usual, today for better or worse was completely full of
adventure. It began at 0900 after an amazing night's sleep
(finally) in the peaceful bay of Mantachèn right around the corner
from San Blas city.
First view of
the mainland at San Blas, Nayarit
But I'm getting ahead of myself
already ... We arrived in San Blas the night before last after a
two and a half day sail from Cabo in light winds and a lot of
motoring. The first night was quite rolly as we couldn't
see anything and basically anchored in the middle of the ocean
(hey, at least it was 'in the middle' of everything else).
At dawn we moved farther into Mantanchen Bay to discover we were
the only ones here (cool!).
We set the hook in three fathoms of calm, swell-free water. After
getting cleaned up we launched ol' Boney and set off around the
Punta Camarone for San Blas proper to clear in -- later we'd learn
that our good friends Cliff and Rene watched us in amazement from
their palapa restaurant on the beach and wondered why we didn't just
get a ride into town with them. Oh well.
The first thing you notice about the tropical mainland here after a
month in the deserts of Baja are the smells. I couldn't
believe all deep jungle scents welling up as we headed closer to
The dinghy ride was thirty minutes or more of open ocean passage
making to the estuary before San Blas. A young man flagged us
down when we were close and we pulled up the dink at his mama's
house. Our first stop was to vist the Capitania and officially clear
into the port of San Blas. As usual the info in our cruising
guide was out of date unfortunately so we spent the better part of
an hour running around in search of a ship's agent who no
longer exists. We ended up simply clearing ourselves in which
was very easy since there were no separate trips required to Migracion or Aduana, just the bank and the farmacia to make copies
(it you come here by boat always bring way more copies of everything
than you think you'll need). In the end we were feeling great
since we'd managed to do a complete check-in and check-out in
less than a day -- it was time to have some fun and chill.
We took Boney around the point again and back to Mantachen and found
that we were no longer alone in the bay. Four more boats
quickly filled in around us. In most cases if one yatero sees
a boat anchored all by themselves in even a huge bay they'll drop
the hook about twenty meters off your bow -- I guess people "ass"-ume
we know what we're doing. It wasn't long before we'd met most
of our neighbors and even invited Kate and Tom from s/v Nereida of
Vancouver for a few cervezas on Mico. We love to meet
everyone but it's really a treat if we get to hang with a
crowd under forty once in awhile (this was only the second time in a
month). After all the cervezas and most of the rum was caput,
they invited us over to their gorgeous C&C sloop for dinner.
Tom had grabbed a nice bonito on the way into the bay right off the
stern. He BBQ'd it with some cajun spices thrust upon him
while spending time in Avalon. It was delicious and Steph even
had time to make her mom's Chinese cabbage salad as an
With large heads and still full bellies we awoke the next day after
one of the best non-rolly sleeps we'd had in what seemed like
weeks. We made plans, if there is such a thing down here, to meet up
later in the day to ride into San Blas city. There's a great
restaurant in the bay named Neptuno's here which is probably
the most cruiser friendly anywhere. Cliff and his esposa Rene
spend about half their time in San Blas and the rest in the US.
They have it all -- ice, diesel, water, steaks and even a ride into
town. If you come here you should give Cliff a shout on 22
We left Boney on the beach in front of Neptuno's and rode
into town with the nine other yateros visiting. We were the
only ones who cleared in yesterday so everyone else was off en masse
to the Capitania (footnote: when they arrived he was so overwhelmed
that he wouldn't clear anyone in that day ...). Steph
and I hit the mercado centrale, always one of favorite spots of the
ciudad, and found tons of fresh produce and delicious chilaquiles
at a lunch counter for about $2. I told the nice dama at the counter
"... mi esposa's mama hace chilaquiles tambien pero su comida es
|After taking care of a little business at an
Internet cafe near the zocalo we met up again with Kate and Tom
to do the hike up to the old aduana house and the ruined Spanish
fort atop the biggest hill in town. It was an easy walk
along the old cobblestone path to the fort. There's not
too much to see architecture-wise, but the sweeping vistas and
lush foliage make it well worthwhile.
Tom at the old Spanish church in San Blas
In addition to seeing the sites in town the big thing to do in SB is
the fresh water spring (Tovara) and the jungle boat trip.
Earlier in the day we'd asked around a bit and were told that it's
about a mile from the ruins to the jungle boat docks.
This was another case of things going bad when you don't trust your
instincts -- Steph and I both knew from the drive in that it was
going to be way longer of a hike than one mile. Now, it's not
that we don't enjoy longish walks, quite the contrary.
However, this little jaunt consisted of about three miles of open
highway roadstead with no shoulder, both sides of which had rivers
full of snakes (which we saw numerous deceased family members).
Anyway, to take a long story sideways you should spend the 30 pesos
to catch a cab from the city to the jungle ride and forego the
experience of the walk. Eventually after numerous near
encounters with trucks going 80 MPH on the road we were generously
given a lift by Ismael (of the Mantachen Restaurant on the beach).
Native huts along the river
|Although some of the reaction from other
cruisers was mixed we enjoyed the jungle ride. You catch a
boat up river and visit a croc-farm where babies are cultivated
and other sick jungle animals get help. On the fast return
trip down river we did the Tovara fresh water springs. It was a
little chilly that day and after seeing all the crocs I was a
bit chicken to swim.
If you're a bird lover, the jungle trip is definitely for you.
After a long day on the sightseeing circuit we had a wonderful
dinner in store for us at Neptuno's. Having seen all
the boats arrive Cliff knew that everyone would be in the mood for
some downhome non-palapa food for a change and made arrangements for
a big group t-bone steak dinner with all the trimmings.
Everything was sooo good, they even flew in sourdough bread from San
Francisco for the occasion! After lots of wine and many good
margaritas we finally turned in ...
A full sized male in the wild
This guy is basically known for snapping at all
the tourists all day long, and is therefore messed with incessantly
The fleet in Mantachen Bay (Mico is on the left)
I've also started to compile
a few notes
and observations about Mexico in general. Since we've only
just now been here a month I'm hoping these will start to make more
PS -- if you make the crossing from Cabo to PV be sure to avoid the
prison colony islands!
Tres Marias penal colony -- rings are the twenty
mile markers (update: last month in Lattitude there was a story
about a cruiser without a cruising guide who got tired after the
crossing from Cabo. He made it to the Tres Marias and said "hey,
this looks like a nice anchorage to spend the night." After getting
about 5 miles off he was met by the prison cops and brought to the
local pokey for questioning ... stay 20 nms off!)
Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur
December 16, 2004
(Steph) Check-in today went relatively well, considering we had no
idea what we were doing. Despite two different manuals we have that
describe the process, we were still reeling in confusion. Luckily,
all the officials we dealt with were friendly and patient. My
Spanish skills seemed to serve no purpose -- I had trouble
understanding anything I was told. The most amusing instance of this
was when the port captain kept saying that I had to get happy, or be
happy, or something about being happy. I pointed to my smile and
said, "happy?" He kind of smiled back at me in a bewildered fashion.
He must have thought I wasn't quite all there. Finally, Woj
figured out he was saying "API" which is another office we needed to
visit in order to pay our port fee. Geez, what a dork.
Los Arcos -- you are required by law to take a
picture of this scene if you arrive by boat
After that morning-long project was finally complete, we bought some
badly needed provisions for the boat and spent the afternoon at the
beach. The anchorage has turned out to be one of the most
uncomfortable we've ever encountered. The violent rolling from the
offshore swell is never ending. Today we plan to finish up our
provisions, get some laundry done, and prepare to leave tomorrow.
Our neighbors in the anchorage in Cabo
Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur
December 15, 2004
(Steph) Our last few days in Bahia Santa Maria were just as idyllic
as the first. We hiked through desert arroyos, we snorkeled in a
little reef, we shared birthday cake with Jennifer from s/v
Mystic Rhythms. But we were running low on fresh provisions.
Actually, I should say we didn't have any fresh provisions. Our ice
was completely gone by Saturday morning. Every meal was an adventure
in what we could whip up with a lot of canned goods and potatoes. We
left Santa Maria at 10 pm Monday night, and arrived Wednesday around
noon. The passage had its highs and lows -- finally, it's warm
enough to wear a t-shirt and shorts during the day, and we don't
have to wear thermal underwear at night. The auto tiller, which
allows us to sail without having to manually steer, keeps pulling
the pin out of the tiller. So the Krazy Glue had to come out again
until we can try to re-re-pot it in more epoxy in port.
What a change of scenery. Hotels and restaurants line every inch of
the waterfront. In fact, right now, I can hear Wang Chung floating
across the water. We've not heard one positive thing about Cabo from
other cruisers. But with low expectations, chances are good we might
actually like the place. In any event, we really need to
re-provision, so we're willing to stay here a few days. So far I'm
not too offended by it all -- we can finally have a margarita or
two, and maybe a hamburger if we can work up the nerve (the craving
had no trouble working itself up).
Another item on the task list is to check in. We've been in Mexico
for 2.5 weeks, and still haven't had the opportunity to let any
Mexican official know we're here. So that's the priority on our
Bahia Santa Maria, Baja California Sur
December 11, 2004
(wojo) Today I was reminded of the fact that if one is foolish on
land they will at least as foolish at sea...
Around 1400 this afternoon Steph and I had just returned from a
great hike up the arroyo, took a nice swim and had a scrub with the
sun shower. It was time for siesta and she opted to chill with
a Patrick O'Brian book. I decided to explore the far side of
the bay (about five miles) in Bonobo where I had seen some interesting
looking dunes and sweeping huge beaches. Being the sensible
one Steph made me take along the 'good' portable VHF (the one I got
for Christmas three years ago from the Parry clan).
I zoomed across the bay for about half and hour. I can
distinctly remember thinking to myself 'wow, it's a really long way
out here, I hope everything is cool with the outboard.' As I
approached the beach I could see that there's some major shore break
action happening but I wasn't too worried since we'd just made our
first surf landing the day before (meaning that I'd done this
exactly one before and was probably pretty lucky). I started
trying to pick my set to head into the beach but it looked pretty
treacherous so I started to head back. But then I thought
'hey, what if there's something cool to see over there, I might
never be back this way again.' So I turned back and started
eyeing the sets of waves on the beach again.
The theoretical plan for a surf landing is pretty straightforward in
theory -- you just head in as fast as you can after a big wave has
passed you, giving you max distance between the next breaker.
In practice it's a bit messier -- all waves don't break in the same
spots and it's hard to find just the right wave to follow in.
Here's a better perspective on the distance between Mico and wojo:
I finally got my courage up and started powering in JUST as the
outboard decided to take a little holiday. This meant that I
was now beam on to the breaking waves. You ever have that
feeling that something big is about to happen and it's probably not
going to be good? The next breaker pounded poor little Bonobo
(and me) and almost dumped us. 'Whoa...that was close.'
When I made it through the waves I also found that there was a major
red tide in effect. I remembered something about this
phenomena from fifth grade science class but only enough to know
that it wasn't good.
I made it up onto the beach and checked the dunes for awhile.
I eventually realized that I was prolonging the inevitable and that
if the trip in was bad the one out would only be worse. So
instead of taking a minute to figure out a plan for getting past the
breaker line I pussy footed 'round in the shallows too long. I
wondered too far out and a real bad ass wave came in. If I'd
been paying attention I'd have seen that the waves were coming in
sets of three and that just looking down the beach you could see the
pipeline of the big ones forming way before they made it to where it
I don't remember much about getting nailed by the wave too much I
just know that in a fraction of a second my face underwater dragging
in the sand with the flipped over dingy on top of me. My
immediate thoughts were: the outboard is definitely fucked (any
water, especially salt water kills gasoline motors on the spot) AND
I bet my little radio is history. I turned out that I was
correct on both accounts. I managed to hurl everything else
that had been tossed onto the beach (oars, air pump, gas can, bilge
pump, Tevas) but I did manage to lose my sunglasses (again) along
with the radio. This meant that not only did I have an
inoperable dink but no way to call in the troops for some backup
five miles away. It also meant that now Steph will really
never let me have good sunglasses again (we blew the REI dividend on
the last pair and the pair before that we lost back at Shilshole).
With the sun starting to make its way down I didn't have a lot of
options. I could: wait on this deserted beach for Steph to
call in the search party, beach the dink and walk about 15 miles to
the nearest fish camp and find a panga, or the craziest idea -- try
to row all the way back to Steph and Mico. For whatever reason
I chose the former of these options but this time I sat on the beach
for a spell and had a good study. It then occurred to me that
the solution was simple. I just needed to walk the dink out
through the line of breakers, swim a bit if necessary and then dive
in. Somehow it worked and as soon as I was beyond the shore
waves I paddled like mad to stay clear.
I kept rowing (inflatable boats with no hard bottom are worthless
row boats as everyone knows) for about a couple hundred yards.
It was slow work since the tide wanted to put me right back on the
beach. I then made my first attempts to start the outboard but
it was just a bad joke -- not even close! So on I went
alternating between pumping the red tide (nasty stuff it got into
everything) out which was up to the gunwales, rowing and trying the
outboard. I tried to make at least two knots over the bottom
while rowing since this meant that I could make it back in about
three hours. I was also aware that if I the tide got any
stronger on the ebb I could be sucked out to sea (I had no anchor
Eventually I remembered that this was after all a desert and
things tend to try pretty fast. I took the bonnet off the
outboard in the hope that the spark plug and everything else might
get just dry enough to make a little spurt.
On about the tenth cycle of trying to start the outboard it
miraculously made a few subtle attempts to start but this was enough
to make me try harder. With the choke out all the way and
bonnet still off she came back to life!! I was so amazed and
almost moved to tears. I expected her to conk out at any
second and now surely be hopelessly dead forever. But she
didn't! I was able the get Bonobo on a fast plane and head
back towards home. I was so incredibly grateful at this stroke
of luck but as if some great cosmic force of the universe still
wanted me to learn some humility I managed to run over a tree (yes,
a tree in the ocean, in a desert) on the way back and almost lost
I made it back to Mico with Steph waiting on the rail yelling 'WHERE
have you BEEN??!!' She said that she knew immediately that
something bad had happened since my beard and hair were full of gook, along with the bottom of the dink. I told her the story
while I jumped in the sea and had a good scrub with Joy followed by
a nice hot sun shower.
There were a lot of lessons to be learned here but those are for
another day. For now I'm just glad to not be out on the sea
Oh, I did mention we'd had a great day before all of this
unpleasantness. Here are some pics:
This dude is unflappable
We saw tons of gorgeous cacti today
Mico stands alone in repose
Bahia Santa Maria, Baja California
December 10, 2004
(wojo) Oh my gawd it's sooo great here -- it feels like we've
finally arrived somewhere ... The temperature has finally
reached the 80s and we've been able to swim in the
non-hypothermia-causing water. More later but I thought it would be
interesting to note everything we did today:
- 0800 wake up after the best night's sleep in weeks and spend
some quality time with the engine. Clean the air filter,
change the fuel filters and give her a good scrub post passage.
Steph drilled out the stud for the tiller pilot and epoxied the
hole (it broke on the way to Turtle Bay during our 24 hours of 30+
- 1000 jump in the water with my snorkeling gear on and clean
the bottom of the boat (it's been about a year since the last haul
out). The paint we used (Trinidad SR) is doing a great job
but it's starting to flake off at the water line. Had a good
rinse with the sun shower. Steph did our first load of laundry at
anchor -- luckily, with the weather having been chilly, we aren't
in need of too much of our dirty clothes, like long-sleeved
t-shirts and pants. But underwear is worn in all manner of weather
in this family. It turns out the one bucket we have, which is not
enough anyway, has a leak. So the laundry got to soak in the
kitchen sink. A few buckets are on our Cabo shopping list.
- 1130 Had a great lunch of tofu turkey sandwich and Asian
cabbage salad a la Carrot. We are running low on ice so all our
perishables will make it on every menu till it's gone.
- 1230 Time to put the dingy in the water!
- 1300 Spirited away on Bonobo to the beach at 15 kts.
This was our first surf landing and went pretty well actually,
meaning that everyone stayed in the boat. We did wear our
swimming gear ...
- 1330 We spy the fishing camp on the other side of the estuary
and get back in the dink.
- 1345 Hook up with crews from s/v Mystic Rhythms and s/v
Wyndeavor for some up-estuary, lagoon and beach exploring.
- 1400 Heading up the estuary. There was only about two
feet of water for the two or three miles to the lagoon. In
some spots Steph has to get out and tow (I had crappy flip flops
on at the time).
- 1430 Arrived at the third fish camp which meant the
camino to the cool beach we'd heard about was close (purported to
have an interesting wreck and whale bones). The locals were
very friendly and helped us find the path to the playa.
- 1530 Walking through a hot desert to the other side of Isla
Maria. Tons of beautiful cacti species. The two kids
(Bennett and Taryn) from Wyndeavor are hilarious and have an
unbelievable amount of energy ...
- 1600 Arrive at the fabled beach -- it was HUGE with massive
breakers. Didn't find any whale bones this time 'round, but
had some great tide pooling (we did find the wreck tho)
- 1630 After a very hot three mile walk/jog we arrive back at
the fish camp and launch Bonobo.
- 1645 Cross the breaking surf line at the start of estuary and
open her wide open for a fast plane back to Mico
- 1700 Time for serious siesta and col' chillin' to Beck's
Midnight Vultures. Beers and excellent comida (assorted
olives, pickles and queso fresco from Turtle Bay) ... ah, what a
day. Bahia Santa Maria you kicked our ass and we loved it.
Bahia Tortugas, Baja California
December 4, 2004
In wind, rain and sun we're in love with BDT. Here's a short
poem about our time here:
"Bahia de Tortugas"
And you shall be given shelter
from the journey. Across many horizons
in a new land there is a place known to
many but sought by few and it is good.
You will come to rest when you've
passed the test that takes away
the dreamers from the schemers.
Dusty ochre vistas will you find when
you've crossed into mountain time.
Softly lapping rivulets will soothe
her weary lines as you are reminded
of how lovely a slumber can be when made
In the casa of Maria, hermano Ernesto
will greet you and regale you
with great pride for "El Gordo."
A distant portrait on the wall
with faded soft eyes and hazy fuel drums
will speak to you of those so dearly
loved now passed. Taken in hand
and brought down to you so that you will
understand su familia.
Strange new birds, beasts & weary travelers
from Chicken, Alaska with rainbows on their sterns
will you find when you first come to know this life.
Are you to press on for more of the unknown?!
There's much to see in this place that
it makes one all the more long for the sediment around a root.
But not for you, the wind beings to turn North again
and another familia beckons warmly.
What will the next day bring?
Here you've rested and sought brief repose
in these sparse lines. Listen closely enough
and you'll here the din of Tortugueňas in
pangas calling tu nombre.
We loved our time in TB but I should probably noted that after
writing these tranquil lines we rode out a nasty cold front with the
fleet in the southern anchorage in about 40 to 50 kts. We all had a
good laugh the next day (no one dragged thanks to the massive
amounts of kelp). Oh well,
still a wonderful place.
San Diego, CA to Bahia Tortugas, Baja California
November 27-30, 2004
(Steph) I don't know why everyone in the Pacific Northwest is so
freaked out about the voyage down the coast to southern California.
That is small potatoes compared to our trip from San Diego to Bahia
Tortugas (Turtle Bay), which is located about halfway down Baja
California. Let's just say that Woj and I would have come in
first and second, respectively, if ever there existed a Baja Barfing
On Saturday morning, as we were preparing to leave by 1100, we bade
farewell to some of our dock mates. "You're leaving with the weather
that's coming?" they asked, incredulously. We had heard that it was
supposed to rain that night, but it didn't daunt us. "Nah, rain is
no big deal! We're from Seattle!" (Although, truth be told, I don't
think we ever cast off in Seattle when it was raining.) It might
have behooved us to find out if it was the rain they were referring
to. Because, looking back, we think that they were probably talking
about the 35 knot Santa Ana winds that we had to fight for the last
19 hours of our voyage.
We encountered the expected rain and squalls that night, and besides
getting a little wet, were doing just fine. In fact, we were finally
sailing, which had been a rarity since we had come south of Point
Conception. The next day, the wind got a little flukey, and we had
to motor for a bit. Around 2100, the wind picked up, and Woj
asked me to help him hoist the sails again. I suggested we put a
reef in, because the apparent wind was reporting 15 knots, and I'd
rather not have to get up from my nap again. Woj decided to put
two reefs in. Thank our lucky stars. When I came on watch an hour
later, winds were 30-35 knots NE. Water continuously poured in over
the starboard rail, soaking the cockpit. We were flying along
between 7 and 8 knots. The only way I could sit in the cockpit was
by perching on the windward edge and bracing my feet on the leeward
edge. Basically, I was standing at about a 25 degree angle. The
winds did not let up until we finally got in the lee of land, at
about 1500 the next day.
This is what can happen to stainless in 40 kts
This little cruise was more of a shakedown than any we'd encountered
yet. Our ratio of stuff broken on this voyage, compared to any
other, is about 5:1. But all in all, it was a good experience. We
really cooked, and got into port long before we had expected to. And
it's always a good thing to gain more experience, eh?
We dropped the hook at about 1700 (Mountain Standard Time), picked
up the trashed cabin (cushions, books, clothes, everything had been
thrown topsy turvy), ate dinner and promptly fell asleep at 2000.
The next morning, we woke to a beautiful, sunny day in a calm
anchorage. Friendly locals stopped by in kayaks or pangas (a 25'
open boat) to offer their services, like taking trash to shore, or
bringing us fuel or water. Ah, our first Mexican landfall!
some shots of San Diego and Turtle Bay.
San Diego, CA
November 25, 2004
(Steph) For sentimental reasons, we decided to stay in San Diego for
a few more days. Who wants to be sick at sea on Thanksgiving? The
point is how much you can keep down, not how much you can bring up!
Thanksgiving, for us, was an intimate affair. All we did that day
was cook a little meal for the two of us, so the day actually had
the feel of a holiday. Every day is very similar to previous days,
because we usually do the same kind of thing -- work on a project or
two in the morning, then play or relax in the afternoon. So just
hanging out all day savoring vegan eggnog and squash soup was a nice
Hanging around San Diego for a few more days than expected did pay
off. A boat tied up at the dock that had been down to Cabo San Lucas
at the beginning of the month. After a series of unfortunate
circumstances, the least of which was the crew abandoning ship while
the skipper napped, the skipper decided to give up the cruising
lifestyle he'd adopted for a month. He planned to sell his boat to
the first bidder, but not before letting the cruisers at the Police
Dock scavenge his boat like a pack of wild hyenas. We made out with
a pile of books we had considered buying at some point, but never
did. Their worth paid for the time we'd spent at the Police Docks
for 10 days!
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