Monday, January 24, 2011

WE ARE SUPER BUSY

Yes, almost a year since the last post.  We're running the Cruisers Rally to El Salvador now and spend all our blogging time on that blog so we won't be doing much posting here.  We did spend 8 months last summer in El Salvador, four months of which we lived on the local island running the haul-out facility.  It was a nice change from the boat.  We plan to do the same this summer.  If we get some time we'll post some personal stuff here but come over to the rally blog and see all the work we're doing.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A FAST RIDE DOWN TO EL SALVADOR

At the Britannia Pub - a lot of sheet

We’ve been really busy keeping up with the cruisers rally to El Salvador. We left La Cruz right after Mardi Gras. We had a nice time at the theme party that was held at the Britannia Pub. We fast tracked down to Huatulco stopping only one night in Z-town. We waited for a weather window then made a very fast 4-day trip down to Bahia del Sol.

Dolphins riding the bow wave

Rogelio and Claudia at the bar crossing

Outrunning the surf

Our pilot and the girl they hired as rally hostess greeted us to cross the bar. A few days later more rally boats showed up so the hotel threw an opening day party. The following day we took some folks up the estuary in our dinghies to La Herradura for a day of shopping and beer drinking. We took some nice pictures inside the wood-fired bakery and later watched fishermen unload a panga full of fish. We’ll be here for six months before heading back to La Cruz to promote the rally all over again.

Hotel owner Marco (l), Cluadia, and two boaters

The opening day party at the hotel

Fresh pastries waiting for the oven

Inside the wood-fired oven

A good chance the fish is fresh.

Friday, January 22, 2010

ANOTHER YEAR, WOW, ALREADY?



The Choppers, Mario & Paul

Well sitting here in the La Cruz Marina makes time go by real fast.  We’ve been busy with the Cruisers Rally and the La Cruz music scene.  I had quite a musical birthday this year (well, now last year).  First, I played two sets of classical guitar at a local restaurant.  Afterwords I played at an acoustic jam at another restaurant.  That evening Jean and I and our friends Mandy and Mike from the Britannia Pub went into downtown Puerto Vallarta to the Hard Rock Cafe.  Friends in a local rock band asked me to sit in with my blues harmonica and for Mike to play bass. 


At the Hard Rock Cafe

 
Jammin' at the Hard Rock

 Much later, like 3 am we taxied over to the club Roxy where I again sat in with another band.  We then all got some rooms at the local “sex” motel.  These are places that are very discreet.  


At the Roxy


They even have a revolving cubby where they deliver room service and the delivery person can’t see into the room.  Besides a room service menu they also have a sex toy menu!  Naughty Jean stole the menu as a souvenir.  Mandy and Mike refer to these motels as “have-a-nap” because they rent by the hour with 8 hours the maximum time they allow you.  Mandy likes them because they are always clean, secure, quiet, and cheap with plenty of hot water.  We paid $23 for the eight hours.


At the no-tell motel


Between Christmas and New Year we had a chance to hear Willie and Lobo at a local restaurant.  If you don’t know who they are just look them up on YouTube.  


Willie & Lobo at Hurkuri

We spent New Year at the Britannia Pub where I played until 3 am and we both drank A Lot.  I play a lot at the Britannia and if you’re interested I’ve added a link to them.


Midnight snacks


Bill and Leon


Our only weather excitement after the New Year was a cold front, which dumped a lot of rain and wind on Puerto Vallarta.  The front also spawned a waterspout, very unusual for this area.


Rain dampens the fleet in La Cruz


Our little waterspout

Now we are just doing maintenance on the boat and expect to leave for El Salvador the middle of February












Tuesday, September 22, 2009

CRUISERS RALLY TO EL SALVADOR PLANNED

Google Earth view of Bahia del Sol

A day in the bocana


The El Salvador Minister of Tourism and Hotel Bahia del Sol has authorized Jean and I to develop a cruisers rally to be held in the Spring of 2010. It is free to enter and a lot of gifts and prizes will be given away at the end at the big cruisers party. We have a rally blog so just click on the blog list on the right to go to the site. We are very excited about helping with this event. A lot of long-time cruisers in Mexico are looking for a change but do not want to comit to a long distance cruise which makes El Salvador the perfect destination. It is only 450 miles ( 1/2 Baja Ha Ha) from Huatulco and 1250 miles (Baja Ha Ha plus) from Puerto Vallarta. We hope to have a lot of friends join us this next spring and we are looking forward to meeting a lot of new cruisers at the rally. Please help us by telling any of your cruising friends who may be interested.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

OUR LITTLE HURRICANE

video
Here on the Baja August and September are the months for hurricanes and this September was no exception. We were anchored on the south side of Isla San Marcos when the word was passed on the HF net that the category 5 hurricane, Jimena had formed south of Cabo San Lucas and the forecasted track took it north along the Baja coast uncomfortably close to our location and was due to arrive in four days.

We previously decided that if a hurricane threatened that we would ride it out in Playa Santa Barbara located in Bahia Conception where, in 2001, we successfully rode out hurricane Juliet. When we arrived in Santa Barbara four boats, (2 sail and 2 power) were already there getting ready to deploy their storm gear. We moved into 12 feet of water one hundred yards off the beach and dropped our arsenal. We also prepared our big 44-pound claw anchor with chain and rode to throw overboard should we get into trouble. We added two long 5/8” nylon snubbers to the main anchor, stripped the boat of sails, and tied down everything. Jean marked our position on two GPS units and set them up so we knew the exact distance to our anchor.

At 0800, September 2 Jimena arrived with short, 60-knot gusts and plenty of rain. Because we anchored so close to the beach there was no fetch to allow wind waves to build up. The wind remained in the sixties for a couple of hours and we thought that it was going to be over quickly. What we didn’t know was Jimena, which was previously forecasted to bounce off of Magdalena Bay on the outside of the Baja 140 miles away had changed her mind and turned inland coming over the Baja to our location. By 1100 the wind started to strengthen and much longer gusts were well over 70 to 80-knots. The wind picked up the sea surface and turned it to fog and we started to experience complete whiteouts. The rain and wind made so much noise that we couldn’t hear each other 3 feet away; in fact the wind drove the rainwater right through the canvas dodger! Up until this time our boat was behaving normally, slewing side to side about 30-degrees from each gust. However, with the increased wind strength the boat slew 90-degrees to each side and remained that way long enough so we would be broad side for the next gust. When the wind is blowing in the sixties the wind force hitting the boat is around 3,600 pounds for our size boat. At 100-knots the force is greater than 9,000 pounds. It’s like getting hit with two fully loaded Hummers … broadside! Five hours later, at 1300 the wind was consistently 100-knots, the air a mixture of salt and rainwater and the sea had so much air mixed in it that the depth sounder would not read. After a few hours I had to go forward wearing my swim mask to check the snubbers. The rain hitting my head felt like flying gravel and I had to hold onto the boat to keep from going overboard. I saw that the main snubber had parted and we were riding on the back-up so I made two new ones and attached them thinking that they may only last a couple of hours. A short while later Jean was watching the GPS and, to her horror, saw we were dragging … fast! I put my swim mask back on and ran forward to see if the snubbers had parted (and they hadn’t) then ran back and had Jean start the engine. Then I returned forward and heaved the emergency anchor off the port bow. I was worried about how much rode to let out, as I didn’t want to foul with the main anchor. In the end I just guessed and tied it off then ran back to the cockpit.

I could only catch glimpses of the other boats so Jean kept track of them and their anchor floats and told me which way to turn to avoid hitting them. I couldn’t take my mind off of steering the boat for even one second or we would be out of control. The set of dragging anchors kept the bow pointing somewhat upwind so I could use the engine to shear the boat left or right as needed although I had to use full power to do it. Without the anchors we would have been unable to control the boat except for to head downwind, probably onto the beach. We dragged 720 feet straight downwind and the anchors caught in 28-feet of water. It appeared that we were not moving but didn’t know how well the anchors were set. We decided to keep using the engine to take the load off the anchors. Around 1900 the wind diminished to around 50-knots and our GPS confirmed that we hadn’t moved in a few hours so we cut the engine and rested between the remaining gusts. It was pretty much over by 0300 the next morning but we were still getting 25-knot plus gusts. We had no significant damage to our boat or psyches but we almost ran out of beer and I thought that we might have to set off our Beer-PIRB.
Jimena packed 100-knots of wind and dumped over 15 inches of rain on the Baja. The lowest barometer reading was 991mb, the temperature fell from 94 degrees to 72 and the hurricane lasted 16 hours.

The local towns of Mulege and Santa Rosalia (where we often stay) were devastated by the hurricane. The towns were flooded by many feet of water. Roofs were lost, whole houses disappeared and everything was covered with mud and boulders. All services were out and the main highway was closed due to flooding and damage. The main bridge south of Santa Rosalia was destroyed.

We were surprised to witness the fast rescue response from the Mexican government. Military and service vehicles were on the road as soon as the weather passed. We think FEMA could learn a few things from these folks!














Friday, June 26, 2009

Mea Culpa

Our friends and the music scene in La Cruz













Yeah, it's been a while since our last update. So ...we spent all spring of this year in La Cruz just hanging out playing music and visiting with all our friends. Our local friends, Sandra and Tito, whom we’ve known for ten years opened a taco stand so we made sure that we went there for dinner a few times a week. The tacos are only nine pesos, about 65 cents each. They’re so big that three is plenty for dinner. Bill played blues harmonica with a local band every Wednesday night and played blues guitar every Tuesday at an open mic.

The exchange rate for the peso jumped up to 15.50, a 50% increase from last year so we decided to buy a new outboard. We chose a 9.9 hp Mercury two-cycle and paid only $2450 US. In addition, it was delivered right to the dinghy dock at the marina. It is quite a change from our 5 hp Mercury. We can cruise at 16 knots and plane three adults.
The marina at La Cruz is mostly finished and they have hired some new management. The old management made a lot of public relations mistakes which caused a lot of cruisers to avoid the marina. Now, they have a free dinghy dock, garbage collection, fuel dock, (without services charges) and are offering reduced and special slip rates. A nice change from last season when they were charging $10 US for the dinghy dock.

We left La Cruz bound for La Paz in early May. When we arrived we received an email that Bills mother had a stroke so we booked a flight to Tijuana and picked up a car in San Diego and drove to San Francisco. Bills’ entire family came to be with her. The whole family has not been together for over 20 years. She is now recuperating in a rehabilitation center in Vallejo so we returned to the boat a week later. It’s been a long time since we were in the States. We were surprised how expensive everything has become.

After returning to La Paz we day sailed up to Santa Rosalia where Jean could take the bus up to San Diego to pick up our 9 year-old granddaughter, Courtney, to spend a month with us. Our engine fresh water pump failed just outside Rosalia so she also had to bring back a new pump. We sailed out to our favorite island, San Marcos, and spent a nice week snorkeling and towing Courtney behind the dinghy on our new inner tube thingy. On our way back, wouldn’t you know it, the engine heat exchanger corroded through so now Jean has to bus back up to San Diego and pick up a replacement. Our list of failures continues to grow and grow! Some more things that didn’t make the previous list:

** Toshiba computer eats its’ system board
** Kodak digital camera fails
** Wind point isn’t pointing
** Bar-b-que falls off the stern rail
** Switch for GPS falls to pieces
** Engine thermostat fails
** Engine fresh water pump fails
** Heat exchanger fails
** Dinghy foot pump stops pumping
** Water maker membrane fails (makes salt water out of salt water)
** Storage bags for inflatable kayaks fall apart
** Zipper for dodger falls apart
** One fire extinguisher goes off accidentally (kind of messy)
** Three hand rails have cracked welds
** A solar light falls overboard
** Water maker motor fills with water and corrodes

Well, after ten years of hard cruising things do wear out, (but all at once? )

We plan on spending the forth-of-July down in Bahia Conception where they have a gathering of boats for a day-long eat-drink-swim-sunburn-party event. One of the local ex-pats supplies all the hot dogs and everyone else fills in what is needed. OK I'll try and update a little more often.....

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

HOLY CRAP ! (pt 2)

After a great month in La Cruz we flew back to El Salvador to haul the boat and repair the broken rudder. After hauling out at Island Marine which is owned by our friends Colette and Murray, we found that ten inches missing from the back of the rudder and a foot missing off the bottom. Murray welded a reinforcing structure made from 3/8” steel to the now exposed old one. We covered the whole thing with close-cell foam and after shaping the foam wrapped it in many layers of fiberglass and resin and reinstalled it. All in just three days. We decided to stick around to watch Super bowl with our friends Bill and Alice aboard Grey Wolf. We had a great party and were joined by the other cruisers in the anchorage. Before leaving we purchased another solar panel from a friend on another boat so we now have over 400 watts of solar power. We checked the weather for the Tehuantepec and the forecast was for a gale about the time we were to arrive there. The Bay of Tehuantepec is located between Northern Guatemala and Southern Mexico and is notorious for extremely dangerous winds blowing from the shore out to sea creating huge seas just a mile or so from land but, if you transit along the shore in 30 feet of water it is quite safe as you are protected from the seas so we felt that we would be right next to the land by time we arrive there two or three days later. A few years back we did the same thing in a 40-knot gale so we weren’t worried. We transited the bar along with Grey Wolf and once clear we turned opposite directions. Grey Wolf was headed south and we north. Just an hour or so later we picked up a nice wind coming off the shore and sailed parallel to the land on our way to Guatemala. We hoped that it was a good sign that we would arrive in Mexico with much of our fuel still onboard. We paralleled the shore until we had to move out to five miles go around a point. By midnight we were pushed out to seven miles, farther than we liked but the wind was slowly dying so we set a course to angle us back near shore over the next six hours. Shortly after midnight the wind all but stopped so I started the engine and motor sailed with the staysail and double-reefed main still up. Yup. Holy Crap time. The wind came up to 50 knots in an instant and I had to turn the boat down wind to take the pressure off the sails so I could take them down. I yelled Jean awake and she came up to steer the boat while I dowsed the sails. By the time the sails were down the seas had built to over 12 feet and very short duration. We started the engine and turned up wind but the wind and seas were so strong that the closest we could motor to the wind was 45 degrees and we had to use full throttle to do it. We had to hand steer to keep the boat from accidentally tacking through the wind and heading us out to sea where the seas were bound to be much larger. This is the first time in 10 years that the autopilot failed to steer the boat. By now we were out 12 miles and making only one knot towards land. We took a lot of green water over the bow and got soaked in our, until now, dry cockpit. It took a lot of concentration to keep the boat on course. If I took a moment to check our progress on the GPS we went way off course and took a long time to come back. Jean and I both felt a little sea sick because of how rough it was and from the adrenalin. It took us 12 hours to make the 12 miles back to shore and we were both toasted. We stayed less than ½ mile from the beach still with lots of wind and decided to pull into Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala to take refuge from the weather. Everyone has been warned that Quetzal should be avoided due to the cost of the marina, (no anchoring allowed) and the governmental costs but we had no choice. For our two-day stay it was over $350. We arrived near dusk and were happy to be out of the weather. The following morning we discovered that the mainsail was completely shredded so we removed it and left it in the garbage. Also, we found that the huge seas had damaged part of the planking on our bowsprit platform and we had wrapped a 10-foot line around the prop. To add insult to injury, the surge at the marina was so strong that we ruined a set of dock lines in two days. Well, two days later the wind stopped and we motored out of Puerto $$ and motored all the way to the marina in Huatulco, Mexico all the time staying very close to shore. Oh yeah, we’re chickens now!
In Huatulco we met up with our long-time friends Alan and Margaret aboard Effie. They were planning on going to Bahia del Sol where we had just left. We also made some new friends in the marina and handed out some information on El Salvador. We loaded up on fuel and a week later headed out for La Cruz. It was a total motorboat ride. We stopped overnight in Zihuatenejo and Chamela just so we could get relief from the sound of the engine. We arrive in La Cruz at 3am and anchored as soon as we found 30 feet of water. Later that night we went to a Mardi gras party at the Britannia Restaurant and I played with the band until 2 am and, unfortunately, had way too many Jack on the rocks and tequila shots. So, here we are back home in La Cruz among our many friends and with lots of opportunity to play music. Oh, and we gotta fix a lot of things too.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

SPENDING CHRISTMAS IN LA CRUZ




Even with all our problem with the boat we are still having a good time here in La Cruz, Mexico. I’ve been able to play music with many of my old friends at Anna Banana’s, Britannia and Philo’s. I am playing some classical guitar sets at Anna’s on Christmas Day. I’ll be opening for a Flamenco guitar group and then play the closing set. New Years Eve I’ll be filling in with my blues harp with the band at the Britannia Pub. There is plenty of music to keep me busy.We rented a nice studio room near the marina for only $300/month complete with Internet and cable TV. On Christmas Eve we are giving a talk on cruising El Salvador hoping to excite more people into sailing there. Jean and I hope everyone has a nice Christmas and New Year. We’ll be flying back to El Salvador on Jan 8, 2009.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

YOU THINK YOUR HAVING A BAD DAY?

Yes, Holy C.R.A.P!!!! We departed Ecuador in late October bound for Panama City. We found ourselves with a great South wind giving us a nice downwind sail to Panama but, after three days the wind changed to coming right out of Panama City so it was the beginning of an uphill slog. The wind quickly went from 10 to 20 to 25 knots in just a few hours and the seas became those short, nasty 4 to 5 footers with foamy tops right on the forward port quarter. It became a really, really rough ride. Probably the roughest we’ve had in ten years of sailing. It was so rough that things were flying out of the cabinets and even our abandon ship bucket flew across the cabin setting off our EPIRB stowed inside. We know that happened because we received a frantic email from my brother asking where we were as he just received a call from Hawaii Coast Guard! The EPIRB didn’t go off long enough to get a location only identification. We couldn’t make any tacks because with the combination of seas, wind and current our tack angle was 150 degrees which gave us a choice of sailing towards Hawaii or Columbia so, we had to motor right into it. After two days of getting beat up we decided to seek refuge in the Perlas Islands, 40 miles from Panama City. The anchorage we chose gave us complete shelter from the harsh winds. As we motored slowly into the anchorage we freed our vacuum packed anchor chain and when we were in position we put the engine in neutral and dropped the anchor. When Jean went to back down on the anchor…. No back down! No transmission! No nada! C.R.A.P! So, we decide that we will sail out of the anchorage at midnight when the tide and current would be in our favor. We left at midnight and took 26 hours and ten tacks to go 28 miles when, at 2am we decided that we would just sail into 30 feet of water and drop the anchor and continue in the morning. Later that morning we tug-boated the last 8 miles into Panama City. We had repair parts shipped down and after two weeks we had things going and headed to El Salvador for fuel and a little rest. Six days later we were at the bar crossing just after high tide. Since I helped pilot over 30 boats across the bar earlier this year I just decided to come in across the same old waypoints. OOPS! The entrance had moved west a little so we bounced on the bottom a few time but the waves lifted us off and we made it OK just in time for Thanksgiving dinner at the hotel.
So, why the Holy CRAP? Since we left Ecuador we’ve had a huge series of failures and problems. Get this:
1 The EPIRB goes off.
2 The hatch in the head starts leaking and soaks everything on the other side of the boat.
3 The propane fitting on the back of the stove cracks and leaks out half a tank of propane.
4 The bulkhead in the head collapses due to dry rot.
5 Transmission thrust plate explodes.
6 Engine raw water pump seal fails.
7 Engine overheats.
8 A vent cap comes off a diesel can on deck and spill diesel on deck.
9 Water maker belt comes off.
10 Water maker High pressure hose comes loose and soaks everything in the water maker room.
11 The high pressure head on the water maker starts to leak.
12 Bimini top tears due to UV degrading.
13 Snap shackle for jib falls overboard due to rust.
14 Propane locker cracks and lets water run inside the boat soaking the carpets.
15 Loose the gas funnel overboard.
16 I need an operation on my big toe in Panama City.
17 Second reef block on boom explodes when putting in reef.
18 Loose the main halyard up the mast.
19 Handle comes off the door to the head.
20 Fresh water pressure pump fails.
21 Hot water pressure relief valve fails and dumps fresh water into bilge.
22 Hand bilge pump diaphragm fails.
23 Circuit breaker for autopilot fails.
HEY, I’m not making this stuff up!!!!
24 Alternator belts comes loose.
25 Diaphragm fails in dinghy air pump.
26 Dinghy gets an air leak.
27 Radar reflector falls off.
28 Stern light fails.
29 Big tear in mainsail
30 One of the computers fails
31 Main fuel bladder develops a leak
32 Rudder cracks in half vertically from bouncing over the bar.

Yeah, that last one is the showstopper. We were supposed to be in Puerto Vallarta before Christmas because I was doing a classical guitar recital on Christmas Day. But, we are here now for a few weeks because we can’t get hauled out until we get a really high tide (around Christmas time). Luckily, we love El Salvador so we can make the best of it.

So, if you think you are having a hard time just read this, you’ll feel a lot better.

Friday, October 10, 2008

AND THE ADVENTURE CONTINUES ....




While in Cusco we booked a one-day It turned out to be a dawn-to-dusk day) tour of the lost Inca city ruins at Machu Picchu. The
tour included the train ride up to the town of Agua Caliente,
located at the foot of Machu Picchu and the bus rides in between as well as an English speaking guide at the ruins. The train to Machu Picchu was delayed for over an hour due to a forest fire next to the tracks. When we got off the train in Agua Caliente there were hundreds of tourists looking for their guide groups. We had to find the gal with the orange flag. Once the guide had all her sheep we loaded on the bus for the 45 minute ride up the mountain to the ruins. The ruins are unbelievable having only been discovered in the early 1900’s. There is very little re-construction so it is pretty much as it was centuries ago. We wandered away from our tour group and I played my blues harp inside one of the buildings just so I could say I did so. Some people spend a few days at Machu Picchu but, we were toured out so we returned to Cusco late that evening.



One more day in Cusco had us taking the double-decker, four-hour city tour bus around Cusco and walking around the central plaza, Plaza de Armas. As it turns out, most large cities have a plaza with the same name. The next day Jean booked us a flight from Cusco back to Lima. She was tired of buses, trains, automobiles, etc. In Lima we again hooked up with friends and we taxied into central Lima to visit the oldest Chinatown in South America. We were happy to find Chinese Roast Duck hanging in the store windows so we purchased one to take back to the hotel. However, we were very disappointed to find that the taste wasn’t even close to what we are used to. After a long afternoon we said our good bys and early the next morning (again early) we hopped a flight back to Guayaquil and a couple of days later we bused back to our boat.