Saturday, April 21, 2012

Northbound: Turtle Bay to Ensenada

Passage from Turtle Bay to Ensenada

After spending more than a week in Turtle Bay, we finally got our weather window to make our way north to Ensenada.  What should have been a pretty simple two night passage turned into a 4night, 5 day adventure.  Departing Turtle Bay we were accompanied by thousands of flies (wonderful, huh!).  They stayed with us for most of our first day until we sailed further away from land.  The swells were pretty big from all of the previous week's weather, but Pearl handled them without a problem.  Once we were close to Cedros Island, we put out our fishing lines.  It wasn't long before we had a fish on.  Woohoo!  Just as Bob was beginning the filleting process, we got a radio call from our friends on S/V Kwanesum.  They reported 21-28 kt winds up ahead.  So...the fish fillet fest was delayed and the reefing of the sails took precedence.    We had a good sail for a couple of hours and then the wind switched to blowing right on our nose.  On went the engine.  Everything was going fine (but painstakingly slow), and the winds began to subside, until we snagged a fishing net in the late hours of the second night.  It must of been the mother of all nets because it slowed us down to barely a crawl and left quite a mark on our rudder post.  Fortunately, the way our keel is designed and the placement of our prop enabled us to shed the net quite easily.  Thinking we were in the clear, we motored northward.  A few hours after the "net" incident, Bob began hearing a strange noise coming from the engine.  Upon investigation, he realized our engine coolant pump was about to fail.  We quickly turned the engine off and tried our best to continue sailing.  Unfortunately, there was absolutely no wind and we were carried backwards by the current (in a beautiful looping pattern that resembled something from an ice skater!).  Thankfully, within a few hours our wind returned and we were able to make some progress to our destination.  The entire time, the wind was on our nose which forced us to sail an extreme zig-zag pattern (at an average speed of 3knots thanks to bashing waves and current).  Our winds remained about 8-16kts until the next day when they piped up to 20-25kts.  We were healing like crazy and still only averaging 4 kts of speed (every time we hit a wave the speed would drop to nil).  It wasn't until the last couple of hours that we were zooming along at 7-9kts.  To get to Ensenada from the point our engine failed, it took us 57 hours to sail approx. 90 miles.
We were all exhausted by the time we arrived in Ensenada!


We decided to have the boat hauled out here and bottom work done because the prices are so much more affordable than back home.  The boat yard is great compared to other yards.  There's Internet, nice showers and bathrooms, and affordable eating around town.  By the end of our stay here we will all have gained at least 5 lbs. from all the fish tacos!
Pearl is so ready for a little tlc!
We couldn't hear their conversation, but we think it went something like this:
Salty: "Hey, nice spots man."
Shorty:  "I'm your faaaaather"
Salty:  "Uhhhhhhm."
Shorty:  "Why do you look so disappointed?  You come from a great line of warrior chihuahuas."
Salty:  "But who is my mother?"
Shorty "It's hard to keep track for a stud like me!"

"Gringo Gulch" in Ensenada

Pearl gets a new transom paint job (notice the cheap beer theme).

Pearl on her way back to the water (4/19/2012).  Notice our new Mexican courtesy flag...  Viva La Mexico!

As can be seen, we are now back in the water (yippeee).  Baja Naval boatyard did a fantastic job on Pearl.  They worked with all our "over the shoulder harassment" and it came out cheaper than expected!  We are now awaiting our *#*+^*ing engine part to arrive so we can get to San Diego.  We are hoping to leave Wednesday, April 25.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Los Frailes to Turtle Bay

Passage to Los Frailes            
Our initial plan was to sail up to Chacala, anchor for a short night of sleep, and head out again the next morning.  Once out on the ocean, we saw the conditions were perfect for a crossing, so we skipped Chacala and kept going to Los Frailes.  It took about 2.5 days to get there.  Along the way we were entertained with dolphins swimming alongside, whales fluking and breeching completely out of the water, eagle rays jumping and flipping, and turtles floating everywhere.
A typical day on passage in Mexico.  Sydney's reading, Annie's playing, Salty is on watch, and Bob is at the helm.
Los Frailes
Los Frailes was beautiful.  We were very sad to not be sailing north into the Sea of Cortez.  The sand is crystal white here, the water so clear.  Oh well, I guess we’ll have to come back!
Beautiful Los Frailes

The jagged granite hill at Los Frailes is very impressive.
Passage to Turtle Bay
When our weather window opened, we were off again, this time south to San Jose del Cabo for a quick night of rest and refueling, and then around Cabo San Lucas and North to Turtle Bay.  On the third day of our passage the fish started biting.  Using cedar plugs and rapalas, we were catching Bonita faster than we could fillet them, often two at a time, and ended up releasing a couple because we didn’t need any more.  This did not stop them.  We could still see them trailing us in our wake in the crystal clear waters.  Ravenous little buggers with sharp teeth! 
The passage ended up taking us 3.5 days.  We were pretty tired by the time we arrived in Turtle Bay so we snored the day away.
Bob's prize catch

Once we got to Turtle Bay, Salty made sure the dinghy wasn't going anywhere without him.

On our passage to Turtle Bay it was a bit overcast, but truly beautiful.
Turtle Bay 
There’s not a whole lot going on in Bahia Tortugas (it’s a dusty little fishing village).  We weren’t planning on spending much time here, but the weather just was not cooperating.
The view of Turtle Bay from the church courtyard.

One of the local tiendas in town.

Shari with our friend and laundry lady, Dolores, along with her grandson.  The people here blew us away with their kindness.

A few times a week a supply boat (from remote villages) comes into the bay and the locals fill their pangas with massive amounts of goods to take out to it at anchor.  This panga shown has permenantly mounted wheels to make launching and beaching easier.  Bob was trying to help the locals get this panga over a rock.  Luckily they never spilled a box in all the craziness.

The lovely dock at Turtle Bay.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Northbound: Chamela to Banderas Bay

Our passage north to Chamela was uneventful and beautiful.  We ended up staying in Chamela Bay for 3 days to wait out strong winds coming from the North.  While in this beautiful little bay, we weren’t able to spend too much time on shore due to strong winds funneling into the bay (we were a little nervous about our anchor dragging again).  Bob, being the stud that he is, never let the winds and waves stop him from taking Salty to shore. 
  I think every cruiser has a good dinghy beach landing story and we now have one too, thanks to this bay.  Actually, we were departing the beach (landing is the easy  part!), thinking we had waited for the opportune moment, and piled Salty in the dinghy along with all our groceries from town and the two of us (Bob and Shari).  Bob was just getting the motor down when I saw a very large swell coming towards us.  Before we knew it, our dinghy was heading skyward, but luckily didn’t flip.  A big ol’ foaming wave crashed on us, filling the boat nearly to the top with water and sweeping our crazy Salty dog overboard.  Looking around, all of our groceries were floating in the dinghy, Salty was swimming back to the dinghy and another wave was coming towards us.  Bob floored the dinghy and got us past the break and Salty swam out to us.  We were drenched and laughing our heads off!  What a ride!
The beautiful beachfront of Chamela Bay (of coarse it looks as calm as a kiddy pool!)

Banderas Bay
Our window of opportunity opened for us to sail North to Banderas Bay, so off we went.  We had a wonderful trip.  The stars were out at night, the seas were calm as well as the wind.  Once we made it around Cabo Corrientes and began our entrance into Banderas Bay, the phosphorescence lit up the ocean.  The most spectacular sight was the dolphins swimming along with us.  They were so amazingly clear to see in the middle of the night due to the phosphorescence.  Their tails left  brush strokes of bright aqua green behind them.   It was as if glowing ghosts were guiding our way in.  There were whales everywhere, so I was happy to have our motor running as to warn these mammoths of our presence.

We pulled into La Cruz in the wee morning hours.  It felt good to be back.  We cleaned Pearl up, filled up her water tanks, reprovisioned, visited with friends and readied ourselves for visitors.  Our great friends from Seattle, the Brosius Family (sv Ghost), came to visit us at Paradise Village in Nuevo Vallarta.  We had such a great time with them.  We even got some sailing in, along with whale watching-of course!  Their visit was much too short and just when we were settling in, they had to leave.  We spent one extra day at Paradise Village Marina to celebrate Annie’s 10th birthday.  We celebrated by swimming In the pool, playing bocce ball, and eating lots of cake.
Annie, Ellie, and Zak having a blast swimming off the boat in Banderas Bay

We had the most amazing pleasure to witness the cruising acrobats while staying at Paradise Village Marina.  If only Bob or I could aquire this skill to climb our rigging!

Ang enjoying her much deserved pina colada at Paradise Village.

Shari getting a little smooch from one of the locals.

Bob and the girls had a blast playing pool volleyball on Annie's birthday.

Happy 10th Birthday sweet Annie!
Back to La Cruz we went after that.  We were so happy to see our friends from Endeavor and Harmony had arrived there also.  We all took a taxi into Sayulita to have a “tourist” day.  We had such a good day (and so did the beach vendors!). Our time in Mexico was dwindling so we knew we had to be ready to cross over to Baja when the weather looked good.  Our friends on Endeavor and Harmony, being the great people that they are, made sure to send us off with a hangover.  (There’s always trouble when Evil Uncle Terry and Rick are around!)

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Barra de Navidad through Tenacatita

Barra de Navidad, Mexico
We spent quite a bit of time in Barra.  It’s a great place to hook up with other cruisers.  There are so many great restaurants here. We only wish we had unlimited funds to try them all!  When we first arrived we were greeted with thousands (no lie) of dead fish floating in the water.  Yummy!  Let’s just say we weren’t too excited to eat fish right away.  We’re still not sure what caused it, but luckily it began to subside within a week.  That’s when all the vultures and pelicans showed up.  It actually was truly fascinating.  We had a chance to enjoy some delicious baked goods from the infamous French Baker of Barra.  We spent many an afternoon at the Sands Hotel swimming in the pool and trying to get decent internet (to no avail, most of the time).  We also were able to spend more time with our friends on Endeavor, Harmony, Third Day, and Jace.  We also celebrated Bob’s birthday while here.  He’s 39 (again)!  We enjoyed a mellow day in town and quite evening on the boat.  One of our favorite things to do here in Mexico is jump off the boat into the clear, warm water.  There’s none of that in Barra, so we sailed over to a little bay north named, Cuastecomate.
Salty found cool refreshment at the Sands in Barra.

Our coffee connection in Barra.

French Baker delivering the goods in the lagoon.

Pelicanfest 2012

Bob's favorite passtime

Cuastecomate and Barra (again)
We enjoyed the slower pace of this tiny village along with the clearer water.  We were able to do some minor sail repair on our head sail while anchored here.  We were quite content with this little bay, but alas, the Super Bowl was upon us and the closest viewing option for the game was in Barra, so back we went to the lagoon.  One thing that is so nice about spending a lot of time in one place, you get to know the lay of the land.  We now had our favorite carniceria (butcher), tienda (store),  and lavanderia (laundry lady).  We were even able to do a little birthday shopping for the girls’ upcoming b’days.

Our family "minivan" while on cruise

Sail repair in Cuastecomate

Post sail repair palapa relaxation time

By this time we were itching to get back north to Tenacatita Bay.  We love swimming here and playing on the beach.  We left Barra mid morning hoping to avoid strong head winds that were forecasted for later that day.  Well, we obviously had become a bit complacent and too comfortable with the fantastic weather, because we got a nice butt whooping on the way to Tenacatita.  Luckily it only lasted for about 4 hours before we were safely in the lee of Tenacatita Bay.  We spent a few days basking in the sun, swimming, playing smashball on the beach, as well as volleyball with the other cruisers, enjoying beers at the local palapa, and most importantly, celebrating Sydney’s 13th birthday (Her wish was to go horseback riding on the beach and that’s exactly what she got to do!).  The weather began to cool down after that and the wind piped up; So much so that we dragged anchor!  Curses CQR anchor!  After going for an unexpected sail, we re-anchored in the bay and tried to relax.  The wind died down but left us with copious amounts of rain (we collected 65 gallons of fresh water in less than one day!).  It took a few days for the weather to clear, but when it did, it left the bay with sparkling, clear water.  We were able to do some much needed cleaning of the hull and luckily the water was clear enough for us to see what we were doing.  We also had a mother and calf humbacks visit us in the anchorage!
Before long we began to run out of propane and since no one on this boat likes to eat all cold food, we had to head back to Barra, again, to fill the propane.  Once we got that accomplished it was time to start heading north with stops at Tenacatita and Chamela. 

Our birthday girl...Happy 13th!

On the trail in Tenacatita

Even bad weather in Mexico is beautiful

Whales, whales, everywhere!
Some of our most memorable experiences while sailing along this coast have been the amount of Humpback whales we have been in close proximity to.  I can’t begin to tell you what a rush it is to have this enormous creature suddenly appear next to us.  We literally did not have a day of sailing where we were not close if not VERY close to these beautiful creatures.  We had heard that many cruisers see whales along this coast, but good grief, they were everywhere!  So often that we had to change coarse as to not hit them.  Crazy, huh?! 
Mother and calf humpbacks visited us in Tenacatita Bay

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Snagged Anchor Chain, Bob’s Crabs, Earthquake, and Salty’s Wet Dream

     Our stay in Santiago Bay turned out to be quite entertaining (for some of us).  Our cruising life has slowed down since reaching the most southern point of our journey in Manzanillo and our schedule for travel has eased as we start to move northwest along the coast.  Santiago Bay is a large bay and the primary anchorage is in the northwest corner off of Playa la Boquita, a beach with local palapa restaurants that fill the shoreline with large beach umbrellas.
We anchored near shore in this docile bay along with 5 other boats and settled into our routine of home schooling, provisioning, beach exploring, dog walking, socializing, and our nightly movie.  On our second evening there, we heard a grinding noise and a tug on the boat after finishing our movie.  Shari and I ran on deck to see if anything had run into us or if our keel had struck something rising from the bottom in the shallow, 18 foot deep anchorage.  After much investigation with flashlights, we determined that the anchor chain had fouled on something on the sea bed and we were unable to pull it free.  Since it was late at night and the weather was calm, we decided to let out more anchor rode and I would dive on the anchor in the morning.
The next day, I put on the snorkel gear and jumped into the 79 degree water.  The visibility was only about 10 feet so I had to pull myself down the anchor chain in order to see the bottom.  I had some problems clearing my ears as I descended and the fish were so thick that they often covered the bottom from view.  After a few dives I could see that the chain had wrapped itself around what looked like concrete debris as the boat had drifted back and forth with the winds and currents.  We were able to get free and re-anchored Pearl a short distance away.
Since I was already wet, I decided to do some bottom cleaning of the boat because growth happens very quickly on the underside of a vessel in these warm waters.  I spent over an hour scraping away barnacles and slime from below the waterline.  When I climbed back aboard, I felt a tickling sensation around my waist and as I pulled open the waistline of my shorts, I was shocked to see hundreds of tiny, miniscule crabs crawling around my waist.  To say it was entertaining to watch me jumping, shaking, and brushing away these little invaders would be putting it lightly.  These little aliens were in my hair, in my shorts, and between my toes, but, luckily, weren’t too interested in staying with me once I was out of the water and were quickly shaken, danced, and jiggled free.  I can’t help but still feel itchy just thinking about it.
Later that afternoon, we took the girls in the dinghy to shore and caught a bus into the town of Santiago to do some provisioning and have our laundry done.  All day my sinuses had bothered me and my ears kept popping from diving on the anchor chain earlier that day (or so I thought).  We had lunch and did some shopping at the local market (think of an enclosed farmers market, filling an entire city block) and I still felt my ears popping so I did the public finger ear dig and to my surprise, out of my ear crawls a tiny crab!  Now I’m totally grossed out but I’m really happy that my right ear no longer has a shuffling sound inside it.  The kids screamed when I told them what happened, so I got some joy from it after all.
Not long after my alien extrusion, while still in the market, I was in a shop with the girls looking at the many cheap DVDs for sale.  Suddenly we all felt a low rumble for about 3 seconds followed immediately by a loud and forceful crashing sound and the entire building began to sway around us.  It gave the feeling that a large dump truck had just crashed into the market.  I yelled to the girls to get out of that concrete building and by the time we made it the short distance outside, all the movement had stopped.  Everyone who had exited into the street waited a short time, made eye contact with one another, nodded and went right back to their shopping.  One local told us that these quakes are very common and seldom damage anything.
Well, I know one local that got a little stirred up at the event, because just a few minutes later, I felt something shuffling in my left ear and out comes another miniature crustacean.  Now all I want to do is get back to the boat and pour hydrogen peroxide in my ears and take a long shower.  Nope, the 3 females I am with have more shopping to do, so I try to grin and bear it and to not complain.
By the time this shopping trip from hell was done, I had removed 3 intruders from my ears, managed to keep myself from throwing up, and was ready for some hard liquor (I would have settled for just pouring it into my ears).  I don’t plan on cleaning the boat in murky water ever again!
When we arrived back to Pearl, it was time to take Salty for his evening walk on the beach.  It was a little early in the day for the final walk, but we figured he would be able to hold anything in until morning if we didn’t let him drink too much water.  When I arrived back to the boat with him, he jumped on the boat, straight to his full water bowl, and drank the whole thing while I was securing the dinghy for the night.  OK, I know who’s going to wake me up early the next morning.
So I’m not too surprised when I am woken up at 2 a.m. to a piddling sound.  Of course, it’s Salty relieving his bladder.  The only problem is, he is still sound asleep, lying on his back in his bed.  Suddenly he woke, realized what was happening, jolts out of bed like a shot from a gun, and anxiously waits to be let out of the boat to finish his job on deck.  Shari quickly helps him up the ladder way and he runs to the foredeck to complete his mission right next to Annie’s open hatch.  Annie had no idea how close she came to getting rained on.
We shrugged it off, cleaned up the messes, and crawled back into bed to get ready for another typical day of cruising and living the high life.

Las Hadas, Manzanillo

We zipped down to Las Hadas to spend time with our friends on Andiamo III before they headed south to El Salvador.  Las Hadas is the resort from the movie "10" and a great anchorage in Manzanillo.  We enjoyed the resort amenities with our friends from Andiamo, Endeavor, Harmony, Serendipity, and Taking Flight.

Our favorite activity was ziplining up in the nearby mountains.  What a blast!

Chamela and Tenacatita

     We departed La Cruz in the early evening of the 4th headed for Chamela.  On our way out of  Banderas Bay we encountered whales literally surrounding us.  It was truly amazing.  Thankfully our passage to Chamela was uneventful and we arrived before noon on the 5th.  The water there was clear, clean, and warm-yippee!  We all enjoyed swimming in the beautiful bay.  The beach was lined with palapas and warm sand.  Salty entertained us with his “freedom to roam dance”.  Salty + open sandy beach + ocean = one happy dog!  We were able to do some boogie boarding there too.  Knowing that we would be to this beautiful anchorage on our way back north, we only stayed for a couple of nights before making our way to Tenacatita.
Chamela beach

     We really enjoyed Tenacatita.  There was an easy dinghy landing at the beach, which is always appreciated!  There was so much to do here; Swimming, snorkeling, beachcombing, dinghy estuary tour (crocodile hunting!), etc.
Estuary tour:  We managed to find 1 crocodile!

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle (December 2011)

We arrived in Banderas Bay in early December and proceeded directly to La Cruz de Huanacaztle where we anchored among about 35 other boats.  We felt right at home here since there were 3 other boats from our marina in Olympia and many other friends whom we had met along the way.  Our plan was to stay in the bay through Christmas then continue south as far as Manzanillo before we have to turn around and start working our way north toward the Sea of Cortez again.
Brother Gene and Bob making up lost time
     The girls were overjoyed (as were we) to spend time with our friends from Andiamo III, who have been here for over a year!  The town is a wonderful beachside community with cobblestone streets, friendly people, great local restaurants, open air markets, and a large modern marina full of cruisers like us.  The local population and the cruisers live together in harmony and to each other's benefit.
     My sister, Diane and her friend Laurie were escaping the NW cold in mid December by visiting Nuevo Vallarta.  Lucky for us, we were nearby and able to spend some time with them.  They even took  our girls back to their hotel for a "girls night" of fun, food, and t.v..  We had a nice dinner out at Paradise village that night.  The next day we had a wonderful day of sailing around Banderas Bay.
Diane and Lori join us for a day sail around Banderas Bay
     The remainder of our time here was spent playing on the beach, shopping, enjoying nightly happy hours, and dinghy sailing.  We had a great time on Christmas Eve and Day hanging out with the crew of Andiamo III, Endeavor, Harmony, WadesAweigh, and Serendipity.
The anchorage at La Cruz
The girls joined the Christmas carolers on the docks
It was a wonderful Christmas morning (note all decorations are home made).

     Our plans were to leave La Cruz on December 29, but we have come to know that God laughs when we make "plans".  On our way out of town, our engine raw water pump started leaking and burned up a bearing.  We limped back into the anchorage and immediately started searching for parts.  Thanks to our wonderful friends on Endeavor and WadesAweigh (and their wonderful friends and family) we were able to locate and have our parts delivered within just a few days.
     Next stop...Chamela