Sunday, December 30, 2007

Marina Chahué

Jan and Joan from Casteele knocked on our hull early yesterday morning. We’re glad they’ve caught up with us, and after some wavering about whether to continue immediately or stay and await the next Tehuantepec window, they’ve decided to stay. They’re tied up right next to us. The four of us are planning a trip to Oaxaca for a few days later this week. Mark from Con Te Partiro said he’s happy to dog sit Märzen while we’re gone.

Mark is also from Seattle (that’s where Casteele is from), and continuing the small world theme, he bought his boat from the same yacht broker we did, Pete McGonagle at Swiftsure Yachts. Our other neighbors here are David and his parents, Norm and Janet, on Shimmer from St. John, USVI, and Roger and Lorraine on Black Dog II from Seattle (Everett).

Shimmer came through the Panama Canal from the East Coast, and we happily sold David our Mexican cruising guide and bought his Costa Rica courtesy flag. It was an international currency exchange as well. We got US dollars from David since that’s what we need in El Salvador, and we’re paying him in pesos.

Enrique, the harbor master here, helped with Jan’s and Joan’s decision to stay by not showing up at the marina yesterday afternoon. To leave Mexico, you need an international zarpe, a document that clears you out of Mexico. Jan and Joan learned yesterday at the port captain’s office that there are two places to get a zarpe stamped: at the airport outside of town and here at Marina Chahué by Enrique. John and I did meet Enrique yesterday and he’s a great guy, but he’s elusive. He doesn’t keep regular office hours during the week, and now it’s Sunday and both Monday and Tuesday are holidays.

I’ve included links to Casteele’s and Swiftsure Yachts’ websites on our links page.

Friday, December 28, 2007

The Lighthouse in Huatulco

We arrived at Marina Chahué about 11:00 this morning after a three-day passage from Zihuatanejo. John figures we averaged 4.5 knots. Although we were able to sail for brief periods, we mostly motored. It looks like we’ll be here for awhile. We have things to do (oil change, provisioning, laundry, boat washing), and by the time we’re done, big winds are predicted for the Tehuantepec. Maybe things will settle down again in a week.

Meanwhile, this seems to be a very nice place to be. We’re at a cantina called the Lighthouse, which caters to the cruising crowd (it’s a small crowd) and has free, secured wi-fi. Now that we have the key, we may be able to get it from the boat. If not, it’s a pleasant place to hang out.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Feliz Navidad

We’re thinking of all of our family and friends today and most days, really. We’re still in Zihuatanejo, but we’re continuing south today. We delayed our departure so that the Tehuantepec winds could die down at our destination (Huatulco) when we’re due to arrive in three days.

We moved to the anchorage at Zihuatanejo’s Playa Maruda on the 23rd. When we arrived, we found a spot next to Volcano, in front of Wingstar. Another Baja Ha-Ha 2007 boat, Tribute, is on the other side of us, but we’ve never talked with them. (Volcano moved on to Isla Ixtapa yesterday.) Casteele followed us to Zihua and anchored on the other side of Volcano.

The first evening here we enjoyed a lovely evening aboard Casteele getting to know Jan and Joan better. Tom and Sue from Volcano were there too. They were both in the merchant marines, and the rest of us were glad to learn more about how those huge commercial ships see us little sailboats. In their onshore lives, Jan is in residential real estate in Seattle, and Joan is a book editor. Jan and Joan are heading to Huatulco tomorrow, and we’re looking forward to returning their hospitality aboard Solstice while we’re there. If all works out OK, we’ll buddy-boat with them through the Tehuantepec and possibly on to Panama.

The winds in the Tehuantepec are a major consideration for cruisers in the area. Northerly winds in the Gulf of Mexico funnel through a gap in the Sierra Madre and can be very strong as they enter the Pacific. Meteorologists call these winds Tehuanos; some cruisers call them T-peckers. (If you want to know more about these, try entering “Tehuantepec winds” in Google.) We will be doing the “one foot on the beach” method of crossing the Gulf of Tehuantepec, and we’ll wait in Huatulco for a relatively calm window. Keeping close to shore means smaller waves since they don’t have a chance to build up (shorter fetch).

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Most excellent winter solstice

The winter solstice found us in transit this year from Manzanillo to Ixtapa/Zihuatanejo. We spent the night before dodging freighters and being dumped on by rain showers, but dawn brought dolphins cavorting around the boat, clear skies, and not another boat in sight. Even better, by early afternoon we had wind! What a relief to shut off the engine, no matter how glad we are to have it working again. We celebrated with cockpit showers.

We flew the spinnaker all afternoon and switched to wing-on-wing with the jib poled out at sunset. And what a gorgeous sunset it was. Although the morning’s dolphins were far behind us, we found more in the late afternoon. With the moon nearly full, we could see them jumping all night long. That certainly made the night watches more fun, but there was still plenty of commercial traffic to contend with.

This morning early we anchored at Isla Ixtapa, right in front of Casteele. The palapas and snorkeling are supposed to be excellent here, and there’s even wi-fi when we swing the right way. We’ll spend the night and go on to Zihuatanejo in the morning.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ready to go again

The engine is fixed! The mechanics arrived yesterday with the rebuilt injection pump. It was installed and tested and we are good to head out again. We are going to top off the fuel tanks this afternoon and leave Manzanillo around 4:00 PM local time. We should have a position report tonight while underway.


Sunday, December 16, 2007

New photo pages added to website

We don't really have any news, but while we've been sitting around waiting for the mechanic to show up (maybe mañana), John has caught up on his photo pages. They're posted on our website. Enjoy!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Still waiting for the mechanic

I guess we were a little overly optimistic about the mechanic. He did come to the boat yesterday and looked at our problem. He confirmed that it was what John said it was (a leak between the fuel injection pump and the controller), but he was still tied up with another repair and couldn’t get to us until mañana. It’s almost noon on mañana now, and we still haven’t heard from him. We checked in with Ruben around 10:00 and then went to breakfast (with our handheld VHF radio on so that we wouldn’t miss the call). On our way back to the boat, Ruben was away from his office. It’s starting to get frustrating now. We think the problem will be relatively simple to fix (it is a boat, after all) if we could just get the guy to do it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

We’re back…

at Las Hadas anchorage. We were about 40 miles down the coast last night, motoring after the winds died, when the automatic bilge pump kicked in. Considering that we were in flat seas, John had to investigate. It turned out that we had developed a leak by the fuel injection pump that we had had rebuilt in Olympia last winter. A significant amount of diesel was going into the bilge instead of into the engine. We were still much closer to Manzanillo than to Zihuatenejo, so we turned around. We anchored here again around 5 a.m.

Ruben, the harbor master here, knows a mechanic and tried to get him out to the boat today. The job he was on turned out to take longer than expected, so now we should see the mechanic tomorrow morning. Things on a boat are bound to break, and we’re just glad that this happened near where we can get it fixed relatively easily. Tom on Volcano was impressed that we found a mechanic so quickly, and though we’ve yet to set eyes on him, so are we. We don’t know how long this repair will take, but we’re safe in a nice harbor, so we aren’t too stressed about it.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Leaving Manzanillo

Lazy Days was gone when we got up this morning. Ron wanted to go surfing on their way to Zihuatanejo, so we’ll probably catch up with them there. We should be able to leave tomorrow. Package tracking indicates that our mail has cleared customs in Guadalajara and is on its way to us here. We should get it today. Volcano hasn’t caught up with us here yet. They’re probably hanging out in Barra de Navidad, but maybe they’ll show up today.

Most exciting is that we were able to connect with Jim Stork and Mags Petela yesterday evening. Jim hired me at my last job and then retired and moved to Mexico a couple of years ago. They live in Ajijic, but they’re vacationing in Manzanillo. They’re the reason we planned to stop over here in the first place, so it was great that we were able to get together. I started calling their hotel before they even got there, but my Spanish wasn’t good enough to leave a message, and the hotel reception desk’s English over the phone wasn’t up to it either. I tried again yesterday morning, but they were out. That time I did leave a message, but they didn’t get it. Finally, using two different parts of our Spanish phrase book, I was able to get through and talk with Mags. They came right over to pick us up, and we all went out for dinner. The funny thing is that while I was trying to reach them yesterday morning, they were sitting at Las Hadas trying to figure out which boat was ours. Later when John and I went shopping, they were at the same mall, but our paths simply didn’t cross.

Besides all the catching up we did, Jim and Mags were full of good information for us based on their experience as ex-pats in general and Mexican residents in particular. We’re all politically on the same wave length. (Kucinich is more than just a guy with a beautiful wife, and what’s wrong with the Democrats in Congress: get a backbone!) Jim and Mags are active in Democrats Abroad Mexico and gave us a URL to register to vote and vote from abroad. We’re registered for absentee ballots, but the reality is that we might not get them – and be able to return them – in time. So, Democratic cruisers and ex-pats who are reading this, here’s the link for Democrats Abroad and to register to Vote from Abroad.

Friday, December 7, 2007

First Impressions

Barra de Navidad seemed like a good place to spend a few days, but we only had one night there. We spent it finding a safe place to anchor in the shallow lagoon. That took two attempts. Although we felt safe enough the first time, some cruisers who had been there for awhile came over and told us that we needed to put more chain out, and we couldn't do that safely where we were, so we had to move. By then it was time to have dinner, and after that, it was too dark to go into the town with our dinghy since we didn't know the water that well. The next morning was beautiful, and John got some great photos of the locals throwing their fishing nets in the lagoon. But it was time for us to move on to Manzanillo so that we could arrange to have our mail forwarded before the weekend.

When we came into the anchorage at Las Hadas, we saw a familiar boat. We'd seen the motor yacht Lazy Days from Long Beach when we were at Tenacatita. We didn't talk with them then but heard that they'd been through the Panama Canal a couple of times. This time we went right over and introduced ourselves. We're looking forward to talking more with Ron and Cheryl and benefiting from their experience in Central America and cruising in general.

The Las Hadas Resort is beautiful but strangely vacant. It was the setting for the movie 10, which introduced Bo Derek. That was a long time ago, and it's been renovated since then, but it still seems like it's past its prime, especially around the marina. Storefronts and restaurants around the marina are vacant now. We're paying $15/day to use the dinghy dock and facilities of the resort. For that we're also supposed to get a discount at the restaurants. It's a nice anchorage and fairly convenient, so it seems worth the money to us. We'll know more after we've been here for a few days.


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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Märzen's first Mexican adventure

Today Märzen had her first excursion in Mexico. Usually we leave her to guard the boat. She wouldn't enjoy all the walking in the heat that we've been doing, and at La Cruz she would have gotten filthy in the dust. But today we did the jungle river dinghy trip, made famous by the Captain Rains Guide, and Märzen got to come along.

The jungle river trip is about two and a half miles long and runs along the north side of Bahía Tenacatita on the Rio Iguana. The dinghy trip begins at the mouth, near where we're anchored, and follows the river through tunnels in the mangroves to a beach (Playa Escolleras) on the other side of Punto Chubasco at the entrance to the bay. To enter the river you have to paddle or get out and pull the dinghy over the bar, or in our case, a little of both. Along the river are lots of birds (pelicans, egrets, ibis, kingfishers, heron, and something we didn't recognize), butterflies, crabs, and a few reptiles. The crabs seem to live on the mangroves. I don't remember seeing them in the mangroves in Costa Rica, so they may be unique here. Supposedly wild crocodiles hunt iguanas here, but we didn't see any iguanas and only saw one baby crocodile.

Märzen started out sitting on my lap in the bow of the dinghy as usual until she smelled something that got her so excited that she had to drape herself over the bow, craning her nose in front of the boat. When we reached Playa Escolleras we found more than a dozen cantinas lining the beach so, of course, we had lunch there before heading back. Märzen sat quietly under our table and behaved beautifully. The whole adventure was a lot of excitement for a little dog. When we got back to Solstice, she promptly took a nap. (And so did we.)


Sunday, December 2, 2007

Playa Rosa &Playa Recife

This is the prettiest place we’ve anchored in a long time. We’re between two tiny coves, tucked behind a small island that shelters them – and us – from the ocean swells. A third little cove here shelters Playa Blanca. (Playa means beach.) The cliffs above the beaches are filled with little houses painted bright colors. There’s a restaurant just above the beach at Playa Rosa that’s bright pink (rosa means pink) and surrounded by palms. The private residence at Playa Blanca is quite drab compared to its colorful neighbors. When we look away from shore, we see the rocky island with pelicans fishing and the ocean on either side.

The “Captain Rains Guide” gave us a GPS waypoint to find this area, which they call “Careyes.” Otherwise, we would have missed it. Even then, we were starting to doubt. The chart plotter has us about a mile inland, and there’s no detail for this area on the paper charts. The approach reminded me of various coves on the west coast of Vancouver Island: you have to get close to the breaking waves on the rocks in order to see where you’re going. Close is, of course, a relative thing. When you’ve been at sea, two tenths of a mile (the scale on the chartlet in the guide) looks awfully small.

As soon as we anchored, we donned our snorkeling gear and jumped in the water. It was surprisingly chilly considering that our instruments said it was almost 90°. It turns out that there’s upwelling here, and the water changed from cool to quite warm and back again as we swam along. (That two tenths of a mile is also much farther when you’re in the water.) The snorkeling wasn’t great – a little murky and not that many fish – but it was definitely refreshing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Banderas Bay

We spent two nights at Isla Isabela altogether. The day after Thanksgiving, we went snorkeling in the morning and took the dinghy to the fishermen’s landing beach in the afternoon. Isla Isabela is a rookery for frigate birds and blue-footed boobies, and they were everywhere. It was amazing! Also incredible was the fact that none of us was hit by bird droppings. By the way, one of the crew on Snow Goose is a stringer for Latitude 38, and we made 'Lectronic Latitude, complete with group photo. Check it out.

From the island we sailed to Banderas Bay. This is where Puerto Vallarta is, but we knew in advance that the marina there was full, so we anchored at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, which everyone calls just La Cruz for short. We didn’t expect a marina here and anchored the first night (Sunday). When we took the dinghy in to look for the dinghy beach, though, we discovered that a new marina was under construction, and there were even some boats in slips. (The photo is of this mostly empty marina.) After talking to some people who were on deck, we decided that we’d take a slip here for a few days. We’ll leave on Friday. John has a weak Internet connection; I have nothing unless I take the laptop into town and the Internet café.

One of the reasons to stay here is to provision. The town is very small, but after exploring it this morning, John thinks we can find the few things we really need before we get to Manzanillo, the next city on our itinerary. Getting to the major stores (Wal-Mart and Home Depot are here) and back to the boat with our booty would be challenging. The bus stop is up on the highway maybe a half mile from the dock, and there are only occasional sidewalks through town with a dirt road the rest of the way to the marina. No problem for walking, but our handy collapsible dock cart wouldn’t make it.

We did take the bus into Puerto Vallarta (PV) yesterday for sight-seeing and a little shopping. PV is charming and filled with tourists and timeshares. We had drinks at a beach bar (the peach margaritas were delicious) and walked the whole length of the malecon (esplanade). The timeshare salesmen are cleverly disguised as tequila tasting room hosts here. We bought a bottle of pomegranate-infused tequila, but no timeshare. (In all fairness, the salesmen were charming and only mentioned the timeshares in case we were interested.) I also bought a snorkel and fins since we discovered at Isla Isabela that I only had a mask, not the rest.

Martha is leaving us tomorrow. It’s been fun having her aboard. She’s going to take the bus through Mexico, stopping at interesting places to explore and practice her Spanish. Any time we’ve stopped long enough to bring out the computers, she’s been using the Rosetta Stone CDs to learn more. (Her son and his family live in Barcelona, and his wife’s family doesn’t speak English. Martha is a motivated language learner.) Martha’s Spanish has come in handy on numerous occasions, but it has probably slowed our own learning. I’m sure our Spanish will improve when we’re on our own.

When we leave the dock on Friday, we’ll sail to PV to top off the fuel tanks and then out of Banderas Bay at Cabo Corrientes. The plan is to sail during the day and anchor at night. There are many good anchorages between here and Manzanillo including Playa Blanca, where we spent our honeymoon at a Club Med 21+ years ago. The Club Med is gone now (maybe they went out of business after many of us got food poisoning while we were there), and a private residence has taken its place. I’m looking forward to using my new snorkeling gear, if not at Playa Blanca, then at another anchorage along the way.

I've just added a bunch of photos to the website. (Finally, you say.) Be sure to check it out.


Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving at Isla Isabela

Isla Isabela is a National Wildlife Preserve about 80 miles SSE of Mazatlán. When we set out for Isla Isabela at noon the day before Thanksgiving, we anticipated a quiet Thanksgiving feasting on mahi-mahi if John caught one on the way. Sure enough, soon after John threw out the line at the start of his 0600 watch, within sight of Isla Isabela, he landed a four-foot dorado. (We think that dorado, mahi-mahi, and dolphin fish are different names for the same fish. If we're wrong, maybe someone will correct us in the comments.)

While John was cleaning up after filleting the fish, I came up into the cockpit and noticed that we were closing the gap on another sailboat. As we neared the island, we saw several masts in the area where we planned to anchor. We were a little surprised because you have to go out of your way to get to the island, and we assumed that most cruisers would be partying in the marinas at Mazatlán and Puerto Vallarta. In fact, hundreds of boats probably were, but there were six boats, counting us, at Isla Isabela.

Anchoring was a little tricky due to wind, current, less than ideal bottom, and a person snorkeling. After a couple of attempts, we got the hook set to our satisfaction far enough from the other boats to allow plenty of swinging space and a little privacy for mermaid toilettes. John jumped off the stern and dove on the anchor, mostly just because the water was beautiful and warm, while Martha bathed and I cleaned up in the cabin. Finally, with the sail covered, the wind scoop rigged, the dinghy in the water, and everyone clean albeit a little salty, we were ready for a lazy day. Then the snorkeler appeared at the transom to invite us to Capricorn Cat, the big catamaran anchored nearby, for a potluck Thanksgiving celebration. They were inviting all of the boats anchored at the island. Of course we accepted, and John said he'd bring a green salad. (You should have seen her eyes light up at that.)

A 45-foot catamaran is a fine place for a party, and this was a great celebration. The snorkeler was Mary, mermaid and chef aboard Capricorn Cat, according to introductions by the owners, Wayne and Carol. Other boats participating in the festivities were La Sirena, a 42-foot schooner; Endless Summer, a 70-foot ferro-cement ketch; Snow Goose, a Cooper Maple Leaf 50; and Eupsychia, a Catalina 36 (I think). The people were as varied as the boats with ages ranging from 22 (Heather from Eupsychia) to almost 70 (Lynn from Snow Goose). Many of us are full-time cruisers, landless and carless. Four of the boats participated in the 2007 Baja Ha-Ha; seven of the people have called Oregon home (including mermaid Mary from Boring); San Francisco is the home port of three of the boats.

Traditional dishes included in the feast were mashed potatoes and yams. No turkey, but we had fresh shrimp, several kinds of fish, enchiladas, many appetizers (seafood and otherwise), and fresh homemade bread. I pigged out. Dessert was hot berry cobbler, brownies, and ice cream. Except for missing our families on this traditional family holiday, I can't imagine what could have made it a better Thanksgiving.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Adventures in Mazatlan

I’ve been suffering from writer’s block since we arrived in Mexico. That combined with inconvenient Internet access has lessened the flow to the blog. I apologize. Fortunately, John has filled some of the gap with his reports via single sideband radio.

When we arrived in Thursday morning, we waited in line to enter the old harbor at Mazatlan. It’s the main commercial harbor, but the marinas are all about 10 miles up the coast. Just inside the jetty is an anchorage, and that’s where we are. There used to be something called “Club Nautico” on the shore. The buildings and dinghy docks are still there, but it isn’t in business. For $3 per day, we can use the dinghy dock, toilets, and showers. It’s a really good deal. The big drawback is that the sewer treatment facility is across the street, and it often stinks. Usually the smell doesn’t reach us out in the harbor, so we only have to deal with it when we go ashore.

After a long bus ride to the marina end of town, we’ve all been very glad that we’re in the old harbor, within walking distance of the cafés and museums in the historic district. We’ve eaten well and visited many shops and a couple of museums there. The marina district has all of the services cruisers could want, but none of the culture and charm of the old city.

Our first day here we had a fine lunch at a restaurant with no other gringos present. The next day we found “Té amo Lucy’s” (“I love Lucy”), an ex-pat hangout, but still far from the marina crowd. Lucy is the chef, and her husband, Tony (an ex-pat himself), is the waiter. We struck up a conversation with some other customers there and got advice for shopping and Internet access. Sunday was the one-year anniversary of the restaurant, so we went back then bearing token gifts to hang from the ceiling with the rest of the decorations. In return, we got 50% off on our orders. Our contribution from the boat was what we think is a shackle key. It had been on the boat and never used, so we decided we could part with it (even though it says “Harken” on it). Tony was thrilled and kept coming back to our table with new ways to use “shackle key” in a sentence.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mermaid Toilette

by Martha Marie

To get clean jump into the ocean from the transom of the boat, (this is scary in itself,) awkwardly lumber out again, soap all over, create an elaborate updo with lots and lots of shampoo, and return to the sea (scary transom thing again.) Underwater, wiggle all around and whip your head around to get all of the soap and shampoo off and out. If desired, climb out again apply hair conditioner liberally, do the scary transom thing again, repeat spastic gymnastics underwater while avoiding being bashed by the back ladder or the extended keel. Then rise from the sea as if transformed into a sylphlike thing of beauty all clean. Disregard saltwater residue!

Hassles with the "no hassle" card

While we were in San Francisco, I signed up for a Capital One credit card because they don’t charge fees for foreign currency transactions. Soon after I was approved, I got a call from the fraud department at Capital One to verify my identity, Smith being a common name. During that call, I explained to the agent that we were sailing internationally. She gave me the number for the fraud department, and I gave her the date that we were leaving the US for Mexico. When the card arrived at the boat after being forwarded by our mail-forwarding service, I went through the whole song and dance again when I activated the card.

We used the card for the first time on Saturday to pay for breakfast at the Baja Cantina in Cabo San Lucas. Two hours later we tried to use it again, but it was denied. “Ah ha,” I thought, “it’s the fraud alert. I’ll call tomorrow when I have the computer ashore.” I did call and confirmed that there was a fraud hold on the card, but – and this is a big one – the people I was talking with couldn’t clear it. I’d have to call back on Monday. I was pretty annoyed, but what could I do? I called back on Monday. Then I learned that it was a holiday (Veteran’s Day, but the call center operator didn’t even know what holiday), and I’d have to call back tomorrow. We were planning to leave Cabo Monday afternoon, so I figured I’d deal with it when we got to Mazatlan.

Since we stayed in Cabo one more night after all, I’m trying to clear the account today. We’re at anchor and have good enough wi-fi that I’ve been able to get through to the IVR tree seven times. Four of those times, however, my call was dropped while I was on hold for longer than three minutes before talking with any agent. Three times it was dropped while I held for an equally long time as the initial agent tried to transfer me to someone who could correct my problem. We’re hoping that the dropped calls are because we’re swinging on the anchor and not some automatic feature of Skype that ends calls on terminal hold. I’ll be taking a panga to shore to test that theory in a couple of hours since we’ve already loaded the dinghy back on the boat.

Later… My Skype theory was correct. Once I was on land with a good Internet connection, I was able to hold the line through 30+ minutes of holding and transferring to get the no-hassle card straightened out. It took about 45 minutes altogether, but we were able to buy fuel and water on the card 15 minutes later and saved the cost of the panga ride in exchange fees.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Another day in Cabo

Today was provisioning day for the trip to Mazatlan. The wind was from the east this morning, the water was very choppy, and another boat was swinging uncomfortably close to us, so we pulled the anchor. Rather than trying to re-anchor and then launch the dinghy, we did a moving launch because John piloted Solstice into the harbor to get out of the chop. By “launch” I mean getting into the dinghy and untying it from the mothership. It wasn’t any easier on the people (Martha and me) to launch while moving, but it was easier on the dinghy than repeatedly crashing into the big boat would have been.

The shopping trip was my first real Mexican adventure. After a couple of other errands, we asked which bus to take to Costco. (Yes, there is one in Cabo, and Martha’s a member.) It seemed simple enough so we went to the bus stop to wait. There were other people there, so we were sure we were in the right place, but no buses were stopping there. After a while, there was some discussion among the potential passengers, and most of them left. Finally, the remaining guy asked where we were going. When we said “Costco,” he told us that we needed to go to the bus stop a block up the street. We eventually got it all sorted out and even found out in advance how much it would cost in case the driver didn’t make change (he did). The ride was fairly comfortable even though the bus wasn’t air conditioned. The windows were open so there was a nice breeze, and we were on paved roads so it wasn’t too dusty.

Costco is Costco, and it’s air conditioned, so we took our time. Knowing that we’d have to lug everything we bought onto the boat from a bouncing dinghy, I practiced restraint, but we still bought more than we really needed. Martha was game to take the bus back, but I firmly insisted that we take a taxi. The transfer of goods to Solstice was challenging, but the three of us made it work and didn’t drop anything.

When we got up this morning, we planned to leave Cabo this afternoon. After our adventure, though, we decided to take it easy for the rest of the day. We have decent enough wi-fi at anchor (but not good enough for a real conversation with Mom via Skype this morning). In the south of the border spirit of things, mañana is soon enough to go.


PS: Check out the earlier post on flying dinghies and the one before that. With the wi-fi here, I've been able to add some photos.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Happy Birthday, Audrey!

The Baja Ha-Ha has ended, but we're still in Cabo. Our sailing plan is changing, but we don't know exactly how much yet, so I haven't updated it. We'll be spending a little longer in Mexico than we had originally planned because we're going to take care of a repair here that we had scheduled for Florida. We're only talking about a couple of weeks, so it isn't a lot in the scheme of things, but it's important if you're planning to meet us along the way. We'll get the new plan out as soon as we know what it is.

Meanwhile, today is Audrey Forbes's birthday, so happy birthday, Audrey. I don't think John got her called, but he definitely remembered.

John's off having a beer while my friend Martha and I hang out at the Internet cafe catching up on stuff. I'm also waiting for our laundry to be done. We're spending $7/load for wash and fold. In order to use the coin operated machines, we'd have to get a slip in the marina at $140/night. That's a big enough difference that we can afford a few loads of luxury laundry.

Mexico is spectacular -- and hot! We're all doing OK with the heat, but Märzen doesn't like it as much as she did as a puppy in Arizona. The water is beautiful and so clear that we can see the anchor 35 feet below the boat. Amazing!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Flying dinghies of Bahia Santa Maria

Bahia Santa Maria is a large and well-protected bay, but there is a big, easy swell passing over the bay from the Pacific. The swell is barely noticeable from below decks. On the beach the swell builds to very steep, crashing waves. At the north end of the bay is a mangrove swamp with a channel from the bay into the trees. There is a large beach on the west side of the channel with a trail that leads to a cantina.

Between the bay and the mangrove channel is a bar with breaking waves across the channel entrance. Timing and speed are everything for getting into the channel to a avoid a wave breaking into the dinghy. Getting out is an even greater challenge with the waves moving towards you. Crew member Derek Lee and I went over the bar to get to the cantina. Getting in was pretty easy. I got behind a wave and just followed it in and landed on the beach. The cantina was great with $2 cerveza and a Mexican cover band playing 80s music. The cantina overlooks the bar and provides a another source of entertainment: watching the dinghies cross back and forth.

We had a couple of beers and then set out in the dingy back to Solstice. We got out into the channel and waited for a good window to cross the bar. The waves seemed to come in groups of three. It looked good so I gunned the engine and started planing over the water. Suddenly a new wave formed and broke 20 feet ahead of us. I backed off the engine a bit and hopped over it. Then a bigger, steeper one formed. I had no chance to turn around so I aimed straight at it and picked up speed. If I slowed down, the wave would probably overpower the boat and broach us.

We hit the wave seconds before it broke. It was like being launched up a wall. Derek's weight in the bow kept us from going completely vertical. The entire boat jumped out of the water even clearing the prop out of the water. Then we came crashing down with no more breaking waves in front of us. To our port was a water taxi filled with cruisers all cheering our acrobatic feat. Derek was holding on with one hand and pumping a fist in the air yelling, "That was great!"

In the end, crew and vessel were OK. My shorts were wet, but I don't think any water came in the boat.


Monday, November 5, 2007

More on the Baja Ha-Ha

Before we started this, I didn't realize that there were three separate legs of the Baja Ha-Ha. Each leg has it's own race start. That's one of the most exciting things: 170+ boats jockeying for position. We were behind the pack for the start of leg 2, so it was pretty easy. Since we're sailing downwind, the spinnakers came out immediately, and we got a great view.

Today at Bahia Santa Maria, I've been out in the dinghy visiting people. First I stopped by Paradise Bound looking for my friend Martha. She was out, so I continued on. This time I was looking for a boat called Pacific Star. We figured out when we read the write-ups on the entries in this year's Baja Ha-Ha that the owners of Pacific Star used to own our old boat Resolution. At least, we thought they did. And we were right. When I located Pacific Star and called out asking if they used to own a boat named Resolution, they were amazed and seemingly delighted. It was great fun for me too. It turns out that they often saw us sailing Resolution out in the San Francisco Bay. Also, and this was news to us, soon after we bought Resolution, Latitude 38 had a photo of us in the "looking good" item. Horst said we were heeled over and you could clearly read the name of the boat. As soon as we get a good Internet connection, I'll have to go searching for that photo.

My other stops were at the other two Sceptres. We're finally all in fairly close proximity in the anchorage, and we're going to try to get together this evening. I took Märzen with me when I visited Pacific Wind with Steve Dana, DVM, and Laurie aboard. They were crazy about her and took many photos of her in her life jacket.

We're having a great time -- sailing as much as we can and motoring when we need to catch up with the group. The weather is finally gorgeous, and as John would say, "It's all good."


Leg Two of Baja Ha Ha Complete

We are now anchored in Bahia Santa Maria 600 miles south of San Diego. It took 48 hours of sailing and motor sailing to reach this anchorage form Turtle Bay. Along the way the water became bluer and warmer. Here in Bahia Santa Maria the water is 85 degrees and it is sunny and warm.

Fishing was the dominant theme on this passage. We caught Yellow Tail and Yellow Fin tuna. We had a Dorado on the line, but it managed to shake the hook near the boat. Several boats reported outstanding fishing. One member of the fleet caught and released a seven foot sailfish.

Today is a rest, relax, and catch up on sleep day. Tomorrow we'll go explore the mangroves, hike the beaches and there is a party planned with live music. I will also try my luck fishing in the bay.


Thursday, November 1, 2007

Completed first leg of the Baja Ha Ha

We are now anchored in Turtle Bay, Mexico. It has been cool and windy on the trip down. Some of the boats that were more offshore reported gusts to 30 kts. We had sustained winds in the mid 20s for most of the ride south.

The start of the rally in San Diego was very exiting: 170+ boats all sailing at the start. Shirlee was at the helm and I was getting the spinnaker ready for launch. Shirlee did great dodging and weaving amongst the fleet. At 10:00 AM the cannon sounded and the fleet was off. I did not do so good getting the kite up. After two attempts and untangling the various lines, we had the spinnaker flying and we were doing 8 kts on a close reach headed for Mexico.

We started fishing soon as the boat and crew were settled on long tack. We started catching mackerel and promptly releasing them. From the morning radio check-in no tuna catches were reported until Wednesday (10/31). And that's when we caught our first yellow fin. It was about ten pounds and very tasty. Last night we had an appetizer of pan seared tuna. Tonight we'll have the remainder of the tuna grilled with soy, ginger, garlic and lemon.

So far the boat is holding together. I have two things to fix: a towel holder needs to be reattached in the galley and a set screw in the bimini needs to be tightened. Other boats have not been as fortunate. The list includes raw water pump failure, all batteries dead, leaking one gallon per minute through the keel bolts, four boats with torn main sails, two shredded spinnakers, two broken travelers, and a sprinkling of non- or poorly-functioning radios. I'm feeling really good about Solstice and our two seasons of shakedown/breakdown in B.C. and Alaska.

Today's plan is for showers and a no-host party in town. I plan on fishing in the bay just to see what's down there. There is a potluck beach party tomorrow. The plan is to leave Turtle Bay Saturday (11/03).


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Mexican geography

In case you don't have your atlas handy and you wonder where we're going, here's a little map of the Pacific coast of Mexico. Credit for this goes to Latitude 38's First-Timer's Guide to Mexico.

On our way to Cabo, we're stopping in Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria. John will do position reports, so check out the "Find us here" link on our home page.

Most of the other Mexican ports listed in our cruising plan also appear on this map. Hope it helps. (Click it to make it larger.)

Excitement is building

Friend Derek Lee arrived last night. He’s really psyched about the trip, and his excitement is contagious. Today I’ll be helping a couple of other boats get their blogs going. John has the “skippers’ meeting,” and then there’s the costume party/barbecue. The official start of the Baja Ha-Ha is tomorrow morning at 11:00 at the Coronado Roads. I don’t know where that is exactly, but they say it’s about 90 minutes from where we are. So we’ll be weighing anchor about 0900 tomorrow. The next blog entry will probably be via SSB radio. I consider that truly cruising.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Pushing off the dock

The past week has been a whirlwind of activity in preparation for leaving the dock. We’ll anchor two nights near the San Diego Yacht Club before we and the 177 other Baja Ha-Ha participants head for Cabo Monday morning. We still have a few important to do before then – and a party.

The fires near San Diego have only been an inconvenience for us. The smoke made the air difficult to breathe, and ash and soot made the decks of the boat filthy. I missed the worst of the dirt since I flew to Portland early Monday morning for my one-year follow-up with the orthopedic surgeon and a short visit with Mom and the Stocks. The smoke from the fires hadn’t merged to black out everything then, and I could still spot individual fire sites from the air. When I returned Wednesday afternoon, it was a different story. The smoke was a blanket between LA and SD, and the smell of it even crept into the airplane’s air system.

Thursday we had lunch with our friend and former real estate agent, Josh Bottfeld. Josh says he’s retired now, but he still had to go into the office Thursday morning. It was fun to meet his partner, Brent Butler. It turns out that Brent went to South Eugene High School, was in the Junior Symphony, and had Dick Long as his band teacher. Small world.

Yesterday my friend Martha arrived from Austin, TX. Her skipper was still on his way back from a quick run to Phoenix, so I met her at the train station. We figured out that it’s been 10 years, more or less, since we last saw each other. We’ll have fun catching up, but we haven’t had too much time to visit yet. There’s still too much work to do!

This morning is final cleaning while we have running water and electricity. Then we’ll top off the water tanks and move to the anchorage. The wireless connection here at the dock hasn’t been very good for the past couple of days. Maybe it will be better there.

At anchor: We’re between Hiatus (Portland) and Ketching Up (Astoria), behind Beyond Reason (Alameda). (Click on the photo to open a bigger version. The satellite shot was obviously taken before we arrived.)

Yes, the wi-fi is much better here. I can even post this blog entry now.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

San Diego is beautiful

After the rain the first morning we were here, the weather cleared up, and it has been beautiful here in San Diego. We haven’t been working too hard on the boat; we’ll do that our last couple of days on the dock. Instead we’ve been taking it easy, exploring a little in the dinghy, and relaxing. We haven’t used the West Marine shuttle yet. Instead we’ve taken the bike when we needed to go somewhere. This afternoon is the welcome party for the Baja Ha-Ha group, and we’re looking forward to that. We’ll probably shuttle with others on the dock.

When we got back from our dinghy ride the other day, Jammin had arrived. It was fun to see someone we knew. Hiatus is here on the dock too, and one of the other Sceptres came in yesterday. We’re also getting acquainted with the other Ha-Ha boats here, of course.

Most exciting is that my friend Martha is going to join one of the boats here for the Ha-Ha. I haven’t seen her in years, but we went to the U of A together and became pretty close. I did see her once since then when she was back in the States from Hungary, where she taught after grad school. She’s been living in Austin, TX, the last few years.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

In the heart of the action

We found it, and it’s right where we are, at least, part of it is. I’m not sure how many transient slips the Port of San Diego has here, but they’re filling up with Baja Ha-Ha boats. I just paid for our full 10 days here, and on my way back to the boat, I saw the West Marine shuttle and flagged him down to get the scoop. The driver said most of the out-of-town Ha-Ha boats will be either here or at the Glorietta Bay anchorage.

West Marine is working hard to make sure that transportation is coordinated to get us where we need to go without renting a car. Very nice of them. The West Marine shuttle is available seven days a week from 0900 to 1800. The driver was shocked that we walked to the grocery store yesterday (it was more than two miles judging by the cab fare we paid for the return trip); we should have called, and next time we will.

John and Märzen are both 100% well again, and I’m fine too. At the moment, I have my own wi-fi connection, but I could lose it again at any time. After the rain yesterday morning, it cleared up nicely, and the sun is out again today. The temperature is just right, and we remember why we’ve always liked San Diego.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

It’s raining in San Diego

I’m not sure they’re calling it rain, but it’s definitely wet, wetter than the usual marine layer. We arrived here early this morning and stalled until the Harbor Police office opened at 0800 so that we could check in. As part of the Baja Ha-Ha, there’s a free anchorage we could use, but it seems pretty far from the heart of the action. Of course, we aren’t sure where the heart of the action will be yet, but other cruisers think it isn’t there. All of the facilities in San Diego seem really spread out to me.

For now, we’re at the transient dock on Shelter Island. We can stay here for a maximum of 10 days. So far, we’ve only paid for two. The wi-fi here is dodgy for John with his amplifier and antenna. For me, so far, it’s not happening at all. There is power and water on the dock, restrooms and showers on the shore, and the cost is extremely reasonable. That’s all good, except our power isn’t working, but that's OK because the generator is fixed again. When it stops raining, we’ll go out and see if we can find the action.

Monday, October 15, 2007

An extra day in Newport Bay

Yesterday our generator quit working. Due to a combination of factors, John suspected the worst: a burned-out alternator. When he climbed into the lazarette to investigate, though, he discovered that a connector had broken (due to metal fatigue from the vibration, we suspect). That’s a much easier fix, so we’re spending an extra night on the mooring here to take care of it. We’ll head on to San Diego tomorrow afternoon.

This morning we got up early to have breakfast with a former colleague and friend, Cam Woods. Cam grew up on Balboa Island, and from his stories, it sounds like living here really is as great as it appears to be. I met Cam years ago when Epiphany acquired his sales force automation company, Moss Software. The Moss guys were some of the most impressive engineers at Epiphany and they were really fun to work with, as well. Now Cam and another former Moss guy, Ryan Reid, have their own small company. I’m happy to report that they’re doing well, as those who know them would expect.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

You get what you pay for in Newport Beach

Today we learned that you can’t expect much in the way of facilities when you only pay $5/night for a mooring buoy. This is the first time that we’ve paid for mooring in a town. Otherwise, we’ve anchored out (as we did in Gig Harbor, WA) or we’ve been at the dock. Our only other mooring buoys were in parks in Washington State. So when we asked about public showers at the harbor patrol office when we checked in, we kind of assumed that there would be marina-like or park-like facilities. Today we discovered that wasn’t the case.

This morning we took the dinghy and our shower gear back to the harbor patrol offices, where the showers are. Our first difficulty was determining where we were supposed to tie the dinghy. What we thought was the guest dinghy dock was full of dinghies that looked like they’d been there for months. We tied up at an area that was marked for sheriff’s impound, and I ran into the office to check. We were right the first time, so we squeezed our dinghy up against the derelicts and headed for the showers.

Only one door was marked “shower,” and it was occupied. John discovered an unmarked shower, and we decided we could share it. No, it wasn’t romantic. It was all concrete with no hooks to hang clothes or towels. John gallantly spread his foully jacket over the sink to give me a place to set my stuff. (Oh yes, I forgot to mention that we had rain this morning, and it was cold enough that we needed jackets when we set out.) There wasn’t much water pressure, but at least the water was warm. John noted that it was our worst shower so far. I can’t disagree.

On the fun side, John’s cousin Sheri and her husband, Pete, visited us this afternoon. They live in Irvine. Sheri’s daughter, Katrina, and her friend Pat also came along. We had a nice visit, and then Katrina and Pat had to leave. Sheri and Pete took us to find an amplifier for John’s wi-fi antenna, and then the four of us had some really good sushi. Tomorrow they’re going to take us to their house, and I can do laundry there. Tonight we had to get home to give Märzen the last of her antibiotics.

Friday, October 12, 2007

On a buoy in Newport Beach

My post yesterday didn’t say where we actually are: Newport Beach. We got to the harbor patrol office around 1600 yesterday to find it flooded with guys in camouflage. I don’t know how you tell which branch of the military guys in camouflage represent. Do they have different patterns? Anyway, we know this was the Navy because we asked. They’d been doing drills.

Our buoy is between the mainland and Balboa Island, right by the bridge. It was a long, slow motor to get here from the office, but I think it’s a good location. It’s very close to a dinghy dock, and there are stores on either side of the bridge. We kept postponing a trip to the grocery store earlier, but now we’re out of essentials, like Diet Coke.

Our location is the red dot on this Google hybrid map.

John’s feeling better today. I don’t know what was wrong with him, but he sure was sick. My Internet connection is a little dodgy here, and John hasn’t been able to connect at all. People in Newport Beach have security on their routers. Guess they don’t want to share with the riff-raff.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

What we did in Long Beach

Since this morning was devoted to the roll-out of the new blog, I didn’t talk about what we did in Long Beach. It was kind of interesting in a blast-from-the-past sort of way.

Kevin and a couple of his friends had an appointment to brew a batch of beer, and he invited us to join him. We went to a place in Huntington Beach (our friend Arlene’s old hometown) called Brewbakers. They help you brew the beer, and then you come back a few weeks later to bottle it. It isn’t a homebrew supply store. They don’t even sell supplies to take away. Instead you pay to brew there, and you can also drink there. The beer we tasted was, for the most part, pretty good, but one variety had some kind of infection going and was off. It was sort of like old times in Arizona: kind of fun but kind of boring too.

Then the subject of Oregon’s state-wide land use planning came up. One of Kevin’s friends is a lobbyist for the Oregon State Home Builders Association. I was always kind of proud of Oregon’s laws, even when they made our lives of real estate developers more difficult. I think all of the planning that was done back then really contributed to the quality of life in Oregon now. This especially hits home with me when I see the kind of urban sprawl and strip-mall development that is so prevalent here in southern California. So Chip (Kevin’s friend) and I really got into it. I usually try not to get into arguments with friends of friends, and I passed on the ASU vs. UA thing with Chip, but I spent a number of years on this question back in the day, and I couldn’t let it go.

No doubt the old urban growth boundary is pinching these days. It was only supposed to be good for 20 years before it was revised. I don’t know if the new planning hasn’t been done or what, but I sure don’t think that Oregon should do away with the whole thing. Of course, the home builders have to ask for more than they really need so that there can be compromise later with the no-growth people, and I’m certainly not one of those. But I do think that planning is good.

John is sick today. He thinks it’s his system rebelling against all the brewer’s yeast he consumed last night. I hope that’s all it is. We were going to stay put here until Monday anyway, so he’ll be able to get some rest.

Welcome to our new blog

We changed blog hosting services because we needed some features that were premium (cost money) on our old host. Here they're free. The most important of these is the ability to update the blog when we don't have Internet access.

Another feature is that you can now subscribe to our blog so that you'll know when we've updated it. Just click the "Posts (Atom)" link at the bottom of the page, and it will take you through the steps. (This feature is more important to our casual readers than to the family members who check daily anyway.)

In the "important links" to the right, you'll find a link back to our home website and the old blog. We've also added a guest book and a link to our Yotreps position. All of the links open in a new browser tab or window. If you have trouble with this feature, please let me know by email.