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November 26, 2006

Mazatlan to San Blas

Well I just pulled into San Blas after pleasant 2 day light air passage from Mazatlan. After all the other boats that I was with pulled anchor for Punta de Mita, I headed into Marina Mazatlan for a few days to take care of some boat projects. When I got to the marina, they directed me to a 50 foot slip which is way to big for my boat and since they charge by the slip size and not the boat size I decided to move to a smaller slip. I probably should have stayed where I was. I put the boat in reverse to back out of the slip and everything was fine until I went to put the transmission back into neutral. It wouldn't budge and the rocks were right behind me. So I killed the engine and tried to go below and manually switch the tranny into neutral or forward but to no avail. So all I could do was sit and watch as the boat drifted back into the rocks at about a knot. I got on the radio and called for a panga who towed me to my new slip and began to diagnose the problem. It seems that the Morse cable for my tranny had frozen and the top part where it attaches to the gear shift bent and was jamming against the front of the pedestal. So I pulled out the Morse Cable and just happened to run into some guys who were heading out to the industrial marine section of Mazatlan and also happened to know what store to get new Morse Cables at....Score! So I gave them my cable and started to rebuild my dinghy transom that had been cut up when my outboard was stolen. Well while I was slathering on some fiberglass a guy came up and told me about the two outboards that Joe on Pacific Jade was trying to get rid of. So I went down at talked to Joe and bought me a 1989 Nissan 3.5hp outboard for $220. It sucks to replace my nice new clean 4 stroke with an old dirty 2 stroke, but it's actually smaller and lighter than my old engine and I'm mobile ,again. About the time that I was finishing up putting the transom back together Ryan, off Get Lost, comes back with a new Morse Cable exactly matching the old one. So another hour later and my gear shift is back up and running. Not a bad day, except for the running the boat on the rocks thing.

This is “Get Lost,” a modified panga that these guys who hleped me with the Morse cable are taking from Catalina Island to Panama
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The next day I had Ruben, the marina diver, check out the damage to my rudder. Fortunately there was no structural damage, the rocks had just chipped off a section of paint and gel coat. So Ruben mixed up some underwater curing epoxy putty and sealed up the chip so that the fiberglass in the rudder wouldn't be exposed. Best $10 bucks I'd spent in a long time. I washed the boat for the first time since Bellingham, filled the water tanks and caulked up a couple of spots on my starboard cap rail where it might have been leaking. Then it was time for Thanksgiving dinner. Marina Mazatlan puts on a nice turkey dinner with a great band who opened with The Village People, but quickly changed to playing traditional Mexican, Afro-cuban and American songs from the 50's.

Fellow Bellinghamsters Ann and Stu off Walkabout at Thanksgiving dinner:
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I couldn't get out of the marina on Friday until 2:00 because they were dredging the entrance. With the late start it was going to turn into a 2 night trip instead of one, but at least I wasn't worrying about making time as I sailed at 3 knots most of the way down. The trip down was calm but I did see a Marlin jumping repeatedly about 100 yards from the boat. I'm not sure what it was doing, but it would jump out of the water and back flop about every 10 feet. Maybe it was trying to shake off some parasites. I also saw my first Sea Turtle with a bird on it's back swimming towards Isla Isabella. I got a out 20 miles off San Blas about 7:00 last night and spent the night hove to waiting for daylight to come up the estuary and anchor. So now I'm heading into town to try and find Alexis and will probably hang out here for a while before either heading down to Punta de Mita or turning around and heading up into the Sea of Cortez.

Lazy bird hitchin a ride on a turtle:
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Entrance to San Blas:
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November 21, 2006

Isla Venados

I've been having a great time here in Mazatlan. That is until my outboard was stolen on Friday night. I went to bed with the dinghy trailing off the back of the boat far enough aft that it wouldn't bang into my windvane all night long. Mexicans generally have no need for small outboards (2.5 HP) needing much larger motors for their pangas and the motor was locked to the transom with a heavy stainless lock so I wasn't all that concerned about it being stolen. Well I woke up in the morning to some nice fishermen towing my dinghy back in through the breakwater. Someone had cut the painter free during the night and then took the dink out to sea to work on the lock outside the harbor. The lock was too strong for them, so they ended up cutting my transom up to the point that they could wrench the motor off. They then set the dinghy free leaving me stranded out in the anchorage. So I'm glad that I was able to get my dinghy back, but I'm going to have a heck of a time finding a small outboard down here. I also have some serious repair work to do to get my dinghy back into shape where I can mount one.

My poor dinghy after the outboard had been cut off:
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So Saturday we decided to get out of the dirty anchorage in Mazatlan Harbor and took off to meet up with Scot and Liz on Ocean Lady, a Gulfstar 50 Ketch, already anchored in the lee of Isla Venados across the bay from all Mazatlan's resort hotels. I've spent the last 4 days anchored out here off a nice little sandy beach on Isla Venados with Tara, Willow, Godspeed, Ocean Lady and the beach all within swimming distance. We've all been doing little boat projects, but most of our time has been spent swimming, playing frisbee, making music and drinking rum drinks in consistent 85 degree weather. These last 4 days have made all the misery of the early part of the trip completely worthwhile.

Tara and Willow anchored off Isla Venados:
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This morning Ben on Tara negotiated with the little encampment on the beach for a AirX wind generator that they weren't using. So I spent most of the day giving my 2 cents on the wind genny install and helping Bonnie set up Moveable Type on their website. So now you all can follow the adventures of Greg, Bonnie and Willow on www.svwillow.net.

Ben and his bright green wind genny he picked up off the beach:
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Willow, Tara, Godspeed and Ocean Lady are all taking off in the morning for Punta De Mita in Banderas Bay to try and find some good surf. I'm not quite ready to leave yet, so I'm planning on going into the marina for a couple of days to work on projects. I just found out that Alexis, an old friend from Western, is going to be in San Blas this weekend, so I'll probably head down there and hang out for a little while before heading North into the Sea of Cortez.

November 17, 2006

Hiding from Hurricanes in Mazatlan

Trevor took off in a Panga around mid-day on Sunday and I spent the rest of the day out in Bodhran in the rolling anchorage trying to get some rest before taking off on the 200 mile trip across the Sea of Cortez to Mazatlan. Unfortunately the anchorage was so rolly that I had a hard time sleeping with the boat pitching and the surf crashing on the beach 200 yards away on a lee shore. Still the next morning I was excited to get started and had the anchor up by 7:00 and was under way beating into a 20-25 knot Northeasterly trying to skirt the North end of a squall 30 miles out. Bodhran was handling well until I noticed that the starboard rail was leaking again. I thought that I had fixed the leak in Newport, but I hadn't beat into a sea since and hadn't been able to test it. So I had to shorten sail to ensure that the starboard rail stayed above the water. Once I cleared the Baha the wind shifted around out of the North and dropped off to 10-15 knots which put me on a beam reach doing 6 knots with no problem of dipping the lee rail, allowing more water into the boat. Still the rest of the day was spent bailing water out of the starboard lockers and laying out my poor books to dry again.

As the sun went down I watch the lightning flashing in the squall line I had passed earlier in the day and I started on my watch routine that I hoped would allow me to get sufficient sleep and still keep and adequate lookout through the night. Once the sun had set, with no ships on the horizon, I laid down for a nap with a kitchen timer set for 15 minutes. It normally takes about 15-20 minutes for a fast moving ship to come up to Bodhran from the time it's first seen on the horizon. When my kitchen timer went off, I woke up went up to the companionway and scanned the horizon, reset the timer and then climbed back into my berth for another 15 minute nap. Whenever I saw a ship, I would stay awake until I was sure that we wouldn't cross paths. When I would see a slow moving fishing boat, I'd reduced my timer down to 5-10 minutes and get up and check it's position until it cleared the horizon and my timer could go back up to 15 minutes. I kept this watch system for about 11 hours and was though I never slept for more than 15 minutes at a time I was surprisingly well rested.

The next day found continuing 10-15 knots from the North, beautiful sailing and another 70 miles to go to Mazatlan. I checked in with the Amigo Net on the sideband radio. The Amigo Net is conducted every morning at 7:00 allows boats to check in and give current weather conditions all over Mexico and then at 7:15 Don on Southern Passage, who I presume to be a retired meteorologist, gives weather forecasts for the different zones on the Mexican Pacific coast. The first thing that Don mentioned was the Tropical Depression 21E had formed 600 miles South of me off the Mexican Rivera. The weather for my crossing was going to be 15-25 knots for the next two days, but then at the end of the forecast 21E had been upgraded to Tropical Storm Sergio. Sergio was well to the South of me, but being out there with a Tropical Storm left me ill at ease. It was a fully uneventful day of sailing with the wind steady out of the North. I spent most of my time watching the flying fish skipping amazing distances across the waves and my first pod of Bottle Nosed Dolphins. The Bottle Nosed Dolphins are much larger than the Pacific White Sided ones that I've mainly seen up until now. They also spend a lot more time out of the water doing belly flops, back flops, forward flips and one even surfed a wave into my bow wave and did a full back flip away from the boat. I swear that they were showing off. I hate to admit it, but after having them with me for two straight hours I actually got bored of watching dolphins do flips in front of me. I ended up getting to a point about 20 miles from Mazatlan at 10:00 at night and hove to until morning so that I could go in in daylight. Again I pulled the 15 minute kitchen timer trick and was well rested in the morning.

Greg and Ben coming out to guide me into Mazatlan:
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I got up about time for the weather on the SSB and found that Sergio had now become a category 2 hurricane. Fortunately by this time I was only 10 miles out of Mazatlan. I was heading up to the marinas about 5 miles north of town , but I got ahold of Greg on the SSB and found out that he was anchored out off the old town, so I turned around and motored South. Ben from Tara and Greg came out in a dinghy and welcomed me in outside the breakwater. They helped guide me into the bay and I found a good place to anchor between near Willow and Tara. For those of you who don't know them, Greg and Bonnie are friends of mine from Bellingham who built a junk rigged Benford 34 and have been out cruising for the last few years. Tara is a Dreadnought 32 from Poulsbo crewed by Ben and Nikki. The third boat is their flotilla is an old Chris Craft sailboat owned by Ryan who is also from Washington. So now my passagemaking is done and cruising is beginning. I've spent the last two days hanging out and relaxing. Yesterday we took Tara and anchored off a beach South of town and spent the day swimming and drinking and now I'm on my bike exploring the old part of Mazatlan. I'm still keeping a close eye on Sergio in case he decides to come far enough North to effect us and if he does there are some mangroves way up the bay that I can anchor in and ride the storm out, but this morning he was downgraded to a tropical storm so hopefully he's on his way out. I'll probably stay here through Thanksgiving and then I'll be making my way up to La Paz to meet my family for Christmas.


Willow, Bodhran and Tara to the right in the anchorage in Mazatlan:
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The dinghy dock at Club Nautico:
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Ben and Greg bringing Tara around to our swimming spot:
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Our ever so graceful water ballet:
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November 12, 2006

Cabo San Lucas

This leg began with a little confusion about Time Zones. Apparently we sailed into Mountain Time somewhere along the coast of Baha and never realized it. I mean who cares what time zone you're in when you're sailing? Ah but catching a bus from San Carlos to La Paz is a different matter entirely. So Kurt and I wake up at 6:00 and head ashore for a little breakfast before he has to catch his 7:30 bus. I'm sure you can see where this is going. We're sitting there enjoying our coffee waiting for our heuvous and friojoles and sure enough there goes the bus to La Paz. Doh! Luckily the lady at the restaurant called a cab for Kurt and explained the situation. I assume that he made it, but the last I saw of Kurt he was jumping in a cab to try to catch the bus.

Kurt trying to catch his bus:
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Trevor and I got a liesurly start motoring down the winding channel to get out of Bahia Madelena and out to the Pacific. The wind was light and we motored on a glassy sea until I heard something wrong with the engine and was greeted with billowing exhaust smoke when I opened the engine compartment. It seems that I made the new exhaust hose too long and it was torquing on the mixing elbow that I had had welded up in Santa Barbara. This caused one of the 4 flange bolts to shear off, which also blew out the gasket. Fortunately the wind was up so we started sailing and a couple of hours later the exhaust system was back together with a shorter exhaust hose, new bolts and a new gasket. Hopefully that'll be the end of that problem, but only time will tell.

Trevor's Dorado:
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We arrived off of Cabo Falso in the middle of the night and slowly worked our way around the cape trying to time our arrival at Cabo San Lucas at day break. Day broke to an onslaught of fishing boats heading out and an extremely packed anchorage. The Baha Haha was still in town and finding a place to anchor was a bit challenging. After cruising around for an hour we finally found a spot in 45 feet of water with a little swing room and dropped the hook. We hung out on the boat for most of the day and then caught a panga into town for dinner. We shared the panga with Nancy off of Salt Shaker who told us about a couple good places to eat and the Haha awards ceremony that night at 6:00 and the free beer that went with it. So we had dinner at Mi Casa and then crashed the Haha party where the game of the night was trying to sneak past the guy guarding the beer. Afterwards Trevor and I hit Squid Roe for margaritas in ridiculous glasses and line dancing wait staff. Then it was off to find a panga home. By this time I was pretty drunk and let Trevor lead me back to the beach near the boat to find a ride, but at 10:30 at night there's no way we could flag one down and we didn't see any to flag if we could. So we ended up walking a mile or so back to the marina where we had been dropped off earlier, but again no one was around. All the pangas were there, but there was no one to drive them. I was just about to try and find a sheltered little spot to spend the night when a guy came up and asked us if we wanted a panga. Unfortunately I don't thing that the guy owned the boat he was trying to use. Fortunately another panga came along while the guy was trying to start the engine with a screwdriver in the ignition and so we jumped ship and finally had a ride back out to the anchorage.

Dave giving Trevor his Haha hat to try and get us some more beers:
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Me and my hard to drink out of glass at Squid Roe:
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This morning finds me in a much cleared out anchorage except for the two cruise ships that came in overnight. I'll be packing Trevor off in a couple of hours and then I'll be singlehanding my way over to Mazatlan to meet up with Greg and Bonnie on Willow.

November 8, 2006

Bahia Magdelena

We left Turtle Bay on a beautiful, but hot sunny November morning with enough wind to sail, but not very fast. We tried the spinnaker for a while, but ended up just sailing on a broad reach with the yankee and full main until the wind died altogether about 11 in the evening. From then on we had to motor pretty much all the way to Bahia Magdelena. Fortunately my little sailing awning worked well and saved us from the blistering sun made even hotter with the absence of wind. The highlight of the trip down was the Brown Booby that visited us for a while. He first made an attempt to land on the spreaders, but with his webbed feet, he just slid off and had to fly around for another pass. He then tried to land on the bow pulpit, but slid off of that onto the furled yankee on the bowsprit which he also almost fell off of until finally gaining his footing. He then stayed there well into the evening when I spooked him a bit and he slid into the ocean while I was putting away the spinnaker.

Our clumbsy footed visitor:
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Our clumbsy footed crew:
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We made landfall at first light near Bahia Santa Maria and made Bahia Magdelena by late morning. It was brutal hot and the bay was so calm and clear that we killed the diesel and went for a swim to cool off. The we took off again bucking a 2 knot current up the long and winding channel up to San Carlos. The dock in San Carlos definitely caters to the local fishing fleet with no floats and high pier, but Stormcat the Hunter 41 we've been leapfrogging with down the coast since San Francisco was rafted up to one of the fishing boats. We later taked to them and found that moorage was an outrageous $1.80 a night. We anchored Bodhran upstream of the wharf and motored in to the muddy beach up from the dock. We rolled the dinghy up to the head of the beach on it's new wheels to what looked like a sandy patch up near the tide line. Unfortunately the sand turned out to be a slurry of fish scales inches deep as foul a concoction as you'll ever meet. Even better, Trevor didn't have any shoes on. Kurt and I drug the dink around to top of the boat ramp, but not until almost puking going back through the scales.

Swimming in Bahia Magdelena:
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Wharf in San Carlos:
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The little town of San Carlos is located on a peninsula between the bay and an estuary with one paved road for a couple of blocks on the main street. I think that the highest point in town is only a few feet above sea level. I'd hate to see what would happen if a hurricane came through with a good tidal surge. Still it's a great little town with a beautiful central square and some very reasonable restaurants where we had a big dinner last night with 3 beers for less than 8 bucks apiece and had a killer lunch today for even less. Today we've gone back into town and got Kurt his bus ticket to La Paz and to got my papers in order showing that Kurt has left the boat. Now I'm in another great little internet spot. It's simple room with 4 computers at little tables in the back and 3 tvs with xBoxes hooked up to them in the front. Half the teenagers in town are in here playing some sort of racing game right now. It's a great environment and cheap too.

November 4, 2006

Turtle Bay

We left Ensenada with sunny skies and good wind on our way to San Quintin. The wind ended up blowing out of the Northwest between 10 – 20 knots for 3 straight days. We caught a couple of Bonito on the hand line just out of Bahia Todo Santos. I had been told by the Dan and some fishermen up on Catalina that Bonito weren't any good for eating, so I threw the first one back. Afterwards we were looking in the fish of the pacific book which said that Mexican Bonito were good eating, but Pacific Bonito were not. We weren't sure what kind we had caught, so when we got another on the hand line, we spent a bunch of time trying to ID it, but couldn't really tell if it were Pacific or Mexican. So we kept it, Trevor filleted it and Kurt cooked it up. Upon the first bite we found that it was indeed a Pacific Bonito and after the first few mouth fulls, the rest went back to feed the fishes. Still they're kind of fun to catch even though there's not any challenge pulling them in on the hand line. That first day out of Ensenada also saw a pod of Dolphins playing in the bow wake, a shark which Trevor spotted near some fishing nets, and a couple of Fin whales which which came within 100 feet of the boat while Bodhran was doing a comfortable 4 – 6 knots the entire time.

My Bonito off Bahia Toda Santos:
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The next morning found us broad reaching back into shore to fetch San Quintin. We ended up getting there about noon, but the anchorage was remote and exposed so we decided to jibe back out to sea and just make our way down to Bahia Tortugas. From San Quintin it was a day and a half of continuing steady Northwesterlies which carried us to within 15 miles of the bay when the wind died. This happened at about 1:00 in the morning and so we layed ahull for a couple hours trying to sleep in the rolly sea with no wind to steady the boat until Kurt fired up the diesel at 3:00 to get us to the entrance to the bay at first light. Fortunately for us Bahia Tortugas is a huge bay with room to anchor many hundreds of boats with good protection. We had caught up with the Baha Haha, a cruiser's rally out of San Diego, and there were at least 200 boats already anchored off Turtle Bay Village. Still there was plenty of room for more and we were able to get a reasonably good anchorage near Nonnie a Passport 46 from Bellingham who I'd met up in San Diego.

Kurt and I sailing South of San Quintin:
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And here's the frieghter that Trevor let sneek up a quarter of a mile behind us:
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Turtle Bay with the Haha in town:
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The Haha had already been in the bay for a couple of nights and were leaving the next morning. They were having a beach party up a couple of miles away at the head of the bay and everyone was inviting us to crash it. So not to disappoint, we hired a panga to give us a ride and drop us off for a dollar a person. The party was rocking. This is the big event for the year for the locals and they were out in form with taco and cerveza stands and a DJ cranking rocking out some classics like Achy Breaky Heart and I Will Survive. Being we're all a bunch of crusiers and are normally in bed early, the party broke up at dusk and we caught a ride back to the boat with a couple from the Yukon in their little Avon Redcrest inflatable. Five is a huge payload for that dinghy in the best of times and punching it out through the little surf coming into the beach got a little damp, but once we were through, we were fine only taking the occasional wave over the bow when our weight wasn't distributed far enough aft. We spent the rest of the night with Paul and Jeff on Nonnie, drinking tequilla, telling bad jokes and teaching Trevor how to get a case of beer whenever he's near water.

Panga Ride to the beach party:
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Men's room at the Beach Party:
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Me eating my first beef in 7 years at the Beach Party Taco Stand:
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The Haha pulled up anchor this morning. It's quite a spectical watching 188 sailboats all pull up anchor and sail out of the bay at once to catch the 8:00 beginning to their leg down to Bahia Magdelena. Of course we jumped on the opportunity to get a prime anchoring spot off the town dock and will be spending one more night here before we take off for Bahia Magdelena ourselves. It looks like Kurt is going to be meeting up with Emily and his buddy Hughy it La Paz next weekend, so we need to get him to a town where he can take a bus across the peninsula to meet them. From there Trevor and I will sail on for Cabo double handed, but I still haven't made up my mind whether to turn the corner and go up to La Paz right away or to sail on across the Sea to Mazatlan and hang out with Greg and Bonnie for a while before heading up to La Paz to hook up with my family for Christmas.

Haha leaving Turtle Bay:
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