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March 30, 2007

Rise of the Phoenix

The “Shelly B” going up in flames 10 days ago:

No more wasting time in Mexico. For the last 4 days I've been working full time on helping Brian getting Phoenix into sailing shape. Pitching in on a community project like this has been an even better way to meet people than playing music. People from all over the sailing community have pitched in money (estimated $4500), parts and labor to raise Phoenix from the ashes. Tomorrow, she goes into the water and we're hoping to even take her out on a test sail. The core team the last few days has been Brian, Bill and Miriam off “Moon Hunter”, Ryan off “Boreas”, Dave off “Polar Bear”, Mark off his Alberg 37 that I can't remember the name of, Josh a random kayaker with a big heart and myself. All the crew are great people who I look forward to cruising with as we all move north in the coming weeks. There's still a few days of work to do on Phoenix and then I think that most of the crew will be heading up to Espiritu Santo for a week or two. I'll follow behind when Jess gets in on the 4th. Here are some pics of the Phoenix and our work crew:

Here's the “Sundown” later renamed “Phoenix” and the crew of people who bought her and cleaned her up to give to Brian. This is right before they unveiled the surprise gift:

The Phoenix work crew: Bill, Miriam, Ryan, Mark, Dave and myself:

Brian and whatever god it was officiating the renaming ceremony of the “Phoenix”:

March 25, 2007


So Brandon, Jason, Beth and Erica down in Barra were all pretty avid MySpace users. I've resisted this movement for a long time, but Brandon convinced me of the benifits of MySpace. So now I've joined with the millions of 14 y/o girls out there with their own MySpace pages. You can find my page here. I'm up to 5 friends now including Tom. So if any of you folks out there have MySpace accounts send me a friend request so that I don't look like such a MySpace loser.

Mazatlan 2 La Paz

Bodhran anchored off Marina de La Paz:

Back in La Paz again, but not without a few difficulties on the way. I mean come on, I wouldn't really have much to write about if all I did was read books and lounge around under the awning whenever I'm sailing. So the first problem was leaving Isla Venados off Mazatlan. I pulled most of the chain in without difficulty. Then with about 15 feet left to go it became increasingly hard to crank the windlass. Well I've had this problem a few times on the trip, I must have caught another anchor right? Wrong, with 10 feet to go, I had to switch the windlass into low gear which boasts 1100lbs pulling power. I'm not sure how they measure that, I'm still the one pulling, but needless to say there's a lot of mechanical advantage there. Well I finally get the anchor up to within view a few feet under the surface and it's caught on not one but two large steel cables, one around each fluke. Without much hope of success I dropped the anchor back to the sea floor, turned the boat in various directions and tried to motor around to disentangle the cables. No joy. Ok, well I tried pulling the anchor up again. When it got near the surface it became increasingly hard to pull up even in low gear. Well I was able to get the cables to break the surface, but after that instead of pulling the anchor up, the windlass began pulling the bow down to the water. So I guess that's as far as I'm getting the anchor up with the cables on it. Actually getting the cables off ended up being far less problematic then the anchors that I had pulled up before. Because the cables were looped over the flukes and presumably attached to something on both ends, I ended up passing a line around each cable and securing them to the sampson posts. I was then able to drop the anchor from between the cables and then raise it again twisting it around the cables being supported by the lines attached to the boat. The first time I dropped and re-raised the anchor I only freed it from one of the cables, but I dropped that cable back to the briny deep and the it was easy to avoid the other cable on the second try. Wheew, so that took almost an hour and I was exhausted before I even left.

Two cables tangled up in my anchor. I've already got the lines attached that I used to clear the cables:

I sailed out of Mazatlan on a light southwesterly dodging the many shrimp boats and making a stately 3 knots under sunny skies. The wind died right after sunset and I ended up motoring through the night. I pulled my usual 15 minute nap schedule through the night until 5 in the morning when I awoke from my nap to thick fog. This was my first fog since leaving northern California back in October and I wasn't pleased to see it. I was even less pleased when I turned off the engine and heard the distinct low frequency whum, whum, whum, whum of a very large boat somewhere off my starboard stern quarter. I sailed at a knot and a half in the very light winds trying to keep the engine noise to my stern and turned on my spreader lights which reflected off the fog to create an eerily lit bubble around Bodhran which would hopefully be visible in the pre-dawn darkness to any reasonable lookout. I also put out a securite broadcast with my GPS coordinates on channel 16 to let anyone monitoring the vhf know exactly where I was at. I got no response on the radio, but after about half an hour I couldn't hear the engine noise any more and an hour later the sun was high enough to start burning off the fog. A little stressful, but probably no big deal, engine noise travels for miles over the water and whatever was causing it likely never got within a couple of miles of me.

Once the fog cleared, I fired up the engine and motored off into glassy calm seas. Looking down I was surrounded by massive amounts of bizarre jellyfish. The coolest were these chains of up to seven glowing jellies. I also saw my first giant manta ray, many pods of dolphins, and a couple of jumping sailfish. Nice day, until....once again my engine starts hunting around and dies. Damn! I haven't had this problem in a while. Turns out with my dirty hull I've been burning way more diesel that I normally do and I was just out of fuel, but to my dismay when I checked on the engine I saw water streaming around my prop shaft. Now this is a very bad situation. If the shaftlog is leaking, there's almost no way to plug it with the shaft in the way and my access to the area is particularly bad. Even worse, I was out of diesel in light airs and exactly halfway between Mazatlan and Bahia De Los Muertos with light southerlies forecast, but no wind right now. My heart was beating a million miles an hour as I investigated further. It ends up that my bilge pump hose, which runs under the transmission and very close to the prop shaft, had chafed through and was shooting two jets of water onto the shaft making it looking like the shaft was leaking. Greatly calmed by this discovery I cut the hose and put a 1.5in barb 2 barb connector I had on board onto the hose to join it back up. Problem solved. I put two of my three jugs of diesel into the tank, but decided that I wouldn't use the engine until I was close to land and then sailed in increasing southerlies for two days to try and make it to Muertos.

Calm sea filled with Jellyfish:

By the time I made it across the Sea and was within 10 miles of my destination, the southwind was up to 15 knots and had a 4 foot sea running. Southerlies are pretty uncommon in the sea and the usually protected anchorage of Ensenada de los Muertos was completely exposed to the seas and would have been a dangerous lee shore. So no rest for the weary. I'd already been out three nights, which is my normal limit for a single handed passage, but there was no good anchorage that I could reach within the 4 hours before sunset, so I set sail for the north end of Isla Cerralvo and the pass to La Paz. When I was within 5 miles of the tip of Cerralvo, the wind began to shift around out of the West and quickly built to 25-30 knots right on the nose whipping up a confused sea. I spent a couple hours under double reef main and staysail trying to beat my way to the point, but really wasn't up to the pounding that I was taking. So I doused the staysail and rigged Bodhran to forereach through the night making a slow 1.5 knots almost due north I went below stretching my normal 15 minute naps out into 30 minutes due to my slow speed and the lack of traffic in the area once the scheduled Baha ferry passed right after sunset. It was a cold and rolly night, but I made 20 mile northward and by sunrise had a reasonable angle to motor sail towards the pass to La Paz. So I sacrificed my precious reserve fuel and fired up the diesel to pound 20 degrees off a 4 foot head sea. The closer I got the pass between the Pichilingue and Isla Espiritu Santo, the fetch decreased and motoring became easier until six hours later reaching the pass, the wind died completely and with no fetch, the seas had flattened to nothing. From there it was just a 15 mile motor down to La Paz. I ran out of fuel again right outside the channel to La Paz, within a quarter mile of the Maria Costa Baha fuel dock. I put in my reserve 5 gallon jug, but was too tired to fill up now and motored off down the long channel to the La Paz anchorage. I dropped the hook and promptly slept for 15 hours until the next morning.

Gray whale that must have breached 20 times while I was riding a nice southerly towards Cerralvo channel:

Well rested, I spent 5 hours the next day trying to put old Bodhran back together. During that time I got a visit from KC off Boreas. I'd met KC, his wife Mandy, buddy Ryan and , at the time, 4 month old daughter Vianne up in Neah Bay back in September. KC filled me in on all the goings on around La Paz included the Pearson Triton 28 that had burned and sunk a few days earlier. The boat had belonged to Brian, another young singlehander in his late 20's. What was truly a tragic tale has turned out to be one of the most inspiring stories I've heard. The same day that Brian's boat burned, a group of cruisers got together and salvaged another old Triton that had been abandoned out in the anchorage, they dove on the burned boat to recover what they could, got one of the local yards to donate a haulout and yard time and organized a gear drive to start re-outfitting the new boat. There's also a fund raiser organized for next week. The new Pearson has been aptly renamed “Phoenix.” I met Brian last night and he's still overwhelmed. To go through the low of having your dreams, along with all you possesions, go up in flames and then to have the high of the community coming together the way they did all in the same day was almost too much to handle. I've got 10 days to kill before Jessica and Jon get down here. So I'll probably end up spending a good deal of time helping to get Phoenix into sailing shape so that Brian can get it north before hurricane season.

March 20, 2007

Taking off for La Paz

Anchored off Isla Venedos with Bula, a tour catamaran very similar to the one being built back home at Seaview North:

Well it's been a mellow week in Mazatlan. I left the anchorage yesterday afternoon and moved out to Isla Venedos across from the Zona Dorado. I spent an hour cleaning my prop and scraping barnacles off Bodhran's bottom. I could have spent a couple hours more, but I got most of the big stuff. It's amazing how fast critter are growing on the bottom here. It's only been 10 days since I cleaned off the prop in Chemela and it was covered in barnacles again.

I'm leaving to cross over to La Paz this afternoon. There's supposed to be light southerlies in the Sea of Cortez for the next few days and then nothing what so ever. So depending on how my mood takes me I'll either be drifting along with the spinnaker up and making a slow crossing or I'll be motoring the entire way. Either way I'll probably spend some time at Meurtos and Espiritu Santo before heading into the anchorage at La Paz in a week to ten days from now.

March 18, 2007

Killing time in Mazatlan

My daily view while drinking my morning coffee at anchor:

Well I haven't been doing much of anything the last week here in Mazatlan. I make sure I get off the boat and go for a bike ride once a day, but other than that, I've been a very lazy boy. Mazatlan is the same as it's been the last 3 times I've been through here. 2 cruise ships come in every morning, and then leave again in the evening. The harbor is dirty and the breeze blows right over the sewage treatment plant and onto the anchorage making things a bit smelly every afternoon. Still I like the anchorage here. It's a very mellow place to hang out. My only real adventure was trying to find new guitar strings. I spent 4 hours riding around town and almost got heat stroke trying to find a music shop. Like most other things, it seems that there is a district for music shops, so you don't just stumble over one, you have to find the musical instrument district. I finally succumbed, folded up my bike and hopped on a cab who drove me a quarter of a mile to an area I had ridden by at least 3 times that day. All the shops were on a one way street and I rode by the block below the shops and never went up the street to check it out. Oh well at least I've got some strings for my Blueridge now. So that's how I'm killing my time these days, playing guitar, watching movies and tv shows I've got from Todd and Brandon and luxuriating in the ability to take a fresh water shower every day, even though I've gotten a couple of good shocks from the electric water heater shower head with the exposed wiring........ahhh Mexico!

March 11, 2007

Going the wrong way

I finally got out of Barra on Monday. We spent one last night in town hanging out with the usual crowd as well as Erika off “Batwing” and Dave from “Shoot the Moon.” We played music one more time Reymomos and the Sand Bar and saying goodbye to all the good folks we met. I've had a lot of fun this Winter, but Barra de Navidad has made all the last 4 years effort worthwhile.

Packing Tate off in the water taxi, I've still got Brandon for a few more days, but this is my transition back into being a singlehander:

We packed Tate off in a water Taxi about 11:00am to catch his bus to PV and Brandon and I set off to sail north. We had wind right from the start, and of course right on the nose. Well Brandon was here to sail, so on the nose or no we started a process of hourly tacks beating out way north through the rest of the day and most of the night. By morning we had made the 55 miles to Chemela. I briefly thought of stopping, but it was 7am and the wind had died, it seemed like a good day to press on to try and round Cabo Corrientes. The forecast had been for 15-20 knot winds off the cape raising to 20-25 in the evening. Now I had sailed upwind in similar conditions on my crossing from Mazatlan to La Paz and we were making good time, so of course I went on. By mid morning the wind had picked up to a nice 15 knots, still on the nose, but we were making 5 knots into the chop, we were 25 miles south of the next good anchorage at Ipala, and life was still fine. Of course it didn't stay that way. By noon the wind had increased along with the waves. We were down to making 2-3 knots with little headway as every big wave would crash into the bow, practically stopping the boat and knocking her 30 degrees off course. It quickly became apparent that we wouldn't make Ipala before nightfall. Still I kept going, we were still making progress. Then the waves got to the point that the big ones would half fill the cockpit with seawater. I turned on the motor and tried to motorsail into them, but was still having a tough time of it. With a heavy heart I decided to turn back downwind to Chemela and give up the 35 miles hard won miles. Brandon and I alternated watches staring down steep waves with just the staysail up trying to slow our progress and reach Chemela right at sunrise. By 5 in the morning the wind had died off and we motored into Chemela Bay and had the hook down by 9. I had been hoping to get Brandon up to Punta de Mita, but he had to meet up with Jason and Beth in Guadalijara, so we loaded all his stuff in the dinghy and somehow managed to keep it all dry even though it was definitely not one of my better surf landings.

I stayed two nights in Chemela. I was a little beat down from the attempt at Cabo Corrientes and spent one day sleeping and then the next doing maintenance and cleaning the hull. I must admit that I didn't finish the hull though. The water was really murky and while I was cleaning the prop either a shark or some large tuna/jack swam just at the range of visibility 4 feet beneath me. Well I didn't really feel like sticking around to figure out what it was. I'm sure that it would have been fine, but I'm still not really keen on swimming with sharks. There was no wind leaving Chemela Friday morning, so I set off motoring north. What there were lots of was turtles. I normally see 3 or 4 turtles every day that I'm out here, but the sea was thick with them that day. It's like the wind had died, the swell was down and every turtle on the beach decided it was time to boogy back out to sea. At one time when the wind was down and the sea flat, I counted 20 within sight of the boat.

Pretty uneventful trip north, at least here's a good sunset pic:

The wind was so light on the northbound trip that I decided to skip Bandares Bay altogether and just motor through. I arrived in Mazatlan early this morning and anchored across from the city at Isla Venedos. I had anchored here with Greg and Bonnie and the crew back in November and felt comfortable anchoring in the dark rather than hanging out offshore until morning like I normally do. I'm going to be here for a couple of days scamming internet off the Gold Zone and catching up on sleep and then I'll probably move into the main Mazatlan anchorage for a while. I made it to Mazatlan way sooner than I had planned. I'll probably kill a week or more here before I cross over to La Paz to meet up with Jessica and Jon.

March 4, 2007

You can check out any time you want, but you can never leave!!!

OK, so I shouldn't have thought that it was going to be easy leaving Barra. I was all ready to leave today, but Ron, Diane and Erika off Batwing came in yesterday. Ron and Diane were at Gate 6 with me in Squalicum harbor for a couple of years. It turns out that they have a 94 Dodge conversion van that they need to get rid of sitting in the boat yard up in Guaymas. Well it just so happens that I'm in the market for a small rv or van with a bed in the back to haul a bunch of gear back and forth between Mexico and Washington and to live in back home when I don't have a couch to surf on. I also just happen to be heading up to Guaymas to haul out. It's a little sketchy buying a van sight unseen, but Ron and Diane are good folk and it's going to help us both out.

Here's a quick album with the pics Diane took of the Van:

Also here's the album from La Cruz and Barra de Navidad. Sorry it's got so many pictures of us playing music, but that's mainly what Tate and I have been doing for the last 2 months.

So now it looks like one more night playing music in Barra and then Brandon and I will set sail northbound in tomorrow morning.

March 2, 2007

Getting ready to finally leave Barra de Navidad

Poorly put together panorama from the hill above the Grand Bay Hotel. The Pacific is on the left, then Barra de Navidad and then the lagoon on the right. You can see it's a very long dinghy ride from the anchorage:

This weekend is the turning point in my Winter cruise. March is here and it's time for me to start heading north. Tate is taking off and moving to San Diego to do a bird study on Camp Pendelton for the next 6 months. Brandon is going to stay with me as far as Punta de Mita. From there I'll singlehand up to La Paz where I'm meeting up with Jessica and Jon for a couple of weeks. After that I'll be heading up to San Carlos on the mainland side of the Sea of Cortez to pull Bodhran out of the water for the Summer around May 1st. I could easily stay in Barra a lot longer. We've been taken in by the local ex-pat community and have made a lot of friends, but Hurricane season is approaching in a couple of months and I want to be able to take my time heading north.

I just liked this picture of Tate and I at the Sand Bar:

The last week in Barra has been much the same as the previous two. Lots of playing music, swimming and drinking. On Tuesday we went over to Buster's house to record some tracks for a Benefit CD that he's trying to put together to help out the poor kids in the Barrio. Unfortunately someone turned off the recording machine before the tracks were saved to permanent memory and we lost everything. Then on Wednesday, Jason and Beth came in from Portland. They're both guitar players and Beth has a great voice. So we took them out their first night and showed them the local scene. They met us at the Pool bar where, after a quick dip, we started playing music. Then is was off to Mexico Lindos for dinner. Afterwards we went up to Justin's bar Reymomos and played for beer and tips for 3 or 4 hours. It was a lot of fun and very loud. Un-amplified and in the middle of town, people said that they could hear us 2 blocks away. I think that we brought in a lot of business. I hope that we did, because we certainly drank a lot of beer. Jason and Beth and been up for over 30 hours by this time, but were still able to rally for the 1-3am scene at the Sand Bar where we again played a bunch more music and drank more free beer. We definitely had too many guitars, but it was great being able to trade off songs with Beth and Brandon all night.

The guitar orchestra at Reymomos:

Yesterday, we tried our hands at surfing again and then in the afternoon we met up at Pipers to try making another recording with Buster. This time we actually saved the tracks. Jason and Beth laid down some as well. Hopfully Buster is going to mail us all CDs when he mixes everything down. I don't know if Buster can actually raise any money with our recording, but it'd be great just to have a recording of ourselves down here in Barra.

Brandon about to head into the surf:

Jason, Beth, Brandon and Tate recording at Piper's

So I'll be spending the next couple of days playing music and saying goodbye to everyone down here. I'll probably set sail north on either Sunday or Monday depending on weather. From here it's 50 miles to Chemela or 170 miles to Punta de Mita, neither of which have internet access. I might not get another post off until Mazatlan in 10 – 15 days.