Monday, December 12, 2016

We Love Boobies!

Ten days ago we did a 3-day, 320 nm passage from La Paz to a tiny island off the coast of mainland Mexico called Isla Isabel.  Unlike our first passage across the Sea, this one was almost pleasant.  Almost.  We thought we’d picked the perfect weather window.  The “Fast Sea” weather/passage planning software we were using predicted we’d have no more than 16 knots of wind from the NW and small seas for the entire crossing.  That was once the cold front that was travelling down the Sea of Cortez had passed, which it was supposed to do the morning we left…BEFORE we left.

The first 12 hours of the passage were pleasant.  We did indeed have 15 knots of wind and had a beautiful sail down the Cerralvo channel.  Just after nightfall, after we’d left the safety of the Baja coastline, we looked behind us and saw a sight guaranteed to strike fear into the heart of any offshore sailor.  Lightening.  And LOTS of it!  Unfortunately I had just put lasagna in the oven for dinner and so we weren’t able to put our spare GPS and radio in oven (our faraday container on board) to protect them in the event of a lightening strike…  

With no choice but to carry on, we reefed the main and watched the squalls form all around us.  At one point we were in the centre of 5 different squalls, with lightening hitting the water all around us.  It was nothing short of terrifying.  By midnight the thunderheads had moved off to the east, but the wind climbed to 30 knots and stayed there for the duration of the night.  We sailed with just a double reefed main and made amazing progress.  So much for the “Fast Seas” prediction.  By morning we were 12 hours ahead of where we were supposed to be by their calculations!

Male frigate bird on Isla Isabel

Days two and three were much tamer.  The seas were still big, but the winds were a gentle 10-15 knots.  Unfortunately we ended up travelling too quickly and our arrival time to Isla Isabel showed after dark.  We slowed the boat way down and sailed at 1.5 knots for the last 15 miles so that we pulled into the island at first light. 

Isla Isabel was spectacular.  The first thing that hit us was how green it was!  I don’t know why that surprised us so much, but after sailing in the Mexican desert for the last 2 years, you get used to seeing brown, not green.  The second thing that struck us was the birds.  There were literally thousands of frigate birds and boobies circling over the island.  Talk about wild. 

Isla Isabel, south anchorage.  Boobies and frigates fore and aft.
The island has 2 anchorages, one on the south side, and one on the east.  Neither is tenable in anything other than calm seas.  The seas were definitely calming down when we arrived, but the breakers rolling across the south anchorage and crashing into the rocks were humbling, to be sure.  We anchored in the south bay.  As the anchorage is known to have a rocky bottom that has “eaten more anchors than anywhere else in Mexico”, we attached a trip line and Gary got in the water and manuevered the anchor into a favourable sandy spot (there is only one – the joy of being the first boat to arrive!).

Despite only getting snatches of sleep for the last 3 days, we put the dinghy in the water and went to explore.  The island is called the Mexican Galapagos as the inhabitants have no predators and so aren’t afraid of people.  As a result, you can get up close and personal with frigates, iguanas and nesting boobies.  It was incredible. 

People must feed the iguanas, or they just like the camera, because they literally ran up to me when I knelt down to take pictures.  You had to watch where you stepped in the grass to avoid squishing them!
Gary and the Iguanas

Boobie on its nest
The Boobies were the most amazing though, as we’d arrived at nesting time.  We hiked to the top of a ridge overlooking the anchorage, and there they were, nest after nest of boobies sitting on their eggs.  They watched us wearily as we walked slowly through them, but they didn’t leave their nests and didn’t seem put out by us at all.  

Building a nest, Booby style!
The highlight was watching a pair building a nest.  The male would gather grass then prance over to the nest and place it around the female.  They’d then click bills and cackle at each other.  It was adorable.  I got the most amazing video. 

The island itself is a national park and was home to an impressive looking research station which was built in 1980, but like so many buildings in Mexico, has fallen into disrepair.  Supposedly researchers still go there and camp in the abandoned building, but no one was present when we were visiting.  

Fish camp, with thousands of frigate birds hovering above
The island is also home to a well-run fish camp.  The Mexican government must have built the huts on the beach at the same time as the research centre, as they are identical and are painted green to blend into the background.  It is a very active camp, which houses the long-line fisherman.  The fisherman go out and set lines with thousands of hooks on the surface, marked with pop bottles, that go for miles.  Each end is marked by a pole with a black flag.  We regularly saw the fishermen going out with nets full of pop bottles and reels of line wrapped around the poles.  While we were impressed at how hard these men worked, we were saddened by their impact on the ocean.  These longlines are extremely hazardous to by-catch (dolphins, turtles, whales), not to mention sailboats trying to traverse the area!  We caught one on our passage from Isla Isabel to the mainland, but luckily it came off with a bit of coaxing.  As you traverse this area of the coast in a sailboat you can’t help but feel like the ocean has been booby-trapped.  But, I understand people have to eat and it isn’t a simple problem and doesn’t have a simple solution.  Like so many things in life.

After spending two lovely days soaking up the atmosphere on the island, the wind and waves picked up and it was time to go.  We had a pleasant overnight sail to La Cruz, in Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta) and spent a few days catching up with friends and enjoying the Cruiser activities (Movie Night, Cruiser Welcome Party etc). 

Impromptu Blue Water Cruising BURP (unplanned rendezvous) in La Cruz
We weren’t planning on going that far south before Christmas, but Gary wanted to do a reconnaissance trip as he will be single-handing the boat back to this area in January while I am in Vancouver working.  After 2 days there, we took advantage of the calm conditions to motor (with some sailing) 60 nm north to the town of San Blas, where we will keep the boat over Christmas while we return to snowy, cold Vancouver.  I expect it will be a bit of a shock for us on Friday when we travel from our current jungle/river area location where it is 30oC and humid (we are both dying) to -2oC (we will also be dying).

Here are a few more pictures of the inhabitants of Isla Isabel:

Frigate doing god knows what

Posing for the camera

Juvenile male frigate developing his red throat sac (sign of maturity) 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Land and Sea

Steinbeck Canyon
The Crew of Sea Rover II have had a few adventures this last week.  Last year when we were in Puerto Escondido in December, we hiked a bit of the Steinbeck Canyon, which is a lovely slot canyon up in the Giganta mountain range about two miles from the marina.  The canyon has beautiful rock formations and is full of fresh water pools in the fall after the summer rains.  After last year’s hike, we talked about how neat it would be to hike further into the canyon and spend the night.  So, this year we brought our tent and some camping gear with the intention of doing just that!

Rock wall; end of the line for most hikers... but not us!
Tanya and Jay from s/v Kialoa joined Gary and I on our “land” adventure up the canyon.  We left the boats tied up to mooring balls in Escondido and left the dinghy locked to the dock.  We took minimal gear (tent, sleeping bags, thermarests, a few clothes - Tanya brought a pillow!) and Jay carried most of the food (he’s young and strong).  It used to be a relatively easy hike all the way up the canyon, but a hurricane a few years ago caused a change in the boulder configuration such that some climbing moves are required to get past the rocks a mile or so up the canyon.  

Sketchy move up the rock wall - there is a 15 foot drop below

This is where I (and most other people who do the hike) stopped last year, while the others hiked/climbed on.  This year Gary was determined to get me up there!  With a lot of help and coaxing from Gary and Jay (both mountain goats), Tanya and I completed the 4 “sketchy” sections required to move higher up the canyon.  Tanya had made the moves last year, but was still happy for the extra support again this year.  Thanks Jay and Gary!

Pool just above camp
The efforts were worth it.  As there hasn’t been as much rain this year, the pools weren’t nearly as full of water.  As such, most of the pools started just above the “sketchy” section.  We stopped to dunk our heads in the water and have a quick lunch, then continued up the canyon. 
Gary lounging in camp with Tanya's pillow
We found a nice flat area with some palm trees about an hours’ hike up the canyon, and set up camp for the night.  Tanya and Jay continued hiking (and were eventually turned around by a water chute, although Jay really wanted to climb it but was worried about getting his camera wet), while Gary and I lounged in camp and enjoyed the surroundings.

Humming birds, yellow butterflies and frogs.  Upon their return we played cards by headlamp, then made a campfire and ate all the food Jay had hauled up (the makings for quesedillas, chocolate, fruit etc).  It was a feast!  We talked long into the night then went to sleep under the bright moon.

Stick bug
We didn’t see any wild animals, but the place was crawling (literally) with daddy long leg spiders.  Tanya had to remove 8 spiders from her tent before she could go to sleep as she’d accidently left the tent flap open.  Oops. 
Our only other visitor was a stick bug, which climbed up Jay’s arm, then realizing he’d made a mistake promptly turned himself into a stick!

We enjoyed swims in several of the pools on the way down, and got through the “sketchy” areas again with Gary and Jay’s help.  
Tanya and I avoided the worst of the “sketchy” climbing moves by climbing down a small waterfall and swimming across one of the pools instead.  Much easier and less stressful for all involved!  The day was topped off by a stop at for ice cream on the long walk back to the marina.

We left Puerto Escondido the next day and sailed down to Isla San Francisco, one of our favourite spots.  While we were there, we put together my new Feathercraft folding kayak.  After an intense hour of figuring out how it went together, I was paddling around the bay. 

I had so much fun, I decided to “go for a paddle”, and proceeded to paddle around the island.  I’m guessing it is 5 or 6nm around, but I’m not exactly sure – it took 2 hours anyway.  It turned out to be a long paddle, mostly upwind, and then downwind in choppy seas.  But, it was a good test of the kayak – it performed really well and I am pleased.

We left early the next morning (ie, 4am) to sail to Ensenada del Candeleros on Isla Partida, the island close to La Paz.  We spent the day snorkeling the reef and cleaning the bottom of the boat, then left the anchorage at 11pm to sail to La Paz.  We were hoping to spend the entire night in the anchorage, but a Coromuel blew in (nasty nighttime west winds that cause huge waves to be pushed into all the bays in the Islands) and we literally got bounced out of bed.  We had a quick sail down to La Paz even though there was only 5-7 knots of wind and we were double reefed!  We couldn’t seem to slow the boat down.  She even sailed downwind in less than 4 knots of wind, which is very difficult for us to do under normal conditions.  Crazy sail!  Anyway, we arrived at the La Paz channel mouth at 4:15am and decided there was enough light to enter.  We anchored at 5:15am and then got some much needed sleep before I had to “go to work”. 

We’ll be here for the next week doing some boat projects and catching up with friends, and then will look for a weather window to cross over to the mainland side.  Puerto Vallarta, here we come!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Slow Learners

You may recall that last year we had a particularly “sporty” sail across the Sea of Cortez.  We were trying to go north up to the island of Tiburon, but were turned back by strong NW winds and large seas.  Instead of going back to San Carlos or Guaymas, where we would have had safe harbour, we decided to cross over to Santa Rosalia on the Baja side instead.  Despite thinking we were far enough north to have a good wind angle, we ended up sailing a close reach with large, beam-to seas regularly spraying through the cockpit for the entire ride.  Gary was seasick, I was fine (I believe in seasick med, he is skeptical).  16 hours and many frayed nerves later, we were safely moored to the dock.  There was a lesson in there somewhere. 

This year we vowed to “do things right”.  But, of course, we wanted to sail (both of us, not just Gary this time).  We looked at the weather and there was a moderate norther starting last Thursday.  We looked at the wind direction and reasoned that if we sailed from Guaymas down to the Loreto area we should have  a great downwind, broad reach sail.  In theory, the seas would be behind, or at least on the back quarter.  We discussed our plan with other sailors at the Guyamas Fonatur marina, and the ones that actually sail their boats agreed all indicators pointed to a good, fast downwind run. 

With that in mind, we left on Thursday afternoon.  Shortly before hauling anchor, the wind cranked up to 17 knots from the west.  Hmmm, we had so sail due west to get out of the harbour, but that should be OK, right?  We’d bet to turn to the S/SW direction once we cleared the point.  We continued on.  Once outside the harbour buoys, we hoisted our sails and were off.  The seas were moderate (still protected by the point, remember) and we had a screaming sail in a SE direction.  Not exactly the direction we wanted to go, but no matter.  We’d correct that once we got outside the protection of the point.  Well, we passed the point and our pleasant sail turned into a survival exercise!  The waves quickly built to 4-5 feet (with about a 4 second period – yikes!) and the boat was on its side more than it was upright.  We set our course, expecting to be on a broad reach, and discovered we’d need to sail a close reach to even get close to making our destination of San Juanico.  We looked at each other and sail convinced ourselves that surely it would get better once we were out of the influence of the Guaymas mountains and land effects.  We carried on.  About an hour into it (and 7 nm from the point!!) we had to admit that the wind was coming from the NW, not W as we’d originally thought.  And yes, our sail was going to have to be a close reach to make San Juanico.  For the next 18 hours. By this point half the things on the starboard side of the boat had found their way onto the floor.  And the rest were leering at us just waiting to make the leap.  The boat was rocketing along under double reefed main and genoa at 7-8 knots and being knocked down every 5-6 seconds.  Aaaagggghhhhh!!!!!!!!  We started to have the “OK, this sucks, what are our options?” conversation.  Option 1, keep going.  Not attractive.  Option 2, turn back to Guaymas.  Also not attractive as Gary doesn’t believe in going backwards.  Option 3, turn downwind to a comfortable point of sail and end up in Topolobombo or Mazatlan 36-48 hours later.  Sort of attractive, but neither of us really wanted to go to Mazatlan, and we would arrive in Topolombombo in the dark.  Very unattractive.  

We chose option 2 and turned back towards Guaymas.  We were only 7nm from the point, so it would be an hours sail back in.  We’d arrive in the anchorage we’d chosen (Bahia Catalina, just off the point) at dusk.  Perfect, right?  Well, turns out that we had to sail an even hotter angle (almost close hauled) to make it back to the anchorage.  Now everything on the port side of the boat decided to join the ‘suicide party’.  Total carnage down below.  The seas were incredible.  At one point we sailed through a wave, not over it, and the entire cockpit enclose was treated to a lovely salt water shower .  All good fun.  After an hour of clinging on for dear life, we passed the point and the waves settled out to something manageable.  Remarkably, considering what we’d just gone through, the engine started (no air lock – yippee!) and we motored into the anchorage with an entourage of pelicans, as the sun set.  That part was perfect.

After a restless night in the anchorage (Gary got up to pee at midnight and discovered the boat ahead of us had dragged into us – I could literally climb into the guys cockpit from our bow pulpit), we regrouped, looked at the weather in the morning and decided our mistake was trying to leave too late in the day.  The weather patterns around Guaymas are a bit strange, in that the wind tends to blow west in the afternoon, where everywhere else it blows NW.  Our thought was that we had been stuck in the westerly afternoon winds on our way out of the Guaymas area, and if we’d gone ‘just a little further’, we would have found the good wind and had a good sail.  It seemed reasonable.  Surely we hadn’t got this whole wind angle thing wrong, right?? 

Gary estimated we’d need to get about 20 nm offshore before we’d be free of the Guaymas westerlies.  We left early, at 10:30 am, and headed out again.  The seas were still the same, but this time the winds were moderate.  We motored in a NW (well, more W) direction for as far as we could in the beam-to seas, and started to sail about an hour in.  It certainly wasn’t pleasant.  Again, we were on a close reach and the seas were incredibly uncomfortable.  At least I’d secured things a bit better below and so the carnage was kept to a minimum!  About an hour in, Gary announced he wasn’t feeling well.  I handed him the barf bucket that lives in the cockpit while we are in passage, and he immediately found in it useful.  Oh dear.  This was going to be a looonnnggggg trip.  We discussed turning around again, but I guess he can only do that once a season.  Again, we hoped it would get better.  It didn’t. 

We raged forward at between 7-8 knots under double-reefed main and genoa.  The boat was doing fine…the crew, not so much.  Gary went down below to sleep while I took the first watch. Otto (our autopilot) seemed to be doing fine, but the boat was on it’s ear every 10 seconds.  I’m pretty sure the keel was exposed to the waves on a fairly regular basis.  But, we persevered.  By dusk, the winds had increased from 16 knots, to a consistent 21 knots and our boat speed had increased to a consistent 8-9 knots.  It felt like we were on an out of control sleigh ride.  Happily, by dusk the wind angle had changed slightly to a beam reach.  The seas were slightly behind the beam, but they now had a good slap to them.  We started to regularly take water through the cockpit.  Oh joy.  When I came on watch at 9pm, the world was dark, dark, dark.  The moon hadn’t risen yet, but you could see the bioluminescence-filled waves cresting as they charged for Sea Rover’s starboard beam.  The spray of water through the cockpit would come next.  Joy.  The motion was so violent that dinner consisted of picking the meat out of the sandwiches we were supposed to have eaten for lunch (for me at least; Gary didn’t eat the entire trip).  There was a brilliant moonrise at about 10pm, which highlighted the craziness of the boat.  We were up, then down, then up, then down, then up, then wet, then up, then down… you get the picture.  I literally held on for dear life and encouraged the boat to hang in there.  Again, she was fine (in her element, really) – it was the crew who were suffering!

Finally, after 17 hours of ‘fun ride’ hell, we arrived at Isla Coronado just as the wind died and the seas turned to behind us (ahhhhh, blessed relief).  This was a good thing, as of course the engine had an airlock.  At 0315, Gary was down below with the shop vac trying to convince water to run through the engine cooling system.  The benign conditions (finally!) made it easy, and we got the hook down shortly after. 
I’m sure there is a lesson in here somewhere.  Like, don’t cross the Sea of Cortez when the wind is forecast to be greater than 15 knots.  And, there is a reason most experienced Sea of Cortez Cruisers choose to cross when there is a lull between weather systems and the winds are calm.  I’d like to think we’ve learned that lesson after 2 Sea of Cortez beatings, but knowing our track record, I wouldn’t put money on it.

Sorry, not pictures for this on.  We didn’t have enough hands to hold onto the boat and the camera at the same time.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

New Season, New Look

Sea Rover at the end of last season
Sea Rover's New Look!
After torturing several sets of guests in Season Two, Gary and I decided to have an integrated swim platform added to the back of the boat over the summer.  We were getting the boat painted anyway, and the addition of the swim platform didn’t add a huge amount to the price tag.  In other words, it was a ‘good deal’.  Francisco, our fiberglass/painter wizard here in Guaymas, worked on the project over the summer.  Through a series of bad photos (usually with Francisco’s thumb in the way), we saw the swim platform come to life.  Sort of.  And then the really hot, rainy season came and, predictably, all work came to a halt.  To ensure the boat would actually make it back in the water before the new year, Gary drove down to Mexico at the beginning of October (before all the other Cruisers arrived) to prompt the work along.  Despite the incredible temperatures (>35oC, 24-7), the boat work got completed – the day before I arrived on October 29th!  The inside of the boat was in a complete state of chaos when I got there, but the outside looked incredible.  From the photos we’d been sent over the summer it was hard to imagine what the final product would look like.  I was very pleasantly surprised.  Francisco is an artist.  The new “back end” and paint job have totally changed the look of the boat, but she looks great.  Like a new boat! 

The new sugar scoop
Old "back end"

Since the work took most of October to complete, poor Gary was way behind in getting the boat ready to sail.   He’d spent his days cajoling work out of the tradesmen and installing our new lithium boat batteries (not the catching fire kind).  
Mmmm, lithium batteries....

An added pressure was that Gary’s cousin Karen was coming to visit on November 1st and she expected a sailing trip.  Needless to say my first three days in Mexico were a blur of activity while we sweated and fought to complete all the jobs needed for us to go back in the water (in 35oC+ temperatures).  This involved jobs like servicing all 14 through-hulls (many of which had ceased over the summer), hooking up the solar controller and re-plumbing the engine exhaust system, to name a few.  The boat was still in a state of chaos when Karen arrived, but at least we could see what needed to be done to be on our way.  We put Karen to work and spent the first 2 days of her holiday getting the boat back in the water, and then rigging her for sailing.  Miraculously we sailed out of Guaymas harbour on November 4th.  A new record! We only forgot to close one through hull and started taking on water as we motored out of the harbour, but Karen quickly discovered the water squirting out of the engine room and Gary fixed the issue.  Phew.  

Crews of Sea Rover and Nauticat at the Soggy Peso

Our first trip was a calm motor in flat seas (unheard of last year!) 22nm north up to Bahia Algodones.  We spent a windy afternoon watching the kite surfers playing in the bay, then enjoyed margaritas at the “Soggy Peso” beach bar with a neighbouring boat. 
Karen swam to shore from the boat.  Quite idyllic.  It was also the inaugural use of the new swim platform!  It is amazing.  It is now so easy to get on and off the boat.  No more 5.10 climbing moves to get back on the boat after going for a swim! 

After Algodones we motored north in choppy seas with 15 knots of wind on the nose.  Despite our slow progress, we got the water maker working and filled up the tanks.  We spent the next 2 nights in Bahia San Pedro, which is a lovely secluded bay about 10 nm north of the last civilization in Algodones.  We snorkelled and listened to the coyotes sing at night. 
Kialoa leaving to cross the Sea of Cortez
We met up with Tanya and her brother Jay on s/v Kialoa and spent an evening with them before she crossed over to the Baja side of the Sea.  As we’ve travelled so many miles with Kialoa over the last 2 years it was a bittersweet moment watching Tanya sail off into the sunset (literally).  We were so proud of her, doing her first passage without Scott and as sole owner/skipper of Kialoa, but we were also sad that an era seems to have come to an end and we aren’t travelling together anymore.  Hopefully we’ll catch up with her later in the season. 

Morning rest
My work schedule dictated that we had to return to Algodones for internet access and so we had a very pleasant early morning motor back to civilization.  We watched the sun come up and provided refuge to one small bird along the way, who needed to rest his wings before flying further.  We spent the day relaxing, and  then had a nice sail back to Guaymas the following day. We are happy to report that the sails still work, and we even remembered how to rig the pole for wing-on-wing sailing (it always takes us 2-3 tries to get it right at the beginning of the season - this year, only 1 small adjustment was required).  We discovered an issue with the roller furler, which required a trip up the mast the next day, where we ended up having to take the genoa off so that the forestay could be tightened (which meant pulling the whole furling unit apart, of course), but we seem to have fixed the issue.  Fingers crossed.  
Sunrise over San Carlos

We’ve been doing more boat jobs in Guyamas (sewing, re-wiring, re-fueling, re-provisioning) while we wait for our friend Bill on Greybeard’s crew to arrive early next week.  We’ll then travel north to visit friends in San Carlos, and will start making our way down towards the Mexican mainland, probably via the Baja coast.  We are storing the boat in San Blas (between Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta) over Christmas and so we have a few miles we need to travel before then.  
Blue Footed Boobies

We are looking forward to some great downwind sailing. Our plan for the season is to make it down as far as Manzanillo, and then work our way back north to Guaymas again by April.  We hope to do a few multi-day passages to help get us prepared for next season when we finally leave Mexico and cross an ocean or two.  

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Sea Rover survives Newton

Our hearts broke yesterday as news trickled in about the destruction in Guaymas and San Carlos from Hurricane Newton.  5 boats were sunk at the Fonatur docks where we have Sea Rover on the hard.  Many others sustained damage of some sort.  There are reports of any where from 20 to 200 boats toppled over at Marina Seca in San Carlos.  All of these boats are someone's home for at least part of the year and all of them have had endless hours of blood sweat and tears poured into them.

The towns of Guaymas and San Carlos both suffered major damage but in true Mexican fashion less than a day after loosing most of the electrical infrastructure reports are already in of power being restored.  What the people in these areas lack in material wealth, they certainly make up with their incredible sense of "getting it done"!  The locals who having nothing yet still lost everything yesterday, will never get any press about their plight.   Having said that, today will just be another day for them as they pick themselves up, brush themselves off and carry on as happy and friendly as ever.
Sea Rover some how came out unscathed, but we feel no joy as many of our friends will be dealing with the daunting task of repairing the dream.  We can't imagine the emotions we would be feeling if Sea Rover had fallen over or worst still sunk.  Our boat has kept us safe through many difficult situations that we put her in and I would be beside myself if harm had come without me there to do everything I could to keep her safe.  The road to recovery will be long for many this year.  All we can say is "just do it!".  Sure it will be hard, but by finding a way to pick yourselves up and keep your vision alive, the rewards will be all that much greater at the end when you are back in the water enjoying sun downers with great friends and not a care in the world.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Season Two Ends in Guaymas

Sea lion resting on our ladder
It is hard to believe that our second Cruising season has come to an end… While the weather made it a challenge at times, it was a good year and we learned a lot. 

We hosted five sets of guests and enjoyed our time with all of them.  Dennis and Rosario had the most challenging visit as they got to experience what we Cruisers now refer to as the “Never Ending Norther” (8 days of 20+ knot winds).  Regardless, we enjoyed a few days of Carnival and they got some experience sailing in 30+ knots of wind.  Nadine and Lynn started off their trip stuck in La Paz as the harbor was official closed due to the high winds, but managed to enjoy Carnival and a few “sporty” sails when we finally made it out to the islands.  Maureen and Neil spent the first (and, as it turned out, only!) tranquil week with us out in the islands.  Despite the lack of wind and no fish biting, we had a good time snorkeling, swimming and walking on the beaches.  A much needed break from the elements for us!  My parents experienced a bit of everything – wind, calms, quiet villages, remote anchorages.  And, of course, a lot of sailing! 
Libby, right after I 'broke' her - again
Our last guest Libby had to work the hardest to get to us (plane, cab, bus, cab to remove beach), but was rewarded with a week of reasonably calm weather.  Unfortunately she didn’t get to see any whale sharks, but we know that just means she’ll be back next year to try again!

As always, the highlights of this year revolve around people, both old friends and new.  We thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with Rob and Deb on s/v Avant; Dennis on s/v Ultegra; Jim and Tricia on s/v Falcon VII; Dale and Ken on s/v Adios; Cindy, John and Journey (and Nook) on s/v Namaste; Nate, Natalie and Sullie on s/v Astreae; Mark and Eden on m/v Halcyon I; Margie and Chuck on s/v Dream Catcher; Annette and Mike on s/v Rum Doxy; Bo and Libby on s/v Ptarmigan;  Jim and Amy on s/v Millie J; Bjarne and Barb on s/v Hoku Pa’a; Jim and Mary on r/v Missing Link; Doreen and Mike on s/v St. Leger; and many many others. 
Crews of Sea Rover, Greybeard and Kialoa enjoying the pool in Guaymas

As last year, we spent the most time with our best friends Scott and Tanya on s/v Kialoa and Bill on s/v Greybeard.  The year wouldn’t have been the same without them.

Servicing the outboard
We spent the last two weeks in Guaymas doing all the tasks required to prepare Sea Rover for a summer on the hard.  Such tasks included washing all the sails, removing the sails, washing all the running rigging, covering anything plastic with tin foil (all the lights, clutches etc), washing and removing the canvas, removing everything from the rails, washing and deflating all the fenders, washing the anchor and chain, covering all the winches, servicing the outboard engine, washing the dinghy, doing oil changes on the engine, transmission and watermaker pump, flushing the engine with fresh water, removing the impeller from the raw water pump on the engine, pickling the watermaker, oiling all the wood inside (a huge job!), cleaning the boat, vacuum sealing all bedding and clothes, storing all food, watering the batteries, to name a few.  Luckily we had the pool at the Fonatur Marina to revive us after working long hours in the sun and heat. 
De-contaminating after removing the leaking holding tank

In between preparing the boat we did find time for some extracurricular activities.  Scott, Tanya, Gary and I had an ‘evening of culture’ and attended the musical “El Mago de Oz”, the Wizard of Oz in Spanish.  It was indescribable.  While we didn’t expect a Broadway quality production, we weren’t prepared for what we actually got.  The sets didn’t include a yellow brick road, Kansas apparently has a lot of trees, and there were several wardrobe malfunctions.  Did I mention they broke into a disco dance number right in the middle of the play??!  Maybe it made sense in Spanish.  I only wish I’d brought the camera… 

Sea Rover moving to her summer home
We hauled out last Monday and so Sea Rover will be spending the summer at Marina Fonatur in Guaymas, with Kialoa and Greybeard for company. I returned to Canada on Thursday; Gary stayed behind to finish up a few jobs and to wait until the work we’ve just commissioned on the boat begins (stay tuned!).  He’ll be home next week, where he will no doubt start planning and plotting our next Cruising season.  

A happy summer to all.

Sailing/Motoring Stats for the Year:

Guaymas to La Paz (441 nm): 65% sailing, 35% motoring
 La Paz to Puerto Escondido (153nm):  70% sailing, 30% motoring
Visit with my parents (103nm):  60% sailing, 40% motoring
Puerto Escondido to Guaymas (213nm): 70% sailing, 30% motoring

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

More Sailing Adventures

We’ve spent the last month in the Loreto area and north exploring different bays, hanging out at a fancy beach resort, entertaining guests (my parents, and my friend Libby), and sailing, sailing, sailing. 

Prior to my parents arrival we spent almost a week in Puerto Ballandra, which is 9nm east of Loreto on Isla Carmen.  It is a lovely protected bay.  We enjoyed a few days of rest, then tired ourselves out with a big hike up into the hills to see if we could get some views of the other side of the island.  We made sure to wear bright colours to ensure we were visible to the hunters that frequent the island in search of big horn sheep (only in Mexico??). 

Anchorage at Puerto Ballandra

After re-charging our batteries, we headed south to Bahia Candeleros and the Villa del Mar resort.  We anchored out front and used the facilities until it was pointed out to us that the wrist bands we were given by the hotel staff only entitled us to eat in the restaurant, NOT use the pool etc.  Oops.  Regardless, we celebrated Scott’s birthday (s/v Kialoa) there with appis on the beach and dinner out in the restaurant.  A nice treat.

Off-roading in Caleta San Juanico
Mum and Dad: Married 50 Years!!

We picked my parents up in Puerto Escondido and started a 100nm circle tour for the next 10 days or so.  The adventure started with an easy upwind sail from Loreto to Isla Coronado, a lovely island north of Loreto.  After enjoying some time with friends, we actually had a downwind spinnaker run up to San Juanico, a rare event as San Juanico is 20 nm further north!  We spent a few days in San Juanico waiting out the latest “Norther”, then did a very long 60nm sail down south to Agua Verde.  Some of the crew didn’t fare well on this passage as the seas were big and sloppy.  A hell of a sail though! 

We took a much needed break in Agua Verde and celebrated my parents 50th wedding anniversary, and then Easter.  The normally quiet and remote village had been transformed into a mini metropolis as several hundred Mexican families descended on the beach for their yearly week-long Easter camping extravaganza.  They seemed to thoroughly enjoy socializing and playing in the water, and we enjoyed watching them try to get their fully loaded vehicles back up the very rough road at the end of the weekend.  Never say never in Mexico… 

Mission in San Javier near Loreto
Another day of sailing took us back to the resort at Bahia Candeleros, where we celebrated Gary’s birthday.  After a sleepless night due to strong westerly winds on a lee shore (and a 2am rescue of the dinghy from the boat next to ours), we sailed back to Puerto Escondido and dropped the hook.  As my parents had had enough sailing adventures for one trip, we spent their last day touring the countryside in our rental car.  

Large pod of Saddleback dolphins hunting
After dropping my parents off in Loreto, we pushed a weather window and sailed north up to the protected waters of Bahia Concepcion.  We covered only 80 nm run in 25 hours in what Gary describes as his second worst sail on record.  We beat into 10-12 knot NW and NE winds and BIG seas, hour after hour, after hour.  As each nautical mile gained going upwind was precious, Gary ended up having to sail almost the entire way, tacking once or twice every hour.  We were lucky if we made 3-4 nm forward progress every tack out and back.  One tack was tolerable in terms of boat motion (the tack we spent the least amount of time on), but the other was brutal.  We bounced so much and took so many waves over the front deck that it knocked our anchor loose.  Sleeping was impossible.  Eating was impossible.  Peeing was a major event.  After spending 4 hours within 10nm of Punta Concepcion (where we would be able to turn down into the bay and be in comfortable seas), we broke down and turned on the engine.  Gary said he would have turned it on earlier (a first!) except we’d started having that engine cooling issue again that plagued us last year and the beginning of this season.  Apparently our “fix” didn’t entirely do the trick.  As the issue only happens after we’ve been sailing upwind in rough seas, we figured there wasn’t a hope in hell it would work.  While Gary can get the engine going when the issue occurs, there was no way he could do it in the seas we were facing.  After a lot of praying, wishing and hoping, we turned the engine on.  The gods must have decided to give us a break as she started fine and ran without issue.  Phew.  Otherwise we’d probably still be out there tacking back and forth… 

Enjoying a camp fire with the RV'ers
We then spent the next two weeks recuperating in Bahia Concepcion.  We hung out with our friends on s/v Kialoa and Greybeard, and met some new friends as well (Libby and Bo on s/v Ptarmigan, Annette and Mike on s/v Rum Doxy, Amy and Jim on s/v Millie J etc).  We also met a wonderful couple in an RV on the beach, Mary and Jim from Sacramento.  They were incredibly kind to us all.  They drove us into Mulege for supplies, made us dinner, and hosted several beach parties.  Thanks Mary and Jim for your friendship and hospitality. 

My friend Libby from the Bay Area came to visit while we were in Concepcion.  We chose not to do any sailing while she was on board, but did move the boat to another anchorage in search of the elusive whale sharks.  We saw them up until the day she arrived, and then no more.  I guess the season is almost over for them as well.  Despite a lack of sea life (the snorkeling proved disappointing as well), we had a nice, relaxing visit.  We only tried to break her once (this seems to be a tradition when we get together for a trip).  Luckily she proved resilient once again.  Libby, I hope the knee fully recovers soon!

Juan Valdez on a hike
Based on a forecast of strong northwesterly winds starting at midnight, we’d expected to end the season off with a “sporty” sail across the Sea from the Baja side over to Guaymas on the mainland side. All my angst proved to be for naught though, as we ended up motoring most of the way across in calm, but lumpy seas (sadly the seas always seem to increase ahead of the wind…).  While the Captain wasn’t all that enthused about the trip, we made it without incident.  We are now enjoying Guaymas and are getting ready to put Sea Rover II on the hard for a much needed rest.