Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Katya's drawing to celebrate Mexico's Dias de los Muertos


Unfortunately our travel from La Paz to Mazatlan got in the way of our Halloween celebrations but Katya managed to scare us at least with her "Undead Unicorn" make up. This is her second attempt at special effects, the last one being in San Diego last year where she went as an old lady and one first prize. This years make up takes it to a whole new level.
Katya did all the make up herself and below are some of the steps she went through 
(click image to enlarge)



Saturday, November 7, 2015

5th Crossing of the Sea of Cortes

It is about 240 nautical miles from La Paz to Mazatlan where we had an appointment to do some work on the boat. The plan was to do the crossing in two stages, the first being the 60 miles from La Paz to the anchorage of Bahia Los Muertos and then leave early in the morning for an overnight crossing to Mazatlan but once we got going the winds were in a great direction and velocity that we decided to take what we had and continue the full distance in one go. We beat our way out of La Paz and then headed almost due east to Mazatlan with 15-20 knots on our port quarter. The seas were a bit confused going through the island channel but once we were in open water a steady rhythm of the swells developed and the winds lightened to 10-15kts and we were making a good speed. Darkness fell and the moon was not yet up so it was pretty dark and no other traffic about. The half moon came up at about 10pm and made for a lovely night crossing. The winds died for a few hours during the following morning and we motored before the winds came up again so that we could sail all the way to Mazatlan where we arrived at dawn, dropping the anchor off Isla Los Pajaros until the marina’s opened for business.

La Paz – pain pain and more pain

Don’t get me wrong we love La Paz. It has a bit of a reputation for being a place where cruisers can get stuck and there is a slightly older contingent of cruisers there but we really like the place for a number of reasons. We like the fact that you have some great destinations to sail to within a day, the wonderful island of Espirito Sancto and Isla San Francisco. We also like the city itself as its large enough to have everything you need but small enough to get around easily and find things, we also believe that the weather is better, not being quite as humid as the mainland side with its jungle and mountains. The anchorage is also very good: great holding and plenty of space when we were there and easy to get to services. 
La Paz from the anchorage on a full moon

Strange as it might seem the main reason we came to La Paz was for me to see a dentist about my rear molar. I won’t bore you with all the details but I ended up having a root canal, 2 crowns and a deep cleaning with over 10 hours in the dentist chair. The dentist we went to was the best I have ever been to: new equipment, professional and caring staff and cheap. Yes there was pain, I felt like I had done a couple of rounds with Mike Tyson.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The 4th crossing of the sea.

We departed San Carlos around midday hoping for good winds to cross the 90 odd miles to San Juanico on the Baja peninsula. As we departed the harbor the winds were sufficient for us to raise the sails. We slipped through the water for a few of hours before the winds dropped so we were going less than 1 knot so we started the engine. An hour or so later the wind picked up in a southerly direction so we trimmed the sheets tight and headed to windward doing a very pleasant 7-8 knots in relatively calm seas. Our friend Rocky and Renaye left a little while after us and we could see them in the fading light behind us, persevering in the light winds (we later found out they were almost going backwards during the time we motored). Another sail boat sped past us using their engine and soon after raised their sails. We followed them through the night pretty much all the way to San Juanico, never more than a mile or so behind them. We had one squall hit us in the early morning and we quickly reefed the sails but not before doing a 360 turn as I was disorientated in the moonless night. (Note to self: trust your instruments not your senses) 

We arrived in San Juanico and dropped the anchor in almost the same spot as we were previously and very quickly changed into our swimmers and jumped into the beautifully clear waters to cool off and have a wash. Oh how wonderful it felt.

We spent a couple of days in San Juanico before retracing our route south via Agua Verde, Los Gatos and Isla San Francisco to La Paz where my impending dental work would commence.

Before arriving in La Paz we stopped off at the very small island of Isla Islotes where you can reportedly swim with the seals. We dropped the anchor in 60 feet of water a few hundred yards from the island and swam over to the island. We could hear the seals but it was not until we got close did we see them. I have to say that this has been the highlight of my time in Mexico, swimming and watching the seals is a unique experience. What wonderful creatures they are. The young pups are not shy at all and will come up to you and allow you to touch them. Some of the adults were understandably protective of their young and charged at you if you came to close, a lesson quickly learned as it is quite intimidating seeing their jaws open as they charge. 

We made the most of the wonderful water to swim in and we languished in it to cool off as the middy temperatures rose above 30c.

What horrors await us?

The decision as to where to leave Sarita for the hot summer months, during which we would be in the UK, was one fraught with potential problems that could occur while we would be away. There were several options and each had its merits. 

La Cruz / Puerto Vallarta. We know and like La Cruz and are familiar with all the services around in case we need anything doing but we would be leaving the boat in the water and The marina is in the hurricane belt, albeit none have ever hit. The area is very humid in the summer and gets a lot of rain and thunder and lightning storms. We have heard of stories of people coming back to their boats and they had been struck by lightning and all their electronics were fried and other people coming back and the boat was destroyed inside due to mildew. I am sure there is a little bit of a cruiser myth element but there is also some truth to the stories. So we ruled La Cruz out for storing the boat.

La Paz, in the Sea of Cortez was another option. Again it’s just a marina rather than taking the boat out of the water, which I prefer if I am going to be away for a long time, but it is a great place to be. I think the climate is better, less humidity and rain and less lightening but it is in the hurricane belt as well and got hammered a few years ago with a few boats lost and a few lives as well.

San Carlos / Guaymas are both in the northern part of the sea of Cortez on the mainland side. San Carlos is not the prettiest or busiest place we have been to and having to spend a few months there would not be my cup of tea but they have both in the water and dry storage and are outside the hurricane belt, not that it is a guarantee that it will not get hit. San Carlos does have the reputation for having a very dry climate with intense heat which is supposed to produce wood cracking temperatures inside the boat if left on the hard (out of the water). People also talked of a big insect problem along with mice that destroy your upholstery. There is always something and like most things in boating the decision is always a compromise. 

We decided on San Carlos because it sounded the safest being away from hurricanes. Yes our boat is insured but with a 10% excess. San Carlos is also an easy bus ride from Phoenix.
So when we returned to our beautiful home we wondered what horrors awaited us.

We had booked ourselves into the prestigious Holiday Inn express in Guaymas, a bargain at $62 a night, and enjoyed the last of the air conditioning we would be having for sometime. We met up with our friends from Coastal Drifter and Pesto, going to the movies and getting a real soaking in a tropical storm that passed through (see Katya’s Corner). The following morning I went to have a look at Sarita and see what damage had been done and was very pleasantly surprised. No cracked wood, no infestation of mice or cockroaches (we had left traps and poison) and our full covers were still intact except for a small tear near the mast. There appeared to be no damage and the rain the previous evening had given Sarita a great wash down. I was curious to see what temperatures the inside would reach so I had left two temperature gauges in the boat which would record the maximum temp during our absence and both read 37c, much lower that we had expected. I put this down to having the full covers on the boat which kept the direct sun off the boat but allowed wind to travel under covers. 

I reconnected the batteries and was pleased to see that they still held a full charge. We would not be able to start the engine until Sarita was back in the water so we hoped that all would be good on that front.

The following day Sarita was taken down the road and back to the marina where she was launched. The engine started perfectly so we motored over to our slip and started to prepare for heading back across the sea. 

Replacing the sink tap
A couple of problems came to light – firstly the bilge pump test failed and it appeared that the bilge had a gallon or two of fresh oil in it. After much panic I found that it had come from a ruptured container of spare engine oil that was stored below decks. It had ruptured when the boat tilted on being put back in the water and was crushed by a few other containers. The heat contributed to the rupture as the plastic container became quite soft. A lesson learnt is that contrary to most advice the bilge is the hottest part of the boat not the coolest as it is closest to the outside of the hull and is painted black. The second problem that we found was that we had a leaking kitchen sink tap (faucet) and needed to be replaced as the unit is not capable of having the seal replaced. We could not turn the water on in the boat until the tap was replaced so with much frantic searching and going backwards and forwards to Guaymas on the bus I found a new tap and struggled and swore as I installed it. A very big thank you to Alex on Pesto who ferried me about in his car to get some parts to install the tap. I also had to strip down the bilge pump and repair it using parts from an old motor and clear the awful oily mess in the bilge.

Our plan was to be out of San Carlos in a couple of days and head across the sea of Cortes again and work our way south to La Paz to get my tooth sorted out. The sooner we could get out the sooner we would stop paying marina fees and enjoy swimming in the beautifully clear water. As is the way out plan took longer to execute and it was not for another 4 days until we departed.  We frantically cleaned the boat, tested systems including the water maker and bought provisions for the 3 week journey to La Paz.

All in all there were not horrors except my foul language when trying to install the new tap.