Friday, December 11, 2009

Stuck in La Paz ?

That's like saying 'your stuck in paradise and can't get out'. We love La Paz but our plan was to only stay 2 or 3 weeks and then head across to Mazatlan but the weather gods are having a fit up north and that's throwing some wind down our way so we're 'stuck' here for probably another week. oh well.



We bought some fuel yesterday in the marina. It was delivered on a truck to our slip with the aid of a long hose. You tell them how much you want then pay them up front and they take their truck over to the local Pemex station and fill up a tank on the back of the truck and bring it down the dock. The price is a little lower than the local fuel dock but it was the convenience of having it delivered that we liked.

Our POS VacuFlush toilet in the aft head broke, again. This time it was the shaft that connects to the foot peddle and the flushing valve that makes the toilet actually flush that broke. Sheared shaft means no flushing. No flushing means... well, bad things. It was a miracle that the local marine chandlery, Lopez Marine, had this part in stock and at a reasonable price. The two VacuFlush heads on our boat require constant maintenance because they are extremely complex designs and for a cruising boat you want simplicity so things don't break and when they do you can easily repair them. VacuFlush heads are neither simple nor easy to fix. Last summer we almost replaced them but then decided not to, we may regret not doing so.



We went to the local market, the Bravo Market, to get some fish and pork chops. It's kind of like the Pike Place market in Seattle but smaller and with no health inspectors. It's actually very clean and well run and a great place to get fresh meats and produce.

We uploaded some new pics to our Picasa web album. Look in the 'Sea of Cortes - Fall 09' folder here - http://picasaweb.google.com/n4637fjo

Reading the news from the States make us glad to be here and not there. Between snow storms, escalating wars, watered down health care reform that only benefits the insurance companies (why does the government have unlimited money for wars and bailouts but nothing for health care?), and Tiger (who cares!) Woods, we'll take life in Mexico any day.

Friday, November 27, 2009

3 Weeks in Paradise

We left Santa Rosalia after 5 days and headed south to Bahia Concepcion (3 different bays within the larger bay), San Juanico, Isla Coronodos, Ballandra Bay, Puerto Escondido, Agua Verde, and points south to La Paz. These are all bays in remote areas except for Puerto Escondido which is a large bay just south of Loreto. At each of the remote bays we swam and walked the beaches, thoroughly enjoying the last of Summer in Baja. In some of these bays the water is so clear you can see the bottom in over 20'. Life is good again and the living is easy.

Here's some photo's from along the way -

Newly hatched baby sea turtle making for the water in Bahia San Juanico -



Bahia Agua Verde (green water) -



Isla Coronodos -



And one more from Agua Verde -

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Escape from San Carlos



We have managed to escape the clutches of San Carlos. At times, we had our doubts if we would ever get out of there. We had planned to leave a couple of weeks ago so we drove our car to Tucson, put it in storage and took the night bus back to Guaymas. Then hurricane Rick started to make threatening moves down south so we waited for it to move inland and dissipate. Then it continued to blow in the sea so we waited some more days and then we finally left on a beautiful afternoon when the engine overheated and we decided to play it safe and return to the marina. Two days of fussing with thermostats and water pumps and we were ready to leave again for a beautiful overnighter to Santa Rosalia only to have the winds pick up when we were 3/4 of the way across, the winds started off Isla Tortuga, building to seas of 4-6 feet and winds over 20 kts. We docked in Marina Singular with 25 kts winds blowing us off the dock but there were plenty of helpful hands on the dock to tie us off and keep us out of harms ways.

We enjoy Santa Rosalia, it's a friendly Mexican town with few tourist and the town is only a block or two from the marina so it's an easy walk to shops and restaurants. There is a Northerly cold front moving through for a few days that is bringing winds and cool weather. What a nice change from the stifling heat of San Carlos. We have turned the air conditioner off and opened the windows for the first time in 4 months. We're going to stay here for a few days to let the front pass and then head south to anchor out and do some swimming and play with our new dive hookah.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Surviving San Carlos


The summer heat in San Carlos is overwhelming. From sun rise to sun set the heat and humidity prevents any outdoor activity let alone working. We run 2 of our 3 air conditioning units 24 hours a day. They do an excellent job of keep the boat temperature around 80 and just as importantly keeping the humidity down to around 50%. The outside temp and humidity daily is in mid 90's, for both.

The weather is so crippling here that we feel we've lost a summer because we've been holed up inside the boat all the time. When we do try some outside activity we quickly become exhausted from the heat. We will not spend another summer here, next year we're looking at staying in Ensenada.

I managed to contract an E.Coli infection. When Jimena hit a lot of the sewer lines were broken and pump stations lost electricity with the results raw sewage was spread around the ground which then dried and turned to dust. I somehow ingested some of this which gave me the infection. The results are diarrhea and a high fever, the remedy is drink plenty of fluids and take antibiotics. Thankfully I recovered in a few days after I went on the meds.

Marina Real seems to be struggling just to keep the basic services working. They will patch a problem but not spend the time or money to fix the root cause resulting in problems reoccurring over and over. We have not had a reliable source of water on the dock since Jimena. Part of the problem is the rebuilding of the city water supply and part is due to problems in the marina. On our side of the dock we have not had water for more than a few hours at a time. The marina blames it on the city but there is no reason why part of the dock will have water while other parts do not. Our electricity has also been out most of the time. Again the other side of the dock has electricity while ours does not. They've had people working on the electricity but it would work for half a day and then stop and all the workers would be gone for a few days. Out of frustration we finally plugged into an unused plug on the other side of the dock. There are electrical wires routed through the sewer drains because that is the quickest way to patch a problem. This is not a place that you want to spend a long time at. If another storm hits more docks are likely to break apart and sink. And this is not just a 'typical Mexican' marina. Other marinas we've been in in Mexico have all been well maintained.

The heat might be starting to break, the last week was almost comfortable with highs in the 80's and lows in the high 60's overnight! The forecast is for it to turn hot again but we're hoping that the heat will soon cool down.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Surviving Jimena

We had a little 'tropical storm' come through here named Jimena. It was the remains of the hurricane of the same name and the winds blew over 60 mph for 2 days and it rained over 30" at the same time. The winds did some damage to the area but the rain was devastating. The boats in the marinas, including ours, did not suffer any major damage other than rain intrusion and the subsequent damage to carpets and wood work. There were 12 anchored or moored boats that broke free and ended up on the beach but there was no injuries to people on boats. San Carlos and Guaymas lost electricity for 3 days and water for 6 and there was extensive damage to roads and buildings from the rain. In some places the rain collected in to raging rivers and washed away sections of roads and bridges and washed mud, rocks, and debris into houses.

The Mexican government and agencies deserve praise for their quick and effective response to the storm damage. They were prepared prior to the storm and as soon as it passed there were crews out everywhere starting the clean up and repair. They actually announced there would be 'no Katrina' in Mexico. It's great that the US has become an example of what not to do.

Here's some pic's from around the area.


This is one of the boats that ended up on the beach. If you look to the left above the power post you can see a white object in the water. It's the upside down hull of a sunken boat.


This is the main road into and out of San Carlos. Within a day there was a detour route created.


This is the main road from Marina Real to San Carlos, it was not passable until a day after the storm.



We tied our boat to a chain around the dock pilling because we were not sure the dock would survive. We were lucky, our dock survived but others did not.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Plan


There is no sense in having a plan if you're not going to pretend to follow it.

We're anxious to get moving again. Sitting at a dock is not what we want to do but we don't have much choice, we need to stay out of the hurricane zone south of 27° N and with the heat we have chosen to stay at the dock so we can run the A/C. The plan now is to leave San Carlos the first week of October and visit the Bay of LA up north on the west side of the Sea of Cortes, 28°56.840'N 113°33.320'W. We've heard that B of LA is a beautiful area with lots of wildlife, like Whale Sharks, and excellent snorkeling. We're getting an diving Hookah soon and we'll be anxious to try it out. After the B of LA we'll head south and hope to be in Santa Rosalia by November 1st for the El Día de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead, which is the largest holiday in Mexico. Santa Rosalia is a traditional Mexican town so it should be fun to spend the holiday there. Heading South from Santa Rosalia we plan on being in La Paz for Thanksgiving for 2-3 weeks and then head south and east to Mazatlan on the Mexican mainland.

Once we're on the Mexican Riviera we'll wander south stopping in San Blas, Puerto Vallarta, Iplala, Chamela, Careyes, and Mazanillo. We're not sure if we'll go further south to Acapulco, we hear that it's a huge, expensive tourist trap, so we'll just see how it goes. When we turn around and head back north we're thinking of spending next Summer, the hurricane season, in Ensenada. We spent a week in Ensenada on the way south and it's kind of a tourist town but it has a lot of services and it's close to San Diego so we can go get our car and hop over the border to get supplies and parts. After next summer maybe it's off the the South Pacific, we're thinking about it but that's a long way off and we're not to good at making, let alone keeping, long term plans so we'll see how it goes.

Link: Diving Hookah

6 Months in Mexico

We have now been in Mexico for 6 months. We were reminded of this when our tourist visas expired and we had to go to immigrations to get them renewed. The renewal process is easy and costs just $20 each. We went to immigration office at the airport in Guaymas where there was easy parking and no waiting. The immigration officer did seem a little annoyed that we were interrupting his TV shows but he processed our new visas with no fuss. We have had a wonderful time in Mexico, the people are friendly, there is plenty of stores to get almost everything you need and the weather has been beautiful except for the last 2 months here in San Carlos where it's just down right frickin' hot. The heat index is daily 110°+ with a temp in the high 90° and humidity above 80%. It's just too hot to do anything outside. Hopefully in another month it will start to cool off.

I forgot to mention that neither of us has worn long pants for over 6 months. Short and t-shirts everyday!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Tucson Road Trips

We've now made 3 road trips to Tucson and back. The car trip takes about 8 to 9 hours northbound depending on the wait at the border and 7 hours south bound. The wait at the border into the States can take 1-2 hours, southbound can be much easier depending if you stop to declare items and how long that process takes. Returning to Mexico the first time we stopped to declare a few items and they just let us go with out paying any duty. The second time we had more items to declare and they quickly processed us, we paid a small duty and in 15 minutes we were off. The last time they made us go through 'Small Imports' and while they were very friendly it took us nearly an hour and cost about $75 to bring in $400 worth of items.

The last time we also had some extra excitement when a car pulled up next to us as we were leaving the last inspection point and told us we had a flat tire. We pulled off the road and some young guys quickly ran over and offered to change the tire for us. They were very friendly and did a quick and good job and we gave them a few pesos for their work. They pointed out a small shop just a few hundred yards down the road where we could get the tire fixed, our spare is one of those mini tires and it was low on air so we slowly made our way down the road to the repair shop. The shop only repaired tires and sold used tires. The man did a good job, 3 days later it is still holding air, and only charge a few pesos.

We will have at least three more trips to Tucson before we leave San Carlos in October. We are planning to buy 2 new heads for the boat, that will take one trip, and a Hookah diving system which will take another trip. Then there will be the last trip to put the car back in storage and take the bus back to San Carlos.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

New Look & New Blog

As you can see, we've changed the look of the blog. The old format looked rather dark for our travels in the tropics so we changed the format and the banner picture.

We also have started a new partner blog, M/V Discovery Tech Notes, that will focus on technical issue and projects on the boat. Look to 'Other Links' on the right to get to the new Blog. This Blog will remain our travel log.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Date: 6/28/2009
Location: Marina Real - San Carlos Sonora Mexico
Weather: Hot, 90+ ° and 70% humidity

We had all the varnish stripped off the boat this week. It was not a job I wanted to do in this heat. We hired a local worker that had approached us when we first arrived about doing work on the boat. I asked around the other boaters and he seemed to have a good reputation so I asked him to give me a quote on stripping the varnish. He told me a price but then came back after the first day with a higher price and said I must have misunderstood him the first time. I would have fired him on the spot but I had already given him half the price as an advance and didn't want to lose that so I gave in. Lesson learned, always get the price in writing so there can be no misunderstanding.

We're not going to varnish or otherwise finish the teak, just let it go natural and turn a nice gray. We've seen other boats and some Nordhavns with gray teak and think it looks nice and in this heat varnish is too difficult to keep up. The key to good looking teak, decks or cap rails, is to keep it clean by washing it with a gentle soap like Joy using a soft brush and then rinse with salt water.

We got our car from Tucson and had no trouble getting through the Mexican customs at the boarder despite the fact that we had the back of the Jeep stuffed with things. We showed them some receipts and asked how much we needed to pay but they just waved us through. The Sonora area down to Guaymas is a 'no hassle zone' for bringing a car in so we didn't need any import documents to drive down here, if we go further south then we'll need a temporary import permit for the car. We drove up to Hermosillo this week and went to Costco. It looks just like the stores in the states. Hermosillo in just over an hours drive from San Carlos and we wanted to buy some cheese and lunch meat so we bought a small cheap styrofoam chest and a bag of ice to carry the items back. Even with the A/C in the car it was a little too warm and too long of a trip to carry meat that long in the car. Hermosillo is a large town and has a Costco, WalMart, Home Depot, and lots of large Mexican stores so we'll be able to get everything we need, or want.
We're having fun here although it's getting hotter every day. Weather Underground said it was 106° yesterday although we only showed 91° at the boat. The humidity outside is above 70% but with the A/C on the boat we keep the inside temp below 80° and the humidity below 60% so it's comfortable. It's just when you have to go outside and when you first get into the car that's been parked in the sun that's a killer.

We have lots of projects to keep us busy for the summer. We should be going back to Tucson in a week to pick up some more boat stuff, this time new VHF and SSB antennas, so that will be fun.



Sunday, June 14, 2009

Mainland Mexico


Date: 6/14/2009
Location: Marina Real, San Carlos, Sonora
Lat/Lon: 27 56.73 N 111 05.54 W
Weather: Warm and sunny, 85°. Lite afternoon breeze

We're on the mainland of Mexico in Marina Real, 5 miles north of San Carlos in the Sonora region of Mexico. We arrived here 30 days after leaving La Paz, for the second time.

We first left La Paz on April 29th but after a week anchored in some beautiful bays it became apparent that the Generator was not well. The smoking was getting worse, it was running 10 to 15 ° hot, not overheating but not right, and there was not the normal high volume of water gushing out the exhaust. There was something wrong with the water cooling system, perhaps a blocked thru hull or hose. At anchor I had checked the water pump impeller and discovered it only had 3 of it's 5 blades. I was sure that this was the problem and was disappointed after I replaced it to find no difference in how it ran. So it seemed wise to return to La Paz and find the problem before getting further from stores and services. We went back to Marina de la Paz and with the help of Bill on M/V Ocean Quest I finally found some barnacles growing in the sea water intake hose, some 2 feet from the thru hull. Once those were removed the Gen ran great with mucho volume of water coming out the exhaust. While in the engine room I decided to fix a small water leak at a hose fitting on the water maker membrane only to discover that the leak was caused by a cracked end cap on the membrane tube. Fortunately, Bill the 'Water maker guy' had an end cap and I replaced both end caps on the one membrane and bought a spare for 'just in case'. We had the membranes replaced by Village Marine in Seattle 2 years ago and it looked like they over tightened the hose fittings and cracked the nylon caps. The new caps are made from a different material and shouldn't crack. When we took the membranes apart we discovered that our 40" membranes tubes only had 38" membranes in them with a 2" extension fit to take up the missing length. Nice work Village Marine. That's the last time I do biz with them. You can buy the membranes straight from a 3M distributor and save 25%. If and when we need new membranes that's the way we're going.

So once we got ourselves and boat all straighten out, off North we went, again. We tried Los Gatos for a night but with the easterly winds we rocked and rolled all night and slept little. It's a beautiful place but we need our sleep and one of the cats got sea sick while at anchor. Next day it was off to Aqua Verde, green water. When you see a photo of boats in a beautiful bay in Baja anchored in crystal clear, green, emerald water, this is the place it was taken. For some reason when we were there the water was not so emerald in color but it is a beautiful, well protected place. We spent 4 days there playing around in the dink and swimming every afternoon.
The next stop was Honeymoon Bay for one night on Isla Densante before heading into Puerto Escondido. Puerto Escondido has 2 large bays, the outer bay, 'the waiting room', holding 30+ boats on anchor and the inner bay has a 100 mooring buoys and room for another 50+ boats at anchor. There is also a Marina Singlar there with 8-10 slips and a small store and restaurant. You have to pay no matter how you stay, anchor or mooring. We anchored because there were no open buoys large enough for us close to the marina and dinghy dock and there was lots of room to anchor. US$ 15 per day, anchor or mooring. There's nothing much else there but it's only 10 miles from Loretto, a very quaint touristy town. We were told by the Singlar staff that the taxi fare to Loretto was 700 pesos round trip while you could rent a car for 500 pesons a day, US$ 40, so rental car it was. We drove into Loretto and spent an afternoon looking around, shopping, and having lunch. It's a nice town and worth the stop.

From there it was off to another large bay, San Juanico, but again the prevailing winds kept us rolling all night so we moved north just 2 miles to Caleta Ramada which was more protected from the waves. We had the small bay to ourselves and spent 2 days swimming and exploring the beach.

Bahia Concepcion is a large bay inside a peninsula that reaches out into the Sea. It's known as being one of the hottest location in the Sea because the water heats up and it's surrounded by hills. People have warned us about going there and we hoped that we were early enough in the summer to avoid the high heat. There are numerous bays to anchor in and we spent 8 days moving from one location to another. The heat was not too bad and there was always an afternoon wind that helped cool things down. In el Burro cove we met Geary who gives the weather on Sonrista net. Our outboard motor started to act up again, choking and dying whenever we used it and this less than 2 months after a tune up in La Paz. It is truly a POS and with it's streamlined cowling it is very hard to work on. Out of frustration we finally lifted the dink up onto the top deck and I removed and disassembled the carborater, soaking all the parts in carb cleaner. When we put her back in the water, she ran great! Better than after the tune up in LP. I think the problem was some gunk in the fuel line found it's way into the jets and we may just have to do this every few months. I wish we could get a simple 2 stroke, our Yamaha 2 stroke on our Defever was bullet proof, so we're going to start looking around for one. Maintenance on a boat is like 'Whack a Mole'. Get one thing fixed and another pops up.

After a week in Concepcion we moved north to Punta Chivato, a point that sticks out and give fairly good protection. We only spent one night there before continuing on to Santa Rosalia.

Santa Rosalia is an unusual town because the French operated a large copper mine here for the first half of the 1900's and the town has a different look and feel than other typical Mexican towns. The most striking difference is the French liked wood framed buildings rather than adobe so all of the building look like transplants from the Northwest. In fact they use to ship the copper from the mines to the copper smelter in Tacoma, WA and return with ships full of Northwest cedar and fir timber that they used to build the town. The other difference is that few tourists & gringos come here so it doesn't have the tourist shops. The downside is that the grocery stores don't have much selection and the meat departments look rather primitive so staying here any length of time would be difficult. We stayed in the Singlar marina here, weekly rate of 40 pesos per foot, which is a fairly new marina with nice docks and facilities. The bay is protected by a large breakwater that the French built and there is a large panga fleet that are fishing for Humbolt squid this time of year. There is a lingering smell of rotting fish over most of the harbor area, not too bad but it's always there. We spent a week here exploring the town and restaurants.

Now we're in Marina Real just north of San Carlos. This is a well protected marina that's in good shape but there are no shops or services within walking distance. The marina is surrounded by very nice, $1+ million homes and resorts but no stores and only one high end restaurant. You really need a car if you are going to stay here so we are going to catch the bus up to Tucson and bring back our car. With a car you are only a few minutes from San Carlos with stores and restaurants and Guaymas, a town of 200,000, is only 30 minutes away. With a car this will be a great place to spend a few months and wait out the hurricane season. It will get hot here but we have A/C on the boat so we'll be all right.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Pictures

Here's some pictures from the past week. 

Isla San Francisco - 'The Hook' is the name of the bay.


Another 'The Hook'.


King Angelfish at Ensenada Grande in about 3' of water.  If you click on the pic to see the larger image you can see 2 Sergeant Major fish behind the Angelfish.



Sea Turtle at Ensenada Grande

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Blue Footed Boobies


Date: 5/3/2009
Location: Ensenada Grande - Isla Partida
Lat/Lon: 24 33.544 N 110 23.911 W
Weather: sunny 90° , water temp 77°

It's a bird and a rather rare one at that. On the south side of the adjacent bay, La Cueva, there is a sandstone wall covered with shelves and pot marked holes that the Boobies use to nest in. This is the only place in the islands where they reside. They look similar in size to a gull but are slimmer and they have blue feet. A person in Marina de La Paz told us about them, thanks Bill. When you approach them, still a 100 yards away, they start to dance lifting one foot them the other back and forth and then spreading their wings in a threatening manner but they are just too cute to fear.

Returning to our anchorage, we saw what looked to be a dead small seal on the beach with 6 vultures around it waiting for it to wash up on the shore. We've never seen a vulture before with it's red nose, interesting but kind of icky.

We went snorkeling again, it's becoming a regular afternoon event. There are so many tropical fish it's like swimming in an aquarium. Schools of hundreds of small fish with colorful Angel fish and yellow and black stripped Sargent Major fish. I saw an eel of some type disappear in the shadows, it looked to be about 3' long. From the dinghy we saw a turtle about 2' across briefly surface for air and we continue to see Mexican Needle fish swimming at the surface that are 4' long and about as big around as your arm. This place is an amazing zoological treasure.

Pictures to follow as soon as we have a broadband connection in a few weeks.

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Isla Espiritu Santo

Date: 4/30/2009
Location: Isla Espiritu Santo
Lat/Lon: 24 31.680 N 220 22.578 W
Weather: sunny mid-80's, winds mixed 5-15 kts

We left Marina de La Paz today after getting 1056 liters of fuel at 9.10 pesos per liter or about 300 gallons at US$2.20 per gallon. Marina de La Paz is one of the nicest, friendliest, and most enjoyable marinas we have ever been in. If you take your boat to La Paz, this is the best place to go. Costa Baja Marina is the fanciest, a big resort with mega yachts and swimming pools and high moorage rates. Marina Palmara has new ownership that don't seem to care about the customers, they've let go a lot of the staff and increased rates to the point that many yachts are leaving and anchoring out rather than stay in the marina. If you can get into Marina de La Paz, go there.

We motored north 27 NM to the Caleta Partida bay in between the islands of Isla Espiritu Santo (Holy Spirit) and Isla Partida (Parted). The two island are separated by a small bay and a channel that is only 2' deep and 50' wide at low tide. We anchored on the south side of the bay in 20' of water over a sandy bottom. Air temp is in the mid 80's with a water temp of 77°. For the first time in decades, Linda and I went for a swim. Yep, just jumped off the aft of the boat into the water. What a feeling. It was great! A little cool but not bad. A lot of fun! Linda has told people since we started planning this that she wanted to be able to swim in the water that the boat was in and now she can. Up north the water was cold enough, mid 50's, that in 15 minutes you would start to get hypothermia and would likely die within an hour. Here all we got was some sore shoulder muscles from swimming after so many years.

The water here is very clear, you can see the bottom in 15', and the color goes from dark blue to emerald green in the shallows next to shore. There are lots of fish that are new to us; Puffer fish from 4" to 12", small rays 10" across, crabs under 6" with a red pattern on their backs, and a 4' long Mexican Needle fish. This place is so kewl and we are having so much fun it's hard to express. More latter...

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Whale Shark Hunting


Date: 4/26/2009
Location: La Paz 
Weather: Hot, high 80's to low 90's all week

Saturday we went out with a new friend of ours in the marina, Bill Lee on Ocean Quest, to look for Whale Sharks,  Rhincodon typus, just outside the bay.  Bill has a large fast tender and Linda and I with Bill and his lady friend packed some lunches and headed out the 3-5 miles to look for sharks. Actually the Whale Shark is not a typical shark but is a large, slow moving fish that eats plankton, not people. See this Wikipedia article, Whale Sharks. They are frequently found around La Paz so we went out and watched for any kind of disturbance on the water or birds swarming overhead. After an hour of looking with no luck we went ashore on a sandy beach with sand dunes behind and did some beach combing and had lunch. After lunch we resumed our search but to no avail. The afternoon breeze was starting to kick up bringing with it a chop so we decided to head back before running out of fuel. As luck would have it we ran into a pod of dolphins and had a great time playing with them as we motored along. They would come right next to the dinghy, just our of arms reach, and jump out of the water and run under the boat.  The dinghy sits low in the water with four people in it and more than once we took waves over the side soaking all of us. The air temp was around 90° and the water is 75° so it wasn't cold and we all had a great time chasing and running with the dolphins. 

We are running to get ready to leave this week for the islands up North. Why is it if you have 4 weeks in a place and enough time to be as lazy as an old dog on a hot day that you end up with dozens of things to do in the last 2 days?  Maybe I just figured it out? 

We are healthy and there is no swine flu in southern Baja. There's nothing to be worried about here or in the Sea of Cortez where we're going. If you listen to cable news you would think that armageddon is upon us. It will poison your mind if you watch enough of it, just turn it off.  
Later...

Friday, April 24, 2009

West Coast Trip Summary


Date: 4/24/2009
Location: Marina de La Paz
Weather: sunny and warm, mid 90's all week

Distances Summary (in Nautical Miles) - 
Port Townsend to Cabo San Lucas - 2,235 NM
Port Townsend to La Paz - 2,398 NM
Port Townsend to San Diego - 1,425 NM
San Diego to La Paz - 972 NM

Number of Passages (Neah Bay to La Paz) - 34
Overnight Passages (Neah Bay to La Paz) - 10
Days Underway (Neah Bay to La Paz) - 44
Average Speed (Neah Bay to La Paz) - 6.16 knots 

Fuel Used - 
Neah Bay to La Paz - 832 gals
Engine Hours - 380 hours
Gallons per Hour - 2.19

If we were to do this again, and I can't imagine why we would want to,  we would make longer passages with fewer stops. Ideally we would go from Neah Bay to Coos Bay and then Coos Bay to Bodega Bay. Both of these passages would be two nights long but if you get good weather they get you into CA quickly. All our overnighters were just one night long and that does not give you enough time to adjust and get some good rest. Passages lasting two nights are good for a 2 person crew or if you have 3 people I would recommend that if you get the weather to do so you go straight through from Neah Bay to Bodega Bay. The less you see of ports and bar crossings in WA and OR the better. Bodega Bay is a great stop, no bar to cross, nice marina, a bit of a walk to a restaurant and store,  but if you need fuel it's cheaper here than San Francisco.  From there you can slow down and enjoy the CA coast with recommended stops in Half Moon Bay, Monterey, Marina del Rey, and San Diego. We went into Santa Barbara,  crowded, narrow slips and fairways and very windy, don't bother, and Channel Island Harbor in Oxnard where there is a strong current running through the transit moorage slips but good shopping 2 blocks away. We did encounter tall, 10' +,  breaking waves when we left Channel Island Marina although the weather report said 5-10 kts winds with 3-5' seas. We also stopped in Dana Point which is very nice but expensive.  DP is the most exclusive areas we stopped at, lots of upscale restaurants and shops in the marina and up the hill in the shopping area. There is a little restaurant in the DP marina with the best pizza on Earth. No kidding, no exaggeration, it is the best!.  DP is nice place but bring your wallet. On the other end, Marina del Rey was $23 dollars a day for moorage (50' boat length) in a beautiful location next to a park and there was plentiful shopping within 4 blocks in regular stores at reasonable prices.  MDR has a 'California Pizza' restaurant, not the best pizza on Earth but not bad either. 

Note: We've added a lot of photos in our Web Photo Album. The link is on the right side under 'Other Links'.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

La Paz - Week 3



Date: 4/23/2009
Location: La Paz, Marina de La Paz
Weather: sunny and hot,  98° yesterday, breezy at night which cools the place off

We have been busy for the last 3 weeks in La Paz getting the boat ship-shape and exploring around town. We are starting to acclimate to the hot desert climate, at least we're trying. During the hot afternoon we stay inside and slow down and try to be one with the heat, kinda a zen thing. If you fight it it just makes it worse. I like the heat, it's nice not to be cold and wet. Linda is getting there, she try's to enjoy the heat but mother nature sometimes makes that difficult. 

The water maker high pressure pump started to show signs of old age so we had it rebuilt by a gringo here who is a water maker expert. Cruising in Baja requires a good working water maker as water is hard to come by so it was important to get it repaired in La Paz when we had the chance.  The refrigerator started to run continuously about a month ago and not getting below 40° so we had another gringo take a look at it but it's still not working right. It's either  running all the time to get below 40 or if we turn it down so it cycles on and off it's too warm. We're having another person, a local named Hector who has a good reputation, look at it today. Other than that the boat is in good shape. 

I went to a doctor a few days ago because I've not been able to completely shake the cold that I had last January. I still have a cough, congestion, and funny feeling ears. The doctor says that I have some liquid in my left lung and an infection in my ears and gave me a list of 4 drugs I needed to take. They don't do  prescriptions here, they give you a list, looks like a prescription but it's not, and you take it to the Farmacia and they fill it for you. Anyone can walk into a Farmacia and get any kind of drugs except for narcotics which require a prescription. The doctor's office was as modern and well equipped as any doctor's office I've been to in the States, in fact better than most. The doctor spoke English and was very professional. Charge for the office visit, $37 US. Medical care here in La Paz, and we're told it's the same in all large Mexican cities, is very good and costs a fraction of what it does in the US. 

Life here is very relaxed and easy going. The locals are very friendly, if you run into a rude person it's a gringo but that's the rare exception.  Goods and services are inexpensive, not all things are cheap but local items normally are, things imported from the States cost 20% to 50% more here. Local produce, breads, etc are very inexpensive and very good. La Paz is large enough that you can find most services from excellent health care to mechanics. We're leaving next week to head north into the Sea. It will be good to get out and start exploring more, the islands north of here are supposed to be magnificent with abundant sea life. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

La Paz - Week One


Date: 4/7/2009
Location: La Paz

One week in paradise and we're still having fun. We've walked around town until our feet ache, we took a taxi to and from a large shopping plaza, we've ordered some lycra diving suits, had the outboard motor fixed, and with the help of a retired navy expat, nearly doubled the output of our water maker. Not bad for one weeks work. Ok, not really work in the traditional sense but we've been busy. 

The taxi rides were fun, the second ride was certainly worth the price just for the entertainment value. The ride out was so-so, almost boring. The ride back was fun. Radio blasting Mexican songs with the driver singing along, it was either full speed ahead or full breaks. Fortunately in the city traffic we never got over 30 mph so nothing too scary. At the shopping plaza we bought some shorts, shirts and groceries. The grocery store, called Soriano, is similar to a Fred Meyer or small K-Mart. 1/3 clothes and kitchen hardware and 2/3 groceries. Earlier in the week we walked to a CCC grocery store near the marina. Both stores are equivalent to a well stocked grocery store in the states. Not all the same goods but there is no shortage of items in either store.

We had a local expat do a complete tune up of our outboard motor. There are numerous Americans that live here, most are retired from American jobs but some have lived here most of their lives. They have legitimate Mexican companies and do work on boats. The outboard was fixed by a 20+ year resident of Mexico, 'Sea Otter' Jimmy. 'Sea Otter' is the name of his boat. He came down here over 20 years ago, married a local women, and makes a good living repairing outboard motors and skippering charter boats. We consulted with another expat on our water maker, Bill is retired Navy and worked in the Navy on water makers. He has a shop on his boat that has more water maker parts than  most dealers in the states. With a little advise from Bill we were able to improve the output of our water maker by 75%.  It's a good thing Bill is here because we've been trying to get some help out of Village Marine in Seattle via email but VM just got bought out by Parker Marine and it seems they are too busy reorganizing to answer their emails. 

There is a 46 Nordhavn named Mc Mac from Panama, photo above, anchored off a marina towards the head of the bay from us that has an interesting story. Nobody is on the boat and hasn't been for many years. Seems the boat was impounded by the Mexican Navy 8 years ago for carrying drugs, don't know what happened to the people on board but I assume they're in jail, but the Mexican law does not allow for the government to sell impounded property. So the boat just sits at anchor, uncared for and rotting away. In the last hurricane it broke free of it's mooring and was blown against the breakwater where it was scratched up but being a Nordhavn, it's too tough to sink so easily. So it just sits, a sad sight. 

We still have many things to do before we leave in 3 weeks so we'll keep busy. It's been warm and sunny since we got here. Today is in the high 80's with a light breeze. Shorts and t-shirt weather all the time. More later...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Paradise Found


Date: 3/29/2009
Location: La Paz, Marina de La Paz
Lat/Lon: 24 09.310 N 110 19.586 W 
Weather: Sunny and Warm, lite breeze, 82 °

Hi everyone, we're in La Paz! This has been our goal since we left Anacortes last August so we feel that we've reached a major milestone in our adventure and La Paz does not disappoint.  As with all our experiences in Mexico, the people are warm and friendly, even the gringo's here are nice,  but in addition to the people the town is clean, well kept and modern. The water front has been built with a broad board walk down the beach and there are restaurants and shops everywhere but without feeling too touristy.  We are going to be here for a month before heading north into the islands and eventually San Carlos for the summer. It would be great to spend the summer in La Paz but they do get the occasional  hurricane here so our insurance requires that we go further north by July 1st. 

We are at Marina de La Paz, the heart of the cruiser's world in La Paz. There are dozens of cruising sail boats here and a few power boats, mostly sports fishing boats that are kept here for the winter season. There are also a couple of mega-yachts in this marina and many more in the big resort marinas. This marina is at the edge of down town while the resorts are further out so we are within an easy walk of the shops and restaurants.  The weather is warm but not too hot, mid 80's, and I haven't worn long pants or socks since arriving. Shorts, t-shirts, and sandals all day, every day. This is paradise. The cats are loving the sun and we have the doors and windows open all day long with protective screens on so no one goes wandering off, the cats that is. I've also quickly gone native in other ways, I now drink the lighter Mexican beers, Corrona, Texcante, and Pacifico.   Up north I only drank darker, amber beers. Down here the heat requires a lighter beer. We also bought a bag of 18 oranges from a street vendor for less than $1.50 and have fresh squeezed juice with breakfast. Life is good.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Bahia Magdelena, aka Mag Bay


Date: 3/24/2009
Location: Bahia Magdelena, aka Mag Bay
Lat/Lon: 24 38.064 N 112 08.171 W
Weather: windy, mostly sunny, low 70's

We've been hanging out in Mag Bay waiting for a weather front to pass through on Sunday and Monday, which it did. The winds died down Monday evening and we're going to give it another day for the sea to lie down a little more before we head out so it looks like we'll be out of here Wednesday at first light.
We arrived at Mag Bay on 3/19 after a 28 hour, 160 NM cruise. The weather and seas were fair so it was a pleasant trip. Along the way we passed through a group of fisherman in pangas (large rowing boats with outboard motors) and one of them pulled up parallel to our boat about 30' off the beam and yelled 'Sodas, sodas!', gesturing with their arms drinking a can of Coke. I pointed to the aft of the boat and with out changing our speed or heading they pulled in behind us and I tossed them two cans of Coke. They waved and smiled and went back to their fishing. Within 10 minutes another panga pulled up next to us and we repeated the same process.

After arriving in Mag Bay at 9 AM and setting the anchor we went and laid down for a short siesta. A half hour later there was a knock on the side of the boat and someone saying 'buenes dias'. It was the Port Captain. We welcomed him aboard, offered him a cold Coke which he happily accepted, showed him our papers and filled out his simple documents. Now this is a village of maybe 30 people who live in simple shacks next to the shore, yet they have a Port Captain. He was very nice and although he spoke no English and we no Spanish we managed to carry on a simple conversation for 15 minutes. We understood that this is a peaceful village with no crime yet if we went up the bay to San Carlos they had mucho crime and banditos. We'll stay here, thank you.

There have been 2 sail boats here with us and Saturday the three of us hired a panga to take us into San Carlos at the head of the bay to get some groceries. The panga let us off on the beach near the center of town and a friend of the panga driver took us in his Jeep the next 6 blocks to the grocery store. There are some 5000 people in San Carlos and I'm not sure if we were in the center of town or on the edge but the grocery store was not that large. We did find a few things but they didn't have much. There was a lady selling fresh strawberries across the street out of the back of her truck, a newer Chevrolet 4 door, 3 pints for 20 pesos, just over a US dollar. We bought 3 pints. We tried to find an ATM to get some cash but couldn't find one and the driver didn't know of one or didn't want to spend the time to look for one. The streets all looked like sand but most of them were paved roads just covered with sand. It reminded me of a place that just had been blanketed with snow. Even the noise of the cars was muffled by the sand. The area around the town is all sand and dirt so I guess that the winds just keep blowing the sand onto the streets and they don't try to remove it.

We put the dinghy in the water and the motor started right up and ran for about 10 minutes before it stopped, for good. It seems to be a fuel problem so I'm going to take the dink to shore and remove the carburetor there so if I drop anything I can easily retrieve it. The last time I removed the carb in Nanaimo I dropped a part in 50' of water and it took over a month to get a replacement, and that was after we came back to the states! I don't want to take any chance repeating that here.

As we travel south we are also going east. We learned that south of Turtle Bay you move ahead one time zone so we are in the equivalent of the Mountain time but we aren't on day light savings time yet. They do go on DST sometime, we just don't know exactly when.

The photo above is of 'Punta Entrada', Entrance Point, at the entry to Mag Bay taken at 6 AM.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Turtle Bay ++


Date: 3/13/2009
Location: Turtle Bay
Lat/Lon: 27 41.210 N 114 53.236 W
Weather: Windy, overcast

Worked on water maker leaks with good success. We did not run the water maker because we are not sure of the quality of the water in the bay and we did not want to clog up the filters unnecessarily. We have enough water to wait to run the water maker until our next trip off shore.

In the afternoon we called the water taxi and went into town. You call the water taxi on the VHF channel 16 and he comes out in a panga, a large row boat with a powerful outboard motor, and takes you to the pier where there are stairs treads leading down to the water with one ladder type step at the bottom. At lower tides the bottom stair tread is 3' above the water level and the bottom step is well above the water. It's navigatable but it takes some courage and just closing your eyes and moving forward.

Once we were off the pier we walked down the beach 50', the only path available, and up onto a small dirt road that leads directly into town. The town has a few blocks of paved road but all the rest is dirt. All of the dirt roads are one lane plus some parking on either side. As one person on another boat put it 'the town is at the end of a 50 mile dirt road that leads to a gravel road'. This place is at the end of the road and the poverty is extreme here. The people are very friendly and helpful and the nicest looking building in town is the church. There are many little grocery stores, more like mini mini-marts with a few can goods, rice, beans, beer, and coke. There are 2 or 3 internet cafés that have multiple computers connected to the internet and you can take your own laptop and connect to their network. We're going back into town tomorrow to buy some beer and a few less important items.

I think I have my laptop problems figured out. The small panel on the top of the keyboard that has the On/Off switch, volume controls, and various lights to indicate if the power is on or hard drive is turning has a plug at one end that plugs into a a receptacle on the main board. The problem is that this plug is not going into the receptacle far enough to make contact so I put a small folded piece of tape under the plug and that seems to help. It still needs a small push from a well placed finger to work every time but at least I know where the problem is and how to fix it.

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Turtle Bay +


Date: 3/12/2009
Location: Turtle Bay
Lat/Lon: 27 41.210 N 114 53.236 W
Weather: Windy, 30+ kts

I worked on the sump pump for most of the day. You wouldn't think that a simple pump would take so long to fix, especially since we had a backup pump that I put in and it still didn't work and yes, I did check the voltage at the pump, a good 12.6 vdc. The real frustrating thing is that when I brought the pump up to the pilothouse to test it worked just fine but when I took it back to the engine room it didn't work. Very strange voodoo stuff going on. It had to be the wiring so I connected the positive wire to the + post of the engine starter motor, still nothing. I then tried connecting the negative wire to the engine block and it fired right up. There was a bad negative/ground wire for the pump. I've never seen anything like this before. Next thing was to try to figure out how to fix it. I traced the wire as far as I could trough the engine room, nothing suspicious looking there. From the engine room it disappears into a hidden wire run up to the electrical panel in the pilothouse. Checked the panel connections but there was no way to tell which of the dozens of black grounding wires was from the pump. Out of frustration, and the need to get the sump pump working so I could take a shower, I used a wire that I had run from the pilothouse to the engine room but never used. I connected it to the ground strip on the panel and to the pump and it ran great. I still need to sort this out but at least it's working for now.

Now it was shower time with some Ibuprofen, My back was aching from crawling around the engine room on my hands and knees and I didn't want to end up like last October when I could barely move due to back pain. This is not nearly so bad so I stopped for the day before I made it worse.

I forgot to mention that the day after we arrived the Mexican Navy came out to us in their 30' panga with 6 armed shoulders onboard. It was too windy for them to make a safe approach to us so they just came near and asked what our last port of call was and if we were the owners of the boat. At least I think that's what they said, they only spoke Spanish and we don't. We're working on that.

The photo above is the Mexican navy patrol boat.

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Bahia Asuncion


Date: 3/16/2009
Location:Bahia Asuncion
Lat/Lon: 27 08.214 N 114 17.414 W
Weather: Winds NW 5-10 kts until 3 PM then became NW 25-30+ kts

We left Turtle Bay at 6:30 AM and had a pleasant cruise all day with sea under 3'. As we came around Isla Asuncion the wind picked up to 30+ kts. The bay is not protected from the wind but there is no fetch so the waves were only 2' wind chop. We anchored off of the old pier well off shore in 25' of water so that we would be well clear of the other moored boats and have plenty of room to let out 200' of chain. Facing away from the village at night it was so dark that when I casually threw a rotten banana off of the aft of the boat before we went to bed, it disappeared in the darkness before it hit the water. It's a little spooky being in a small boat in a strange place in such darkness but it can be very beautiful also, if you look up into the skies you can see a thick blanket of stars above you, more than you can imagine.

From the water, the town of Asuncion looks newer and slightly more prosperous than Turtle Bay. Asuncion lacks a pier that the pangas can tie up to so they must launch from the beach. The Mexican Navy did launch a panga and circled around our boat writing down the boat name and home port but they did not try to board or talk with us, just a courteous wave which we returned.

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Bahia Abreojos


Date: 3/17/2009
Location:Bahia Abreojos
Lat/Lon: 26 43.974 N 113 32.307 W
Weather: Winds NW 5-10 kts until 3 PM then became NW 15-25 kts

The weather Gods are smiling on us, the 50 NM trip from Asuncion to Abreojos had light winds and calm seas. We arrived in Abreojos just as the 3 PM winds were starting so we headed for the 'more protected' anchorage in the East end of town. The West anchorage off of the village is more open to the N winds where the East anchorage has slightly more protection from the winds and W swells. The winds blow every evening on the coast due to the warmer air over the land pulling the cooler ocean air on shore. By 9 PM the land has cooled enough that the winds subside and it's very calm over night.

Abreojos looks to be a nice little village built on a very barren point (punta) of land. Believe it or not tourism is the main industry here due to the whale breeding in the Laguna San Ignacio during winter. The logon is a protected area and only licensed guides from the village can take tourist to view the whales. We are a little late in the season so we only planned on staying here one night.

We plan on going 26 hours to Bahia Magdalena, a large and well protected anchorage 2/3 of the way down Baja. The forecast for the next 3 days is for fair weather do we thought we would make as much distance as possible. There is a small front moving through over the weekend so we'll be in Mag Bay for a few days. Next stop, Cabo San Lucas.

The photo above is of the light house at Abreojos.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Turtle Bay


Date: 3/11/2009
Location: Turtle Bay
Lat/Lon: 27 41.210 N 114 53.236 W
Weather: mostly sunny, windy NW 20-25 kt, after sunset 5-10kt

We did a 7 hour run from the anchorage at Isla Cedros to Bahia de Tortugas, Turtle Bay. The bay is well protected from the seas but not from the winds. The winds in the anchorage blows up to 35 kts but there is no fetch so there is just a small ripple on the water and the anchorage is large with lots of room. There are 7 other sail boats anchored near the village but the bay could easily hold 10 times as many boats.

The weather is forecasted to blow for the next 4 days and we have some maintenance projects to complete so we're settling in here for a few days. Yesterday the water maker started leaking for 3 different fittings and couldn't hold the high pressure needed to make water so that's high on the list to fix. The pump in the sump from the head sinks and shower stopped working so the sump in overflowing into the bilge. Add that to the list.

Our main radar, we have 2, started to act up and needs some attention. It has started repainting its screen frequently, sometimes every sweep. It makes it nearly impossible to read. I'm going to check all the connections and hope to find the cause. If I'm not successful I'll send an email to our tech in Anacortes.

We should keep busy for the days that we wait here for better weather.

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Isla Cedros


Date: 3/9/2009
Location: Isla Cedros
Lat/Lon: 28 14.048 N 115 10.217 W
Weather: Mixed starting fair and building to winds NW 15-25 kt and seas 6-9', Full Moon with broken clouds

We completed an overnighter of 28 hours from Colonet. The plan initially was to go 45 NM to San Quitin but the weather was so nice and the seas so gentle that we decided to take advantage of the good conditions and go overnight to to Isla Cedros, a total of 185 NM. The forecast was for increasing winds overnight with building seas but we hoped that it would not be too bad and we could make some good distance down the coast. The weather was good to us for most of the night but the wind picked up and the seas started to build as we made the 120 NM crossing of Bahia Sebastian Vizcaino. Around 4 AM the seas were 6-9' feet from behind us, we weren't pounding into the seas but the boat was moving a lot as the larger waves moved under us. As we got behind Isla Cedros the seas calmed and we found a so so spot to anchor at the above Lat/Lon. The wind would gust down the hills on the island up to 35 kts pushing us broad side to the low swells so we left the fish in the water to slow the boat motion. The night was rolly but we managed to get some sleep.

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Bahia Colonet

Date: 3/8/2009
Location: Bahia Colonet
Lat/Lon: 30 57.680 N 116 17.520 W
Weather: 60° high clouds, Winds NW 10-15 kt

Pleasant trip south from Ensenada to Bahia (Bay) Colonet. On some charts Colonet is spelled Colnett. There was low northwesterly swells of mostly 3' with some 5' but it was from behind us so it was an easy ride. Bahia Colonet is formed by a point of land sticking out into the Pacific. There is no real bay here, you just pull in on the south side of the point where you are protected from the NW winds and seas and anchor in 15'-20' of water. The swells do refract around the point and enter the south side so the protect is not complete. Looking south or west you see nothing but the Pacific ocean all the way to the horizon.

As Linda was preparing dinner, I was on the aft deck and heard the unmistakable sound of a whale exhaling but this sound very was close. I looked down the side of the boat and saw a young gray whale rubbing up against the boat. I called to Linda to come out quickly, "there was a whale right next to the boat!". The whale was about 15' long, a new gray is 14' at birth, so it was very young. It lay stationary against the boat with it's nose up against the hull. It would sink under the water 2-3' and surface again, exhaling at the surface. We had to step back to not be sprayed by the plume. After a few minutes it swam around the boat and then off into the bay. It was a very young whale and there was no sign of it's mother so perhaps it mistook our boat for it's mom. Hopefully mom was just off fishing and would return shortly for her baby.

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Saturday, March 7, 2009

Last Day in Ensenada

Date: 3/7/2009
Location: Ensenada
Weather: Sunny 60°,  Winds NNW 15-20 in the afternoon 

 "For whilst money spent can be re-earned, time cannot and as the clock of life is wound but once,I for one,intend to try and make every second a winner and I invite you to come with me and do likewise. "  Anonymous

My laptop is starting to show it's age, it's around 5 years old, I think that's about 75 in laptop years. The first thing to go was the little lights that flicker when the hard drive is running, then the on/off switch for the speaker, now it is very difficult to power on. All those items are on the same board that runs across the top of the keyboard. I took the board out and everything looks ok and I tried to clean the connector between the board and main circuit board but when replaced it still didn't respond when the power button was pushed. The computer did light up when I pushed down on the end of the board with the connector and pushed the on/off switch so I think there's a problem with the connector. I used to have some electronics spray cleaner but I can't find it so I'll look for some when in town. For now it looks like  turning the power on/off is a two finger job. 

We checked out with the Port Captain Friday for our departure on Sunday. In order to do this you need a form stating your next port of call and a receipt from the marina stating you are paid in full. Our marina provided those forms and we took them down to the CIS office first to the Migracion window and then the Port Captainia. We're not leaving until Sunday but the check out form is good 48 hours prior to leaving and the offices are all closed over the weekend. After that we went to a grocery store near the port offices. It's a medium size store, they do have mega stores further from the waterfront, but it was well stocked and very clean. As nice as any state side grocery store.  We got some lettuce, grown in California, bananas, and bread. 

We had pizza at Alfonso's Pizza restaurant tonight. Excellent Hawaiian pizza, as good as any pizza we have had anywhere.  A large pizza,  Coke (made with real sugar), 2 beers, plus tip for $16. 

We're leaving early tomorrow morning heading south. We will be at anchorages, not marinas, until we get to La Paz in a week or so. The next few stops will be at Bahia Colonet, Bahia de San Quitin, and Punta Baja. 

Here's some photos from Ensenada. 

Some of many ballons we passed on the water.
CruisePort marina office.




Thursday, March 5, 2009

Getting Fuel


Date: 3/5/2009
Location: Ensenada
Weather: same old, same old. 65°, winds calm in the morning and nights, breezy in the afternoon

We bought diesel today at Marina Coral in Ensenada MX for US$2.08 per gal net. The kicker was that they charged us US$130 as a "docking fee" because we were not guest in the marina. The net cost above includes this fee. Marina Coral has the only fuel dock on the outside coast of Baja. All other fuel sources are from a 55 gal drum.
We didn't know about the "docking fee" until we went to pay, next time we'll ask about all fees and charges before we start pumping although we needed fuel to get to La Paz so we didn't have a lot of options. We might have considered staying at Coral for a night to offset the fee but we were already paid up at CruisePort Marina through Saturday and we're leaving Sunday.

The Marina Coral is 3 miles north of downtown Ensenada and CruisePort is right in the center of town. Both marinas are relatively new and well kept. CruisePort has the advantage of being a short walk to town and is cheaper although at Marina Coral you can use the facilities at the Resort (swimming pool, spa, etc) if that's your thing. There is one other marina here and that's Baja Naval which is an older place right in the center of town that is used by the sport fishing charter boats. Baja Naval also have a boat yard with a good reputation but the marina lacks a little in security and upkeep so we went with CruisePort which is as good as a marina as you would find anywhere in the States.

Yesterday we bought a whole pollo (chicken) from a restaurant downtown that cooks them on a rotisserie over a wood fire. For 100 pesos ($6.66) we got a whole cooked chicken, French fries, and a stack of small tortillas. The chicken was great, a little greasy, but very good. The French fries I thought were good, Linda less so, but odd with the chicken and we really didn't know what to do with the tortillas.

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Customs Inspection

Date: 3/3/2009
Location: Ensenada
Weather: 64° and overcast

Yesterday we were to have an appointment with the customs agent to inspect our boat at 5 PM but he did not show up and rescheduled for the next morning at 8 AM. This being the next day, he arrived at 10:30 AM. The purpose of the inspection was to verify that the engine serial number that we gave him on the form for the vessel Temporary Import Permit was correct. He arrived and asked to see the id plate on the engine and I led him to the engine room. We have a 'crawl around' engine room and I crawled next to the engine and he said that it was too crowded in there and asked me to read him the serial number. I read him the number, he was satisfied that it matched the number on his form and that was that. He gave us our import permit, instructed us to place the decal in a dock side window, shook hands and left. All in all a quick, friendly, and near meaningless event.

We tried our TV with the rabbit ears when we arrived in Ensenada and were able to get 4-5 channels very well, problem is they're all in Spanish.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

Arrival in Ensenada


Date: 3/2/2009
Location:Ensenada, B.C. (Baja California)
Lat/Lon: 31 51.317 N 116 37.320 W
Weather: 70° @ noon

Yesterday we had a near perfect cruise from San Diego to Ensenada. Blue skies, 70°, 2' swells, and a light breeze. Doesn't get any better than that. We were up and out of San Diego by 5AM for the 70 NM trip and arrived in Cruise Port Marina at 4 PM. No one was in the marina office on Sunday so we just tied up at a convenient end tie location. The marina is about 1/3 empty so there is no shortage of slips at this time. Word on the dock is that many people have taken their boats back to the states in order to try to sell them. Good luck to them in this market.

Monday morning we were up early to check in at the marina office and then down to the Centro Integrales de Servicios (CIS), the customs, immigrations, and Port Captains office for clearing into Mexico. The marina staff was very helpful in creating our Crew List forms, we had completed one before arriving but it's in Spanish and we mistakenly entered La Paz as our last port rather than as our next port of call, and other documents to get us started. Once we arrived at the CIS office it took about 2 hours to complete the forms and pay the fees. The people are very helpful and speak English so it's overall not a bad experience.

Note: For boaters going to Mexico, get Pat Rains 'Mexico Boating Guide' and follow her instructions on what documents and information you need prior to arriving in Mexico. For example, you do need to know the serial number of your engine(s) to get a Temporary Import Permit for your boat.

In the final step for getting the Temp Import Permit we had to fill out a form stating what basic equipment we had on the boat and then push a button that triggered a red or green light to come on. If by chance the red light comes on you have to have an in-person inspection on your boat, green, you get a pass. Linda pushed the button and, you guessed it, it came up red. We made an appointment for the inspection at 5 PM that day. At 6 PM the inspector had not yet arrived and I went up to the marina office and talked to a clerk that was working late. "Yes" she said, "the customs agent called and said he would not be here today but would come tomorrow morning."

Too be continued...

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Saturday, February 28, 2009

San Diego Municipal Docks


Date: 2/28/2009
Location:San Diego Municipal  Dock, Shelter Island
Lat/Lon: 32 42.603 N 117 14.046 W
Weather:  75, winds breezy in the afternoon

We moved 11 km from Chula Vista to the municipal docks at the north end of SD bay. The municipal docks do not take reservations and charge $10.50 per day for the first 5 days and $21 for the next ten days for any size boat. After 10 days you must leave, you can only be at the dock for 10 days out of  every 40 days. In this way they eliminate boats living at the docks for months on end.  We called before we left to make sure that they had space and the docks were less than half occupied when we arrived. We were a little concerned about getting in because right next door at the Koni Kai resort they are having the Trawler Fest boat show and seminars at the same time and we were afraid that the municipal docks might be full of boats visiting the show.

Friday afternoon we went over to the boat show and walked around the boats. We spoke with the crew from Nordhavn, they had 4 boats on display, and we met Art Defever who was on his own 63' Defever that is for sale. 

The boat basin behind Shelter Is is home to 6000 boats, everything from mega yachts to run down sail boats that their owners hope have one more trip to La Paz left in them. It's an amazing place.  We walked around the basin and it seems like solid boats as far as you can see.

We were going to leave for Ensenada Saturday, today, but it looks like the wind is going to kick up on Tues-Wed so we'll have to spend most of the week in Ensenada waiting for calm seas so we decided to stay in SD one more day. 

The 62 Nordhavn on the right in the photo above is Patty M, formally Rover, that is on the way to Newport Beach from Ensenada. The Captain was kind enough to give use a tour, the boat is fantastic and for sale. 

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Road Trip- Tucson


Last weekend we drove our Jeep to Tucson and put it in storage at a place near Linda's son, Jeff. We spent 2 nights at Jeff's house and rented a car to drive back to San Diego. The car, from National, cost $148 including gas for the 7 hour drive. 2 oneway tickets on Southwest would have been $150 for a weekend departure, $98 if we left on Tues, Wed, or Thurs. The car was well worth it to avoid flying. The car we rented was a Nissan Vesa which was one of those cars where if you moved the seat forward enough to reach the steering wheel your legs were too close to the peddles, move the seat back so your legs are comfortable and you can't reach the wheel. Linda and I are 8" different in height and neither of us could find a comfortable position.  Other than that it was an ok cheap little car.  In San Diego we had to return it to the airport so we got up at 6 AM to get it back in the 24 hour rental period and then ran it down to the airport and then took the bus and then trolley back to the marina. 

The trip across highway I-8 from San Diego to Tucson is nice if you like flat desert terrain. The picture above is where the freeway gets right next to the Mexican boarder, that's the boarder fence just across the freeway. Customs and Boarder Patrol had the freeway blocked twice going east and 3 times west bound for vehicle inspections.  We got waved through at each stop but it's just the idea that anyone could be stopped and asked to show their papers that doesn't seem right. I guess the idea of 'probable cause' is rather passé. 

We're back on the boat for a couple of days getting ready to head into Mexico. Mid week we'll take the boat up to the public dock at the north end of San Diego bay and the weather looks good to head to Ensenada on Saturday or Sunday.  

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Hi Tech Rabbit Ears


Not really. We were in Marina Del Rey on election night and we wanted to watch the election returns on TV so we walked over to Radio Shack and bought a cheap set of rabbit ears on the chance that we could get an over the air channel. To our surprise it worked! When we got to San Diego we moved the rabbit ears to the top of the pilothouse and we were able to get the 4 network channels and a couple of local stations all for free. The reception is good, not great, but good enough to watch. 

The downside is we can not receive digital TV signals without a conversion box and in San Diego 3 of the network channels have converted to digital on February 17th. We could buy a conversion box for $40 but we're going to be in Mexico in 10 days so we'll just have to get by with NBC and PBS until then. 

Sunday, February 15, 2009

We're Going

Date: 2/15/2009
Location: Chula Vista, CA
Lat/Lon: 32°37.406'N  117°06.101'W
Weather: Overcast, 65 °

"I am going because I would have no peace if I stayed" - Donald Crowhurst

It's off to Mexico by the end of February. We've given our notice at the marina, we're finishing our provisioning and this weekend we're taking our car to Tucson to put in storage and it's off we go.  We're storing the car in Tucson because 1) Linda's son lives there and 2) this summer when we're in San Carlos in the Sea of Cortez for a few months we can easily get to Tucson and take our car back with us. 

We were not sure if we were going further than San Diego but as Crowhurst said, we'd have no peace if we stayed after doing all the preparations for the last 2 years and coming all this way. If we didn't go we would regret it for the rest of our lives. And what's to return to? We can't sell the boat in this market and there are no jobs to be had, so we might as well spend at least a year in Mexico and have some fun. 

By the way, Crowhurst did go on the around the world sailing race he was referring to and went insane and committed suicide before he finished, but that's another long story.  Read the book - The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst 

Being sick for January

The first night home from Ensenada I was up at 1 AM vomiting. I had a high fever, around 101° for 6 days. After the fever broke I started to get  chest and head congestion and a sore throat that kept me in bed for most of the next two weeks. It was 3 weeks before I had enough strength  to get up for more than 2 hours at a time and it was 4 weeks before I stopped coughing so much that I started sleeping in the main stateroom with Linda. In the third week Linda did insist that I go to a local clinic  where they gave me some anit-biotics and some spray for my throat that contained steroids. Neither med seemed to do much to improve my condition. I haven't been this sick for 20 years but I don't think it was caused by going to Ensenada. Somewhere I caught the flu bug and then a bad cold on top of that. I feel like I missed the entire month and Linda was such a sweetie taking care of me during that time. 

Road Trip - Ensenada


After Christmas we thought we would take the bus down to Ensenada and spend a couple of days. We made hotel reservations on the internet at the  San Nicholas hotel that looked good and in the area down by the marinas. We drove to the boarder and parked the car in a lot on the US side, walked across the boarder. Walking south the boarder is open with no check points, the Mexicans don't seem to care who enters their country or what they bring. The bus depot is just 3 blocks from the boarder, right next to the MacDonald's, and the bus to Ensenada runs every half an hour. US$42 for 2 people round trip. The bus is comfortable, clean, and mostly empty. The trip is about 90 minutes and we got off at the first stop in Ensenada which was a mistake, we should have stayed on until the bus depot and been a mile or so closer to our hotel. No harm done though, we got to see more of the town this way. After finding our way to the tourist section we stopped for lunch and to catch our breath and use the restrooms. Lunch was good and we continued our trek to the hotel which we found without much difficulty. The hazard with using the internet is that you may not be getting exactly what you think you're getting. The hotel was older than we thought and it was further from the waterfront and shopping area of town than we could have been if we had chosen a different hotel.

We spent the next two days playing tourist and walking all around the central area of town. On the evening of the third day I started to feel a little off,  like I was coming down with a cold, fever and aches and pains, but some aspirin seemed to overcome it and the next day we caught the bus back to Tijuana and returned home to the boat. Crossing the boarder on foot took less than an hour once we figured out  how to get from the bus depot to the boarder crossing. There are no signs for directions so we just walked in the general direction and then followed the crowds as we got near. The line was long but moved fast. The line for cars crossing into the US seemed to go for miles and did not seem to be moving, people were standing next to their cars and vendors were walking up and down the lines selling all sorts of goods. Tijuana is not the place to cross into the US in a car.