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 caf├ęs 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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