Thursday, December 30, 2010

Deja Vu All Over Again!

We left Bahia Magdalena (aka Mag Bay) at first light in overcast, cool, but extremely calm conditions.  As we pulled out of the bay, we saw the cruise ship Oosterdam about two miles behind us, heading our way.  (One of the new technologies that we installed on Rutea is called AIS and it identifies all ships in a wide radius with their name, position, direction, etc.).  I hailed them on the VHF radio and they replied, which is unusual, with the information that they were heading into Mag Bay.

By late morning, the skies had cleared, the seas remained almost flat calm and the wind remained very light.  We'd have long periods (well, 10 to 12 seconds) where you couldn't feel any movement whatsoever.  The afternoon became evening and we settled in for our third overnight passage of the trip.  We were making great time.

At 0800, we entered the breakwater at San Jose del Cabo and proceeded to the fuel dock, where we filled our fuel tanks and got our slip assignment at Marina Puerto Los Cabos.  As we were pulling into the slip, I selected reverse to slow the boat down.  Not only did the transmission make the worst sound imaginable but the boat didn't slow down at all.  It was a rough docking.  What made it ironic was that almost two years ago, our prop shaft coupling broke at the exact same marina.  I was immediately overcome with the dreaded feeling of being stuck in Mexico once again, trying to repair a complex component.  My mind raced to think about the process of removing the transmission, disassembling it, ordering parts, getting them into Mexico and then putting it all back together.  It was almost too much to think about on limited sleep.  We decided to stop for a minute, have breakfast and consider our situation.

On top of that, we had gotten email from Caity saying that the record rains in Southern California had left a couple of our tenants with water damage from leaking roofs.  We whipped out our trusty Movistar cell phone only to find that the SIM card had failed.  Caity was looking for some quick advice and email was just too cumbersome.  We checked in with the marina, paid for four nights but told them that if our mechanical problems are severe, we might be here a long time.  "No problem, senor," the clerk said, "Our monthly rates are a much better deal."  It didn't make me feel any better.  Once back on board, I knew that I had to eliminate the possibility that there was something wrong with the propeller before tearing out the transmission.  I grabbed my face mask and jumped in the very murky water - so murky that I had about one foot of visibility.  I found my way to the prop and found it completely tangled in very heavy plastic and on the same breath, I was able to free it.  One problem solved easily!

But we still needed to talk with Caity so we decided to walk to town as we remembered a Movistar kiosk in one of the huge grocery stores.  We probably should have taken a cab as it was almost 5 kilometers and once we got there we found the kiosk was no longer there.  Deciding that we needed to rent a car, we stopped at every car rental agency we could find.  However, it being the week between Christmas and New Years, everything was sold out and what was available was priced stratospherically.  After walking still more, we finally found a Thrifty Rent a Car that had a compact for an offensive price.  We took it and drove to the Moviestar store where they told us they couldn't help us - we'd have to go to Cabo San Lucas, almost 25 miles away.  Which we did but they couldn't help us either.  They said that the problem should resolve itself in the next 24 hours.  By now it was early evening, we hadn't had lunch or much sleep so we stopped for a nice dinner.  It was good to get back to the boat.

We'll spend New Year's Eve here and then plan for a departure to mainland Mexico.  For all our family and friends, we hope that you have a peaceful, healthy and successful 2011 that's filled with fun adventures.  Know that we think of you constantly and we consider ourselves lucky for having you as such important parts of our lives.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Bahia Santa Maria

Christmas Morning Underway

I still don't believe it, but Ruthie wrote in the log book that on our passage from Abreojos to Bahia Santa Maria, she saw Santa Claus and his reindeer fly across the sky when she was on watch from 2330 to 0200. After all, that area has almost no population and there would be no place for Santa to stop. I didn't actually accuse her of making a false entry in the log book but I remain unconvinced.
Regardless, we had a very nice Christmas morning with bright blue skies and relatively calm seas. The wind was too light so we were under power. I made a full-on breakfast and Corie got to open her presents. Cabo San Lazaro came into view late in the morning and we dropped our anchor in Bahia Santa Maria in the late afternoon. After a fantastic Christmas dinner, we all went to bed early.
Bahia Santa Maria is one of our favorite anchorages. It's huge - the opening is eight miles across - and it's almost always a calm place to anchor. Last year when we were there we traded a six pack of Coke for six lobsters. I asked for a better deal but the pangeros wouldn't hear of it. The one big draw back to the bay is that a heavy surf breaks almost entirely around the inside perimeter, making a dinghy landing an adventure in of itself. Regardless, it was something we had never tried so we loaded up the dink and took off exploring. From where we were anchored, we could see a fish camp so we headed that direction. After several passes, we thought we saw a spot where the surf only broke occasionally so we went for it. As it turns out, beaching the dink there was easy so we pulled it as high up as we could, set the anchor and took off.
It was a little intimidating at first as the road lead right through the fish camp. Here was a small cluster of shacks made from any small or large scrap of lumber or tarp that could be found. One shack had a roof made of a political campaign's banner. Another had part of one wall with a nicely painted panel that said "Sixteen Adult Life Jackets Inside" but I kind of doubt there actually were any life jackets there at all. People seemed to mostly ignore us though we had to be an oddity. I heard a mother singing to her daughter and she continued singing as we walked by, despite our intrusion. We were virtually walking through their living rooms. Even though this is about as poverty-stricken as one could find in the western world, there didn't seem to be a sense of desperation. It was obvious that these people worked very hard for not very much but we heard laughter and saw people relaxing on the Sunday after Christmas.

Corie Riding Back to the Fish Camp

We continued to walk all the way to the Pacific, a distance of about 4 kilometers. The beach there is famous for the amount of jetsam and flotsam that shows up on those shores. It certainly appeared that it would be a fantastic beach for which to collect shells, however, I have a very strict policy against such practices. I threaten to check Ruthie's pockets. In the distance we could see the hulk of a ship that had come to grief on that beach. Just last month a sailboat also met a similar fate though we didn't see it. It had taken us longer than expected to walk there so we didn't stay long.
On our walk back, Corie complained of a blister she was getting on her heel. Just at that moment, an old yellow Ford pick-up truck, loaded with families, came by and offered us a ride. We piled in the back with the kids and dogs and rode back to the fish camp. The little girls in the truck were shy and giggling at first but gradually warmed up. They had spent the day at the beach. When I got out my camera to take their picture, they squealed and hid their faces. There was much joking and laughing when we parked at the fish camp. We thanked the driver as graciously as we could and walked on back to the dinghy. It had been a unique adventure.
At 12/28/2010 12:23 AM (utc) Rutea's position was 24°34.51'N 112°04.12'W

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Feliz Navidad (poquito tarde)

One of the things we love most about Baja California is that there always seems to be something to be explored. Even though we have anchored off the small town of Abreojos, we hadn't previously been ashore. In the past, just getting to Abreojos was a big enough accomplishment that finding the energy to continue exploring was usually more that we could do. The name of the town is unique in that it's almost an admonishment to navigators: Abre in Spanish means open and ojos means eyes; essentially meaning to keep your eyes wide open as you're approaching as the point is surrounded by reefs. Of course, they're all well charted but it's still one of the most challenging anchorages to approach on the entire Baja California peninsula. Add to that the hundreds of floats for fishing traps and you've got a veritable maze to maneuver through. The geography of the location is also something of a natural hardship. It's one of the prominent points on the west coast of Baja California (frequently it's the windiest spot) and the land is low and flat, giving up any elevation to the wind and sea ages ago.

It was Christmas Eve as we approached in the mid-afternoon and dropped our anchor just off the beach. We lowered the dinghy and found a nice spot where the surf was non-existent to beach it. From the water, the town appears to be fairly substantial with a long row of modern-looking street lamps, a large church and a fair amount of car traffic. As we walked through the town though, we saw almost no signs of commerce, not even one of the state-owned Pemex gas stations (it may have been further out of town). There are a couple of small grocery stores but they looked poor. The housing wasn't the shacks one finds in the fish camps but only moderately better. Only the main boulevard was paved, everything else was dirt. The street lamps that we could see from the water were badly rusted. We did see people but no one smiled even though I'd raise my had high, grin broadly and say, "Hola!". There were many dogs roaming about and they'd often bark at us.

However, there were hundreds of osprey nests. Mostly they were built on top of power poles but we did see one built on top of a microwave dish. The birds seemed to be shy of people and would fly from their nest as we'd approached but I did manage to get a photo of one just before it flew. I'll post it here next time I get internet access.

After walking the length and breadth of the town, we headed back to Rutea. We took showers and pulled up the anchor just at sunset and charted a course for Cabo Lazaro, about 135 miles southeast. The wind filled in, we hoisted the sails, shut down the engine and marvelled at the magnificent number of stars in the sky. We had a pretty good beam sea so it was kind of a bouncy ride but we were heading to one of our favorite destinations, Bahia Santa Maria so our spirits were high.

We send, belatedly, our warmest Christmas wishes to all. I'll post more soon.
At 12/26/2010 11:01 PM (utc) Rutea's position was 24°46.08'N 112°14.87'W

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

Two Important Things Happened Today

It wasn't an early start from Turtle Bay this morning - about 7:30 - but the sun was shining and we were starting the second half of our trip down Baja California.  Even though the temperature was in the upper 50s, it felt warmer and the wind had clocked around to the northwest where it belongs.  I hoisted the mainsail as we left the bay and I went below to start my sessions on the ham nets.  While I was still working the nets, Corie came below and got down one of the fishing rods.  She then started rummaging through my tackle box and I suggested a cedar plug.  She got it rigged and it wasn't to much later when - zing! - the clicker on the reel started screaming.  I rush up to the aft deck and helped her reel in a very large and attractive piece of kelp.  Undeterred, she change to a dark purple feather jig and got distracted with other things on the boat.  Once again, - zing! - went the clicker and this time she reeled in about a 15-pound yellowtail.  It was the first fish we had caught this trip.

The other important thing to happen today was we were able to shut down the engine and sail.  Up to this time, we've had to motor because either the wind was too light or it was coming from the direction we were trying to head. Today, though, the wind had picked up to about 20 knots from the northwest and with the main already hoisted, I unfurled the genoa.  We ran wing-on-wing for several hours straight and it was glorious - I hand-steered the whole time which we almost never do as the autopilot does a better job and doesn't complain as much.

Tomorrow we head for Abreojos and we'll likely be out of internet range for a while but I'll still try to post something.  Right now, here in Asuncion, there's a seal that's trying to get on board Rutea.  Nothing I do seems to discourage it.  Let me know if you have any ideas.

Merry Christmas to all!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Pinned down in Turtle Bay

(Does it sound like every time I post something I'm whining?)

We had planned to leave here this morning but the wind, you guessed it, was still coming from the southeast.  Exactly the direction we want to go.  Besides that, our next stop is a small fishing village called Asuncion which is usually a well-protected anchorage - except - in a southeasterly wind.  I wasn't all that troubled by spending another day here as we have broadband internet access and good holding ground for the anchor.  However, by 10am the wind began to build and by 11 it was over 20 knots.  Since this bay is over 2 miles across, the swells started to build to the point where it was getting uncomfortable.  I made the decision to pull up the anchor and try the other side of the bay, a place where we've never anchored, despite the number of times we've anchored here.  As it turns out, it was a good move as the wind continued to build but our new location was flat if windy.  After Ruthie and Corie did their yoga, Ruthie made a terrific lunch.  Before we had finished, all the other yachts that had been anchored on the other side of the bay had followed our lead and moved to the southerly part of the bay.

Our new cockpit enclosure has easily paid for itself with the comfort it's providing now.  It's very cozy to be sitting in a draft-free cockpit, watching the wind whip the waves, while I sip strong, hot coffee.  I think I'll become a spokesman for the Cockpit Enclosure Association.

We'll try for Asuncion manana.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Lymeric from Meg Luce

Two Sailors

There were two sailors named Ruthie and Neal
For the high seas they had a good feel
They sailed with their kids
All over the grids
And came back to their business with zeal

These two sailors, they up and retired
But the seas called them with plenty of fire
When the Baja-ha no longer was funny
Neal said, “To New Zealand, dear honey!”

R & N had a seaworthy daughter
Her name was Corie, the cork
When time came to shove off, ole Corie jumped on
And said, “Let’s adventure dudes--all aboard!”

They went south and went west on Rutea
The family missed them, oh yea-uh
And they finally came back with tales that were wack
And settled back into Sandy Diega.

Bahia Tortuga

How long has it been since you last visited Bahia San Bartolome- lovingly known as Turtle Bay?  Well, since it is one of the most remote spots in Baja California,  I imagine it has been a while!  I'm sure you are dying to know what has changed since you were last here!

Firstly, there is now competition to Gordo's fuel!  Annabelle's is now sending out a 'welcome panga' to let all cruisers know that there is now a choice where one can purchase clean diesel-  delivered to your boat via a modified panga serving as a floating fuel dock!  Secondly, the ladder on the pier has been replaced by stairs- well of sorts... only one step missing... probably better to go up or down in the daylight!  However, this is a huge improvement as you used to have to jump about two feet from the dinghy dock to the bottom rung of the ladder...The pier is painted white with guano but there are no holes in it! Snack shops and restaurants now abound along the beach.  After waiting for 10-15 minutes for someone to show up in a spot we had never tried, we decided to return to a tried and true eatery- a front room in someone's home.  The TV was blaring, family photos adorned the walls and the family was eating cup-o'- noodles for lunch on tables piled high with boxes of shoes as we ordered our chilequilles and combination plates! Lastly, I think everyone in Turtle Bay now owns a car!  We were obviously tourists because we were the only ones walking while everyone else was driving their car- no matter how long or short the distance. Since the roads are not paved, we were pretty caked with dust by the time we had circled town once or twice.  Hot showers are on the evenings entertainment agenda.

Of course, even as things change there are still the things you can count on.  The church still stands and is  decorated for Navidad.  Kid still play soccer every chance they get.  Dogs  abound!  And, every Mexicano or Mexicana that we passed on the street wished us a buenos tardes.

After our 30 hour run from San Quintin, we are more than happy to be here!  There is nothing like watching a full moon rise over a quiet anchorage, seeing moon glade on the water and knowing that once you go to bed, you don't have to get up in the middle of the night for a night watch!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Stupid Weather!

This is the part of the trip that so many most look forward - the sail down the outside, the spinnaker billowing out in front of the boat, the sun sparkling on the water as the boat surges towards the warmer south. Instead, we're huddled in the enclosed cockpit, wrapped in layers of fleece and flannel, as Rutea pounds into cold head winds. The sky is completely grey and the temperature is hovering in the low 50's. Right now, we're underway towards Bahia San Carlos but it's badly exposed to the south and I'm afraid we won't find it too comfortable. That means we'd press on towards Turtle Bay and arrive there sometime tomorrow afternoon after an all-night passage.

The windlass gave me more problems this morning and it appears that Corie can't charge her laptop using the inverter. Other than that, things are exceedingly good aboard. O, except for the one other bad thing: Ruthie beat me at Scrabble.
At 12/20/2010 9:38 PM (utc) our position was 29°40.79'N 115°37.59'W

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Underway from Punta Colnett to San Quintin

It was a beautiful evening last night as we pulled into the south side of Punta Colnett. The water was flat calm, the skies painted with dramatic high, thin clouds which developed into a spectacular sunset. In the far distance we could see some buildings but they appeared to be nothing more than a fish camp. It felt about as wild and remote as a place could be.

As we were getting underway this morning, the chain piled up under the windlass and jammed. This caused the up button to weld itself into the 'on' position. The circuit breaker tripped. In removing the chain stripped housing, the two bolts nearly lost all their threads. I'm going to wait until we get into San Quintin to investigate further but it appears that we may have to manually deploy and retrieve the anchor until we can get some replacement parts. That's not too bad, though: Both Ruthie and Corie are really strong.

We still have winds out of the south so we're motoring once again. There should be a law against bashing southbound, even though the wind is light.

Fair winds and calm seas.
At 12/18/2010 6:38 PM (utc) our position was 30°47.36'N 116°13.21'W

Friday, December 17, 2010

No Fair!

We left Ensenada before dawn this morning and made a left turn once we cleared Punta Banda. But instead of the prevailing northwesterly winds, we found southeast winds which are coming from the exact direction we're heading. I suppose I should have expected it. On the other hand, the winds are light, the sky is brilliant blue and the seas almost completely flat. Off to the west we can see the trough that's going to bring the storm to Southern California and we're hoping that it doesn't get any closer to us. Our destination for today is inside of Punta Collnet, a place where we've never anchored before. The guide books say it can be rolly so if it's too bad, we'll just press on to San Quentin.

Since all of you have been working so hard, go ahead and take the rest of the day off. Tell the boss I said it was OK.
At 12/17/2010 6:32 PM (utc) our position was 31°26.87'N 116°39.22'W

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Some pictures of our first couple of days

Hoisting the Mexican flag, waiting for Mexican Immigration, breakfast at Alfonso's and Ruthie at the helm.

And We're Off!

Our morning departure was, surprisingly, right on time and the passage down to Ensenada was uneventful. Ruthie and I teased Corie mercilessly about what an exciting time we were having. Some of the highlights that failed to generate enthusiasm in Corie were raising the Mexican flag and eating Cheez-its.

Early on in our passage, we noticed a good-sized motorsailer on the same course as us so I hailed them on the VHF radio and inquired about their destination. They said that they too were heading to Ensenada and then further south. I introduced ourselves as, "I'm Neal and also on board is my wife, Ruthie and our daughter, Corie." He replied, "I'm Paul and my wife is Darlene. We also have a dog and his name is Ben." Sometimes things get mixed up on the VHF radio.

Even though we've been to Ensenada many times, there's still a level of excitement as we pull into a foreign port, even one as mundane as Ensenada. Regardless, we had a nice meal at a good restaurant and got a short walk in. Perhaps because we left San Diego so early, the idea of a rowdy night doesn't sound very appealing. We do the Check In Cha Cha manana and try to get some updated weather reports before we leave on Friday.
At 12/16/2010 4:16 AM (utc) our position was 31°51.30'N 116°37.33'W

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Monday, December 13, 2010

We're getting closer . . .

. . . but it's pretty hectic.  We know that soon we'll be under way and have more time to reflect, however, now it's a matter of dealing with what seems like a million details.  Our Fiesta por Adios was a great success and we got to spend the afternoon with family and good friends.  Now, it'd down to crunch time as we'd like to leave on Wednesday 12/15/10 at 0-dark-thirty.  The forecast is pretty good for the rest of the week.  Too bad the weather that we've had the last two days (highs in the 80's) won't hold for a while longer but soon we'll be far enough south that we'll be able to put the long sleeves away for what will hopefully be a long time.

Poor Rutea!  She's sitting low on her water line, a blatant indication that we've been putting way too much on board.  Plus, she lists badly to starboard, which is actually more a problem with her design than the way we stow our stores.  Her huge battery bank is on the starboard side as is the massive steering gear.  Also, the workshop with the spare parts stowage and the navigation station are on the starboard side.  The list is less pronounced if we empty the starboard water tank but I prefer to have it full.

I've been testing and re-testing all of the systems and everything checks out fine.  Of course, I'm the first person to admit that once we get away from the dock, all hell will probably break lose.  Right now, though, I'm too tired to think about it.  Tomorrow may be our last day in San Diego for quite a while.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Poco a Poco . . .

We pick away at our 'To Do' lists - the imperative here being the plural of 'list' as there are several which continuously gain and lose priorities.  The latest list is the one where we procrastinate until we're in Mexico.  It's so convenient, when faced with an unpleasant task, to just say, "We'll do that when we get to Mexico."  Another list has the projects on it which we're delegating to Corie who has the distinct disadvantage of not being here to protest the assignments she's being given.  There's still a long list of things we need to do before we leave San Diego and that's the most overwhelming of all.  The worst part of it is that it keeps getting longer!  Today I discovered a mysterious oily substance in one of our usually-bone-dry bilges - one of the jugs of very expensive diesel fuel treatment has decided to leak, creating a disgusting mess - I doubt I'll be able to put that off until we get to Mexico.  Hey, I know!  I'll put that on Corie's 'To Do' list!