Monday, November 7, 2011

Cabo to Nuevo Vallarta

Sun. 11/6
I was a bit concerned about the long watches with only the two of us and my lack of seamanship for the Cabo/Puerto Vallarta crossing.  Fortunately, early this morning a fellow (Jeff) we had spoken with the night before came buzzing over in his dinghy to see if we were still interested in having him help crew.  From the conversation I overheard while Steve gave him the nickle tour I gathered that he clearly knew his aft from a hole in the ground.  We snapped him up.
A panga is a small hard-bottom outboard fishing boat whose main purpose here is to shuttle people to and from boats at anchor, the beach and mainland docks for provisions or touring.  While Jeff dinghied back for his surfboard & stuff on the Makala, the boat he was leaving, with expert finger-whistling (thanks, Dad) and artistic Tharpesque gesticulations, I summoned a panga for last-minute provisioning.  Above and beyond his duty, pilot Julio led me to a store much cheaper than that in the marina, helped me make selections and carried the majority of the booty back to his panga for our return to Lib II.
1000 22.52 x 109.52 79F/46% Anchor up and struck a rhumb line to Puerto Vallarta.  Chip will appreciate that for the next 20-some hours we had to motor.  Mid-day Jeff rigged a makeshift fishing line with a rubber squid and whipping twine.  A bungee cord was the hit indicator and near sunset we did get a hit.  Something fairly big took everything but the bungee - the most excitement of the day.  <insert yawn>.

Mon. 11/7
The boys are hibernating and I’m on the sunrise watch, 2-6 am, and a beautiful sunrise it is.  Flying fish are gliding across the water’s surface, staying airborne for a surprisingly long time, sometimes covering 40-50 yards.
0300 21.59 x 108.02 motoring @7k.
We had to motor much of the first 24 hours.
0430 Tired of the whine & expense of motoring, Steve appeared in the companionway with sailing intentions.  Up went the main, out went the jib and off went the motor.  Ah, the blessed quiet of sailing; now under full sail rolling along at a respectable 6+kts.
Steve re-retired and I enjoyed the sunrise, the quiet and strong coffee.
0900 21.47 x 107.34 86F/69%

1230 21.40 x 107.18 86F/66% 'Ot 'n sticky, I asked for a gentle keel-hauling.  Request immediately granted: got a rope around me and off the aft swim deck I went.  I had no idea how fast a few knots was and once or twice got sucked under.  A good example of a bad idea.  I did get cooled off, though.
1500 21.33 x 107.12 87F/63% While raising the spinnaker the sock’s dousing lines got away from us and with no way to control the sail, things could have gone to hell.  Fortunately, with the help of a push-pole and some luck, we managed to snag the lines and raise the spinnaker.  Now, with only that sail up, we’re hitting 5-6k.  With the "kite" alone the boat seems to rock around less and is much quieter than the loud, annoying snap every time the main or jib comes out of a luff.

Jeff came up with another DIY fishing idea - slice up a shiny Heineken can, add hooks & line and toss it over.
Didn't catch anything but it was something to do.

Tue. 11/8
 Sunrise watch again, as I prefer.

0430 20.55 x 105.56 Only the spinnaker has been up since yesterday afternoon and we’ve averaged 6-7k but since the wee hours haven’t gone under 7k.  Nice 13-19k winds.

 As I work through a fresh pot of coffee, the boys are catching much-needed Zees.  So there were no witnesses when, at 0505, I hit a new record 9.3k with just the spinnaker.
0700 Rolling in to Bahia Banderas.
0730 20.46 x 105.39 84F/72% Spinnaker down; motoring across Banderas Bay.  Saw a puffed up puffer fish.
1015 20.41 x 105.17 87F/63%
 Tied up at Vallarta Yacht Club in Paradise Village, Nuevo Vallarta - our first slip since San Diego.  It’s convenient not to need the dinghy to get to land.  Bummer that what with the oil slicks, fish corpses and jetsam we can’t, or oughtn’t to, jump off and swim.
 The dock fees are high but include some nice amenities: hot showers & jacuzzi, boat water, weekly holding tank flush, mail drop and three swimming pools.  We’re also within minutes of laundry machines, a grocery store and a Starbucks with free wi-fi.

 Time is not so important - fortunate because the U.S. west coast clock went back an hour but the Mexican clock did not...until a couple days later.  Then en route to Puerto Vallarta we crossed a time zone, adding an hour.  For further confusion, our slip is prit’near on that time line so what time it is depends on which direction we walk from the boat.   For simplification I have decided it’s either day (rum-time) or night (margarita-time).
 Cripes, this trip took three weeks.  I could’ve flown here in 4 hours!

 We took Jeff to a farewell lunch and now he's headed farther south, to Manzanillo, surfboard in tow.

 Ah, now for a long, sorely needed jacuzzi and rum punch.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bahia Santa Maria to Cabo San Lucas

Wed. 11/2
0640 24.26 x 112.14 72F/68% Anchor up at sunrise to begin the third and final leg down to Cabo.

0815 2 4.39 x 112.13 76F/65%  Moderate winds for much of the day.  Jumping Manta Rays.  Spinnaker up for ~5 hours.
1615 24.06 x 112.05 80F/56% Sails down, motoring.
Just before casting off in San Diego, as we perused the aisles of Trader Joe’s for last-minute provisions, Cap’n Casey's like, “Nah, we have enough & no more storage room.”  True if we want to live on chips and noodles.  Knowing better, I ignored him and bought like a drunken sailor.  Even so, we’ve run out of a number of things.

2300 John’s watch.  50+nm off shore.  I heard a buzzing/flapping noise over my shoulder, maybe 3 or 4 times.  Scanning what I could see of the dark deck I saw nothing and had been warned NOT to go on deck alone at night.  Figured it was a line or bit of canvas flapping in the wind.  The morning light showed it to be a flying fish that took a wrong turn.

Thu. 11/3

I’ve got the insufferable 1100-0200 watch; black & uneventful.
0100 Steve woke up long enough for us to raise the sails.
0725 23.09 x 110.37 79F/76% 
0800 Wind <10k, boat <5k.  jib down, main centered.  Flying fish, sea turtles.
1330 22.51 x 109.55 89F/59%  The tip of Baja Mexico is in plain sight, just a few more miles.

1415 22.53 x 109.54 Anchor down in Cabo San Lucas, in the harbor.
Phew, what a great trip.
The water looked clean and clear so over the side I went, closely followed by Mike.

Shore Leave.

<Need to firm up travel plans asap; potentially sail Cabo to Puerto Vallarta arriving the 8th or 9th, stay for a few days with Steve and friends then fly to San Diego on about Sunday the 13th.>

Fri. 11/4
Layover in Cabo.  Boat lore: my son says you should never have a banana on a fishing boat.  (Huh?)  Chip says any self-respecting boat carries a bottle of rum.  Not that I wanted any personally but as Chief Liquor Steward I felt obligated to immediately buy several.
The four of us dinghied to the dock and wandered deeper into Cabo past the facade of over-priced restaurants and American fast food and fell upon Los Tres Gallos.


Red flag: no tables were occupied.  But the place was charming and we were tired, thirsty and anxious to find someplace authentic.  Okay, let’s start with beers, tortilla chips and test their salsas: all were flavorful and the eager-to-please owner was proud they were made in-house.  One, though delicious, was hot as blazes and while we three wept like schoolgirls Mike was unfazed. <Note to self: send him some of John Jr’s killer habaneros.>  High on endorphins, we had tequila shots all ‘round. We were happy with our various entrĂ©es and topped it all off with a thimble-sized coffee/orange/molasses concoction, on the house.

Sat. 11/5
In Cabo we lost 2 of our crew; Chip & Mike flew home.  It was a great foursome, so thanks Mike and Chip, but the heavy sailing’s over so go back to your land-lubbing lives.  Now we need Gabrielle-The-Linguist because they speak Mexican or something down here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

San Diego to Bahia Santa Maria

Mon. 10/24
Cabrillo Isle Marina located on Harbor Island adjacent to the Sheraton.
0915 32.43 x 117.12 69F/68% Depart San Diego Harbor on the first leg of the Baha Ha-ha.  What a beautiful sight: 132 boats, sails up, appearing out of the mist.
Our spinnaker was up for a couple hours.

Lots, LOTS of dolphins.

2300 31.23 x 117.02 John’s watch

Tue. 10/25
0600 30.49 x 116.50 Except for the first few hours, we’ve motored all the way.  Now with a steady tailwind of ~13k, up go the sails, wing on wing.
0900 30.41 x 116.36 69F/70% 23nm off shore.  Spinnaker helped for a while but with it down and the whisker pole on the jib our speed increased from <3k to a blazing 5k.
1530 30.27 x 116.13 72F/65% Boring as it was, the wing on wing served us well but we need to get out farther to strike a rhumb line to Turtle Bay.  Dropped the whisker and took a starboard gybe to 60 degrees.
1800 30.12 x 116.11 71F/65% Fairly flying at 8k on 4-6’ swells, pushing into the Indian sunset.

Wed. 10/26
0300 29.08 x 115.53 68F/72% The winds have held up all night; boat 7 - 8+kts.
 With the monitor covered and only the tri-color navigation lights on the top of the mast, the starry sky is gorgeous.
Alone and getting tossed about I now know why Chip said to wear a harness on deck at night...and “one hand for the ship, one hand for you”.
0700 Whisker on the jib.  Found a tiny squid on the floor in the head.

  With all the waves and the rocking boat, guess she came in thru the bathroom window.
0900 28.30 x 115.45 69F/67%

2200 27.41 x 114.52 We’re one of the early arrivals in Bahia Tortugas.  From SD it was 3 days and 2 nights...good speed...rarely under 4kts and once as fast as 8.9 under sail; probably averaged 7.  That's fast!  So clear, no light pollution, many stars, many dolphins. Turtle Bay was very dark and after the Cherry Cove incident we were extra cautious.  Went to the west end where nobody else had anchored.  About 30’ deep, we put out 130’ of chain.  Will have a long trip in the dinghy to reach the village.  2-day layover.

Thu. 10/27
Layover in Turtle Bay.
Dinghied in & wandered the dusty town.  Huevos rancheros, taco dorados 'n Modelo for breakfast.
Now a couple days south of the border I recognize that familiar tropical feel; I can’t put my finger on it, it’s not just the heat although you do know you’re closer to the sun.
I’m getting some sea legs but I still move around the deck like a scared spider, low and slow, maximum points of contact.  And that deck, despite the light wood, is often too hot for bare feet.  Scared spider on a frying pan?  While I’m bitching, after this much time moving about the low overhead in the salon, berth and heads, I’ve developed Hunchover Syndrome to protect my forehead, even when I’m on land.
Swim in the bay and early to bed.
Fri. 10/28

Layover in Turtle Bay.
Lazy morning, getting ready for the noon beach party.  Several folks caught tuna & yellowtail along the way & will be grilling to share.  Frisbee, boogie boards, tug 'o war & a surprising array of instruments: guitars, ukulele, saxophone and...bagpipes!?
Sat. 10/29
0715 27.40 x 114.52 66F/67%
Anchor aweigh, motored out to open seas to raise the main & jib.  Nearly dead calm; speed 1-2k, gotta motor.  Hope to arrive @ Bahia Santa Maria late tomorrow night. 240nm on this, the 2nd leg.  Doesn’t look like it’ll be nearly as fun (read:slow) as the first...maybe we’ll get in a little poker.
0930 Sails back up with a starboard gybe; got a respectable 6kts.  Spinnaker up -  no help but pretty.  NOTE: always hold both the topping lift and down haul lines when engaging the whisker pole.  It slid down the mast in an instant and came slamming down on the life line which bent the nearest stanchion.  Fortunately that was the only damage and not a lost limb or head.  ALSO: connect whisker to sheet before raising - that sheet can be hard to catch in the wind.
1400 27.10 x 114.45 77F/61% Steady as she goes.  BLTAs by Steve for lunch.
1500 27.05 x 114.43 79F/57%
1640 27.00 x 114.38 80F/54% The unloved-by-Chip wing on wing ~5k boat speed.
Way too rocky to sleep. 

Sun. 10/30
0500 26.13 x 113.47 70F/79% Clear and starry sky, shooting stars.  30nm off land and no vessels in sight = zero light pollution.  Deep red sunrise.
0740 26.07 x 113.41 71F/78% Winds 5-9k; boat ~3k, so sails down.
1100 motor off, jib & main up, boat 4-5k.
1340 25.31 x 113.15 jib down, spinnaker up - some small improvement to 5.5k.  2nd leg @164nm/31.5 hrs.
1700 25.14 x 113.04 77F/66% spinnaker down, jib up just as the sun set.

Mon. 10/31
0640 24.46 x 112.14 75F/74% Pulled into Bahia Santa Maria just after sunrise.
From Turtle Bay it took 2 days & nights.  Not as much wind as we (especially Chip) would have liked; he got spoiled on the windy 1st leg.
Bright sun, 80F air, 85F water.  I jumped in right away.
We'll layover for 2 nights here then start the final leg to Cabo.
I'd had the last watch (5-8 am) and from 35 miles offshore witnessed this HD sunrise: 

Tue. 11/1

Bahia Santa Maria layover.  Lazy morning, around noon we dinghied the mile or so in to the party on the bluff (except Steve; he swam - and swam back).
<steve> "Though warm, water visibility in this bay is only about 10-15 feet.  The dark sand just doesn't give the apparent clarity like the whiter sand.  I took a hike from the beach up to the main north-south highway--which was about a mile.  Very dry, harsh landscape like all of the Baha that we have viewed.  I observed a pick-up slow down and stop along the road (for one of the people to relieve themselves) a dog jumped out of the back and ran off the road.  Then the 2 chjldren in the truck ran after the dog calling it, and then mom and dad followed off the road with the truck.  I continued to watch for about 10 minutes and they had still not caught the damn dog!  I then jogged back to the beach, where the Baha fleet was having a party."
 A great party band; 60s and 70s American hits peppered with some percussive Latin songs.
Bahia Santa Maria
 Except for a fellow collecting returnable Pacifico bottles at the party recycling is non-existent.  Even at the marinas I haven’t seen a single recycling bin; plastic, metal, glass, everything goes into the garbage.