Monthly Archives: January 2013

Not Fun Sea Day, La Cruz to Mazatlan, 20 January 2013


Beautiful Bright Sun and Lousy Frequent Longlines!Beautiful Bright Sun and Lousy Frequent Longlines!

After enjoying a few weeks at Punta Mita, I felt the time was right to begin the slow trek north, back to Mazatlan, then back over to the Baja, and begin exploring there.  I have certain memories of some of the small bays and anchorages between Cabo and La Paz, and I really want to visit them again.  Granted, that was my first big trip, moving the 43′ Huntingford one-off ketch, Saramin, from La Paz to Cabo, and then to Hawaii.  The Hawaii part didn’t happen as planned, but I got a beautiful, quick introduction to the lower half of the Sea of Cortez.  We left La Paz, sailed to Ballandra, spent the night, then went to Los Muertos and stayed a night, and continued on to Cabo.  The sea life was amazing then, as it is now,  Now twenty years later, I know those particular coves have been developed, on a small scale or large, but I’d really like to see them again.  On another trip down, I helped move a 37′ from La Paz up to San Carlos.  That trip did it!  I just need to go back, and I feel that need now…

I took Willow from Punta Mita to La Cruz to do a last minute boat wash, laundry, provision and get fuel.  I got to visit with some old friends from Santa Barbara, and then say ‘hey’ to Ian.  I got a few long paddles in, and felt the weather window was good, so I left early Friday morning.

Up before sunrise, I left the marina and motored the eight miles to the mouth of the bay.  The Southern Cross was low in the sky and unmistakable.  Songs have been written about this constellation, and the lore is that it helps mariners.  I could easily see how as it was dead-bang right where it should be: south.  I took that as a good omen.  As the sun rose, there were humpbacks everywhere!  The first one I saw was surrounded by dolphins, so that’s the second good omen.  The whales were spy-hopping, blowing, fin slapping and breaching everywhere I looked.  It was amazing, and a bit intimidating, as there was no safe shortcut out of there to stay out of their way.  After about 25 minutes, everyone continued on their safe journey, including me.

Shortly after exiting the bay, I was hailed on the radio by another sailboat heading up to Chacala.  I chose to make a straight trip on up to the outside of Isla Isabel to avoid the nighttime fishing fleet I was enveloped in on my Christmas trip down. I are smart, right?  I spoke to this other boat for a bit, told them a little about Chacala, and we got off the radio.  As I set my trolling jig out, I noted a trawler-type boat far off my stern.  I watched as it continued my way.  A few hours later, it was directly behind me, about a hundred yards off.  I really don’t know why the operator chose to follow me, especially this close, as there is a big huge ocean out here.  Just as I was getting ready to hail the vessel, I saw a  longline right off my bow.  Turning hard to starboard would have put me right in it, so all I could do was go to port, and hail the vessel.  The operator sounded a bit put out that I called, and seemed bored with my traffic about the longline.  He also sounded pissed about altering course to avoid me, but if he didn’t, he was gonna be wrapped up tight in a few miles of polypropylene.  About a mile and a half away, I found the end of the line, rounded it and went back on my way.  The trawler went on by without a word, and I was happy to see it go.  Within 20 minutes, I caught up to him and found him wrapped up in another longline.  I tried hailing him on the radio to see if he wanted me to standby until he could check his running gear and got no response.  I hung out for a bit, and a woman hailed me on the radio, saying her husband had cut the line, and was waiting for me to pass by.  I wasn’t clear how he wanted me to pass through as he was holding both ends of the line in his hands and above the water.  I thanked him and his wife, and told them I’d just run the line until I found the other end.  I was glad to get out of the area.

The altered course unfortunately set me onto longline after longline, frustrating the living daylights out of me.  I was constantly heading off course by miles to avoid all of this gear.  (What’s a longline?  At least here in Mexico, it’s miles of about 3/8″ polypropylene, held to the sea surface by any kind of floating container you can imagine: soda bottles, dish soap bottles, detergent bottles, milk bottles, etc…  Many of the bottles are clear, making them hard to see.  Most have been painted bright colors, which is helpful.  These bottles are spaced on this line about every 25 yards, with about a 6′ length of monofilament tied onto the poly, a baited hook on the other end, interspersed about every 8′.  These longlines are 2-8nm long, depending on how many times they’ve been run over and broken.  A nightmare to avoid when it’s dark or when the seas are up, the fishermen seem to love them, as they are very successful at catching fish, as well as a bunch of other things.  I saw 4 sea turtles wrapped up and not moving at all, no longer at the surface…)  I can’t begrudge a man working hard to make a living, but I admit to calling them bad names Friday as I worked hard to avoid 18 of these lines!  I finally had to make a pee break, and don’t you know it, THAT’S when I ran through one.  I heard a noise like a fishing line singing as it’s being run off the reel, then about 6-8 clunks near my prop, and then I was free.  Crap!  Time to go swimming to see what’s down there.  I went in, saw a ball of line around the shaft, but the prop was free and turning easily.  I opted to wait to cut it all away until I was in Mazatlan, since it was nearing sunset.  Willow moved on easily, there were no funny noises, and I checked the engine compartment.  Everything was tight, no water, and the dripless packing seemed intact.  I dried off and continued on my way.

There would be no dozing on this night watch, as now I was nervous about the longlines, and then keeping another eye out for the regular fishing fleet. I couldn’t blame them for wanting to be out.  The conditions were good for a few days of an offshore shrimping catch.   Additionally, the chart has a label on it stating “The Tres Marias Islands have been reported to be 3 nm east of the charted location.  And Isla Isabel has been reported 1.5 nm southwest of the charted location.  These reports have not been verified.”  Niiiice…  My course was taking me well inside of the Tres Marias, an old penal colony, and the chart calls for a 20 nm safe zone in all directions.  No problem there.  But my course was going to send me about 5 nm west of Isla Isabel.  Some legs, and night watches, are easy.  This one was proving to be not so simple, and with little rest.  Well, that’s what I signed up for, so I just got on with it.

I kept a careful eye out and dodged a few shrimpers during the night, but didn’t see or catch any longlines.  Maybe I was out of longline country!  Ah, nope!  There were four more for me to avoid within 30 nm of Mazatlan, but twice, the fishermen zoomed up in their pangas and opened the lines up for me to pass through!  What a gift, and I thanked them profusely and wished them luck.  Once again fishing, I landed a nice fat bonito, but let it go as it’s not one of my favorites.  Later in the morning, the clicker on the reel went off again, and there was a great deal of splashing and flapping in the area of my jig.  A tern-like bird had snagged one of the barbs on the trebled hook.  I slowed Willow, and very slowly reeled the bird in.  Using my ‘cat-fish’ net, I brought the bird aboard and saw where it was hooked: right through one of the ‘nostrils’ in its beak.  Yikes!  And it had a long, sharp beak.  I threw a towel over it to help it calm and got my needlenose pliers out.  Just exposing the beak, I was able to back the hook out without any apparent damage.  I cut the line wrapping it’s wing, and then of course, out comes Makani wanting his morning snack!  A tern would do nicely, I’m sure he thought.  No way, buddy, and down below with you.  I was able to throw the bird up and out of his reach, and it flew away apparently none worse for wear.

Okay, maybe now I can get a short rest?  Nope, the Mexican Navy is in the area, and I don’t want to be caught sleeping on watch.  Time for another cup of coffee.  Soon, the breeze began to build and freshened up to 20 knots.  Reefed down and kinda bashing into it, I was 15 nm out of port.  A boat was sailing on down to me, and once they passed, we spoke on the radio.  I offered up the info regarding the longlines, and they told me of the Old Harbor and Stone Island anchorage closures due to the ever-increasing theft of dinghies, brazenness of the thieves, and lack of either funds or concern of the local law enforcement to do anything about it.  Bummer.  The breeze continued to build, and I was thankful I was nearing my destination.  I rounded Deer Island and had the short wind chop now on my beam as I approached the El Cid entrance.  A little center console runabout flew by me and into the channel.  I noticed it reverse suddenly, turn, and exit on out again.  What now?  The dredge was across the channel so I turned Willow around and bashed for twenty more minutes or so.  Finally, I made the entrance, found my slip in Marina Fonatur, and secured Willow to the dock.  It was nice to be here!

I shut everything down, went to the office to register, and returned to Willow for a nice, quiet drink.  The monsters were happy to be here, and Makani was giving the death-stare to another resident cat daring to be on the dock.  It’s owners were aboard a Westsail 43′, working on some solar installations.  It was good to talk to some nice folks.

I plan to be here for about a week, and to finally fix my leaking water tank.  I can put no more than 10 gallons in it without water pouring out some holes the previous owner had unwittingly drilled into it. Additionally, I can run the watermaker all I want, but if I’m on a port tack, whatever water is in the tank will slosh out those holes, too.  So it’s time for a final fix, once and for all.  That’s the plan, at least!   And, I’ll get a good paddle in each day, for sanity’s sake…

The homemade ginger ale is ready for tasting, so I must go now.  I hope you all have a very excellent week, take care, stay warm (or cool, depending…), and have some fun.  Know I think of you often, and love and miss each of you!  Adios!







Punta Mita 9 January 2013


     Hi Everyone!  I hope this finds you all happy, healthy, and either enjoying or escaping whatever weather you find yourself in!

     I don’t wanna gloat, but I will.  I’m anchored at lovely Punta Mita, and after yesterday’s clouds and patchy rain, the overnight clearing winds gave me an astounding day!  The sky is a clear blue, the breeze is a solid 10 knots, gusting to 15, and in this sheltered bay, there’s the prevailing very small swell coming in from the south, and the very small, little fetch of a windwave coming from the north.  The air temperature is 79 degrees.  Punta Mita has grown as a resort community, but it’s not the boom-boom resort type of Cabo.  It’s quiet, beautiful and fun. It looks like there are about a dozen full-time boats anchored out here, with more visiting on weekends.  I’ve been in town only once since I got here, which is fine by me, as that saves me some money.  But I’ve been having a ball visiting the boats out on the hook as I make my way through the anchorage while paddling the SUP.  It’s usually a different boat each day, as they ‘get in my way.’

     I have been having an absolute blast with the cheap-o inflatable West Marine SUP and paddle.  Accustomed to a carbon fiber outrigger paddle, the adjustable aluminum and plastic gizmo that came with the board weighs a ton!  But that just makes me stronger, right?  I’ve learned that paddling in the protected waters of a marina is 100% different than paddling in an anchorage subject to swell, windwaves, panga wakes, and gusty winds.  It’s way fun!  I’ve still only been on the thing about 8 times, but I made a deal with myself to go out at least once a day from here on out.  Today is much better than two days ago when I went swimming at least three times!  Good thing the water’s warm! Yesterday I made it through the anchorage without swimming, but today it’s a bit blowier (true nautical term), and I went swimming once.  I’m enjoying learning how weight distribution affects going straight, turning, and counteracting cross winds. I figure if I keep at it daily, the learning curve will get better and better.  I’ve noticed over the past 5 years my balance to be a bit off.  This is a great way to build that back up and gain a huge amount of confidence.  Plus, I make for cheap entertainment for the rest of the anchorage…

     I had delusions of sanding my brightwork for a bit of varnish today, but decided to write instead.  I’m sitting in the cockpit, enjoying an adult beverage, watching the cats snore, the whales blow, and the sailboats sail around the point into the bay.  Sharing this with you brings me way more enjoyment than sanding varnish.  Maybe manana… (tomorrow).  Please know I think of everyone at home often, and send you all my best.  I wish you all could be down here to see and share in what I’m seeing, who I’m meeting, and what I’m experiencing.  At the risk of sounding corny, there is a God, and there is Peace. All of it to you…     

January 5, 2013 Punta Mita


Happy, Happy, Happy Dang New Year, Everyone!

I’m sitting here on Willow, securely anchored at Punta Mita, just at the entrance to Banderas Bay.  The wind is in the mid-teens, there’s an occasional cloud wandering by, but the air is soft and comfortable.  Since leaving Mazatlan, my trip has been gifted with some really great people and new friends.  While at Matenchen Bay, I would sit and read, enjoying an early morning cup o’ joe while watching as the fishermen worked hard throwing small nets out for their daily food.   The grins and high fives for a 6″ fish made me feel very grateful for everything I have.  Often times, that one fish was the only reward for hours of fishing.  Pretty amazing.

I left Matenchen Bay on the 29th and sailed down to Chacala.  What a beautiful little town, and it is a must-stop during the trip back up the coast.  As you’re approaching the tiny bay, you begin seeing the homes built among the coconut palms and banana trees.  They are elegant, lush, and very colorful.  All of the color lends a festive and happy air to the location.  The anchorage wasn’t bad at all, and though it was still Christmas Week there, the busloads of revellers were so, so happy.  All of the sounds were excited, gleeful, and just, well, happy!  I didn’t go ashore, and departed the next morning, but I know it will be on the agenda for my return trip.

On the 30th, I headed toward Punta de Mita, Punta Mita as the locals say, and wound up motoring most of the way.  After playing up-down with the sails at least eight times, I said forget it, and stuck with the engine.  The hills and the valleys of the coast were the source of my frustration.  In the offshore breeze, I would just get the sails up and trimmed nicely when I’d hit another peak or hill, effectively shutting off the air.  Then I’d get in a valley, set sail and take off again.  Until I hit another hill, and well, you know what happens…  I got a few firm tugs on the jig I was trolling, but didn’t land anything.  The best part of the leg was the whales!  The humpbacks are in the area and going strong.  I watched a trio for miles breaching, pectoral fin and/or tail slapping for about two hours.  It was an awesome sight.  The whales are all over the bay here in very high numbers.  The pangueros supplement their fishing income with whale watching trips; they’re busy, and successful!

I spent one night in Punta Mita, then headed along the coast to La Cruz, also known as La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, after a miracle wooden cross.  I arrived New Year’s Eve, had an early dinner, and promptly fell asleep.  So much for New Year’s shenanigans and fun and frivolity.  Friends asked where I had watched the fireworks from.  Fireworks?  Pretty much from the inside of my eyelids…  New Year’s Day brought about 2″ of steady rain, and it was fun to go exploring the town on foot.  In the rain, flip flops aren’t the wisest of footwear, as each step you take kicks up the dirt of the road onto the backs of your legs.  I needed a shower after the rain!  Instead, I decided to go paddleboarding, and had such a nice paddle in the rain-flattened surf.  Not having my surflegs enough to surf from the SUP yet, this was a great opportunity to go out and play in some real gentle swells and gain some more confidence.  Feeling pretty ‘pro’ about how I was doing, I promptly fell ass over tea kettle and head first into the drink!  The water was so warm!  That rinsed the heavy ends of my walkabout off my legs, and I returned to Willow for a quick rinse off.  It was a pretty fun day…

One of the items I’ve been having trouble keeping aboard Willow is cat litter.  I thought about it before I left, and figured there wouldn’t be a problem.  There’s a problem!  Willow was off limits to visitors until I found a suitable replacement for the litter.  Beach sand didn’t cut it, as the cats wouldn’t even step into the litter box with it.  Word was out already on the morning radio net, since another boat was in the same pickle.  Alison, who lives with her husband and two boys on the Kin te Anai, put out that she would be heading down to Puerto Vallarta in their van, and would be happy to stop at Costco.  I was in for that, and promptly took her up on the offer.  What a really nice and kind woman.  Another couple and I hitched rides with her. The couple took a cab back since they were going to make a pretty big purchase, and didn’t want to take up all the cargo space.  Needless to say, I got my litter (100 pounds of it!), the other boats’ litter, and then walked around gaga-eyed at all of the neat stuff one takes for granted when Costco is literally just around the corner.  Fortunately, I remembered how small Willow is, how storage-challenged Willow is, how much crap Willow has on her, and kept my purchases to the 18 rolls of paper towel, two loaves of 7 grain, whole wheat, gluten free bread, some tonic (malaria prevention, of course), tequila, and chicken.  Alison and her husband, Merle, have a boat care company, and will keep an eye on boats when the owners go home for short, or long periods.  We stopped at Paradise Village to look at two boats, then Zaragosa’s, the West Marine of Puerto Vallarta.  I got a wonderful tour, and boy, how things have changed since I first walked around PV  13 years ago…  I spent the next day and a half doing laundry the old fashioned way, found I enjoy it much more than sitting in some laundromat, and came back to Punta Mita yesterday.

While in La Cruz, my neighbor in the marina was aboard a Passport 40.  One of his friends was down visiting from the Snoqualmie River area of Washington.  Ian and Dave both worked as volunteer firemen and EMTs, and it was really fun telling stories and lies.  This is in addition to their careers as accountant and lawyer, and it renewed my admiration for our volunteer brigades out there.  I was wined and dined by two very generous men who just wanted to talk-story, laugh, and have fun.  Ian remains in Mexico, and Dave returned to Washington, with priomises to come back down for some more fun.

These experiences are why I’m here.  Meeting such great, un-complicated, honest, giving and fun people is what this voyage is about.  I’ve not been disappointed yet, whether by the locals or gringos, and I look forward to more of the same. Seeing some of the most incredible vistas, sunrises and sunsets is why I’m here.  I look so forward to more of the same of those, too.  My rough plan is to stay in the area at anchor, bus in to La Cruz or Bucerias for any needed groceries, and keep the costs down.  I may head about a hundred miles more down the coast to Barra de Navidad, before heading back up toward La Paz.  Thanks to you all for sharing in the trip.  It’s really very fun for me to send these postings out.  Take care, don’t work too hard, be well, and have a great 2013.