Monthly Archives: February 2013

Mazatlan to Bahia Los Muertos, 17 February 2013

The Sea of Cortez at Rest

The Sea of Cortez at Rest

Soon after I returned from a visit to the States, I knew the time was right to head back to the Baja Peninsula.  Friday, the day after Valentine’s Day, I filled up the last of the jerry cans of diesel, and went to the Mega for a provisioning run.  Saturday I washed Willow and got her ready for an early Sunday departure.  The weather was forecast to be quite benign for the crossing, and it looked like it would be a long motor.  I said my “See ya laters” to the wonderful people I’d met and hit the hay early.  Sunday morning, I was up, and off.

The conditions for the Sea of Cortez were incredible.  Rarely have I seen any water that calm.  The Sea was at rest, and I was benefitting from it.  Originally, my plan was to head for Los Frailes, but since things were so calm, I decided to cut my losses and head for Bahia Los Muertos instead.  On a coastal run, it would add another 50 nm or so if I went to Frailes and then Muertos, but this way, I added only another 17 nm running this angle.  Another 4 hours instead of 12 or so bashing was good for me!

I let my trusty minnow jig out and trolled the distance.  I filled my nice BIGger water tank with fresh water from my watermaker.  I relaxed in the bright sun, and was just amazed at the calm of the ocean.  For the majority of the time I was home, the norther was howling right on down the Sea.  And in a day and a half, it completely flattened out.  Amazing the changes…  I had humpbacks off the bow, turtles everywhere, and the only other vessel traffic was the ferry from Mazatlan to La Paz.  They are large radar targets, and show up well with AIS.  I had a bright half moon for a large portion of the night, and with no city lights, the stars and planets were amazing.  I saw the Southern Cross for the last time until I head back south, and I thanked it for its guidance.

The sun rose on another glorious day, and as I enjoyed a cup of coffee, the clicker on my fishing reel went off and line was singing off.  I had hooked a large dorado, and looked forward to bringing it in, but I didn’t set the hook firmly enough, and it broke free.  That started the day off with a bit of excitement and anticipation, and I looked forward to catching instead of just fishing.  In the early light, I passed tens of sleeping marlin, their dorsal fins above the water, as well as their tailfins.  They lazily would turn away as I approached.  Before that dorado hit, the water was so flat, I watched as ‘something’ carved a chevron in the water off my port beam, and I passed it on by.  Twenty seconds later, it hit the jig.  When the Sea is at rest, if you’re looking, it shows you a bunch of its secrets…

Where's the Line Between Land and Sea?

Where’s the Line Between Sea and Sky?

The only less than stellar part of the trip was when the engine quit.  Dang it!  Clogged fuel filter?  Bad fuel?  How ’bout no fuel?  I had a full main tank when I left Mazatlan for my trip home, and should have had a range of about 300 nm on the main tank.  For it to go empty at 125 nm makes me wonder where the other fuel went?  My bilges were clean and dry.  Luckily, the jerry jugs did the trick in the totally windless channel, and I was on my way after a quick filter change and fill up.  Before things heated up, I roasted some chicken in the oven and had a few days worth of meals.

As I sat outside watching the Sea go by, I was amazed at the life in it.  There were plovers, turtles, different forms of baby/micro sea life such as schools of what looked like bubbles, but would actually swim from each other.  I saw three small fish swimming together, about 3″ long, purple with brown spots, round in shape, with a gaping mouth almost as big as the fish was.  Obviously, at least to me, a plankton feeder, it was so neat to see.  All I had to do was LOOK, and the ocean offered up a few windows to the life within.  I love being out here!

Sunset Heading to Los Muertos

Heading into Bahia de Los Muertos

I got the added gift of a calming, soothing sunset that showed me how far I had left to go.  About 15 nm from Bahia de los Muertos, I began getting Willow ready for anchor.  Expecting all of the shoreline to be dark, I was surprised by the lights indicating neighborhoods, villages or resorts.  As I closed on the bay, I carefully watched the radar and checked my course and waypoint often.  I hadn’t been in the bay for twenty five years, so it’d be foolish to say I had any local knowledge.  As I entered, I saw three other boats anchored, and dropped my hook safely in 25′ of water, away from the other boats until the morning when I could suss out their anchors locations and scope.

I had a weak internet signal, so I posted a quick note to my family of my safe arrival, and promptly fell into a deep sleep.  In the morning, I moved Willow to shallower, more sheltered water, pumped up my SUP and took an amazing paddle across the bay.  About a mile away, there was a rocky reef close to the surface.  The colors were muted and soft, and I found myself distracted between thinking my skeg would bottom out, the different layers of corals, the sea urchin and anemones, and needlefish!  I’m amazed I didn’t go swimming!  I went another couple of miles in the calm waters and turned back for Willow.  After having a snack, it was time for a nap.

The following day saw southwesterly winds in the mid-twenties, but the anchorage was still well protected.  With my feeble internet signal, I was able to get snippets of weather forecasts, and people travelling through the area all had versions of their own.  I think I will determine my own predictions based on my own observations, as the differing guest opinions were at times quite conflicting.  With a steady strong north breeze running through the anchorage, I thought I might be staying at Muertos for at least another week.  I checked my own information, watched as the wind dropped Thursday evening, and made a run for it under double reefed main and tiny jib.  Willow did a fantastic job in the short steep sea, keeping me and her decks dry the entire way!  I plotted my course through the Cerralvo Channel, and then through the San Lorenzo Channel.  All I can say is, I am so grateful for my trusty radar!  Holy cats, that sure helps on a dark channel passage when the charts call for rocks, shoals and buoys.  I rounded the point into La Paz Bay just before sunrise, and slowed Willow down for the entry into the channel.  I wanted to have no doubts as to the channels’ markers, as it shoals around the channel dramatically.  I checked in with the Port Captain prior to my entry into the channel, and was able to secure a slip in Marina Palmira.  It’s a lovely marina, and I’m happy to be here, as it has continued to blow pretty much stink since I arrived.  I have a beautiful view of the bay from my slip, and the sunsets are gorgeous.  I’ve been into town a couple of times, but I think I may be going for hikes and paddles only for awhile, since I just got my taxes done.  Yikes!  Time to make an adjustment with my deductions…

I think this brings me up to date in the news department.  I hope you all are enjoying your incredible weather, and finding time to be in our great outdoors.  Happy, Happy, Happiest of Birthdays Mom, I love you greatly and dearly!  Everyone, have a wonderful rest of the week, and I promise the posts will be more frequent!

Repairs, and a Visit Home

My apologies for being late to write.  I have no good excuses, and thoroughly enjoy writing, so, I won’t bother making any…  I hope everyone is getting ready for a beautiful spring!

After I arrived in Mazatlan, I decided the time was right to make repairs to my water tank.  It was an adventure of different sorts, one that had me creating more of my own unique and frustrated vocabulary (new cuss words), and allowed me to clean every nook and cranny of the water tank.  A little background: ever since I re-powered, Feb. of 2011, I found I could never truly fill the water tank.  Before the work and haulout, there was a shelf built over the old engine that held the refrigeration compressor.  It was screwed into the bulkhead that was adjacent to the water tank.  That shelf needed to be removed in order to pull and replace the engine, so I unscrewed the long screws, pulled the shelf, and relocated the refer compressor in a different locker.  I hauled Willow out, replaced the engine with a shiny new one, and took the boat home.  But I could just never fill the water tank after that.  I’d put the hose at the deck fill, but the tank never filled, and the bilge pump was effectively pumping out water that should be in the tank, not the bilge.  I was in denial for just over 2 years.  This problem allowed me to keep just about 10 gallons of water in the tank only, and if I was sailing on a port tack, the tank emptied mysteriously.  So, it was not a good thing to perpetuate.

In Mazatlan, I spoke with shipwright, mechanic, and owner of Total Yacht Works, Bob Buchanan.  This is an official shout out and endorsement of him and his company, by the way.  Bob came down to Willow and looked at things, and pretty much agreed with my theory of water leaking out the holes the previous owner erroneously drilled into the water tank, through that bulkhead.  He said he’d be happy to cut out a panel of the bulkhead to allow for some quick repairs of the six holes.  I just needed to take apart the exhaust manifold, a few hoses, and the coolant reservoir in order to give him access to the bulkhead.  Perfect!

It took me about an hour to clear the area so Bob could make the cut.  Once the panel was opened, we both said “uh-oh” simultaneously.  There were no holes drilled into the water tank.  So much for my theory.  I offered to fill the tank to see if we could see where the actual leak was.  After about 5 seconds, Bob told me to stop.  It was now clear what the problem was.  The fitting for the tank vent had broken off at the tank, allowing water to shoot out of a 5/8″ hole.  “Easy!” Bob said.  We just had to gain access to the inside of the tank to remove the other end of the fitting, and we can pop a new one in.  My face fell.  Getting to the inside of the tank meant moving everything(!) out of the garage, disconnecting and removing all four batteries, taking apart the beautiful plywood box that was made to hold the batteries, in order to get to the inspection port nearest the tank vent fitting.  I guessed it would take me about 2 days of work to get all that done, so Bob left for other jobs and I got to it.

After about 3 hours of work, I had the inspection port opened and ready.  Bob and I were both pretty surprised.  He said he had opened up some other jobs he couldn’t leave right then, and I completely understood.  He asked if I could pop out the other side of the fitting and pull it out of the tank.  I did that, and cleaned the inside of the tank while I was at it.  Now, I was just waiting for him to be able to thread the male end of the new fitting into the female end I was holding still for him.  This would take about fifteen minutes, but he said he wouldn’t be able to get to it probably until Monday.  It was Friday.

New Mascot: Frito the Flying Fish

Frito the Flying Fish, our new mascot…

I got the opportunity to clean out everything that was in the garage again, and found a few additional items.  A month or so earlier while on the trip down to Punta Mita, I couldn’t seem to keep either of the cats out of the garage.  All I could think was, please don’t be a rat!  Rats can be disastrous on a boat aside from the hygeine and disease factors.  They love to chew up hoses, wiring insulation, and other hard to see items that you don’t know about until the engine overheats or the electronics don’t work for some unknown reason.  And then they leave presents!  Whether it’s rat droppings or baby ratlets, I wanted none of it.  Fortunately, the monsters weren’t chasing rats.  ‘Someone’ (fat red boy cat) brought in a small flying fish and hid it in the garage.  I now have the fossilized, dessicated version of same.  Animals are so much fun on boats!

I cleaned out and up more stuff, threw or gave away some more stuff, and reorganized the stuff I was gonna keep.  Not having any batteries connected meant no refrigeration, no lights, and no cooking.  I was lucky enough that my neighbors on the Ever Gleam perfectly barbecued the chicken I had left, and I had a great dinner by lantern-light.  Also lucky for me, Bob was able to come down Saturday morning and we popped the new fitting in the tank, and I could get to work re-assembling everything.  This gave me the opportunity to tidy up all of my wiring in the area, and it looks much better, and is in fact safer.  I got everything reconnected just by sunset, and I was cooking with gas, literally!  And the perk: I now had 30 gallons of fresh water instead of 10.  What a decadent difference!  All I needed was for Bob to epoxy in the panel cut out, and we were done!  The gratification of a repair done well is such a good feeling.  I was very happy with Bob’s work, the way he dealt with me, the way he let me do a bunch of the not-fun work, and the bill for service.  Very fair price for good solid work.  He stays pretty busy as his reputation is pretty dang strong.

Just as I was finishing up this little job, the weather turned up a notch, and we were expecting strong winds for the next week or so.  I checked on the airfares, and decided I could squeeze a quick trip home in.  Two days later, I was flying home to LAX.  Now I haven’t flown since 2002, and the airport in Mazatlan was pretty a-traumatic.  But the service on the airlines has changed!  Yikes!  A quarter-ounce baglet of soy snackie stuff and a half cup of soda, water or juice, and that’s what ya get.  Or, the flight attendants have a credit card scanner for your half cup, nine dollar alcoholic beverage.  The flight was fun and the scenery spectacular, but the ‘specialness’ of flying is gone.  Such a shame…

Going home was fun.  Missy and Andrew picked me up at LAX and took me to their beautiful home in Laguna Beach.  I love that place!  Their huge Bernese Mountain Dog, Rolli, met us at the door with his very enthusiastic greeting!  We turned on the TV and what was on?  A vehicle pursuit, and the debate over Beyonce lip-synching at the inauguration.  Nope!  I haven’t missed a thing!  I spent a bunch of days visiting with my mom, and that was good quality time of chatting, laughing, and helping her out with some computer stuff.  Now THAT’s pretty funny if I’m helping someone with computer stuff…

One day, I borrowed the car and drove up to Ventura to hit Real Cheap Sports.  If they didn’t have what I needed, I’d go to REI.  Just as I was rounding the corner there, I was thinking how much fun it would be if I’d run into a few of my friends.  I thought I’d keep an eye out for a city water truck, because my good friend worked for them.  Just as I had the thought I looked up and saw the water truck, and sure ‘nuf, Mike was sitting in it.  Way too much fun getting that big hug!  After Real Cheap Sports, I drove up to Santa Barbara and saw a few of my favorite troublemakers.  Then I came back down to the beach in time for Hokuloa’s paddling practice, but no one was there!  Poo!  I called Sally the coach, and she said it was the night of the general membership meeting, so I missed them!  I made mental plans to go back up the following week.

I got my most treasured item, a carbon fiber SUP paddle with a bag and leash in San Juan Capistrano.  We stopped into a warehouse, and got a paddle, used once, for sixty bucks.  Not too bad!  I ran into some people from LAFD by accident and had a fun time catching up.  The generosity of the people I met, did business with, or reconnected with was amazing.  Unfortunately it was a tad too amazing, as I was given the flu.  That pretty much stopped me in my tracks five days from leaving.  My trip up to San Luis Obispo and Ventura were cancelled as I couldn’t shake a fever and chills.  I had enough Dayquil and cough drops to not cough a lung out on the plane back to Mazatlan after a 2 week stay.  I had so much fun at home, but it was good to be back to my monsters and Willow.  I arrived on Valentine’s Day, and immediately started to get ready to get under way.  I needed the fresh air of the open ocean for my little lungies.  I made one more stop at the Mega for fresh food, a vet for cat food, and the Pemex for diesel, and left early Sunday morning for Los Frailes or Bahia Los Muertos.  That crossing will be the topic for the next post.  Take care everyone; be happy, healthy, and safe.