Tribute to Jim Foley

Jim on his 80th Birthday

You’ll recall from the early days of this blog that Jim Foley was the person most instrumental in preparing Aldabra and me to go cruising. He coached me on the purchase of the boat, he did most of the work in refitting her, and he taught me how to work on her. He was an invaluable resource. And now I have to say goodbye. Jim died on April 5, 2021 just shy of his 81st birthday, after a stoic battle with cancer. He leaves his wife Linda, four children, many grandchildren, his sister and many nieces and nephews. Jim also leaves a California surfing and sailing community that benefitted so much from his friendship and ingenuity.

You can read others’ insights about how Jim was the Northern California pioneer of surfing’s shortboard, and about the various sailboats that Jim designed and built for racing and then later cruising. He also went through a long phase of passion for windsurfing. There probably wasn’t any aspect of being a waterman that Jim didn’t embody, including swimming, scuba and lifesaving. But design and invention didn’t stop at water-related activities, he also designed and built parts of his homes, refit cars and designed at least one famous logo (O’Neil). But I knew Jim as a long-time friend and mentor.

My story with Jim goes back to my college days in the mid-1970s. I was part of the UC Santa Cruz woman’s sailing team and Jim’s first wife joined us in regattas. The two of them took these young college students under their wing, inviting us to BBQs at their house in Ben Lomond and including us in Santa Cruz Yacht Club events. That was during the time that Jim was racing his iconic Third Reef, and I think we sailed on it. I know we spent the night on it once in Moss Landing after a regatta.

Years later, Jim married my close friend Linda, who was the person who initially brought me onto the university sailing team. Jim and Linda finished building their cruising boat, Dana, and set off around the world for six years. By then, I was pretty immersed in my career in Silicon Valley, spending very little time on the water, but I joined them as crew when I could.

In Tonga, Jim tried to teach me how to do water starts on his windsurfer. I ended up with bloody knees and gave up. I think it was in Tonga that they had me getting up at midnight to go diving for lobster. I was no help. I think I was just befuddled as they darted around to locate and nab their prey. The three of us had a spectacular time sailing throughout all three of Tonga’s island groups. I’m pretty sure those were my first night watches by myself. And that was my first experience with navigation, which was with one of those original brick-size hand-held GPS devices, a paper chart, parallel rulers and a divider. Weather information was by way of an isobar chart received by fax over the ham radio. Communication with fellow cruisers was with VHF and communication with people in the U.S. was by way of ham radio, letters sent using snailmail or by going to an island-based telephone center to make a long-distance call or send a fax. They had made friends with several other cruisers and that was my introduction to the supportive, congenial bonds that cruisers develop.

My next visit was a magical trip from Vanuatu to the Solomon Islands. I arrived with two large duffels full of parts and goodies that they had requested via fax. Jim commandeered a pickup truck to get the goods from the airport to the dinghy, which almost sank under the load. That trip started out with some urgency as we tried (successfully) to outsail a cyclone. Once we were outside the reach of the storm, we found ourselves ghosting by an active volcano in flat, glassy water that seemed to extend forever. I got spoiled sailing on Dana, because the boat moved in in just a whisper of wind. Built using a Santa Cruz 40 mold, she was light and designed to go fast.

We stopped at a few islands in Vanuatu and the Solomons before arriving at Guadalcanal, which would be my departure point. I think Jim and Linda had decided it was easier to trade for lobster, so they were no longer hunting for that crustacean. But they had become experts at catching and cooking coconut crabs, which we did on one remote island. (These crabs with their pinchers can get pretty scary when they get loose on the boat.) We also hiked into the heart of one of the islands to a native village that seemed untouched by the outside world. On the way back, we rode air-filled floats down the streams that flowed back to the ocean. It was an example of how Jim always looked for a way to turn any occasion into frolicking fun.

The next time I was to meet up with Jim and Linda was in Seychelles. We had been in communication by fax and had a rough plan to meet up around May of whatever year that was. (I don’t have my journals with me.) But weeks went by without any word from them. Not really understanding what their circumstances were (like being in the remote Chagos during a year when ham radio propagation was poor and they had no other means of communication), I just decided to fly to Seychelles and see what would happen. I had taken the time off of work and didn’t want to squander it. After arriving on Mahe and checking into a small inn, I took a bus to the harbor to ask around. As I was standing there, a boat that looked very much like Danaarrived in the harbor. Like a thoughtless landlubber, I asked someone in a skiff to take me out to where Dana was anchoring.

So imagine it from their perspective. They are sleep deprived and not feeling all that well after a two-week passage. They are in the middle of anchoring, the most stressful interaction that any cruising couple goes through. And on their passage, they had completed, with great thought, the list they expected to fax to me of all the things they wanted me to bring. On the passage they had been dreaming about those things. And here I am before them, which means a)I will not be bringing anything on their list and b)they are way too tired to interact. I have never seen a more disappointed look on Jim’s face.

Jim and Linda generously forgave me and I moved onto the boat the next day. We took some time to tour around Mahe, visiting local artists. We attended a big independence celebration. And we reprovisioned the boat. After spending some time on other islands in the group, Praslin and La Digue, I think, we headed west, buddy boating with two or three other boats.

The passage was rough at first. Seas were coming from two different directions. And the winds were intense, probably blowing 30-40 knots over two or three days. Waves were crashing into the cockpit from above and filling it with water, or broadsiding the boat. We were tossed around so much that we gave up on regular watches and pinned ourselves into our berths down below to avoid being thrown all over or hit with projectiles. At one point a wave blew the main into tatters and we had to abandon our nests to change it out. For a respite, we took refuge at a small atoll. We didn’t have permission to land, but all the boats anchored for a spell to fix damage and rest from the wind and seas. From there we sailed to Aldabra, to visit the giant tortoises and to dive in the lagoon, which is the largest of any coral atoll in the world.

At that time, in the mid-1990s, Aldabra was inhabited by a small staff of people at a research station. We arranged with them to take us all in a couple of skiffs to the mouth of the lagoon. We were dropped off just as the water was gushing into the lagoon. Through a series of mishaps, we were mostly separated from one another, but we all held onto our masks and road the current into the center of the lagoon along with all kinds of sea creatures. Each of us surfaced when we ran out of air and the boats found and retrieved us. One guy was lost for a couple of hours but we eventually found him alive. We spent those two hours wondering what we would do in the worst-case scenario. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that.

From Aldabra, we set off west again, not knowing exactly where the winds and seas would take us. But we ended up at the island of Mayotte, off the east coast of Africa. I flew from there back to Seychelles and onto France, before flying back to the U.S.

Jim and Linda continued around the southern tip of Africa after they explored the continent by land. They then crossed the Atlantic and explored the Caribbean and eastern side of Central America and the Gulf of Mexico before trucking Dana overland to Oakland. The next time I met up with them on the boat, I took a ferry from Tiberon and spend a couple days with them on Angel Island before they sailed Dana back to their home port of Santa Cruz.

That began their next adventure. They brought twins Trevor and Dana into the world and had a lot of fun raising them. I was with them on a boating trip in British Columbia when the twins were about eighteen months old. We had five adults to keep an eye on two toddlers, which is what it takes when you’re walking along docks. On their boat, which was a MacGregor 26, Jim had installed car seats to keep them safe in the cockpit. When they weren’t trucking the MacGregor around the country or to Mexico, they might be paddling or sailing the canoe that Jim built, or helping coach the kids’ sailing classes or exposing them to some other water or sports activity. Jim took delight in any of the twins’ science or art projects, and Linda was a wellspring of interesting educational or creative projects or outings. They were both fulltime, hands-on parents that passed on their curiosity and boundless energy to their children.

I had always planned to buy a cruising boat when I retired and in 2008 Jim had a slip in the Santa Cruz harbor if I could put a boat in it. So he helped me buy and fix up Aldabra. We were partners in the boat until I took off down the coast to Mexico to begin my cruising adventure. Those roughly eight years of working with Jim on the boat were just plain fun, and I learned a lot. He did projects on the boat during the week while I was working. And I would join in during the weekends when I wasn’t traveling. He did several projects without me (replacing the entire fresh water system, replacing the engine), but would save parts of each project so I could learn. He guided me on what tools I needed, how to maintain each system on the boat, and how to prepare for long passages to remote places.

Jim was always anticipating what could go wrong and helping me prepare for each catastrophe. He would say, “It’s not if things go wrong, it’s about what you do when they go wrong.” Jim was a master at both anticipation and inventing a fix for anything that broke. That was a mindset that I had to learn. I just wanted to put all new parts on the boat and expect that everything would survive, but of course that wasn’t going to be the case. As Jim had explained multiple times, and I of course discovered first hand, owning and journeying on a boat is an endless process of maintenance, repairs and improvements. But the joy you get from making new friends, sharing with old friends, traveling to remote countries and sailing along in a good breeze with the engine off makes it all worthwhile.

I had always hoped that Jim and Linda and the kids would join me at points during my cruising adventure. Jim was aboard when we set off from Santa Cruz to Southern California. And Dana was part of the crew that sailed from Puerto Vallarta to San Diego on a trip that was supposed to be to the Marquesas. And I hold out hope that Linda, Trevor and Dana will still be joining me once the COVID restrictions are lifted. But Jim’s last time on the boat was several weeks ago when he and Linda visited in San Diego and I showed him the modifications I had done in Mexico and San Diego.

Jim on Aldabra as we brought the boat down the coast of California

He was his usual enthusiastic, supportive self. In all the years I’ve known Jim, he was always supportive. I’m sure he worried about all the things I didn’t know and all the challenges I was likely to encounter. He probably worried about his daughter sailing to the South Pacific with me. But He never voiced any doubts. He just made lists of everything he could impart. I’m so grateful to have had such a friend. I miss him and it pains me that his family has lost him.  

Jim and Linda on the beach in Carmel
The Foley family at Trevor’s and Dana’s high school graduation

Tribute to Dr. David Rose

If you’ve followed Aldabra’s journey through this blog, you’ll have read about Dr. David Rose. He and his wife Susan crewed on Aldabra for the Baja Ha Ha in 2016. They also visited while I was in the Sea of Cortez. And David was headed to French Polynesia with us when we had to detour to San Diego. Susan was going to meet us in the Marquesas.

Because of the quarantine, I hadn’t seen David since we arrived in San Diego in April. We spoke on the phone in July and closed the conversation with an expectation that he would come down to the boat at some point in the near future.

But that wasn’t to be. David passed away unexpectedly in early August. David was a very close friend and has been my sailing partner for years. Every time I make certain improvements to the boat, I think about whether David would approve, even now.

Having David on the boat was alway reassuring to me. We had very complementary styles, underscored by trust and mutual respect. We developed strategies collaboratively and never argued. He loved to sail and he loved to tinker, with electronics and with anything he noticed that could be improved. David was very smart and very thoughtful. I always paid attention when he challenged my approach to something. And he was always a great partner when it came time for a repair. He was also great company for everyone on board, with his quiet humor and easy-going nature.

David’s and my sailing partnership began in 1997. He had a small day sailor in the Santa Cruz harbor and he furthered his interest in sailing with an ASA course that prepared him to charter bigger boats. Shortly after he completed his course, he proposed that I join his family on a charter to the BVIs, and invited one of my nieces (Halley) along. She was between his two oldest kids in age.

We chartered a monohull and had a wonderful time. I think Halley was only about eleven years old at the time, and it was hard for her to be away from home. But Susan took Halley under her wing while David and I were probably quite occupied with the business of sailing the boat.

That began a tradition of chartering a sailboat in some part of the world every other year. There were a couple of times when I wasn’t able to participate, but David and Susan and their kids (Jessica, Ben and Samantha) always got their charter trip in. I loved the preparatory meetings for the trips, the trips themselves, and the post-trip recap gatherings. And through those experiences, I grew close to the Rose family and was honored to participate in many of their family celebrations.

For the trip after the BVIs, David wanted to charter a catamaran. Neither of us had any experience with one, so we signed up for a two-day class at Club Nautique in Alameda. We would be learning on a PDQ, which was identical to a boat we planned to charter in the Bahamas.

We did learn about the differences between a monohull and a catamaran, so the class prepared us well for the charter. But the class also bonded us in a life-and-death experience. Due to a freak accident, our instructor was strangled by a jib sheet and lost consciousness. He wasn’t breathing, and it was up to David to bring him back to life. As a surgeon, he certainly knew how to perform CPR in theory, but he didn’t have any experience in a setting outside the OR and without competent staff to assist. But he did save the instructor’s life. The whole emergency of keeping the guy alive, making our way back to the dock and working with the Coast Guard was a bit traumatic and very memorable. But it was not the last of Dr. Rose providing emergency medical assistance during a sailing trip.

Our uneventful catamaran charter in the Bahamas was followed four years later by a trip to Tonga. (The Rose family had chartered in Greece in the interim, but I had not been able to go.) In Tonga, we chartered two boats so we could include more of our friends. I brought my niece, Lizzie, along with two other families. There was also a third boat with our friend Pete and his family. It was strange not being on the same boat as the Rose family. But every day, David, Pete and I had skippers’ meetings to plan our navigation for that day. And in the evenings the crews of all three boats gathered on one of the boats to party after dinner. Playing the card game Hearts figured prominently in the evenings’ activities. And true to form, David responded when a local citizen put out a call on the radio for medical assistance. David met with him and provided consultation.

Two years later, we chartered in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, again on two separate boats. We had some of the same friends, and this time I brought my sister Ann and her daughters, Emily and Hannah. Our friends Vicki and Bruce and their son Griffin were now experienced crew, having been on the Tonga trip. And our friend Mark was also a repeat participant. The trip had lots of drama, including the effects of an approaching hurricane (that never really messed with us very much). And once again, there were medical emergencies that David needed to address. Beyond that, however, he became a casualty himself, with a couple of broken ribs. Fortunately, his daughter Jessica, who went on to become a doctor, was able to help David out.

The next trip was to Croatia. This time we chartered one boat, a 50-ft monohull. The trip included the Rose family, their good friend Karen and my nieces Rachel and Julia. It was fun to have everyone together on the same boat, but it was a very different kind of trip. Rather than sailing among remote tropical islands, we were in civilization. It involved dressing up to go to restaurants and even a visit to an exclusive night club. Uncharacteristically, we had no medical emergencies that I can recall.

Next, we chartered in Belize. This time David and I each captained a catamaran and out friend Mark captained a monohull. My boat included Vicki and Bruce and Griffin along with Marty and Katie and Gabe, who had been on the Tonga trip.

Two years later, the Roses chartered in New Zealand and I was not able to go. So our next trip together was a return to the BVIs. We had three boats. The Rose party was on one boat. My boat included my mother, my friends Pete and Cookie and my friends Jim and Linda and their twins, Dana and Trevor. The third boat included Mark’s brother and family and mother. We all joined together for a Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant on shore. The only medical emergency I remember from that trip was Pete’s excruciatingly painful toothache, which David successfully treated with antibiotics.

Our final charter trip together was in 2015 out of Raiatea in the Society Islands. We were on one catamaran together, with my sister Wendy and her husband Pat, David and Susan, Karen and Jessica. We sailed around Raiatea, Huahine, Taha’a and Bora Bora. We bought pearls at a pearl farm and had a great time snorkeling, especially through one pass between two islands that swept us rapidly through narrow channels with coral heads everywhere. After we dropped off the boat, we stayed a few days in Tahiti, visiting the market in Papeete and touring the island in a rental car.

I found out a bit after we returned that David had contracted Dengue fever while we were there and suffered multiple complications from it. It was very much on our minds as we planned the trip to the Marquesas, because it was imperative for him to avoid getting it again.

David, Susan, Wendy and Pat were all on the Baja Ha Ha trip the next year, on Aldabra, where David once again came to the rescue, this time for a sailor who had dislocated his shoulder.

As I anticipate the possibility that Aldabra may get to leave for French Polynesia in 2021, it’s hard to imagine the voyage without David. I hope Susan will still want to join us in the Marquesas. And I hope that sometime in the not-too-distant future, we’ll get the chartering gang back for another catamaran trip in David’s honor.

David somewhere in the Society Islands

Gear and Preparation

Aldabra in San Diego

Aldabra has not left her slip since we arrived in April. For the first several weeks after we arrived, Dana and I stayed on the boat and worked on projects. Pat would join us on some weekends because working on the boat was a good break from his real job.

We put in a new macerator pump for the forward holding tank and reattached the hoses. (My first unsupervised electrical project.) We removed the forward water tank and checked for leaks. Finding none, we put it back in. We also replaced the fill line for the forward water tank. The original hose was the kind that was reinforced with metal wire and it had rusted, so particles of rust were getting into the tank. It was really hard to get the old hose out but we felt a huge sense of accomplishment to have a new, clean one in place. And of course, we changed the engine oil and oil filter. We also did regular cleaning and maintenance on both Aldabra and the dinghy.

During those first few weeks, San Diego was a ghost town. We could go to a few stores for supplies. We could walk the path along Harbor Island and eventually walk along the beach. But most places that I wanted to show Dana were closed. Balboa Park, Presidio Park, Cowles Mountain.

Toward the end of May, Dana moved back up to Santa Cruz, and I headed back to Mexico by plane with my friends Tom Wurfl and Mark Coleman. We delivered Wind Rose, owned by our friend Steve Roberts, from Puerto Vallarta to Ventura. Based on what I wrote about the bash on Aldabra in March/April, it would seem as though another bash would be crazy. But the second one was quite pleasant. It helped that I was better equipped with warm clothes and that the weather was warmer. It also helped that we didn’t have the drama of uncertainties that we had in March.

The trip was quite straightforward, taking under two weeks. We picked our weather windows and kept moving, stopping briefly in Mazatlan for (I think) one night and in San Jose del Cabo for 30 minutes for fuel. We then stopped in Bahia Asuncion for fuel and to wait out some stronger wind before going to Ensenada. We arrived in Ensenada in the early morning and were checked out and underway again by early afternoon. (Rather than waiting for the exit papers, we asked the marina guy to email them to us once he got them. If we had been stopped by the Mexican Navy, they would have turned us back to the marina, but fortunately we were never stopped and we did get the emailed papers in short order.)

We had a couple of things break on the northbound trip. Tom and Mark did temporary fixes and when we got to San Diego, the parts were waiting and they executed the repairs in less than 45 minutes, repairs that would have taken me all day. (Replacing the fresh water pump and a fitting for the dripless shaft seal.)

After spending the night in San Diego at Tom and Helen’s house (a nice meal, a shower and a full night’s sleep), we headed up to Ventura and were met by Steve the next morning in his marina. My first professional boat delivery. I hope there will be more.

Once I returned to San Diego, I moved off the boat and into my mother’s house. My very generous brother-in-law has loaned me his car so I can return to the boat several days a week to continue with projects. Pat helped me reinstall a sensor for the forward water tank and wire in a new red and green bow light for night navigation. He also helped me remove the two bow rollers and rebed them. Aldabra had taken some water in at the bow, and I’m hoping we have corrected the problem. I still need to test it with large volumes of water.

The current project is a big one. Tom removed the counter tops in the galley, which was not an easy job. I then used his oscillating multi-tool with a scraper blade to remove the silicone. One the surfaces were cleaned up, I painted the wall behind the galley. Next, Tom drilled holes in the surface and we began pouring foam insulation into the space between the boat hull and the refrigerator, stove and freezer. I’m hoping the insulation will help the refrigerator maintain its temperature better in warmer climates. We’re not done yet, but the results have been encouraging. The only “oops” was when the foam found its way unexpectedly into a couple of compartments that didn’t need any foam. I had to cut those foam surprises out. (From the time you combine both Part A and Part B into a bucket, you have 30 seconds to stir them up and another 30 seconds to a minute to get the foam poured into the hole before it starts expanded. The temperature needs to be 74 degrees and low humidity. We’ve been able to achieve the right temperature in the early morning but it hasn’t been possible to have a low humidity day recently.)

Today, the counter top guys came to make a template. The next step is for them to manufacture the new counters, with a big, single sink. I can’t wait.

I’m also waiting for all the salon cushions to be reupholstered. I’m actually glad that they’re off the boat while the galley project is underway, but I do have to pester the guy doing these.


This is not the South Pacific!

It’s Friday, April 3rd, 2020. I’m sitting inside the salon of Aldabra while a chilling wind is howling outside. It’s midday and we’re anchored in Bahia Asuncion, halfway up the Pacific side of the Baja Peninsula.

All four of us (David, Pat, Dana and I), just treated ourselves to indoor showers, our first since Sunday night and our last until we arrive in San Diego, possibly on Thursday of next week.

We’re in this bay waiting out a weather system, which should last through Saturday. After that, we’ll probably need a day for the seas to settle a bit before proceeding north. But the weather forecast keeps changing, so we’ll see how it goes.

We’re hunkered down in this bay with Jane and Jerry on Shamaal and Rich and Sharon on Bumblebee. Fortunately the water is pretty flat in the bay so we’re comfortable in spite of the cold wind. We’ve all filled up our fuel tanks, thanks to the help from locals, so we’re ready to go when the time is right.

I’m sure you’re wondering why a boat headed for the South Pacific ended up here. But maybe that’s obvious. Everything has changed for people all over the world with the threat of the Coronavirus. In our case, an hour before casting off our dock lines to leave Nuevo Vallarta in Banderas Bay Mexico, the port captain notified us that we were no longer cleared to leave Mexico for French Polynesia. In fact, we learned shortly afterward that we couldn’t even be cleared to leave Mexico for Hawaii. Our options at the time were to stay put, sail around in Mexican waters or clear out of the country in Ensenada.

After all the preparation to sail to the South Pacific, and the anticipation, this was a huge shock. It was hard to react rationally. Plus, information was changing faster than we could process it. I don’t know how severe the global crisis brought on by the Coronavirus will be when I finally have enough Internet access to post this blog entry, but I’m sure millions of people are suffering more than we are. So this story may sound like the sniveling and whining of four people whose plans had to change. After all, we’re not suffering financially the way many people in Mexico and all over the world are suffering because their livelihoods have disappeared. And we’re not cooped up in self-isolation in an apartment somewhere. We’re healthy, out on the water, and pretty far away from exposure to the virus, at least for now.

It’s easy to look at our situation now and feel grateful. But I’m going to tell you our story because this blog is about sailing on Aldabra. As readers of this blog know, the story for the last several months has been about getting the boat ready and getting the crew and myself prepared. I thought everything was going pretty well. In fact, up until the moment we were denied departure, I was amazingly calm and unstressed. But that hadn’t always been the case in the last couple of months leading up to untying the dock lines.

The stress started when I applied for a long-stay visa for French Polynesia. I left Mexico by car and drove north to San Francisco, handing my passport and a stack of paperwork over to the agency that processes visas for France. It was December 23rd. I then drove back south to San Diego to enjoy the holidays with my family, which I very happily did.

In late January it was time to fly back to Mexico to continue preparing for the South Pacific voyage. But the French Consulate in Washington D.C. remained in possession of my passport. And the representing agency could not provide me with any information about when I would receive it. It had been five weeks. With a few days remaining before my flight to Mexico, I needed to sell my car and get a new passport. While selling the car first appeared to be a challenge, I figured that out and sold it in one morning. Then I turned my attention to online resources for getting a second passport in 24 hours.

After paying an online service, I discovered that I could not get a second passport without either having the first one in hand or declaring it lost or stolen. I didn’t want the original to be invalidated because if I ever did get it back from the French, it would have my long-stay visa in it. (The long-stay visa allows one to stay in French Polynesia for a year or more, as opposed to 90 days, which would require one to rush through the island groups.)

The online agency advised me to contact the U.S. State Department. Miraculously, that agency was able to get me an early morning appointment the next day at the passport office in San Diego (I hadn’t realized that one existed) to receive a second passport by the end of the day. (This was Friday morning and my flight was scheduled for Monday.)

Granting a second passport is not something our government does without consideration. At the office, I had to answer a lot of questions in writing. Why couldn’t I just stay in San Diego until I received my passport back? Why did I need to go to Mexico? Why did the French have my passport in the first place? How was I going to get the passport if I went in Mexico? I also had to run down the street to have new passport photos taken because the photo on the new passport could not match the photo on the original passport. By the end of the day, however, I had a second passport in hand, good only for four years instead of the usual ten years. I could use either passport for international travel as long as I didn’t present both at the same time.

That solved, I caught my flight back to Puerto Vallarta. But the passport was still a constant concern. I waited six more weeks and still no word on the status of the passport and visa. I contacted the agency for the visas and received conflicting answers about whether the passport could be tracked. I contacted the French Consulate and received a vague response. I even enlisted my congressman’s office to help me.

As my departure date approached, I began re-planning my voyage with the new assumption that I could be in French Polynesia for only 90 days. If I arrived in French Polynesia in mid-April, I would need to leave the country by mid-July. I needed to figure out where to go and to line up crew for that because the crew that planned to be with me would be remaining in French Polynesia.

After spending a full day on that exercise, I got a notification that my passport and visa were on the way to my mom’s house in San Diego. My brother-in-law Pat could bring it with him when he arrived in March. I was relieved and a bit elated.

Another bureaucratic wrinkle surfaced about the same time. My insurance agent, who had assured me that I would be covered in the South Pacific, notified me that his company would not be insuring me. He gave me the name of another company and I proceeded to work with that one. But time was running out and that new company was swamped with applicants because cancellations for vessels have become rampant since the hurricane disasters of recent years.

When the new insurance agent finally came back with a quote, the proviso was that I needed an out-of-water survey, a rigging inspection and a storm plan. At first, with the haul-out survey out of the question, I resolved to forego insurance. But after thinking about it overnight, I called back with a proposal. What if I had a very thorough in-water survey with proof of what was done during my last haul-out in the spring? That was potentially acceptable to the company, so I contacted a surveyor who could work with me right away.

We spent half a day going over the boat and I provided him with a document that listed every modification I had made to the boat. He did the survey quickly and I sent it to the insurance company. They accepted it so I just needed to pay them. (That was a day before departure. Instead of paying them the next day, I called to let them know that I wouldn’t need the coverage after all.) So the survey fire drill was not really needed, although it might be useful down the line.

In the last couple of weeks before departure I also made other “perishable” investments in time and money. I made one-year commitments to subscriptions such as backup South Pacific charts from Navionics for my iPad and Predictwind Offshore Professional. I paid the agents in Tahiti for assistance with clearing into the country and paid the Nuevo Vallarta port captain for clearing out of the country. I paid an agent to ship CO2 cartridges overland to Mexico because they couldn’t be brought in by air. I purchased an extensive supply of medications for the journey, all with expiration dates of one year or less. I also bought a huge supply of food provisions. I purchased airline tickets for one of my crew members to fly back to the U.S. in June. And I worked with other boats to plan processes for communicating while we were underway.

Another extensive time investment, which I would not consider to be perishable or a waste of time, was attending perhaps three dozen seminars on all kinds of topics related to the journey. Many experts generously gave their time to educate the South Pacific-bound fleet on medical and dental emergencies, weather, route strategies, storm and emergency tactics, safety, provisioning and other helpful tips.

The flurry of activity intensified my anticipation, my confidence in my preparation and my certainty that this trip was imminent. The progress of the Coronavirus was in the news, but my crew and I just thought we could get out on the water and escape. David arrived in Puerto Vallarta on March 12th. Dana arrived on March 14th. We were worried that Pat would be prevented from joining us, but he arrived without incident on a nearly empty flight on March 18th. We went to the store for final provisioning of fruits and vegetables and then joined some cruiser friends that evening for a very sweet farewell gathering. All we needed to do was get up in the morning and take off as soon as the port captain and the customs and immigration officials met us at the boat at 11:00.

In our first stage of grief after we found out that French Polynesia was closed to us, we resolved to go to Hawaii. After a couple of hours of planning and communicating with our families, I went to see about being cleared out of the country only to find out, of course, that it would not be possible.

Around the same time, we started hearing that the U.S. border might close. Pat grew concerned because he eventually needed to get back to work. He couldn’t stay in Mexico indefinitely. And David didn’t want to abandon his wife indefinitely. I didn’t want to stay in the marina any longer. I had been there only to prepare for the journey and I wasn’t emotionally prepared to sit on the boat indefinitely. I had a crew ready and willing to sail, just so long as they weren’t prevented from repatriating to the U.S.  So why not sail north to San Diego?  None of us had ever done the notorious Baja Bash. I had never wanted or planned to do it. But now it seemed like a good idea. We would be out on the water and we could deliver Pat and David back to the U.S. They weren’t ready to give up on a sailing trip.

We didn’t really think about the fact that I had taken all my Baja navigation information back to California, or that it would get colder as we went north, and we didn’t have warm clothes and sleeping bags. We just decided to go. And coincidently my friends on Shamaal were on their way north and invited us to join them.

So on Friday, March 20th, we cleared out of the port of Nuevo Vallarta and headed for Punta de Mita to wait for favorable weather to cross over to the lower tip of Baja. We stayed at anchor for a couple of days and set sail on Sunday morning. We sailed the first day under pretty decent conditions and then motor sailed for two more days under slightly more uncomfortable conditions in the form of big swells.

Shorts and bare feet so this had to have been early in the trip

At one point we had a bit of drama. I wanted to slow the boat down and turn into the wind to change the location of the jib cars. The jib sheets were causing a strain on a couple of stanchions. But I forgot that we had fishing lines in the water, Slowing the boat down allowed them to get caught around the prop, which had been turning while we were sailing. Weirdly enough, as the prop twisted the fishing lines, they started twisting my pant leg. The strain was so great that I had to take my pants off to get myself free. I then dove into the water to cut the fishing lines free and we were soon back underway.

Dana showing the jumble of fishing line that ended up connected to the prop

I’m embarrassed to say that the sail over demonstrated that Aldabra was not quite ready for the passage to French Polynesia. I had not put the boat through enough pre-passage testing. Right away I discovered that the screws inside the macerator pump for the forward head had corroded and the pump was leaking. Pat and I took the pump out and plugged the hoses and we just didn’t use that head.

The boom topping lift shackle had not been moused and the topping lift came off the boom. The transmission would not go into neutral after we put it into reverse while sailing. The shifter cable was being impeded by the wire for the compass light. We had to take the compass off to free the wire. One of the port shrouds was too loose and possibly the backstay was too loose.

We arrived in San Jose del Cabo at night on Tuesday, March 24th.  Finding the marina entrance at night was a bit unnerving but once inside we glided into the slip.

San Jose del Cabo is a small, friendly marina. The area was very quiet but there were a couple of restaurants and a laundry. We met some nice cruisers and enjoyed our brief stay. We mostly worked on boat projects and refueled. Plus we emailed several documents to an agent in Cabo who could clear us out of the country from there.

On Friday, vessels Shamaal and Bumblebee arrived from the Sea of Cortez. We all went through a bit of drama because rumors were coming from several sources saying that the port of Cabo San Lucas was closed and that the port of San Jose del Cabo was about to be closed. We didn’t want to be stuck in a port, so we were a bit concerned.

As it turned out, the port of San Jose del Cabo wasn’t closed. But even if it had been, we had inadvertantly failed to check in with the port captain so we didn’t need to check out. On the morning of Saturday, March 28th, we just left without a word.

When we arrived in Cabo, all three boats went to the fuel dock and got a bit of fuel. The agent met us there to provide our exit papers and take our immigration cards. And the security guard at the dock helped us get slips in the marina.

The crew of Aldabra in Cabo San Lucas

We stayed in Cabo for two nights, nervous again because they had officially closed the port. More rumors were flying online that all ports were closed in Mexico and cruising boats would have to stay wherever they were located. We had no intention of staying, so we planned to leave before daylight on Monday morning, before the port captain noticed us.

Anyone who has visited Cabo knows the marina is usually wild with hustle and bustle. But because of the Coronavirus, it was a ghost town. We went to the beach and walked around the marina area and town. We found a mini supermarket with some decent vegetables. And we ate dinner in restaurants that were on the verge of closing. We felt for all the people who made their living from tourism and now had no income.

The pangas in Cabo San Lucas that usually take tourists out

The ghost town in the marina of Cabo San Lucas

More than once we talked to marina guards and supervisors about whether we would be stopped from leaving on Monday. We thought about making our exit on Sunday night. In the end we correctly surmised that the port closure had to do with commercial boat traffic. As cruisers on private vessels, we would be allowed to leave as long as we already had our papers and as long as we were headed to Ensenada or San Diego. We could not go to any other port in Mexico.

Because uncertainty prevailed everywhere, including with the port captains and marina employees, we made our exit on Monday morning at four o’clock. The trip around the point was manageable. We motor sailed upwind for two days in O.K. conditions.

Sunrise as we were leaving Cabo San Lucas
Heading up the coast of Baja

The third day started getting pretty gnarly with winds consistently in the upper teens and waves bigger, steeper and closer apart. And it was cold! As the wind was starting to intensify, Dana caught a fish that was big enough to keep and clean. She had caught three fish the day before but had release them. (These were the first fish she had ever caught.) Following instructions in a book, she cleaned and filleted the fish and then cleaned her utensils and the bloodied boat.

By early evening we still had some 65 miles to go to Turtle Bay. To get some relief, all three boats turned into Bahia Asuncion, which was only 18 miles away. I texted friends to make sure we would have wind protection there and they highly recommended the stop. They were right. We arrived at the anchorage at 7:30, just after sundown, and the waters were flat.

We were so relieved to cook dinner in calm, flat water. It was still cold and windy but we didn’t have to stand night watch in a cold, windy cockpit. What a contrast the day had been with our vision of sailing to the South Pacific. This was certainly not what my crew had signed up for.

Early the next morning the three boats had a radio meeting about weather, and then I called Shari Bondy, who runs a hotel and campground in the town. She sent Larry, the nephew of a local restaurant owner out to the boat. We handed over our fuel cans to him and Dana hopped in his boat to head to town. They refilled the fuel containers and went to a small tienda so Dana could get a bit of produce. When they got back, Larry also took our trash to shore.

It would have been so nice to explore the town of Asuncion and meet our hosts. But the quarantine was in effect and we were discouraged from going ashore.

Meanwhile, Pat and David and I did a bit of cleanup inside the boat. During this first leg of the Baja bash, everything had moved about the cabin and was in total disarray. I also made some phone calls in preparation for arrival in San Diego and did some weather and route planning for the leg that would take us to San Diego.

We also pondered the mystery of the water tank, another problem that would have been a challenge during the passage to the South Pacific. No matter how long we ran the watermaker, the tank would only fill halfway. We suspected that the tank had a crack in it and the water was leaking into the bilge. But there wasn’t really much we could do about it until we reached San Diego. It’s just one of many little annoyances that needs to be fixed. (Another one is that our red and green lights on the bow went out.)

The morning at the anchorage was warm and calm but the winds picked up and grew cold in the afternoon. Dana baked cookies while David and Pat read. We grilled chicken and the fish for dinner, which included mashed potatoes. Still in flat water, we enjoyed a comfortable evening.

Earlier this morning the crews from Shamaal and Bumblebee came over for a visit, which was very nice. Since taking our showers, we’ve wiled away the afternoon, reading and writing. One of our crew members is suffering pain associated with passing a kidney stone while the wind continues to announce itself.

Sunday, April 5th, 10:30 a.m.

We’re headed north to Turtle Bay for one overnight before making a bigger push north. We aimed to leave Bahia Asuncion at 4:00 a.m. but our engine wouldn’t start. Jerry on Shamaal suggested we jiggle the starter wires. We did that and it worked. We were off after a delay of about 45 minutes.

The other two boats are motor sailing and going faster. We’re just motoring. The winds are light and the angle to the wind is small so we lose a bit of an assist from the main but we don’t have to bear off to keep if full.

Yesterday was a pretty boring day in the anchorage. The wind was brisk and cold. The other two crews came over for a visit and a weather meeting. We played a couple of rounds of Hearts. And we read and puttered and checked the weather. At least today we’re knocking eight hours off our northbound journey.

Monday, April 6th, 5:00 a.m.

We pulled up anchor, raised our mainsail and left Turtle Bay along with Shamaal and Bumblebee. We motor sailed north in decent winds and biggish swells. The wind speeds and directions varied. It kept getting colder. And eventually we got rained on as we approached our destination. But the last leg of the bash was unremarkable.

After dinner on the last two nights it was so cold that we all wanted to be down below and out of the wind. So we played a couple of rounds of Hearts before night watches started. Between hands, while the dealer was shuffling the cards, I’d run out to check on the other boats and adjust the sails. For night watches, Dana took 10 o’clock to midnight. David took midnight to 2 a.m. Pat had 2 to 4. And I went from 4 to 6.

As the day started on Wednesday, April 8th, we were just south of San Diego. Light rains would visit us briefly but the day was beautiful. I got a text from friends in Nuevo Vallarta because they had heard that the port of San Diego was now closed. I called the vessel arrival authorities and was told to call them when we arrived at the police dock on Shelter Island. The agent I spoke with was annoyed that I was so ignorant of entry procedures but did not suggest that we would be denied entry.

 We arrived at the police dock on Shelter Island at around 9:30. There was some confusion about how to clear in. I didn’t have the ROAM app and had not used it to register to enter the country. I finally started using the app to register but hadn’t completed the process before some Customs and Border Patrol guys showed up to clear us in. Once they were there, all three boats were cleared in in about 15 minutes.

Shamaal and Bumblebee stayed at the police dock to prepare for continued northbound travel. But Aldabra left the dock and headed over to our new slip at Sunroad Resort Marina on Harbor Island.

We spent a couple of hours sorting out things on the boat and my friend Tom from Catatude brought us face masks. We then gathered up our trash and dirty laundry and headed for the parking lot. David’s wife Susan picked him up and my sister Wendy arrived to take Dana and Pat and I up to their house in Escondido. We did laundry and took showers, had dinner and slept very well.

Friday, April 10th

Dana and I spent yesterday cautiously doing some errands. We went to Target where Dana got some warmer clothes and I bought a couple of sleeping bags. We then went to visit my mother, where we picked up some groceries that my sister had bought us and I got some warm clothes. After dropping off the groceries at the boat, we went back to Escondido for the night. We’re waiting for the rain to stop a bit before Dana and I move back onto the boat to shelter in place while working on boat projects.

Inland Travel

Mexico Via Copper Canyon

The start of the boating season is a bit earlier for me this year, by more than two months. That’s good because there’s so much to do. But it’s so hot here on the boat in Nuevo Vallarta that it’s hard to get much done.

I left San Diego on Friday, October 4th in a small car crammed with boat parts and supplies. Because I was traveling alone (due to illness on the part of my expected traveling companion) I headed to Arizona rather than crossing the Mexican border from California. Once I crossed at Nogales, I headed south about 20 miles until I found the funky compound with the Banjercito office, immigration and a few other somewhat-incomprehensible services. With the required documents in hand, I was able to get a visa and a temporary import permit for the car. Fortunately, no one needed to inspect the car, because if I had been directed to open the trunk, all the little parts would have tumbled to the pavement.

With that hurdle out of the way, I could relax slightly as I drove the rest of the day’s distance to Hermosillo. The roads were pretty good and the inspection stops by the Federales were quick. Most highway toll booths were taken over by community members who asked for donations. They were protesting the fact of the highway not been free.

Once in Hermosillo, I found my way to the Holiday Inn Express (not sure what I would have done without GPS because Hermosillo is a big, confusing place), which had relatively secure parking right in front of the lobby door. A sign saying that the hotel was not responsible for car robberies reminded me of the risk I was taking by transporting all these parts I worked pretty hard to procure. But the next morning all was right with the car as I got an early start south.

The second day of travel was much the same as the first. More brief inspections, more citizen-run toll booths, lots of wide-open space. A couple of puzzling accidents on the northbound side of the highway. How long will it take to clean up a very large truckload of steaming manure out of the lanes? I arrived in Los Mochis in the late afternoon and checked into the Fiesta Inn, which is at the edge of a shopping mall. The for-pay parking is part of the mall and there was a guard stationed near where the hotel guests park. I was encouraged, but still nervous about my payload because I was going to be leaving the car there for a week. I spent Sunday doing some errands nearby the hotel and scouting bus stations. My friend Jules arrived that night and we found an outdoor spot to have some wine and catch up on our summers. (Jules and her husband Jeff had visited the Canadian Maritimes while I had studied all summer to get my ham license and my captain’s license and to learn more about diesel and outboard engines.)

On Monday morning Jules and I started walking with our duffles toward a nearby bus station, which wasn’t far, but it was hot and our duffles were heavy. Before we even got out of the parking lot, we hailed a taxi. As he was approaching the station, the driver saw that our bus was leaving so he followed it and flagged it down. We jumped on board and relaxed for the two-hour ride to El Fuerte, one of Mexico’s many Pueblos Magicos. The bus left us in the middle of this clean, smallish town where people had gathered to shop and have lunch. Had it not been so hot and unshaded, and had we not been hauling duffles, I would have liked to just sit in the middle of the activity and gawk. We walked the two blocks to our hotel, La Mansion Serrana. As we checked in, the proprietor arranged for us to take a tour later, when the sun wasn’t so hot. We then walked around the town, had lunch and explored the local museum.

At four o’clock, our guide Felipe and helper arrived in a beat-up SUV, towing a boat. They took us to the Fuerte River and launched the boat. We sat in the bow and Felipe paddled from the stern as we floated down the river watching birds. We stopped in a farming area and walked 300 meters up a path to about 50 petroglyphs. Felipe oriented us along the way to all the plants and birds and then described the petroglyphs, which had been uncovered after the river had flooded several years ago. Once delivered back to our hotel, we had dinner in town and turned in for the night.

On Tuesday, we got an early start to catch the El Chepe train into the heart of Copper Canyon. The early part of the ride wasn’t noteworthy, but as the day went on we were treated to spectacular views of the steep faces of the mountains as the train slowly wound its way into higher elevations. As the day went on, I realized that I wasn’t feeling all that great. So when we got to our hotel in Divisadero (along the Continental Divide) I crashed for the evening while Jules integrated with the handful of other guests.

El Chepe Train Winding Through Copper Canyon
Scenes from El Chepe
Looking at our Hotel Perched on a Cliff

The next day, we walked to the adventure park to look into our options for the day. We decided we didn’t want to ride the zip line. And several workers told us we couldn’t hike down into the canyon without a guide, and there were no guides. They also said that we couldn’t take the teleferico down and hike at the bottom because it was closing early for maintenance and we would be stranded. Tired of hearing no, we rode the teleferico down and began a hike back up, with no guide and a few directions from the teleferico operator. The hike was hot and exhausting and at times we didn’t have a trail. But we could see where we wanted to go because the teleferico cables stretched overhead. Our path took us through small settlements of Tarahumara (Raramuri) families and along a small river gorge. We had water but just a half of a Clif bar for food. When we finally found our way back to the adventure park, their restaurant looked very attractive for a late lunch/early dinner.

Looking Down at the Route of our Hike
Hard to Capture the Vast Expanse that Makes Up Copper Canyon
Another Attempt to Capture the View

When we returned to our rustic, mountain-style hotel, it had been taken over by a very large group of retired teachers from all over Mexico. They were having a grand time together and would be our traveling companions the next day on the train as it returned west. The next day we walked several miles through the adventure park and back to take a look at the Hotel Mirador and its views before catching our train.

On the train, we traveled two hours back to the town of Bahuichivo. There, we were picked up and driven to our hotel in the town of Cerocahui. The La Mision Hotel is very nice but a tad expensive because they monetize everything.  As the only guests that night, we had a private tour of a local girls school and the hotel vineyard, which included a wine tasting. Because it was the only option in town, dinner was also expensive but the food was good.

The Village of Cerocahui Covered in Morning Fog

The next day we were driven about an hour or so to the Mirador Cerro del Gallego. You look into the second-deepest canyon in the world and see the town of Urique, nestled right by a river. You can stand on a platform that juts out into the middle of nowhere and be awed and terrified at the same time. (Unfortunately, the lighting at that time of the day was bad for photography.)

Looking Down From the Mirador at Urique

As soon as we got back to the hotel, we set out to find the waterfall right outside of town. It wasn’t too hard to find and the trail leading up to the fall was beautiful. As we were walking back, we bumped into the owner of our next hotel. He was coming to pick us up, so timing was perfect. (Hotel La Mision was expecting 57 people that day so we couldn’t stay there another night.)

The Waterfall

Mario is one of three brothers who run a mountain-top eco-lodge outside of Cerocahui. His grandfather started Rancho San Isidro more than 60 years ago. Grandfather was Mestizo but he married a Tarahumara woman and their son married a Tarahumara woman. The Rancho sits next to their uncle’s ranch and is surrounded by shared Tarahumara forest. They have built a bunch of creative cabanas for guests. Our spacious adobe room sat alone overlooking a canyon and they built a fire in the pit for us that night. They offer all kinds of activities. We elected to go horse-back riding with Mario’s brother Tito but we also could have gone on long hikes all through the mountain trails. The family is very gracious and helpful and the food is great. After our ride, the brothers delivered us back to the train station and we rode six hours back to Los Mochis.

The Dining Room at Rancho San Isidro
Our Cabana at Rancho San Isidro
The View During Our Horseback Ride
Jules on Her Horse and Me on My Little Mule

I was very relieved to find the car unmolested when we arrived back at the hotel. We got to explore Copper Canyon and avoid the loss of material possessions. We set out early on Sunday morning for Nuevo Vallarta. The trip was uneventful except that some of the people who had taken over toll booths were rather menacing and would block our way if we didn’t give them the amount of pesos they wanted. We stopped at a mall in Mazatlan to have lunch, fuel up and go to an ATM. The last part of the trip, from San Blas to Nuevo Vallarta is slow and tedious, but scenic. We arrived at the marina at about 7 o’clock, in time to have dinner with Jeff at a local taco place.

Since arriving at the marina, I’ve mostly been trying to cope with the heat while muddling through some purging and reorganization of gear. It’s about 95 degrees in the boat during the day. I have fans going, but unlike most boaters here, I have no air conditioning. Right away, mechanic Gil and his son Gilberto started work on my motor. They’ve replaced the motor mounts and brackets, aligned the engine with the shaft, changed out all the hoses, installed a new throttle cable, inspected the fuel injection pump, cleaned the heat exchanger and injectors, changed the fuel filters and v-belt, replaced the coolant, and probably a few other things. So even though I’m not accomplishing much, they are.

Gear and Preparation, Places

In Transition (More Like a Christmas Letter than a Blog Post)

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I last posted an update. Sometimes I don’t have Internet access, but that excuse hasn’t been valid for a while. My last post had me flying to San Diego in February for a brief visit. When I returned, I took Aldabra to Tenacatita, just north of Barra de Navidad. I hung out in the anchorage for more than a week, doing some walking and swimming and visiting. The log book also reminds me that I fixed a pump in the head and troubleshot issues with the watermaker and the solar panels. Got both working.

I returned to the Barra marina for the arrival of my friends Pete and Cookie Schaus of Boulder, Utah. Once they arrived, we spent a couple of days in the area and then pointed Aldabra back up to Tenacatita. We stayed there at anchor for a few days (swimming and beach walking) before heading north to Bahia Chamela, for just one night. It would have been nice to stay a bit longer, but we could see a brief weather window for a calm rounding of Cabo Corrientes, and then no other foreseeable opportunity.

Pete and Cookie enjoying life on the boat

Anchored off the little village, we enjoyed a shrimp dinner onboard and got a bit of sleep before pulling up anchor at 3 a.m. the next day. We motored all the way around the cape and arrived at Punta de Mita at 6:30 p.m. The next day we motored to the marina in Paradise Village, essentially ending the short 2019 cruising season for Aldabra. Pete and Cookie were troopers, making the best of living in a marina for the rest of their vacation. One highlight of that was taking a boat across the bay on their final evening to see the Rhythm of the Nights performance. It’s a combination of a boat ride to a remote cove, a dinner and a performance that is sort of like a Cirque du Soleil show. It was fun.

The reason why Aldabra’s cruising season ended so quickly was twofold. First, the boat needed to be hauled out again to get the bottom painted. Second, I had planned for a short season so I could focus on getting the boat and myself ready for Aldabra’s next big adventure, sailing to the South Pacific in early 2020.

As March came to a close, I began projects on Aldabra, interspersed with beach walks, swimming, dinners with friends and attending seminars. Jeff from El Gato helped me install a new tachometer (electricity still intimidates me) and a remote switch for my windlass so I can operate it from the cockpit if circumstances permit. Plus there were the usual chores.

Fellow Cruisers Celebrating Jules’ 60th Birthday

In early April, I traveled briefly to San Diego and Santa Cruz (taxes) and returned to the boat with my nieces Emily and Julia. We enjoyed a bit of vacationing. A trip to Sayulita and then to San Sebastian in a single long day. A beach day. A day sail. A dinghy ride up the river from the marina to see birds and iguanas. An evening at Rhythm of the Nights. And dinners out. They also helped me hoist the dinghy onto the foredeck for summer storage and then wash it.

After Emily and Julia left, I pickled the watermaker successfully. But in changing one if the filters, I broke a fitting that required me to shut off my fresh water system. I ordered the part from Amazon Mexico and arranged for it to be sent to Andy Barrow, who has a home nearby. I would be able to get the part a couple of weeks later.

On Easter Sunday, Al Garnier of Chez Nous helped me take Aldabra over to the Opequimar boatyard at Marina Vallarta. I spent the night at the dock and the next morning the crew hoisted Aldabra into the yard. I checked into a hotel across the street while they began work. It took more than a week for Alvaro’s crew to strip and sand the boat bottom down to the original gelcoat, revealing the original boot stripe that had been painted over by the previous owner to raise the waterline. (This becomes necessary on cruising boats that are weighed down with all kinds of equipment and spare parts. It’s one reason why we’ll never win any races.)

Aldabra stripped of paint. The lower boot stripe is in the gelcoat

The boat was tented from the deck down to the ground to contain the paint dust, so it was hard to monitor progress. And the yard was so dusty that I was reluctant to hang out and work up above. The only work I did was to prepare the deck for the replacement of one of the sissy bars that Alvaro had to remove and repair. Otherwise, I stayed clear except for passing by three times a day just to take a look.

Looking out my hotel room window

During my week and a half in the hotel, I enjoyed an air-conditioned room with a view of the cruise ships going in and out of Puerto Vallarta, convenient showers and the Internet. (I caught up on Netflix shows I had wanted to see.) During the days, after a leisurely breakfast, I walked from the marina in every direction. On one day I walked the malecon. On another I visited several downtown art galleries. Next I walked to the airport to research rental cars. And I walked to Costco. Buses are very convenient in Puerto Vallarta but I was walking for exercise because the hotel swimming pool wasn’t designed for swimming. I walked on the busiest roads because I don’t know the Puerto Vallarta neighborhoods well enough to use the side streets. So the walks were hot and noisy. But I got my steps in. I also hung out a bit with Jim and Liz from Gypsy Wind while their boat was in the yard getting its bottom painted.

Alvaro’s crew did great work and eventually Aldabra had a newly painted bottom, a subtle black instead of red. On the morning she splashed, I motored her back over to Paradise Village and Al was there to catch the lines. (When singlehanding, I’m always stressed about leaving and approaching docks, so it’s a huge relief to return to the slip without crashing into anything and have someone there to catch the lines.)

Aldabra with her new black bottom paint
In the sling ready to splash

Once Aldabra was back in the slip, it was time to get serious about working on the boat. I would have about six weeks to get projects done and prepare Aldabra for the summer hurricane season. That would mean working full time almost every day. I started by installing the new fitting that would revive my fresh water system. The subsequent days sort of went like this:

  • Inventoried bins of spare parts and supplies.
  • Defrosted refrigerator and freezer.
  • Laundry.
  • Removed all gear from forward compartment below anchor locker in anticipation of rigging inspection.
  • Jamie from Totem conducted a bow to stern rigging inspection. He found many things that needed my attention.
  • Jason from Ullman Sails came to take my mainsail and jib for repairs.
  • Began removing lines from boat and rinsing them in buckets.
  • Discovered Alvaro’s crew had not rebedded sissy bar properly and water was coming in. Removed the sissy bar, prepared the deck and rebedded.
  • Ran a new vent hose for the forward water tank.
  • Began removing blocks and accessories from the deck and rails to be stowed below deck for the summer.
  • Flew to San Diego for 4 days for my mom’s birthday. Bought a car.
  • Arturo repaired a broken stanchion for the railing.
  • Cano from E2 Yacht Services helped me rebed the stanchion.
  • Removed the six opening portlights. In each case, some of the screws were so corroded that I had to drill them out. Cleaned up the mounting surfaces and rebedded the portlights. The whole job took almost a week and I’m still not sure the portlights won’t leak just a bit in heavy rain.
  • Cano’s crew polished the stainless railings and the hull.
  • Defrosted the refrigerator and freezer again.
  • Went shopping for screws with Cano.
  • Laundry.
  • Replaced a bunch of drain hoses leading from the cockpit to the lazarette and then overboard.
  • Cano replaced the exhaust hose while I assisted with tools.
  • Eddie dismantled the boom and vang.
  • Eddie inspected and cleaned the standing rigging.
  • Changed the motor oil and the oil filter, topped off fuel tank.
  • Hosed down the deck to get rid of metal shavings from Eddie’s work.
  • Eddie and helper loosened shrouds and worked on removing port chain plate. They weren’t able to figure it out. The next day I finally removed it and cleaned and prepped the surfaces.
  • More inventory of parts bins.
  • Went to Zaragoza to buy wire, then installed new antenna feedline for SSB radio.
  • Eddie and helper put spacers on the chainplate pin and we rebedded the chainplate. They tightened the shrouds and retuned the rigging. They took the boom.
  • Tightened a bolt on the steering quadrant and cleaned up some surface rust.
  • Removed and cleaned up the handles on the foward hatch, determined that I needed to replace them.
  • Inspected engine bolts, tightened one, clean rust off of a couple.
  • Replaced hose clamp on fuel hose.
  • Cleaned stove.
  • Cleaned pantry.
  • Hooked up inner forestay to deck plate.
  • Cleaned aft head.
  • Re-organized gear.
  • Drained engine coolant and replaced it.
  • Jason brought the repair sails back to the boat.
  • Cano washed the outside of the boat and cleaned the bottom, took the cushion covers off to wash in a washing machine.
  • Made templates of four windows that need to be replaced.
  • Removed the windows from the spray dodger and stowed below deck.
  • Removed bimini extension and stowed.
  • Collapsed bimini, put it in its boot and lashed it to the railing.
  • Stowed all jerry cans below deck.
  • Jeff helped me clean battery terminals and crimp a connector to the end of the new SSB antenna feedline.
  • Jeff helped me fresh-water flush the dinghy motor.
  • Jeff hoisted me up the mast in the bosun’s chair so I could clean the backstay.
  • Finished reloading all the bins back into the lazarette.
  • Lashed the dinghy to the deck.
  • Ran extension cord into the boat to install dehumidifier.
  • Laundry.
  • Installed forward shade cover above deck.
  • Organized.
  • Cleaned galley.
  • Installed aft shade cover above deck.
  • Final preparations before leaving boat.

This list probably doesn’t include all the boat projects, there were lots of other little ones that consumed time. And I’d like to point out that this is all being done in fairly hot weather. Let’s face it, life on a sailboat is mostly frustratingly hard work. Equipment in a marine environment is just always breaking. And every project takes way longer than expected. But it wasn’t all work. I did get in several beach walks and dinners with friends as they returned to the area to put their boats away for the season.

In mid-June I took my usual flight back to Tijuana and crossed the border to San Diego. The next morning I drove to Tom and Helen’s house to pick up my life raft. (They had kindly brought it up from Mexico in their truck.) Then I drove to Marina Del Rey to spend the evening with David and Susan Rose. (David plans to join me on the crossing to the Marquesas.) I joined in their regular Wednesday night trivia night, which was a lot more fun than I had expected even though I may have known only one answer. The next day I drove up to Santa Cruz and stayed with my friends Walter and Glenn and their kids Will and Kate. They have a separate apartment that proved very comfortable for me. The day after I arrived, I drove to Alameda to deliver my life raft to be repacked and recertified, which has to be done every three years. Sal, the owner of the business, inflated the raft and walked through all the parts with me. When you examine your own life raft, your main thought is hoping you never have to see inside of it in the conditions it’s designed for. I then left it there and went to see my friend Terry Chan. We chatted and ate all afternoon and I drove back to Santa Cruz that evening.

Life raft inflated on the shop floor

The next day, my friend Haller and I hiked about seven miles in Nisene Marks Park. It was gorgeous. The fog engulfed the forest and made it feel magical as we walked on soft paths of redwood detritus under lush green branches and ferns.

I was in Santa Cruz to report to jury duty, which I did by calling in each evening. As it turns out, I was excused each day. Since I never knew whether I would be free each day, I couldn’t make plans with friends. But I did join my friends Jim and Linda to visit the harbor, and we got a chance to visit with my friend Pete on Mazu. I also spent time with one of my boating mentors, Matthew, who gave me splicing lessons for dyneema rope. I also ran into Anne from Redwood Coast II at West Marine but she was working, so I’ll have to wait for my next visit to catch up with her. Finally I retrieved my life raft and headed south.

I returned to San Diego in time for my niece Teela’s baby shower. She and her husband were visiting for the weekend, along with lots of family members, including my grandniece (14 months) and grandnephew (10 months). Very fun.

Once back in San Diego, I’ve settled into a bit of a routine. I’ve been hiking almost each day up Cowles Mountain and then spending most of the rest of the day studying for my ham radio license exams. I’m going to take both the technician test and the general test on the same day, in about a week. I took one day off from studying to take a first aid and CPR class with my niece. I’ve been able to spend time with my mother and my sisters’ families, and visit with Tom and Helen from Catatude and Jan and Alan from Kemo Sabe.

Next on the agenda is a quick trip back to Puerto Vallarta in a couple of days to take some measurements and photos that were lost when my phone died without being backed up. I’ll fly in, stay the night, work on the boat the next day and then fly back that night.

As soon as I complete my ham test, I’ll begin a week-long course on diesel engines, followed by a two-week course to prepare for a captain’s license, followed by a week-long course on outboard engines.

When I’m not in classes, I’ll be studying charts and weather patterns to plan for the trip to the South Pacific.

People, Places

January/February 2019

When I last posted, I had just put Aldabra away for the summer hurricane season of 2018. For the rest of the year, I spent time in California, visiting family and friends, which included a trip to Lake Tahoe with good friends and the wedding in Santa Monica of a young woman I have watched grow up.

Rebecca, Haller and Terry hiking around Emerald Bay in Tahoe

I also spent six weeks in the highlands of Mexico, with friends Jeff and Jules. I met up with them in the lovely city of Queretaro, and we then drove to Guanajuato to attend language school for a month. We stayed in a nice house with a large garden and attended private Esquela Mexicana. I essentially had one-on-one instruction, working on conversation and the subjunctive verb tenses that I find so hard to master. Guanajuato is a bit touristy but it has some good museums, parades and food. We took beautiful hikes in the city and in the surrounding hills. We also took a scenic mountain bike ride from a higher-elevation town back into Guanajuato.

Guanajuato on a cloudy day
Hiking above Guanajuato
Guanajuato children marching in Independence Day parade
Guanajuato children marching

After leaving Guanajuato, we drove north to Zacatecas for a few days and enjoyed walking around town and visiting the museums. It is definitely a city worth visiting. Finally, we drove north to Durango, which wasn’t as compelling as the other three cities, but featured beautiful landscapes outside the city.

Looking down on Zacatecas
Exploring ruins outside of Zacatecas
Hiking through the ruins outside of Zacatecas
Hiking outside of Durango where so many westerns were filmed
More of the landscape outside of Durango

I flew back to California from Durango and stayed until the end of the year. It was nice to meet and spend Christmas with the two new additions to our family, niece Rachel’s (and husband Caleb’s) daughter Peyton and niece Halley’s (and husband Michael’s) son Oliver. And of course I enjoyed hanging out with other members of my family as well as cruising friends Tom and Helen from Catatude.

On January 1st I flew back to Puerto Vallarta to prepare Aldabra for the 2019 sailing season. I slogged through all the usual chores to take the boat out of “mothball.” (Fortunately it wasn’t too hot.) It takes me almost two weeks to decommission Aldabra and about the same amount of time to reverse it. I also attended some seminars at the Vallarta Yacht Club, caught up with a few old friends and met a few new people. I managed to get some walks in a first but as time started running out, the boat chores got priority.

On January 11th, my sister Wendy and brother-on-law Pat flew in from San Diego. I was supposed to have the boat ready for a southbound trip, but we were delayed by a week. We had to haul the boat out of the water at the Opequimar boatyard for work to be done on the shaft. It turns out that the shaft was fine but the coupling needed to be remachined. (The shaft practically fell out of the coupling when I put the transmission in reverse as we approached the Opequimar dock.) Alvaro Bello did fine work and we were back in the water in three days. While the boat was out of the water, I discovered that the bottom paint that was put on in June (which should last 3 years) is already coming off, so I’ll have to haul out again soon. During the haulout, Pat and I worked on projects on the boat during the day. We stayed in a nice hotel across the street and ate at restaurants in Marina Vallarta. It wasn’t a bad place to be stranded for a few days.

After the haulout, we took the boat back to the Paradise Village Marina long enough to check out with the port captain, do final provisioning and pause for a weather window. We took off on Saturday morning and motor-sailed out of Banderas Bay, rounding Cabo Corrientes before dark. Once out of the bay we had a pretty big swell but we had a nice northwesterly wind that let us sail most of the way to Tenacatita, gybing away from the coast and back a few times to compensate for the swell.

We arrived in the late morning on Sunday and anchored. After visiting briefly with John and Donna from Carmanah and Jeff and Jules from El Gato, it was nap time after an all-night sail. Later, it was time to expose Wendy and Pat to classic Tenacatita experiences, such as landing the dinghy on the beach (that went well thanks to calm surf), a beach walk and kayaking. (They opted out of bocce ball but I’m sure we would have played if we’d been there longer.)

The next day we took the dinghy up the river for a jungle cruise and then tried to take the dinghy out of the river, up a road and across another road over to the beach to relaunch into the ocean. The idea was to then take the dinghy over to the Aquarium so they could snorkel. The problem was that hauling the dinghy over to the beach was really hard. Plus, the waves were huge so we had to haul it a long way to find waves small enough to launch. And then once we got to the Aquarium, it was clearly too rough for them to snorkel. So that was a bust. We then motored the dinghy in nasty swells all the way around the point (taking at least an hour) to return to the anchorage, where they finally did find a spot to snorkel.

The first night in Tenacatita, we had dinner with Jeff and Jules on their boat, El Gato. The second night was another classic experience, movie night, again on El Gato. Nine of us watched This is Spinal Tap while eating popcorn and drinking rum and tequila. The problem was that we all had so much catching up to do, there was only a bit of movie watching.

On Wednesday, we sailed to Barra de Navidad, which is 10 miles south. We pulled into our slip in the marina and prepared to take advantage of the Barra experience before Wendy and Pat had to fly out on Saturday morning. They got to experience street tacos at Tacos de, dinner at Simona’s, the hotel pool with the water slide, and the Thursday Barra market. We also took the bus over the Melaque for lunch and a bit of textiles shopping.

After Wendy and Pat left, I spent a couple of days washing the boat and doing chores before leaving in a car on Monday with Jeff and Jules and their dog Chance, bound for Zihuatanejo. After an 8-hour, curvy drive, we arrived at Casa Roja and were joined a few minutes later by our landlords, Tim and Donna Melvile.

Casa Roja is a lovely tri-level house overlooking the Zihuatanejo bay. It was strange to be in Zihua without our boats, but it was nice to be staying in such comfortable surroundings. (When you live on a boat, a real bathroom and a real shower is a novelty.) Tim and Donna just bought the house several months ago. They were on the floor above us and some of their relatives were in the unit below us. The two-week stay there was delightful.

You can see Casa Roja perched on the hill overlooking the bay

But we weren’t in Zihuatanejo to play. Donna and Tim are the driving force behind the cruiser component of Sailfest, an annual charity event to raise money for the local school children. Sailfest technically is a one-week event, but Donna and Tim and other volunteers get started a couple weeks early and extend their effort beyond the official event. They, along with other cruisers and volunteers, book tourists on sailing cruises. The tourists pay and the cruises are on private sailboats that are anchored in the bay.

Many of the boats show up year after year to host these tourists on the cruises, donating their time, their boats, their diesel fuel and their crew to the cause. Other boats show up unsuspectingly after a long passage from the north or south. Sleep deprived, they arrive in the bay, anchor and start trying to familiarize themselves with the town and the local services. But as soon as they anchored, we would be on the radio, recruiting them to participate in the cruises. Fortunately, most of them were willing to give it a go, and usually enjoyed the experience.

Some of the boats in Zihuatanejo bay that took out tourists

Some of the cruises were three-hour sails that ended with the sunset. Others were music cruises, featuring some of the best musicians in town. The boats would sail for a bit and then anchor so that the musicians could play until sunset. These were amazing performances. Sailfest also featured a rally (race) on one day and a parade on another. The parade had more than 300 people paying to go on boats. Sailfest raised more than a million pesos this year.

Zihuatanejo musicians playing until sunset on a music cruise

My purpose in going to Zihuatanejo was to help Donna at the sales desk, and that’s what I did most days. Occasionally I would crew on boats doing cruises. And I did play pickleball on one morning. But the stay in Zihuatanejo was pretty much a singular focus on Sailfest, with some good dinners in the evenings.

Shortly after we returned to Barra de Navidad, my mom and my sister Ann came to visit. They stayed in a nice room in the hotel and I joined them every morning for the breakfast buffet. We walked on the paths behind the resort and along the harbor channel. We went to Melaque to buy textiles. We relaxed by the pool. We road the water taxi back and forth across the lagoon. And we had dinners in Barra. After five days, we all three flew to Tijuana and crossed back over the border to San Diego.

Ann and my mom during a walk above Barra
Surfer catching a ride outside of Barra

I was returning to San Diego to go to dental and medical appointments, to buy a few things for the boat and to get ready for tax preparation. I also took advantage of the cool weather to take walks around the lake and hike Cowles Mountain. The final day, most of my family members gathered for a scrumptious brunch at my mom’s house.

Passages, People, Places

Spring and Early Summer 2018, Mostly Sea of Cortez

I Just arrived in San Diego after putting Aldabra away for the hurricane season in Paradise Village Marina in Nuevo Vallarta, Banderas Bay, Mexico. It took more than a week to prepare the boat. I had to strip the exterior of things that could get damaged or cause damage during a big blow. Down below, I went bow to stern, clearing out gear, cleaning compartments and then restowing the gear. I also pickled the watermaker and changed the engine oil, flushed the dinghy motor with fresh water, and lashed the dinghy upside down on the deck. The task list also included defrosting the refrigerator and freezer and giving away most of the food still onboard. The final steps were to close all the hatches and cover them from the inside with aluminum foil, and install the dehumidifier (thanks to Jeff from El Gato). After that, the boat was like a sauna, so I packed up my luggage and headed for the airport. (I was looking forward to some relief from the heat and humidity.)

I had arrived in Paradise Village on July 2 with crew Stephen Hardt after crossing the Sea of Cortez from La Paz. We left at 4:00 p.m. on Friday June 29 (I forgot that we supposed to leave on a Friday) and sailed or motor-sailed for three nights and two days. We had 1-2 meter swells the whole way across and a variety of wind conditions. During the last third of the trip, the wind came from behind but it was too light to fly the spinnaker, which we’d set up on deck in anticipation. We saw some wildlife (turtles and dolphins) but most notable were the 15 brown boobies that hitched a ride on the bow pulpit for an entire night and made quite a mess.

Brown Boobies Hitchhiking. They were joined later by more of their friends.

It was a good spring in the Sea of Cortez. It started with a week-long visit with my sister Wendy, her husband Pat and my niece Lizzie. We traveled north to Isla San Francisco and then backtracked to Isla Partida and Isla Espíritu Santo, then to Puerto Balandra and back to La Paz. It was early in the season, plus it was an unusually chilly season, so the water was cold, the anchorages were very windy, and we had only one really good sailing day.  We enjoyed Ensenada de la Raza on Espíritu Santo. We explored by dinghy and kayak and watched the turtles and the grebes in their daily routine. I hope they had a good time but the conditions were not optimal.

Wendy, Pat and Lizzie on the Back (East) Side of Isla San Francisco

Once back in La Paz, I spent time playing with good friends who had arrived in La Paz on their boats (Tom and Helen on Catatude, Jeff and Jules on El Gato and John and Donna on Carmanah). And I got some modifications done to Aldabra. (The arch and davits installed last summer needed to be made stronger.) And of course no time spent in a marina is without chores, such as cleaning, changing the engine oil, defrosting the refrigerator and freezer, shopping for provisions, and regularly checking the weather. Then on Tuesday, April 10, I headed north, back into the Sea of Cortez, this time single-handing the boat in the company of buddy boats. We knew a strong northerly wind was coming so we traveled rather quickly, first to Isla San Francisco and then to Agua Verde, where we rode out the northerly quite comfortably. (I had thought it would be good to get to Puerto Escondido for the northerly, but my friends on Carmanah suggested that Agua Verde was the place to be. I later learned that the folks in Puerto Escondido had a miserable time of it. In Agua Verde, we hardly noticed anything as we hiked and played bocce ball on the beach.)

Our Little Fleet of Boats Waiting Out the Norther in Agua Verde

Leaving Agua Verde began a two-month buddy-boating excursion in which Aldabra and El Gato were inseparable. We stopped in Puerto Escondido where I was joined by crew Katie for 10 days. We then went north to Isla Coronados, San Juanico, and Bahía Concepción. We saw whale sharks swimming around Playa Coyote and did some kayaking and hiking. Katie departed from Bahía Concepción and caught a car ride back to Loreto to catch her flight, while Aldabra and El Gato continued north to Punta Chivato and then Santa Rosalía.

El Gato Was Never Too Far Away from Aldabra

Hiking on Isla Coronados and Looking Back at the Anchorage on the South Side of the Island

Katie at the Helm on the Way North

Hiking in San Juanico and Looking Over at the Anchorage

Hiking with Jules and Jeff in Bahía Concepción. Looking Down at Playa Coyote and Playa El Burro

Hiking in Bahía Concepción

By the time we got to Santa Rosalía, I had become comfortable with anchoring by myself and I successfully picked up a mooring ball in Puerto Escondido. But I was quite nervous about going into a marina, especially one I hadn’t entered before. Plus it was quite windy. So Jeff and Jules took El Gato in first and got situated. I then followed, talking to Jeff on the radio. They had plenty of dock hands waiting so entry into the slip was smooth. The marina at Santa Rosalía is small and friendly and the town has some charm. We spent a few days getting our boats back in order, doing laundry, eating out and reprovisioning.

Sitting on the Boat and Watching the Ferry Arrive in Santa Rosalía

Santa Rosalía is an Old Mining Town with a French Influence

Then we were off again, north. We stopped in Bahía San Francisquito and then Ensenada el Alacrán. There is an eco lodge there and we visited with the guests and did some hiking. We were there for two or three days with a lot of wind. We finally broke free and continued on, up into Bahía de Los Angeles.

El Gato and Aldabra in Bahía San Francisquito

While Waiting Out the Wind, We Hiked Over to Punta el Pescador. This Cove Was on the Way


El Gato and Aldabra in Ensenada el Alacrán in Front of the Eco Lodge

Bahía de Los Angeles had been the goal. We’d heard so much about its beauty. And it was beautiful. But we were there during a pretty significant red tide, and the water was cold and the anchorages windy. We were chasing some magical experience that wasn’t happening. We did anchor at a couple of the islands and walked around the volcano on Isla Coronado (aka Smith). It took us four and a half hours to go around, bouldering for more than half of it. We were very glad to get back to where we’d left the dinghy.

Aldabra, El Gato and Pincoya Anchored at Isla La Ventana. The Village of Bahía de Los Angeles Is Off in the Distance

The View from a Hike on Isla La Ventana

From there, we headed north again to Puerto Refúgio, at the northern tip of Isla Angel de la Guarda. The trip north started out calmly enough, although I reefed the main in anticipation of wind, a first for me since arriving in Mexico. We were sailing pleasantly on a reach until about halfway up, when the winds and the seas built quickly. Both of our boats had too much sail area up. El Gato had an issue with their headsail, which limited their maneuverability and I found it hard to round up into the wind to drop my main. The wind was coming from behind and I wanted to sail with just my jib. The first step to dropping the main was to furl the jib, and while doing so, I lost control of both jib sheets. (I know, where were those figure 8 knots?) The problem was both boats were getting too close to each other, so I had to act. I turned on the motor to get myself into the wind, and the jib sheets wrapped around the prop.

After quickly turning off the motor, I went forward and cut the jib sheets free, dropped the main, and then rigged up new jib sheets to continue the journey with just the jib, sailing at 6 to 7 knots in 25+ knots of wind. Meanwhile, El Gato fixed their issue and sailed on ahead. They anchored on the west side of the island and launched their dinghy. Jeff then lashed his dinghy to my boat as I approached in case I needed help anchoring. We each took a turn at diving in the 60-degree water to free the lines from the prop. The jib sheets had fused with the rubber of the cutless bearing and pushed it about a half inch forward of the strut. But we got enough of the lines free so that I could motor east the rest of the distance around to where we would anchor for the night.

I soon realized that the force of the jib sheets on the shaft had caused problems with the stuffing gland, which had just been repacked in March. I was taking on more water than I should. Jeff was kind enough to repack it and we continued to make adjustments over the next couple of days. It was still leaking too much water but I was able to use the motor. And in the coming days I gained confidence that I wasn’t causing additional damage.

Puerto Refúgio, although it had cold water, was beautiful. We had good hikes on the main island and visited a nearby island with a sea lion colony. We were in the company of Gene and Gloria on Pincoya, and enjoyed a couple of nice evenings with them. We had one night there with really intense winds, the most I’ve experienced in Mexico. I thought my wind generator was going to explode but I thought it might be too dangerous to try to tie it down. It was a long, noisy night. None of us, El Gato, Aldabra nor Pincoya got a true reading of the wind speed that night, but it was remarkable.

The sail back south to Bahía de Los Angeles was quite nice. I was afraid that I might not be able to use my motor, so I left early and tacked back and forth. The wind angle eventually became favorable so I was able to stay on course on a single tack. And when the wind eventually died, I was able to motor back to the anchorage in front of the village. After a day or so, we headed back south, stopping at Punta el Pescador and then Bahía San Francisquito, where we met Adam and Jessica on Volare. We hiked all the way around the bay and then later paddled around.

Hiking Around Bahía San Francisquito

We continued on to Santa Rosalía, Punto Chivato, Bahía Concepción (three different anchorages), San Juanico and Loreto. In Loreto, we anchored off the town and attended the Chocolate Clam Festival with our friends Tony and Diane from Dolce, and new friends Linda and Ken from Linda Marie and Chris and Annette from Wishlist.

Then it was time to head south. We tried to stop at Nopalo because we never had, but it was too windy so we headed straight to Bahía Candeleros. Jeff and Jules and I took a long hike there and went swimming. The next stop was an overnight at Agua Verde, where we explored the east anchorage in the dinghy and had fish tacos at the palapa on the beach. We then continued on to Puerto Los Gatos for a night, where we took a nice hike up the hill on the north end of the anchorage.

Hiking Above Puerto Los Gatos

On Friday, June 8, we went south to Bahía Amortajada on the southern end of Isla San José. We took a dinghy ride into the estuary and celebrated Jeff’s birthday with a carrot cake. It was a calm night, but the next morning brought a significant south swell and we went in search of a new anchorage. We ended up on the northern end of Isla San Francisco, which was the best protection we were going to get from the south swell and southerly winds. We took a hike up to a saddle where we could see the other two anchorages on Isla San Francisco, with very few boats, which is quite unusual. The southwestern anchorage is usually packed.

Aldabra and El Gato at the Northern Anchorage on Isla San Francisco

Looking Down on the Other Anchorages of Isla San Francisco. Almost Empty

The next morning we headed south to Puerto Balandra, on the Baja Peninsula near La Paz. It would be our last anchorage before heading back to La Paz and civilization, and it would signal the end of our journey together. While in Balandra, Jules and I took a significant hike in the surrounding hills and the three of us went in the dinghy to a restaurant about a half hour a way. It was on Tecolote Beach, so crowded with tourists it was hard to find a place to land the dinghy. It was a crazy scene but the food was good.

From Balandra we stopped at Marina CostaBaja for fuel, where I was able to dock on my own without incident. And then it was back to La Paz, where we settled into Marina Cortez, just in time to be sheltered during Hurricane Bud, which by the time it arrived was just a bit of wind and a light rain.

On Monday, June 18, Jeff helped me take Aldabra over to the Palmar boat yard, where she was hauled out for four days. I stayed in an air conditioned room at Posada Luna Sol while the work was done. She had her cutless bearing replaced, new bottom paint, and the stuffing box was repacked.

Aldabra in the Hoist in La Paz

During that time, I also said a temporary farewell to El Gato. They were headed back across the Sea to Nuevo Vallarta. We had shared every evening meal together since leaving Agua Verde in mid-April. We’d taken dozens of stunning (and hot) hikes together. And they were my support when the conditions were challenging. We’d also watched an episode of Orange is the New Black each night. We still had two episodes left of Season 3, but they would have to wait until we were all back together in Nuevo Vallarta.

Aldabra went back in the water on the morning of Friday, June 22, with help from Doug from Spartan. I got situated in Marina de La Paz and then later walked downtown to the bus station to meet my old friends David and Susan Rose. We set off the next morning to spend some time in the anchorages of Espíritu Santo but had to quickly turn back to the marina with an overheating engine. Instead, we spent the day replacing a shredded impeller and cleaning out a hose that might have harbored impeller debris. (Before I hauled the boat out, I should have closed the raw-water intake to the engine. What I believe happened is that the impeller dried out while the boat was on the hard.)

Confident that the engine was running smoothly, we set back out the next morning and enjoyed Sunday night at Caleta Partida and Monday night in Puerto Balandra before heading back to La Paz for their last night. At Caleta Partida we took the dinghy through the cut (my first time doing this) and explored south. In La Paz, I made them hoist me up the mast so I could check out my wind instruments that weren’t working. It was a quick but nice visit before they had to return home to finish preparing for their daughter’s wedding in August.

Checking Out the Wind Instrument at the Top of the Mast

Checking Out the Wind Instrument

Once David and Susan left, I had a little more than a day to get ready to cross the Sea of Cortez. Crew Steve would be flying down the next day. He very kindly drove all over Santa Cruz collecting the parts I needed. A new wind instrument, a new wind vane and a new chart plotter. When he arrived, we installed the chart plotter and La Paz electrician Will Imanse came over and climbed the mast to install the wind instrument and vane. We had some configuration issues up until minutes before leaving, but we departed just ten minutes later than planned.


To Zihuatanejo and Back to La Paz

Yikes. Looks like it’s been a long time since I posted a blog entry. I finally have the magic combination of decent Internet access and a bit of quiet time. Since my last post in January, I’ve been to Zihuatanejo and then journeyed back north to La Paz, by way of Ensenada Carrizal near Manzanillo, Barre de Navidad, Tenacatita, Bahia Chamela, Nuevo Vallarta in Banderas Bay and then across the southern Sea of Cortez. It’s been busy and fun-filled.

With Tony and Diane as crew, we left Barra de Navidad on Tuesday, January 16 at about 10:30 a.m. and arrived at Ensenada Carrizal near Manzanillo at a little after 3 p.m. Big swells made it a rather uncomfortable night. Our friends Tom and Helen from Catatude were there. We all snorkeled along the north wall of the bay in the morning and then pulled up anchor and headed over to nearby Santiago Bay. There, we encountered even more friends, Jeff and Jules from El Gato, Steve and Shauna from Windrose, Walt and Shelly from Dune. The next day we all gathered on the beach for a late lunch at the Oasis restaurant after Jeff and Jules and I hiked up a steep hill to see an abandoned house that looked out over both the Pacific and the bay.

We stayed in Santiago Bay until 4 p.m. on Saturday, January 20, leaving our friends behind to head south to Zihuatanejo. We spent two nights at sea and were able to sail in brisk conditions for a few hours, although mostly we motor-sailed or motored. On Monday morning, January 22, we arrived at Isla Grande near Ixtapa and determined that the swells were too big for a comfortable anchorage, so we kept going to Zihuatanejo, and arrived around 9:30 a.m. We checked in with Tim and Donna Melville, the chief organizers of the cruisers for Sailfest and even joined them for Mexican music that night.

The next five and a half weeks in Zihuatanejo were a whirlwind. Lots of old and new friends arrived in the bay. We worked the booking desk to sign people up for cruises. We took people out on the boats, some sunset cruises, one race, one parade and one trip to Isla Grande. All of the cruises contributed to Sailfest raising more than 2 million pesos for the indigenous students of Zihuatanejo.

Aldabra dropping her spinnaker at the finish line of the race.

The assistant port captain was on Aldabra for the parade. All the boats came by to salute him

The assistant port captain loved driving the boat during the parade

We also found time to socialize a lot with our fellow cruisers, played pickleball, kayaked around the bay, took trips to Isla Grande and ate great food. It was very busy, hot and a bit exhausting. Four of us also rented a car for a girls’ trip and drove inland into the mountains to see the Monarch butterflies. It was so fun to get a break from the Zihuatanejo heat and spend a night in the colonial high-elevation village of Anganguero before going up even higher to see the butterflies. The air was crisp and cold and we had to wear jackets! And the butterflies were magical. We then drove to the city of Morelia and spent the night before taking a great walking tour (led by Jules) of this lovely city. Then we headed back to our boats in Zihuatanejo.

Jules and I admiring the view halfway up from the town of Anganguero to the butterfly reserve

Helen and I rode horseback to get to the butterflies. Jules and Sherri walked up the hill

Sheri and Helen marveling at the butterflies

Walking the last distance to the butterflies

The butterflies hang out in clumps until the sun warms them. Then they fly.

After most of the Sailfest activities were over, Tony and Diane sailed north with Jay and Terri on Cadenza. I stayed in the area on the boat by myself and singlehanded over to Isla Grande for a few days with other boats. El Gato and Catatude headed north from there and Mark and Stephanie on Wainui and Bryan and Sherri on Epic and I headed back to Zihuatanejo. It was my first time singlehanding and I was successful in anchoring and weighing anchor by myself. I also put the motor on the dinghy by myself, also a first.

A few days later, my crew Kip joined the boat. She had sailed from Banderas Bay to La Paz with me last year and was taking on an even longer journey this year. We headed over to Isla Grande for a couple of days and then left with Wainui, Epic and Striker at 4 a.m. on Wednesday, February 28. Epic and Striker stopped along the way so we had minimal contact with them, but Wainui and Aldabra arrived, after one overnight, at Ensenda Carrizal at 4 p.m. on Thursday, March 1st. The next day we left early and headed north to Barra de Navidad, arriving at 10:30 a.m. We stayed in the marina, docking right next to our old friends on Windrose.

We stayed a couple of days in Barra. Long enough to get some chores done. The boat hadn’t been washed in more than 6 weeks and it was in desperate need. In addition to refueling and doing laundry, I needed to repack the stuffing gland that connects the transmission and the shaft, and Tim on Shoofly helped me with that. In the evenings we gathered with Windrose, Appleseeds, Shoofly and Wainui for dinners in Barra.

It was sad to leave, but Aldabra headed north to Tenacatita on Monday, March 5 on our own. We spent one afternoon and evening there, visiting with friends on the beach: Catatude, Eileen May, Dolce, Doggone, Georgia and many more. The next day, shortly before 6 a.m. we headed north again to Bahia Chamela. Shortly after arriving at noon, we were joined by Catatude, Appleseeds, Dolce and others. Sean and Katie and Leo from Mele Kai stopped by and said that our friends Carlos and Debbie, who have a house on the beach, were there. So we gathered our cruiser friends and went to shore for dinner, stopping by to see Debbie and Carlos first.

The next day, I went to shore for a longer visit and some of the cruisers came later for bocce ball. The local ex-pats joined in. After napping a bit that evening, we pulled up anchor at 2 a.m. on Thursday, March 8 and headed north to round Cabo Corrientes, with Catatude. We rounded about noon in perfectly calm conditions and reached the La Cruz anchorage in Banderas Bay shortly before 5 p.m., tired. The next morning we headed over to the Paradise Village marina in Nuevo Vallarta and reunited with El Gato, Cool Change and Windrose. We took advantage of being in a marina to wash the boat, do laundry and run some errands. We also joined friends for dinners. On Sunday, we went over to the La Cruz market and the La Cruz marina to see old friends.

Jules took this while we were having dinner in Nuevo Vallarta

I’d been studying the weather intently for several days as weather windows changed. I finally concluded that Monday, March 12 was our one realistic window to cross the Sea of Cortez, a distance of 320 if we were able to head straight there, which in a sailboat is rare. We left shortly after 10 a.m. and mostly motor-sailed across the Sea, heading directly for Ensenada de Los Muertos. We arrived after about 53 hours, which was fast, although it meant very little pure sailing and the consumption of a lot of fuel. Conditions were not too bad, and got better on the last day. As we went along, our ETA would vary a lot, so we were pleased that we arrived in Muertos on Wednesday at 5 p.m., with plenty of time to anchor before dark.

We left before 8 a.m. the next day to head up through the Cerralvo and San Lorenzo channels toward La Paz. We anchored at Puerto Balandra for the night in a spot on the west side. It was lovely, and Kip had a chance to kayak around the lagoon.

The next day, Friday, we left before 9 a.m., stopped at Costa Baja for fuel and were docked at Marina de La Paz, on the outside of the dock next to Carlos Slim’s yacht Ostar by 11 a.m. (We saw him walk by later with his entourage as they boarded.)

Kip took me out to dinner on Friday night at my favorite La Paz restaurant Mesquite Grille. She left on Saturday morning to visit San Jose Del Cabo for a few days. With the help of another cruiser, I then moved the boat into an inside slip for the week before my sister, brother-in-law and niece arrive.

For the last few days, I’ve been doing typical chores, along with some my favorite workers. My chores have been to clean and reorganize the boat, do maintenance on some of the lines, get the laundry done, remake the beds, shop for groceries, make granola, go to the ATM, defrost the refrigerator, re-mark the anchor chain, fill the water tank, order spare parts online, and a host of other little things. Meanwhile, the guys here have inspected the rigging, tightened the steering cable, done some gelcoat repair and cleaned the boat bottom. I was planning to have some repairs made to my arch and davits but Sergio can’t get parts in time, so that will have to wait until I return from my week-long trip to some islands north of here with my family. We’re approaching Semana Santa and businesses aren’t all working normal schedules.

So that’s it. You’re caught up. So much time has passed that I’ve given you just the overview. I’ve left out little details and minor issues and catastrophes. The details omitted have been about the many wonderful moments with the Mexico cruising community. Each encounter fills my heart. And I haven’t mentioned the close encounters at sea with whales, turtles and dolphins, and the sunrises and sunsets. They never cease to be awesome.

And the catastrophes have mostly been about water. Too much water coming out of the stuffing gland was my reason for repacking it. Then, for several days afterward, I would have to stop the boat while underway to adjust the gland so enough water would be dripping out. At least once, a hose came off of the water heater and more than 50 gallons of water was pumped into the bilge. And another time, the water tanks were pumped dry because a faucet was left on. These frustrations are easily remedied by running the water maker to fill up the tanks. We also lost a few things overboard but were able to retrieve them.

So all in all, things have been going well and the boat is performing well. I say this with reluctance because other boats have had lots of issues, so my turn could be just a day or a week away. But I’m hoping for the best.

Finally, you’re probably wondering why so few pictures. For the most part, I’ve kept the big camera stowed away and I’ve hardly used the iPhone. At times I’ve been too busy running the boat, leaving it it to others to take the pictures. I’ll have to try harder.

I look forward to the arrival on Friday night of Wendy, Pat and Lizzie. We’ll spend about a week visiting Espiritu Santo, Isla San Francisco and maybe a spot on the Baja peninsula. And we’ll do some sailing because the first couple of days will be quite windy.








People, Places

Nuevo Vallarta to Barra de Navidad

Aldabra left the Paradise Marina in Nueva Vallarta on the afternoon of December 4 with crew members Vic and Sonja. We had a mishap getting out of the slip. Another boat had been squeezed into our slip with only about a foot between the two boats. A 3-knot current was running. I should have asked the marina for assistance getting out. Instead we snagged parts of our boat on the other boat, doing some damage to both boats. Another of many learning experiences.

Once out of the marina, we were able to sail west across Banderas Bay in light winds. We rounded the infamous Cabo Corrientes that night without any drama, sailing at first and later under motor power when the wind died. We arrived in Bahia Chamela on Tuesday morning to an almost-empty bay, sharing it with our friends on El Gato. We stayed in Chamela just a few days, taking time to kayak over to the rocks at Punta Pérula, to walk along the beach and along the main road in town, and to have dinner at the Scuba Jazz Cafe with our friends from El Gato and Dolce. Our dinghy landings and takeoffs were wet but upright.

From Chamela we went on south to Tenacatita, arriving on Friday afternoon, just in time for the Friday evening raft-up with other cruisers, hosted by Rob and Virginia on Harmony. The cruisers raft their dinghies together and share stories and food. It was nice to get acquainted with the other participants.

While in Tenacatita, El Gato and Aldabra took our dinghies up the river to the beach near The Aquarium, a good snorkeling spot and anchorage in fair weather. Our motors scared many of the birds, so I think (now that I have done this river trip 3 times in a dinghy) I won’t take this this trip again unless in a kayak. We had lunch and went for a swim before heading back down the river. Like Chamela, Tenacatita offers good swimming right off the boat. We also took some time to work on the water system, which is full of irritating mysteries, and to re-secure the cross-bar for the dinghy davits, which was losing the nuts off the bolts. Vic climbed up to use the solar panels as a working platform to complete that precarious job. While in Tenacatita, we had the opportunity to get better acquainted with Steve and Shaunna on Wind Rose and George and Sue on Julia Max, the latter two are making their way south to go through the Panama Canal this next year.

We left Tenacatita on December 11 and motored to Barra de Navidad, with one slight detour just to check out the anchorage at Cuastecomate. Once in the marina in Barra, we pulled into a slip on the same dock as El Gato, which offers the farthest-possible walk from the boat to the bathrooms. But all the people on the dock are very nice, so we have made it our home for the month of our stay.

Dancers Celebrating the Virgen de Guadalupe

Worshiping the Virgen

On December 12, Jules from El Gato and crew Sonja and I went to the celebration for the Virgen de Guadalupe in a nearby town called Cihuatlán. Dance groups from the surrounding area danced parade-style through the main street to the beat of drums. The bright and imaginative costumes drew from all aspects of the culture. And interspersed with the dance groups were roving “bad men,” representing things evil to counter all the goodness represented by the Virgen de Guadalupe.

Vic and Sonja each departed the next day, so I began my daily mixture of getting chores done, hanging with friends by the pool or getting dinner in the town of Barra. Many boats began to arrive in anticipation of the cruisers Christmas dinner. So it has been fun to see old friends, such as Myla, Catatude, Carmanha, Jolly Dogs and Liahona, and to meet lots of new people. There were more than 80 people at the dinner, organized by Jake on the boat Jake and the people on other boats who have done this dinner once or twice before. The organizers provide the ham and turkeys and the participants each bring a dish to share and a white-elephant gift. The food was great and the gift exchange featured a wide range of gifts and lots of laughter.

Cruisers Christmas Dinner

Cruisers Christmas Dinner

Jake is the Main Organizer of the Dinner

The day before Christmas, the guys who organize all the boat work in the marina hosted a Posada celebration for the cruisers. They served a traditional goat meal and brought in a couple of piñatas. I received a prize for being the first person to arrive at the fiesta, which was fun because I got to meet the families of the organizers.

Posada Organizer Arturo and his Daughter

I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with Jeff and Jules on El Gato a lot. We’ve taken a couple of trips to Melaque to the markets, paddled in the lagoon and had pool-time and meals together. Jules and I have also been taking yoga on the beach in the mornings. And Jeff has helped me with boat projects, such as sorting out the mysteries of the fresh water system, making the dinghy more secure when it’s on the davits underway, servicing my diesel motor and filling the fuel cans. I also joined them on their boat for a day trip over to Cuastecomate for some snorkeling. They helped me look after Daisy, a sweet dog that lives with Tom and Helen on Catatude. They went to the U.S. to be with their family for the holidays, so I spent the nights with Daisy on Catatude and went  back and forth between my boat and Daisy’s boat during the day. Daisy is a bit of an escape artist so she kept me on my toes.

Yoga on the Beach

Lots of old friends and new friends have been here in Barra during the first couple of weeks of January. It has been great to see Stephanie and Mark on Wainui and to hang out with Tony and Diane on Dolve and Duey and Nan on Flight.

I have a sore tooth so I rented a car last week to drive to Puerto Vallarta to see an endodontist. Turns out nothing can be done at this point so I’ll have to tough it out for a while. The trip between PV and Barra is a long one but I did some grocery shopping while I was there. After I returned, Jules and I took advantage of the rental car and drove southwest to the towns of Coloma and Colmilla. Coloma is a Puebla Magica and very charming. We met this wonderful chef by the name of Piter, who has a restaurant called Paraiso on Avenida Ignacio Allende. I highly recommend a visit. He was the chef for the Las Hadas resort for many years and is also a professor of culinary arts. While in the area, we got as close as we could for a view of the local volcanos and walked to a wonderful little museum near Coloma with a collection of pre-columbian art.

I’ll be leaving Barra de Navidad next Tuesday, January 16 with Tony and Diane from Dolce as crew. They will leave their boat in the marina here while we sail to Zihuatanejo by way of Bahia Carrizal and Bahia Santiago. I hear the organization of SailFest is already underway, so I look forward to getting to Zihuatanejo to help out.