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Gear and Preparation, Places

Boatwork in New Zealand

Well, I guess it’s time for an update. I’ll be leaving New Zealand soon, bound for Minerva Reef and then Fiji.

So here is the long rundown of my time in New Zealand since arriving back here at the end of January. I’ll break this visit into three phases: On the boat in Whangarei Marina in the Town Basin, on the hard in the Riverside Drive Marina Boatyard, and back in the water in the Port Nikau Marina.

During the first phase, in the Whangarei Marina, the weather was mostly pleasant, sometimes muggy during the day but cool in the mornings and evenings.

The first thing I did upon returning was to buy a used car, a 2007 Honda Civic. The paint was cracking and coming off on many parts of the car, but it ran well except for faulty air conditioning, which didn’t really bother me that much. My plan was to sell the car when I left to the same dealer who sold it to me. I expected to recover about half the cost, which was fine because I didn’t spend that much on it. He told me that If I bought a more expensive car, I would still only get about half back, so buying this car was sort of a no-brainer.

Once I became mobile, I started getting around to chandleries and hardware stores. The chandleries didn’t seem as well stocked as West Marine, but they had a lot of gear and the main one I frequented, AllMarine, would order whatever I needed.

I worked with a man by the name of Tristan Campbell, who works at AllMarine and has his own boat-management business called BoatSmart HQ. He looked after Aldabra while I was in California. Upon my return he helped me purchase gear and find people to work on the boat. He found an electronics/electrician technician, a sailmaker and a rigger, among others.

The dinghy was losing air before we left in November, and the leak became significant while I was away. After a few informative discussions with Tim from Northland Inflatables, I paddled the dinghy down river at high tide to pull the boat out at a little “beach” and wheeled it to Tim’s shop. He spent a bit of time trying to find the leak. At first it was worrying because a non-obvious leak is far more expensive to fix. But in the end, he discovered a very obvious leak on the bottom of the tube. I think I know which coral reef attacked it. Once Tim found the leak, I left the boat with him.

Another important thing I wanted to do was get the boat attached to a battery charger, working off the marina’s shore power. It took a long time to identify the right equipment, which even though new, had to then be tested by an electrical services company before being put in use. After a couple of weeks, I finally had power to the batteries, which meant I could use more refrigeration and power tools. It also meant that I could remove the solar panels from the boat in preparation for putting new ones on. My solar panels had been underperforming, so I was hoping that new ones would give me a boost. The truth is that I keep putting new energy hogs on the boat, which is why it’s hard to keep up with the demand. (Starlink is the newest energy hog, but refrigeration and the autopilot are big contributors to the deficit.)

There were some big projects I wanted to have done while in New Zealand, but in Whangarei, the tradespeople are really busy, so it’s hard to find some skill sets. I did manage to line up people to make new canvas for the boat, a dodger and bimini and a new cover for the dinghy. Their work was to begin later in March.

Riggers are very hard to line up in Whangarei, at least at the busy time of year, but Tristan managed to make arrangements with one, Charlie, who would begin later.

While waiting on the arrangements for work to be done, I did some projects of my own, such as making new covers for the fenders. Another project was to make sure that my OpenCPN navigation software was ready with satellite charts for navigating Fijian waters, which can be quite treacherous because regular charts don’t show a lot of the reef hazards. That project took a long time for two reasons. One is that I have so little storage left on the PC that I have to clean up the hard drive every time I download a set of charts. The other is that I was confused about the process of setting up the charts. I was very pleased once I got that all sorted out.

One other thing I did during that time was to go down to Auckland for a couple of days to take a refresher course on emergency offshore medicine. Because we’ve had such good luck on Aldabra, I haven’t used any of the skills I learned before leaving the U.S.  So, it was good to practice those skills again.

Besides working on the little projects, which took way too much time to complete, I found some nice walks. First, I was walking in a loop that goes up, across and down the river by the marina. Then I started taking trails that start near the marina and go up to higher elevations and beautifully scenic settings. The walks took you through Kauri forests with lots of fern trees. It could be really hot in town but the walks were very shaded and cool.

By hanging out in the marina to get work done, I was missing out on two activities. One was to explore the northern part of New Zealand by boat. I was seeing posts from people who were spending their New Zealand summer discovering gorgeous anchorages surrounded by beautiful landscapes and interesting towns. The other was to travel around New Zealand by car, which many cruisers were doing. I’m sad that wasn’t seizing these opportunities, but New Zealand is a good place to ensure that the boat is ready for some more seasons in the tropics. I’m toying with the idea of returning to New Zealand next year without the boat to travel by land.

The second phase of my stay here began shortly after Pat, my brother-in-law, arrived on February 24th. During that weekend, we started some projects. (Running a solar panel wire, installing new faucets and drains in the heads.) But on Monday, we walked over to talk to Terry at Alloy Stainless about doing some metal repairs on Aldabra. In talking to Terry and the Riverside Drive Marina Boatyard manager, Karl, it was decided that we would immediately bring Aldabra over to haul out in the yard. Pat and I walked back to the marina, let the marina office know what we were doing, and motored downriver the short distance to the yard. It was a bit tricky because the prop was coated with barnacles, so steering was difficult. But we managed to get to get into the slings without incident. We were then hoisted out of the water and put on a hard stand right in front of the metalworks building.

Aldabra on the hard in front of the metalworks shop

And that began the phase of living in the boatyard for a little over a month. Pat was here for the first two weeks, before going traveling with my sister on the South Island. About this time, the weather was starting to get ominously cooler. We got a lot of projects done. And the professionals in the yard got a lot of projects done. It’s hard to say enough good things about the marine tradespeople here in New Zealand once you are part of their work schedule. They are kind, thoughtful and competent. Here’s what’s the professionals did in the yard:

  • Three cracks in the arch welded and then reinforcing arms added to the base of the arch to provide more strength
  • A strengthening metal tube on the bow replaced
  • Two stanchions on the port side rewelded
  • A frame built and installed for the new solar panels on the arch
  • A frame modified for the new solar panels on the dodger
  • Support built for the two new solar panels on the rails so they can pivot up and down
  • Bottom sanded and painted
  • Hull cleaned and polished
  • PropSpeed painted onto the shaft and prop to keep growth at bay
  • Rudder removed from boat and rebuilt
  • Boat measured for all the new canvas (dinghy taken to shop for the canvas work)
  • New light installed for LPG solenoid switch at the panel
  • House batteries tested (and found healthy) and new starter battery installed
  • Software updates installed for B&G electronics
  • Stern light moved farther aft on the arch so that it doesn’t reflect back on the arch
  • Measurements for new rigging wire ordered and parts for the furling system ordered
  • Outboard motor for dinghy serviced
  • Rebuilt rudder installed

Here is what Pat and I did while the boat was in the yard:

  • Cleaned most of the tools with phosphoric acid
  • Unbolted four stanchions from the deck and then rebedded them after two of them were rewelded
  • Cleaned up all the parts associated with the rudder and steering, re-oiled the pulleys and chain. Removed the old packing material in preparation for new packing material and grease to be installed with the rudder
  • Pumped up the accumulator tank for the watermaker, cleaned the water strainer and changed the carbon filter
  • Removed the rusty anchor chain from the boat and put it in the scrap heap
  • Cleaned the anchor locker
  • Serviced and rebedded the anchor windlass, with a new gypsy
  • Installed new anchor chain and rope, marked the chain with paint
  • Installed forward-scanning sonar transducer, cleaned up paddle wheel for speed sensor and cleaned all thru-hulls of dead sea critters
  • Removed mast boot
  • Repacked stuffing gland for prop shaft
  • Put new hose clamps on many hoses throughout the boat
  • Spent some time at the top of the mast running the main halyard back into the mast after accidently letting it run out
  • Cleaned rust off of the hull and polished the stainless steel railings and fittings
  • Removed the seal from the aft-compartment portlight, cleaned the sealant off the portlight and put in a new seal

The rebuilt rudder arrived back at the boatyard on Tuesday, March 28. The rudder was rebuilt by Terry of Alloy Stainless and Craig of Northland Boat Repairs. The yard put the boat in the slings and Patrick of Future Classics boatworks installed the rudder and re-connected all the steering parts. The boat then spent the night in the slings and was put back in the water first thing on Wednesday morning. Tristan came to help and we motored the boat downriver to the Port Nikau Marina.

As soon as I got to Port Nikau, Whangarei Marine Services came to service the diesel engine. Working conditions were good in the mornings but the wind came up mercilessly in the afternoons. I managed to get a few things done, such as servicing and replacing the pump in the aft head and running up a couple of new halyards.

On Sunday, my friends Ian and Laura on Rala came to the marina and helped me move the boat to the working dock near the marina.  We took the mainsail off the boat and then went for a nice walk and lunch. When I returned to the boat, the riggers Charlie, Alexis and Ian, were already preparing the boat for the mast to be removed. On Monday, I had the really fun job of cleaning the bilge and tracing the wires that run down the mast, because they would need to be disconnected to pull the mast.

On Tuesday, the crane came to remove Aldabra’s and Nereida’s masts. (Nereida is owned by Jeanne Socrates, who is the oldest woman to sail non-stop, unassisted around the world.)

Getting ready to pull Jeanne’s mast

My job was to hold the tag lines while the mast was being pulled out

Once the mast was off, I stayed a few more days at the working dock, and then Ian and Laura helped me move the boat back to the original berth on Pier C. The boat stayed there until it was time to put the mast back in a few weeks later. Meanwhile, lots of work got done:

  • Whangarei Marine Services took the heat exchanger out for cleaning and then reinstalled it. They also ordered a new radiator cap for me and aligned the motor mounts.
  • Nick of Canvas and Covers installed the new bimini, dodger and clear side curtains, and delivered the dinghy back with new chaps.
  • Calibre Sails installed reef points for a third reef on the mainsail
  • The mast was cleaned up and polished, new fittings installed as necessary, including newly manufactured tips for two of the spreaders and new sheeves manufactured for the top of the mast. Also new fittings were installed for where the halyards exit the mast.
  • A new deck light was installed on the mast
  • All new standing rigging was installed
  • Several new halyards and lines installed
  • New reefing lines were installed in the boom
  • The jib furler was rebuilt
  • The traveler car was rebuilt
  • New wedges were manufactured to support the mast once it was re-stepped
  • A pin on the boom vang was machined
  • The solar panels were wired to the controllers
  • I drove to Auckland and picked up the liferaft after it was serviced and repacked.
  • Two more stanchions broke and were re-welded, then we re-bedded the stanchions
  • The mast boot was secured around the mast collar after amalgamated tape was wrapped tightly around the mast and the opening
  • New mirrors were installed in the heads

While all this was going on, Ian and Laura relocated to Port Nikau so they could get a rigging inspection. They ended up on Pier C so it was nice to have them as neighbors. The three of us also got a chance to hang out with Dale and Katrina on Womble. We all got a nice hike in together.

We made friends with some of the people who live and/or work in Port Nikau. Ian and Rachel of Gypsea Lane were particularly welcoming and included us in the the social events with other liveaboards. They’re part of a really nice community of fun people.

During this time, my crew members, Stephanie and Johno joined the boat and joined in on the boat chores, including cooking some prepared meals to be frozen for the passage to Fiji. On Thursday, April 25, we moved the boat back to the working dock and the mast was re-stepped the next day. We continued doing chores while the final pieces of the rigging were were completed.

Aldabra’s mast being moved by crane to the boat to be re-stepped

Charlie and Alexis putting the rigging back together after the mast went in

Johno and Tristan working on the traveler car.

On Thursday, May 2, we drove up to Opua for a training session by Citizens of the Sea on how we would take DNA samples from the water each day on our passage to Fiji. After staying for the Citizens of the Sea launch event that night, we drove back to Port Nikau for more work on the boat.

On Friday, we delivered the car back to the dealer who sold it to me and rented a car from the marina. We then worked with Charlie the rigger on the reefing system and the lines running through the boom. On Saturday, Johno and I drove back up to Opua for a briefing on Fiji, put on by the Island Cruising Rally, of which we are a part. During the afternoon, I hung out with Debbie from Thursday’s Child, another California boat, and she showed me sights around Opua, including the towns of Paihia and Kerikeri, and a couple of the local waterfalls.

I drove back to Port Nikau that night and Johno stayed on Thursday’s Child. Meanwhile, Stephanie had stayed back on Aldabra while riggers Charlie and Alexis put the boom and the mainsail back on the boat, and installed the runners for the inner forestay.

On Sunday and Monday, we continued with final preparations for departure, casting off the docklines at 5:00 p.m. on Monday. It was rather emotional for me because I had grown quite fond of several people in Port Nikau. Seeing us off that evening was Blair, the very kind and thoughtful marina manager, Charlie our very busy, solutions-oriented rigger who was also entertaining and warm-hearted, and Tristan, who was such a help to me from the very beginning.

As we departed from Port Nikau, we discovered that we had no GPS signal on our chartplotter. Johno drove the boat using my iPad for navigation while Stephanie and I replaced a cable that restored the GPS. We didn’t know that we needed to restart the entire B&G system after replacing the cable, so we were without wind instruments all night as we motored north to Opua.

The overnight trip north was uneventful and we arrived at the dock a little after 9:00 a.m., where Ray, Debbie and Dana from Thursday’s Child helped us with our dock lines. Johno then went up the mast to check on the wind instruments. Once it was clear that they were properly connected at the top of the mast, we restarted the system and began getting wind speed and direction readings. Whew.

After getting settled into the Bay of Islands Marina in Opua, we did a few additional chores for passage preparation, and caught up with old friends, including Jaime and Fiona on Szel, Alex and Yvette on Blue Beryl, Dale and Katrina on Womble, and Chip and Kristina on Second Set. We’ve also met new people who are part of the rally with us. With the help of Predictwind and our weather router, John Martin, we were scheduled to depart for Minerva Reef this Saturday, tomorrow. A lot of other boats left today, which also seemed like a good time to leave. Shortly after all the boats left, we were alerted by John Martin that predictions for our departure had changed, so we are on hold for a few more days.

It’s brutally cold and windy here and we’re all looking forward to a warmer climate. The plan is to get to Minerva Reef and hang out for a few days and catch some lobster. We’ll then head north to Savusavu on the south side of Vanua Levu in Fiji.

Gear and Preparation, Passages, Places, People, Places


I’m sitting in the cockpit of Aldabra on Wednesday, May 31. We’re in the anchorage in front of Rotoava, the town on the atoll of Fakarava, population maybe 2000. The wind is coming from the southwest, bringing choppy waves that build from all the way across the lagoon (15 miles), and sitting on the boat is not very comfortable. It’s been windy and rainy for about twenty-four hours and probably won’t let up until tonight or tomorrow. Despite the conditions, Gabe flies out from here on Friday, so we need to stay put. I’ll be sorry to see him leave but I’m guessing he’s ready to get on with his summer plans. Cruising on a sailboat in the Tuamotus can mean long days of unfavorable weather, yet those are interspersed with moments of adventure on land, dramatic coral in the water and lots of wonderful people to meet. There are also many opportunities to fix things on the boat, especially after it had been sitting for a few months in Tahiti.

The Tuamotus are beautiful low-lying atolls that are made up of reefs that surround a lagoon. A few of these 76 atolls are inhabited with some infrastructure for locals and tourists. Others may have as little as a few subsistence farmers or fisherman. And still others are completely uninhabited. These atolls can be mostly submerged, or they can be made of motus, small islands that support the growth of some vegetation and people’s livelihoods. The people that live here mostly speak French and/or Tahitian, but those that work in stores or in tourism speak enough English to help me get by.

A typical motu viewed from inside the lagoon

Not all the atolls have passes that allow you to safely enter the lagoon. For those that do, one must navigate through the pass when the tides and winds are in your favor, otherwise it can be quite a ride. Once inside the lagoon, you have protection from the open seas, and often you have protection from the wind, but to transit from place to place you must safely navigate the coral heads (called bommies), which could be hidden right below the surface and severely damage the boat. To anchor, you must try to find a sandy patch and then use floats to lift the anchor chain over the bommies on the sea floor. Anchoring itself is quite a challenge and can take multiple attempts to get situated. Gabe has become masterful at diving down to the anchor to reposition it or the chain, in all kinds of adverse conditions.

So, what have we been doing since we left Moorea? Here’s the way-too-detailed recap.

Our first destination was Tahanea, an uninhabited atoll that is a sanctuary for nesting birds, and a well-liked destination for underwater exploration of the three passes that lead into the lagoon. Cruisers also go to Tahanea to kite board.

Our passage to Tahanea was mostly smooth. Having left Moorea on Wednesday, April 12 at 6:30 a.m., we motored-sailed in very light air on the nose for several hours. In the mid-afternoon, the wind came up and very quickly we had a squall with 28-knot winds and rain. With the full main and jib flying, and seas building, I had to hand steer for some of it because the autopilot was overpowered. At one point we just took the main down for a while. In the evening, we put it back up with the first reef in, and had some spells of a nice beam reach in 10-14 knot winds.

For most of the next day we motor sailed in light air. The autopilot got fussy at one point so we used the backup CPT autopilot for several hours. The next day, Friday, April 14, we arrived at the gap between Faaite and Tahanea and turned right to round Tahanea. There was no wind and the seas were glassy. We entered the middle pass shortly after noon with no issues even though it was an hour and a half after high slack tide. (It seems to be the case that the passes are far less challenging when there has been no wind and the seas are calm.)


We anchored just to the west of the middle pass. No boats were there at the time but two came in shortly afterward. It took more than one attempt to set the anchor down in sand instead of coral. We did our best and had a good night’s sleep that night. The next day we spent quite a bit of time trying to re-anchor. We had been rubbing on some coral at night and we wanted to get the anchor down in a better spot and float our chain above the coral heads. After a few attempts, we thought we had it right so we took the dinghy to shore to explore the nearby motu and snorkel a bit. That night we had lightning and rain. A boat from Slovenia, Timy, came in and anchored very close to us.

The next day, Peter and Natalie from Timy dove on their own anchor and then checked ours out. They discovered that we were caught on some coral so Peter helped Gabe get the chain off the coral. It was quite an operation and we were very grateful. They had just come from the Marquesas with one shroud not working to keep up their mast. They had rigged some lines for support but really needed to get to Tahiti to pick up the part they needed. We took over some coffee and chocolate and they gave us the password to their Starlink. Suddenly we were really happy that they were anchored so close to us.

While we were trying to re-anchor, the windlass was having trouble pulling up the chain. Gabe and I took the windlass apart and cleaned debris from it. The anchor chain had sat for several months in Port Phaeton and it had a lot of rust that was flaking off into the windlass. That day we stopped by and met the folks on another nearby boat, Agape, who are from the U.S. but have been in the Tuamotus for a few years. We also met Greg and Robin on Salty Dancer, who are from Oregon.

On Monday, Gabe and I took the dinghy to the west pass to see if we could snorkel in it. It seemed a bit rough so we backtracked and snorkeled east of the pass. While doing so, Gabe got stung by a jelly fish and had a rather severe reaction, which fortunately subsided in a few hours. The winds picked up from the east in the afternoon and we had a windy night.

While we were anchored, I was slowly working on the stuffing box that is connected to the prop shaft. It was dripping a lot and I thought it might be why the bilge was filling with water more than it should. After putting some Gibbs penetrant on it and then later some vinegar, I got the nut to move and then tightened it a bit. While I was doing that, I realized that a part on the water pump had a crack in it and fresh water was spurting out and going into the bilge every time we used the water pump. I replaced that part, which slowed down water entering the bilge.

The next issue to address was that the wind generator was making a strange noise and was vibrating. Plus, the controller box was getting hot. We tied off the wind generator until we could troubleshoot the issue.

On Wednesday, Gabe and I took the dinghy back to the west pass but it was windy and rainy and we aborted the attempt to snorkel. We ran into Greg and Robin on Salty Dancer and invited them over for sundowners for that evening. In the afternoon, we tightened the hex bolts on the wind generator but didn’t fix the problem. I cracked the nose cone trying to put it back on. Fixing the crack with epoxy didn’t help so we were resigned to not using the wind generator until we could get new parts. That afternoon we took the dinghy to a different motu and explored. Then had a nice visit with Greg and Robin that evening.

By Thursday, the wind was out of the north in the mid-teens and the anchorage was uncomfortable. I started taking inventory of issues on the boat. With the wind generator out of commission, we had to run the motor each night to keep up with the refrigeration. Then the nozzle for the stern shower cracked. We tried to fix it without success so we started taking showers using a jug, which has worked pretty well. Then I noticed a slight drip out of the housing for the watermaker’s carbon filter, but I could not unscrew the housing, so the drip is just going to have to persist. I also noticed that the alternator belt started making a screeching sound. There was a lot of black just around the belt so we replaced it easily.

On Friday, we continued our repairs and tried cleaning the boat bottom, but the seas were just too rough to accomplish much and the day was otherwise uneventful.

With the wind and seas still rough, we took the dinghy on Saturday over to the east side of the middle pass and explored that motu, both on land and in the water. On the ocean side, the “land” was a large expanse of dead coral. On the lagoon side, we saw coconut palms and other vegetation. It was a bit of a challenge getting back to the boat in the dinghy as we fought standing waves across the pass. The unfavorable conditions kept us uncomfortably on the boat on Sunday. Finally on Monday the winds let up a bit. We pulled up anchor and headed down to the southeast corner of the atoll. The winds lightened up so much that we motored the whole way and ran the watermaker. We anchored before noon and floated our chain. We were the only boat there and enjoyed snorkeling near shore along a wall of vibrant coral.

It would have been nice to stay where we had successfully anchored, but we wanted to take advantage of a small weather window to go to a famous bird motu on the west side of the atoll. Other cruisers refer to it as the Number 7 anchorage because the reef looks like a 7 from the air. We got there and anchored in front of the motu and snorkeled from the boat to shore. We walked the perimeter of the motu to keep from disturbing the nesting birds. We saw lots of boobies nesting and some terns. We waded across a channel to another motu and met a Tuamotu Sandpiper that was quite friendly. It’s probably why its numbers are diminishing. I was sorry that we weren’t banned from those motus. The last thing those birds need is people hanging around. We snorkeled back to the boat and passed over a really rich coral habitat with lots of fish. Probably the first really good habitat we’d seen since arriving in Tahanea.

These and many of the photos here courtesy of Gabe Ares

That night was windy and choppy and not a good place to remain. So the next morning we pulled up anchor and returned to the southeast corner. When we arrived, there were several boats there and more showing up. It seemed to be a pack of family boats, headed by a large German catamaran called Moin. They shared all kinds of activities and even had their own dedicated radio channel. One night the kids all had a sleepover on the beach without the parents. They called it “Survivor Island.” We never found out how that went. The next night they had a bonfire on the beach and invited the non-kid boats. We went and enjoyed meeting several of their delegation.

While we were at the southeast anchorage, we walked around the motu in front of us. We got a bit lost in the bush and ended up circumnavigating the motu because we couldn’t find a way to cut through the jungle in the center. We also got the kayaks out and kayaked to the motu just to the east. On the way back we stopped by a boat that had just come in, Chip and Kristina on Second Set.

Exploring the motu in Tahanea

Back on the boat we discovered that one of the two feed pumps for the watermaker wasn’t working. Upon closer investigation, we discovered that it was leaking salt water into the bilge. We replaced it with the spare pump and it seems to have solved the problems with water in the bilge.

During this time, a big wave event was occurring in French Polynesia. The water was so high coming toward the atolls that huge waves were crashing on the reefs and several of the passes in the atolls were temporarily closed. The spray from the waves could be seen from miles away. Then, on Tuesday, May 2, we downloaded weather and saw that big winds might be coming from the southeast. It would mean that we might be confined to that anchorage for more than another week. Returning to our first anchorage wasn’t really an option because it would be uncomfortable. We really wanted to snorkel at least one of the passes, but it wouldn’t be feasible for the foreseeable future. Another option was to proceed to Fakarava. We had been without Internet for quite some time. If we were going to be pinned down by winds, at least we would have service in Fakarava.

We thought we might be able to snorkel one pass that day and then exit the pass in the evening and do an overnight sail to Fakarava. But when we got to the side of the atoll with the passes, it was clear that we weren’t going to be able to snorkel a pass. The winds were in the high teens, low twenties. We had to anchor somewhere so we could take the motor off the dinghy and secure it to the big boat. So, we anchored near the northwest pass long enough to do that. Then, instead of waiting for evening, we would exit the pass in the early afternoon and sail to the north Fakarava pass because we would get to the south pass too early. A very large National Geographic exploration ship went out of the pass at slack tide. We should have called them for a report but didn’t. Instead, we followed them out, about 45 minutes later, and had a very lively exit. We were motoring against large standing waves that were crashing over the top of us. The effects of the earlier wave event were still apparent. Once we got out, we had big seas for quite awhile as we headed toward Fakarava, and Gabe was out of seasickness meds.


We sailed with just the jib to the Fakarava north pass. The winds were inconsistent so sometimes we moved along quite well and other times we turned on the motor to help with speed and to charge the batteries that were being drained by the autopilot. We saw sunrise as we were approaching the north side of the atoll and entered the pass about 8:00 a.m., an hour and a half before slack. We were unsure if slack tide was going to come according to the tables anyway because of the unusual wave event. We had significant current against us and it felt like we were just sitting in the pass for an eternity as we made 1-2 knots progress into the atoll. Salty Dancer was just leaving the anchorage as we arrived so we said our goodbyes over the radio. We anchored in front of the town, Rotoava, spending the rest of the day on the Internet and recovering from the high waves during the sail. I ordered a lot of parts that my bother-in-law, Pat, can bring when he comes in June.

On Thursday, May 4, after a good night’s sleep (I stayed up all night on the passage), we got up early and put the dinghy in the water. We went to shore and disposed of our trash and our recycling. We talked to the guy at the fuel dock about hours and bought a couple of groceries. The supply boat had just come in but it didn’t bring any produce. We then headed over to Fakarava Yacht Services to drop off a butane tank for a refill, along with a couple of bags of laundry. Then we went to one more grocery store (for beer) and then headed over to the Havaiki Lodge for lunch – burgers. We then spent a windy afternoon on the boat.

Gabe enjoying coconut water before lunch at Havaiki Lodge

The next day we went to the pearl farm tour at the Havaiki Lodge, where Gabe bought an oyster with a pearl.

Lunch spot at the Havaiki Lodge
Dock at the Havaiki Lodge

Then we got 4 jerry cans filled with diesel and headed over to the Rotoava Grill for lunch. We met Kaitlin and Tommy from Southern Cross while at lunch. They are from Tennessee, which was fun for Gabe.

Looking out at the boats from our favorite lunch spot, the Rotoava Grill

On Saturday, May 6, we picked up our laundry and butane tank from Fakarava Yacht Services. We then went back to the boat, put the dinghy up, pulled up the anchor and headed halfway down the atoll to a deserted anchorage near a reef. We spent the night, snorkeled the next morning and then continued traveling to the south pass anchorage. We picked up an available mooring ball in the early afternoon and then snorkeled near the boat.

The south pass area of Fakarava is amazing. The water is crystal clear and there are large swaths of healthy coral on the lagoon side of the pass and in the pass. On Monday, we snorkeled on the lagoon side of the pass and then inside the pass itself before having lunch at the restaurant of a local dive hostel. In the afternoon, Gabe worked on cleaning Aldabra’s prop.

Crystal clear water at the south pass of Fakarava

In terms of issues, the Internet went down for a few days and we noticed that the fridge was having trouble getting cold. We transferred frozen food from the Engels to the freezer and put important cold food in the Engels.

On Tuesday, we snorkeled in the south pass in the morning and then headed over to the southeast Fakarava anchorage, Hirifa. We wanted to get there in anticipation of significant wind expected from the southeast. That night, as we sat on the boat, several giant manta rays would circle the boat upside down, then do a somersault. They stayed at the boat for a few hours while we watched.

Wednesday, May 10, started out calm. We took the dinghy over to say hello to Chip and Kristina on Second Set and then went ashore to explore. While we were ashore, a squall came up and we headed back to the boat. Over the course of the afternoon and night, the wind and rain kept building. At about 3:00 in the morning we both heard a big sound, as if the anchor had popped and hit coral. At first we just monitored the situation from the cockpit. The winds were between 40 and 60 knots and the lightning was exploding all around us. We noticed that we were near another boat and thought they had dragged their anchor. But in truth, we had dragged and we were dangerously close to them. We turned on the motor and used it to keep away from the other boat – Pura Vida. But every time we had a lull in the wind, Gabe would go up to the bow to first take the snubber off and then slowly pull up the chain. It took a while but he eventually got the anchor up. We then went outside of the anchorage and motored around in circles until dawn, about an hour and a half. Then we went back and re-anchored.

We had a quiet, uneventful Thursday. Then, on Friday morning, the wind shifted from southeast to northwest. Now we had waves building as we faced away from the shore. We didn’t realize that all the hobby horsing made the snubber come off the chain. As a result (because the windlass clutch had come loose), we had about 100-150 feet of chain pay out, and now we were too close to other boats once again. We didn’t know that the clutch was loose, all we knew was that the windlass wasn’t picking up the chain. So we were using a halyard and the snubber, alternately, to pull up the chain. Peter from Pura Vida came over to help. He drove the boat while I pulled up chain and Gabe was in the water directing us around coral hazards. We finally got enough chain up to stay in place. A short while later, Greg from Escape Velocity, who had watched us try to pull up the chain without the windlass, came over and asked if he could look at our windlass. He tightened the clutch and helped us replace the broken spring and everything worked! What a relief. My back was rather sore for a few days but I was so grateful that the windlass was operational.

On Sunday, we put the dinghy on the boat and headed back to Rotoava, motoring against medium winds all the way. Once we anchored, Chip and Kristina paid us a visit so we could compare notes on all that happened during the storm. (Lots of boats had issues that night and one went up on the reef.) Then, we made phone calls. It was Mother’s Day and my mother’s birthday.

The next day we put dock lines and fenders on the boat and headed over to the fuel dock to fill up with diesel and gasoline. Our anchor spot was taken while we were away so we picked up a mooring ball and then went to the Havaiki Lodge for lunch. We met Glenn and Oana from Cloudy Bay there and had a chat. When we returned, we got kicked off our mooring ball and then searched for a new place to anchor, which was becoming more difficult because the anchorage was filling up in anticipation of the supply boat’s arrival.

On Tuesday, Gabe and I rented bikes and rode to the north end of the atoll and then back south. We had lunch at the Havaiki Lodge again and saw Cloudy Bay along with another boat we had seen in Hirifa. We later met Katie and Bill on Flite Deck, a boat I had seen in San Diego.

Stopping during the bike ride, admiring all the pearl farm floats that decorate this small resort
Pause during bike ride

On Wednesday, we had lunch at the Rotoava Grill with Chip and Kristina and saw Katie and Bill there as well. Then on Thursday the supply boat came in. We thought we would go to the stores in the afternoon, after the shelves had been restocked. But we decided to go in early to see if they had any eggs, which are sourced locally. As soon as we got to one store, we learned that they were just about to bring out the produce. So we were there to start grabbing apples and oranges and potatoes. I left Gabe there and walked up to the store at the fuel station. There was a huge crowd of people waiting to get in, many who had been waiting at the door for three hours. I joined them and about an hour later the doors opened and there was a mad rush. Gabe was there by then as well and we managed to get some limes, onions, tomatoes, oranges and apples. We were not aggressive enough to get cucumbers. It was a crazy melee but we felt successful. We capped the morning off with another lunch at the Rotoava Grill.


On Friday, May 19, we pulled up anchor and exited the Fakarava north pass around 9:00 a.m. without incident. Outside the pass, we put up the main and the jib and made our way on a reach in rather light air. We arrived at the Otugi pass on Toau in the mid-afternoon. We turned left and followed Moin to the southeast anchorage, picking up one of five mooring balls. Second Set was there anchored. And Moin anchored over near Auryn, a friend of theirs.

It was a very quiet night except for the happy voices of children playing on shore. Toau is an inhabited island but with very few families living there. The next day, Gabe and I took the dinghy over to a nearby motu. We snorkeled and walked around the motu and met the family on Auryn.

We would have liked to stay longer at this anchorage. But in looking at the weather, we had only a brief window to go up to the north anchorage, referred to as the false pass. We had read that it had great snorkeling and a very nice family to visit. So on Sunday, we got up early and motored to the Otugi pass. It was a tiny bit challenging getting out, but we exited and motored up and around to the top of the atoll. The entrance was easy and we picked up a mooring ball. Moin was there and hailed us on the radio. We put the dinghy in the water and went ashore to meet a couple who owned the motu, Valentine and Gaston. It was Sunday, so their day of rest, but we arranged for Aldabra and Moin to have lunch there the next day. Then Gabe bought a couple of pearls from Valentine and we went back to the boat to go snorkeling.

Before lunch on Monday, Gabe and I took the dinghy deeper inside the little bay and snorkeled. Then we headed to shore. Valentine and Gaston are very nice people and we enjoyed getting to know them, along with the family from Moin. They had a very engaging cat that several of us played with. And perhaps there are fleas because of the pets. I came away with dozens of bites, from head to toe.

Mindful of weather, Gabe and I got up early on Tuesday morning and left the anchorage at 5:30 a.m.  We motored clockwise around the atoll. Once we cleared Toau and were between Toau and Fakarava, we got enough wind to sail for a couple of hours. We were early to enter the Fakarava north pass so we just sailed slowly, until the waves were too much for the light wind. At that point we started motoring again, arriving early at the pass with no ill effects. We went back to the Rotoava anchorage and anchored, but weren’t happy with our position relative to coral heads.

The supply boat was in on Wednesday so we went into town for groceries, without the mad rush of the week before. On the way back, we stopped and met Don and Gloria from Windswept, a Monterey boat that I have been in email contact with for the last couple of years. Then we went back to the boat and re-anchored, taking a lot of care to get it right because it will be in the same spot for more than a week, as Gabe prepares to fly out and I wait for Pat and Bill to arrive.

Early on Thursday morning, both our refrigerator and freezer went off at the same time. Not wanting food to spoil, Gabe and I got to troubleshooting with a sense of urgency. We called my friend Chris in Santa Cruz for advice and spoke to him multiple times as we investigated the failure. Eventually we found a blown 15 amp fuse and when we replaced it, both units started up. But the fuse holder was hot and charred, so we thought we should replace it. In doing so, I messed up the new fuse holder and we didn’t have another spare. So we tried to splice in a different kind of fuse holder. Unfortunately, nothing we did after that produced a positive result. Thinking it might be the splice, we redid it twice. Finally, Bill from Flite Deck came over and determined that the issue was with the wire that connected the fuse holder we were trying to use. Because that couldn’t be used, he took the fuse holder that I messed up and rehabilitated it well enough that it could be used temporarily. He then reconnected all the wires we had removed in our troubleshooting. By now it was early evening but we ended the day with cocktails and dinner on Bill and Katie’s boat.

On Friday morning, we went to shore to see if any of the stores had fuse holders. They didn’t, so I ordered some from West Marine that Pat can bring with him. Then we had lunch at the Rotoava Grill with Bill and Katie before starting to put the boat back together. (For any project, like one that takes place in the battery compartment, I have to take several bins out of their normal storage locations and put them in the cockpit or somewhere in the salon. I then have to take out various bags of tools. When a project is underway, you can’t walk anywhere on the boat.)

We finished putting bins back in place on Saturday morning and said goodbye to Flite Deck as they headed to Toau. The rest of Saturday was spent reading on the boat. The expected wind had come up and the anchorage was rolly and uncomfortable. Plus, we seemed to have run out of Internet data. Saturday night was quite windy although it was dropping off by Sunday morning.

On Sunday morning, we went to church and the singing was lovely. Then we came back to the boat for a lazy day of reading and writing, after replacing one of the head pumps, which was leaking, perhaps with a crack.

Monday was a holiday, but we did go to the Havaiki Lodge to inquire about a boat tour to the other side of the lagoon. We also met Scott and Tammy on Animal Cracker and Chris on Lightspeed. He is from Santa Cruz. Tuesday, yesterday, is when the wind and rain started, so we have been confined to the boat except for lunches on shore. The only thing I accomplished was to fix the dinghy pump, which we use daily. One of the air chambers on the dinghy has a hole in it. I need to work on that when we can be without the dinghy for a couple of days.

Post script. Gabe and I had been trying to go on a tour of the “Green Lagoon” on Fakarava but they weren’t running them because of weather. Finally, on the morning Gabe was leaving, we got to go on the tour. The first stop was the Green Lagoon, which was on the northwest side of the atoll between the out reef and the main lagoon.

Looking from the motu at the Green Lagoon to the main lagoon on Fakarava
Standing on the motu next to the Green Lagoon

It is so nice to meet local people and to meet the other cruisers. I have mentioned some of those we’ve met, but not all. And there are so many more in each anchorage that we see and don’t meet. But even with the folks that we do become acquainted with, we spend very little time getting to know each other before we go our separate ways. I hope to see some people somewhere down the line, but we’re all on our individual journeys with varying timelines, so many of the acquaintances will be sadly fleeting.

One boat that we met last year in Fatu Hiva showed up quite surprisingly in Fakarava. We have a special place in our hearts for Alex and Yvette on Blue Beryl. Alex and his dad are on their way from Hiva Oa to Tahiti to install a new mast and rigging, and it was great to spend a bit of time with them, especially on Alex’s birthday. This should be the last time we see Blue Beryl with this modified mast and rig, which has been just enough to get them from the Marquesas to Tahiti. We look forward to seeing them back in the Tuamotus soon!

Gear and Preparation, Passages, Places, People, Places

French Polynesia 2023 Begins

After nice visits with family and friends from November through January, I returned to Tahiti with brother-in-law Pat on February 1 to get Aldabra ready for another sailing season. We stayed in a house on the Port Phaeton lagoon and kayaked to the boat each day to work. We started work very early in the morning and were usually done before noon, in time to shower before hanging out on the deck with small projects or reading. During Pat’s two-week stay, this is what got done:

  • Lots of laundry
  • Interior and exterior boat cleaning
  • Rebuild of 3 head pumps
  • Removal of tricolor light from the top of the mast
  • Shorten boom topping lift at a chafe point
  • Rewire a solar panel connector
  • Patch bottom of dinghy
  • Install new hatch above salon
  • Patch crack on cockpit table
  • Repair of two jibs by local sailmaker
  • Replacement of spring in windlass
  • Disassembly of windlass, inspection and re-greasing
  • Servicing of five winches
  • Remove and dry out the items stored in the most forward compartment
  • Replace foam in a few of the cockpit cushions
  • Turn seacocks
  • Install new light for compass
  • Install new braided ground strap for SSB radio
  • Remove, clean and replace bolts for the rudder
  • Remove filter housing for watermaker, replace with new filter
  • Unstick a variety of zippers
View from the Port Phaeton house to the lagoon

After Pat left, I completed a bunch of sewing projects. I made new straps for the cockpit cushions and fixed mosquito netting screens. I also cleaned and sorted. A week later, my mom and my sister arrived. They hauled me up the mast so I could install the new tricolor they brought. I also replaced a seal on one of the hatches. And we picked up the two repaired jibs and brought them out to the boat in the kayak. After a few days, we closed up the boat in preparation for leaving it for a few more weeks. We then moved houses and spent the rest of our stay touring around Tahiti. We flew back to California on March 8th.

Looking out at Moorea from our second house in Tahiti
My mom and Wendy as we toured around Tahiti
Went to Moorea for the day, this is looking out at the Cook’s Bay Anchorage

After spending three weeks acquiring more boat parts and visiting with my family, I got on another flight. This one was bound for San Francisco, where I met up with my new crew, Gabe Ares, before heading back to Tahiti.

Upon arrival in Tahiti, we picked up a rental car and an Internet box and headed to Port Phaeton. Marc, our boat caretaker gave us a ride to Aldabra. We then put the dinghy in the water, put the motor on the dinghy and ferried our luggage from the car to the boat.

That began the long, hot, process of putting the boat back in sailing condition. We accomplished a little bit each day:

  • Prepared the cabins for sleeping by removing all the gear that belongs above deck – jerry cans, cockpit cushions, blocks and lines, sails, etc.
  • Turned the galley from a workshop into a food-prep area and restarted refrigeration
  • Unpickled the watermaker and filled the water tank
  • Got the boat bottom cleaned by a local man, Tanui
  • Installed the lines and blocks for the davits
  • Provisioned and stowed all the provisions
  • Organized
  • Tested systems
  • Refueled
  • Did final laundry

In the middle of all these chores, we took the boat from Port Phaeton to the anchorage near Marina Taina. We did two runs to the grocery store. For one run we each pushed a cart from the store to the marina dock. The anchoring situation there was dicey, so as soon as we could, we took the boat over to Moorea, which is where we are now. We’re waiting for a weather window to head to Tahanea in the Tuamotus, which may begin on Wednesday, April 12. Once we leave here, we will be out of cell-phone and Internet range for a number of weeks because the islands we are targeting are mostly uninhabited.

Gabe enjoying the waterfalls in Tahiti
Loaded up with bananas and ready to leave
Gear and Preparation, Places

Wrapping Up the Season

Cyclone season in the South Pacific is from November to April. So my plan for this first season was to keep the boat in Tahiti. I had originally planned to keep the boat in Marina Papeete but the opportunity in Port Phaeton seemed worth trying. My sister Wendy and my brother-in-law Pat agreed to come back to Tahiti to help me with the decommissioning.

Wendy and Pat arrived in the early morning on Sunday, October 23. They took a taxi to Marina Taina and I picked them up at the dock. After they got settled on the boat, we returned to the marina for lunch (poisson cru) at La Casa Bianca. Later that evening we had sundowners on Rhapsody.

The next day was quite windy. We took the dinghy to the marina dock and walked to the Carrefour to buy a few provisions. Then we went back to the boat, pulled up anchor, and went to the nearby airport anchorage. The purpose of the move was to get a little closer to the Papeete pass to cut time off the trip to the boatyard, where we were to haul out for a couple of days. The anchorage was crowded and the conditions were rowdy, but we found a spot to fit in for one night. That night the wind howled. I didn’t turn on the instruments to measure the speed, but the wind generator was screaming so I knew it was probably well above 30 knots.

The next morning at the break of day it was still blowing over 20 knots but we picked up the anchor and started heading out of the Papeete pass and north toward the next pass. We were motoring against the wind but making decent headway. We went into the pass, turned right and started heading toward the Technimarine boatyard. They saw us as we arrived a half hour early and flagged us over to enter their slip in preparation for haulout.

The haulout and move into the yard went very well. The guys noticed spots under the keel and rudder that needed touchup. (We had touched bottom on the last trip to Moorea.) So while they focused on that, Pat and I worked on our initial purpose for the haulout, which was a broken thru-hull valve. We determined that the thru-hull itself did not need replacement so Pat removed the valve and replaced it with a new one. I went around to all the other valves and tested them, lubing the ones that needed it. I also cleaned the barnacles off the boat bottom, shaft and prop, greased the prop and put new zincs on the shaft and strut. Pat removed the speed/depth transducer, cleaned it up and replaced it. We removed the forward-scanning transducer, cleaned it up and left the blank in because we won’t need it until after cyclone season. We also took the windlass apart to inspect it, determinging that it has a broken spring that needs to be replaced. In the evenings we walked closer to downtown Papeete for restaurant meals before settling in for our boatyard slumber.

Wendy in the boatyard
Aldabra in the boatyard
Nancy in the boatyard
Enjoying a restaurant meal

On Thursday, we splashed back into the water at 8:00 a.m. and headed out of the pass and over to Moorea, arriving in Cooks Bay before noon. The idea was to give Pat and Wendy a chance to explore Moorea before heading back over to Port Phaeton to decommission. But the weather didn’t invite a return crossing as soon as I had planned, so we tried to get work done while at anchor in Moorea. We did a nice hike in the rain at the park where the Belvedere lookout is, and we toured the island for a day in a rental car. We also walked around the east side of the bay a few times, stopping for lunch.

Anchored in Cooks Bay
At the Belvedere Lookout
Rainy Hike
Looking at Cooks Bay Through the Rain
Driving on the east side of Moorea with a view of Tahiti
Lunch during our driving tour of Moorea, Poisson Cru

Otherwise, we did boat projects. We inspected the two jibs and put tape on the sacrificial cloth that covers the primary jib. (Both need to go in for repairs when I return.) Pat repaired a seam on the bottom of one of the kayaks. We removed everything from the most forward compartment in the bow, where some water had entered. We dried out the compartment and the gear before restowing it. We dried out the spinnaker, which had been stored on deck, and put it down below. Wendy polished all of the stainless steel railing. Pat worked on unclogging the aft shower sump, which had been draining too slowly. We hoisted the dinghy up on deck and cleaned the bottom. I mended the dinghy chaps.

After eight days in Moorea, we pulled up anchor on Friday morning, November 4. It wasn’t a good day to leave but I couldn’t see a better day in the forecast. The bay was calm, but once outside, we had 20+ knots of wind on the nose. We motored into the wind and seas, making less than 2 knots of headway. The first two or three hours were a slog but conditions did improve and we started to go a bit faster. We went into Papeete pass and then made our way down to the Taina anchorage, anchoring about 4:30 p.m.

The next morning, we left the anchorage at 6:00 a.m. and motored around the island to Port Phaeton. There was no wind and the seas were glassy until the last five miles. Then we got 20+ knots of wind on the nose and white-out rain as we made our way toward the pass and into the lagoon, picking up the mooring ball before noon.

Port Phaeton

The next day, Sunday, the real work began. Between rain squalls, we dried out the main and refolded it and dried out the jib, took it down, folded it and put it inside the boat. We took a lot of the hardware off the boat and covered anything we couldn’t remove. We washed the cockpit cushions, dried them out and put them down below, along with all the empty fuel jugs. Pat fixed a couple of hatch leaks.

On Monday, we took the bus on a two-hour trip to the airport and picked up a rental car. We then drove into the marine/industrial area to a marine store before heading back to Port Phaeton. Once there, we loaded up the car and headed a short distance away to do laundry. On Tuesday, I met with Marc Bordas who will be taking care of the boat during the next few months. Pat replaced the breaker for the bilge pump and then replaced the bilge pump itself. The next day, Wendy wiped down the interior walls with vinegar and I cleaned out the freezer/refrigerator boxes and threw out food. We cleaned the heads. We pickled the watermaker. We collapsed the bimini and zipped it into its cover. We tied a line around the main to keep it from catching air during high winds. In the past I’ve removed the dodger windows during hurricane season. This time, I left them intact, so we shall see what happens.

Finally on Thursday, we completed our packing, closed almost all the thru-hulls and put a variety of desiccants throughout the interior of the boat. They won’t keep moisture out of the boat but perhaps they’ll help prevent some of the mildew that will develop. I then discovered that the stern compartment with all the fishing gear was flooded, so we took all that gear out and tried to dry it and clean it up before putting it inside the boat. After shuttling Wendy and all our bags to shore to load the rental car, Pat and I returned to the boat, hoisted the dinghy motor onto the boat and then hoisted the dinghy onto the foredeck. We put its cover on and tied it down. With the boat completely closed up, we waited in the rain for Marc to pick us up in his dinghy. He shuttled us to shore and we left the boat in his care. He’ll open it up once a week when it’s not raining. And he’ll check the battery voltage and the bilge as well as the mooring lines.

Port Phaeton

After leaving the boat, Pat, Wendy and I drove to the Hilton Hotel near the airport and checked in with all the gear I was taking back with me. (I hate to leave my computers and electronics on the boat, so it all had to go to California.) We had a nice dinner and got to sleep in real beds. It was my first time sleeping off the boat in seven months. The next day we walked into town and back before taking some pool time.

Arriving at the hotel
Wendy and Pat in vacation mode

After another nice dinner and good sleep, we headed off in the early morning for the airport, turned in the rental car and boarded a plane. The plane made it part way to California before turning back for a medical emergency. We set off again five hours after our first departure, this time making it all the way to Los Angeles. I’ve never been through Immigration and Customs so fast in L.A. before, but it was a breeze. We then quickly got into a rental car and I slept all the way to Pat and Wendy’s house in Escondido.

So begins cyclone season. Monitoring the weather in Tahiti. Ordering boat parts. Visiting with family and friends. Squeezing in annual medical appointments. And planning the next season in French Polynesia.

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.

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.

Gear and Preparation, Passages, People, Places

Year Two Has Begun

Flying the new spinnaker

Transiting back and forth between California and La Paz from late August to early November, I prepared for another year of cruising. The professionals in La Paz, Sergio, Will, Hector, Luis, Fabian and Arturo finished up their boat projects, and friends Chris and John came down from California to help. I now have more solar power, wind generation, WiFi in port and satellite Internet for weather offshore. In California I picked up needed parts and had dental work done. I also got a little bit of time to visit with friends and family, although it would have been nice to have more time.

I returned to La Paz on November 2 to make final preparations for the season. After each work day it was nice to hang out with Bobbi and Stephen from Sam Bassett or visit with old friends such as Bret and Marne on Liahona and Steve and Sherri on Pablo. Jane and Jerry McNaboe (from Aeolian) joined me on November 15 and we left La Paz two days later. After stopping at Costa Baja for fuel, we motor sailed straight to Isla Isabel. Winds were light so the two-day trip had only about four hours of sailing without the motor. But those four hours were a nice spinnaker run. We learned a lot of lessons about how to deploy the new asymmetrical spinnaker.

Aldabra at Isla Isabel

Isabel was calm and uncrowded. We hiked on the island through a forest of nesting frigates, over to the other side where the blue-footed boobies hang out. Afterward, we snorkeled near our boat on the east side of the island, where I got stung by something with long tentacles. It was painful at first but then was fine, except it looked like I had a tattoo.

Blue-footed boobies

Blue-footed boobie

More blue-footed boobies

We left very early on the morning of November 20 and arrived before dark at Punta de Mita, the northern point at the opening of Banderas Bay. We stayed the night there and then headed the two or so hours into the marina at Paradise Village. Although there had been very little wind and a lot of motoring, it had been a nice passage with warm winds, calm seas, stars and dolphins. And Jerry and Jane made it very easy and relaxed.

The next day was Thanksgiving, so we joined Jeff and Jules from El Gato and Dennis and Jerri from Ultegra at Arroyos Verdes, just above Bucerias. It was a nice dinner and a nice evening. Before Jane and Jerry moved off the boat on Sunday, to join their family at a nearby resort, they helped me with a lot of chores, although we did get a little bit of beach time. While they vacationed with their family, we did get a chance to take the whole group out for a very nice day sail, and I later joined them at their resort for a day of relaxation.

The docks in Paradise Village are filled with old friends as well as new arrivals, so it has been fun to catch up with everyone. I even ventured over to the Sunday market in La Cruz and got to see other old friends.

Today is Monday, December 4, and I have two new crew arriving. We plan to head out of Banderas Bay this afternoon and round Cabo Corrientes late tonight. The wish is for wind and minimal swell, although the forecast doesn’t include much wind. The goal is to get to Chamela tomorrow morning.

In closing this first blog post of the season, let me just say that I think about what’s going on in my home country every day. I’m grateful to my news sources when I have access to the Internet. With each new bit of news I feel sicker. It’s hard to reconcile this life of permanent vacation with the travesty that goes on every day.



Gear and Preparation, Nice to Haves, Places

Back in La Paz After Language School in Taxco

I got back to La Paz on August 17 after a little road trip followed by six weeks of language school in lovely Taxco, which I’ll tell you about shortly. But first, an update on Aldabra. While I was away, Sergio Galindo and his team were working on two important modifications to the boat. One is an arch on the stern, which holds additional solar panels, a mast for a wind generator and davits for the dinghy. They also repositioned where the outboard motor mounts when it’s not on the dinghy, created new mounts for antennas and made a new space for the BBQ so it doesn’t set the canvas on fire when in use. In addition, they built a new setup on the bow for my anchor and for the tack of my new asymmetrical spinnaker, which I will pick up in Santa Cruz in the next couple of weeks.

The dinghy davits will enable me to raise and lower the dinghy by myself when necessary. The additional solar panels and wind generator should allow me to charge the batteries while at anchor for long periods of time without running the motor. The bow setup will make it easier to raise and lower the anchor. And the asymmetrical spinnaker can be used without putting up the spinnaker pole. So all of these improvements will make life aboard much easier.

I arrived back in La Paz as the workers were installing the new arch

Looking aft toward the new arch

Since I got back to La Paz, I’ve also done a bit of work myself, even in this extreme heat. I installed an accumulator tank for my fresh water system to take some cycle time off the water pump. I was hoping it might solve a problem I have with a small amount of fresh water leakage, but I’m afraid that’s not the case. I still need to solve that mystery. I replaced the joker valve on one of the heads, which was really a good idea. I should have done it a long time ago. I cleaned part of the exterior of the boat in the aftermath of the arch construction. I serviced 3 of the 5 winches. And I pulled some antenna wire halfway through the boat (extracting it from bundles of wire) so I can rerun it from the arch. All of these were hot, sweaty jobs that took longer than one would imagine they should. In the middle of these jobs I would walk or take taxis to search for parts.

Chava, of La Paz Yacht Service just finished revarnishing my saloon table and my companionway steps. He’s going to do a bit of fiberglass repair for me once the wiring for the new solar panels is finished. Hector is about to get started on dinghy chaps for me. And Luis Cosio and his team will continue to look after the boat.

With all this work under control, I’m renting a car in a few days to drive up to California. I’ll take some things that I don’t want on the boat anymore. And in California, I’ll pick up several items that I can’t get in La Paz. Once I return in about a month, the wiring for the solar and wind generation can be installed. I’m looking forward to the three-day drive to the border (maybe that’s crazy) and to seeing friends and family in San Diego, LA and Santa Cruz.

So now I’ll backtrack a bit. After leaving La Paz at the end of June, I flew to Puerto Vallarta. I stayed in an air-conditioned room in Paradise Village for two nights. It felt like a bit of luxury after working so hard to get the boat secure for hurricane season. With zero responsibilities (temporarily), I joined Jeff and Jules from El Gato (and their dogs Chance and Roxie) for a little road trip. We drove to Guadalajara the first day and spent the night in an nice inn. There was a festival going on that night near the church, so we wandered through after dinner. The next day we drove to Cuernavaca by way of Mexico City. It was somewhat eventful in that we couldn’t get through Mexico City in the rental car because we didn’t have the necessary electronic pass to get us on the road south. After multiple attempts, all ending up in the wrong place, we backtracked and ended up on a scary mountain road at night, arriving rather late to our very nice little inn, as the only guests. The next day Jules and I walked twelve miles through town, not always in the best neighborhoods. And on our second night, the three of us took advantage of the hotel’s game room, with lots of three-way competitions playing things I’ve never played before, such as air hockey and roller ball.

From there it was a fast trip to Taxco, a must-visit colonial city. I think we were all charmed. Taxco is a densely populated hill town surrounded by forest. The cobblestone streets are steep, narrow and windy. It’s mostly known for silver mining and later the design and production of silver jewelry. You may have read about William Spratling from the U.S. who started the silver jewelry industry there in the 1930s. It took on a life of its own after that and enjoyed quite a run, although the silver business is a bit in decline now. There are a zillion vendors of silver jewelry now but some of it is unoriginal and much of it is cheap. It hasn’t helped that Taxco is in the state of Guerrero, which receives a lot of attention for drug violence. You hardly see any gringo visitors on the streets. Most of the tourists are from Mexico. (We never felt a threat to our safety.)

Five of us (two couples from two different cruising boats and me) rented a house in Taxco. The owner (Don Andres) is part of the silver trade. He had a history with Spratling and his shop represents some good designers. But his business isn’t what it once was. In any event, we enjoyed living in his house and were well looked after by a couple (Jaime and Carmen) who lived on the premises. (Toward the end of our stay, we met the daughter of a friend of Spratling. Her father had purchased Spratling’s house in Taxco and his ranch outside of Taxco. The purchase included many of the Spratling jewelry designs so she has kept up the tradition of producing many of his designs and maintaining his legacy. We went with Violente Ulrich to the ranch and enjoyed a tour and many interesting stories about those days gone by.)

Wandering through the grounds of the Spratling rancho outside of Taxco

Silver worker at the Spratling rancho, finishing up a Spratling-designed piece

The house we rented was in a typical residential barrio, about a 15 minute walk from school. We got acquainted with the various people in the barrio and felt quite at home.

The house we stayed in in Taxco

View from the back of the house

Looking up from the house toward the Christo statue

Here’s the Christo statue from up top

School was at the local branch of UNAM (CEPE), Mexico’s national university. The administration, the faculty and the staff were so welcoming and helpful. To give you an idea, when one of our group got sick enough to require hospital care, the faculty members considered it a given that they would reorganize teaching assignments for the morning so that the head of the Spanish program could accompany our sick comrade to the hospital. It didn’t actually come to that, but that is how kind and attentive the faculty is.

Two teachers and two students at our cooking event

Spanish teacher Lydia and dance teacher Olviedo Layo

Our group of 5 students

The school is in an historic complex that once was a monastery. The buildings are beautiful and the grounds include a garden of cactus and herbs use for healing and cooking. Summer is a quiet time, especially because drug violence has scared many North Americans away. So we had very small classes. One of our group, Jeff,  had six weeks of private beginning Spanish lessons with a wonderful instructor, Alecia. Two others, Jules and Rick were the only two students in Itzel’s basic Spanish class. And Cindy and I were joined by two young Canadian students (Dea and Myles) in our intermediate class, instructed by Jorge, the lead of the Spanish program. The four of us also had a literature class instructed by Iztel. The only other student, Renee from Canada, was in an advanced class. Other courses took place while we were there. A family from Washington state had their own private classes. And a group from Cal State Long Beach had some courses as a group. (And a summer camp of young children brightened up the campus for a few weeks.) But our instruction was very targeted and intense. The instructors laughed because they hadn’t before met 5 students of our age (between 50 an 65) who acted like their performance would determine the rest of their lives. Unlike the young Canadian students, we weren’t taking these classes for college credit. But we were all driven and obsessed and the teachers appreciated it. Jorge liked that he could bring up all kinds of topics in conversation (historical, cultural, artistic, political) and Cindy and I could engage with him. We took latin dance classes with Olviedo Layo, who is also the theater director. While we were there he directed a play written by Juan Ruiz de Alarcón, who was born in Taxco in the 16th century.

Other cultural events occurred while we were in Taxco, including international film and guitar festivals. At the school we also participated in a cross-cultural event with young English students from Mexico as well as a cooking event. (We made apple pie.) We were so lucky to have this summer opportunity. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in language or culture.

Looking down on Taxco from the top of a hill

Another view of Taxco

Another view of Taxco

And another

And another

Looking down at the church in the zocalo

On any given evening you might see a celebration in the streets

Marching celebration

When we first stared our 6-week program, Jeff and Jules and I would take weekends for urban hikes around the city, and we covered a lot of ground. But a couple of things happened to curb our wanderings. First, our coursework was really intense, and each of us had enough studying to keep occupied all weekend. Second, our group members started to get sick. I had a couple of weeks of gastro discomfort. Jules got Zika, which made her a quite weak for more than a week. And Rick and Cindy got really sick with bacterial infections that send them to the hospital. Luckily, you can get great medical care in Taxco.

In closing, I have to mention the Volkswagen bugs, as we call them in the U.S.  In Taxco, they are called vochos. I wrote a little blog post about them in Spanish for the UNAM CEPE website. I have very fond childhood memories of Volkswagens: Bugs, buses, squarebacks, rabbits, etc. So I couldn’t believe when I got to Taxco that 90 percent of the cars there are vochos, Volkswagen bugs. I thought maybe all the bugs that had disappeared from U.S. streets had found a home in Taxco. But no, these bugs are originally from Taxco. There is a Volkswagen factory not too far away. Most of the taxis in Taxco are white VWs. And there are many private bugs of various colors, along with a few buses and other models. The vochos have so much gumption up the steep hills and so much personality. You can’t help but be charmed by them. Especially if you remember the first bug your father brought home for a family of 6 in 1966. Yes, we all fit in that little car.

One of many Taxco taxis on a typical street near the center of town

Another white vocho taxi coming up the hill toward the zocalo

The narrow streets require a lot of negotiation between vochos

No problem getting around tight corners with a bit of finesse. The take the front passenger seat out of the taxi for easy entry and exit. An typical ride in town is 25 pesos.

Gear and Preparation, Places

Getting Ready to Leave Banderas Bay

When my family came to visit in Banderas Bay, they brought some gear that I needed. So I’ve been able to replace a broken feedpump for my watermaker. With the help of my brother-in-law Brian, I was able to replace the faucet for the galley sink that had quit on me. And I’m almost ready to install new wheels for my new dinghy. We were about to install them before discovering that I need some metal pieces fabricated so that the wheels will fit on the dinghy. So those parts will be ready in two days, and then we’ll head south from Banderas Bay toward Zihuatanejo.

We plan to stop in Chamela, even though my good friends, Todd and Laura Russi, who have a home there won’t be there. (They were able to stop by the boat for the night on their way back to California and I’m hoping to see them in Chamela in March.) We also plan to stop in Tenacatita and Barra de Navidad before arriving in Zihuatanejo in early February.

After a few weeks in Zihuatanejo, I’ll start heading back north, aiming to get to the Sea of Cortez to spend the months of April, May and June there.

Gear and Preparation

Aldabra’s Spa Week

Aldabra on the hard in Shelter Island Boatyard

Aldabra on the hard in Shelter Island Boatyard

Aldabra was hauled out on Monday, September 12 for an inspection of thru hulls, cutlass bearing and rudder bearings. Also on the list were repacking the stuffing box, tuning the rigging, installing mast steps, servicing the engine and cleaning and waxing the hull. The rudder bearings and the cutlass bearing were deemed solid, but they’re replacing the cutlass bearing anyway, just because it may be 20 years old. And the thru hull valves were all lubricated.

The yard did a full inspection and we agreed that the shaft needed to be removed and sent to the machine shop for either repair or replacement. I’m waiting to hear which it will be. The rigger also did an inspection and will be making some adjustments to the boom, spinnaker pole and mast, along with the tuning and mast-step installation. Because of the delay caused by the shaft, I decided to have them paint the bottom and remove and replace the stripe and name on the hull. The bottom painting wasn’t due for another year, but this way I can forget about it for 3 years. After all the work is done, a marine surveyor will do a survey report, which is helpful for insurance and any marinas I visit.

While Aldabra is out of the water, my niece Emily and I have been installing netting inside the boat and buzzing around Shelter Island to break in the dinghy motor.