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Inland Travel, Places

Port Phaeton

On Tuesday, September 20, we contacted Marc Bordas, who watches boats in Port Phaeton. He showed us where our mooring ball was and we moved onto it that morning, after the owners departed for Papeete for some repairs. We also visited with Sarah and Bob on Rhapsody who were occupying the mooring ball that the owners would return to. Sarah and Bob helped us understand the general area. Later we had sundowners on their boat as they prepared to leave the next morning for Papeete. Sarah and Bob had left their boat in Port Phaeton under Marc’s care for several weeks while they went to Oregon to meet their new grandson.

Port Phaeton is very remote and quiet, away from the zillions of boats anchored on the west side of Tahiti. It is to be Aldabra’s home during the upcoming cyclone season, on a mooring ball under the watchful eye of Marc Bordas. I only wish I could find a 12-volt dehumidifier because it will be rainy here. But they seem to be out of stock.

During that first afternoon, Linda and I tied the dinghy up to a tree and walked up a dirt road to the main road, coming face to face with a large Carrefour super market. We were overwhelmed with the selection of good food after being in the Tuamotus and Moorea. It is all very expensive, but I’ve become used to that.

On Wednesday, September 21, we walked about a half mile to pick up a rental car from an auto repair shop. We toured around Tahiti Iti, visiting the famous Teahupoo surf break and driving up to the top of the Belvedere hill for an amazing view of both sides of the island. We continued around Tahiti on the east side and ended up at Point Venus for a fun lunch. Our circumnavigation continued as we drove along the west side of Tahiti back to Port Phaeton. A long day but fun to survey both islands.

Looking from Belvedere toward the reef we went through to get to Port Phaeton on the right
Looking down at where Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Iti meet

The next day, we drove back back to Marina Taina to visit Tahitit Crew. We needed a better Internet box and they had one being turned in later that morning. So we headed to the port area where many of the boating stores are. We were looking for a fitting to transfer butane cooking gas from the bottles sold in French Polynesia to the bottles on the boat. But no one had the fitting.

When we returned to to Tahiti Crew, they directed us to Michel, who runs the chandlery at the marina. He told us how to make the fitting and hose and said he would help if we got the parts. Meanwhile, we picked up the Internet box, had lunch at La Casa Bianca and then headed into downtown Papeete.

We shopped at the big market so Linda could buy gifts. And we shopped at the great fabric store next to the market. As we walked along the waterfront next to Marina Papeete, I saw a few boats I know but couldn’t get in to say hello.

On Linda’s final day, we visited the botanical garden, which is quite near Port Phaeton but in rather sad shape. It is just barely being cared for. We also ended up at La Casa Bianca for one last lunch since we were looking for a museum near there that is unfortunately closed for renovation.

The next morning, on Saturday, we got up at 3:00 a.m., took the dinghy to shore, and drove to the airport to get Linda there in time for her flight. I was back at the boat by 6:00 a.m. and gathered up laundry to take to the laundry mat. One load costs between $10 and $14 dollars, which is cheaper than in the Tuamotus where one load is $30. I didn’t have enough coins to fully dry all the laundry so I took it back to the boat to dry. That day was a laundry management day.

I stayed put on the boat on Sunday. I used the time to re-mark the anchor chain so I know how much I have let out. I defrosted the freezer. And I filled the diesel tank with fuel from the remaining jerry jugs that were still full.

On Monday morning I headed back toward Papeete. I started with Michel at Marina Taina, who helped me with my butane hose fitting and sent me to the Cope plumbing store to get the right barb. Then I went to Technimarine in the main port to see about hauling the boat out for a day in October. I have a thru-hull valve that needs to be replaced and I’d rather do it when the boat is hauled out. If I do it in the water, and something goes wrong, the boat could sink. I ran into Andrew and Liane of Waveriders at Technimarine. They are having trouble with some leaking thru-hulls and need to haul out as soon as they can. My final stop was at Nautisport to see if they can fix my BC for diving. They will call when it is ready.

And then it was back to Port Phaeton with a little stop at Carrefour.

Today, Tuesday, I’ve stayed on the boat to defrost the refrigerator and run the watermaker. Tomorrow I will return the rental car and remain somewhat captive on the boat to clean and tidy up. Mundane, I know, but that is part of cruising life, especially when you are just about the only occupied boat in the anchorage. This is a place where people leave their boats for periods of time. So I am surrounded by many empty boats, except when the sailing school is in session.

Sailing school in Port Phaeton

When my next guests arrive in about a week, I hope we’ll take the boat back to the west side of Tahiti and over to Moorea, returning to Port Phaeton in November to close her up for the cyclone seaon.

Inland Travel, Places

Moorea

On Thursday, September 15, Linda and I put the dinghy back on the davits, and pulled up the anchor, rather early in the morning. We headed out of the pass near Marina Taina and motored over to Moorea.

Heading to Moorea

The wind was next to nothing but the seas were nice and big.

Approaching the pass at Cook’s Bay

We entered the pass at Cook’s Bay and had the anchor down by noon. After a nice lunch, we hung out on the boat and enjoyed the view and the peace. In contrast to the density of boats in Papeete, the Cook’s Bay anchorage had nine boats, all spaced reasonably apart. The wind was gusting down from the hills but the water was flat except when tourist and dive boats returned with their clients and left nice big wakes.

The anchorage in Cook’s Bay. That’s Pasito, last seen in Rangiroa

The next morning we put the dinghy in the water and cruised around the bay to explore.

Touring around Cook’s Bay
The clear shallow water inside the reef looking into the bay

We stopped at a dock at the end of the bay, bought some groceries and had lunch at the snack before going back to lounge on the boat. After a very windy night, we got up early to get to shore in time to join a “nature” tour of the island with a guide Etienne and two very nice couples from the U.K. We saw vanilla and pineapple plantations, a small botanical garden and a beautiful park with hiking trails and great views. It gave us an opportunity to see the other anchorage, Opunohu Bay, without pulling up anchor to go over there. Our guide told us he met Obama there when he was finishing up his memoir. He was staying on Bruce Springsteen’s yacht when he visited the bay. We also toured the Hinano distillery and bought some spirits.

Growing vanilla
Vanilla flowering
Posing in front of Opunohu Bay
A view from the park
A sampling of fruit on the tour
A sacred grove of chestnut trees. Communication was by pounding a coconut on the base of the trunk
Sunsets come in all colors

Swimming in Cook’s Bay is not all that inviting. And there is very little room to anchor outside the bay between the reef and the little town. So we mostly lounged on the boat. We were looking for a weather window to sail back to Tahiti and all the way around to the connection between Tahiti Nui and Tahiti Iti, a place called Port Phaeton. We rather spontaneously decided to head over on Monday morning, September 19.

Passages, People, Places

Sailing to Tahiti

On Sunday, September 11, we pulled up the anchor around 8:30 a.m. and sailed on the jib alone across the Tikehau lagoon, using the OpenCPN satellite images to navigate around bommies. We exited the pass a little after 11:00 a.m. and it was uneventful. Once outside the pass, we put up the main with the first reef in, pulled out the jib and headed toward Moorea. It was sunny and windy at first but eventually became rainy and windy, with big seas. The whole passage was like that. Big seas, wind and then some intense squalls with rain. One of us had to stay at the helm at all times because the wind shifted so much that big surprises occurred if we weren’t attending to the course at all times. Neither of us enjoyed it. Linda did get a little sleep during the night but I didn’t.

Leaving Tikehau on the way to Tahiti
Enroute to Tahiti
The skies were stormy

We were grateful when the sun came up on Monday morning but we still had twelve more hours of our little hell. As we approached Tetiroa, the Marlon Brando island, we decided to head to Tahiti instead of Moorea. It seemed about an hour shorter in distance and we knew we were going to run out of daylight. We got to the Papeete pass at 5:00 p.m. and made our way to the anchorage in front of the airport. We dropped anchor at 6:00 p.m., just as it was getting dark. We were so grateful to be in flat water and no wind. Both of us slept very well that night.

Arriving just before dark at airport anchorage in Tahiti, Moorea in background

The next morning, Tuesday, we woke up to realize that the boats had all swung around significantly and we were too close to another boat. We pulled up anchor right away and proceeded farther along the channel, requesting permission from Port Control to cross at the end of the runway. After searching among zillions of boats, we finally found a place to drop the anchor. We lowered the dinghy and went to shore to Marina Taina and left the dinghy at their dock.

Walking along dock at Marina Taina

After dropping off our trash and recycling, we checked in with my agents, Tahiti Crew. They had been holding my Carte du Sejour for me, so I got that. It is the document that lets me stay in French Polynesia for a year or more (if I renew). After a nice lunch at La Casa Bianca, we returned to the boat, only to be visited by a marina authority who told us we could not anchor where we were. We pulled up anchor and moved across the channel to the low-rent district and finally found a spot that was safe for anchoring.

Legally anchored between the Intercontinental Hotel and Marina Taina

After a quiet night, we went back to Marina Taina with the dinghy and went grocery shopping. We also stopped by Tahiti Crew again and rented a wifi box that allows us to get Internet access on the boat, which is why I am able to make blog posts for the first time in a long time.

After returning to the boat, we saw Antje come in and anchor nearby. Antje is the boat we hit in Omoa in Fatu Hiva. I had been able to pay online for the spare parts that they needed to fix the steering vane, but we got in the dinghy to visit so I could give him something more to compensate somewhat for the inconvenience I had caused them. While we were talking to Jorge about his plans for the boat and his family, we realized that the visitors he had onboard for a day sail were Dana’s friends from high school. They were shocked to see Linda. It is such a small world.

We also noticed that Waveriders had anchored near us so we took the boat over to find them. They weren’t home, but shortly after we returned to Aldabra, Andrew and Liane stopped by on their water bikes for a bit of a visit. It was nice to catch up with them.

Passages, Places

Tikehau

We arrived at the pass at Tikehau at 1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 6. The wind was starting to build on the nose as we tried to enter the pass. Slack tide was probably delayed because of the strong winds so it wasn’t easy to go into the pass, but we were really just going slowly, not facing difficult seas. Once we got into the pass and turned right into the channel, we were motoring very slowly in choppy seas and some wind. Linda steered while I double-checked our navigation and we made our way down the channel toward the village. Before we got there, we turned left out into the lagoon and headed for the east side of the atoll, motoring nearly upwind the whole time and using OpenCPN navigation software with satellite images to steer around the coral heads (bommies). We arrived at the anchorage in front of Motu Ohini a little after 5:00 p.m.  We anchored in sand and were set. It was very protected from the wind and seas so everything was flat and calm.

Anchoring in front of Motu Ohini in Tikehau

It was so nice to be away from the rolly, wake-filled anchorage at Rangiroa. After a quiet night, we took the dinghy to shore and explored around the atoll. Linda collected shells and I collected some coral and abandoned pearl-farm floats that can be used to float anchor chain above coral heads. After our land expedition, we snorkeled a bit and headed back to the boat, where we stayed put during the following two days of intense winds in the high teens and twenties – but the water was flat so I have no complaints.

Our home for several days in Tikehau
Looking from shore toward the boat in Tikehau

After a couple days of wind, we ventured back to the motu on Saturday. I found more floats and coral and Linda found more shells. Then we went back to the boat, but the dinghy on the davits and plotted a course for the next day.

Passages, People, Places

Visitors on Rangiroa

On August 14, my sister Debbie and my niece Julia arrived on Rangiroa by plane. They brought some treats and provisions and some parts I needed.

Unfortunately for them, the weather did not cooperate with their visit. We had many days of high winds and rain. We were able to eat a nice lunch a couple of times at Relais Josephine and watch the activity in the pass.

Looking out from the restaurant at Relais Josephine at the Tiputa Pass
The walk to Relais Josephine
Watching the activity in the pass

At one point we had a nice sail over to the other side of the atoll, to the Blue Lagoon. When we go there, however, it was too rough to stay, so we pulled up anchor and motored back to the Kia Ora anchorage, arriving just before dark and anchoring quickly, without being able to see where the anchor landed.

Looking from the boat toward shore at the Kia Ora Hotel Anchorage

We waited out the weather again, and a few days later sailed back to the Blue Lagoon. We had a nice day there and a couple of nice nights with flat seas and no wind. Early on one morning, before the tourist boats arrived, Julia and I snorkeled on the reef outside the entrance to the Blue Lagoon and saw lots of sharks and fish.

Quiet moments at the Blue Lagoon, Pasito is the boat in the shot
Wading in the Blue Lagoon

We next went down to Motu Fama and anchored for the night. It was beautiful there but that night a big squall came in from the south and our anchor may have dragged. We monitored the situation until the squall subsided and then Julia and I put out more chain. I did an anchor watch until 1 a.m. and when all seemed stable, I went to sleep.

Anchored in front of Motu Fama
Another View at Motu Fama
Aldabra in front of Motu Fama

The next day, the wind was building sooner than I expected, so we pulled up anchor and sailed back across the lagoon and then turned into the wind and motored back to the Kia Oro anchorage with enough time to anchor before dark. That was the end of our adventuring on Rangiroa. The lagoon is so big that the seas really build on the other side. So we stayed put and snorkeled at the Aquarium, which can be really good snorkeling. We also went over to Tiputa on the last Sunday of their visit to attend church. The Catholic service involves lots of beautiful music.

Bike Riding on the windward side of Rangiroa
Another beautiful sunset on Rangiroa

Debbie and Julia left at the end of August and I took a couple of days to get the laundry done and clean a bit. Then my friend Linda Moore arrived. After taking a couple of days for Linda to settle in, we did some dives outside the Tiputa pass, followed by lunch at Snack Puna one day and Relais Josephine on another.

dLunch in front of Tiputa Pass after a dive

We also snorkeled at the Aquarium, which Linda liked better than the dives. Seeing the dolphins up close is fun, but the diving can get boring as you wait out in the blue water away from the reef for them to show up. The last dive was probably the best because we went more slowly and could see more fish on the reef. We were joined by two divers from California and it was fun to talk to them.

Looking at the weather predictions, we thought we would be pinned down in Rangiroa for multiple more days during strong winds. I was anxious to move on, so we found a weather window on Tuesday morning, leaving the Avatoru Pass at 7:00 a.m. uneventfully and sailing over to Tikehau. The sail over was very nice. We went around the top of the atoll and were protected from the seas, so they were flat.

Sailing to Tikehau
Inland Travel, Passages, Places

Ua Pou

On Sunday morning, June 12, we did a day sail to Ua Pou, about 25 miles south of Nuku Hiva. The island’s tall spires are stunning.

Approaching the Stunning Spires of Ua Pou

We anchored for a couple of nights in front of the main village of Hakahau. We walked around and found some stores and bought additional provisions. And we dropped off some laundry at the bakery. When we picked up the laundry the next day, we bought baguettes and took advantage of their wifi. Later that day we walked up to the cross on a hill for a scenic view before finding a restaurant for some poisson cru.

Looking Down at the Anchorage in Front of the Town
We walked up a hill and could see this other anchorage on the other side

We explored a few more anchorages on the west side of Ua Pou. Baie Hakahetau was in front of a village. We joined Sarah and Bob on Rhapsody for a walk up to Manfred’s house to taste and buy his delicious chocolate bars. Then we walked to a waterfall and swam in the pool beneath it.

Waterfall at the end of a hike

Looking out at the anchorage after out hike

Baie Vaiehu was an uninhabited bay with good snorkeling. The last one, Baie Hakamaii, was in front of a picturesque village with no easy way to go ashore. We hung out on the boat until evening and then pulled up anchor to sail to Hiva Oa.

Last anchorage on Ua Pou
Gear and Preparation, Places

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

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

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

Pete and Cookie enjoying life on the boat

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

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

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

Fellow Cruisers Celebrating Jules’ 60th Birthday

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

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

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

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

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

Looking out my hotel room window

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life raft inflated on the shop floor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

People, Places

January/February 2019

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

Rebecca, Haller and Terry hiking around Emerald Bay in Tahoe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of the boats in Zihuatanejo bay that took out tourists

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

Zihuatanejo musicians playing until sunset on a music cruise

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

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

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

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

Passages, People, Places

Spring and Early Summer 2018, Mostly Sea of Cortez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

El Gato Was Never Too Far Away from Aldabra

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

Katie at the Helm on the Way North

Hiking in San Juanico and Looking Over at the Anchorage

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

Hiking in Bahía Concepción

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

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

Santa Rosalía is an Old Mining Town with a French Influence

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

El Gato and Aldabra in Bahía San Francisquito

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

 

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

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

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

The View from a Hike on Isla La Ventana

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

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

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

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

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

Hiking Around Bahía San Francisquito

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

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

Hiking Above Puerto Los Gatos

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aldabra in the Hoist in La Paz

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

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

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

Checking Out the Wind Instrument at the Top of the Mast

Checking Out the Wind Instrument

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

People, Places

Nuevo Vallarta to Barra de Navidad

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

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

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

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

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

Dancers Celebrating the Virgen de Guadalupe

Worshiping the Virgen

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

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

Cruisers Christmas Dinner

Cruisers Christmas Dinner

Jake is the Main Organizer of the Dinner

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

Posada Organizer Arturo and his Daughter

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

Yoga on the Beach

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

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

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