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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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Places

Final Excursion on Aldabra Before Summer Break

Crew Steve, from California, joined me on Aldabra on June 8. He flew into Loreto and took a taxi to Puerto Escondido. We took off almost immediately and sailed fourteen miles north to Loreto. After anchoring right off the town marina, we went to the El Pescador market to provision and then returned to Aldabra to stow the groceries before heading back into town for dinner. On the way into town we stopped by to see John and Julie on Myla, who were anchored nearby.

The next morning, we pulled up the anchor and motored in glassy waters with no wind to Agua Verde, and anchored off the main beach. We took the dinghy over to the east cove for some snorkeling and then had tasty carne asada tacos as the cooperativa restaurant near the east cove. We talked with an old fisherman about how the local fishery is being depleted by outside fishermen who use spear guns to take huge hauls in a very short time. We also talked with two enthusiastic young guys from Austin on a road trip who decided to stay in Agua Verde for s few more days and cancel the rest of their planned itinerary. It was just that nice there.

The next day, the west cove emptied out and we quickly moved Aldabra over there. It was an ideal spot and we used it as a base to go snorkeling around Roca Solitaria and take a walk on land.

Aldabra alone in west anchorage of Agua Verde

The far rock is Roca Solitaria

The beach next to the west anchorage

Steve enjoying the view at Agua Verde

That evening, Rick and Cindy on Cool Change surprised us and anchored in our private cove. They had food already prepared, so they declined our invitation to go ashore for dinner. We had dinner with Will and Grant from Austin, at Maria’s, the other restaurant on the beach. And then went to visit Rick and Cindy. I hadn’t seen them since I left La Paz in April, so it was delightful to catch up with them.

As lovely as Agua Verde was, we needed to push on southward. So the next day we motored to Puerto Los Gatos. The winds were light at first and then on the nose, so we never used the sails. Rick and Cindy had left earlier and we caught up with them right before the entrance to Los Gatos. By that time the seas had picked up a bit so they followed us in. They had planned to go much farther that day but the seas were working against them.

We had most of the day to spend in Puerto Los Gatos. I swam out to snorkel on the point and Steve took the dinghy to shore for his own expedition, which involved scrambling up the hill for an amazing view. That night Rick and Cindy came over to Aldabra for an enchilada dinner and hot chocolate chip cookies for dessert. It was a lovely evening, which provided no hint that it would be a lumpy night with swells coming in from the east that had miles of open sea to build. None of us slept well.

The next morning, neither boat wasted any time in pulling up anchor and heading south. We were headed through the San Jose Channel to Isla San Francisco. I was a bit afraid that we would have challenging conditions, but the seas were rather flat and the wind, although on the nose, was relatively light. Cindy and Rick ended up joining us at Isla San Francisco as well. They spent the remainder of the day getting ready to launch into their passage to Mazatlan. Steve went in the dinghy to explore around the point. And I just tinkered around on the boat. Right before dinner, Steve returned to report that he had been out in the channel with several small groups of minke whales that were feeding. I jumped in the dinghy and we picked up Rick and Cindy for a look. It was magical to turn off the motor and sit in the still waters and watch and listen to the whales as they surfaced and submerged.

That night in the Isla San Francisco anchorage was only slightly better than in Puerto Los Gatos. We didn’t have the big seas but we had a lot of wind. Had it not been for the whales, Steve might have been regretting his decision to join me on the trip. The next day, after Rick and Cindy left on their passage, we took the dinghy to the beach and hiked on the island. We covered a lot more ground than I had before and it was beautiful. That night, the whales were feeding out in the channel. But they also started coming into the anchorage. We figured out why. The anchorage was full of billions of little krill that were lighting the water up like stars. They were being pursued by the whales, as well as weird little worms and small white crabs. The evening provided quite a show, which more than made up for the fact that the winds made another uncomfortable night.

This is my attempt the photograph the kri

The next day was expected to be the only real sailing day we would have. So we sailed from Isla San Francisco to Isla Espiritu Santo, choosing Caleta Partida as our anchorage because I was expecting a strong southwesterly than night. And Caleta Partida could block some of the seas. The strategy worked and we had a pretty comfortable night. The next day, we motored along Espiritu Santo, ducking into anchorages just to explore. We dropped the anchor for lunch at Ensenada Ballena, and then continued south. Expecting another strong southwesterly, and not wanting to return to La Paz just yet, we anchored at Ensenda Balandra on the Baja pennisula, hoping to protect ourselves a bit from the wind and seas. The strategy kind of worked. We were able to explore the bay by dinghy and have a BBQ dinner before the winds kicked up. But they howled all night and well into the next day. The seas weren’t too lumpy. But it was another boisterous night.

Because the winds were still howling, we waited until late morning to pick up anchor and motor into La Paz. The channel was pretty quiet and we had an uneventful docking in Marina de la Paz. We walked into town that evening so Steve could see La Paz. It was dead at first but after we had dinner and started back, the people started coming out along the malecon.

That was the end of Steve’s vacation. The next day, although very hot, he had to help me start getting the boat ready for hurricane season. We took the jib down and folded it. Steve hauled water to the boat and filled up the water tank. And we pickled the watermaker, which would have been easier if a critical valve had worked. As it was, we had to bypass the valve to get the water properly circulating for the pickling, which is necessary when you leave the boat for an extended period of time. We had one final dinner at a nearby restaurant and then Steve headed home the next morning.

That’s when I had to get serious about decommissioning the boat for the summer. I worked solidly for the next six days on a long list of projects. It seems a shame to work so hard for so many years and months to get the boat ready to go, only to undue that work to leave the boat for part of the summer. I had to take most of the solar panels down, which gave me blisters on my hands. I had to soak and coil all the lines, removing the ones that I could. I removed lots of deck hardware that might disappear while the boat is unattended. I emptied most of the jerry jugs of diesel into the tank so the tank would have less of a chance of getting moisture in it. I gave away my gasoline supply so it wouldn’t be on board. I deflated the dinghy, covered it and lashed it to the deck. I lashed the mainsail on the boom so it wouldn’t provide windage in a hurricane. I cleaned out the stern lockers and had a local worker clean the outside of the boat. Then I covered the boat with sun shades, which will be taken down if a hurricane does show up. I also covered lots of antennas and other plastic parts with aluminum foil.

Next I had to tackle the interior. I defrosted the refrigerator and freezer and turned them off. I gave away any food that people would want and threw away the rest. That was heart breaking because I had collected all kinds of food items for cooking, much of it in San Diego, and I won’t be able to replace them. I hadn’t been expecting to do such a purge but more experienced cruiser friends clued me into the possibility of attracting critters. And while I was doing my purge, I did indeed find some critters, so I became convinced that nothing could remain on the boat.

I also cleaned the rest of the boat interior and got all the laundry done. Aldabra should have looked ship shape by then, But my next step was to take everything that I usually store outside or in the lazarettes and put those things inside: the solar panels, the jerry jugs, the bins of parts and supplies. So the boat interior looks like a junk yard.  This was necessary for a possible storm, but also because I’m having work done to the boat while I’m away, and they need access to the lazarettes.

Aldabra put away in Marina de La Paz for summer

My last week in La Paz was not all work. John and Julie from Myla came in a day after I did and were a couple of boats away on the dock. In addition to giving me lots of advice on securing the boat, they invited me for several cocktail hours and dinners. We had great fun as practically the only two inhabited cruising boats in the marina.

So that’s a wrap for Aldabra for a bit. I left her under the care of a boat manager and flew to Puerto Vallarta on June 24. Tomorrow, June 26, I’m joining Jeff and Jules from El Gato for a road trip to Guadalajara, Cuernavaca and then on to Taxco. I’ll be living in a house in Taxco for six weeks with Jeff and Jules and Rick and Cindy, while we all attend Spanish immersion classes at the university.

 

People, Places

Cruising Around the Sea of Cortez

After two weeks in San Diego, celebrating weddings and birthdays and being with family, I arrived back in La Paz on May 17. Dinner that night was with Jane and Jerry of Aeolian who had just put their boat on a ship bound for Victoria, Canada. It was a bittersweet dinner because we had shared a lot of our Mexico cruising experience, and now they were departing. I knew I would miss them.

I spent the next two days cleaning the boat and was ready for my new crew, who arrived on May 19. We went to the market for provisions that day and took off the next. After stopping for fuel at the Costabaja dock, we headed north, back into the heart of the Sea of Cortez.

My goal for this next trip was to get to some places I hadn’t yet seen and connect with other friends for brief visits and subsequent farewells. The first visit was with Kemo Sabe on the first night out. We found them in a beautiful, small, quiet cove on Isla Espiritu Santo. Sometimes finding cruising friends isn’t easy because our cell phones and radios aren’t always in range. But we were lucky to find Jan and Alan in El Mezteño. They came over to Aldabra for happy hour and we caught up on our travels since we’d seen each other several weeks before. This was another sad farewell because they were returning to La Paz and then Jan would fly back while Alan and friends sailed or motored Kemo Sabe back to San Diego. Two more people that were integral to my Mexico cruising experience, and they too were departing.

Coaster and Epic at anchor near Aldabra at Isla San Francisco

While Jan and Alan stayed in El Mezteño for another night, we headed north, stopping first at Isla San Francisco. I wasn’t planning on lingering, even though Isla San Francisco is stunning and offers much in the way of hiking and snorkeling. I’d been here multiple times before and I had more places to see in a short time. So we didn’t put the dinghy in the water, which prevented us from visiting with friends on Epic and Coaster, who were also in the anchorage. I swam over to each boat for brief chats, but we were off again the next day, heading north.

The next stop was lovely. Puerto Los Gatos, on the eastern side of Baja, is a small, beautiful anchorage with its colorful rock formations and a couple of good reefs for snorkeling. I could easily have stayed there for days, but this time it could just be an overnight stop, so again we didn’t put the dinghy in the water to explore on shore. But I did get to snorkel on the reef. And a man named Jimmy brought us lobster and scallops and fish fillets. Dinner was quite a treat that night.

Leaving Puerto Los Gatos, we were headed to another bay on the eastern side of Baja, Agua Verde, which was about 18 miles north. But we learned on the radio net that morning that Liahona and El Gato might both be in Los Candeleros, another 18 miles northwest along the coast. I wanted to see both of them, so we motored past Agua Verde and anchored in Los Candeleros. El Gato hosted both Liahona and Aldabra for happy hour that night. The visit seemed way too short with not enough time to really catch up. But Liahona was able to return my wetsuit to me. And I was able to deliver a package to El Gato that I had brought from San Diego.

Liahona took off the next day, and I thought I might see them as we moved north. But as it turns out, we were on different tracks and I won’t see them again until next year. I have been able to listen to their progress on the morning radio net, and they are already in San Carlos, ready to haul the boat out for the summer.

We stayed in Los Candeleros and Don and Anne on Redwood Coast II sailed down to join us. I was able to deliver a package to them from Don’s sister in Calfornia. And Anne and Jules and I kayaked to shore and went to the small tienda in the nearby village. That night all three boats had diner on Aldabra, with more farewells. El Gato would head out the next morning and it would be the last I would see of them until we meet up in Nuevo Vallarta at the end of June. Don and Anne and I went for a nice hike the next morning in Candeleros, but I then had to say goodbye to them. It has been such a gift to be cruising with these two. We left Santa Cruz about 3 months apart, and we’ve traveled at different paces while in Mexico. But we’ve been able to share many anchorages and have been in touch at all times. They’ve supported me in countless ways. I don’t like to think of them not being here. But they are now headed back to La Paz and then on around to the west coast and back to Santa Cruz.

Don and Anne of Redwood Coast II enjoying the seats at the top of the hill while hiking in Candeleros

Looking down the other site of the point from Candeleros. Very nice hike.

The wind was up that afternoon after the hike, and I wanted to take advantage of the first good sailing opportunity we’d had since leaving La Paz. So we took off and kept sailing past planned anchorages, and ended up in Puerto Ballandra. We stayed two nights and explored the bay, both on land and in the water. I think I saw a big horned sheep high on a mountain ridge.

From there, we headed west nine miles over to Loreto. We anchored in front of the town, put the dinghy in the water, and went ashore for lunch and reprovisioning. After returning from the market, we hauled the anchor back up and motored north six miles to Isla Coronados. This is yet another gorgeous desert island in this vast Mexican sea of varying shades of green and blue waters. Many people stay for several days off this island. It has lots of hiking and walks and good spots for snorkeling and diving. We didn’t take advantage of it as much as we could have. We circumnavigated in the dinghy and saw lots of interesting rock formations and dive spots. But in the end we snorkeled only in one spot near the boat, with lots of rays. And we just took one flat walk on land. Swarms of bees around the boat were a bit of an irritation. And the winds indicated that it was time to move on after a couple of days.

The rocks around Isla Coronados

More of motoring around Isla Coronados

I had been told that San Juanico, 18 miles north on the west coast of Baja, was a favorite spot. And I wanted to check it out. The problem is that we chose the wrong time to visit. As soon as we got there, the winds blew hard from the east, and brought huge seas that traveled over long distances to this bay, which was unprotected from the east. We sat there uncomfortably at anchor all afternoon and into the evening. Then shortly before sunset, we followed the only other boat around the point to the north, to La Ramada, a north-facing cove with flat seas and relatively calm winds. That night we did have strong south-westerlies howling through the anchorage, but at least the seas weren’t huge.

The next day, we hiked over the hill, back to San Juanico to explore by land, but we never had the right conditions to experience this beautiful anchorage as many of our fellow cruisers have. We also took the opportunity to snorkel a bit off the northwest point of La Ramada. And we joined other boats, Jollydogs and Our Affair on another boat called Wet Bar, for happy hour. The wind howled again from the southwest that night. The next day, most of us left La Ramada. Jollydogs and Our Affair headed north. And Aldabra started heading back south. It was the one day when winds were predicted to come from behind us, and I wanted to take advantage of that. So we sailed and bit and mostly motored to Puerto Escondido, which is 14 miles south of Loreto.

Looking down at Caleta San Juanico

Walking over the saddle from San Juanico to La Ramada

Another view of San Juanico

Aldabra and Jollydogs at anchor in La Ramada

When you’re moored in Puerto Escondido you’re dwarfed by the gigantic mountains

We arrived in Puerto Escondido in time for me to check into the marina to pay for the mooring ball I would use for the next few days inside the harbor. My crew left and took a taxi to Loreto. And I began to take advantage of having the boat to myself for a few days. I leisurely cleaned, took advantage of the laundry, showers and Internet services and chatted with other cruisers. And I indulged in some reading. I also took at taxi into Loreto on one evening for the Chocolate Clams Festival and had a great evening with some other cruisers, from boats Myla, Mystic Eyes, Interlude, Milagro, Trovita, Gypsea and Easy.

As I am posting this blog, I’m now waiting for my crew for the final cruising segment of the season. Steve Hardt, a long-time friend of my sister, who shares my interest in sailing, will arrive in Loreto and take a taxi here to Puerto Escondido. We’ll then take the boat back to La Paz, hopefully by way of a few places I haven’t visited. It of course all depends on the wind.

As I contemplate returning south to La Paz, I’m thinking about all the places I didn’t get to this year in the Sea of Cortez. I barely surveyed the middle section and didn’t even get close to the northern section. There is much more to see, as I could tell as I flew over it earlier in May. On one side you have this vast, desolate peninsula with huge mountains running up the center. On the other side you have dozens of desert islands of all sizes and shapes. Travel from place to place can be in short hops. Sometimes the weather is benign. Sometimes the winds and seas seem quite challenging. But this relatively unpopulated expanse is a boater’s paradise, with great swimming, fishing, hiking and people.

Passages, Places

La Paz to Puerto Escondido and Back

Before leaving La Paz, I began rereading the Log Book from the Sea of Cortez, by John Steinbeck and Doc Ricketts. It was my companion reader as we moved about many of the same places they visited to collect specimens. Aldabra left La Paz on April 15 at about 11:00 a.m. and headed north after stopping for fuel at the fuel dock at the Costabaja marina. Crew Matt had joined the boat that morning less than an hour before departure. But we had been getting to know him for a couple of days before that, as he joined us for dinners out with other boats.

We were bound for either Caleta Partida, the anchorage between Isla Partida and Isla Espiritu Santo, or Ensenada Grande, an anchorage on Isla Partida. We caught a small Bonito on the way and released it.  I had been to Caleta Partida before arriving in La Paz, and as we passed by, it didn’t look that attractive for the expected wind conditions. So we continued on to Ensenada Grande. When we arrived, we found Redwood Coast II and Kemo Sabe already anchored there. They were just about to have happy hour together on Redwood Coast II, so we happily accepted an invitation to join them. We hitched a ride over to Redwood Coast II on Kemo Sabe’s dinghy because we weren’t ready to launch our dinghy and put the motor on.

Anchoring Aldabra

The next morning we did launch the dinghy and joined Don and Anne of Redwood Coast II on a small expedition ashore to check out a view of the anchorage achieved by scrambling over boulders up an arroyo behind a small beach. It was a bit steep as we made our own path. But the view was worth the sore knees. Next we took the dinghies over to the larger beach to check out a little private camp used by a company who brings clients over from La Paz for short stays. There was another trail behind the camp leading to the other side of the island. Don and Anne and Matt and I hiked it the next morning. It was a trail for about 5 minutes, and then for the next hour or so it was bouldering. The view on the other side was stunning, but my knees were shot by the time we climbed down and returned to our dinghies.

Looking from the beach in Ensenada Grande

Looking down on the east side of Isla Partida after crawling over boulders from the Ensenada Grande anchorage

Three of the hikers looking down from the top of the cliff on the east side of Isla Partida

Anne exploring on the east side of Isla Partida

We left the next morning for Isla San Francisco, arriving a day after Kemo Sabe. We went over to their boat for dinner. Aeolian and El Gato both arrived in the anchorage that evening. The next day, with Jane and Jerry on Aeolian, we walked the ridge line that overlooks the anchorage.

Looking down on the anchorage on the west side of Isla San Francisco

Jane taking pictures on the top of the ridge on Isla San Francisco

Looking over at the east side of Isla San Francisco

That night all four boats had dinner on El Gato. While we were there, a boat was trying to enter the anchorage after just losing their prop. They were trying to come in under sail with little success, so we took two dinghies out and rafted up to either side of the boat, guiding it in to a spot where it could anchor. The next day another boat towed it across the channel, presumably where it could have access to a new prop. The winds were from the northwest while we were in Isla San Francisco, with some high gusts. Matt enjoyed the free diving off the north point. We were there at the end of the second week of the easter holiday, so there were a lot of power boats with jet skis and water skis, and it was quite obnoxious.

We left with Aeolian on Friday, April 21, at 7:00 a.m., headed for Agua Verde, which was 52 miles north, up through the San Jose Channel. The winds were light, from the north/northwest. We sailed at times but mostly motor sailed. The seas were flat until we reached the top of Isla San Jose. We had larger swells after that. We arrived at Agua Verde in the late afternoon and anchored in the middle anchorage, in front of a wide beach. We stayed there for three nights and two days. The water was warmer than everywhere else. While there, we snorkeled at Solitaire Rock, which will be closed permanently around November of this year. We also hiked over the trail at the northwest anchorage and made our way to the painted cave. It was a long, confusing slog, but we made it. We also walked around the town a bit and had tacos at a new cooperative restaurant on the beach. Al and Jolinda from Chez Nous joined us there when they arrived in the anchorage.

We hiked through this oasis on the way to the painted cave

Jerry crossing the river on the hike to the painted cave

The painted cave

Looking out of the painted cave, back from where we came from

We continued north from Agua Verde on Monday, April 24, along with Aeolian. We motor sailed the whole way to Puerto Escondido. The winds were light from various directions until the last five miles, when the wind picked up to 22 knots south of the point. We took moorings in the inner harbor and went in Aeolian’s dinghy to check into the marina. Afterward we had beer and appetizers at the restaurant there.

The next morning we all four took a taxi into Loreto. We walked around the mission, visited the waterfront and had brunch at a restaurant overlooking the water. We were waiting to see the motorcycles and cars form the offroad race. They were due to arrive at any minute, but we finally gave up and continued walking around town. We visited the Caballo Blanco used book store, the Ferre Mar fishing supply story and the Ley grocery store, before taking the taxi back to the anchorage. That night, we had dinner with Aeolian on shore, and said our goodbyes. Aeolian was to continue north, and it was time for Aldabra to start heading south again.

The mission in Loreto, the first mission in California

One of the old buildings next to the mission

Inside the courtyard of the mission

The government building in the center of Loreto

Children dancing in the town square

Inside the lobby of the Posada de las Flores Hotel in Loreto

We left Puerto Escondido on April 26 at 8:00 a.m. and headed for Timbabiche, arriving at 3:30 p.m. We motor sailed the whole way in benign conditions. A local man by the name of Manuel caught some fish for us the next morning. We gave him money, milk, canned corn and beer.

Timbabiche

We left Timbabiche that morning at 8:30 a.m. and arrived at the east anchorage of Isla San Francisco at nearly 5:00 p.m.  The going had been difficult, getting through the San Jose Channel in big seas and big winds on the nose from the south/southeast. We had the main up, the jib out and the motor going, and played the wind shifts to make the trip as short as possible. We arrived to find Redwood Coast II in the same anchorage. El Gato arrived shortly after we did. We never got together with either boat because it was too windy for any of us to get off our boats.

That night was an uncomfortable, windy, rolly night. El Gato left early to head north and Redwood Coast left later that morning. I stayed on the boat all day as the wind whipped through the anchorage, while Matt did manage some free diving to spear fish. (So we had good fresh fish for dinner.) We were joined in the anchorage by the unusual boat, Westward, which towed in a disabled sailboat. Later, the Sea Shepard research boat, Martin Sheen, arrived in the anchorage for a brief overnight stay. We had another uncomfortable night, but no quite as bad as the previous night.

The Westward

The following morning, the Martin Sheen left early, and Westward left a bit later with the disabled boat in tow. We were alone in the anchorage with a large powerboat. I did a little bit of snorkeling and Matt caught more fish. The wind started coming around from the north, so before dinner, we picked up the anchor and moved around to the west side of the island for a calmer night, leaving early the next morning for the 44-mile trip back to La Paz.

During the trip back to La Paz, we had 15-20 knot winds from behind. We started sailing with just the jib out but big seas kept our speed low. So we added the motor and pretty much flew back to La Paz. Once there, we found our slip and got settled in. After we had our final fish dinner, Rick and Cindy from Cool Change came over for a visit. It was nice to see then after several weeks apart.

We spent the next couple of days cleaning the boat and doing chores, as I prepared to fly back to San Diego for two weeks.

People, Places

La Paz

We arrived in La Paz on Monday, April 10. That night, we had a wonderful reunion with Jules and Jeff on El Gato, Don and Anne on Redwood Coast II and Alan and Jan on Kemo Sabe. It was so nice to see them after at least a couple of months apart. Don and Anne left the next day for Espiritu Santo but we did get to see the others again the next night, along with Aeolian, for a celebration of Kip’s last night. Kemo Sabe then left for the islands as well. I also got to visit with Steve from Pablo. I took a class with Steve and his wife Sherri nearly two years ago in Santa Cruz.

While in La Paz, I took a couple of walks just to see the town, but there is much left to discover. Mainly, I’ve spent the last few days getting the boat cleaned inside and out, defrosting the freezer and refrigerator, changing the oil in the diesel engine, changing the watermaker filters, and doing a few minor repairs.

My new crew, Matt, arrived last night and we had dinner with Aeolian. Today we provisioned with Jules and Jeff. We took a taxi to the City Club, which seems just like a Costco. And we walked over to Soriana, before hauling all of our groceries back to the marina in a taxi.

The boat is now ready to leave for a couple of weeks to explore the anchorages and islands just north of La Paz.