Sunday, December 30, 2012

and so it goes… bye bye 2012

Hi all. It’s been some time since I’ve written.  I must admit it was hard to imagine what I could say that wouldn’t sound too sad, or too lonely, or too whatever… so like all good writers, I opted to say nothing.

But now, it’s December 30th and we’re one day away from welcoming in a new year. The dawn of 2013 gives us all an opportunity to welcome a new day, make a fresh start, do some of those things we always thought we should…  It’s a time for reflection too.  If you’re like me, you’ll understand when I say there are things that have happened over the past year that I hope to never forget… and there are things that happened last year, I wish I could undo. Unfortunately I can’t change a single thing… I can only learn from the experience and hope to grow from what I’ve taken in.

As you know we lost a good man, Kathy’s dad Ken; and another good guy, my dad Ted,  is having his challenges. Seems life’s like that - and so it will go one day for each of us. Until that day I am determined to keep moving forward.  There is so  much to see and so much to experience in this world, in this life. For me, the start of 2013 will be a time to ramp up my energy levels… pull myself out of this bit of a slump and get going.

Kathy will return to the good ship Shannon at the end of January and I hope, by then, to have her (the ship that is :-) all spiffed up and ready to go.  After a few days of whirlwind tours of Mazatlan (restaurants :-) we’ll be on our way. We’re hoping to visit at least a couple of anchorages before we turn our nose back towards La Paz.  We’re due back in La Paz by mid-March to prepare Shannon for her summer vacation in a La Paz shipyard.

So that’s our world in a nut shell.  Our heart goes out to friends, Dianne and Mary,  who have each recently lost a parent as well. 

And, we wish you a wonderfully good start to a fresh new year….

From all of us, to all of you..

Happy New Year everyone…

all the best in 2013.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Marina El Cid

Good morning. As a few of you have expressed concerns about my whereabouts, I thought I'd try and share a bit about where I'm at.  Sophie and I are safely ensconced at the El Cid Resort and Marina.  It's a beautiful place, with good marina facilities and a lovely resort.  Being 'residents' at the marina entitles us full use of both pools and hot tub, along with clean towels every day and access to laundry services and other such things. We're not suffering.

I've taken a few photos... a few of which have actually managed, I think, to find their way to this post...  We'll know for sure, once I publish.  I'm new at this so please be patient.. there are more to come and I'll do my best.

This pool we call the warm one.. generally about 80 degrees

This is the shallow end of the warm pool,
in case you just want to warm up your toes.
It also has a swim up bar.
Aqua-size, bingo, and other activities
are provided here daily.

A poinsettia garden...

Cactus garden at the hotel entrance

Now this pool is the cooler one.. only about 70.
It has water slides, a hot tub, and a cafe/bar.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


We lost a wonderful man on December 10th.  Kathy’s Dad, Ken, passed away suddenly.  He was a good man, a devoted husband, a loving father, a caring friend, and an understanding confidante.  He accepted me into his clan and loved me in his special way. He was an adventurer, like my own father, and I was honoured to have been included in the last 13 years of his journey. We will miss him every day.

Needless to say, the family circle is struggling. This was totally unexpected and the shock has only begun to subside. It will take time for each of the family members and close friends to heal and to learn to live with this loss. While Ken’s passing leaves very large and vacant holes in our hearts… as always, he has led the way down the path of graceful transitions.  Ken left his mortal world, after a good day and while enjoying his favourite view of Ladysmith harbour from his hot tub.

When we received the call, Kathy and I left Shannon and Sophie in the care of friends at the marina, and returned to BC. Ken’s services went well, in fact they were quite magnificent. The church and the reception hall were packed with friends and loved ones, all gathering in his honour and in support of the family. Ken would have been pleased with the love and support that flowed throughout this sad time and I am sure it will continue as the grieving process unwinds. 

Kathy will be staying with her mom and family until at least the end of January, and I have returned to Shannon where I will have time to get to know Mazatlan better, work on the varnish, my writing and my figure. We’ll revisit our cruising plans when Kathy returns but I expect we will likely return across the Sea and spend a few weeks in the islands north of La Paz before putting Shannon to bed in early April.

I want to thank all of you for following and supporting our journey and for sharing our ups and downs with us. I, Kathy and Miss Sophie wish all of you and your families, a wonderful and joyous Christmas Season. Be good to yourselves and ring in the new year with as much ‘umph’ as you can muster… make 2013 one for the books.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

The ups and the downs of it…

And I don’t mean waves…. or maybe I do.  The other day a friend of mine asked me tell her the truth about our cruising life, not the prettied up version, written for entertainment and so folks would know where we are… but the real stuff, the good and the bad.  And, as she was a good friend, and one I could trust to not blab all my inner secrets to the world at large…  I did.

Now, after a couple of days of contemplating what I confessed to her… some of my frustrations, some of my darn right toe-tapping ‘what am I doing here?’ days, I’ve realize that (with the exception of a couple of too scary to share stories) I’ve pretty much shared the good and the bad with all of you… just maybe in not quite so much detail as I related to my friend. And, thinking about that got me thinking about how there must be some days when I’ve really sounded like an ungrateful wretch.  You know, whining about the heat and not enough rain… And complaining about having to always be repairing things and working through maintenance procedures.  And, then there’s the wind… oh those nasty northers… and coromuels… and other such weather challenges.

So, for the record, and so I can clear my conscience… here comes a review of the ups and downs, the good, bad and ugly… of this way of life, from my perspective… just in case you’re interested.  If you’re not, please just move on and come back for the next episode of our continuing adventure on the good ship Shannon.

For the record on the ‘downs’:

Just for starters, I wish I could be two people.  The first of me would be enjoying this marvelous adventure and experience. I’d have no guilty conscience dragging my thoughts back to home and family and friends… I’d just be a free spirit, forging onward into the unknown and enjoying every minute of it.  The other ‘me’ would be at home, spending more time with my dad, my sisters, and my partners family and seeing a lot more of our friends, nurturing those relationships for the many years to come. I bet you can see the problem.  I can’t have it both ways.  I chose the compromise and am living with it… that being adventuring for half the year and being home for half the year. It’s definitely not guilt free, and it’s not the perfect solution, but it sure beats being only one of those me’s and wishing I was the other.

On the issue of boat size, you’ve heard me whine more than once about our lack of storage space.  That, unfortunately, hasn’t changed. We’re unloading what gear we can, but remain over-stuffed with all the things we need for this adventuring life… all squeezed into a boat that is, or at least feels, about 6’ too small. Despite her ‘Ma and Pa Kettle’ look, with gear piled everywhere… Shannon forges on like the great dame she is, and we do our best to not let her feel or see our frustrations.. moving gear back and forth every morning and night, just to go to bed or clear the couch. Needless to say, we don’t entertain much.. and when we do it’s mostly in the cockpit…  we can seat 6 out there… and we  just pass the food back and forth :-)

On the issue of time spent maintaining and repairing.  The common joke amongst cruisers is….  “it’s all about repairing your  boat in exotic places”.  While that isn’t all that funny :-(  it’s definitely true.  These good old boats don’t care where they are when they need your attention.  They just demand it without any thoughts to your own needs or desires. Nope, don’t show any compassion at all…. just let themselves fall apart whilly-nilly without any thoughts towards availability of parts, temperature ranges, weather challenges.. or available skill levels. That being said, these repairs would be needed whether you were moored at your local yacht club in BC or swinging on an anchor in a wee bit of paradise… so, hmmm, let’s see…. where would I choose to be while I sit and contemplate what I’ll need and how to make said repair(s)?  The good news is the cruising family (and it is a family) is filled with folks with many skills. We carry as many spare parts as we can, content in the belief that if we can’t fix it, someone we meet will be able to. Just like a family, cruisers help each other in so many ways. It’s humbling really… to be welcomed into such a warm and supportive group of folks. They’re great and we’ve made many friends who we will be in touch with for years. But let me not leave this topic without saying “yes, this is perhaps the most frustrating part of this life with a good old boat'”.  We do seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time working on our dear Shannon.  Not just to keep up with the neighbours, but to continue to try to bring her up to a nautically acceptable level of condition. It never seems to end. Everywhere I look, little jobs await me… when I finish one, I turn around and there’s another. I make lists, and then lists of lists (just like home) and I cross off what I get done… but in a world where the average temperatures are still higher than normal and the humidity will drop you to your knees some days, my work day is much shorter, and my list of still to do’s is much longer…. it is a tad frustrating. When we’re feeling sorry for ourselves, it’s because there doesn’t seem to be much time for ‘fun’. We haven’t been able to free our minds and our bodies to go seeking the fun times and the tours and the other stuff folks do in their spare time… We’re still hunting for time to call ‘spare’…manana.

For the record on the ‘ups’:

There’s one big one for me… and that’s the people. Not just the cruisers, and I’ll speak of them in a minute, but the Mexicans we have met everywhere we’ve stopped. Once I got over the fear of fierce looking fellows, many carrying very large guns, guarding everything from elementary school children in a military neighbourhood, to border guards and others who don’t seem to know the rule about not walking with your finger on the trigger… once I realized these guys aren’t really that scary and when they smile, their faces light up like the sun… I started to relax. Now they don’t look so different or so fierce.  Now they smile at me and respond to my somewhat halting spanglish when I wish them good morning, or good afternoon.  This morning I even tried a “how are you?” and it worked.. he answered. That’s when I got stuck.. but he didn’t seem to mind and he practiced his English and I practiced my Spanish while we fumbled through a couple more lines of greeting. We’ve met many Mexican families in the small fishing villages like San Evaristo and we’ll meet many more as we travel.  We have toys for the kids and it’s really fun to give.  We also have items for the men and women. We have been welcomed warmly where ever we have stopped.  Kathy does very well communicating with them.. and I, well I smile and nod a lot and they don’t seem to mind… probably think I have a speech problem or something… but we’re getting along.

As for the cruisers… what a family. Like other somewhat ‘extreme’ sports or lifestyles, we all have something in common… we’re here… in a boat… most of which we sailed from some distance…  Enough said. To have shared the experiences that we have – speaks volumes – and creates an immediate familial connection. Just like in life, you don’t get real close to everyone you meet, but of the folks you do meet, there are many who quickly become very close and dear… Common interests such as music, or fishing, technology, art, culture… you name it… these common issues create yet another plane upon which your friendships grow. Good or bad, there is also a lot of socializing.. Whether it’s a quick ‘sundowner’ on the dock or beach, or a full-blown pot luck appie party and jam session…  these get-togethers occur regularly and are great fun. We do have to be careful tho’. Their numbers can get out of hand and it’s easy to run out of food or ideas for food. As well we’ve found we want to limit our socializing a tad… it was kind of taking over and biting in to our alone and together time…

Wildlife, of the mother nature kind: All my words and all our photos will never be able to do justice to the beauty that is the Sea of Cortez. I could never have imagined the sea life and the majestic beauty of the Baja. To swim with whale sharks and sea lions, to be entertained by leaping rays, to swim with schools of tropical fish, to look deep into azure and turquoise blue waters, to even be able to select the exact piece of sand you’re going to plunk your anchor into.. to ‘paint’ with the spotlight at night – running it across the sea surface and having thousands of fish leap from the water in the path of the beam… to experience being surrounded by hundreds of frolicking dolphins and dozens of feeding whales… to fall in love with the full moon, night after night after night… and to thrill at the sight of a meteor racing through the atmosphere.. What more can I say? These things… the people, the nature, the lifestyle… is why we are here.

So, like so many things in life… there are some ups and downs to this cruising adventure. But the one main realization I have is that we would never be able to have this experience without going through the tough stuff first and as we go. There’s no exactly right time to go (age, career, family); there’s no exactly right size of boat to go in (24’ – 74’ they’re all out here); there’s no exactly right way to plan your courses and routes (it’s an individual choice); and there’s no exact formula for figuring out when you’ve seen enough, done enough, travelled far enough… (I guess we’ll know when we get there).

So that my friends, is my message this Sunday morning.  I wish all of you a day filled with peace and love.  Be good to yourselves… enjoy your families and friends. Hugs to you all…. CJ

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Great sailing, Boobies, and turtles… from Los Muertos to Mazatlan

We had a great crossing!  After spending several wonderful days in Los Muertos… swimming, snorkeling in warm (82 degrees) water,, fishing and generally enjoying life at anchor… it was time to go. The northerly winds were calming down and the seas (forecast to have been running at 5 second intervals) were laying down as well. We were to have 3 or 4 days of relatively calm weather which is exactly what we’d been waiting for. So, without further ado, we made ready to leave… and left. With the fleet of small boats (the dinghy and kayak) up on deck and all other gear lashed down.. we were back to looking like a travelling road show complete with Sophie the wonder dog and her famous mat.
When to weigh anchor: Now then, just to explain the timing thing… as to when to weigh anchor and actually leave. There’s kind of a formula that we use.  Most of us plan our voyages based upon the average speed we expect to travel, the distance we know we have to cover, the weather conditions we expect to encounter, and the precise time we need to arrive (given other factors like tide change, currents, daylight and darkness, and other navigational hazards).  It’s definitely not like hopping into your car and driving to the country.  Nope, there are more than a few things that have to be identified, researched and factored in to the first decision…. which is what time to leave. We’re a smallish boat and travel more slowly than others.  Given that we enjoy sailing comfortably (eg: without the leeward rails buried in the water and gear and crew being tossed about like loose ballast) we have a house rule out here…  we keep one reef in the main at all (well, mostly all) times. Over the years we've learned that Shannon sails very well lightly reefed in brisk winds. We've also learned that the wind and sea conditions here can change very quickly… they pay no attention to the forecasts at all, and do their own thing. So, all things considered, and unlike larger boats who figure they travel at an average of 5-6 knots, we use 4 knots as our average speed for working out timing for travel. Travelling at 4 knots, we worked out it would take us approximately 48 hours to cover the distance to be traveled – and we wanted to arrive at the entrance to the harbour just before the high slack tide. We did the math… and weighed anchor at 0930 hours on Saturday, December 1st.
It was a beautiful day, brilliant sunshine, crystal clear blue water, and a warm and steady breeze. We hoisted sail, came about to our intended course and headed across the Sea of Cortez…”Mazatlan here we come”.  We had a fabulous sail!  Averaged 6 1/2 knots over 10 1/2 hours! With reefed main and genoa!(there goes the timing :-) We ran from 1000 to 2045 hrs. on one tack with a steady wind and large but steady seas. It was the kind of day you dream of… the kind of sailing we usually get to experience in short spurts. Everything worked well… all systems were ‘go’. By quarter to nine that night the wind was backing off and the ride was getting kind of lumpy so we fired up the ‘iron genny’ and motor-sailed on into the night. Using the three hour watch system (3 on/ 3 off) we were kept company by the myriad of stars (including our favourite constellation… Cassiopeia), a half-full and still brilliant moon, and a few critters.
Boobies (not that kind :-) Now don’t get me wrong….  I’m a pretty critter-friendly kind of gal but even I have my limits. When the large brown sea birds and Masked Boobies start arguing over who is going to land on our tiny mast head… covered with sensitive and light-weight wind instruments… I get a little testy. And, when one large Booby decided to heck with the masthead, the solar panels make a nice landing strip….  well, I got out the fly swatter… and didn’t I look a bit silly climbing up the side of the stainless steel arch, waving about the tiny green plastic fly swatter.  So silly I guess, the bird just looked at me with a stupid look on his face…   Finally out of sheer boredom or in need of peace and quiet away from this mad woman with a fly swatter.. he took off.  Leaving me then with only moths the size of robins to duck and swat at… who knew humongous moths could fly that far out to sea? Well, enough said… everything settled down and the rest of the night was peaceful… we motor-sailed all night and into the next day as the winds died away to nothing and the seas flattened to glass. It was early the next morning when Sophie was heading up to use her mat, we (well she) realized there was someone living on our fordeck.  One young Masked Booby had decided he needed to rest and our little patch of fordeck was a good place to stop.  He was with us for several hours, only leaving when the swells came sideways and rocked us about a bit.
In the middle of the great blue sea: By mid-day on our second day we were travelling through the middle of the Sea; well out of sight of land and without a single other boat in sight.  We could have been in the middle of the Pacific, half way to Hawaii.  But we weren’t. We were in the middle of the Sea of Cortez, with flat, smooth warm water all around us, and no sight of other human life. You guessed it… off came the clothes, out went the life-ring on its floating line to act as a safety… and in we went… skinny-dipping in the Sea one at a time (so the other could mind the boat and watch for unwanted creatures of the shark-like variety.. this, of course, is assuming that sharks swim just below the surface like in the movies.. which, of course, they don’t… but if you blow past that bit, we had our lookout looking out… and really enjoyed the swim…  :-) After our swim and after lunch we carried on…. motoring on the glassy, slowly rolling sea.  On and on we travelled, one course, one destination… Mazatlan.
We were also delighted to see numerous sea turtles floating about; quite a few actually…  None were going anywhere fast (do they ever?) and all kind of gazed at us as we passed… and then carried on their way.
Oh oh:  It was my watch; Kathy was sleeping. The time was 2330 hrs. precisely.  Otto was driving (that’s Otto the auto-pilot… the auto-pilot that failed on us on our journey down the west coast…  the auto-pilot we had to replace in Ensenada because the cost of the one broken part was only $200 less than the cost of the entire unit… and you couldn’t buy just the one part anyway… the autopilot that couldn’t really handle the seas at the best of times….).  I digress, but only because I am so displeased with the Auto-Helm I purchased and had installed the year before we left…a Raymarine SmartPilot X-5. To continue, there we were, motoring on a flat calm sea on a windless night… and my ears picked up a whining sound coming from the  motor tube (which contains the motor and gear box) of the auto-pilot and within minutes the whole shebang ground to a halt. Now we’re not new to the routine of hand-steering (having hand-steered over half of the 2000 nautical miles we travelled last year) but oooooh, what a disappointment.  So much time and money spent on this auto-pilot already.. and it goes and breaks again !!  And, this time it breaks when we’re in the middle of the Sea of Cortez with over 12 hours still to go.  I called Kathy up and we reviewed all we could… she tested what she could … and then we just carried on, now one hour on and one hour off… hand-steering yet again.
We arrived at our waypoint, just outside the entrance to Mazatlan and the El Cid Marina, a couple of hours early and Kathy was able to contact Raymarine to discuss our current problems.  She and the tech guy agreed the problem was (again) the Motor Tube.  Unfortunately, while the equipment is still under warranty, being in Mexico practically nullifies the opportunity to use said warranty. Between finding an actual dealer (there’s one in PV), ordering the unit, shipping the unit, the potential customs fees (rumoured to be totally outrageous.. eg: thousands of dollars) and the time required for all this to happen… AND the fact I’m loathe to put one more nickle into this auto-pilot… turns out we’re kind of hooped… for now.
At 0930 hrs., exactly when we’d planned to arrive, we motored into the El Cid Marina and were warmly welcomed by Lynn and Debbie Greentree (SV Dolphin Tales) friends from our own yacht club. They had kindly arranged for a good slip for us (B 07) and after helping us tie up and giving us a brief rundown of all the great things to do at the El Cid, they left us to catch up on our sleep (always necessary after a couple of all-night runs).
Current status: You know, sometimes when you think you’re having a bad day… you need only look about to find someone who’s having a worse one. Dave, a friend from La Paz, and his crew Cheryl also sailed across the Sea (SV Free Spirit).  They were one day behind us. On that same day our auto-pilot gave up the ghost, their transmission followed suite.  They were forced to sail a great deal of the way.. in little to no wind. When they arrived on this side, they had to anchor outside the entrance.. no transmission = no motor = no manoeuvring in small spaces.  They’ll be coming in to the slip right beside us this morning (under sail and with small dinghies helping)… and we’ll be here to catch them. The good news?  Dave will get his transmission fixed. It’ll cost him, but there is a good mechanic here. More good news? Dave has a spare auto-pilot on board which he may be able to spare and that may work for us.  Still more good news?  Dave may be able to use our spare course computer (one of the brand new parts left over after we had to buy an entire unit to get a motor tube) on his current auto-pilot. Time will tell and we should know where we stand by the end of today or tomorrow morning.
A little time for fun:  Oh yes, it’s time for some fun.  We had dinner at the Fat Fish restaurant tonight (thanks for the tip George).  It was great. And tomorrow (er today) we get to take a free cooking lesson… cooking Marlin… and with free tequila.. how good is that??  And, did I mention, that with our slip rental at the El Cid Marina.. comes free use of two pools, one hot tub, morning yoga classes, aqua-size classes, free shuttles to town, clean towels, movie night under the stars twice a week, and all the pools and spa facilities at all El Cid hotels here… (there are four I think… beautiful hotels).  Not bad hey?
Well I think that’s enough updating for now.. sorry for the delay in writing but we had to get a few things organized before I could clear my mind. We’re doing well. Sure like the greenery here.. it reminds me of Maui.  Kathy has photos to post and will do so as soon as she can.
We hope all is well with all of you… think about you lots…  good luck with your winter weather…  California has sure taken a hit this past week or so. Stay warm… stay safe… write anytime.. we love to hear from you.  Bye for now…  adios..   CJ

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Ensenada de Los Muertos…

Having left La Paz on time, or at least on the day we said we’d leave (Nov. 25), we motored and motor-sailed (breeze on the nose of course) up to Playa de Bonanza; a gorgeous bay with a beautiful 2 mile long, white sand beach.  We had a great afternoon and then settled in for the evening.  Our sleep was not to be peaceful tho’ as the night winds swung around (to the SW which blows right into the bay) and kicked up to 15-16 knots. We woke early the next morning after a rather rocky night, got ready to go, and weighed anchor at 0715 hrs… right on time for starting down Ceralvo Channel with the tide.  Now, if I was any kind of a navigator (we’d have never even found Mexico if I’d been in charge of course plotting :-) I’d have realized that we weren’t actually at the north end of the Channel to start with.. oh no, we were about 1 – 1 1/2 hours north of the channel…  so there went all my timing…  rats.  But we persevered and even though the winds picked up to 20 knots, and the waves built up to about 4 footers… we carried on with Plan A.  Besides, it wasn’t very comfortable in Bonanza anyway. Luckily the winds and seas calmed down as the day progressed.  We had a great sail down the top half of the channel (renowned for its tendency to provide rather robust wind and weather for sailors) and then motor-sailed through the bottom half… arriving at our destination (surprise, surprise) about 1 1/2 hours later than we’d planned. 

We’ve been to Los Muertos before.  Our previous visit was a quick one, on our way north to La Paz last year.  We were tired, exhausted really, and spent a quick afternoon here.. heading off on our journey at 0200 hrs. the following morning, in order to ‘do’ the Channel with the tide.  That was part of the reason we’ve come back to Muertos, to have a better visit.  The other reason is that Los Muertos is a good ‘jumping off’ spot for heading across the Sea to Mazatlan. Our original plan was to visit here for last night and today, and then head across the Sea on Wednesday morning… all things being equal.  Well, this plan was apparently writtin in the sand.  The weather gurus have decided that Thursday and Friday weather, and particularly the sea states, are fairly ugly.  A ‘norther’ is coming and it’s going to create seas of up to 6’ every 4 seconds. That is nasty. The winds are forecast to be NNW 12-17 and that’s not bad… unless you add the 10 knots that most folks do to get close to apparent reality (is that a phrase??). You may see where I’m going with this.  We’ve decided to chill out here for a few days while the norther blows through and the resulting seas calm down….  straight up and down every 4 seconds is not our idea of a good time.  We’re in a beautiful place to hang out and we’ll have a little more time to finish up some of our little jobs and do some relaxing.

Surf Landings:  One of the skills we need to acquire for life on the mainland… is landing the dinghy in surf.  We’ve listened to many lectures on this and have benefited from the tales of woe spun by other cruisers… so we were fairly well versed on what to do.  Even so, today we learned two valuable lessons.  I’m stretching it to call the waves on this beach ‘surf’, but they were just enough to challenge us so in we went… looking forward to practicing what we thought we knew. On our first attempt we hovered off a bit, watched  the waves and decided things were pretty calm… so in we went.  Wheels down, prop spinning, all was good…. or, oops, was for a second or two.  Seems I hadn’t been counting the waves and maybe should have, as one larger one snuck up from behind, grabbed our little expedition, and swooshed us toward shore… that’s when the bow dug in.  Yup, turned into a submarine…  Lesson one…. keep your weight towards the stern of the dinghy, and the bow up :-)  The good news is the waves were smallish and we didn’t get too wet…  we landed in one piece. Off we went and enjoyed a romp on the beach.  Getting back into the water… wasn’t too, too bad.  It works pretty well if, after walking the dinghy out into the water, I get in first (after starting the outboard), then Kathy does a belly flop in from her side, and I gun the motor.  Not too bad for now. 

Later in the day we ventured ashore again, this time to go to the Beach Bar for a snack… and we decided to use the handily provided boat launch ramp right beside the Bar. This time, with lesson one fresh on our minds, we held off a bit longer and waited and watched.  Oh, we were very careful…and, confident the seas were calm enough and we’d found a ‘window’…. in we went…steering straight for the ramp, pelicans scooting out of our path, and as soon as we got to shallow water and felt the bump of wheels against the bottom, we bailed out our respective sides… except… wait a minute, I had trouble getting out my side…. there were wheels in the way…..ooops… that bump was the outboard hitting the ground and then kicking up (thank goodness it wasn’t locked down) and we managed to get the wheels down and the dinghy rolling up the ramp before the next swell hit. Lesson two: always make sure your wheels are down before engaging in a surf landing. They work so much better that way !!  Speaking of which, we just love our new wheels.  Last years wheels were the large ones, with a pin that you have to put through two holes underwater for the wheels to be locked into place.  These new ones are smaller (so I can actually steer the dinghy with the wheels ‘up’) and they click into place with very little effort… much better. Tomorrow we’ll try again… heck, by Saturday we should be pros.

Getting ready to cross:  Unlike sailing at home, where in most cases we have all the equipment we will need ready at hand.  Prepping for longer crossings (such as this one that will be approximately 48 hours) takes a little longer.  Not only do we need to find and set up the safety equipment (like jack-lines, harnesses and tethers, storm sails, and lee cloths), we need to prepare the food and meals we’ll need along the way.  We’ll be back on 3 hour watches so won’t see much of each other, although it’s hard to sleep during the day when there’s so much beauty to see… so we’ll probably share the day watches and just doze off and on… Before leaving we’ll also need to hoist the dinghy up onto the bow and lash it down… and bring the kayak inboard of the life-lines and lash it down. The seas will be too large for either small boat to be hanging about on any racks outside the lines of the main vessel. All must be ship-shape before we leave and that includes couch backs strapped into place and security nettings hooked over open cupboards like the dish racks and book shelves.  Even the cooler and freezer will need to be 'secured’ and strapped down.

Guess that’s all the news for now.  Tomorrow is Wednesday and we’ll spend it pulling our little ship together for the crossing.  We also intend to find time for some snorkelling and fishing. This place is just filled with life.  Little puffer fish are swimming all around the boat and there are rays that leap out of the water sommersaulting and showing off their black and white colours. Pelicans, gulls, vultures and Frigate birds, wheel over head and the fisherman in their pangas come and go from the beach all day long. There’s a newish resort at the other end of the beach.  We may hike there tomorrow.  It’s supposed to have a neat model train display, a nice pool, and a favourable attitude towards cruisers…. 

So, that’s what’s happening with us for now.  Sorry, but internet connectivity is pretty hit and miss here…. If you don’t hear from us for a couple of days, no worries.. we’ll write when we get to Mazatlan.  Do remember tho’ that we can and do post our position report regularly.  You can fin us (and a short comment) but clicking on “Where is Shannon now?” on the front page of the blog. Hope all is well with all of you….  Big hugs…  CJ, Kathy and Miss Sophie.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Adios La Paz… it’s time to go…

Hi everyone.  It’s been a while since we’ve written… but, we’ve been busy.  Shannon is finally looking like a cruising vessel… complete with bits and pieces of equipment tied on here and there.  Some days we think we should get a little barge to tow behind and carry all our stuff that doesn’t fit into the lockers…:-) We’re rushing a bit this morning, so I won’t be writing too much right now.  Today is the day we’re going to ‘get out of town’…. it’s time to go and we’re as ready as we’ll probably ever be.  The winds are light for now, so our plan is to head up to a beautiful bay called Playa La Bonanza.  It’s on the south-east side of Isla Espiritu.  If you get a chance, look it up… it’s absolutely beautiful.  The kind of long, white sand beach that we all dream of… especially Miss Sophie. Speaking of whom.. she’s doing better with the heat now… had her Mexican haircut the other day and is considerably cooler.

What’s Next? Our loose plan is to spend tonight at Bonanza and then head down Ceralvo Channel to Ensenada de Los Muertos. We’ll hang out at Muertos until it’s safe to cross….  (we’re heading across the Sea of Cortez to the mainland… it’s time). The winds and seas may pick up and if they do, we’ll stay at Muertos.  It’s a pretty bay with good snorkelling and a beach bar…. how good is that? Hopefully we’ll be able to leave on Tuesday or Wednesday… we have a reservation at El Cid in Mazatlan for Friday.

So, that’s the news for now… it’s been a long haul but we’re finally heading out to begin our season of cruising in the Sea of Cortez.  We plan to cross to Mazatlan, then wander south in time to spend Christmas in Puerta Vallarta.  We’ll each be travelling home for a week in January and then will spend February exploring south as far as Barra de Navidad, then back up the coast through La Cruz, Chacalla, etc. to Mazatlan.  We hope to spend a week or so in Mazatlan in early March before crossing back to La Paz to prep and leave Shannon for the summer. 

Now remember; all cruising plans are written in sand just below the high water mark.  They change almost within the hour of being made…  It’s the nature of the game as winds and tides play games with our best intentions. Be assured we will be safe as we’re probably a tad over-cautious…  What do you expect from a couple of Capricorns?

Will write again when we can… will probably be off the grid for parts of our journey…  Take care everyone.  We hope all is well with all of you.  Hugs…  CJ, Kathy and Princess Sophie.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Almost ready…

Yup, our list is getting shorter and the temperatures have dropped a bit… It’s 0700 hrs and it’s 72 degrees with 78% humidity.  But we’re not done yet. We plan to slip our lines before the end of the month and head across the Sea to Mazatlan, and we’re pretty excited about heading back to sea and about seeing ports and anchorages on the mainland.

We’re lucky to be here at Marina Palmira… they treat us well and have most services. As well, we’ve been joined by several vessels and friends from last season and a few new folks and boats to meet. We even had a dock party on Sunday – the largest I’ve ever attended.  It was kind of fun as we used our kayak as a food table and several folks brought their instruments (Kathy too) for an impromptu, and very talented, jam session and sing-along.

Dock 3 Sundowner party 011
Sophie & Carolyn had ring-side seating
Keith & Donna of ‘Victoria Dos’ 
Gourmet cruising food
Everything on the boat needs two purposes
Dock 3 Sundowner party 009
Dulcimer, Guitar & Baritone Uke
(photo credit: S/V Victoria Dos)
Dock 3 Sundowner party 015 
Canadian musicians join in
(photo credit: S/V Victoria Dos)

A story from last season:  One of the events I didn’t elaborate on last season was the difficulty I had deploying our Solent Stay.  That’s a hefty wire stay that is attached at the top of the mast, very near to the forestay.  The theory is that, when needed (usually in bad weather when the furling head sail just isn’t doing well in the semi-furled position), the stay is run forward and attached at the bow, just behind the roller furling gear.  Once in place, a storm jib can then be hanked on and used in place of the larger furling genoa.  It makes for a safer suit of sails in strong winds.  So, that’s the theory and before we left we had a solent stay custom fitted and attached at the mast head. As you know we had a reasonable trip down and watched the weather forecasts very carefully… but there were a couple of times we had to deal with stronger winds and bigger than usual seas.  It was on one of these days, about mid-afternoon, with seas and winds building… we decided it was time to engage our brand new solent stay and storm jib… and there began at least two hours of pain and angst.  The pain came when, on my knees at the bow, I tried to attach the bottom end of the 45’ stainless steel wire to the little clip well enough to get a pin through the holes… yikes!  that did not go well. As the bow pitched up and down and sideways, I slid back and forth on the fibreglass deck, on my fairly old knees – kneecaps screaming. Hanging on to the wire stay was like trying to wrangle a small heifer to the ground with your bare hands…  I didn’t do well at all.  It took about an hour of riding and sliding on that bucking bronco to finally get that #!*# pin into it’s place.  Then, after tightening the stay I had to go back and get the sail, drag it forward,  hank it on, lash it down… and drag my sorry butt back to the cockpit to wait for time to hoist it. That was not a pleasant experience and one that I vowed to never experience again!! I must say tho’, that when we did hoist the jib and douse the genoa, and put the third reef into the main, our progress went well and was much more comfortable.  But, I was still determined to never go through that pain and angst again…  When we arrived at La Paz, and before we drove home, I went up the mast and disengaged the solent stay.  I brought both stay and sail home.

Over the summer I thought about this situation quite a bit and one night, in my sleep, the thought that there might be a better way to install the solent stay percolated into my dreams.  It’s true what they say about pain… the memory of it goes away with time. Armed with those two realizations, I packed the solent stay and storm jib back into the truck for the trip south and they are now resting on the foredeck awaiting their second life.  In case you’re wondering…  I think that if I attach the tensioning foot to the bottom of the stay itself (rather than the foredeck at the bow) it will give me a better purchase for hanging onto the stay and I may even attach a short line and lash the whole thing down while I put the small ‘fitterments’ together.

Soooo, today is the day.  Kathy has kindly agreed to let me hoist her up the mast to re-attach the dastardly solent stay in the hopes that I can figure out a better way to use it. While she’s up there she’s going to clean off our radar reflector (still wearing the sand and dust from last season’s sand storm in Turtle Bay) and re-attach a lazy jack line that went ‘astray’ when I was replacing sheets and halyards with messenger lines last April.

Solent Stay waiting to be reinstalled 

Going up the mast:  Not for the feint of heart, being hoisted up the mast requires probably more preparation than the actual work.  First there’s the Bosun’s Chair and a safety harness, followed by two halyards (one that actually hoists and the other as a safety back-up), a bucket for passing tools up and down, tools with safety lanyards, and any equipment required for the actual jobs to be done.  There’s also the polite two-step required to convince the biggest and strongest guys on the dock that they really should come and help do the hoisting… even though it’s blazing hot and they have their own chores to do :-)

Our trusty Bosun’s chair 
Kathy on her way to work
The View from up there 
Jack & Lance working the winch - Thanks!!
Solent Stay & Storm Jib back in service 

Well folks, I think that’s it for now.  Our thoughts are with Lionel and Barbara on board SV Sea Whisper as they make their way south to Panama, and Karen and Jim on SV Sockdolager (Karen in New Zealand, recovering from a challenge with her heart, and Jim waiting to single hand from Vava'u Tonga to where Karen waits).

We hope all is well with all of you….  big hugs to everyone.  CJ, Kathy and Princess Sophie.

Friday, November 9, 2012

The beat goes on… as does the work

Hi all, it’s been a while since we’ve written so we thought it must be time to catch up with you (and yes, we owe you some photos too).  Hopefully the wind and rain of the balmy northwest haven’t turned everything grey just yet.  I must admit we’ve been tempted to complain about the weather here… it’s much hotter and more humid than normal… and I know that, compared to what BC has right now, that doesn’t sound too bad… but remember, you can only take off so many clothes to cool off.. after that… well, it’s just indecent! :-) We’re not alone with this problem.  Even the local Mexicans are finding it too hot.  It’s at the point where you just give up trying to get anything done after 1100 hrs and before 1600 hrs. And, it’s dark by 1800 hrs,; so you can see how the work days are kind of short. BUT, our spirits have prevailed and we are moving forward, albeit slowly.  There are a few things we’ve managed to get done and we thought you might find interesting…
Ready to go…
We had a couple of days in which to prepare Shannon for her return to the water.  That preparation involved unwrapping and undoing all the knots and ties and bindings/covers we had put on her in April.  The mud, dust and dirt wasn’t as bad as we’d thought it would be and so the job went smoothly.  In fact, we were quite pleased with how she came through the hot, humid, wet, windy summer…even a swipe from Hurricane Paul.  The inside looked just as it had the day we left her and there were no signs of any uninvited ‘guests’.  The outsides were dusty and had obviously had some heavy sunshine but otherwise they were fine too. So, we got busy and uncovered everything we could and, with the help of Mauricio who scraped, sanded and painted the bottom (we had planned to do it ourselves… but it was waaaay too hot for that kind of work) Shannon was ready to move by early o’clock November 1st. We also cleaned up the propeller and sprayed it with a spray-on zinc coating…. haven’t done this before but time will tell how it works as a protectant from marine growth on the prop.
Shannon as we found her –awaiting our return
Note the holes plugged with ‘scrubbies’ to allow air in but keep the critters out
IMGP0602 All the deck bits were wrapped in old sailcloth or tinfoil IMGP0604
Dusty deck but everything looks to be in reasonable shape
Bottom painting all done
Painting the anchor chain in the yard – Thanks for the tip Bob James!
Prop sprayed with zinc
(time will tell how well it works)
Ready to go

Splashing Shannon…
As mentioned in our previous post, Shannon was splashed (moved from the dry, boat yard to the water and back to her dock) on November 1st.  Unlike home, where a huge crane with slings lumbers up, slips two slings under the boat, lifts it up, lumbers over to the water and gently lowers the boat into the sea…. things are a little more complicated here.  The Atalanta Boatyard sports one of the finest boat transport trailers around, but there are no slings and no easy way to move the boat from stands to air to water. The Mexican formula for success involves several men, all yelling at once, a very powerful tractor, and a slowly moving (literally inch by inch) process whereby the stands are carefully moved out as the trailer and it’s mechanical arms slowly move in. The entire ‘show’ took about an hour and was successful in every way. The following photographs show you the sequence of events as they unfolded.
El Officina
Uno Grande Trailer
Yard dog “Loba”
Shy little girl
Sophie waits in safety of the truck
Loba waits patiently

moving stands
El Capitan at the wheel
backing trailer in
adjusting stands
Slowly… Slowly….
getting there
just a little more...
sliding in the bars
moving the arms into place
El Capitan on the remote
Bueno! Looking good
ready to roll
stopping to let CJ aboard
(“Solo uno, Solo el Capitan de Shannon”)
the view from the helm
Mauricio has the remote
how deep is it?
IMGP0662 IMGP0663
Phew!! all’s dry inside!
Once back in the water, we motored over to our home for November (Slip 319 at Marina Palmira), and set about finding room for all the stuff we’d brought down with us.  It’s a funny thing… this driving back and forth.  Driving home means you get to take home a bunch of stuff you didn’t need on the boat in the first place…  you know, to make room.  The problem lies in the driving back.  Seems just as much stuff (perhaps different, or in some cases replacements or repaired stuff) creeps into the truck for the drive back…  Add to that all the materials and equipment we thought we needed to paint the bottom…. and, well, you get the picture…  Situation same… just different stuff.
Shannon’s moving team…
Mauricio, CJ & Alexandro
El Capitan
DSCN2164The Princess
Davits and wheels…
One of the most important pieces of equipment on a cruising boat… is the dinghy.  This little beastie is not only a means for exploring beaches, it’s also a necessity.  It’s like having your car with you when you visit new places.  Not only does it transport crew back and forth to the beach or other boats, but it also carries supplies like food, water, fuel, maintenance equipment and the like. It has to be protected and it must be secured.  And, unfortunately for your arms and shoulders, it can’t be towed due to the size and types of waves commonly slapping up behind and around you as you cruise. So, after last season wherein we realized that maybe, just maybe, all these boats with dinghy davits knew something we didn’t.  And, after suffering with slightly sprained elbows and shoulders from the constant strain of winching the dinghy out of the water and on to the foredeck each evening and every time we wanted to change anchorages… we finally acquiesced to the knowledge of others… and designed dinghy davits for Shannon. They’re a rather simple design, using the existing arch as a support and the two stainless steel poles (augmented with the addition of steel bars inside) that had been the lower lifeline rails at the cockpit, and some hardware and lines (thank you Earl for pulling that together for us)… we have davits and they work great!!  We also acquired a set of new dinghy wheels.  These ones have smaller wheels than the last (which means we’ll actually be able to steer the dinghy without the wheels trapping the outboard when they’re up)… and they work using a pneumatic mechanism rather than the “bend over the back of the dinghy, shove your arms up to your shoulders into the water, use one hand to hold the dinghy wheel rail in place and the other hand to try and shove the tiny pin into the tinier hole” method.  Phew!  Really looking forward to the new method for deploying wheels….  the old way was ridiculous.
at the doc k
finding space
dinghy wheels (smaller & better)
dinghy davits – hooray!!
The importance of shade cloth…
We have several… shade cloths that is.  Between last year and this year we have acquired one system that is made of 80% shade cloth and in ‘tarps’ designed to cover the entire boat (that was for leaving the boat in San Carlos… which we didn’t). Two of these tarps work nicely as a cockpit and deck cover. We also have nice white shade cloth zip-on sides for our cockpit cover.  They look very nice, but unfortunately they let in a lot of bright sunlight which doesn’t really solve the problem of hot, hot sun beating down upon your head.. and the princess.  I’m afraid this heat is proving a bit of a challenge for our little crew member.  She now endures regular dousings with the dock hose and almost daily runs to the beach where she can frolic in the waves chasing bubbles.  Other than that she rests in whatever bit of shade and breeze she can find….  And it’s up to us to create that shade for her…. back to shade cloths :-)  So, as well as the usual tarps (that don’t hold up in this kind of weather) we have several ways for creating shade on the boat and we’re doing our best to do that.  It is a challenge tho’ and should get easier when we’re ‘at sea’.  At least when we’re at the marinas, we can plug in and run the fleet of electric fans we now have…
And finally, just to tell you how special the evenings are here.  For the moment we do not have any neighbours on our port side.  That means that sitting on our little stools, in the cooler breeze of the late afternoon, we can enjoy a glass of crisp white wine and watch the ever-beautiful sunsets over La Paz. It’s a wonderful time of day/night and is becoming quite an enjoyable habit.
That’s about it for now… there’s always more work to be done.. it’s a boat after all :-)  And we’ve found a great beach about a half hour drive out of town (Tecolote) where we can soak our hot bods in the sea and sip a cool one in the shade of a palapa. So, we’ll be fine.  They say a Northerly is expected on Sunday and that it will cool things down and drop the humidity…. that’ll be ok with us.
Hope all is well with all of you… bye bye for now….   CJ