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