Sunday, November 24, 2013

Mag Bay to San Jose Del Cabo (around the corner of Land's End!)

Next leg is Mag Bay to San Jose Del Cabo (23.02N x 109.38.5W), just around the corner from Cabo San Lucas.   176 miles. 114 gallons of fuel with very favorable currents.  Scheduled to be 24 hours at 7.5 kts.  Easy to schedule since you leave at the time you want to get there. 

We left Mag Bay at 8:30am planning on being at the  mouth of the marina in San Jose Del Cabo when the marina office opened at 9 am the next day.
The guide book says there are “no suitable anchorages” between Mag Bay and Cabo San Lucas.  A single roadstead is listed an emergency relief only stopover.  We saw few lights on shore until we approached Cabo San Lucas.  Weather forecast called for potential rain and thundershowers.   A few boats left Mag Bay the night before but the official FUBAR forecast called for 2-4 ft seas with possible localized thunderstorms. 
The trip went very smoothly for us, weather held until we reached the turn to the west at Cabo San Lucas.   Our radar showed a strong line of thunderstorms and rain just to our starboard side and south.  Had the weather been 10 miles further north we would have had a much more exciting ride.  Several of us were hoping for  a rain shower to rinse off the salt accumulated from 600 miles of open ocean.  Instead we got just enough rain to wet the decks and stir up any dust onboard.   Between the salt and fish blood WORKNOT is in need of good bath.  At least the crew is well groomed and clean.
Rounding Cabo just at sun up was a real sight.  A major cloud and rain formation was to our southwest and Land’s End to the northeast.   From Wikipedia:  El Arco de Cabo San Lucas, or Lands End, Cabo San Lucas is a distinctive rock formation at the southern tip of Cabo San Lucas, which is itself the extreme southern end of Mexico's Baja California Peninsula.

Guide books report the arch has been cemented due to damage from the many cruise ships that visit the harbor.  Vibration from the ships damaged the structure but the draw for tourists justified the repair.  One side of the arch is known as Lovers beach and the other Divorce beach. 

My first trip to Cabo was in the late 1990’s to work on a boat belonging to Jack Whiteman’s surgeon.  (I worked for EMPIRE at the time)  Jack was the founder of EMPIRE and we had repowered the boat.  It was a disaster and for any Cat folks, it involved a pair of 3176 marine engines.  Not Cat’s best effort.  Jack told me to stay until the boat was fixed.  Before it was over we had repowered it again.  The waterfront was a few restaurants, sport fishing operations and mom and pop hotels that only took cash.  Today it’s hard to tell the waterfront from downtown LA or Las Vegas.  Among the notable spots, a Ruth Chris, Harley Davidson store and more “American” icon places to spend your money. 

FUBAR did not stop at Cabo but continued around the corner to San Jose Del Cabo.  A little more laid back than Cabo we found the resort marina of San Jose Del Cabo to be a true Oasis after traveling from Ensenada to there without a marina stop.  Our crew, Dave (Mary’s brother) and Lori fell in love with San Jose and a peaceful mutiny ensued.  Perhaps it was 800 miles of open ocean in 10 days, all within 50 feet of family or the true serenity of San Jose but we were happy to see them so enthused about Mexico and the area.    

Mary and Lori saying goodbye for now 
Dave provided me  a golf lesson on a stunning course that followed the coast line and Lori and Mary visited the many art studio locations in town.  The marina hosted a cocktail party on the roof of a hotel overlooking the harbor.  We too, could have stayed there for days just enjoying the hospitality and outstanding weather.  Below is view of the landmark cross located at the base of the harbor. 

Next stop is scheduled to be La Paz, (24.13 N x 110.18 W) 122 miles from San Jose Del Cabo.  

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Turtle Bay to Mag Bay

FUBAR Fleet’s next leg of the journey is 260 miles from Turtle Bay (27.67N x 114.88W)  to Magdalena Bay (24.651N x 112.12 W).     Turtle Bay was a little bit depressing with abundant poverty, dirt streets and poor housing in the area we visited.   We did find excellent coffee beans and friendly people.  I missed the dinner the night before we left, spending my evening working on one of the boats that choose to return to San Diego.  A large Searay sedan had inverter problems that left them without the ability to continue.  It was a very complex boat, multiple battery banks, automatic crossover controls, after delivery modifications and tough access to the main control panel.  Additionally, the owner’s wife injured her knee and was in pain.   We left them with a running generator and capable to returning along with a knee brace to support her injury.  The second boat of 33 to abandon the trip.

The leg to Mag Bay is expected to be 36 hours at 7.5 kts. (we used 160 gallons of fuel)  Generally the plan was to leave about 10 am to arrive at 10 pm the following day.   By 8:00 am the anchorage was nearly empty as the fleet seemed anxious to get going.  The fishing was supposed to outstanding as we crossed some of the best fishing banks on the west coast.   We got underway at 8:30 am planning to travel at 7.5 kts.  This makes WORKNOT right in the middle of the pack for speed.  Notable boats underway included a Nordhavn 76 and a pair of Nordhavn 62’s.  We are traveling in good company.

Fishing turned out to be outstanding as promised.  We landed Dorado and hooked something that destroyed a new “Candy Bar” lure and got away.   Wahoo were caught by several folks and perhaps that is what we lost.   Can’t find a filet knife on board, (know we HAD one), so again we are filleting fish with a bread knife.   Not pretty but effective.  The volume of meat per fish is impressive and the freezer is filling up fast. 
On our boat the water tanks are not connected to each other.  We carry 350 gallons of water in 4 tanks.  Useful for balancing the boat as we can take water from any tank to help trim the boat.   Frustrating as a liveaboard at the dock as we have to frequently switch from tank to tank or refill the tank we are using often.  The logic of this design showed itself on our trip about 7 pm on the way to Mag Bay.  A hose clamp fitting popped off allowing the freshwater pump to empty one of the tanks into the bilge.  Caught it on a routine engine room check.  Repair was easy, just reattach the fitting and tighten the hose clamps.  Since we only lost one tank, no impact on our trip, safety etc.   The watermaker replenished the tank in about 5 hours and we were again carrying enough water to complete the journey without  buying or making more.  Recently added a secondary filter to the water system and it was one of those connections that slipped off.  
All the FUBAR boats monitor the same channel and there is a fair amount of chit chat as the group gets more comfortable with each other.  The chit chat was interrupted by one of the faster boats, about 25 miles ahead of us, taking on water at about 11 pm.  They could not pinpoint the intake point and has lost one bilge pump in the aft lazzerette.  Somehow water was coming on board from the stern in what had become a 3-5 foot following sea.   The Nordhavn 76 was nearby and turned around to stay with them as they continued south.  No real relief is available at that part of the Baja until you are almost to Mag Bay.  Well over 100 miles away from them and they would not reach there until the afternoon. 

A call was made for any help and one of the more seasoned boats suggested they might be able to use wax toilet bowl seals, found in any Home depot, to plug the leak if they could find it.  They transferred seals to the stricken boat and they applied the wax to the area of the transom expected to be the source.   The seas had calmed down some and things seemed to be under control.   By now it was early in the morning and they had been working for several hours, all while still traveling south, to solve the ingress.  The next morning they reported things well under control but wanted to make a more permanent repair.  We have a crash kit that includes multiple ways to repair a hull breech and offered to provide it but we were still 25-30 miles away.  At 7.5 kts it takes a long time to close the gap even if they waited.   One of the fast sport fishing boats was about 5 miles from us and reversed course to meet us.   The Riviera 54 is capable of nearly 30 kts.   We transferred the repair materials to them and they raced off to the stricken boat.  

The transfer process might be of interest to some:  Getting two boats together in open seas is a major safety issue.  Even in fairly settled conditions the opportunity for damage or worse is high.   Different boats roll at different rates and the wind impacts every boat in a different way.   The solution was found in a stroke of luck and inspiration.  At the beginning of the journey, we were given an orange float tube similar to those carried by lifeguards on California beaches. It was a promotional gift from the maker “Drytube”  At the time we all thought “what the heck am I going to do with this thing?”   After this trip would not go to sea with one aboard.  Below is the material we placed in the Drytube for transfer.  We then tied a fender to the tube and threw it overboard.  The pickup boat snagged the line, much like the “Deadliest Catch” does with crab pots and retrieved the goods.

The stricken vessel and several other boats stopped just short of Mag Bay at Santa Maria Bay.  They were able to locate the ingress point; a locker built into the swim platform and made a suitable temporary repair.  The seam that was opened up could be sealed with less than a tube of caulk.  That does not minimize the concerns anyone would have felt with water coming into the hull from an unknown source, pitch dark and dozens of miles from any safe harbor.  Traveling with a group like the FUBAR must have been of great comfort the captain and crew.
We arrived at Mag Bay, just as the sun was setting.  The bay is about the same size as San Francisco Bay but very sparsely populated.  We made our way to Man of War cove dodging 10 or more small boats, all fishing with a variety of lights and techniques.   After 36 hours it was good to get the anchor down and get some much needed sleep without a watch to stand or an engine room to inspect.  
Mag Bay turned out to be everything Turtle Bay was not.   The water was very calm; the panga visits were pleasant and helpful.  Best of all, the dinner on shore was a fish fry with the fish provided by the FUBAR fleet.   Our host, Captain Marco, was gracious and his team put on a great feast for all of us.  A FUBAR tradition is bringing school supplies and gifts for the kids of Mag Bay.   Mary had studied this and we delivered a collection of back packs, school supplies and small gifts.   Several other boats also provided items and they were all assembled at the dinner location.  The kids came and sat very quietly until asked to come retrieve the goodies.  They even gave all of us some handmade gifts in exchange.   I could have stayed in Mag Bay for a few more days and plan to on our return trip.
Next leg is Mag Bay to San Jose Del Cabo (23.02N x 109.38.5W), just around the corner from Cabo San Lucas.   176 miles.    

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Ensenada to Turtle Bay

We are now located in San Jose Del Cabo,(23.02.841N x 109.38.512 W)  just a few miles east and north of famous Cabo San Lucas Mexico.  Comfortably in a slip at Puerto San Jose Del Cabo, it is our first opportunity for internet access other than via satellite phone which is very expensive and painfully slow.   It is the longest I have gone without internet I can remember, perhaps the longest since I first logged on to “Compuserve” many, many years ago.   Wonder how many remember the dialup days BEFORE AOL?

The next entries will tell of our trip south to San Jose Del Cabo.

We began our trip south from Ensenada (31.84N x 116.62W) to the first stop, Turtle Bay  (27.67N x 114.88W), 280 nm south by south east.   The longest leg of our trip we, scheduled it for 38 hours run time @ 7.5 kts.   Departing at 10:02pm on Friday evening running 3 hours shifts of one person on watch and one “in the watch berth” in the pilot house, the trip was uneventful for WORKNOT.  

Thirty three boats left Ensenada and one turned back within a few hours.   For the boats folks, a Nordlund 68’ switched to an empty fuel tank and promptly stalled both engines.   Unable to restart, a tow was arranged from Ensenada.  The rescue boat was expected to take 4 hours to reach them, when it did the captain of the rescue boat was able to restart the engines but they choose to turn back and exit the FUBAR.    This was one of the larger boats, professionally crewed and it was a surprise to see them out at the beginning of the first leg.  Fortunately the seas were very calm but 4 hours abeam, in the dark, could not have been fun.

We arrived in Turtle Bay at 1:20pm on Sunday.  On the way we fished and actually caught several yellow tail tuna worthy of cleaning.  Kagi, a friend who set me up with fishing equipment and tried to teach me would have been proud.   Our normally clean and shiny aft deck was turned into a blood bath as Dave and I landed 12- 20 pound tuna, cleaned tuna, caught more fish and continued the cycle until we quit fishing.   A larger cooler will be required if this is to continue.  Gaff skills improved with each catch but nothing like the skill demonstrated by Kagi. 

Fuel burn was 170 gallons - 4.4 gallons/hr.  Several boats required fuel at Turtle bay. An interesting negotiation with the single source provider who controls the only fuel dock available.   Glad we did not need to approach it other than by panga.  It’s an old cannery pier, very frightening steps to the water and many missing planks etc.   Although fuel prices, panga ferry service, dinner etc. had been pre-arranged it quickly broke down to “price at time of service” for support.  Got a perfect glimpse of our host as he was sitting in a new, clean, Chevy quad 4 x4, counting a wad of Pesos while directing his “crew” supplying fuel, ice, panga ferry service and support of the fleet.  The gold rimmed glasses and the quick smile made me feel more NY city than Mexico but he was there to support a captive market and all went well.  

More when we have some time to rest.  Next report Turtle Bay to Magdalena Bay (24.651N x 112.12 W) and then San Jose Del Cabo and finally La Paz. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The first leg

The whirlwind of activity finally came to an end at 5:07 am this morning.  After weeks of preparation and planning there was no more to be done.  Our family/crew Dave & Lori, arrived last night, water tanks were filled and dock keys dropped off.  For the first time in 12 years I was not carrying an Almar marina dock key in my pocket. Odd how little things strike you when facing change.  We started our west coast boating with a slip in Ventura California, operated by Almar and moved to an Almar marina in Alameda California and finally to an Almar facility in San Diego.  When we reached Ensenada today, just as I left the boat I reached for my Almar dock key out of habit.  Just one of many habits to modify in the coming months.

Today's trip of about 70 miles got underway just at daylight.  We planned to get up at 5:30 am and be underway by 6 am.  Guess there is a bit of excited little kid left because Dave and I were both up at 5:07 and ready to go.   We left the dock at 5:33 am and were safely tucked into Cruiseport Marina in Ensenada Mexico by 2:30 in the afternoon.  The wind was from the east and grew to about 15 knots before calming and clocking around to the NW.  The gave us a very comfortable following sea of about 2-3 ft with minimal wind waves. Water temp was 62 F and air rose from a chilly start of 58 F to a very sunny and pleasant 72 F on arrival.   Great start to the journey.  Several dolphins joined us for a play session in the bow wave.  Always a good feeling to see them.  They always seem to be smiling and playing.  

Estimated fuel for the trip is 40 gallons.  Forgot to reset the Flowscan but will do so to provide more accurate fuel logging in the future...Average speed was 7.6 kts at 1,500 rpm.  No mechanical issues (appropriate knock on wood here) to report and the rhythm of watch-standing, engine room checks and rest interrupted by lots of snacking was very comforting.

Mary led us to town for a fish taco dinner but we were sidetracked by a plate of ribs at a local burger and steak sidewalk restaurant. Finished off with a walk across the street to Mary's favorite churro purveyor and a quiet walk back to the boat.  

We rest here while the rest of the FUBAR fleet arrives and fuels for a departure on Saturday morning.   We followed 3 Nordhavn's down the coast and there are a few more already here for the trip.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The journey begins in earnest

After years of living aboard boats from a 42 Grand Banks, then a 46 Grand Banks and finally the current Worknot a Nordhavn 50, we have dreamed the dreamers dream of living aboard and traveling WITHOUT A SCHEDULE.   For the past 10 years we have enjoyed moving our boat and home from San Francisco Bay to San Diego but always under pressure to meet a work schedule.  We gained coastal cruising experience and tons of "how to live on-board" experience in the past years.  Now we hope to add to that experience with longer and longer journeys, farther and farther from the Southern California coast.  

Our first trip after my retirement is the FUBAR, , group trip from Ensenada to La Paz Mexico.   Yes, its a highly scheduled trip but take a look at the website and you will see about 40 other like minded boaters are making the same journey.  There is much to be said about safety or at least comfort in numbers.  At the end of this 1000 mile trip we will be "on our own" in La Paz Mexico with the Sea of Cortez and the mainland of Mexico to explore at will until we need to return north avoiding the hurricane season in April of 2014.

We committed to the trip early this year and it forced me to put a line in the sand for a final stop working date.  Without this commitment I would have extended my work life for just one more project or one more "important" event and never taken the leap.  With a firm deadline for the FUBAR trip looming and money committed there was no graceful way to put off retirement any longer. Its a great way to start a retirement and change the focus of the day to day.

As the big day to shove off got closer the pace of activity reached a fevered pitch.  Lists were made, accomplished, another list soon appeared. Someone would suggest you just could not go without this or that and the frenzy to find it, buy it, install it, stock spares and at some point read about how to use the newest "it" took over the day.  To name a few items we added an ultra violet water treatment system, upgraded radar, second backup chartplotter, 100's of # of engine/generator spares, fuel, lube oil, filters, light weight dinghy, charts, cruising guides and enough food to last for the journey down and back.  If the trip we delayed another week the waterline on WORKNOT would have disappeared  forever.

We are accompanied on the FUBAR trip by Dave and Lori Martin.  Dave is Mary's brother and Lori his wife.  They got the boating bug from us on a trip to Catalina a few years ago, quickly purchased their own trawler and put many miles under the keel in a short time.  Its great to have family to crew and share the FUBAR trip experience.  Even better when they know their way around a boat!  They seem to have mastered the retirement program and Mary and I are taking notes.