Sunday, April 27, 2014

La Paz to the Islands 4/19/14 and Escondido

Leaving La Paz on 4/19/14 after 6 days at Marina Cortez.  We enjoyed being  downtown La Paz rather than the more upscale Costa Baja marina located a 20 minute shuttle ride from the heart of the city.   We even had another good cruisers dinner with Dianne and Neil for Salacia (N40).   They are heading home for the summer and leaving their boat in La Paz.  Lots of folks do this to avoid the trip north also known as the Baja Bash.  

A favorite grill in La Paz









Marina Cortez Walkway

Our destination is a group of volcanic islands north of  La Paz along the eastern coast of the Baja peninsula.  We plan to work our way north to Loretto about  90 miles from La Paz.  We don’t have an actual itinerary and most trips will be less than 30 miles between anchorages.  It’s a very popular time of year as cruisers move north into the Sea of Cortez from the Gold Coast (Puerto Villarta mainland) in search of cooler weather and out of the hurricane belt.  These islands are a national park requiring a permit and restrictions on fishing and overnight camping. 



Each of the notations is a picture perfect anchorage in the right weather.  Other than a few fishing camps the islands are uninhabited.


Just before leaving La Paz if caught a cold but did not think it would be too bad.   It has  been very difficult to shake.  Have not felt like doing much so we anchored in a very desolate cove and for 3 days while I slept and tried to get better.  









Finally felt a little better and we moved on to very nice and more scenic spot call the  Hook at Isla San Francisco.  Still did not feel like hiking to the top for a picture but here is picture from the guide book.



We had our first rude encounter since entering Mexico.  We were well into the anchorage and about to drop the hook when an older Hatteras M/Y cut across our bow, turned  and set his anchor in the same spot we where planning.   He never made eye contact from the bridge or acknowledged we were on the planet.  In ten minutes has jet ski, dinghy, paddle-boards and kyacks in the water for a raft of kids to use.  Ran a genset all night and left the next morning as the big Detriots carried him away.  Boat name EL DON in very big letters with an east coast hailing port.  Somehow it all fit together.

Our next stop San Evaristo is a small fishing village on the mainland set into a very well protected natural harbor.  We anchored in 10 feet of crystal clear water, watched the anchor set and the chain play out.  This is still a trill for me to see the bottom and still feel safe.  Only a few rocks visible and plenty of  bait fish.   The town has a small water plant and makes its own electricity.  Most homes have a generator and one or two solar collectors on the larger homes.   A resturant/palapa and a very small teinda but no medicine for a cold.  The anchorage filled up by sunset with over a dozen boats.   Two power boats and 10 sail boats.   We are the exception up here.  Four fish tacos and a fee to dump our trash and the total was 131 pesos or about $11US.  

Mary gave some local kids a bunch of candy and they we all smiles.  They were pretty good at approaching us w/o speaking English and polite.

Sorry about no pics but this cold is winning.   Our next stop is planned around the potential for some meds.  We have enough medical gear on board to sew up a major laceration, IV fluids, splints, antibiotics, AED and much more.  ( even  have an IV set for Keela in case she requires emergency hydration)   Common cold was not in the planning so we are hoping to get lucky at a small tienda at the next stopover.

Made our way in very flat water to Bahi Candeleros, (25.43.72N X 111.14.24 W)  just a few miles south of Escondido.   There is a very nice hotel there along with a good anchorage for southern weather. 

   Dinghy trip ashore was easy and the hotel was very welcoming to boaters.  Mary found two kinds of cough medicine and some cough drops.  (Think I might be keeping her up?)   We were joined by 4 other boats for a very quiet and clear night.


A 90’ Azmuit came in late towing two other fun boats, a 19’ ski boat and a 16’ dinghy.  Guess fun comes in all shapes.  Way in the back of the above phot o is a small fishing village and a few shacks.   Their view is amazing but the property all around is part of a time share development.  Who knows if it will take 2 or 20 years to have an impact on them. 

Not feeling much better but we moved to Escondido and Hidden Harbor in expectation of crowds getting in place for LorettoFest.  This is one of the many cruiser sponsored charity events that usually support a local school or other need.  We had read much about the harbor. 



Puerto Escondido is one of the Baja’s most protected anchorages, landlocked except for a 200’ wide passage channel.   Anchorages include the “Waiting Room” the “Elispse” and the main harbor which can hold 150 boats on mooring balls and anchor.
It really is a hidden entrance:

To say we were surprised is only fair,  in fact the place is a bit depressing if that is possible in picture perfect weather conditions. (My cold is not helping here).  The “Elispse” has been abondoned by the builder and the local cruisers have build a make shift ladder for access to a few dozen boats on mooring balls.   The main building is also abondoned.  The last resturant closed just this week, the local grocery store is selling out the shelves and the rest of the offices except the marina office are vacant.  The boat yard has a few boats but did not see the travel lift move the 4 days we were there.   No one was at the fuel dock but there was a number call for service.


The larger anchorage contains a few slips and wonderfully engineered fuel dock, boat yard and concrete construction office and retail space.



What makes this so sad is they did everything right.  Very high end construction with lots of palm trees and features.  A lap pool, clubhouse rooms and more all built for 30 years or more of life.   There are many stories as to the downfall of the Fonatur marinas, many linked to the overall economy pull back in the 2008 time frame just at they were coming on line with several facilites.   Still with this much infrastructure in place there is not much effort being made to attract clients.  The mooring balls are mostly abandoned, we took one of only a few that had a tag line attached.   The office was less than welcoming, poor wi-fi, laundry might be open but not likely, and on and on.   Fences are erected separating the Elispe from the main harbor so you have to walk an extra 400 yards to visit the Hidden Harbor Yacht Club. 
A number of local cruisers are hanging on here, mostly in the “Waiting Room” on private mooring balls and anchors.   The bus does not come to the marina so a trip to Loretto is a $500 Peso cab ride and often an hour delay for road construction.  
So after 6 months in Mexico we landed in a place we don’t like much.   I’m still fighting the cold and we plan to hang around until I’m better since this is a very protected harbor.  Maybe when I’m feeling better Escondido will look better.


  
My crew is trying to stay low while I recover from this cold.

We will be headed back to La Paz in a few days.    



Thursday, April 17, 2014

Mazatlan to La Paz via Muertos

WORKNOT on the Move Starting in Mazatlan MX 

Mazatlan Marina was welcoming as usual; the entrance to the harbor seemed a bit easier as this was our 3 trip into this harbor.  On the first trip it seemed very narrow and threatening.   Still with some current and wind it could be a real challenge.

The Malecon in Mazatlan is one of the longest in the world at 13 miles with great sunsets and dozens of hotels and restaurants. 
Along the way there are several statues, a bronzed beer making kettle from Pacifico and palapas for dining.  The ever present Pulmonia make getting around Mazatlan easy and fairly inexpensive compared to the cabs of  Puerto Vallarta.   Still the bus systems are the best, 10 pesos to go downtown or 100 pesos in the pulmonia.

   




This busy commercial port is home to over 350,000 people.  Popular as a vacation spot for Canada, USA and Mexico there is lots of noise, action and local restaurants and bars. 

The large Catholic Church downtown is a remarkable piece of architecture.
Part of Mazatlan's restoration program. The Cathedral Bas√≠lica de la Inmaculada Concepci√≥n is the world’s only Roman Catholic Church with the Star of David displayed in each of its 28 stained-glass windows.

Construction began in the year 1875 and was completed in 1899. Restoration began several years ago and work continues.











Interior shots were not allowed during mass but more information can be found at http://sumazatlan.com/restoration.html

The commercial port has a large fishing fleet presence along with cargo ships and ferries.  
The yacht harbors are north of here but some anchorage is available for those willing to chance the constant traffic, noise and dirt. 



 The Mexican Navy also has a large group of ships located there.




We left Mazatlan for our crossing to the Baja Peninsula (Muertos) on 4/10/14 with an expected run of  186 miles or 26 hours.  Weather was forecast to be very calm and light winds, full moon and mild southerly swell.  We were not disappointed and crossed without getting any spray on the windshield.  Something only big boats normally get to boast about. 

Departing at 8AM from Mazatlan Marina (23.16 X 106.31.27) we arrived at Muertos at 9:17AM.  Burning 111 gallons of fuel over a 26 hour run averaging about 7.5 kts @ 1400 RPM.  
Engine room temps slowing climbed to a peak of 107F.  Vast improvement with the installation of the additional fan.
Fishing was slow but about 1/3rd  way across we saw a huge school of dolphins approach the boat.  We turned to follow them slightly north as they were jumping and going wild.



 Notice how calm, 2:24 in the afternoon about 75 miles offshore.



 Our reward was a yellow fin tuna.  Very tasty.
















Muertos was calm and pleasant.  This is our third trip to the anchorage and this time we took time to go ashore and visit a very nice restaurant on the edge of the bay.  The entire area is large homesite development that suffered like so many more with the general economic decline a few years back.  A few houses have been built but mostly it someone’s dream to develop this location about 40 miles for La Paz.   The developer renamed it from Muertos (bay of the dead) to Bay of Dreams.  It will likely be a long time coming. 


There is an active fishing operation taking charter fishing folks to the nearby islands and some commercial fishermen harvesting sharks and Mahi Mahi.
The sharks were quickly gutted, fins harvested and put on ice for transport to La Paz for shipping. 
 

The fisherman sharpened his knife after each shark and was able to completely  gut and behead them in under 5 minutes each.  Small slits were cut in each side of the belly to make handles to carry the sharks to the truck.  Very efficient. 

Muertos includes a very nice palapa in need of some more customers.  We met the folks running it and they are very proud of their business.  Great food and a view that is priceless.

Departed Muertos on 4/13/14 at 8:45 am for an easy 55 miles to La Pazb.  (24.18.597 X 110.21.442)  We decided to stay at Marina Cortez, downtown La Paz rather than Costa Baja which is a long bus ride from town.  This is virtual marina in that is does not have any pilings.  Its anchored to the bottom and has a floating seawall.

La Paz harbor is a long , shallow body lying mostly east and west.   Currents can run up to 3 kts and we were near a full moon which enhances the effect.  With all this known we made our way to Marina Cortez at what was believed to be slack tide.  

I have been around boats most of my life and have a fair amount of time with twin screw power boats.  Moving to the Nordhavn, single screw boat was a big challenge for me as handling a heavy, low powered, deep draft boat in wind and current is always tough. 
WORKNOT has a bow thruster, 24 Volt twin prop but it is not capable of turning the bow against high forces.  Something a twin screw boat can do in almost any conditions and our last boat, a Grand Banks was very well behaved.  My confidence in handling WORKNOT had, (operative word had) improved over the past year and it has now be reset.
  • First of all the tide chart on my chart plotter was off the mark and gave me the tide outside the harbor.
  • Second, the marina lies well beyond the seawall protecting it from the east and there is no seawall to the west.
  • Third, the dock sent 6 guys to the end of the finger to help us get in, I even commented, why so many guys?  PAY ATTENTION GALE
  • Forth, we were approaching the dock from the east and the current was moving from the east.  This puts the boat in motion with the current.  Preferred is to fight the current so you can use power in forward to set the desired speed.

The saga ended with me making a very poor landing, avoiding damage to the hull only due to the effort of the 6 guys the marina wisely sent to assist.  Even on the second try they were critical to getting to the dock without damage. 

As it turns out we were landing at the highest current of the day and I misread the water.  With no pilings to watch, the current tattletales were not what I expected.   Just after we got tied up a sailboat approached the dock and ended up turned 180 deg and backed into the slip to keep from hitting the boat next to him.  Again the 6 guys plus me helped prevent an expensive landing.

So, the ego has been reset, will be very watchful of conditions and remain intimidated by my single screw, 80,000# machine.  A little respect is good thing!

Marina Cortez a bit more peaceful.

  

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Time in La Cruz, Las Vegas and back at sea!!!


Upon our arrival in La Cruz we made plans for a 2 week visit to our Las Vegas condo to do what folks of our vintage do….Go see a long list of doctors and the tax man.   Wow was I ever looking forward to that trip.  Not sure which poking and prodding is worst, the Dr. or the taxman…….
While we were scheduled to be away arranged to have our mast painted and the boat waxed.  Dennis of Sea Fox volunteered to keep on eye on the work and it seemed like a good plan.  The wax was to take 3 or 4 days and the paint 4 days max.
It was my job to get the paint. The painter said to find the paint (2 part epoxy) located here.  


After a little excitement including a power outage for the entire block in Bucereas preventing them from producing a bill, finally got the paint and materials together.  
So far so good and we left on our trip.  
Flying Keela back to the US on Delta cost $400 even with her as a carry on bag.  Just a few $ less than my ticket round trip.  No issues getting her back into the US as we had all the required paperwork and her Mexico exit certificate.  No one checked at customs but all the customs workers wanted to pet her.

One of the many Dr. visits in Las Vegas included a trip to the ophthalmologist for me to have some special procedures associated with my diabetes and a routine visit for Mary.  This was suggested by the Costco in Puerto Vallarta where she got new glasses.  My visit went fine but the Dr. confirmed Mary had a real issue.  I’ll report here for any readers who might be putting off a eye exam especially as you age!
Mary was diagnosed with closed angle Glaucoma.  In my lay terms about 10 % of the population with get Glaucoma if you live long enough and about 10% of those will have closed angle.  It is related to the pressure in the eye, hence the PUFF test we all flinch from, and too much fluid causes the damage to the optic nerve. 
Wikipedia does better…..
Glaucoma can be roughly divided into two main categories, "open-angle" and "closed-angle" (or "angle closure") glaucoma. The angle refers to the area between the iris and cornea, through which fluid must flow to escape via the trabecular meshwork. Closed-angle glaucoma can appear suddenly and is often painful; visual loss can progress quickly, but the discomfort often leads patients to seek medical attention before permanent damage occurs. Open-angle, chronic glaucoma tends to progress at a slower rate and patients may not notice they have lost vision until the disease has progressed significantly.

Mary did not have any discomfort and it was a complete shock to us.  Treatment was straight forward, laser relief of the openings in the eye that allow fluid to drain followed by a week of observation.  She will have the other eye done this winter as a preventative measure.   This added a week to our land time.
One final note, after 3 weeks in Las Vegas, without any work and without any plans, its clear we would go nuts without the boat or something to occupy our minds.  So, cruising, often defined as working on your boat in exotic locations, seems to fit us well.  

Back to cruising:
Dennis did a great job with the painter and his crew but since I was not there to push our job got pushed back as “urgent” jobs made it to the front of the line.  After 3 weeks the mast work was finally done (thanks again Dennis) but no work on the wax job since Aron was waiting for the painter to finish.  Sounds just like a normal construction project but  was disappointing to return to the boat a mess.

For the next week we watched Aaron arrive each morning and work until almost dark waxing and detailing WORKNOT.  Without a doubt, the best wax job we ever received.  His attention to detail paid off and the end result was outstanding.  I will be hard pressed to keep it up to the level he left me.

Aaron is also a good resource for any needs and is highly recommended .   He helped us figure out our Mexican cell phone, wireless internet device call Banda Acha and much more.
We finally left La Cruz, headed north to Mazatlan on March 29th.   Anchoring overnight at Punta Mita we got an easy start  (8:00am) to Mantenchen Bay (21.31.8 x 105.14.38 W)  about 60 miles north.
Fishing was slow but we managed to catch 2 Skipjacks and return them alive.  Just outside Mantenchen Bay we caught a yellow tail and had fresh fish for dinner.  Our fish identification skills are growing but could use a good guide.  If not a yellow tail it was still delicious eating.

XM Sat radio is great to have on board and we got to listen to my Kentucky Wildcats make it to the finals of the sweet 16 while offshore.  Without TV, radio has become an important place to get information and can only imagine what a thrill it was to get radio back when it first reached rural America.    
We arrived at Mantenchen Bay around 4 pm well rested.  We could have continued on as weather was very good, 10 kt breeze and warm.  Long swells of 2-3 feet 15 seconds apart. 
After resting for the next day we departed for Mazatlan at 2:35pm on 3/31/14.  This trip will be 135 miles and 19 hours.  We plan to arrive in Mazatlan around 9:30am.  Timing a departure to arrive at daylight, with some room for delay is always the best. 
Engine room temps are always an issue with power boats and being in the topics compounds the issue.  With just the right (wrong) wind pattern and outdoor temps in the high 90’s along with high humidity we saw the hottest part of the ER approaching 120F.  This is uncomfortable and accelerates wear on anything rubber in the engine room.    To combat this I added a fan to the intake side of the ER.   Also made some improvements on the air flow characteristics of the intake.  Results so far are impressive as the ER temps are 10-12 deg. F lower than before.  The penalty is about 8 amps of DC load.  Well worth the effort and makes ER checks much more pleasurable and therefore likely…
 Work underway opening up the intake
 Improved air flow with the screening removed (50%+ gain in area)
 Finished fan and duct installed 

 Will move the water lines when we get some parts from the US.  Making the duct included a trip to a Home Depot where you can get lumber cut to size for 8 pesos ($0.05) per cut.   Pretty fair price and the young man running the saw quickly realized what I was building and squared up the ends and made sure the plywood end cap fit perfectly.  The fan is an automotive radiator fan slaved to the existing engine room fan system.  This keeps it linked to the on-board firefighting system which shuts down the fans in case of fire.  
Next up Mantenchen Bay to Mazatlan…














The fan is automotive radiator fan controlled by a relay slaved to the existing ER fans.  This keeps it in the shutdown circuit of the onboard fire fighting system to shut the fans down in case of an onboard fire.  Will move the water lines when we return to the US and get the needed fittings.