Thursday, January 21, 2016

Puerto Vallarta and Paradise Village for Christmas

Neil, Diana and Chewy were thrilled to get back on board Salicia (N40) when we delivered them to Paradise Village. (PV)  It was also good to be on WORKNOT with just Mary and Keela but we soon missed the Simpson clan.  Plans are to buddy boat with them this winter.

The four of us enjoyed Thanksgiving dinner at the PV Yacht club.   Traditional turkey, dressing and stuffing.

Paradise Village is an upscale resort at Nuevo Vallarta.  Just north of the main harbor in Puerto Vallarta. (Cruise ship dock).  Standalone homes, condos, time shares and hotels dominate the area.  The local "mall" is similar to being in San Diego with Starbucks, McDonald's, Domino's and Subway.  English is the dominate language and the grocery store has plenty of US brands.   A welcome refresher but not what we came to Mexico for.  Still we enjoyed being pampered and used the pools and ocean front cabanas often.  

The harbor entrance is normally calm and easy.  Occasionally it gets rough and this was one of those days.  We entered a few days before and it was like a lake.  Good thing we were not "scheduled" to leave this day.

The hotel has a Christmas dinner buffet on the beach.  Estimate they served over 1,000 people.  The food was outstanding, hot and service was very good.   Dozens of dishes were served and the desert tables were over the top.  

 One of a half dozen tables

 Better than a white Christmas

So where are they????

CUBAR 2016 weather again at Los Cabos November 22-25 2015

We traveled from Mag Bay to Los Cabos without incident.  Weather was fair and seas were very comfortable.  The CUBAR fleet was mostly ahead of us but we caught up with several boats in the fleet as we rounded Cabo Falso.   Our timing for this trip was scheduled to be 30 hours and we wanted to pass the southern tip of Baja just at sun up.   Departing at 7 AM we caught the sunrise at Cabo and continued on to Los Cabos arriving at noon.   (30 hours/153 gallons)


Fishing was slow but we did manage to land something for the freezer.

The next destination for the CUBAR fleet was a day trip to Muertos  and then on to La Paz.  Again the weather conspired to make it a difficult.  Hurricane Sandra was headed our way.  Again we were faced with running before a known storm with the fleet or charting our own course.  Without the pressure to remain part of CUBAR we would have departed without question to avoid the hurricane track.  In fact we NEVER planned to be near a hurricane.

Insurance coverage requires us to be well out of the hurricane zones.  Here are some facts about Sandra that help explain how we ended up in her path.

Rarities and Records

  • On Thursday morning, Nov. 26, Sandra became the latest Category 4 hurricane of record in either the eastern Pacific or Atlantic basins.
  • The previous latest Category 4+ tropical cyclone in either the eastern Pacific or Atlantic basins was Hurricane Kenneth on Nov. 22, 2011.
  • Sandra also became the strongest hurricane so late in the season.
  • Only three other eastern Pacific storms have formed later in the calendar than Sandra in records dating to 1949.
  • Hurricane Sandra became the second-latest-forming hurricane on record, behind Hurricane Winnie in 1983.
  • Sandra failed to break the record for latest landfalling Eastern Pacific tropical cyclone on record. According to hurricane specialist Michael Lowry, the latest eastern Pacific landfall on record was (and remains) Tara on Nov. 12, 1961.
  • The previous latest major hurricane in either the central-eastern Pacific or Atlantic was an unnamed storm in 1934 that remained a major hurricane into Nov. 23.
  • Sandra became the 30th Category 3+ tropical cyclone of 2015 in the Northern Hemisphere, far exceeding the previous record of 23 such storms in 1997 and 2004.

Crew meetings with CUBAR leadership failed to reassure us as the potential for Sandra to follow us up the coast was real.  Staying put placed us in the path so we decided to make a run for Puerto Vallarta.  Well south of the projected path and we could dodge north to Mazatlan if Sandra took a sharp turn to the east.    Unfortunately we left the CUBAR fleet and ventured out on our own, again.   Some of the fleet ran direct to LaPaz, some went to Muertos and then LaPaz.  A few boats went to Puerto Vallarta on the same plan as us.   It was a shame to see all problems the CUBAR team leadership suffered due to the weather but it confirms the saying that every cruiser should have mounted in the pilot house-"THE MOST DANGEROUS THING ON BOARD IS A SCHEDULE"

A few of the CUBAR fleet at Los Cabos

 Rare sighting-2 Nordhavn 50's of 3 on the trip.  We saw both boats in the PNW this year.  

48 hours ahead of the Sandra we departed Los Cabos at 4:45PM for a 35 hour crossing to Purerto Vallarta.  Weather was calm, light winds from the NW and long period swells.  Kept thinking "the calm before the storm" but the crossing was uneventful.  We were able to check the progress of the storm using our satellite phone and OCENS weather software.  Neil backed up my weather with his own sources.  Normally would only check the weather once a day but with Sandra in the area we checked every 8 hours of so.   The track moved south but we landed in Puerto Vallarta well in advance of the storm.  Sandra hit Mazatlan as a tropical storm after breaking down in the middle of the Sea of Cortez.   Our decision to head for Puerto Vallarta was a good one.  We would have been fine in Los Cabos as they only had heavy rain and 25-30 kt winds.   Puerto Vallarta had a day of clouds......

The welcoming harbor at Paradise Village Marina

This crossing thing is tough duty

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Ensenada and CUBAR 2015 start

We arrived Ensenada on 9/19/2015 to get some rest, visit friends and prepare for the CUBAR 2015 rally to La Paz.   The would be our second group cruise to Mexico.  Every 2 years a group of like minded boat crews travel in a rally format to La Paz from San Diego.  2013 was our first trip south of Ensenada and it was a great comfort to me in the company of many veteran cruisers.   We met many cruising couples and have crossed paths with them in very out of way places.    There is lots of additional information in previous posts in this blog.

The latest rally is called CUBAR.  The change in name goes along with the new "politically correct" language theme sweeping the country.  The rally has been permanently adopted by the San Diego Yacht Club and the run up to the start was very well done.  The seminars, communications, meals and documentation were vastly improved.  The roster of boats included over a dozen Nordhavns  (3 Nordhavn 50's) including WORKNOT.

CUBAR 2015

Joining us on the trip are Neil and Diane from N40 Salacia.  They were on the FUBAR 2013 rally and left their boat in Puerto Vallarta.  Having an experienced cruising couple aboard will make the 1000+ mile journey lots of fun and less work for Mary and me.  Neil and Diane get a ride to their boat and some additional blue water time.   WIN WIN for all.   They also travel with a dog, Chewy.  Lets hope Keela and Chewy see eye to eye.
Neil and Diane (SALACIA N40)
In ancient Roman mythologySalacia was the female divinity of the sea, worshiped as the goddess of salt water who presided over the depths of the ocean.[1] She was the wife and queen of Neptune, god of the sea and water.


Keela and I picked up a few last minute items in San Diego as we make final preparations for a winter in Mexico.   This load is all parts, the food will be loaded in Ensenada with support from the local Costco and Super WalMart.  

The CUBAR fleet got a great send off in San Diego.  Spirits were high and things looked OK from a weather perspective.  That quickly fell apart when the fleet arrived in Ensenada.  A late season tropical storm threatened  in become a late season hurricane and head up the outside of the Baja peninsula just about the time the CUBAR fleet would be there.

Dinner was great at the Coral this year,  They recovered with style from the disaster dinner we had there in 2013.

As soon as we arrived in Ensenada pressure form the tropical storm took its tool on the best laid plans of the CUBAR organizers.  Some boats wanted to wait out the storm, some wanted to run 2 nights  (60+ hours skipping Turtle Bay) and arrive in Mag bay to wait out the storm.   It was difficult to get firm information from the CUBAR leaders as they were reluctant to take a firm stand.  Most of the boat captains are by nature an independent bunch and getting a consensus proved to be impossible.

Neil checking the weather with Chewy for backup 

I choose to stay behind with a few other boats rather than run before a known storm with only one bailout place over 30 hours from the start of a 60 hour run.  Boat problems could delay us until the storm was scheduled to arrive and the storm could speed up its approach.  Speeding up is not an option with a displacement boat.  With less than a day to spare before the storm was scheduled to reached Mag Bay we would not have headed toward it without the CUBAR fleet commitment.   In the end the boats that left made it with time to spare and the storm did not reach hurricane levels.  

We followed the next few days and had a fairly bumpy ride.

Along the way we fished with limited success.  Caught a Mahi Mahi just big enough for dinner, another for the freezer on the way to Mag Bay.  One of the other boats traveling with us loaded the freezer and hooked a couple of Marlin to boot.


Next blog we catch up to the CUBAR fleet in Los Cabos only to perplexed by the weather once more......

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Ensenada Maintenance-If not a gearhead you may want to skip......

WORKNOT has traveled from Ensenada to Glacier Bay Alaska and back in the past 8 months.

Now with 3224 hours on the main engine several maintenance events are due.  We left Ensenada in March of 2015 with 2416 hours.    808 hours in 9 months with no major mechanical issues.  Scheduled oil changes, duck bill valves for the head, water maker pump replacement  and regular washing was about all we had to do.  Now with a trip to Mexico planned with 2000 miles of travel in 6 months its time to get ahead of as many items as possible.

The list goes something like this:

Main engine: oil change, valve adjustment, replace main jacketwater circulation pump (weeping), replace belts, test antifreeze and inspect hoses.

Transmission:  oil change, clean magnetic strainer, lubricate linkage

Generator:  replace seawater pump (seal weeping), test antifreeze, replace belts, inspect hoses

Stabilizers:  replace seawater pump (seal weeping) inspect hoses

Holding tank pump replacement

Vent fan in head:  clean carbon from brush holders and spec replacement

Upgrade stabilized satellite TV antenna with larger format dish for extended coverage

Replace bearings in clothes dryer motor

Wax cabin and hull

Windlass:  grease and reseal upper works,  Disassemble and inspect gear case.  New seals and oil

Polish stainless steel rails etc

Ensenada has an active fishing boat community and is home to about 100 yachts throughout the year.  Most of the yachts are supported from San Diego just two hours away.  Parts are readily available there and multiple trips back and forth are common.

WORKNOT carries spares for all of the pumps needing replacement.  After each pump was removed the next task is to rebuild the cores and return them to spare status.   A local technician suggested I try and get as many parts as possible locally as it would save several trips and perhaps some money.

Skeptical at first took a set of water pump bearings to the local industrial bearing supply.  Simply walked in with the old bearing in hand and 10 minutes later was headed back to the boat with 2 new Timken bearings.  $100 pesos each or about $7 US.  Same bearing from Jabsco is $34 US......Found seals for all the seawater pumps for about 25% the cost of same from Jabsco.   The real surprise was to find bearings for my European built dryer motor for $100 pesos each.  This motor is no longer in production and used ones are $300 US and up on Ebay.

The main engine is a Lugger 6108 marinized by Norther Lights/Lugger from a Komatsu long block.  All the hard parts below the cylinder head come from Lugger via Komatsu.  The circulation water pump is plenty expensive from Komatsu ($1,200 US)  and from Lugger add another 1/3rd.  Its a big old casting with two bearings and a carbon face seal arrangement.  Fairly common design.  In Ensenada there is a shop that overhauls automotive water pumps for all of the local garages.  Its a rough looking shop with plenty of broken down cars and a dirt floor.

  Just inside there were about 100 automotive water pumps going from greasy to rebuilt and newly painted.  The owner speaks no English but he took one look at my Komatsu water pump, reached up on the workbench and pulled the carbon seal set, tension spring and backup seal from the shelf.  Installed them in my housing with an antique arbor press and asked for $800 pesos ($60 US).  New bearings from the local bearing house, an hour of time from the local tech along with his hydraulic press and ready for a paint job.  

The down side is no warranty but then warranty doesn't help much when you are miles for a harbor and the new part you installed does not work.  

With all rebuilt pumps stored aboard and several spare bearing and seal kits as well we are ready to go for the CUBAR 2015 rally.  

San Diego to Ensenada 9/20/15

Early departure from the SD police dock.  6:45 am found me leaving with the fishing fleet once again.  Good weather and very small swell (2 ft @ 12 seconds) made the single handling trip to Ensenada easy.

Not much to report as Keela and I crossed into Mexico.  About 25 miles from Ensenada a Mexican patrol boat approached from the starboard side and ran along side for about 2 miles.  The boat was about 60' and had several men on deck with automatic weapons.  Finally after more than 10 minutes alongside they called me on the radio and asked if I had a dog on board.  Confirming I did , held Keela up for them to see, all the while making 8 kts.  Soon the captain wished me a good day and off they went.

Asked several locals what the dog question was all about and the consensus is they had an infrared camera scanning the WORKNOT and wanted to know what the moving heat source was.  They are using the infrared cameras to confirm the number of people before they approach a boat.  Surprised they could "see" Keela but my internet search for FLIR type cameras confirmed its possible.

Potential Heat Source

Arrived Cruise Port Marina at 3:30 pm and got an end tie for the evening.  Great for getting into single handed.  With all the travel we have done Ensenada is the most like a "home port" for us.  Several good friends to welcome us.  Know the way around town without a map and enjoy the ability to walk to a dozen or more local restaurants, grocery store and coffee shops.  

WORKNOT will be here until we go on the CUBAR 2016 group trip to La Paz mid November.