Monday, January 24, 2011

Headless in La Paz

Excuse the take-off of the Marines’ motto "Semper Fidelis" (English: Always Faithful).
I’m still in Marina Palmira waiting to get the head back on the engine. Chris is in Tanzania finishing up here work travels crisscrossing the Serengeti. The head was supposed to be done by last Friday. Unfortunately Colin, the mechanic working on it, had an angina attack. He ended up flying to Guadalajara for some high-end cardiologist review. A quick test in the afternoon, insert a stent in the early evening and out of the hospital in the morning. All for less than half what it would cost in the US.
Colin came by this morning looking pretty good. He dropped off the head and associated parts with their pretty new paint job.
The shiny copper in center is one of the newly inserted injector sleeves; the whole reason we took the head off. He should be back in the morning to put the beast together.
Getting work done in Mexico is an interesting experience. There’s lots of parts available in La Paz. Finding them takes patience. Skilled workers are also here in reasonable quantities. Either locals with good skills or ex-pats that have setup shop. Actually getting jobs started and completed is a little tougher. We wanted to get a Bimini made for the boat to reduce the sun over the wheel when we are on watch. After looking at lots of boats I had finally come up with a design that I thought I could live with.  Jeorgia’s boom is very long and has end boom sheeting. This makes it difficult to get a Bimini to fit and be practicable. I checked around and got recommendations for two folks in La Paz. The warning was that there were others, but you’d have to stand over them if you wanted the seams to be sewn straight. I called up Danny, a local who has been doing canvas work in La Paz for a long time. He was interested in the job. Couldn’t come out today but he would definitely stop by tomorrow to look at it. It was one of those ‘tomorrows’ that translated into mañana, i.e. ‘’not today’’. No show. I call again and leave a number of messages – no show. Then I contact and ex-pat Doug, the one-eyed sailmaker. Next day he shows up within a half hour of when he said he’d be there. Nice guy, interesting talk. He can do the job. I talk to him over the next few days and he decides that the only way to get the job done in time would be to work weekends and he doesn’t want to do that now.  Oh well, its Mexico and we’ll worry about a Bimini latter.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Gentlemen don’t sail to weather

The marina we stayed for a few days in Nuevo Vallarta (Paradise Village) is on a narrow estuary. The sign up above is on the canal going up into the mangroves.
I’m OK with the No Swimming regulation.

Chris had to take off for a month in Africa for work. She’s in Malawi and Tanzania this time. Our friend Bill came down from San Fran to help me cross the Sea of Cortez back to La Paz – and to get in some offshore sailing.
matzatlantripIMG_6577 Bill shows up
And Chris takes off for the airport and a two day flight to Africa.
Bill and I left Nuevo Vallarta in the afternoon for a short sail to the anchorage at Punta Mita. Got in a little whale watching on the way. Then it was off to San Blas in the morning. We arrived at San Blas at a minus tide. I called the marina there to see if we could get a slip for the night. The plan was to fuel up the boat, grab dinner in town and then head out early in the morning for Mazatlan. If we could get the boat to Mazatlan then we’d have a decent angle to the wind to cross the Sea – hopefully with a good sail. The marina took probably 15 minutes to get back to us on the radio to let us know that they did have a slip available. This is really a small marina with only one row of docks, so I’m not sure what all the calculating was.  So I told them that we would take the slip for tonight. They responded that I should take it in the morning because the entrance was too rough given the swell and minus tide – duh. Why didn’t they just start with that? We headed the 3 miles over to Matachen Bay (above), anchored and got a pretty sunset with minimal bugs.
Next morning we did a quick run into San Blas for fuel and started toward Mazatlan. This was an overnight motor/sail. We arrived in the morning around 10am. The view was – actually there was no view. It was a 1/4 mile or less visibility in thick fog. It looked like we were approaching San Francisco. We headed into the Marina Mazatlan (expensive). Grabbed showers and then took the bus into old town. Call me jaded but Mazatlan is a dump. The only entertaining thing we did was head to the old market. I wanted to get some shrimp tacos. Mazatlan is supposed to be the headquarters for the Mexican Pacific shrimp fishing fleet.
matzatlantrip-1  We wandered the market looking for a shrimp taco stand. Lots of skinned cow heads, tripe and various stuff I stay away from – no shrimp tacos. We broke down and asked for directions. Bill’s Spanish is really good, so the directions were easy to follow. It doesn’t matter who you ask in Mexico for directions. They will always happily give them to you – even if they have no clue what you asked for or no idea where the place may be. We followed the directions down a few aisles in the market. “Oh no, no shrimp tacos here”. “Go down two aisles and around the corner where the fish are”. OK, we follow these directions and end up where we first asked. Another round of direction asking and we are taken to a small food stand that really does know where the taco restaurant is. She sends around just one more aisle and we are home at a busy little sit-down on a stool type restaurant. We ask for shrimp or seafood tacos. “Sorry, no tacos only tostadas”. Bill objects to the waitress, “But, but, tostadas are made out of the same ingredients as tacos.” She then walks him over to the sign on the wall: Tacos Only on Sunday. Now it was obvious why we couldn’t have tacos – it wasn’t Sunday. I ordered what I thought was a Shrimp Tostada. Turned out to be a Shrimp salad tostada. As most of my traveling fans know, I’m a wimp when it comes to eating weird stuff in weird places --- I like  simple things that don’t stare at me, like pasta. All I could think about while eating this tostada was I have to go offshore for two days in the morning – I better not be sick. Afterwards, Bill & I both agree that the tostadas won’t get gourmet recommendations from us.
matzatlantripIMG_6595      Next day we waited for the wind to pick up and headed off around noon. Here’s Mazatlan in the background. I went over all the safety issues with Bill. Then explained to him that the crew does the 8-hour night watches and that the captain shares the day watches with the crew. He seemed happy with that.
matzatlantripIMG_6614 We had what could only be described as a fantastic sail across the Sea. We set the sails off Mazatlan for a starboard tack, close hauled. They stayed that way for the next 30 hours - all the way across. The seas were small, the wind was 7-15kts, the boat sailed beautifully. Normally you do just about everything you can to avoid sailing to weather, this time it was just sweet.
matzatlantripIMG_6648 Bill driving.
Bill stumped as to how much of the packet of hot sauce he found in his peanut bag to put on. Tough decisions to make while on your watch.
Bill driving – again. The boy likes sailing.
We sailed all the way across to about 17-miles off Punta Arenas. Here a little bird of some sort fluttered onto the boat. He/she spent the night on deck under a sail bag. Unfortunately we had to do a solemn funeral in the morning for the little guy.
We spent the night at the anchorage in Muertos and bashed up into headwinds all the way to La Paz the next day.
That brings me to the reason we headed to La Paz in the first place. Bill brought down the replacement injector sleeves the old green engine so desperately wanted. Here’s the head pulled ready to go to the shop to be made beautiful.
The body awaiting the return of her wayward head.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Finally, a Whale’s Tale

We finally got some good whale pics. The Humpbacks can be pretty grumpy, especially when J-Boats are around. Here’s a Humpback communicating the only way they know how, ‘Fluke You’.
We left San Blas after doing our dutiful checkout with the Capitinia de Puerto over the radio. This time we were at least 80% sure that his response was affirmative, we could exit the port. Just to be sure, I closed with Gracias. We left on a tide a little lower than when we entered. It was a rising tide, so even if we did run aground, we get off quickly. The fuel dock was just over 7 feet and passing the bar we hit some 8.5ft sections. A little on the shallow side, but the swells were small, so no big deal.
We headed down to Chacala for the night and then onto Punta Mita in Bahia de Banderas (Bay of the Flags). Since arriving from the Baja side to Isla Isabel, we’ve seen whales daily. But Banderas Bay is something special, the whole area has hundreds of whales (humpbacks primarily-- we’ve had a few pass by close enough that we could hear them singing). Every time you look out into the bay you see at least a few sightings. It’s just amazing.
Punta Mita sunset from the anchorage
We decided to head into the town of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle for a little New Years celebration. We took a slip for the night in the fancy marina there. La Cruz is the music headquarters for Banderas Bay and Puerto Vallarta. We grabbed a traditional Mexican pizza at Philo’s and listened to Philo and his band. Then caught up with another band at the Britannica Pub, where we toasted in 2011. It was good that we had forgotten to change our watches  to Central time (Puerto Vallarta time) when we arrived, so we were both able to make it past midnight.
PuntaMitaIMG_6506 The hillside approaching La Cruz.
Map picture
Chris is leaving in a few days to head to work in Africa, so we wanted to get in one last dive before she left. We headed out to Las Tres Maritas islands, about 6 miles from Punta Mita. The diving wasn’t spectacular. We did see a few octopus'es, or is it octopi?
PuntaMitaP1020339 This guy got pissed off at us and inked me because I got too close with the camera.
PuntaMitaIMG_6541Tres Mariatas also has some cool caves for dinghy exploring. And boobies, but we’ll spare you more photos of them.
Best wishes for a New Year that brings you and yours much joy. Feliz Año Nuevo! (As our friend Bill pointed out, the tilda over the n is very important here…)
Paul & Chris