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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Isla Venados (Mazatlan) to Isla Isabela

Except for a bit of motoring at the beginning and end of the trip, we had an easy 90nm downwind sail from Noon on Tuesday to dawn this morning. It took us three tries to get the anchor set in a good patch of sand, but we are tucked in safely with three other boats (all from this year's Baja Ha-Ha). We tidied the boat, enjoyed our coffee while watching the frigates and blue-footed booby birds doing their aerial acrobatics, ate a late breakfast, went through a Rosetta Stone French lesson (preparing for another trip to French Polynesia in the Spring), and then hit the water for some of the best snorkeling on the Pacific side of Mexico.

We are in 24' of water and we can see the bottom - what a change! With my new shortie wetsuit and neoprene gloves I didn't get cold at all. Granted the water is 83 degrees, but I used to get chilled wearing my old wetsuit jacket and no gloves. Like our visit a year ago, we didn't see a huge variety of fish, but they are plentiful and we saw a huge school of big jacks on the outside wall of one of the pinnacle rocks.

It's a little bouncy in the anchorage but we hope to stay at least a couple of nights to enjoy the scenery.

{GMST}21|50.868|N|105|52.746|W|Isla Isabela|Lots of birds{GEND}

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Extra day at Venados

Rather than push right on to Isla Isabela we decided to take an extra day at Deer Island. This gives us a chance to get our sea legs and get back into cruising mode, especially Ziggy who appears to be wondering when we'll be returning to the dock. Also, the wind forecast is more favorable for the possibility of sailing if we leave Tuesday.

Yesterday the morning clouds remaining from the front that passed through Sunday night eventually cleared away and it was a warm sunny day. At 82 degrees the water temperature is perfect for swimming and scrubbing the hull. It's a few degrees cooler than when we were here the last couple of times, but still very pleasant. We didn't bother going anywhere in the "new" dinghy, instead we enjoyed a quiet day studying French, reading, and doing boat chores. After a sunset swim, John played his ukulele, then he made dinner, and we watched some TV before sleeping through an uneventful night.

I guess I should say a word about our replacement "car." Kim and Linda of S/V Endeavor were kind enough to pass on an old Achilles air-floor dinghy that had been stored away as a spare since 2009. They got a lot of use out of it before then, and John patched over a dozen holes in the tubes, air-floor, and dinghy floor (the air-floor comes out of the dinghy as a separate unit) before it would hold air and not leak water up through the dinghy floor. He also managed to fashion a pair of oars out of a spare set of plastic blades we had on board, some PVC pipe and a piece of aluminum tubing. We then tried Endeavor's old 15HP 4-stroke Envinrude but our outboard hoist was too short to get it up to Nakia's stern rail, besides being too much for the dinghy to handle. They were practically giving it to us at a very low price, so we felt terrible for returning it. John mentioned it to a local sport fishing captain who ended up buying it from Endeavor at a fairer price (for Kim and Linda), and everyone was happy in the end.

Bob, on a neighboring Hans Christian, had an old 2HP 2-stroke Evinrude for sale. After a day's worth of labor John got it running to his satisfaction, and bought it. That brings us full circle to 21 years ago when we had an old heavy Sabot for a dinghy and a similar motor for an outboard. We won't be going anywhere fast until we find something newer and stronger to replace these, but at least we'll be mobile again!

Monday, November 26, 2012

At anchor again!

Our last night in Mazatlan (with an Indio beer tower!)

Sunday afternoon we made the easy 40 minute hop out of Marina Mazatlan to a sandy beach anchorage at Isla Venados. It was only three nautical miles and we motored over relatively flat water. We were both feeling a little sick to our stomachs, not from being at sea again, but from cutting the ties to shore and being unsure of what lies ahead. It's a little hard for us to get back into the groove of cruising after enjoying so many of the amenities of life on shore. John enjoyed his house-sitting jobs in Mazatlan this summer and I loved being a CLOD (Cruiser Living On Dirt) again in Seattle. Even being on the boat tied up in a marina gave us many freedoms and luxuries that we don't have such easy access to when we're anchored out.

But once we dropped the hook I felt a peacefulness that I don't necessarily feel on shore. There are fewer distractions. We aren't compelled to have the computer running 24/7 because there's no Wi-Fi. Instead we pay more attention to our natural surroundings and interact with whoever else happens to share the anchorage. As we were getting ready to get in the water to scrub green slime off the hull a couple with two young boys stopped by to introduce themselves. They came down from Redwood City on this year's Baja Ha-Ha on an aluminum boat named Heavy Metal and we had a nice chat.

We will be preaching dinghy safety for some time to come (see previous post about our dinghy theft). Our replacement 2HP motor is chained to Nakia's stern with the biggest padlock we could find. Instead of hanging the replacement dinghy against the side of the boat John decided to try setting it down on the starboard foredeck where it rests on the forward hatch and lifelines. This way we're still able to open the hatch above our berth for fresh air at night.

John didn't get much sleep as he kept a "robber" watch through most of the middle of last night. On top of that we had a bit of lightning, thunder and rain to keep us awake. In spite of our sleepless night we are thinking about pushing on through to Isla Isabella later this afternoon, so that we can finally put Mazatlan behind us. An overnight trip would put us at Isabella at sunrise.

{GMST}22|14.160|N|106|27.678|W|Deer Island|On our way to PV{GEND}

Monday, November 12, 2012

Dinghy Theft

John sent this out to Southbounders Yahoo Group at around 2:00 this morning. I would only add that whenever I've read similar accounts by other cruisers I have always scoffed at the notion that the people on board the sailboat would not hear a sound from the thieves. I now know better. John speculates that the thieves drifted/paddled to Nakia, positioned their panga under the dinghy, and cut the hanging harness rope to lower the dinghy down into their panga. When their panga drifted back to make their escape the dinghy would have pulled against the cable still attaching it to Nakia (probably unnoticed by them until then). That noise was what woke John, but by the time he got out the companionway (throw open the heavy hatch above; remove screen in door) they had just cut the cable and he could only watch as they fired up their engine and roared off into the dark with our dinghy and outboard.

We are both sick about this loss because we've been diligent about taking the motor off the dinghy and securing it to Nakia most nights in the past. We were not fully back into cruising mode and got complacent. We returned to Marina Mazatlan this morning. John has gone to the Port Captain's office to complete his report and then we'll be figuring out how to get another dinghy/outboard so we can be on our way again.


----- Original Message -----
Date: 12 Nov 2012 09:08:26 -0000

We just had our dinghy, with outboard motor attached, stolen while at anchor at Isla de Piedra outside of Mazatlan.

The theft occurred at 1230 local [11/11/2012]. The dingy was a grey Achilles with a newly painted white floor. The outboard was a 9.8hp Tohatsu two stroke. The dingy was raised high out of the water on a halyard with the outboard mounted on the transom. The outboard was locked to the dinghy and cabled and locked to NAKIA with 3/16" lifeline wire.

The method of theft was to place a panga under the dinghy, cut the harness suspending the dinghy and then cut the cable. I was woken up by the sound of the cable pulling tight on NAKIA and was on deck in time to see the thieves cut the cable and race away in their panga.

I have been in Mexico since 2004 and this is the first time I've ever had anything stolen from NAKIA, but this theft is pretty disappointing. Normally the motor would have been mounted and chained to the stern pulpit, but just after sunset a SeaDoo boat was having trouble with its engine so I put the motor on the dinghy and went to see if I could help. Rather than put the outboard back on the rail and chain it down I raised the dinghy with a halyard and used the cable to secure it, which is nicer on the teak cap rail than the chain. There was a time when I didn't even bother with the cable.

I have reported the theft to the Port Captain via VHF channel 16 and my only question at this point is: does anyone have the phone number of one or more restaurants here at Isla de Piedra? I'm willing to pay to get the dinghy back (with or without motor) and would like to get the word out to the locals.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Mazatlan Homecoming

Here's a summary of the past three weeks since my return to John, Ziggy, and Nakia. The donkey cart parade really deserves its own entry, but hopefully the Mazatlan photo album at my Picasa link will tell the whole story! Here are just a few of those photos:

In Plaza Machado waiting for the beer carts

Julie and her sister made up as Katrinas

Canela the donkey pulling a beer cart

Arriving in Mazatlan from Seattle I was almost last off the plane. My seat was in the middle of the aircraft and they opened front and back doors so I had to wait for both directions to  clear first. That meant I was almost last in the Immigration line which everyone felt was moving much slower than normal. I finally went on through to baggage claim where I saw a huge line of people already waiting to go through the x-ray machine. By the time I finished changing into cooler clothes in the bathroom I
was dead last in the x-ray/Customs line. Then of course they wanted to open my boxes. Two officials opened the two smallest boxes, found nothing of interest, and let me go without opening the third big one (they didn't even bother with my carry on).

Nakia looks beautiful. Ziggy's already nipped my finger (not hard). AC is blasting. Life is good!

We worked non-stop today to put away everything I unpacked last night. I was pretty surprised that I managed to get all the boxes emptied yesterday and into piles for sorting today. I put things away in two main lockers and cleaned out a couple more and John took care of sorting out the items destined for the ditch and first-aid kits, and his tool area.

John had the AC on when we arrived from the airport yesterday to help me make the transition, but we didn't use it today. He'll probably zap the boat with some cool air when we go up to shower later and then let it run during the first part of the night.

This morning I managed to have a cup of coffee before the sun was up over the buildings. There was an osprey on the mast of a boat across from us and three white pelicans flying around the banks of the channel. Very pretty.

It's a relief to find I'm not going through any post-Seattle-summer, claustrophobic boat adjustment period at all this year. I love the different pace of life which is still relaxed, but there are so many things to do. And I've always enjoyed cleaning and puttering so I'm happy keeping busy with that.

Got up this morning and actually felt cold for the first time! Humid last night and a breeze this morning make it downright chilly - at least until the sun starts heating things up again.

Yesterday we had a good afternoon at the beach (Playa Bruja) with John's friend Yarnell, after an early morning bicycle ride on the malecon. Between that and our evening out celebrating Sherrell's birthday on Saturday, it was a good weekend. Now it's back to work.

We've decided to stay an extra 10 days in the marina. We had talked about going in and anchoring at the Old Harbor, but it's gotten a bad reputation for theft and we don't feel like taking the risk. So it will be nice to hang out here for a little while longer before we go out on the hook again.

The weather has definitely cooled off at night and we haven't been running the AC for days. I'm hoping John will go ahead and get it off the boat, but he's a little leery of cutting the umbilical cord just yet!

Today we spent a few hours getting the boat cleaned up. John had washed the boat before I arrived and it was already getting filthy, probably dirt from the nearby road.

When we thought we were moving to the Old Harbor tomorrow we invited Yarnell and Sonia to come along for the ride, including a stop at Deer Island. Yarnell was John's summer buddy and Sonia is his local squeeze. She has always wanted to go out on a sailboat so we're fulfilling that fantasy for her. We can anchor out at the island and dinghy in to the beach for a swim.

We're not doing anything for Halloween tonight but tomorrow night (if we're not burned out from a day in the sun) we're supposed to go in to Plaza Machado for the uniquely Mazatlan tradition of chasing four beer carts which are pulled by donkeys followed by crowds of people trying to get their cups refilled (all for free). We think this was started by Pacifico (which has a brewery here).

We had a great day out sailing with Yarnell and Sonia. We motor sailed out around both islands trying to catch a fish (nothing) and then headed in to anchor in 10' off the beach. We sat and ate lunch before they hopped in the dinghy, and I swam into the beach. I couldn't believe how warm the water was when I got in. It was almost like bath water - but that won't last too much longer. I looked for shells and then joined them in the shade of a palapa. Back out to the boat and we were actually able to sail the short distance back to the harbor entrance. Sonia kept thanking us for making her dream come true, and she obviously enjoyed herself, which makes all the work getting things ready for today worthwhile.

Sonia and Yarnell enjoying a day sail on Nakia

Late in the afternoon yesterday John suggested a walk along the length of the Malecon (beach walkway). We took a bus to the beginning of it, walked a long way down it, and caught a bus back just after a beautiful sunset. Even though it got very hazy the day before, the sun burned through just as it dipped into the horizon. Early this morning we rode the same area of the Malecon for about an hour with Sarana on bicycles. This afternoon I read and John rode his bike out to Playa Bruja with Yarnell. I opted not to go this time since they mostly sit and drink beer and I thought John could use some "guy time." We certainly have been getting our exercise!

The weather has been cloudy and downright humid (92%) the past few days. It's been pretty uncomfortable and John is regretting giving our AC unit away Tuesday night. He has a local friend who was in need of AC and it was a freebie for us (it had been stored in a dock box unclaimed for several years), so it was good karma to pass it on to her.

We had a fun afternoon out at a beach bar/restaurant called El Canoa Wednesday afternoon with Sarana and Magic Places. We went there to listen to a band that John had seen a few times over the summer. They played covers of rock guitar music. The music itself wasn't all that danceable but they were good musicians and it was an open air beach bar with a romantic sunset behind one of the islands. Plus it's always fun being out with friends doing something different for a change!

We're departing the marina tomorrow to make our way to Banderas Bay for Christmas. We'll hang out at the islands here until we start itching to move on, and then we'll slowly head south with possible stops at Isabela, San Blas, and Chacala. I'm really looking forward to getting back out on the water. I'm sure it will take quite a bit of adjusting for the two "boys" who are giving up a lot of their freedom. John will miss his bicycle and unlimited internet, and Ziggy will miss his nighttime comings and goings on the dock. Hopefully we'll all settle in and get used to the new routine without too many withdrawal pains!