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Ship’s Blog

April 12, 2010 Guyamas, Mexico

April 12th, 2010

Arrived in Guaymas a week ago. To see where we are, you can Google “Guaymas+church. See Iglesia San Fernando? The Marina is just a little south on the water with several boat slips on the left of the cluster of buildings (as you look from the ocean). In the Google Photo there are no boats in the slips or in the yard.

What a lovely town! Lots of hills around, and big, big cacti. The two spires of Iglesia San Fernando and the dome of the Municipal Hall are great landmarks. It’s very easy to get around here, with the entire town, including Mercado and  a big grocery store within easy walking distance. Many wonderful old buildings, some sadly in decay, some damaged by last years floods during the hurricane.

It’s warm here—83F inside and over 95F on deck. But it gets cool at night. We hear it will get hotter soon-up to 110F with 100% humidity. So we purchased a 2nd hand air conditioner from someone in the yard, and we are putting up all the deck canvas.

We are hauled out at the Guyamas, Singlar Boatyard. It was all booked up, but they let us in when we promised to stay for only 3 months. It is quite clean, with showers, a lap pool, laundry and a cement yard. The pool is outdoors and up high, looking out on the harbour. Next to the pool is a restaurant and a Club Nautico Bar.

The day after we arrived, a couple of the long time cruisers took us by car for a tour of the area. We went all over town and saw all the hardware stores, and marine stores, canvas shops, and grocery stores. Then we went to San Carlos and did the same there. San Carlos is really connected with Guaymas, but has a huge Gringo population. We heard San Carlos is 40% Canadian, 40% USA citizens, 20% Mexican. All the road signs are in English!

We are going to be working hard on the boat for the next few months, and then head north in the Sea of Cortez to get out of the Hurricane Zone. We will be taking a few days break at the end of April to head up to San Diego and pick up some equipment and materials.  By the time we leave here, we hope to have a new bowsprit, functioning solar panels, some added deck canvas, some routine maintenance on boat and dinghy, and a whole bunch more.

April 2, 2010 Santa Rosalia, Baja California Sur, Mexico

April 2nd, 2010

One day there will be time to write details of the Ensenada-Mazatlan trip. And more details of the Mazatlan-Santa Rosalia. For now, here is the short version of the trip to Santa Rosalia:

Hi there,
Just arrived in Santa Rosalia  after an 8 day trip from Mazatlan - a few days from Mazatlan to Bahia Salina (Isla Carmen), then a few days in that lovely and isolated harbour while the North wind blew up as high as 40 knots. Then a quiet trip up to Caleta de Juanico. Delighted to fly our spinnaker on the main, and it flew beautifully to complement the balanced main and jib.   We took a few hours to sleep and then left at midnight under a stunning full moon. Finally saw whales on this trip - lots of them - greys, we think.
Santa Rosalia is a charming and picturesque town, with a tiny harbour and about 5 boats anchored. Two small Marinas and we pay the older one 25 pesos a day for dinghy dock, potable water, garbage drop-off, showers and a clubhouse with a book exchange and drinks and ice for sale.
We will leave here as soon as the predicted North winds pass through, maybe in a few days. We will then head out for the 75 mile crossing to Guaymas, and haul the boat for a few months to do some repairs. After that, the Sea of Cortez for the summer, until Hurricane season ends in November. Then slowly heading south, and who knows what next.
Wishing everyone a Happy Solstice and Happy Easter, Passover or whatever Spring celebrations you observe. Fair winds, Pat and Tony

January 2010 - Mazatlan

January 15th, 2010

Arrived in Mazatlan Jan. 3rd. Love it here! Planning to stay a couple of months at least. More soon.

Interesting weather in Ensenada-December 11th, 2009

December 12th, 2009

Monday’s storm was followed by extreme surge. With dock lines popping and cleats pulled out of the dock (all of them), we headed out at midnight and anchored in the harbour. Trying to make up for all the lost time, complete preparations using the dinghy to get ashore, and get away as soon as possible. Internet access is limited from now on. We may not get online before departure. Hope everyone has a wonderful winter celebration time. It gets more and more likely that we will be at sea for the last half of December.

December 8, 2009- Survived the storm

December 8th, 2009

We had a storm here in Ensenada yesterday. We and our boat are intact. The boat sustained some dmage (bulwarks). 50 kt winds, docks breaking up, all our cleats gave way, now moored around pilings. Two people were killed in the Industrial area, when a crane blew over. Floods and power outages. Continuing to make preparations to leave as soon as possible. More details later.

Departure Day is Close December 2, 2009

December 2nd, 2009

Just finishing up the last few jobs and watching the weather. Planning to sail for the southern tip of Baja at the end of this week. However, there is a serious weather system hovering northwest of us, so we may be delayed till that system passes through.

The dinghy stowage system has been fabricated. The gas boxes are completed. the stove is functioning well again. Ensenada continues to be a zany, wonderful madhouse.

We will be out of contact for a long time once we leave here –not sure when we will get online again. Stopovers may include Magdalena Bay, Los Frailles, La Paz, Mazatlan. Hoping to be able to catch up with Pat’s family in Mazatlan at the end of December. Then north in the Sea of Cortez.

Wishing everyone a great Winter Solstice and wonderful times with good friends in whatever celebrations you honour.

Where to next?

November 10th, 2009

November 10th, 2009

Three more weeks in Ensenada. Then off to La Paz at the beginning of December.

Another Day in Ensenada #2

November 10th, 2009

Another Mexico Day #2


When a morning begins like this, I can’t help but chuckle again, recalling the Retired Teachers’ offer of a Reading Club or a Walking Club for retirees who are bored.

            Up at 7 am. First try at making blintzes, using the BBQ, as that is our only stove right now. 

Lately we have had lots of fog. One of the weather signs in this location is the flag. If you cannot see it for fog, then it’s really foggy. Today the flag is clearly visible, but limp as a wet rag—no wind at all. The sunrise is crimson (last night there was a minor Tsunami warning that generated a good half hour of buzz on the VHF radio—we hear the folks at Marina Coral got treated to free drinks by the management in honour of the occasion). No such luck here at Marina Ensenada!

            The crepes for the blintzes work well on the BBQ. There is already Mexican music in the air. Our neighbour, a US vet in his 80’s is waiting for the Marina to move his boat. His dock broke up during the big surge a couple of weeks ago (Bill was out of town at the time and the Marina guys towed his boat in his absence and anchored it in the bay-but that’s another story) and they want to repair the dock. No one shows up until 9 a.m.

            We spent an hour dealing with Tony’s medications. (After days of research, we finally got them all for about half the retail price in Canada). Sorting pills into those little plastic compartments – 6 weeks worth – and then crawling around on the cabin sole to retrieve the ones that fell off the table in the surge and got all mixed up. 

            In the meantime, the Marina folks towed Bill’s boat (Tyee) to its new dock, but in the process, the towboat ignored Bill’s instructions, and there was a “prang” (Aussie word for crash). Luckily, a Mexican navy guy saw the whole thing and knew it was not Bill’s fault (we hope).

            The Cruise ship is getting ready to leave the dock, there are tugs and freighters and fish boats coming and going.

Tony builds a “fiddle” for the nav. table while I do the usual cleanup—heat up water in the kettle (from the dock hose), rinse the sprouts, put away food, re-stow lots of things. You cannot leave any food on the counter, as there are little bugs that fly around it in seconds.

            Meanwhile, another drama unfolds on VHF 21. It seems one of the cruisers has been in a car accident and has subsequently been arrested. Lots of radio traffic as the other cruisers try to figure out who it is, who knows him, and who can go bail him out. Who needs TV? We are still waiting to hear how this one turns out.

            Tony finishes building the fiddles, and heads next door to Baja Naval to check in with Ron (Gold Eagle). Ron is moving over to our Marina in a few days, so he and Tony are plotting to bring some of his stuff over ahead of time.

            Tom stops by to let Tony know that tomorrow’s trip to San Diego has been delayed one day. There is a big discussion on the dock about Insurance, transiting the Panama Canal and self-steering gear. We discuss the Mexican way of dealing with car or boat accidents. They throw all parties in jail until they sort out who is at fault. Therefore, it is important to have Mexican liability Insurance (they call it a “Get out of Jail Free Card”). Stephan, our Greek neighbour, adds a discussion of philosophy to the mix.

            By now, it is noon. Time to make some lunch and then walk up to the Microbus to go for our last Spanish lesson.

            The microbus costs eight pesos (about 50¢ Cdn). The micro is basically a large van seating maybe 18 people. You flag it down at the corner, make sure it is going your way and hop on. The big intersection where all the micros meet is really a trip. As part of their route, most of them do a big U-turn in the middle of the intersection - a routine maneuver in Mexico, but forbidden in most Canadian cities!  

Mexican intersections are fun. The light turns green for pedestrians. There is a signal that gives a countdown of how many seconds remain in the pedestrian crossing time. It’s a lot longer than you get in Canada. One other big difference: You can cross in any direction—all crosswalks are available at once, including a diagonal that goes right through the middle of the intersection in 4 directions! Then, when it’s time for the cars to go—they all go at once, too! Drivers all head across the intersection at once, and whoever gets there first, goes first. People are mostly patient and tempers don’t seem to flare much.

            It takes about 10 minutes on the micro to get to Marina Coral. High security there, so we explain to the guards what we are up to, and take a walk down to F-dock. There we meet several other cruisers and we all head down the beach for another 10 minutes. Along the way, we enjoy a panoramic view of the surf in Bahia Todos Santos.

            Our teachers are a couple of retired University Professors who teach in their own home. There are two groups-we go with the beginners, and the other group, more advanced, works in the living room. Many laughs accompany the Spanish lessons and by the time our Mexican hour is up—sometimes much more than an hour—our brains are full.

            A stroll along the beach gets us back to Marina Coral. From there, we hitch a ride back to town with other cruisers. We hop out at the OXXO (that’s the Mexican 7-11) to buy some milk—it is not easy to get fat-free skim milk (leché déscremada). It is available inconsistently.

            Just thinking about dinner when we hear our boat name on the VHF. The Gold Eagle crew invites us for another delicious Mexican meal of fish and tortillas and salsa and veggies. Yum!

            Another evening with good friends, discussing the joys and pains of cruising, laughingly working on our Spanish and English, encouraging each other in our projects. And another day of learning to slow down in Mexico! The most important lesson of all!



Tony’s Take on Ensenada Trip

October 12th, 2009

Tony’s Take on the trip to, and arrival in Ensenada:


We are in Ensenada, Mexico. The trip down was good, autopilot worked really well. On the first day we anchored at Halfmoon Bay, 20mls south of the Golden Gate bridge, and about 40mls from our starting point…left sort of late in the am and had to get fuel on the way.. A good first stop. The second night we anchored at Santa Cruz about 60 mls south of Halfmoon Bay. The next day we headed south having tried and liked the autopilot. We motorsailed 3 days and nights, taking 3hour watches and arrived at Santa Catalina island at about midday on the third day out from Santa Cruz. Bloody awful place - jam packed moorings at about six foot clearance between boats all moored for and aft. The next day we arrived in San Diego . Met some wonderful people….we had the keys to a new Lexus 30mins after arrival! No mooring to be had, you need a permit to anchor, everything is very expensive. The people are great, the place has lots of drawbacks. Stayed a week and then left for Mexico. So here we are. We are enjoying ourselves - an interesting place. The country is on the verge of political collapse due to the Narco wars, but the rest of society just careers merrily on in an insane but lovable chaos. We have started Spanish lessons with a very sweet couple - retired professionals. The boat projects continue….deck houses to be painted and new nonskid to be applied. There are some excellent tradesmen to be found here - we are having some stainless work done  - beautiful shop, superb welding, and the price in this case is very reasonable. We have heard horror stories but you can’t just freeze so….work goes on. The land outside the town is desolate looking rocky hill country just like you see in spaghetti westerns. There are soldiers all over the place with machine guns and all the rest of it - last week the Cartel captured 27 soldiers and shot them in the head! But it seems if you are not involved in their business they ignore you - it is quite surreal. Mexican ice cream shops are to die for. The food is great and the people we have met are a delight. The day of our arrival was an amazing introduction to the way things are done in Mexico. We were informed that clearing in to Mexico here was easy with a “one stop shopping” Captiaine de Puerto/Immigracionne/Customs/Bank/Copy shop etc. This was so in theory, but as it happened……..We first had to get our Visas, this was accomplished with all sorts of help from the officer who spoke about as much English as we did Spanish. We got through almost all the steps, but when he sent us to the next counter to pay the fee “So sorry Señor the bank machine is broken” ” No problem just go to the bank downtown….here followed many directions in Spanish. After walking about 20mins we arrive at the bank…”So sorry Señor the machine is broken….here followed many directions in Spanish. After 10 minutes walk we arrive at the other bank and get in line ….. many people behind wickets having long conversations ignore us for 10 mins “So sorry Señor y Señora, we need a form (which you don’t have) from the port Capitaine’s office. Back 30mins to the port Capitane’s office. Here follows much broken Spanish and English to the effect that….”You don’t need that form but here take it anyway and go to a different bank it’s closer!” We pay the fee and go back to the Port Capitaine’s office. Good! Now go to that wicket and clear in with the port Capitaine himself….Ok Señor we can only take cash but the machine which prints receipts is broken! (Yikes!) But here is your clearance… stamped…Come back tomorrow and get the receipt…hmmmm! Oh well its only 400 Pesos! Good now go to the Guy at the wicket whose machine doesn’t work and get your boat import permit..its ok we can take your money for THAT transaction….. Now Señora we need two copies of this form we have just issued… no problem just go outside the front door there is a kiosk…. No Problem! “Perdonne Señor necessito….” “Its ok Señor I speak Ingleese…” “Oh great …..” “So sorrry Señor the copy machine is broken”  Jesus they said there would be days like this but…..!  Patsy works her charm and the Port Capitaine takes pity. HIS copy machine does work! No problem Señora two copies? No problem! Come back tomorrow for your other receipt! The following morning, having been relieved of more cash than we have ever paid for one night’s mooring we arrive back at the office of the Capitaine de Puerto only to find the Capitaine does not work today. In his place are 4 very beautiful women each at a different wicket and determined not to make eye contact with anyone in line as they are engaged in an extremely lengthy and animated conversation which seemed - with even my limited comprehension - to be totally personal and domestic in content. Breathe! Read your book! Don’t be an uptight Gringo! “Oh no Señor No Ingleese”…..uh…Reciebo…..uh how do I say yesterday….Now at least all four of the beautiful women are concentrating on ME….maybe… uh oh! all the rest of the guys in the line are not so pleased with ME…. “Señor so sorry the machine is broken!” Uh Señorita es possible …uh ….. can’t you just use the receipt stamp on my clearance and WRITE the the amount on it? Christ how do I say that? “Can I help Señor I speak Ingleese …..” Oh thank you Muchas Gracias!” “She says that is a very good Idea Señor!”…. Stamp….write….”Perdonne Señor,” …heartfelt apologies in spangleese…. BUENOS DIAS SENOR!”…. “MUCHAS GRACIAS SENHORITA! ” Why on earth didn’t I think of that yesterday!

    How do you say that in Spanish?

Another Day in Ensenada #1

October 10th, 2009

Another Day in Ensenada #1


There is no way to write about a typical day for a cruiser here in Ensenada. So here is one example:

            Up at 7 for a quick breakfast of cereal and fruit. Met Ron and Susana (Gold Eagle) and Stephan (O Dadis) on the Malecon (seaside walkway) at 8 am. Ron drove us about 30 miles north to check out another Marina (Marina Salinas). Salinas is more isolated from Ensenada than the other Marinas. We had hoped the price might be lower and the surge less of a problem. Turns out the price is not that great, and the distance and isolation would be problematic for us. The subjective analysis: we don’t like the feel of it. But it was good to check it out, and lots of fun in the car with good company. On the way back, we stopped at a store that sells only coffee, mainly to commercial enterprises. It’s a tiny store and it specializes also in the mixes that are used to make frappe-those frozen ice drinks that are so popular here.

            Back to the boat about 10 am. Tony and I had a snack and then walked over to the end of the bay where the fisherman congregate. We were looking for a certain haul-out place we had been told about. We walked and asked and asked and walked, and didn’t seem to be able to get an understanding or an answer from the locals. (In the Spanish for Cruisers book, the word “travel-lift” is the same (trah-veh-leeft), but it didn’t seem to ring any bells with anyone. Just as we were about to give up, and talking about asking Gary (Sparkle) for more specific direction, we looked up, and there was Gary! He took us to the right place. The person we needed to talk to was not there, so we left our info. with the pleasant (English speaking) office lady and headed back to the boat. Tony did some more dockside consultation while I put together a quick lunch of Vietnamese salad rolls (the last of the rice wrappers and some homemade bean sprouts). A short siesta and reading spree, and suddenly it was 3 pm. Off to the Marine store to try to find stainless steel nuts and bolts. We were most impressed with the materials available just a few minutes walk from our marina. The price was excellent-cheaper than the US or Canada (about $20 US for 4 large bolts with nuts and washers), and the service was perfect.

            Back to the boat, and I went walking with our hand cart to buy water. The water refill store is just a couple of blocks away, and it’s so much fun to greet and chat with the locals along the way—the young man who paints the sidewalks brick red- oh-so-proud of his latest job, young families with spinning tops, the young women who clean the outdoor telephone booths, wiping the buttons and receivers with disinfectant, the mariachis gathering for the evening’s work.

            Two five-litre water bottles were filled for 4 pesos (about 40 cents). That includes filling, drying the bottles and loading them into my bags.

            3 pm, back at the boat, Tony is about to head out with Gary and his son, Spike (yes—named after Spike Africa). They are going to look at the space Spike has offered for the building of the bowsprit. Spike mentions that there is a great supermarket right next to his house, so I tag along.

            Spike and Gary have been living in Mexcio for years and both speak fluent Spanish. It would take a whole big book to tell the story of these two amazing sailors.

            Spike’s house is at the other end of Ensenada, so we get a great tour of the town, in places we haven’t seen yet—an area of 2nd hand stores and markets, and a view of the surrounding hills. Spike’s place is tiny, but a magical and wonderful little hide-away. Hours pass and we have only begun to comprehend the depth ad breadth of this young man’s imagination, skill, knowledge and ability.

            Hung all around on the ceiling are model airplanes—but model airplanes to surpass any inventor’s wildest dreams. Spike has been developing these planes and using them for aerial photography at a very sophisticated level. Tony was in heaven talking with Gary and Spike about aerodynamics and inventions and all of the aspects of sailing and flying that interest all three of them. We heard some of the amazing stories of the family adventures in Mexico. We shared lots of laughs about mistakes you can make when you are learning a new language and culture (eg embarrassoso means embarrassed, while embarassado means pregnant—perhaps sometimes meaning the same thing, but not always!).  I took a trip to the grocery store and returned to find that the conversationcontinued at a lively rate. Spike offered us a shower (much appreciated-hot water with great water pressure—better than the fancy hotel) and there was some talk about the building of the bowsprit. Suddenly, it was 9 pm. Time to get back to the Marina. On the way home, we stopped at a little Mexican Restaurant for some food. A tutorial on the difference between flautas and tacos and empenadas, all food, while empanas are pawn shops (There are more pawn shops here than I understood—good to get that cleared up). Some rice milk, beer and limone. More laughs and more philosophy. 

            It had been an action-filled day, and once again, our brains were full with new information, new words in Spanish, and a greater understanding of the culture here. And our hearts were full of appreciation for the folks we are meeting in this cruising life. You have to feel more positive about life and the world, when you continue to meet people like Gary and Spike!