Friday, 24 February 2012

chacala part II: sharp scissors, confusion, and a beach

Chez Kyra - Free haircuts, no guarantees!
It was time. He put on a brave face. I promised not to poke his eye out. I am not sure who's idea it was. Okay, I suggested it. At first, he looked scared. After all, many moons ago, I think I drew blood... Once or twice. Yep. Rick got a haircut. By me. (And no, I don't know what I'm doing.)

This was the morning after we anchored near Chacala after a 35 hour passage. Rick had been whining, uh, frustrated with his hair. It was getting into his eyes. Feeling pragmatic, I told him: "No problem, I'll take care of it." Yes Jen, I have amazing persuasive abilities. Even when Rick knows better. (Then again, he was still recovering from the passage, his guard was down.)

There was no bleeding, only a couple near misses. Rick still has both eyes. His hair is not too obviously crooked - it helps that he embraces the tousled, carefree look. We're still married, and he's still cute. Phew. No one warned me about these inevitable cruising hurdles.

Rick was being a smart-ass
'Nuff said
After we recovered from that experience, we rowed to shore. The friendly port captain remembered us from our last visit in January. We had come here with Dana and loved it. I asked (in what I thought was my best Spanish) if he knew where we could get more diesel. This being a small town, there is no gas/diesel station nearby. He sent us to Construrama. A hardware store. It seemed strange, but hey, what did we know. 

We meet Claudia, and ask for diesel. I pronounce it dee-ay-sal. (Let's call it me over-Spanish-ing the word.) She explains that she only sells it in powder form. When she sees the dumbfounded look on my face, she grabs a bag of some kind of white powder to show me. I say "Huh, diesel? Como gasoline?", and she replies "Oooh, diesel!" (It turns out, it's pronounced dee-sle. She thought I was saying gesso. I am not kidding. I wondered if that's what the port captain had also understood. 

Luckily, Claudia very kindly offered to go to the next town the next day and pick some up for us. That is, after she was done laughing at me. Sometimes, I wonder how we got this far.

It's dinner time! (For the bird, not us)
After the traumatic hair cut, and the diesel
debacle, we recovered at a beach palapa, and 
enjoyed a lovely (uneventful) walk the beach.

Chacala, a different view
(Kinda like coming through the back entrance) I like it

This, in my opinion, is perfect
The next day, the sun was shining and we decided to be beach bums. We perfected the craft all day long. It was fabulous.

A beach, waves and a boat... See the boat on the right? That's us

I swear, I was having fun

So long Chacala, we still like you. A lot.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

easing into chamela

The lovely beach with its requisite pangas. (Note the surf is calm here.
It always, ALWAYS livens up when we near the beach with our dinghy. I swear.)
Enjoying the mellow pace
On the way south, we anchored near Isla Cocinas in Bahia Chamela. This time, as the northerlies were prevalent, we anchored off the charming little town of Pérula. The sun was shining, the beach was oh so pretty, and we didn't make asses of ourselves beaching the dinghy. RV folks in the nearby beach palapa expressed disappointment at our skilled landing. They had looked forward to being entertained. Ha!

In our meanderings we met the crew of Lady Midnight and enjoyed spirited conversation (talking politics will do that), and a delicious dinner aboard their beautiful Formosa 51. That night, we slept soundly, (and not just because of the wine). 

We realized somewhere along the way that we completely missed carnival... Too bad. But the easy atmosphere in Chamela was pretty satisfying anyhow.

The following morning, we headed north once more. 

In Mexico, I have finally found people who LOVE colour like me

Drinking cheap beer on the beach and loving it
(Yes folks, Rick is drinking a beer he can see through...)

Another gratuitous sunrise shot

Saturday, 18 February 2012

reality check

I'm typing this on our first sunny morning in a while. The theme of the past weeks has been mostly overcast. Sun is good. Our solar panel definitely thinks so: Getting only 20% of the daily charge we can expect on sunny days makes it tough to keep up with our power demands... First things first: Hello Mr. Sun! Please stay a while.

We intended on leaving Tenacatita yesterday, it seemed doable according to one forecast. Another cruiser in the anchorage had a conflicting forecast from another of our regularly consulted sources. We like to figure out for ourselves what we think is reasonable. That is why we pointed our bow out of the bay to see what was what. The wind was indeed on the nose, (of course, we were not surprised). It was blowing at a good 20 knots, accompanied by biggish seas. Beating in contrary seas?  We decided that this was, after all, a good day to stay put.

We didn't return to the north shore. We anchored next to what I call the Ghost Town. This is a fairly big bay; the north shore is 45 minutes away. We had a lot of boat jobs to do and there was no one else anchored here. That meant fewer distractions. Being near the entrance to the bay, all we will have to do, is go around the point to head north.

Yesterday went something like this: 

  • Engine: Oil changed, belts checked, raw water pump impeller replaced, engine wiped down. – Kyra with Rick's assistance 
  • Dodger (the "windshield"):  Repaired zipper. Sewed it back onto dodger by hand – Started by Rick, finished by Kyra
  • Galley sink: Replaced drain in right sink, tried to adjust the odd fit (that's what happens when you use mismatched recycled drains), accidentally broke left drain. Couldn`t find PVC Glue, (it’s not marked in our database, sigh). Plan C: Blocked drain and put tub in sink until we can buy new drain. Ugh. (Thank goodness we have a double sink.) – Rick, with Kyra's help
  • Unpleasant discovery: Sludge in bottom of port cockpit locker: An unidentified product leaked everywhere; Emptied 2 cockpit lockers and foot-well locker. Managed not to cry. Wiped up the mess and commenced putting things back, except rusty cans of paint/varnish, etc. – Kyra (with Rick's help in the end)
  • Stuffing box: It is decided that it can wait until the next day. (The stuffing box is a shaft seal that keeps the ocean on the outside of the prop shaft. Ours needs a slight adjustment.) – Rick
  • Resulting large pile of... crap: We put bits and pieces away while wearing headlamps; it was dark by then. – Rick and Kyra
In short, we: Stowed the boat, went bobbing in big waves for a while, anchored, and worked on boat jobs.

Statistically, it looks like this:

Fights: 2
Back rubs: 4
Offers of food: 2
Broken drains: 2
New drains: 1
Spills: 1
Emptied lockers: 4
Sewing injuries: 0 (A new record!)
New oil: 3L
New impeller: 1
Theoretical days late in our journey: 2 (Cruisers motto: Schedules are merely suggestions.)
Cans of cold beer: 4

Sometimes, seeing the back end of a day, is all you need.
Well, that and a cold beer

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

getting fresh

Rick is the waterman
Ever wonder, how we get fresh water aboard Nyon? Well, wonder no more.

There are three ways that we fill up on water: From a dock hose, from the sky, and from jugs*. We have a deck fill near the bow, we attach our charcoal filter to a hose, stick it in the deck fill, and turn on the tap. Obviously you need to be at a dock that has potable water to do this - either a fuel dock, or a slip in a marina. Depending on the source, we may add some iodine to our water tanks. One of our water tanks is made of aluminium, we can't use bleach as it would damage the tank. Small amounts of bleach are normally considered safe if you don't have an aluminium tank.

We have yet to design a proper water catchment system for Nyon, but seeing as we're headed toward desert country, we have time. We did catch water in buckets when we had a recent downpour. We used that water for solar showers and laundry. In Barra (and many other locations), purified water jugs can be delivered to your boat for a price, or you can use your own jugs to get water ashore.

We have 3 water tanks. Our water capacity is 80 gallons. On average, we each seem to use about a gallon of water a day, sometimes more. We closely monitor our water consumption, the last thing we'd want, is to run out of water in a secluded anchorage.

Water: We drink it, and wash up with it. In an anchorage or on passage, we use salt water to wash dishes and then do a final rinse with fresh water. We hand-wash clothes in fresh water. Some sailors will wash laundry in salt water and only rinse with fresh water - We just can't be bothered at this point. In Mexico, we use laundry services for towels and sheets, (we have yet to see a self-serve coin-op laundromat).

When the tanks are full, you turn on the tap... Oh, wait - no. You push a pedal with your foot and voila!  Out pours water. We installed foot pumps aboard Nyon, it is a great way to conserve water and not have to deal with pressure water failures. Because if you haven't figured it out yet, if it ain't broke... Just you wait.

Now you know how we get fresh on Nyon!

*More and more cruising boats are equipped with a watermaker. A watermaker is a desalinator. It is a system used to obtain         potable water by reverse osmosis of seawater. A watermaker is very handy when you want to sail to more secluded (uninhabited) spots and don't want to be forced to leave for lack of water. That's why we'd eventually love to have one. But, a watermaker can cost anywhere from $5000-$8000. It'll be a while.

Monday, 13 February 2012

stuck in barra

Our companions on the way
to Barra de Navidad
"Only two sailors, in my experience, never ran aground. One never left port and the other was an atrocious liar." -Don Bamford
Inching our way into the channel
Our friends warned us about the channel leading to the lagoon in Barra de Navidad: Watch out, because boats go aground daily! While the channel is dredged, it can be a little tricky to get through. There is also the section without any markers at all.  We used the waypoints in Sean and Heather's Cruising Guide (the popular one), but, the channel is not carved in stone... I was a little antsy going into the lagoon. Rick was Mr. Chill. 

Until we went aground.

See? Not so bad...
Rick was surprised because a second before, the depth sounder was reading okay. Mm. Damn. Time to get unstuck. With the help of some nice fellow cruisers, (SV Island Wind, SV Voyager, and another nameless sailor), we set up a kedge anchor (to pull the boat toward deeper water) and we received a friendly shove off the muddy shoal from the dinghies. Once free, SV Voyager guided us into the lagoon with their trusty depth sounder, (they have one in their dinghy) We found a nice little spot to anchor. That's when a frigate bird shit on me. 

Don't worry, we recovered nicely with a beer in hand, accompanied by chirping birds and a rainbow. After all, what's a little mud and a touch of mierda. This is living!

Delicious goodness: Fresh mango, a
baguette and goat cheese
The next day was more mundane. The morning's highlight was the French Baker's panga making rounds in the anchorage. The French half in me was utterly delighted. (Who am I kidding, the Dutch half was just as thrilled!) Later, we took a water taxi to town (it would have been a long row), lugging dirty laundry, our boat papers, and garbage. Once we dropped off the various items and visited the port captain, we wandered around town. And around, and around. We accumulated many miles underfoot.  We finally decided on sitting down in the shade and feed our hungry bellies. Digesting our late lunch, we sat on a stone wall watching friendly Mexican guys hand-casting for fish on the beach. A few more errands later, we headed back to the anchorage in the dark.

Midday heat, in the plaza

I loved that tree! 
(And that's only half of the tree)

Giving our feet a rest

Fishing, the simple way

Someone's balcony
Tomorrow, we face that channel once again. No big deal, right?

and then we turned around

Early morning in Santiago
We were somewhat shell-shocked. You think I'm exaggerating, but after a blissful few days in Ensenada Carrizal, Santiago Bay was... the exact opposite. Jet skis and small boats were racing around the anchorage, music floated across the water from the beach palapas. This busy tourist spot was buzzing with energy. Maybe we just weren't in the mood for it, but one night was enough. We decided to go around the point to check out  Las Hadas. If you must know, that's where the movie '10' was filmed.

Our first glimpse of Las Hadas
Well hello, resort-land... Las Hadas is a strange mixture of Moorish, Mediterranean and Mexican architecture. We were content gazing at it from afar. Walking in the other direction, we hopped on a bus to get provisioning. We also enjoyed brunch aboard SV Chantey, friends from our BCA fleet. That evening, it was definitely time for another jam session with SV Espiritu. This time, there were two mandolins, a fiddle, a guitar and a flute; Rick took care of the percussion section with his trusty bodhrán. Fun times. Both boats are headed south to El Salvador. This was the turnaround point for us. We are starting the trek north to meet our friends Barb and Bjarne in La Paz. They need a cruising fix and we are ready for new horizons! Their company will be the added bonus.

Sunny morning

Those clouds seemed benign enough...
Back in Carrizal, it rained. And I mean rained, for two out of the three days we were there! It was so strange to wake up to raindrops pounding on the coach roof. It was almost like being back in Victoria. So familiar, yet so much warmer. I can't believe I'm writing this, but the rain made me nostalgic for our homeport. Then I got over it.

This was the perfect weather to pick up my paint brushes and tackle a painting. It was nice to putter on the boat, lay low. It was not so nice to rediscover long-ago forgotten leaks. Ah well, what's life if not a series of contrasts...

Artist afloat

Sunday, 12 February 2012

imperfectly perfect

I often joke that we have the hillbilly boat in the anchorage. To be honest, I’m only half joking.

Our boat is old. Fifty-four years old, old. Her varnish needs some serious sprucing (again); the deck needs a fresh coat of paint, (again). The stainless steel though polished, is dull with age. Our oven has a mind of its own; the head squeaks and needs constant attention. We have a couple leaks that we manage to forget about until a rare 2 days of solid Mexican rain reminds us. Our cabinetry needs to be refinished as does our sole*. Our out-dated velour cushions are missing buttons.

Nyon was the boat we could afford when we were buying. Her hull was sound, but she needed some love. Not only that, she had nice lines and we saw her potential.  Sure, with the economy these days, we would have had the option to purchase a less aged artifact, but Nyon it is. We fell in love with her, imperfections and all. Sometimes, we ruefully shake our heads. Do we always have to do things the hard way? This boat needs more maintenance and work then a boat 20 years her junior. At times, we could cry from the work involved in taking care of her.

We don’t have many toys or gadgets. Our GPS is 17 years old, (we do have a back-up). We don’t have an anemometer, or radar. We don’t have an SSB radio**, only our new VHF (with AIS receiver) and a cranky SSB receiver. We have a manual windlass but no water-maker. Our refrigeration is a DC-powered cooler that is chronically temperamental, since we have reached warmer climes. Our mainsail is 35 years old but is still, unbelievably, in decent shape. That can’t be said of our threadbare sail cover. Prior to our departure, my sister-in-law Jacquie and I spent a day mending and patching it.  At least our mast is now free of dry rot and freshly varnished…

Usually, we’re the only wooden boat in the anchorage. A little stern-heavy, our boot stripe is a veritable garden we diligently scrub clean(ish) over and over, during our bi-weekly hull-scraping endeavours. Our dinghy could use a little love too. At least, the oars can’t break down, even if the paint is peeling off. We get our exercise rowing around, but we can’t explore as far afield as those sailors with outboard motors on their dinghies.

Having said all that, we’re out here. We are voyaging. We are experiencing the adventure of a lifetime. In the past, I have felt the need to apologize for the state of our floating home, for the long to-do list that is never finished. Now I don’t. Nyon may be imperfect, a diamond in the rough… But she’s taking us places. We have so much to thank this boat for. She has cracked our world wide open. And for that, we are grateful.

Even if we are the hillbillies in the anchorage.

*sole – the correct term when referring to the floor in a boat.
** SSB – Single sideband radio: A long distance two-way radio communication system. Should we decide to sail to the south Pacific, we’d either get one or a Sat phone for weather forecasting and safety reasons.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

a tale of two reefs

Ensenada Carrizal

Quiet morning
It was a time of leisure,
it was a time of toil,

it was playing in the water,
it was playing with fire,

it was a period of solitude,
it was a period for companionship.

We had everything we needed,
but we did crave more avocados.

Red cliffs
Ensenada Carrizal is a great little gem of an anchorage. That is, if you like being away from it all. You are surrounded by cactus and scrub covered hills, there’s a pebbly beach with piles of driftwood on one end.  Crags in the rocks and small caves are scattered about. The reefs on both sides of the bay are a great playground for snorkelling. If you want to go for a jaunt, you walk up the only path from the beach to a gravel road, and follow it down to the most beautiful beach about a mile away. (Just watch out for scorpions!) When the sun rises, the rocky cliffs are a shade of burnt red; at the base of the shadowed cliffs, the water appears to be covered in a layer of sparkling copper flakes. A marvellous scene as we sip our morning coffee in the cockpit.

That next door beach (behind Piedra Blanca)
Thanks for showing it to us Steph! 

As seen from the water. It was beautiful, and deserted.
(Unfortunately, the land past the high tide mark, is private,
and we have since found out we are not allowed to walk 
through there. You are however, welcome to go around with 
your boat and anchor off the beach for the day, and go back 
to Carrizal for the night as it's too rolly otherwise.)
Back in Ensenada Carrizal, there is no chance of connecting to the internet, no phone, nowhere to spend your pesos. It’s a getaway from your getaway. And it’s pure bliss. In a quiet, laid back way.

Bonfire gang

Chris and Liz
 During our stay, we were as few as 2 boats anchored here, and as many as 7; a huge contrast from the La Cruz anchorage, where the highest count was 65 boats. (That is when we said, hasta luego amigos!) Smaller anchorages are more intimate. We gathered on each other’s boats, dinghy surfed to a bonfire on the beach, with musicians (real ones and the fake-it-till-you-make-it kind, to quote Steph from SV Red Witch.) We were lead by SV Espiritu: Chris played the mandolin and Liz, the guitar. Rick dusted off his  Bodhrán, and found his rhythm back. The rest of us played with instruments Steph had brought along. At one point, Liz picked up SV Red Witch's tambourine for a memorable rendition of “I’m a Believer”. Keep shaking those hips and that tambourine Liz!

Steph (SV Red Witch)
Greg (SV Foreign Affair)

Greasing up them gears
Unexpected boat job add-on

It was not all fun and games, we managed to be productive believe it or not. Our manual windlass needed maintenance.  (A windlass is a simple machine that uses gearing to provide mechanical advantage when hauling up the anchor chain.) You with a boat know, that a project, any boat project has this habit of expanding (or to quote my friend Barb, of "exploding")…  Rick took apart our manual windlass, I cleaned it up, painted it while Rick made a patch on the deck where some damage was discovered when the windlass was removed. (Whoever initially installed it didn’t seal it properly and water had crept in.)

Hanging with the fishies
Patched, fiberglassed and painted – the deck was eventually ready for the newly greased, cleaned and reassembled windlass. I worked on the reassembly with Rick. Four days later, our windlass is kicking ass, okay, maybe just hauling ass… uh, chain. [Rick also moved the divider between our chain locker and sail locker, to make more space for our new, longer rode, and in view of eventually acquiring more chain. Of course, now that means we have to find new homes for 2 of our spare sails as they no longer fit in the sail locker... Sigh. Nyon, Nyon, please tell me where!] Oh well! Cross that one off the list and let's go snorkelling

Post-snorkelling lounging
We are now in Santiago Bay, jet skis whipping by our anchored boat. Looking out at the palapas on the crowded beach, I yearn for that little bay. But first, we'll be provisioning and going to Las Hadas (Manzanillo), for a completely different experience.

Then, we will indeed head back to our little bay for a few more days of bliss before going north once again.

Early morning fisherman

we've come a long way, baby

Guess what? We have sailed
 3000 nautical miles, (over 5500 km),
since we left Canada!

This sea turtle was only mildly impressed...
Piedra Blanca, our milestone.
Hopping down the coast south of Tenacatita, we stopped in Cuastecomate and Melaque. These short hops almost made us forget how far we've come in 5 months... Yep, we have come a long way... and we're loving it. The ups, the downs and the rockin' and rollin'... Wonder where the next 3000 nautical miles will take us?

P.S. Just to give some perspective... It's only 2840 nautical miles from Victoria to the eastern edge of Newfoundland...


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