In Mazatlan, March 2002 & Back to La Paz in Early April
As usual, we've been blessed with a lot of great friends that we have met while out cruising. Mac and Carol on "Venture Forth" (Nordhavn 46#52) have become our buddies. We have gone out to dinner and shopping several times, and I have helped Mac clean and change his fuel filters. We also got parts and built a water filter for him to use in filling his tanks.
Howard and Marge Patton have a condo here North of Mazatlan, and they have been our personal chauffeurs and very helpful friends. We went out to the shrimp fleet where there are lots of marine parts stores and found asbestos gasket material to repair the leak in the dry stack, and engine oil. One morning we were standing at the bus stop in front of the marina and they drove by on their way to town and picked us up. Pretty good service, and even cheaper than the bus.
I doubt that most people have as good neighbors in their on neighborhoods.
We've been docked here at the El Cid Marina and have been playing musical berths. We were assigned a berth on C dock when we came in on Wednesday, the 27th, but were told we'd have to move in a few days. On Tuesday they came for us. "Autumn Wind" had just left so we asked if we could move to the berth on A dock they had just vacated. After getting tied up and settled, we found that this is the only berth on A dock that does not have 240-volt 50-amp power, which we need. Later in the day another boat left from A dock and theirs has the right power, so we moved there on Wednesday morning. Now we have power but no cable TV! The cable is broken somewhere between where we were and where we are now. So I have strung out 150 feet of coax down the dock to another unused box where we can get TV. On the other hand, we have water pressure that almost blows the hose apart...This berth is near the pool on the West end of the hotel property, so Donna can go up there easily to lie in the sun and swim. On Tuesday, she was coming back from the pool into the gate to A dock and a large unattended cleaning cart full of cleaning supplies got loose, ran down the inclined path about 50 feet from the hotel to the gate, and crashed into Donna as she was opening the gate. It pinned her to the gate until they could run down and pull the cart away. Fortunately, she was not injured other than a couple of bruises and sore places. I think it hit the railing in front of the gate first and glanced off, breaking the full force, otherwise it could have been much worse.
The dredge is still working in the entrance channel to El Cid, and they have the entrance closed most of the day, open for brief periods before and after noon, but not synchronized in any way with the tides, so it is dicey getting in and out. If we know a boat is going out or coming in, Mac and I try to go to the hill overlooking the entrance where we can see and direct traffic with the hand-helds. Two boats meeting in the narrow channel is dangerous.
In the midst of turquoise water and tropical air, it's easy to forget that life goes on as usual no matter where you are. On March 8, we came to the harsh realization that it was time to put our beloved dog to sleep. Heidi, our 13-1/2 year old German Shepherd, has been declining for the past several months. Leslie on "Millennium Falcon", a retired veterinarian from Alameda, California, helped and supported us through the ordeal and the decision. With her recommendation, we found an excellent veterinarian in Mazatlan who was willing to come to the boat to do the euthanasia and so Heidi had a peaceful and happy end, in keeping with the love she has given us. She had her head on Donna's lap and was totally focused on the bacon Donna was feeding her as the whole process went on. We gave all of her left over food, medicines and other dog stuff to the vet to help indigent clients. We miss her tremendously. Many friends helped us through this awful day, including Steve and Lois on "Palahna Rosa" next to us who brought over excellent margaritas. Now we are dogless for the first time in 18 years. Any bets on how long that will last?
Back to La Paz
We left Mazatlan at 6 AM Thursday, March 28, 2002. We had wanted to leave Tuesday but weather was uncertain. "The Great Escape" and two other boats did leave on Tuesday but had to turn back 10 miles out and anchor at the small island West of Mazatlan overnight. They made another attempt Wednesday and had a reasonable crossing. It's 205 miles across open water from Mazatlan to Isla Partida, North of La Paz, and our intentions were to go straight there. It's only 160 miles if you go to Los Frailes, an anchorage South of La Paz, but then it's another 90 miles North to La Paz. Most sailboats go to Los Frailes, but with a powerboat, it's not a problem (usually) to go point to point. We estimated about 32 hours at 6.5 knots for the crossing. We were accompanied by "Venture Forth", a Nordhavn 46 like ours, Mac and Carol on board, and "Second Wind", a 54-foot Cheoy Lee motorsailer, Bob and Steven on board. The first 20 hours were smooth as glass with no wind and no seas. We did our usual 3-hour watches and could actually sleep when off watch. We didn't even need the paravanes. All three boats were suffering overheating problems, however, so we were only making about 6 knots. I had neglected to get the bottom cleaned before we left and after a month in El Cid Marina at Mazatlan, the keel cooler (a radiator under water) was full of barnacles and other sea growth. We usually turn 1800 rpm, but even 1700 caused elevated temperature. We finally settled at 1650.
We expected to make Isla Partida about noon Friday. We were pretty much on schedule, only slightly behind because of the reduced speed caused by the overheating problems, when the fun started. When I came up to the pilot house to begin my watch at midnight Friday morning, Donna's first comment was, "I HATE lightning!" By 2 AM Friday, we started seeing major lightening flashes directly ahead and storm clusters on the radar. This is not our favorite thing. We have been there, done that, gotten the T-shirt, and that's enough, thank you very much! For the next 6 hours we dodged the storms as best we could. The cells formed all around us, and showed up clearly on radar. We could sometimes divert course and go behind or between them. Most of the lightening was cloud-to-cloud, but occasionally there would be a huge flash to the water, closer than we thought appropriate. Maybe we just irritate the gods when we go out, I don't know! The seas remained absolutely still through all this, and there was no wind at all. But right after the lightening finally stopped, the wind came up to over 20 knots from the NW and brought with it steep, choppy seas directly on the bow along with a Southerly current that cut our already pitiful speed down to 4.5 knots. This was definitely becoming an E-Ticket ride. Even at that snail's pace it was very uncomfortable, and we reckoned it would take 9 more hours to get to Isla Partida. The weather advisories were not encouraging. We were in radio contact with two other boats that we could occasionally see on radar but had no visual sighting of. After discussing the situation, we all diverted course to Los Muertos, a popular anchorage halfway between La Paz and Los Frailes. We were now beam-to the seas, so we deployed the paravanes to stop the rolling, but were able to pick up speed to over 6 knots. We arrived at Los Muertos at just after noon and had a good rest with 10 or 12 other boats. We heard "The Great Escape" on the radio; they and their companion boats were in Los Frailes.
Saturday morning "Four Seasons" left Los Muertos with "Second Wind", "Simple Pleasures", "Indigo", and several other boats. We had a smooth and delightful trip of 50 miles to Isla Partida, arriving just about noon, one day later than planned. "Venture Forth" stayed in Los Muertos for an additional day then went on to La Paz. We had no sooner anchored at Partida than the Mexican guys at the fish camp along the Western shore came out looking for water. They have very primitive shacks built on the beach with no water or electricity, so they come out to anchored boats to fill their water jugs. They know that powerboats usually have watermakers. We gave them about 15 gallons of water and two cold Dos Equis. This was a holiday weekend, so they had all the kids and relatives at the camp also. We had been carrying a lot of old clothes with us, and decided this was as good a place as any to give them away. They took 5 pairs of jeans, 2 pairs of shorts, assorted T-shirts and other stuff back to the camp, and seemed delighted. We observed them passing the items around and trying them on. Then back they came in the boat, waving a set of keys they had found in one of the pockets! I had lost the keys a long time before and thought they were gone forever.
"Second Wind" left Sunday to go North toward San Carlos. We had Bob and Steven over for pancakes and eggs and they intended to leave right after, but were delayed a few hours by an engine problem. On starting, his starboard engine somehow sucked seawater into the crankcase, necessitating an oil change. This left him without oil, so I sold him my 5-gallon can of Caterpillar 15W-40 that I had acquired in Mazatlan. I put it on the back of the kayak, put a line through the bail and rowed over. When Bob pulled the bucket of oil up to his deck, the bail came off one side and it nearly went in the water, along with me on the kayak. I guess a sealed plastic bucket of oil would float, but I'm glad we didn't have to find out.
After three days at the island we arrived back at La Paz on April 2. Last year we left La Paz to go back to San Francisco on April 1. Mike on "Number One" was there to help us tie up. We were assigned berth 74 right on the outside of A-dock next to the entrance, and next to Barb and Steve, "the voice of the Socorros", on "Blue Chablis". Barb and Steve spent January and February at the Socorro Islands, 200 miles Southwest of Cabo San Lucas, and Barb's melodious voice with a hint of Arkansas was heard daily on all the Amateur Radio Nets. KB0RIZ, "Romeo-India-Zulu", was the one station I could always count on hearing, wherever we were. Although we had never met, I felt we were old friends.
It's good to be back. We arrived just in time to have lunch at The Dock café. Donna was chanting "La Pazta, La Pazta" all the way back, referring to our favorite Italian restaurant in La Paz, and we were determined to go there that night. We did, and of course, they are closed on Tuesdays! So we went to Hotel Los Arcos instead, and had a great meal.
There are two other Nordhavns here in Marina de La Paz: "Kiva", our buddy boat on the way down, and "Andiamo", a 50-footer owned by Tony and Liz Duchi. We assisted in solving minor electrical problems on both of these boats, and were taken to dinner that night by Dan Streech and Dave Harlow of PAE, who flew down with parts. A 57-foot Nordhavn, "Viva", is in Marina Palmira.
The weather has not been cooperative. We spent another three days out at Isla Partida and had 15 knot NE winds during the day, and 15 to 25 knot Corumel winds from the SW every night. The bottom is a foot or two of sand over rock, and we slide in high winds. We finally had to deploy both the 110-pound Bruce and the 75-pound CQR anchors on 150 feet of chain to stop dragging. The last night was the worst. The winds were peaking to 30 knots on our wind meter. We got up at midnight to pull the kayaks up onto the roof to stop their banging into the back of the boat. Then we got up again at 1 AM to put the paravanes out to stop the rolling so we could sleep. Sigh! Just like last year!
"Four Seasons" has now traveled 7072 sea miles since we bought her a year and a half ago. We have used 4483 gallons of diesel, and we have 1127 hours on the main engine, 1312 on the generator. In the fall of 2000 and Spring of 2001, when we made our first trip to Mexico, diesel fuel was $1.75 US dollars per gallon in Dana Point, California. It was $1.75 in Ensenada, $1.20 in Cabo San Lucas, and $1.45 in La Paz. In the 2001-2002 season, it was $1.20 in Ballena Bay, California; $1.50 in Dana Point, $2.20 in Cabo San Lucas, $2.11 in Puerto Vallarta and $2.22 in La Paz. The exchange rate last season was about 9.7 pesos per dollar; this season it is about 9.1. This year, we have visited Ensenada, San Quintin, Bahia Tortuga, Bahia Santa Maria, Cabo San Lucas, Puerto Vallarta, Ipala, Chamela, Punta de Mita, Tenacatita, Barre de Navidad, Ixtapa, Zihuatanejo, Mazatlan and La Paz, as well as assorted smaller anchorages. The boat has performed flawlessly, exceeding our expectations in every respect. We have had only the usual assortment of minor problems that beset all boats, nothing major. I think Fred Caron on Arcturus sums it up when he calls his 46 Nordhavn his "magic carpet". It truly is.