What to expect

Rants, missives and occcasional updates about where Masquerade is located and what we are up to.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Pulling the anchor under duress!

The weather continues to be capricious. On the way to La Paz we get blown out of two anchorages. We stopped at Amortajada at the south end of Isla San Jose, this anchorage is well protected from the south and east. The first night was very quiet and calm and we had a nice day exploring the estuary, so we decided to spend another night. At 1 AM the wind started to blow from the west and by 3 AM, we decided that the anchorage was untenable and that we needed to leave. We pulled the anchor as the swells built, then threaded our way between islands, rocks and reefs in a very dark night. We had plotted a course ahead of time and used the radar to check our position. After a few a watchful moments, we were out in the open channel and heading south. We decided that rather than move around the point and re-anchor in a protected spot, it would be better to stay underway, make some distance and anchor in daylight. Watching a sunrise while under sail is always enjoyable, when you are the crew on watch you have the time to enjoy the changing colors and shifting clouds. There are few other times when a person will sit and watch a sunrise from beginning to end.

We stopped short of La Paz in a small bay called Caleta Lobos. We started getting grey skies and more rain, so after another quiet night with the anchorage to ourselves we decided another night would be good. This time the wind started at 1 PM, and by 3 PM good sense indicated that we had overstayed our welcome. This anchorage was protected from all but the west, which was where the wind was now coming from. We figured if we could make good time we could get the La Paz anchorage just before sunset. We started out very slowly, clawing our way out of the narrow bay into head winds and large swell, but once we turned south we could make much better time. Once into the large bay of La Paz the wind and waves were much reduced and we relaxed considerably.

It was fun to come in and talk to several friends from boats that we had met over the last several months. We wanted to get in and out quickly, and head across to Mazatalan for Christmas, but we also wanted to meet up with friends we have not seen for a while. We also wanted to get out before we spent too much money! Everytime we get into a bigger town we end up spending much more time and money than we intended. Other cruisers refer to this as being unable to get their anchors free.

For a more fun anecdote, we also had a whale shark sighting. We arrived in Agua Verde after leaving Escondido, and as we were moving around deciding where to anchor we saw a disturbance in the water ahead of us. At first we thought it might be a dolphin or a sea lion, but then I recognized the unique motion of a shark swimming. The whale shark is (one of?) the largest in the shark family and can grow to 40 feet! However it is a filter feeder and has no teeth, people sometimes even swim with them. There were two here in the anchorage swimming together both were over 20ft with one a bit larger than the other. They like to swim right on the surface so the tip of the fin and tip of the tail are usually above the surface of the water, giving the opportunity to see their large head and wide mouth. We stopped the boat to watch these amazing animals and try to get some photos. They were not concerned about the boat at all, and continued to make their winding paths around us. We watched for a while then headed closer to shore to drop our anchor.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Some family time in mexico

Long since due for an update!

After San Francisquito and the strong winds, we had light weather heading further south to Santa Rosalia. We spent a few days cleaning up the boat, including a trip up to the top of the mast with a water hose! The boat looked like we had taken it off-roading. The water running down the boat was the color of chocolate milk. We prepared the boat for a visit from my parents ( Jim and Sally), and found an RV park for their Scamp trailer. My parents were coming down for about a week to visit, they were also bringing us a bunch of goodies from the states (hard to find food items and boat parts).

We unloaded some of the goodies and did some sightseeing in town, then headed off to Isla San Marcos for a few days. We had a nice spinnaker run and even got Sally to steer the boat for a while. Jim reeled in a nice Mexican Bonito on the way, which made an excellent BBQ for the night’s dinner. We found a nice spot to drop the hook at Sweetpea cove. We had wonderful weather, with warm days and cool nights, plus we had an amazing dolphin show for two days. Hundreds of dolphins were swimming up and down the coast of the island, coming very close to the boat and often leaping completely clear of the water. We put on the snorkel gear one day and tried to swim with the dolphins. The dolphins would have none of this, and refused to come anywhere near us! Funny how they won’t come nearer than 20-30ft from an anchored boat, but will swim inches off the bow when underway. We did a day trip down to the village on San Marcos, this is a town for the gypsum mine on the island. The town was interesting and very neat and clean, the local church was built from blocks of gypsum so was quite unique. After a few days we headed back to Santa Rosalia. Since we had a vehicle we wanted to drive down to Mulege, a town that does not have a good anchorage so we did not stop there in the boat. It one of the oldest settlements in the Baja as it has the only fresh water river. The town was nice with some older building still existing, but the river west of town was spectacular. The river meandered up the valley and the valley floor was completely covered in palm trees. The most greenery than we have seen in Mexico so far. There was an old Mission (first in California), and the old prison (inmates were let lose to work during the day, but they had to come back in the evening to get locked up overnight), unfortunately both were closed so we could not go inside. After a bit more provisioning with the car for items like fuel and propane (which is located 5 miles from town!), we had to say goodbye. We had run out of time and my parents needed a few days travel time to get back to the states. We had a very nice visit and everyone enjoyed the time spent together.

We left Santa Rosalia a few days later and are now down at Punta Chivato. This is a point with a nice beach and has a beautiful resort that we cannot afford to visit. There are several other cruising boats here so we have done a bit of visiting around the anchorage.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Migrating south again...

We left Puerto Refugio a few days ago and sailed south, back to Bahia de Los Angeles. The weather has been changing, getting cooler and the prevailing southerly winds of summer have been replaced by the winter northerlies. This weather pattern makes it easy to sail up into the Sea of Cortez for the summer and then back down toward Mazatlan and Puerto Vallarta in the winter. Quite convenient if you are patient and not in a hurry.

Puerto Refugio was nice though we ended up re-anchoring several times. The west bay was protected from the north and east, and the east bay is protected from the south and west. The wind would change every few days bring wind waves along, this would make the anchorage uncomfortable so we would up anchor and move to the other side. Normally this is no big deal, but one day it turned at four in the morning and we had to wait till dawn to safely move the boat.

I did some trolling in the dinghy after Michael from Cambria caught some Yellowtail. I tried the next day but had no luck till Michael showed me his spot. Then I caught a large Yellowtail (24”) and 2 more small ones as well. The large one made a nice dinner for both us and the crew of Momo. We had not had this type of fish before but it is now one of our favorites.

We have been playing with the underwater camera (Canon S60 with underwater housing). Getting pictures of non-moving creatures is fairly easy, moving (and shy) fish are tough. It is difficult to hold the camera still and you cannot use the view finder. We can also make short movies, which we have found takes practice. The first few tries made the “Blair Witch project” look like it was made with a steady-cam. Camera movement was way too quick and jerky, watching could induce motion sickness. We are getting better and may get a few movies posted soon.

We are back at the village of Bahia de Los Angeles, getting some provisions and placing some online orders on the internet. My parents are going to come and visit us at the end of the month so they get to courier down some supplies for us. So we get both a visit and goodies! The only downside is that we now have a schedule. However it should be no problem getting to Santa Rosalia in 2 weeks time.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

More from Santa Rosalia...

We have been at the marina for almost a month now, and are ready to head out. We had not planned to stay this long but plans change. We now have a new set of batteries (Thanks to V’Ger) and are ready for the summer. We have finished quite a few jobs, more sewing and other installs (shower connection in the cockpit and more fans).

Santa Rosalia was built as a company town for a mining operation run by the French. The building materials for the town were all shipped in, so many of the buildings are wood rather than concrete like the rest of the Baja. The town definitely has a different feel than other places. The town is proud of the past and there is a museum and there are trains and other mining equipment around town as displays. The church in town has an interesting history. It was designed by Gustav Eiffel for a worlds fair in Belgium, the building is a pre-fab design made from metal. It was bought by the mining company dismantled, shipped to Mexico (on a sailing ship), and reassembled. There are photos around town of the harbor filled with schooners and square riggers. These brought coal from England and returned to Europe with copper. The old smelter is in ruins but still stands neat the harbor. There has been an effort to fix up the area, but as seems typical with Mexico, it is only half done. There is a nice malecon area, with a tiled walk way and lights, but the old buildings are run down and falling to ruin (some would be quite nice if restored). Near the smelter they installed tile walks, lights, landscaping, but the smelter buildings are full of trash and broken windows.

In my last update I mentioned the Palapa of Knowledge, and as appropriate I gained some knowledge there. The original palapa was removed when they built the nice malecon. The current palapa is not actually a palapa at all, it is one of the old wood buildings that is in a state of disrepair. One end of the building is usable and serves as the marina office/hangout.

From here we will make a short trip out to Isla San Marcos, there are supposed to be some interesting caves to explore by dinghy and by snorkel. Should be fun. It will also be nice to get out where there should be a nice breeze. The last few days the humidity has been up over 75% so we have been hot and sticky.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

The Palapa of Knowledge

We are in Santa Rosalia at the Marina for a while. We are having some issues with the batteries and are getting replacements from the states. We are enjoying the town and the company of the other cruisers. The marina is very informal and is pretty much run by the cruisers, the beer, ice, laundry etc.. is all done on the honor system. Each boat has a sheet on which to mark down the services you use, and then you settle up before you leave. The building tends to be the afternoon hangout, where everyone sits around and drinks a beer. The opinions and advice apparently prompted someone to christen it “The Palapa of Knowledge”.

I will add more details about Santa Rosalia later. As it is a interesting town.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The La Paz waltz

We are in the anchorage in La Paz now. There is a strong current in here and often strong winds as well. The two work off of each other and so the anchored boats move around a lot in a strange motion known as the "La Paz Waltz". We will be here for a few days for provisioning but need to be out of here by Tuesday. Cindy has volunteered to be a Net Controller for the Southbound net. This is a radio net on the SSB (Single Side Band) radio. There are a few nets, the two biggest being the Amigo in the morning and the Southbound in the evening. These are a way for the boats in Mexico and central america to communicate, this is a known time and frequency to meet. The net controller keeps everything organized as boats check in and give their boat name, crew names, and position, facilitate messages between boats, and listen for weather information (Don Anderson on Summer Passage in Oxnard, does great weather). Cindy is now the controller on Tuesday evening, She has done this twice and is doing great! Unfortunately La Paz in not a good place for HAM radio reception, so we need to be elsewhere by tuesday evening.

We finally caught up to Yohelah, the boat we went with to Canada and Alaska. The boat is here in La Paz, Rob is still here getting the boat ready for summer storage, but Teresa is already back in Seattle looking for work. We miss Teresa, but did get to do dinner with Rob. The will be back in the Fall for more Mexico adventures.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Back To The Baja

Masquerade is now anchored at Isla San Francisco, a small island about 45 miles north of La Paz.

We enjoyed our visit in Altata and met some nice people there. We met a family that owns one of the beach restaurants. Only the daughter, a young woman named Wendy spoke English, and my Spanish is really bad. She said that she would like to see the boat, and we told her we would happy to show it to her. The next afternoon I was swimming of the boat, cleaning some growth of the bottom, when Cindy told me we had company. I climbed back aboard to find 3 pretty young ladies in the cockpit. Wendy came out with two friends (Diana and Dulce), ferried out in a cousin's panga. We had a nice visit, with Wendy acting as interpreter. She invited us to join her and her family for dinner that evening. We accepted and met them that evening at the restaurant. They insisted that we pull the dinghy across the road and into the open-air restaurant (it has wheels) so that it would be safe. We then walked over to a brother's house where they had a BBQ going to make Carne Asada. We had dinner with around 17 extended family and friends. Wendy again had to act as interpreter as only one other person spoke a little English. We had a pleasant evening and the Spanish/English dictionary got a lot of use. We hope to get back this way soon.

We had a long passage across the Sea of Cortez. We wanted to sail and not motor so the crossing took at least an extra 24 hours. We had light winds and winds from the wrong direction most of the time. We went from drifting with the spinnaker in 4kn of wind to reefed sails and 25kn in about 2 hours. We did end up motoring some as it was taking a long time. From here we will probably visit La Paz then head to the northern part of the Gulf of California.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Off the Beaten Path

We finally left Mazatlan! After leaving the marina we spent 2 weeks in the Old Harbor. The anchorage there is close to the historical district of Mazatlan, and is walking distance to the plazas and Mercado. We met up with some friends the Northwest (V'Ger) that we had not seen in 2 years, and another boat we met in Ensenada (Momo). We hiked up the lighthouse, which is the highest lighthouse in the americas. Great view of the harbor and Mazatlan. We had a brief stop at Venados (Deer) Island, then headed north to Altata. Altata is a small town about 120 miles from Mazatlan. The town was first visited by cruisers in 2001, and is not listed in most cruising guides. Information has started to be passed around so now perhaps a dozen boats a year come in, compared to hundreds that go through Mazatlan. There are no good charts to the bay and it is very shallow with an entrance that can be scary, so having information from previous boats was very helpful. We were welcomed in by a pod of dolphins. We are the only cruising boat here and probably the only gringos as well. Everyone seems friendly, and I think we are a bit if a novelty. The Port Captain spoke english and was very friendly, he told me that Altata was a busy commercial port back in the 1800's but a hurricane hit in 1911 and altered the harbor, closing the old entrance and creating a new one 10 miles south of town. The new shallower entrance caused the commercial traffic to stop. We are anxious to get out and do a little exploring, also the water here in the estuary is around 76 degrees so we can do some swimming without being too cold.

Monday, April 16, 2007

One year cruising!

April 1st was the one year anniversary of the day that we cut our dock lines, left Seattle, and started cruising.

It is amazing to us that a year has passed so quickly, but it also seems like a lifetime ago that we were doing the work/commute routine.

So looking back at some figures

Miles: 4900 (nautical miles)

Border crossings: 5 (Canada, USA-Alaska, Canada, USA-Oregon, Mexico)

Boat searches by Customs officials: 1

Furthest North: 59.0N degrees, Glacier Bay Alaska (The Arctic circle is 66.33N)

Furthest South: 22.5 N, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico (just into the Tropic of Cancer)

Furthest East: 106.27W Mazatlan, Mexico (about even with Albuquerque NM)

Furthest West: 137.0W Glacier bay Alaska

Highest winds: 45kn (Alaska)

We miss our friends that we left behind, and family that we have not seen enough of. On the other hand we have made lots of new friends and become part of a community of cruisers here in Mexico. We are looking forward to spending the summer up in the Sea of Cortez, where it is going to be HOT!

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Snow! and old friends

Ok, that might need some further clarification. We are still in Mazatlan, moored at the Marina.

We decided to head back to California for a short visit. We thought we could do our taxes and do some work on the rental property and also extend our Visas another 180 days. We figured a week would be enough time. We ended up staying almost 3 weeks. Our mail service screwed up sending our mail and therefore getting our taxes done. The property took up much time catching up on years worth of yard work, hauling, burning and tree trimming. We got a huge amount of work done, but there is more waiting for us the next time we return. While working in the yard it began to snow one afternoon. There was not any real accumulation and it melted by the next day, but it was quite a change for us. Our property is in Georgetown (Population 962), which is between Sacramento and Lake Tahoe, about 10 miles from Sutter’s Mill (for those who know CA history).

Back in Mazatlan things are busy. We have met up with several boats that we know and haven’t seen in a while. Some we haven’t seen for months some not for 2 years! It has been fun catching up with everyone. It is also Semana Santa (Holy Week) which is a big Mexican holiday when everyone comes to the beach. On top of that we are getting a bunch of spring break visitors as well. It is really crowded downtown and along the beaches. It is more crowded now than it was at carnival.

We plan on leaving Mazatlan soon, we are not decided if we want to head north or south. I would like to see Isla Isabella (south) and Cindy wants to head north into the Sea of Cortez. I guess we will see which way the wind is blowing when the time comes and that is the direction we will go…

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Carnaval and Mazatlan

Carnaval was a blast. It took a day or two to realize that nothing gets started till 10 o’clock at night or later. The marina here organized a trip to do dinner and see the fireworks, so we joined in. The dinner was mediocre (I think they tried to do American food), but the fireworks were good. Unfortunately the balcony that we watched from was designed to provide shade from the sun, this meant it blocked some of the view as well. The fireworks commemorate a battle with the French, so part of the fireworks are launched from shore and some from onboard a boat off the shore.

On the same night is also the “Burning of Bad Humors”, where an effigy of some person or issue is burnt. This year the issue was the high price of tortillas, in the past it has been Osama bin Laden, and a Taxi strike. (See videos here) After the show we went walking on the main Carnaval street, Olas Altas. There were many stages set up each with a live band (competing with each other to be heard), wandering Mariachi bands (competing to be heard), many beer booths, and a huge crowd of people. We quickly learned that you needed to hold on to each other and get in with the flow going your desired direction (sort of a huge conga line). It was crowded and loud, but everyone was having fun. After getting another beer we started heading back but made a mistake of getting too close to the bandstand. The crowd here was very thick and we soon lost any control over our speed or direction. We were being swept along and were only concerned with keeping on our feet, tripping or falling would be bad news. Once past the stage things eased up, but that was not fun.

A few days later we went to the Carnaval Parade . This took place on the malecon, the road that was right on the ocean. Cindy and I went down early to get a good spot along the fence on the seawall. The street rapidly filled up with families coming to watch. The parade started with the sponsor’s (beer, bakery, and automakers mostly) floats which consisted of dancers throwing items and load music. The real parade consisted of some marching groups and lots of floats. The floats all had dancers (male and female), and more loud music usually live. No beads here but lots of confetti, thrown by the dancers or shot from cannons. After the parade we headed to the old town area for some food. It was nearly midnight but the Plazuela Machado and the restaurants were quite busy. When dinner was over we grabbed a pulmonia to take us back to the marina. The pulmonia (literally pneumonia) is an open air taxi unique to Mazatlan.

While in Mazatlan we have been doing work on the boat. We had some help from Rueben and his sons on getting some brightwork done. We stripped off the old varnish and put on some new Cetol. Not all the boat is done, but it looks a lot better. Various other jobs are getting done (decks, cabinetry, wiring) and the boat is clean again.

Some friends (Clarence and Sharon from Lotus) are staying at the other marina, El Cid, it has a hotel and timeshares, which also means a pool and hottub! We have spent a few afternoons as their guests hanging out at the pool, and hitting the Friday happy Hour. There are advantages to being at a marina!

Marina Mazatlan, where we are docked is a nice place to stay. They do quite a bit to support the cruisers community. They facilitate many services like laundry, bottled water, propane, a veggie truck comes several times a week. The cruisers also organize events, DVD swap, swap meet, HAM radio exams, Spanish lessons, yoga, etc… There is quite a bit going on to keep people busy.

Long update, check out the new pictures (Cabo, Mazatlan) and the video(some are quite large).

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Over on the mainland for carnaval!

Masquerade is now on the mainland of Mexico. We are in Mazatlan and are at a marina for the first time in over two months. We sailed from Cabo San Lucas to Los Frailes, it was incredibly quiet and calm after the noise and bouncy anchorage at Cabo. We had planned on spending a few days here but when we had a good weather window for crossing to the mainland, we pulled anchor and left. We had a good sail across the Sea of Cortez, we had 15kn +-5 most of the time and made the passage in about 29 hours (some of the fastest sailing we have done).

Cabo San Lucas is strictly a tourist town, nothing but bars and hotels/timeshares. We spent a few days but the anchorage is very rough and noisy due to the boat traffic, jet skis, and cruiseships. We went into town a few times but tried not to spend too much money. We got suckered into doing a timeshare talk (they offered $225!). Started out okay, but they got pushy, then rude when we said no and we wanted to leave. We later heard that this timeshare was known as a “buy or cry” operation. We did get a free trip over to San Jose Del Cabo for sightseeing out of the deal. San Jose is the real town in the area and has a historical center and an old church. In Cabo we did get to sit on the beach on lounge chairs under an umbrella while they brought us 2 for 1 drinks, not too bad. We hit the Costco for provisions, and learned that you can sample tequila along with the normal food items!

Mazatlan is an interesting town, it was an old and established city long before the tourist industry turned up. The historic district has many older buildings and the Plaza Machado, with lots of restaurants with open air seating, music and such is very interesting. There is a cruising community here, some boats passing though and others spend the hurricane season here. We ran into “Restless” here at the Marina, we met Mark and Brandy in Craig Alaska and see them about every 700 miles (Craig AK, Coos Bay OR, Newport Beach CA, and Mazatlan). We also ran into Brian (downtown in the plaza) he used to work for Port Townsend Rigging, but is now off cruising.

We decided to come to Mazatlan to see the Carnaval. This is supposed to be the 3rd largest Carnaval in the world. It started yesterday but we did not see much but they were setting up for the large street party and parade that are later in the week. We are planning on seeing at least one parade and one firework show. Should be lots of fun. We will try and get pictures for the site.

We are also getting some work done on the boat here. Having some of the old varnished stripped and sanding the decks. Can’t stop anywhere for a few days without trying to get some boat jobs done.

The weather is nice and the people friendly, this is good cruising.