Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Cortez Crossing and Santa Rosalía

Joy ride in the Walker Bay in Santa Rosalia Harbor.
“28…30…32…” Clif is reciting the wind readings as I type. The “El Norte” has surely set in. The dock lines, halyards and doorknobs are all banging and rattling out of unison. The distinct whistling through the rigging tells me the wind is sticking around 35 knots. Luckily, we knew this little windstorm was coming through long before it arrived, so we tied up securely to the Marina Fonatour early this morning. Not at hour after we secured the lines, the wind went from 10- 25 knots in about 10 minutes. The north wind of the Sea of Cortez (“El Norte”) has a mind of its own. It whips up the sea into short, steep chop, making it virtually impossible to move anywhere besides directly downwind. We can peek out beyond the harbor embankment and see huge white caps that have been traveling from the top of the Sea, thankful we are inside a little shelter and attached to a dock that survived Hurricane Odile last fall (up to 100 mph winds here in Santa Rosalía).

Young boy in Santa Rosalia watching a palm tree be cut down. One of the favorite shots of the week!
We had a very uneventful crossing culminating two days ago (nothing like the wind we’re experiencing currently). We managed to pick a night that had just enough wind to sail for 6 steady hours, allowing us to attach our wind monitor and relax. In San Carlos, we arranged to cross with another boat, S/V Alma, owned by our new friends Greg and Diane of Quincy, CA, and stayed with a mile or two for the majority of our night on the Sea. VHF radios enabled us to communicate occasionally, until the next day with Alma motored ahead and we chose to sail a little further south to avoid bashing upwind. The crossing from San Carlos to Santa Rosalía took us a total of 16.5 hours, beginning at 10pm and ending the following day at 2:30pm.
Walking the streets of Santa Rosalia.
We reminded by several cruisers in San Carlos, that Santa Rosalía was significantly damaged by Hurricane Odile last October. We were fairly in tune with the Hurricane watch while our boat was in Guaymas on the hard, but it’s a completely different thing to see the outcome months after the fact. One of the two marinas in this little harbor was completely destroyed. There were also many boats attached to that dock that were significantly damaged or lost. Two boats are still among the broken pilings, waiting to be lifted out of the water or salvaged. There’s a pangueros dock, also in ruins, and parts of cement from the ferry dock in the middle of the harbor. The town, originally a French mining town, had many structural relics that didn’t make it through the Hurricane as well. It’s a good reminder to also check the weather and never underestimate the power of the wind. (Which, fortunately for me, I’m petrified of what the wind can do over 20 knots… it’s a positive and negative sailing trait in my opinion).

On the bright side, we’re attached to a dock that has power and water. We can charge up all of our electronics and top of our batteries. I can wash the boat with fresh water (hasn’t happened quite yet, waiting for the weather to die down a bit), and can use as much water as I like to scrub the dishes! It’s also a very short 5-minute walk into a hustling, bustling pure Mexican town. No tourists beside the occasional gringos driving through on Hwy 1, and myself, lugging laundry for 20 minutes to find the cheapest, most authentic lavandería I can find. Santa Rosalía is home to a very famous Mexican bakery, Panadería El Boleo, making fresh pan dulces every day. Little “Cochas” and “Pitahaya” buns (mis favoritas por desayuna) go for 7 pesos. Check out this sweet 90’s Mexican TV footage I found on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zoRD7AnH4uI
You might not understand a word, but about half way through the video, the baker lists off the names of the typical buns--- super helpful for me being a beginning Spanish speaker. Gotta learn my bakery terminology!

Panaderia El Boleo buns... fresh out of the oven!
It’s also fun to go seeking out the best tortillas and best tacos in town. We were recommended by a gringo local to have tacos at “Tacos Paisano,” where the Asada tacos are excellent and go for 20 pesos ($1.50). Two can fill you up--- way to go $3 dinners! Many taco stands, particularly under a roof, allow you to bring in your own cerveza, which is an added bonus. Mucho barato, very cheap.
World Famous.

From Santa Rosalía, we will be heading down into Bahia Concepcion (within the next day or two) to meet up with our friends, Pam, Eric and Andy aboard Emma Bell. We might have Pam aboard a couple nights before Eric and Andy can cross from Guaymas, but we will all be frying fresh fish again soon.

Tacos Paisano with new friends, Greg and Diane.
Going to indulge on as many dock luxuries as possible right, since we’re grounded: hot showers, fresh water usage in general, wifi and battery charging. Clif’s tying off another line to the bow, which is getting the brunt of this wind, so we might not be wondering too far from the boat today… maybe to get another taco or two.


Tacos de Carne Asada
Hiking up the hillside to see the cemetery of Santa Rosalia.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

She's Afloat!

It’s official. Our second season of Sea of Cortez cruising has begun. After six days of hard work in the yard, Sound Discovery is on the water! With her fresh new bottom paint, deck scrub, sails on, teak oiled, and plenty of drinking water, we are all set to roll.

Our first “Put-in” went as smoothly as we hoped it could go. I realized about halfway through the process, that “putting-in” is WAY more stressful than pulling the boat out of the water. This thing has to float again! And who knows what has happened to the shape and soundness of the vessel while she was sitting in 100+ Mexican summer heat all year. To protect the new bottom coat, the painters suggested plastic garbage bags (of which we had two) or bed sheets, which I did have a couple of laying around. It only took a couple minutes of the boat being laid in the water to recognize that bed sheets were are horrible idea. The strips of sheet fused to the final layer of paint and wouldn’t come off the bottom. It took quite some fishing, pulling and prodding with a boat hook to assume that the entire bed sheet was removed from the hull. (You can see the green sheets dangling in between the sling and the boat hull.)

We did have two other leaks once we were set in the water. Both fixed easily with a little work from Clif, while we were attached to the Marina Seca dock. Our prop shaft was leaking pretty severely, but needed just a little tightening. The knot-meter inside the bilge of the boat was also leaking, and the pressure of the water made the piece really difficult to remove. However, all was fixable within 30-45 minutes, and we were off. The engine ran smoothly and soundly (as soundly as our ’78 Westerbeke Diesel can run) while we made our way across the bay leaving Guaymas. We spent our first night afloat at the “Free Docks” (30 pesos/$2 per night) just on the outside entrance of the bay, along with our new Canadian friends aboard S/V Slade Green, who are also seasonal worker in the Inside Passage! The Free-docks are an excellent place to do boat work sans-fresh-water (hoisting Clif up the mast, putting on sails, scrubbing the yard dirt off the decks…etc). What a feeling to finally be afloat and have little to no problems! Needless to say, we toasted our efforts with mimosas, ending our almost-month of sobriety. We toasted to our cleansed livers and once-again-floating home.

Like my bright pink zinc-oxide lips? Gotta love self-timers.

Today, we had our first morning afloat and motored/sailed our way north to San Carlos, a popular Mexican cruising hub. Just 18 miles from Guaymas on the water, it is a small Hurricane-hole/summer-destination for folks that spend a year or more in the Sea of Cortez. It is also a popular spot to haul-out and store boats, because of its proximity to the US.  We were able to sail the last several miles into the bay and make sure everything aboard was ship shape. We even got a good heal and had to strap the new herb-garden in place. I will soon get to use my fresh mint for mojitos, and limonadas. I’m going start infusing my drinking water on the boat to make it taste better—what a genius idea.

Playing with my new 50 mm lens on my Canon Rebel on our first sail.

Our friends Eric and Andy (Eric’s brother) aboard Emma Bell are going to be in the water tomorrow morning, if all goes well, and from there we are headed across the sea. The weather this weekend looks perfect for crossing, light winds across to Bahia Concepcion, where we plan to find those awesome whale sharks we got to swim with last year. Keep an eye on our Inreach Delorme tracker this weekend, it will be moving!

Cheers to our second spring of sunshine and sailing. Let the cruising begin!

This portrait was taken to mimic a similar shot of his dad at the same age!

Just about to set in the water at high tide.

My herb garden is strapped in for the ride to San Carlos... until it finds a better home.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Returning Home: back to life-on-the-hard...

Sound Discovery with a freshly sanded hull!
It's been a little over tens months since we said a rushed goodbye to our little home in Marina Seca Guaymas. We closed the gate behind us, planning on returning 6 months later (after our summer work in Alaska), and like many cruisers who sail seasonally, 6 months turned into 8, 8 turned into 10, and here we are. It's a wonderful thing, coming back to a boat. The excitement of being afloat again has been fueling our hard work these past several days ("hard work"... might be a little bit of an understatement). I forgot how much work we put into the boat before it was hauled out of the water last spring. The same amount of effort, hours, to-do lists, cleaning, scrubbing, assembling everything that was disassembled, is required to ensure a safe departure.

Rudder hug. First photo when we got to the boat.
We drove 25 hours to reach Guaymas from the Bay area (over the period of a week), visiting family and spending "kitty" money along the way. New boat purchases included: an outboard motor for the walker bay, a head rebuild kit (talk about bathroom remodels), new lines, an oven-sized cast iron pan, new sheets, several new dishes, a new swim ladder, a random assemblage of spare parts... etc. We crossed the the border at Nogales with ease, stopping only once to grab lunch at a road-side restaurant. The hustle and bustle of Guaymas was fun to navigate and made for a very exciting experience in Clif's truck. I'm off firm belief that Mexicans may be crazy drivers, but they are very KIND drivers. Maybe it's the Alaskan plates?

Long way down. Taking care while working...
We arrived to a boat very laden with dust, a mixture of dirt and bottom paint being sanded off our hull. The boat is still the same old Sound Discovery, but has required some familiarization. The wood and plastic inside the cabin walls lost all of its moisture over the year and shrunk. One can almost picture the boat exhaling and relaxing into place once it hits the water. A thin dust covered most of the inner cabin (a thicker dust on the outside). I worked room to room the first day, starting from bow to stern, cleaning all surfaces, oiling wood and putting belongings back into place. And so work commenced...

We've taken several breaks driving into town for community festivities. We timed our Guaymas visit just right, arriving the first night of Carnaval (the week leading up to Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday). Parades, music concerts, dancing, eating and vast amounts of confetti are all apart of the celebrations, making the downtown streets of Guaymas an entirely different cultural experience. I dragged Clif down to one of the four (yes, four) parades, which lasted for over three hours. We began to walk against the parade, trying to catch a glimpse of the last float, but the endless groups of dancers proceeded by trucks with generators and loud speakers seemed to continue on forever. It was like American 4th of July on steroids... and salsa. I promptly bought a crown of flowers to wear on my head, hoping it would not make me look even more foreign. From our boat (about a 10 minute drive out of Guaymas) we can hear loud dancing music long into the night, carrying across the bay. Last night I woke up to get a glass of water around 3:50am and the music still continued! Gotta love falling asleep to Mexican horns and drums blasting away.

One of the many Carnaval Dance groups in the parade.
Our boat isn't scheduled to enter the water until Thursday. We are getting the bottom of the boat sanded and painted, as well as getting the rudder touched up-- which all will get done Tuesday or Wednesday. Our friend Eric, captain of our buddy boat, Emma Bell, just arrived with his brother today, so we have company now in our race towards our cruising season.

More soon, from the water, once we finish up at Marina Seca Guaymas!