Friday, December 26, 2014

Feliz Navidad!

Feliz Navidad to all of our friends and family.  I hope you are enjoying some quality time with loved ones over the holidays.  It feels strange for us to be celebrating Christmas in 80 degree weather, decked out in tank tops and shorts.  We enjoyed the day opening gifts in the morning, then hit the pool.  We ended the evening with a scrumptious poolside, potluck with cruiser friends from Sarita and Scoots.

I have attached some photos to show what a miserable time we are having...

We brought a bit of Christmas into the boat by converting our white board to a fireplace.

Check out Santa in the background.  I know that when I get a hotel room for Christmas, I always bring an inflatable Santa along. 

Katelyn showing off her cliff diving skills. The next day our 4 year old boat friend went off the cliff.  Hannah said, "If a 4 year old can do it.  So can I."  So, off the cliff she went.  Gotta love peer pressure.  

It really wasn't as exciting as my face would have you believe...

Katelyn is about to be attacked by Katya.  

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A boat yard birthday

As I briefly mentioned before, we were in need of a haul out here in Mazatlan.  Jake had noticed as we were leaving San Diego that we had a small oil leak coming from the back side of the engine.  By the time we got to Mazatlan it had increased.  We went from a few drips on the oil pad to a small puddle, now coming from multiple spots.  That's probably not a good sign.  After some investigation we concluded that it was probably a problem with our rear oil seal.  Being that it was more than likely the original seal, now over 30 years old, it was in need of a replacement.  Jake did some extensive research online on how to tackle this problem.  To my dismay, I was told that it would involve removing the transmission, shaft, stuffing box, and the bell housing.  Jake is pretty handy with the engine, but this seemed a bit overwhelming to both of us.  Hannah's birthday and Christmas were quickly approaching and I didn't feel like having the engine ripped apart and slowly put back together by Jake.  Not to mention the moods that this would create.  We were paying good money to stay in a resort marina and I wanted the whole family to enjoy it.

We did some research and asked the local boaters who they would recommend for a marine mechanic.  We ultimately found Rafa from Rafa's Boat Services.  He came aboard and quickly confirmed what we already knew.  This was a job that could be done in the water.  However, we also had our lobster pot incident looming.  Running over the lobster pots had made a gash in the hull of the boat near the rudder post.  We also wanted to get that fixed.  And if we are hauling out for that... we might as well have the bottom painted.  Oh, and lets install some new engine mounts that Jake had purchased in San Diego.  Oh, and we need new packing for the stuffing box... We had given Rafa our list and he returned with a reasonable quote and assured us that it would be a 5 day job putting us back in the water 12/23 just in time for Christmas.  It's a deal.

The haul out went well.  The yard is located just a short distance from El Cid Marina.  Jake did a superb job of backing Ohana between concrete pilings with no dock.  Then the skilled (female) travellift operator hoisted Ohana, with us still on board.  You would have thought Katelyn was on a ride at Disneyland with the grin on her face.  Hannah also felt like she was on a ride, but apparently not the same ride Katelyn was on.  She was on a death defying roller coaster.  Rafa was kind enough to notice Hannah's anxiety.  He grabbed her off the boat so she could safely be on land.

Living on a boat on the hard (on land) is never easy.  We have to traverse a 20 ft ladder to get on and off the boat.  We have to keep our drains plugged so that water that normally goes into the ocean from seacocks (holes) in the boat under the waterline doesn't get on the wet paint or the workers. Even though the haul out yard is concrete, there still manages to be an increased amount of dirt and crud tracked in on our shoes.  We were able to use the facilities at Marina Fonatur.  They had nice bathrooms, showers, laundry and wifi.

Hannah had her birthday in the midst of the boat yard project.  Rafa bought her an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen to celebrate.  How's that for service?  It was his birthday as well so we shared.  We spent the day at the El Cid pool and then went for pizza with the Sarita crew.  My baby is 7 years old!  What happened?

All in all we were very pleased with Rafa's service.  Rafa and his crew were very knowledgeable and professional.  They gave us an estimate and a time frame and stuck to it.  There were no surprises.  It was nice to sit back and watch someone else do the work for once.

Rafa's crew hard at work.

Icecream cake in the shop.

Our baby is 7...

Hannah is always a princess.  Even in a boatyard...


Monday, December 15, 2014


Mazatlan for Christmas?  Why not?  We crossed the Sea of Cortez and arrived in Mazatlan 12/10.  What started out as a plan to stay 2 nights in a marina then head to the anchorage has evolved into a 2+ week stay in El Cid Marina.  Not good for the budget, but good for Hannah's birthday and Christmas.  The marina facilities are gorgeous and they have 2 pools with water slides and sea caves.  We are meeting several other boat families and having way too much fun.

We will also be hauling the boat out to get some repairs done while we are here.  Not fun and also not good for the budget.  We'll keep you posted on our progress.


Pigs head anyone?

3 chicken enchiladas $2.41 usd

Coconuts on the beach

Laundry at anchor

Laundry at Marina El Cid

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Cabo San Lucas

We left Abreojos and headed on an overnight journey to Bahia Santa Maria.  This would serve as a good stopping/resting point before continuing on to Cabo San Lucas.  We were also excited to catch up with good friends on S/V Sarita.  We had not seen them since Ensenada and Katelyn needed some bonding time with their 11 year old daughter Katya.  We had a fantastic sail down and used the motor for about 4 hours of the 16 hour journey - not bad.  We saw plenty of whales and sea turtles on the way.  Oh, and finally landed a fish!  We enjoyed a skipjack tuna for dinner while underway.  This was great considering we were VERY low on provisions.  I also thoroughly enjoyed filleting my first fish.  I've always enjoyed dissecting innocent creatures, whether in a science lab or at home.  Jake was no fun, he made me stop and throw the remnants overboard for the sharks.

Our first victim...

We stayed overnight in Bahia Santa Maria then headed on to Cabo San Lucas with some rest under our belt.  The winds had completely died and it was pretty calm our first day out.  Around 10 pm we got a nice 10 knot breeze and threw the sails up.  We ended up sailing about half of the journey, then ultimately motored the last leg into Cabo San Lucas.

I cannot express how exciting it was to be in civilization again.  We passed the time underway talking about all the food items that we missed and what we wanted to do once we hit land (not literally of course).  We all agreed that a Big Mac from McDonald's and a Mcflurry for dessert sounded amazing. We are not typically big fans of McDonald's but anything sounds good when the only thing left for boat provisions is rice, ramen, and a can of chili beans.  We also had several conversations (me doing most of the talking) about how when we are in a city with a Costco (Ensenada) and someone says "let's go" (me) and someone else says "why?" (Jake) that someone else should keep their mouth shut. It's not easy being responsible for feeding a family of four when there may not be a "real" grocery store in sight for days.  It's not like you can just run to the market and pick up a frozen pizza and pop it in the oven.  This takes some serious planning.  And the crew moral can be seriously influenced by a lack of variety and/or edible food.

We pulled into the anchorage at Cabo just as the sun dipped down.  Thank goodness Sarita was already anchored and able to guide us in.  After dodging unlit water taxis and party boats (with plenty of lights), we anchored in 22 ft of crystal clear turquoise water.  We were too exhausted to launch the dinghy and head to land so we scrounged up whatever we could find for dinner and hit the hay.

Upon waking up the next day, we were in heaven.  It sunk in what a milestone this was to finally be in Cabo.  After 900 miles of deserted Baja coast, we were finally within reach of civilization.  The temp was 85 degrees and the water was 80 degrees.  We could see schools of tropical fish swimming by the boat and rays jumping out of the water.  The view of the famous arches was directly behind us. The downside of the anchorage (or upside depending on your taste) was that the beach is lined with huge resorts, there are party boats nearby every night with music blaring, there are DJ's and more music playing from beach side bars till the wee hours, and jet skis and water taxis zoom through the anchorage constantly.  But hey, we're in Cabo!!!

While there, we took advantage of the big box stores - Coscto, Walmart, Home Depot - and stocked up on EVERYTHING.  We rented a car for the day and filled the trunk.  We noticed that the only people shopping in Costco were Americans.  Cabo seems to have a large expat community.  I can see why.  All of the Mexicans we encountered spoke English very well.  Signs in stores were in Spanish and English.  It would be a very easy city as an American to assimilate in to.

Overall, we had a great time in Cabo.  We did some swimming.  Caught a movie (only $20 for a family of 4).  Jake and I even snuck out for a romantic dinner on the beach within eyesight of Ohana and the girls.  Oh, and the McDonald's was still recovering from the hurricane.  They were closed...

Ohana at anchor with the cruise ships.

It just doesn't feel like Christmas.

Our backyard

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Abreojos *updated w/pics*

What started out as a rough anchorage turned into a gem.  We left Turtle Bay with the intention of heading straight to Bahia Santa Maria, a two night passage.  Leaving Turtle Bay we were met with 10-12 foot swell from the NW and a 15-20 knot wind from the NE.  This made for messy seas and an uncomfortable ride.  Jake and I had a meeting of the minds (tired and delirious minds) at 4am and decided to divert to Abreojos.  The wind was going to build throughout the day and into the night.  This would give us a nice rest before continuing down the coast.

We arrived Abreojos early afternoon and dropped the hook in 25 feet of sand in great visibility surrounded by lobster traps.  There are two anchorages here, one in front of the town and the other "quieter" location 2 miles further in front of an RV park.  We anchored in front of the town.  Soon after anchoring, the wind picked up.  The anchorage is pretty much an open roadstead with no protection from the NE winds that we were soon to be hit with.  At 5pm I was sitting in the cockpit looking aft and it appeared as if we were still underway.  The wind fetch was 3-4 feet.  The bow was bucking up and down like a wild bronco.  Not a good feeling at anchor.  We let out a bit more chain, 250' total, secured the snubber, and prayed.  The wind lasted overnight, into the next day, and finally eased up the following afternoon.  We were hostages to the bucking bronco the entire time.  There was no way we were going to attempt to launch the dinghy and put the outboard on in these conditions.  Not to mention, getting to land requires a skillful beach landing in the surf.  There was a lot of napping and reading going on.  The crew moral was low and by Wednesday any one of us were at risk of being sacrificed to the sea by another crew member.

Finally, Wednesday afternoon the wind simmered to a 10 knot breeze and the seas appeared to be calming.  It was time to launch the dinghy and head into town, or else...We actually did pretty well with our first beach landing.  The surf was pretty mellow.  I jumped out and attempted to "guide" the dinghy to shore, but not before getting hit with another breaking wave.  I was quickly on my butt attempting not to get run over by the dinghy.  At least the water was refreshing.  We skimped on buying dinghy wheels which means Jake, Katelyn, and I had to heave, drag, pull the dinghy as far up on shore as possible.  Once on shore, we keep our fingers crossed that it will be there when we return.

This is now the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  We set off to explore the town and gather provisions for a great meal the following day.  After wandering around for a while we came upon a market that consisted of Circle K style munchies.  We grabbed some cold drinks and continued our search.  Jake spotted a sign in the distance with a beer mug on it.  It must be a market, right?  Sure enough it was.  This one had Circle K food as well as some overripe produce.  I almost cried.  How am I going to provide a Thanksgiving Day meal with Doritos and Coke?  Yes, I do realize that we should be eating like locals, but we can't handle any more rice and beans.  I NEED some American something - other than Doritos and Coke.  I don't expect to find a turkey by any means, but at least some fresh meat and potatoes.  The search continued.  It's now getting quite warm and we need ice cream.  Donde esta el helado?  We were pointed in the direction of an azul tienda (blue store).  We walked inside and I was in heaven.  Meat, produce, pasta, canned goods, they had it all.  Well almost.  Still no turkey, but they did have Christmas trees.  I was able to scrape up enough food for a respectable Thanksgiving Day dinner.  I was quite thankful for the azul tienda.

The rest of our time in Abreojos consisted of beach time, swimming, and more exploring the town.  We were amazed at the cleanliness and friendliness of this town.  You could tell the people here have a true sense of community and are happy.  The schools were clean and well kept.  There were at least 4 parks with well kept playground equipment.  The fisherman on the beach when we landed or launched our dinghy were always willing to help.  One day we were lugging three five gallon jerry cans of purified water back to the dinghy and a family stopped in their truck to give us a ride.  Maybe I've been in the wrong neighborhoods, but I haven't seen that in the US.  Nobody is walking with their heads down here, ignoring passerby's, or glued to their smart phones.  It's a nice feeling.

Paved streets, sidewalks, and street lights - oh my!

Juanita's quickly became our favorite eatery.


Friday, November 28, 2014

Ensenada to Turtle Bay *updated w/pics*

We left Ensenada - after wondering why we stayed so long - and headed on an overnight passage to Isla San Martin.  We were anxious to get some Baja miles under our belt.  Mainland Mexico is a long ways away... We had a great sail coming out of Ensenada.  As the sun set, the wind completely died.  We took the genoa down and left the main up and the engine went on.  About an hour later we noticed the wind was coming back, and coming back in full force.  Soon the engine was back off and there was a reef in the main. The wind was getting progressively stronger.  The forecast called for 10 knot winds out of the NW.  We were now up to 20 knots out of the east.  Within another 30 minutes we were on to our 3rd reef, main only, and still cruising 6 knots.  The wind peaked at 35 knots, gusting to 40 knots.  We had a NW swell behind us and wind waves from the east slapping us on our beam.  I'm kind of glad it was dark so that I couldn't see how big the seas were getting... All in all the wind only lasted about 2.5 hours.  Then we were back to "normal" conditions.  It just goes to show that we are not in control on the sea.  We have to adjust to the conditions that are given to us, and be thankful when it's over.

Our first stop was Isla San Martin, about 105 nm south of Ensenada.  Isla San Martin is a small round volcano cone about 1 mile in diameter.  The island is deserted except for a small fishing village.  There is a nice cove on the SE corner of the island with a lava breakwater.  We arrived on a calm day.  It felt great to drop the hook and relax.  Hannah did some fishing while everyone else read and napped.

Sunrise from Isla San Martin

 The next morning we set off for Cedros Island.  Another overnight run about 141 nm south of Isla San Martin.  The day was pretty uneventful with little wind.  We threw the spinnaker up, but even that didn't give us any more than 3 knots.  The wind increased in the evening and we sailed along at a comfortable speed with fairly calm seas.  While on watch that night, I couldn't get over the beauty all around me.  I lay down in the cockpit under a blanket of stars.  I have never seen so many in my life.  Every now and again, I would glimpse a falling star.  We had full main and genoa up and we were gliding at 4-5 knots on a sea of glass.  I couldn't even feel the wind, it was like a breath from up above was pushing us along.  What a difference from the last overnight watch.  We arrived at the north anchorage of Cedros Island the next morning.  The guide book wrote that it was a memorable anchorage with a seal colony.  Sounded interesting enough to stop for the night.  Well, it was a memorable anchorage all right.  We rolled and rolled all night as the wind howled off the island.  We also discovered that seals, especially the pups, make all kinds of interesting sounds.  We heard goats, babies crying, voices, and screams all through the night.  Not much rest to be had that night.

Dolphins greeting Ohana as we sail to Cedros Island

Approaching Cedros Island

We took off bright and early the next morning headed 50 nm south to Bahia del Tortuga (Turtle Bay).  The seas were calm and there was no wind.  Jake snagged a fish late morning.  This would be our first catch that was worthy of eating.  We reeled in a beautiful tuna.  Jake got a little overzealous with the tequila in the gills and the fish started to seize.  I was holding it by the hook, still overboard, and it was spazzing out on me.  I handed it off to Jake and plop, it slid right off the hook and back in the water.  Bye-bye dead, yummy fish.  About an hour later, we had another bite!  This would make up for the one that got away.  Jake reeled him in from the stern of the boat.  This time it was a yellowtail.  I was right there waiting with the gaff, this sucker was coming on board ASAP.  Just as the fish was within reach, we heard a loud clunk and kabloom and a puff of smoke poofed out of the engine.  Huh, what was that?  Jake quickly threw the engine in neutral.  I looked over the stern and saw a bright orange line attached to the boat.  We had clearly run over a lobster pot.  Now what?  Do I throw this flopping fish into the cockpit and deal with it later, or drop it and help Jake.  I dropped it.  So, what now?  No BoatUS to call to rescue us.  Jake grabbed his mask and a knife and jumped overboard to see how bad it was.  We had run straight over 2 lobster pots.  We had one pot wedged between the prop and rudder post and line everywhere.  After several dives and getting hit in the head multiple times by the stern that was bobbing up and down with each swell, Jake was able to free Ohana from the mess.  HUGE bravery badge to Jake on that one.  We put the engine back in gear and we were off again.  I cannot tell you what a relief it was to pull into Turtle Bay as the sun set.

Turtle Bay was a great resting stop.  We stayed for 3 nights and hung out with the crew of S/V Solace and S/V Rose Bud.  They are both headed northbound to San Diego and San Francisco.  I do not envy that journey.  Turtle Bay had a great selection of markets which made provisioning a breeze.  As we walked through town, we noticed that everyone was super friendly.  We got a wave and/or hola from everyone we encountered. The guys from Enrique's will bring fuel and water to your boat.  Very convenient.  We ate out at Maria's one night, at the recommendation of Rose Bud crew.  Maria's is a house on the water with no running water.  Yes, we ate at a restaurant with no running water and I lived to tell you about it.  The next night we had a great time eating lobster tacos at another house/restaurant.  This time, with water.

Dinner with the crew of S/V Rose Bud & S/V Solace.

It seems like we had a few too many "adventures" on this leg of the journey.  It is always reassuring though to talk to other cruisers and share stories.  We all go through our rough times, but then we get to hang out on the patio of a beach side restaurant or snorkel with dolphins.  Just like in land life.  Your car can break down, your water heater can flood the basement.  Life is not always perfect, but we overcome our obstacles and become stronger because of it.