One thing we’ve learned during our travels in Mexico is that officials love their paperwork. Entering the country, we needed to complete a Temporary Import Permit for the boat, obtain Tourist Visas for all crew and formally check in to the country. This was not too much of a problem, and one of the aspects of cruising to Mexico that the CUBAR Rally made easier.
Once in Mexico, you actually need to check into and out of each port with the Port Captain, reporting your boat information, crew list, where you are coming from and where you are going next. So you have two pieces of paper for every port you visit. Often the marina will complete the paperwork and you go over to the port to get your paperwork stamped.
Well, after going through this a couple of times we decided that we wanted our own stamp. If every port captain is gonna make us fill out paperwork and stamp it, then we are too!!
Here it is. We were able to make it online (of course) and the biggest issue was getting the line art for the boat. With a little bit of searching I was able to find a method for converting a photo to something resembling a drawing (https://smallbusiness.chron.com/convert-photographs-line-drawings-gimp-46192.html) . I outlined the shape of the boat to eliminate the background and using a combination of effects, filters and conversion to black and white, I was able to get the image you see above.
If you ever come aboard Miss Miranda, make sure you have your paperwork, and we’ll be sure to stamp it!!
We had a videographer along on the CUBAR Rally this year, and he put together three really nice videos covering the cruise. His name is Justin Edelman and he is a great photographer, videographer, video editor, and all-around great guy. It’s his photo of Miss Miranda at anchor that graces the banner of our blog.
During CUBAR, we (OK, I) gave him the Mexican name of “El Hombre de Augua” after a very exciting water landing of his drone. We were on the dinghy expedition to the mangrove estuary at Man O’ War Cove, and Justin was in the tour leader’s panga taking shots of all the dinghys going back and forth. It was pretty crazy fun. Justin decided to launch the drone off the back of the panga, and almost instantly, it took a nose dive into the water in the panga’s wake. Immediately, Justin dove into the water… with who knows how many dinghys bearing down on him… and after a short time, emerges, with drone in hand! Of course the drone was dead. Hence the name.
I understand that cruising boats are complex. And I know that with so many systems it is natural that there will be a significant amount of maintenance and repairs. I do. Really.
What is irritating me a bit today is the failure of a component that was newly replaced, according to the manufacturers recommended maintenance schedule. Before leaving we tried to be proactive with maintenance and part replacement, and much of the work we had done at Philbrooks was around maintenance of the boat’s critical systems.
We have just experienced one of those failures. We were re-assigned to a better slip here in Paradise Village and were getting ready to move the boat at high tide, since the slip we were in was in a relatively shallow part of the estuary. Following our normal routine, I started the engine and then the stabilizer system (to make sure that the stabilizers are locked in the center position while we maneuver the boat). There was an immediate alarm from the system indicating “dangerously low oil level”. This was quite surprising, as we have just been sitting here for the last week or so and we had no issues on the way in to the marina. I went down to check, and sure enough, the stabilizer hydraulic reservoir was empty, meaning that some 4+ gallons of hydraulic fluid have leaked into the bilge. So, move aborted, I started looking around for the source of the leak. on opening the access panel to the starboard fin assembly, the leak was obvious – the bilge area below the stabilizer was very wet. None of the hydraulic fittings were wet or leaking, which left the actuator cylinder (the part of the system that actually moves the stabilizer) as the likely suspect. A call to ABT TRAC get me in touch with the authorized service center in Mexico, and, with a stroke of luck, they were able to send over a crew within an hour. After brief inspection, it was obvious that there was a massive leak in the seal around the piston – manually activating the stabilizer produced a noticeable amount of fluid right at the seal.
Fortunately, I had spare, rebuilt cylinders on board. Why? Because we had just replaced the cylinders (which were working just fine) based on the TRAC maintenance interval, which is six years (the system is 19 years old). So, a brand new part that has a service life of 6 years failed after about six months of use. Now, I can’t say anything bad at all about TRAC’s service and warranty. They will replace the part and will ship it wherever it is needed. But that is little consolation and doesn’t take into account the expense incurred in replacing the part.
I think there is a lesson lurking in all of this for me. I think it was a mistake to replace the existing actuator cylinders just because they had exceeded the recommended service interval. They were working fine and showed no signs of leakage. I realize that in retrospect, I should have bought the replacement cylinders and put them into my spare parts inventory in case of a future failure. I ignored the old maxim of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. I think from now on, we are going to follow this rule.
I’m also getting a little tired of writing about stuff that breaks… and suspect that you are getting tired of reading about it. Next post will be on “stuff that works”.
We left Chacala this morning to make the 45 NM run to Banderas Bay and Paradise Village Marina, our home for the next month. We wanted to have a look at the next bay South, Bahia Jaltemba, which is supposed to have a nice anchorage. We also wanted to have a look at the Gringo haven surf town Sayulita along the way, so we plotted a relatively near coastal route instead of heading well offshore.
It was a beautiful morning and we had some very large Bottle Nose dolphin riding along with us…. the biggest I’ve seen yet. There were a fair number of pangas out, and we suddenly noticed that we were approaching some net floats (which are often just empty translucent soda bottles, not fancy obvious floats like we see in the US) along our port side. We saw a flag marking the end a ways off, so we adusted course to go around the net. Well, we got to the flag, and found that it was connected to floats on both sides. So, we altered course some more to head seaward. Now, however, we started seeing net floats on both sides, and when we got to the next flag, we could see that we were well and truly hemmed in. As you can see in the voyager recording from our chart plotter below, we turned around to backtrack… a long way, and we eventually saw pangas near one of the flags. We sounded the horn many times and were studiously ignored. We drove right up to the pangas, and were still studiously ignored. We asked for help/directions in Spanish and got a vague arm wave seaward. So we turned seaward again, only to find that we were hemmed in again.
By this time we didn’t know what to do. If I was confident in my line cutters, I would have just driven through, but the thought of fouling the stabilizers as well as the prop shaft had me really concerned. Finally, we realized that the net fisherman must avoid the shrimpers working close to shore in 80 to 100 feet of water. We backtracked some more to the end of yet another net and came around the inshore side, and aimed directly at the next shrimper we saw. That turned out to do the trick. As you can see, we backtracked for more than 4 miles and spent a nerve wracking hour trying to escape from the maze.
The rest of the voyage passed without incident, and we arrived here at Paradise Village this afternoon. This time, we earned our arrival beer.
As we have been taking Spanish lessons and trying to communicate effectively with our Mexican hosts, we have realized that our names present something of a challenge for Spanish speakers. So, for instance, instead of using Larry, I use my full name, Lawrence, but change it to the more spanish-sounding Lorenzo. I try to always introduce myself to whomever we meet – taxi drivers, shopkeepers, etc, and “Soy Lorenzo” seems to work well. In Mazatlan, I met a father and son team of Marine Service guys, named, aptly, Ruiz and Ruiz. When I introduced myself as Lorenzo, Ruiz the younger immediately said “Lencho”, the shortened name for Lorenzo. I kind of liked it… though Gwen was not entirely pleased. She insists that it must be some kind of inside joke.
Gwen has a very difficult name for Spanish speakers. In fact, people everywhere seem to creatively mangle her name. Even in the US, we regularly show up at restaurants looking for a reservation under her name, and wind up seeing “Glen”, “Owen”, or other odd takes. So, having my own Spanish name, I thought Gwen would be well served by having one of her own. She refused the standard contractions of her name, e.g., “Wendy”, and we eventually settled on Gabriela. However, when we next met some people and introduced ourselves, I boldly said “Lencho” and Gwen…. choked. She said “Gwen”. She just couldn’t pull off the Gabriela thing. The other morning when we were on the La Tovara Estuary tour, we introduced ourselves to our guide, who spoke some English. When he heard Gwen, he immediately said “Cuando”, which is, of course, Spanish for “When”. We had a good chuckle about that, but then I thought that this might be a good Spanish name for her. We used it a couple of times the other day, and Spanish speakers who know a bit of English do get a kick out of it. Gwen, not so much.
Perhaps our faithful readers can help Gwen… what should her Spanish name be?
OK, we’ve been to four major ports in Mexico, and in three of those, we’ve had rainy days. And of course, the locals say “it never rains here”. We have not disclosed our home port in Washington for fear of being accused of bringing the rain.
In San Jose del Cabo, the rain drove the marina to change the venue for our CUBAR arrival party from the lawn/dolphin show area at the marina to a really nice covered, but open air, venue in town. It was a great time, with mucho food, tequila and very bad singing and dancing. The rain also helped with washing off some of the accumulated salt from our trip down the coast.
In La Paz, the rain also came, but after our arrival. Once again, this resulted in a change of venue for the final CUBAR party, which was to be on the rooftop terrace at the CostaBaja resort. It was moved inside, and was a nice going away dinner, but was significantly more sedate than the previous party (possibly owing to less free-flowing Tequilla).
We had also arranged to have a much needed boat wash and wax job at the marina, which was delayed by a day due to the rain. Fortunately, Valentin and his crew were able to get the job done the next day.
We came over to Mazatlan from La Paz ahead of a low pressure system that promised Gale force winds and rain after our arrival. We woke up this morning to torrential rain, though not Gale force winds. It has been raining hard for the past couple of hours and previous forecast indicated that we might get as much as an inch of rain today. At the rate we are going, I don’t doubt it. EDITOR UPDATE: An inch of rain? HA! At some points in the day we were getting over 2″ per hour! Total of 12″ Torrential. Monsoon-like. Biblical.
We listened to the local cruisers net this morning. The guy that does the weather drives from his home here down to his boat to broadcast on the net. He reported massive flooding on the roads, with a foot to a foot and a half of standing water. We had some thoughts of going into town to see what we might do for Thanksgiving dinner. Unless the rain stops we will likely stay where we are and enjoy the dinner that El Cid puts on.
We spent about 10 days in La Paz, first at Marina CostaBaja
where the CUBAR Rally finished up, and then at Marina Cortez right in downtown
La Paz at the beginning (or end) of the Malecon. After a week of Spanish lessons and dental
work for Gwen (a blog post coming soon) we were ready to continue on our
journey. The weather for crossing the
Sea of Cortez was beginning to look complicated, as a large low pressure system
was forming up off the South end of the Baja Peninsula. It looked like we would have a good window to
get across Monday (11/25) arriving Tuesday before the Gale, so we took it. The
planned route was about 240 miles and 30 hours.
The early morning sunrise was gorgeous over the marina and
the town as we made last minute preparations and turned in our keys to the
security guard. It was a good omen that
the small dead-appearing fish on the dock turned out to be alive and swam away
briskly when thrown back in the water.
The security guard was just as surprised and happy as I was.
The first part of the day was retracing our steps out the
channel, with a close passage with a tanker ship that was backing up to what we
think was a fueling facility. Boat traffic soon thinned out as we headed up
and around the La Paz point and back down the side of Baha.
In mid-afternoon, we turned east to cross the Sea. Gwen spotted flying fish skimming over the water, and a monarch butterfly flew alongside the pilothouse for a few minutes. A large pod of dolphins was leaping in the distance, and soon came over to us to socialize.
It was only as we left the Baja coast behind that we realized this would be the longest open water crossing we have undertaken. We’ve been two thousand miles down the Pacific Coast, but really never more than 20-30 miles from land. If we had a problem with the main engine, it always seemed reasonable to cover that distance on our wing engine chugging along at 4 knots or so. From the middle of the Sea, not so much… particularly with weather approaching. Of course, no need to worry, as our reliable Lugger just kept on going.
Night came fast and early. Gwen made a chicken pasta salad to use of various leftovers in the fridge and we ate our dinner in the waning twilight with our red cabin lights substituting for candles. Through the course of the afternoon the sky had become heavily overcast, so no moon or stars were going to light our way. The crossing was easy, with winds from the NW rarely exceeding 15 knots and a long 3-6 ft swell on our port quarter. Overnight the winds dropped and the seas flattened out making for an easy ride. We saw few vessels – Gwen spent a half hour tracking a vague radar signal that passed within a mile of us, but never saw a light. Larry saw a cruise ship on AIS and radar and then was treated to a dolphin visit that featured flashes of bioluminescence along their paths through the water.
As dawn came, we found squid on deck, with no clue how they came that far out of the water, until we learned that they are attracted to boat lights and they can shoot themselves out of the water. A stowaway cricket also decided to start chirping from somewhere in the cockpit. We put the fishing lines in the water but had no luck until we decided to bring them in. We caught and released what we think was a small skipjack.
The most exciting part of the passage, by far, was arriving at Mazatlan. We read about constant dredging and currents, and knew that the tide was low. We followed the guidebook recommendations and called the marina for a report on conditions at the breakwater. No response after repeated calling. We approached slowly and saw buoys right in the middle of the entrance channel. Clearly there were obstructions… but on which side? We could see the current flowing out of the channel, saw the depth go down to 6 feet, and were in the process of backing out to reassess when a fishing panga passed by and signaled us to follow.
Based on the captain’s energetic arm waving, it was clear that we were to stay close (very close) to the jetty side… with the current trying hard to push us on to the rocks. As they say, fear tends to focus the mind, and with a generous dose of thruster, rudder and throttle, we were in safely in the channel following the panga. By this time it was clear that we had 3+ knots of current against us, and still no slip assignment from Marina El Cid, which was coming up quickly. Fortunately, they came back on the radio just in time and offered us a choice of slips. So, with more throttle than I would like, and some timely help from dock neighbors, we were able to get in without incident. We later learned that the dredge has been out of service for six months, and that we arrived in the middle of a “King tide” cycle – the largest one cruiser had seen in three years at Mazatlan. We will not be leaving at low tide…
El Cid seems to be a very nice resort and marina. We have use of the pool, there are good restaurants nearby, and it is right on the bus route into downtown Mazatlan. We’ll be happy to sit out the weather and explore the town before continuing on to San Blas, and to Paradise Village in Puerto Vallarta by December 7th so we can greet Miranda on the 9th.