Log Entry #1, November 2009. Provisioning.
Summary: The plan is to sail north, following in the wake of Francisco de Ulloa, a conquistador from 1539. He was the first sailor to explore the north-west coast of North America and I'm interested in learning how things have changed.
Ulloa may have come over with Cortez, during the conquest of Mexico. In any case Cortez commissioned him to explore the northern coast of Mexico in hopes of discovering a mythic land named "California" which was supposedly inhabited by naked negresses and had lots of gold (the conquistador imagination is certainly predictable, if not lyrical). Ulloa discovered the Sea of Cortez and this caused great controversy for hundreds of years.
As for us, the month of November was spent provisioning the boat. We made repairs, finished some construction, collected some papers, and gathered together what was needed for independance from the marina, and civilization in general. We made a short run south to Puerto Vallarta before beginning the passage.
Please note that this is part of an on-going series of log entries that will be posted monthly. Visit the contact page if you'd like to get updates.03 November
One of the things that's so great about living on a boat is that you live close to nature. You get to see the glory of life and living things as they spring into action in unexpected and often exciting ways. For example, tonight I wanted to have some cous-cous. I went to the cupboard, opened the cous-cous-can and found that it was full of maggots. It was a maggotty cous-cous party. I have no clue how they managed to out-smart my plastic sealed and even water-tight box and though I don't know where they came from I know where they went: swimming.
And you get to live close to humans, as well. After the hurricane last week there's been much discussion and social warmth shared. People are relieved to have made it through with as little damage as there's been. Majestic old man Mike, on Narwhal, has invited us all over to the Palapa for Karoake, horse-shoes and trading stories. Mike is a delight to talk with and is not only a gentleman but a rogue with long platinum hair and a sharp beard, witty eyes, and a writer of no small abilities. Barrel-bodied Robby, something of a hobbit, bought us all a round of beer as we discussed how the condominiums flew apart. He and his loud-mouthed beagle spent the time up stairs watching the boats break loose. So generally people have been friendly. But then there was the afternoon I'm walking up the dock and Klaus, on Sonata, is polishing his stainless steel bow roller and his boat looks quite fine, and I say as I pass, "How's Sonata, Klaus? Of all the boats here I'm sure she weathered the storm best, No?" To which he replied, "I really look forward to your little comments." Poor old Klaus. He hates the world. And for all the prostitutes, porn, and processed food the man eats, I can't blame him. He once told me that there was nowhere - not the South Pacific, not Africa, not the Indian Ocean - he could sail his boat that was beautiful, that the world has been destroyed. But he was glad Wal-Mart had been set up in Mazatlan. Anyway, that's Klaus. I didn't reply to his comment about my comment.
From that point on I resolved not to talk with Klaus. Between the maggots and the martyrs it was time for me to leave the marina. There's another guy on the dock I decided not to talk with. That was months and months ago, and I completely forget why, now. I just don't like him. He's got such a gut he's surely pregnant and I remember him being a classic ugly American and now even though we nearly walk next to one another we don't talk and I can't remember how this agreement was formed.
As Pedro the Pirate says, "When you live on a boat you don't worry too much about burning bridges."
We re-caulked the bathroom, again. It requires putting masking-tape over everything and then filling in the cracks with silicone and then wearing a rubber glove which, with finger whetted in a small bowl that contains warm water and a touch of dish-soap, is used to smooth and secure the silicon into the seams. We always get it right on our third first try. We also drilled alot of holes in the side of the boat to mount the arch into. Then the bank ruined my week by sending a check my agent sent to them to my address in California, which now won't arrive for another three months, so I again have no money. It's alright. I just spend less that way. It is probably the first time my bank has saved me money.
"The Season" is starting. More and more gringos are coming back to the marina. On the morning net, on VHF channel 22 at 8am every morning, there are now more than 26 people. Four weeks ago we had five cruisers which seem, exclusively, to be gringos. People getting ready to receive the Americans that will be showing up. It is like getting new clothes for school, like getting a haircut before a job interview, or like smoothing down your shirt before you meet your girlfriend's dad. All is new, all is pure, all is handsome. But this seems like a lie. It is the same place. It is a history that repeats each November. Amelie and I have seen under the game's table, and we know a little about the cards that are being played.
The game is to sell a dream. It might be the Jimmy Buffet Dream of Hedonism, and usually is, or it might be the Jack Sparrow Dream of Adventure, or it might be the Princess Caroline Dream of Luxury. But the dream is sold by various sales methods and this vision of fantasy becomes predominant to the reality of Mazatlan. The Mexicans are forgotten, a little Los Angeles is built in the Marina, and if you go down to GusGus, where they serve gingo tacos, you can listen to a guy sing Roy Orbison and The Eagles every night. In fact, he plays the same songs in the same order each night. I know because he is within ear-shot of our boat. I hated Roy Orbison before and now, with his creepy ululations and poorly articulated words, I despise that music.
Anyway, we finished some wiring that was needed with the batteries we'd bought, installed a polypropylene box that catches acid, should the batteries boil over, and tomorrow i'll put in a strap to keep them in their box should we roll. They look nice and clean, at least by comparison to what we had.
Went to get the FM3 visas since we'll be here for more than six months. The bus rattled and jumped over the speedbumps and we got to a little office in a cloud of dust. The other people there to collect their visas were mostly Americans in their 50s and 60s. Many of them were wearing shirts with hawaiian prints, the button-down kind. The adminstrative staff were very friendly. They were friendly just on human terms, but when I realized that I was speaking with a government worker, to boot, I was confused at her being so nice. She was a round brownly-baked butterball of a woman that had bright red lipstick and a chipped front tooth (which had picked up some of the red wax or whatever it is that lipsticks are made of) and after she gave us our papers we walked out of the office, turned right, and went next door to the little corner-store that sells snacks and drinks and helps expats fill out paperwork, take photos, do translation, and make photocopies as well. Their business model is peanuts, popcorn, and paperwork. We got our photographs taken, took the paperwork and some $500 or so back to the office, and they told us to come back on the 27th, at noon.
Chippe and Raoul were at the boat, working on the arch when I got back. Chippe is a sacred bird because he sings as he works. He's a random-shuffle library of everything from Felice Navidad to yelling "Hasta La Vista, Baby!" while he welds a final part of some pipe in place. He's great to work with an I think he's the kind of Mexican I've come to see more of here - strong, fun, familiar. We worked until 5pm at which point Pedro the Pirate showed up with beer and cigarettes and we finished off the rum as the sun went down. Dustin and Nicole showed up, but they seem afraid of most things, certainly cigarettes and beer. But Pedro found a cat with a ratty-looking tail that the fleas had gotten hold of. He took it into his boat and I guess he's now adopted it.
After the party died down I took some time to track down information on Ulloa. I found his map and some sections of his logbook. He's not easy to find and there seems a good deal of confusion about when he came over, even. But he left some mediocre records and I've asked for more to be sent from a library in Spain. There's research to be done in La Paz, as well as asking other writers about this stuff. Misery loves colleagues.
More work on the arch today with Chippe and Raoul and this time Fernando, the polisher, came with them.
I set the arch on the dock where all the other sailors walked by and if I was around they would stop and make comments. Two of them pointed out a weak spot on the welding, so I circled that with a pen and when Chippe and the lads came back we re-soldered and polished that bit and some final adjustments were made. The arch is supposed to go on tomorrow.
To return to the people making the comments: We are all trapped in this marina. Anyone that was here during the summer was not here because they wanted to be, they were here because they couldn't leave. 100% humidity and 120F is not the kind of weather that makes you want to party. Mosquitoes thick enough to create carnivorous socks, a gossip-riddled community of about 20 cruisers, all of them retired and therefor bored and therefore intensely interested in who is up to what at any given moment, and what is probably the worst, all of them (because they are cruisers) lovers of adventure. But none of us are cruising. We are all just sitting, broke, in the marina fixing our boats. Then, when something interesting does happen, it becomes a topic of much speculation for weeks to follow. For example, the Sinaloa gang murdered some guys during a thunderstorm a few months ago and it caused a good hour's worth of conversation on the morning VHF net, and a week's worth of dicusssion down at the marina cafe. Some people were claiming we should have guns on our boats and others were claiming there was nothing to worry about and, in fact, the murder had nothing to do with the marina but it made everyone excited because we're all so terribly bored and wishing our lives were different. There's sickness here. And it's not just because people come here, after they've retired, to die. It is sick because it is immobile. A marina is a stagnant backwater, a kind of fish tank. But that's the nature of marinas, we've learned. The marina is the most dangerous threat to cruising.
Finally, after three years of waiting for this thing, we get to put the arch up. We cleaned the boat, scrubbed the hell out of the deck (at least the part where the arch would go - the rest of the deck remains covered in metal shavings and boot-grime) and got ready to mount the arch. Pedro the Pirate, Amelie, Chippe and I threaded some string through the arch, smeared a ton of 3m 4200 glue on the deck, and had what amounted to a glue-wrestling match (as opposed to mud wrestling match) for the next two hours as bolts were inserted, backing plates were mounted, snap plates were snapped and all the masking tape was then yanked off. We now have an arch. It looks more like a roll-bar for a jeep. If a boat is a body I think this is the most expensive, largest, and strangest piece of clothing I have ever had made. At any rate, be it roll-bar or helmet, it fits like a glove.
Today Chippe gave us bracelets he'd made for us (a His and a Hers). They're simple stainless strips that wrap around the wrist, but they have this Mexican rancher design on them which I find beautiful. Small symbols, simple ones. I'm wearing the bracelet now. It reads: uxuxuxux***xuxuxuxu. Only sideways, so they look more like brands on a horse, like Lazy-K.
With that done we glued in the hatch frame over the v-berth, siliconed the hell out of the inlet for the backstay cables, where they enter the transom, replaced the batteries (well, earlier than today, but finished it today), and had a couple of beers to celebrate another fine day's work. Tomorrow is sunday. Back on it for more.
Though the day was mostly spent dealing with the bank, a good 6 hours' on the phone, some work was also done on the boat. I confirmed the solar panels were working (before mounting them on the arch) by spreading them out on the deck, plugging them into the battery bank, and measuring the incoming amperage. Went back to the 'office' for a bit to approve the edits for Tea Time and came home to have a tequila.
It's 2am and I'm getting tired. But there's much to do before we go in 6 days.
The eye splice is a rather complicated knot, and the triple eye splice, tied in a professional fashion, had even the most experienced hands on the dock confused. Darryl, on Overheated, ran a radiator repair shop in Los Angeles for thirty years and he's good with a wrench and has restored a boat or two. He's had an answer for every single question we've asked of him, and I trust those answers with blind confidence. Then there's Martin, on his steel sloop Tinmar, a kind-eyed and gentle old Swede of a fisherman that is living out his last in warmer climates, and he has had some 50 years of sailing experience, mostly in the North Sea. He has good advice, too. Both of them have good advice, but both of them confess to not having this knot under control. Meanwhile Mike on Narwhal, a man who is 74, or says he is, and I have no reason to think he's lying about that, especially since he looks to be not a day over sixty, said that he labeled the strands of a triple eye splice. And Pedro the Pirate helped too, can of beer and cigarette in hand, and he (the least experienced and youngest of any of us) had the keen observation that it was a small back-loop for the third strand at the second intersection that was the key to the knot's start and holding power. These and other advices were collected.
Otherwise the day was spent selling my xbox and all my games to pay for the rest of the arch, doing a little maintenance on the hydraulic system for the backstay cables (which holds the mast up), recaulking the chain locker (which holds the chain, even though the anchor sits on the bow, in its roller), and spray-painting spots of yellow, orange, and red at lengths of 25, 50 and 75% (respectively) so that as the chain slowly feeds through my hands I can tell how far we are along its length. At 6pm, about 5 minutes after, in fact, I finally managed to get to the GazPaza station to have the propane tank valve replaced. It was only holding about 20% of its capacity and we needed that thing to be working if we wanted warm food for the next month. So, since we were a bit late, they took us back and we spent a good twenty or thirty minutes with the workers there laughing at the girly posters on the wall, redrilling a new valve stem, dropping in an improved model, and all for about $10. It is far more satisfying to replace something and rebuild it than to simply throw it out and buy another. It imbues an object with spirit.
Got home by bus and drunk with Pedro and he pondered whether to return to the states and the woman-kid-combo he left there.
Ground tackle repairs today. Three days to go.
I remember the first time I tied my shoes. I was probably about 4 or 5 years old, and my mom taught me how, of course, and the problem was that my fingers got tangled up with the knot as I tried to tie the thing. It was keeping track of which line was a finger and which line was a string that made it difficult. well, I woke up this morning with a book on tying knots (the Rigger's Apprentice) and carefully examined what Martin had done, how the old knot was tied, and what it showed in the book. remembering my problem with tying my shoes, and listening to the advice of Dockside Consultants, I took a pen and colored each strand, to keep track of which was who, and carefully keeping my fingers out of the knot itself, I managed to braid the thing together. It took two hours. After whipping the end I decided not to dip it in parafin because I have none (note: as the knot has been used it has smoothed out and looks quite professional now. just added a third photo to this, from 25 november).
Otherwise replaced the u-joints and anchor swivel with new pieces as well as cutting out some old links that seemed less-than-loyal. Meanwhile, checked the flares, the smoke signal, the EPIRB date, tested out the little dumb-ass dinghy we have, and we twiddled with the thermometer on the refrigerator so that it won't eat up all of our electricity just so we can have a cold soda every now and then.
Electrical repairs today. Two days to go.
About a month ago we bought a new depth sounder. This is composed of two parts. The transducer, which is a little eyeball, if you will, that sees out of the front and bottom of the hull. It sends a small signal of about 200khz to the ocean floor and the bounce-back signal is measured, sent through a cable, and read by a control unit that is mounted on the binnacle, near the wheel. The boat was out of the water last month and so while we were on The Hard we pulled out the old depth sounder, left it and its cable in the boat, drilled a new (larger) hole and installed the new (larger) depth sounder. After gluing the thing in with some 3M "5200" we started the tedious and finger-busting task of pulling the cable. Since the cable has to be hidden, and firmly so, it must be strung through the intestines of the boat. In order to pull the cable through tiny corners and under water tanks and through pipes, the lead-string is used. This lead-string is tied to the end of the original depth-sounder cable, near the wheel, the original cable is pulled out, and the lead-string follows it, laying in the bowels of the boat. When the old cable is pulled out, the string is then transferred onto the end of the new cable and that new cable is then pulled into its position by the string. This simple task takes about 5 hours. Naturally, when it was all finished, we came up about a meter short. Today the rest of the cable arrived.
Soldering the final two meters of the depth sounder cable Amelie connected it to the depth-sounder readout and it seems to be working pretty well. Some calibration is needed because it's measuring the depth from the transducer to the ocean floor, as opposed to the actual depth of the water, which is about two feet deeper, but it is working and we're damned surprised to have pulled that off. We also replaced the smallish cable that ran from the alternator to the batteries with an appropriate-sized cable. As well as helping with the soldering, Doctor John, on Pellagic, was also a giant of a help, as he always is, and loaned us his crimpers. To cap the end of the cable it must be inserted over the exposed cable. Good marine cable will have each strand 'silvered'.. anyway, the cap is put over the end then the cap is inserted into a mean-looking device and you then slam it with a hammer. This crimps it and assures current flows from the cap into the cable. I then bolted that onto a grounding post near the motor and we also adjusted several settings on the alternator regulator, the solar panel controller, and the heart 2000 interface that controls the entire freakin' system just to assure that the starter battery, which is dedicated for starting the motor, is left alone and only the house bank is used, which is for running things like lights, propane gas, computers, etc. The house bank is the distance-runner and the starter battery gets to guard his lunch for when he's needed to sprint hard to start everyone up.
With four 6-volts and one 12-volt, we have about 200 amp-hours before we're dead. So if we let the batteries decharge to about 50% of their max we start running into problems - build-up happens, the batteries weaken, they don't recharge, etc. This means that we can allow our amp-hours to drop to around negative 100, which means we can burn about 10 amps per hour if the panels are drawing in some sun.
The panels seem to be generating about 2 amps with everything running. We ain't gonna be selling electricity to our neighbors with that, but if we watch what we consume we should be able to get away without having to run the motor (which then uses the alternator to charge up the batteries. that sucks, however, as deisel motors are only about 15% efficient, if that, so solar's the way to go).
The concept is that the sunlight will feed the solar panels, which will send juice to the batteries, which will start the motor, which can help recharge the system. This electricity is then also used to run various devices, such as the depth sounder's transducer, at the outer limits of the boat, allowing us independance and the ability to avoid obstacles in the water ahead, like the ground. And marinas.
Despite such ambitions, the electrical system seems really weak, as if, because it is the newest technology on the boat, it has not had time to be properly debugged. Or maybe it's because everyone seems to work on it all the time that it becomes more of a patchwork than a solid sheet of reliability. It makes me skiddish because it is both important and weak.
Mechanical repairs today. One day to go.
Today's the day we find out if we are really leaving or not. There are two questions. First, is if the motor starts. If not then I'll row the damned boat out during an outgoing tide. I hate the motor anyway, so somehow I don't care, but it would be nice to have. But second, only that if my bank account has cleared the money and released the funds to pay the marina. Worst comes will be that we have to stay here another two weeks. But we're not sure if we can take it. So I have to install the starter and start the motor, Amelie has to pay the office and stop the bleeding.
The new starter seemed different from the old. The turn-crank stuck a little further out and it looked suspect, a different model for a different model motor. I had told them it was an Atomic Universal 5432, but Kubota had bought the company and there was rumor that the 5432 had been modified, so I sent them photos when I ordered the part and even double-confirmed by phone before it was sent so I was not pleased to see this slight difference. I went to talk with Bob, at Total Yacht Works and though he's commonly a grindy old curmudgeon he was nice enough to explain it was a simple visual trompe-l'oeil and this starter would work fine. As if he was caressing the nipple of a lover he put a little grease on the thing and handed it back to me. I took it home, bolted it on the motor (which was so deeply buried between the bulwark and the motor itself that turning the ratchet enough to get one click was an effort, so the entire operation took nearly 3 hours) and stepped outside for a smoke. If I'd had any money I would have gone to get some beer or something, but the bank was still being a headache so instead I drained the old coolant, replaced it with new, checked the oil, checked the filters, checked the fuel, replaced a gauge, checked the packing gland (where the prop exits the boat), and turned the key. The motor started and I gave out a yell of relief. About 2 minutes later Amelie appeared and she, also, was relieved at having finally paid off the marina (my credit card was operational, at least for now). We were clear to go. I washed out the bilges, checked the spreader-tips, checked the rigging tension, hauled up the CQR anchor and tied that to the forward pulpit so that it wouldnt bang while we bounced over the waves and, in doing so, abandoned all good aesthetics for the front of the boat. That night was spent drinking many margaritas of celebration and eating pizza at Il Forno, the pizza place that has some of the best pizza I've had in North America. They actually serve real speck. After Mazatlan's Frat-Boy McDonald culture I was stunned at the savor of this certain and beautiful meat.
Pedro helped me carry some large bottles of water to the boat, and the day was ended early.
The First Departure.
Waking up at 4 I got to work. By 6am I had everything set up and cleaned, by 8am the solar panel mounts were drilled, by 9 the panels were connected to their mounts, by 9:20 I was telling random dock-walkers to leave me alone (trying to get all completed as the high tide was already starting to recede. It has been like this for weeks. Trying to push to get out, but trying to enjoy), by 10:30 the panels were mounted up on the arch, and by 11:20 the motor fired up and we were on our way. I will never forget the six or seven people, all gathered on the dock, waving good bye. Dave, Doctor John and Sherry, Pedro the Pirate, Dustin and Nicole. Many thanks to Pedro and his crew on the Yellow Submarine for the help. I hope you guys stay afloat or sink, as is wished for by captain and crew.
By noon we were anchored off Bird Island and tested out the anchor, the rollers, and my triple eye splice, which would hold the entire boat for days and days on end. The northerlies were blowing at about 6-9 knots. Blowing south. This decided where we were to go. So I packed up a few items, Amelie kicked some stuff into place, we weighed the anchor, and pointed the Goose south, towards Vallarta.
The night sky was full of stars, and just got fuller and fuller until the entire dome of the sky started to look solid with light. It was a moonless night, and the boat silently slid through the water, with an occasional dolphin rising near until about 2am when five or six of them started darting under the bow, lit up in an eery ghost of a green as they disturbed the water under the prow of the Goose.
They make a wide range of noises, and I hope my 200kHz transducer does not cause them confusion. I've heard that dolphins speak to one another much like we do on the VHF; first they say the name of the individual they're speaking to, then they follow with their own name. For example, if I were to call the boat Hop-Along, I would say on the radio, "Hop-Along, Hop-Along, this is Blue Goose." then Hop-Along would reply, "Blue Goose, this is Hop-Along." Well, I understand from a couple of articles I've lost the source of that dolphins communicate in the same way.
Firmament of solid blue stars over our sails, ghost-green dolphins below our bow, the Goose plows ahead through the waves, and all seems better than perfect because the world is again full of mystery and surprise and movement. It's liberating to be back on the sea. My feet were starting to burn.
Location: N 21.56 / W 105.56
Sighted isabella at about 8am and caught a nice-sized bonito. Anchored, slept, relaxed, snorkeled around, and had sushi for lunch. By afternoon I figured out how to calibrate the depth sounder (adjusting for depth, changing some measurements to metric, leaving others imperial, and generally learning how the thing works), installed the stern light and affixed the cables for the solar panels. Not easy to do while hanging from a harness behind the boat, but still fun that way. Nothing dropped in the water. We were exhausted and slept sound.
Leaving at about 10am we figured we'd arrive at the coast by 8am the following morning. The day was fair, the barometer was high, and the winds were quick so we made 5-6 knot progress over flat water, giving the boat a feeling of a tram more than a ship. Late that night a light appeared on the horizon and gradually grew larger. It was a large pleasure vessel, on a collision course with us, and even though I hailed it on the radio four times in both Spanish and English they didn't answer. I had to take bearings from a hand-held compass and use those sightings to measure their relative angle to us every couple of minutes. These pleasure ships are impossibly hard to read - too many lights to make out a port or starboard red or green. Too many lights. Too industrial. We navigated around the gaudy giant with great relief and the rest of the night was a fast sail east and south.
Sunrise Location: N 20.54 / W 105.35
From midnight to dawn we flew. We were making an easy 5-6 knots through the night. By midnight we were just off the coast. However, not wanting to navigate close to shore at night we hove-to and waited for a few hours. Heaving-to is the nautical equivalent to hovering. Normally both sails are on the same side of the boat - downwind, or on the lee side - as the boat sails perpendicular to the wind. But when heaving-to, the forward sail is kept on the upwind side of the boat, the mainsheet is kept on the downwind side, and the boat sort of weaves back and forth, going very slowly, and hovering between the pull of these two contradictory sails. Since we didn't want to get close to the coast we reefed both sails so we had little cloth in the wind, then hove-to and I slept in the cockpit while Amelie listed to Brazilan lounge music and watched for boats. By my shift, at 3am, we shook the reefs out, straightened the rig, swung our little craft in towards the coast and got ready to make the final trip. This was when the winds shut down. So for four hours we suffered the flapping and banging of a windless sea until sunrise when the wind picked back up again. A panga of fishermen came over to see how I was doing, say good morning, and ask me for coffee. I couldn't let go of the wheel (our autopilot needs work), otherwise I would have. They were nice enough fellows, but this woke everyone up. Coffee and yoghurt and nuts were had for breakfast and we caught another small bonito. We saw some whales - babies, even - and by the time we got to the marina it was just a little after 4pm. We docked in 10b-17, payed our $32, showered, and went over to Andrea and Karl's place - a house on land - for some dinner with their friends Annie and Eric. We got into a heated and very interesting argument about Mexicans, Americans, and the role of class in mexican society.
Our sunset location is something like N 20.45 / W 105.24
We've brought the boat into the marina for a few repairs; all of them up on the mast. The first is for me to try to figure out what's up with the windicator and lights. Maybe find something with the VHF, while I'm upstairs. The VHF looked fine but the windicator'd been sat on by a bird, and, I guess, hurricane rick. The broken lights definitely had at least three wiring problems. The ocean is unkind.
Repairing electrical connections in a harness on the mast is about as pleasant as trying to eat while hanging by the nape of your neck. Despite knowing that the harness will hold you, despite knowing the you're in a marina and not at sea, and despite not having a deadline the experience is not entirely pleasant, especially after an hour or so when the harness becomes more and more the primary thought of the operation. Especially if you're male. I accomplished nothing other than taking apart the stuff I had to fix the next day.
That night we went and got tacos and watched the local bands play in the park. Flowers, guitars, and trumpets. Mexican love-trumpets. This is not an oxymoron for them. They are insane this way, the Mexicans.
More action. Up on the mast again. I've managed to install the new and freshly-repaired windicator, I repaired the anchor light (the tri-color cable seemed damaged, the ground for it, and when I tried to pull it out a bit to examine it the entire thing snapped off and fell backwards into the mast, which is going to be a big headache some day). But I got the windicator up and I got the anchor light repaired, so we motored out of the marina.
Motoring about a mile east of La Cruz we dropped a hook into a small cove.
I feel like I've been beaten up and the exhaustion of the last month seems intense.
As the sun rises over Banderas Bay, I realize that I'm accustomed to neither the solitude nor sounds of being at anchor. Most of the morning has been small lappings and the sound of the rigging as it shifts overhead or bounces off the mast as a wave passes under us. It is generally quiet and there is no chance of someone knocking on the hull. And my neighbors here are radically different from the marina in Mazatlan. This morning, at about 5am, there was a large splash outside the boat, then a husky blowing sound, then again a hefty splash. Figuring it was whales, I got the big emergency flashlight and hustled up the gangway, jumped outside, and pointed the light where I heard more sounds. Lit up from the phosphorescence three bright green dolphin were chasing small fish that exploded out of the water around and under and off of the sides, even, colliding with the boat as they tried to escape the dolphins. I went in and made more coffee.
The day was spent on land, working, and we returned to the boat at sunset to turn on the anchor lights, drink some rum, and sleep.
Getting groceries is a massive pain in the ass. Just getting the bus to the grocery store, picking up the sacks, and getting back to the marina is one thing because it involves about a mile of walking. But then, from there, with six or seven bags of groceries, to get into the dinghy, not get overturned by a small wave, and row out to the Goose, and then unload the groceries, and then put them away all without breaking the eggs or tostaditos. An epic journey. But turning the dinghy over and washing it while in the ocean with it makes for a fun clean job, especially after the dust and sweat of the grocery job.
Sunset was so beautiful and complex that it became confusing and hypnotic. Perhaps sunsets are angels that like salsa, or maybe it's the Spanish language, but they hang around these areas of Salsa and Spanish. I have rarely seen a good sunset in Seattle. Sure, they exist, but not like in Mexico. Under this nameless salsa-loving angel of a sunset we sat on the deck and watched the sun go down and drank rum and jumped off the boat and laughed more because we had escaped the marina and no one had sold us any condominium time-shares or cruise liner vacations. Our escape feels permanent.
A boat is nothing if not a hole in the water that requires constant maintenance. But we seem to be doing okay. The electricity seems to be running in excellent shape, as we're doing everything we normally do and the boat hasn't been plugged in for a week. The motor starts reliably and there seems to be no overheating or smoke. The plumbing system is running smoothly. The pump is not firing when we don't use it, which indicates that we've solved all the leaks. The bilge is dry. The electrical systems all seem smoothly operational. The propane system is functioning and we smell no leaks.
I'm very, very suspicious about all of this success.
After two days in the marina and two days and anchor all seems to be holding together quite well. We spent the morning (up at 4 again) working on money-workish activities and left the La Cruz Marina at 13:30, bidding our good friends on 4-PACK following seas and then gently tacked our way upwind to a little town named Punta Mita, which is at the outer edges of Banderas Bay. Although we probably averaged about 3-4 miles per hour (roughly walking speed) the ride was a joy. We saw a small family of whales. There were two that were very small (at least, that was my interpretation), who breached often, and blew misty spray, and threw a small tail, like a colt, in the air, then submerged. Near them was a much larger whale that was sky hawking, or jumping up out of the water, and her size was measurable by her speed. It seemd that she lifted out of the water and hovered there for a good ten seconds before slowly descending, horizontal, in a slow-motion spray of chalky azure. But it was the babies that interested me most for their combined fragility and antiquity. I have great respect for these two (if, indeed, they were twins. It was clearly at least one whale and Amelie argued that it was breathing very quickly, as opposed to my theory, which was that it was two whales. One whale, however small, need not breathe twice in one 30-second period, but she countered by arguing that whales only give birth to one baby). To be the child of a race as enormous, as ancient, and as rare (there are certainly fewer whales on the planet than there are people in Puerto Vallarta) as the cetaceans is a great inheritance, a deific honor, and, at best, a tenuous position. It would be a bit like being born on Battlestar Galactica. We tried to take pictures and we avoided coming between the mother and her cub/s.
We got in about 20 minutes after the sunset, which was a bit close as our rule is to anchor while it is still light. So we anchored and fixed drinks of rum and guava juice and lime and after pouring that down my neck I dove in the water and swam around the boat a few times, pretending to be a baby whale. The water is warm enough to be sensual and cold enough to enliven the skin to its presence. The weather has cooled down and the thermometer on my brand-spankin' new DMI depth sensor says that the water is 29C, or about 85F. It was close to ideal. As I hung on the anchor rode, in front of The Goose, and floated in the water, watching the partially full moon dodge the clouds I had to smile to be out of the marina. I hope to be able to swim every day. And drunk. Because swimming mildly drunk is fine with me, especially after a few hours of sailing and seeing whales and another mexican sunset.
Nachos were made and the cheese that is now moulding in the refrigerator gets better as the days go by. One of the benefits of having a refrigerator that functions on only 5 amps, every other hour, is that things grow in the fridge, and food - at least cheese - improves. But the 5 amps is a lot and when I made the nachos I decided to do it on the stove (a small propane stove with three burners, that is gimbled) rather than in the microwave. That pig of a box takes 30amps. The microwave is only a little larger than a shoebox and eats more electricity than the computers and will gouge the hell out of our battery reserves. So I fixed the nachos on the stove, with some chipotle peppers, wrote this small summary of the day, and now set out to finish some illustration work I have.
I can count nothing but success as the day probably cost us about $5, mostly for the nachos and rum. But I remain suspicious.