Thursday, 2 May 2013

One of the Best Things About a Great Adventure

Learning things about your self is one of the huge perks of taking part in a “Great Adventure”.  And what an adventure this has been:

  • 11 ½ months of cruising (we left our dock in Victoria on May 15 of last year)
  • 5230 nautical miles covered (that’s almost 10,000 kilometers….about the distance, by road, from Vancouver to Halifax and back.  And we did it at an average speed of 6 kts or 10 km/hr)
  • 113 ports and anchorages visited (during 2 months in Canada; 3 months in USA, and 6 1/2 months in Mexico)
  • 2000 litres of fuel used
  • 169 books read (Kathy 166, Tony 3)
  • 720 cervazas consumed (Kathy 3, Tony 717….just kidding!)
  • 18 equipment failures (with only 248 swear words spoken)
  • 250 straight days of sunshine (we experienced a light drizzle way back the end of August, 2012, but since then it’s been sun, sun, sun)
  • Countless sea life viewings (dolphins, killer whales, humpback whales, sea otters, seals, sea lions, turtles, sea rays, etc…..)
  • 4 fish caught (OK….we still haven’t quite got the hang of this!)
We could go on and on, but we think that you’ve probably got the picture; we’ve had a fabulous time.  So what have we learnt about ourselves, you ask?

We don’t like long distance cruising.  After 3 to 4 hours at the helm we start to go a little squirrelly and we’re looking to get off the boat and do something different.  This is a little tough (not to mention dangerous) if you’re out in the middle of the ocean.

We positively despise overnight cruising.  We are not, never have been, and never will be, good at losing sleep.  A night or two of getting up for a couple 3 hour watches puts both of us in a cranky mood.

Despite meeting a myriad of wonderful new friends, 6 months is a long time to be gone from our family and friends at home.  We won’t tell them that we miss them because that would just go to their heads, but the truth is…..well……we miss them!

We also miss boating in the Pacific Northwest.  The beauty of cruising amongst hundreds of islands; the challenge of big tides and currents, narrows, rapids, rocks and reefs; the serenity and comfort of secluded and sheltered anchorages; the diversity of activities once we are anchored. 

So, we have decided to do an “About Face” and bring Vakasa home.  We will reinvent the adventure and start planning 5—6 months of Pacific Northwest cruising each year.  It will include a new PNW boat .We will miss Vakasa, but the change in plans and venue is too exciting to allow us to feel too sad. Tony will have to give up his 365 days a year of sunshine and Kathy will have to live without the romance of exotic sounding destinations, but getting back to cruising “our style” will be more than worth it.

So now all we have to do is actually get ourselves and the boat home, which isn’t the easiest task with Kathy, “the one-armed sailor”.  But when the body is unwilling sometimes the wallet has to be and we’ve hired a delivery crew to bring Vakasa north.  In fact, we watched in awe yesterday, as she sailed away without us.  Part of us expected that she would get a few hundred yards out and then just refuse to go any further without her loyal crew aboard….sort of like the Lone Ranger’s horse, Trigger.  But no, even Vakasa realizes that it’s time to move on to a new adventure!   

Thanks to everyone who has followed along with our journey.  It’s been a blast.  We should be home by the middle of May and we’ll let you know what comes next.

Kathy, Tony and Rizzo

Entering Puerto Los Cabos

The cross looks down on the boats at dock

We don't grow them like this at home!

Vakasa at her last marina in Mexico (San Jose del Cabo)

A walk through town

Rizzo in training for her airplane flight.....not too sure about the kennel

Starting to get comfy....can't be any worse than on the boat in a gale!

Last day on Vakasa and having a marguarita party

Mike, Sidney and Volker....our intrepid "uphill bash" crew

Packing up and leaving for the hotel

Palapas resort in San Jose del Cabo....our new home for a few days

Seems pretty weird to be living on terra firma

Shoulder therapy

Mr Morning Coffee Man

Mrs Morning Coffee Drinker

Has anyone seen Vakasa?

Friday, 19 April 2013

Abducted By Aliens

We had an overnighter from Mazatlan (mainland Mexico) to Los Muertos (Baja).  So we left the palm tree lined, golden beaches and lush green jungle-like coast line of the mainland, cruised through the dark of night and found the sun rising on the stark, brown, beige and rust coloured hills of Baja, with it’s aquamarine waters and brilliant white beaches.  We felt like aliens had abducted us and set us down in a completely different world!

Our first stop at Ensenada de Los Muertos (Bay of the Dead) was at the beginning of Semanos Santos, or Holy Week, which is the Mexican Easter celebration.  This place is about halfway between Los Cabos and La Paz.  Basically out in the middle of nowhere.  We expected a couple other boats but nothing else…..instead, we found the beach packed with Mexican families camping out and celebrating the holiday.  We were serenaded to sleep each night by a different beach band.  Very cool, but we won’t be too upset if we never hear a tuba again!

Unfortunately, Kathy’s shoulder began to give her more and more trouble.  A side effect of surf dinghy landings on the mainland and probably some poor treatment choices along the way (do all physios make lousy patients, or is it just Kathy?).  So we headed to Marina Costa Baja in La Paz in order to get some medical advise (what she actually got was a cortisone and pain med injection in the butt…administered in the book exchange room of the La Paz marina with several other boaters looking on!  No privacy in the boating world.).  Ultrasound revealed severe swelling (possible small tear) of the rotator cuff with some impingement and the advise was rest and more rest.  So we are hanging out at the marina for a few weeks to try and do it right this time.  The marina/resort is the most beautiful one we’ve been at so far so it certainly isn't a hardship!

Friends, Alan and Nadine, arrived a few days ago and spent 3 nights on Vakasa before heading to a near by hotel.  We visited Isla Espiratu Santos and had one of the best dolphin and whale shows yet on the way there.  You would think that this would make Nadine and Alan a couple of lucky visitors, but the good was balanced by the bad when we had nasty Coromuel winds (a local spring/summer wind phenonemom) howl through the anchorage all night long.  Gusts  up to 30 kts, making for some extreme rockin' and rollin' and the absolute worse night we’ve ever had at anchor.  However, they survived.  In fact Alan slept soundly through it all and Nadine thought it was completely normal.  The perks of being newbie boaters….they don’t know when to be scared out of their wits!

We are off to San Jose de Cabo next week as Kathy has been behaving herself and the shoulder seems to be improving slowly.  Hopefully our continued sailing journey will also be the road to recovery.  Keep checking out the blog because our next entry promises to be a doozy! 

Early morning start from Mazatlan

Night watch, you get to see the moonrise....

and sunrise

Our first glimpse of the stark hills of Baja

Semano Santos at Los that a tuba I hear?

Another early start and we get to see the sun come up again

Turquoise waters of Bahia San Gabriel, Isla Espiritu Santos

Even Rizzo the Wonder Dog can't resist the beautiful clear water

Or a roll on the beach

A truly beautiful spot

Company at Calita Partida, Isla Espiritu Santos

A local fishing camp

In La Paz and making a proper attempt at resting the shoulder

Costa Baja Marina, La Paz

A really beautiful resort with 3 restaurants, 2 pools, and gorgeous landscaping

Poolside bar

One excellent way to rest a sore shoulder

Dolphins playing with us on our way to Ensenada Grande

Beach bums, Alan and Nadine

Three sea monsters

Sundowners at Ensenada Grande

In some pretty posh company

Raising the main for a bit of a sail on the way back to La Paz

Monday, 25 March 2013

Vakasa Goes Surfing

The last few days have been ones of wonder and excitement.

On our way from Punta Mita to San Blas we ran into a section of ocean that was literally carpeted in small jelly fish.  A short distance into this we started to see the sea turtles that feed on these jelly fish.  For about 2 hours, sea turtles were everywhere you looked around the boat…hundreds and hundreds of them…too many to count. Straight out of “Life of Pi”, but without the symbolism.

Sea turtle kibble

Just one of many

Leaving the sea turtles behind, we almost motored straight into a long line net.  These nets are suspended from rope and buoys that float on the surface of the water, just waiting to snag some poor unsuspecting catamaran propeller.  Luckily, Tony saw the line when we were just 20 or so feet from it, which is a feat because the floats are usually 7 Up or Coke bottles and really tough to spot.  We made a hard turn to port and followed the pop bottles for about 20 minutes before finally finding the end.  That thing had to be at least a mile long!  Wouldn’t want to run into it in the middle of the night!

Time to hoist those sails....only 10,052 more turns of the winch, Tony!

Piedro Blanco.  That's a lot of bird poop.

Rizzo, the Wonder Dog, enjoys some wind in her ears

On to San Blas which is about 11 hours north of Nuevo Vallarta.  The seas were pretty calm and we ended up motoring almost all of the way.  The prediction was for southerlies, but what wind there was ended up coming directly from the west.  There is only open ocean in that direction, so a pretty large swell developed.  We knew that the marina was up a river which means that we had to cross over a sand bar at its entrance.  This always enhances the waves and it was a pretty exciting trip into the river as we got up to about 8.5 knots surfing down the front of a wave.  No problemo, but a small hint of what was to come. 

The next morning was the start of our overnight leg to Mazatlan.  As we neared the river exit Tony spotted a surfer in the waves being created by the breakwater on the right hand side of the river.  Kathy looked left and saw 3 or 4 more surfers in good sized waves on that side.  Jesus…..we’re on a sailboat, not a surfboard!  There was only about 40 ft of reasonable water between these two breaks and it looked damn narrow to us.  However, to the sounds of cheering from the surfer dudes/dudettes, Vakasa made her way through the exit and launched herself safely over a couple 7—8 foot waves.  Let’s hope someone got that on U-tube!

Surfers to the left, surfers to the right

Looking back at the surfers once we're at a safe distance

The overnight trip was pretty benign, with not much happening until Tony’s 3 am to 6 am shift.  Three hours of sitting at the helm with nothing but the instruments and the stars to stare at can make you a little stir crazy.  He thought he was seeing things when dozens of little dots started appearing on the radar screen.  OMG…..we must be running into a fleet of pangas!  Nope, just thousands (yes, he swears it was thousands) of sea rays jumping out of Vakasa’s way and scaring the heck out of him!

Not our picture, but just proves that it can happen

Catching a few winks after a night shift

Vakasa's crew doesn't catch the sunrise very often
We arrived at Mazatlan at about 11 am in the morning after sailing for most of the previous day but motoring all night long.  Again, the weather was from the west, but the winds were light and the swell seemed pretty small with long periods between.  However, as we closed in on the entrance to the marinas (another river mouth) we couldn't believe the extent of the surf and waves breaking at the river mouth.  Being way more savy in this department now, we called the marina and were told that the entrance was closed due to high surf.  Damn it….we’ve been up all night, and were looking forward to tying up at a dock and going to bed.  What now?  Mazatlan has developed a bad reputation for theft of dinghy motors and the occasional onboard robbery and unfortunately the most common crime area was the only anchorage open to us in these conditions.   We headed there; chained the dinghy and motor to Vakasa, hid our valuables, paraded our vicious guard dog around the decks a few times, locked ourselves inside the boat, armed ourselves with flare guns (just kidding, although a really scary neighbour did recommend it) and hit the sack. 

The "Old Harbour" (now called Bandito Bay) Mazatlan anchorage

The Silver family actually took this ferry to La Paz on their North American tour back in 2000....looks just the same the berth ceilings still leak!

Fun to watch all the ships coming and going

We stayed at this surprisingly nice anchorage for a couple days and had no problems with banditos.  In fact we had a wonderful time, which included a great bus ride into the old town where we window shopped for a few hours, walked the Malecon (sea wall) and enjoyed beer and guacamole at a palapa bar.  The anchorage was well protected with lots of interesting tourist and commercial boat traffic going to and fro.  We felt that as long as we didn’t leave valuables on display, we were pretty safe.

Under an incredible flowering tree

For some reason Tony developed a real affection for this statue

Pre Easter celebrations were happening at this lovely Old Town Cathedral

Now, I know that this is getting long, but we still had one more river entrance to tackle and we did that this morning.  After being assured that the entrance to the Mazatlan marinas was now open and the dredger was not operating, we motored on over.  The surf was not nearly as big as the other day but it was still worth worrying about.  We timed things perfectly and started in the entrance just as a huge tourist catamaran rounded the corner on its way out.  Abort!  We pulled a “U-ey” and headed back out.  Attempt number two....  We lined ourselves up and started in again.  S&**!  Here comes another boat.  Abort again!  Third time lucky?....  We actually made it into the channel this time, with just a little swell helping us on our way.  But as we started to round the corner we saw that the dredger (yup, the one that wasn’t supposed to be working today) was in the middle of the narrow (we mean NARROW) channel and its pipes were taking up 2/3rds of the room.  The driver of the dredger frantically waved us to the right and we managed to squeeze through with only about 3 ft on either side of Vakasa….wild-eyed Mexicans to port and scary sharp looking rocks to starboard!

Now that's a narrow entrance!

The dredger at anchor.  When we came in it was in the middle of the channel which didn't leave much room for Vakasa!

The El Cid, Mazatlan marina

Now we’re almost finished…..but not quite.  It turns out that we’re on a falling tide, which normally means nothing in Mexico as the tides are usually so small.  But today the river current was running really fast.  You could actually see small whirlpools and white-capped current waves throughout the marina.  It took Vakasa’s wonderful and talented captain 4 tries to get us to the dock.

Ahhhhhhh......docked at last

Two cervazas (each) later and we are laughing about the whole adventure and ready to enjoy everything that Mazatlan and El Cid Marina has to offer for a few days.  We've had fun, with a few major adrenaline shots and Vakasa has added surfing to her repertoire of achievements.  Hang ten, dudes.......