Thursday, February 26, 2015

Mazatlan

Altata is a bit off the beaten path and hidden behind a very small channel of breaking waves and shallow waters.  Somewhere near the middle is a 20 or so ft channel but from a distance with breaking waves infront and behind it can be a bit tricky coming and going but we were able to navigate in and out without too much trouble relying a little on our sights and a little on our GPS.
Beautiful sunsets like this are what we love about cruising so far.  Even though we get to see this every single day and an equally beautiful sunrise every single day it never seems to get old.
That evening Grace decided that she was big enough to handle night watches too and she spend a good part of my watch playing with me and being cute! She would call papa, "Papa, come have a party!!" So Nathan would turn the music louder and Grace would shake her booty to rhythm! It was probably the best night watch so far!!
 
 
 
 

 

Some of the night and the early morning was spent entertained by the frigates trying to land on the moving mast. First we had one and then in minutes, we had up to 4 frigates taking turn trying to land. One of them did successfully land and looked very proud of it!


Grace arriving in Mazatlan
When we first arrived in Mazatlán, we went to the harbor and anchored out in the designated area. However, after going on shore, we discovered that it was 50 pesos to dock our dinghy and that didn't even include water, shower or any benefit! What a change from La Paz!! Once on land we realized that across the street was a huge sewage processing plant and that there was very little nearby and that any going to town meant hopping on the bus. Back on the boat, we talked with a neighbor and discovered that the anchorage was not super safe and that leaving the boat for the afternoon is at the owner's own risk. We didn't have to talk about it much. The next morning we sailed the 5 miles back north to find a marina which would have room for us. It was a tight fit but after a 10+ point turn we made it into the slip on our own. I have to say that we were pretty happy to see our docking skills had improved!


We had not planned on staying in Mazatlán for very long and we found that 4 days was plenty for us. Even from the marinas, there isn't much; a couple of restaurants and convenience stores with downtown still requiring a bus ride.  There is a small marine store which is lightly stocked as well as a pemex both within walking distance.  We browsed the marine store and filled up our diesel jerry cans at the pemes.  While we were there there was a little show organized by the Salvation Army for an orphanage. There were some Mexican dances and the kids sang a couple of songs. It was lovely!  As an added benefit if you enjoy pools, and especially if you have kids, you can go to Marina El Cid as they have a pool with a kiddie pool, nice and warm. They seem fine with cruisers from other marinas as long as you buy something from their pool bar and we had no trouble leaving our dinghy tied up at the fuel dock just nearby (we tied up around the backside where other boats could not access).  Of course it would be better to stay in their marina if you want to frequent the pool there as the price is the same but unfortunately they did not have space fo us.

Mazatlan does have a beautiful malecon and it is incredibly long.  We walked the whole thing at one point and it took us something like two hours, maybe more.  The street is lined with hotels, restaurants, mini-marts, mexican tiendas, and even a playground donated by the rotary club.





We had timed our stay to be in the middle of the carnival festivities as it is suppose to be one of the biggest carnival in Mexico. The first night we walked a good part of the malecon and enjoyed the firework (that started at 10.30pm) from a distance. Unfortunately all the interesting festivities were very late at night so Grace was fading really fast and apparently she didn't think that the fireworks were such a great thing!



The next day we got ready in the afternoon for the big parade. Nathan and Grace went for a walk while I set up chairs at the end of the walk around 3.30pm. We were glad that we got there early as it was already filling up and we got the last good spot of the street. Grace as usually made a lot of friends and since the street was close, they all played together on the street. We had pizza and cotton candy. Grace had never had it before and she thought it was the funniest thing! She ate a bit of it but she was more interested in playing with it! Let's not talk about that sticky mess... After the parade it began to rain pretty hard which was a new experience for Grace. She spent a good deal of time face up and tongue out to catch the rain! All in all we had a great time in Mazatlán even though the town is pretty unpractical to walk.

Until next time,

Cindy



Grace and her new friends playing with confettis
Enjoying the rain

Cotton candy time!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Guaymas to Mazatlan

 
 
We left Guaymas on Saturday February 7 to go to Mazatlán. The passage is about 450 miles with not many places to stop for shelter. The weather was looking good with 15 knots wind and 4 ft seas. If we were to do the passage at once it would take us probably about 3 days. We were not sure whether or not we would stop on the way, it would depends on the weather and if Grace would drive us crazy before the end of the passage or not! haha The idea was to get to Mazatlán on time for the carnival as it is suppose to be one of the greatest of Mexico.

The all crew was eager to get under way again and to finally leave Guaymas for new adventures and new places to explore, however, Grace was probably the happiest of us all. She spend the first couple of hours looking for dolphins and just taking it all in!
 
The first 24 hours were great. We put the spinnaker up and sailed on the same tack the whole time! We were making good progress and enjoying the scenery and the nice breeze. But on the second day the wind began to die down and we had to turn the motor on to keep moving. After checking the weather on the SSB radio, we decided to stop at a village called Altata to wait for some wind.
 
We were expecting a very small fishermen village without many stores but to our surprise, Altata is a nicely developed town with many great seafood restaurants and shops. The fishermen have a unique way of fishing. They use light colorful sails to gently drag their boat after they put their net in the water.
 
 
We had a great time walking next to the water, listening to local bands, and watching the sunset while eating out.
 
Reprieve in the background
Our view while eating
 
The owner of Mi Charlie speaks good English. Great food!
 
 Altata is a little tricky to get to. About 2 miles out there are some sandbars and very shallow water which makes for a lot of surf to go through. The once you get to the entrance of this natural harbor, you have another 7 miles to go to get to the actual village. It can get very shallow and you need to be very careful as sandbars are not marked! We had set our depth alarm for 5 ft which was a good thing because about halfway through we ran aground on a sandbar. However Nathan reacted really fast and pulled us out right away without much drama.
The surf to go through going out of the harbor

 The rest of the trip to Mazatlán was uneventful. We were able to sail some but the wind was still very weak so we motored the night and we got to the anchorage in the morning just on time before a huge rain shower!


Grace taking the first night watch with papa





Birds favorite game: trying to land on the mast!!
Stay tuned for our report on Mazatlán.

Until next time,

Cindy

Monday, February 16, 2015

New look

As much as we liked the look of our boat, we wanted to give her a little more of a custom look. Traditionalists will frown upon a hull that is not entirely white but we have never been known to follow the rules.

The first step was to decide on what we wanted exactly. We knew that didn't want! We didn't want something to extravagant or something too busy. But as what we wanted... We wanted something that would be meaningful to us. Our friends on Lil' Explorers got us a carving from Panama that represented two turtles circling a round surface. They thought it was a good representation of the two of us traveling the world. We decided to stay with the turtle theme and represent our growing family swimming around. I drew a couple of different turtles and the one below got the approval from Nathan, my mom and my good friend Shannon.


Once we agreed on the design and the size of the turtles, I had one more drawing to do. We wanted to somehow include our son Isaiah, that we lost in April 2014. I thought a flower would be appropriate and after a couple of trial and errors, we both agreed on the flower below because it was not too specific nor too "girly". If you look closely you will see that the heart of the flower represent a I and on the right is a small W for Isaiah Walter. Now our little guy will always be traveling with us!



Now we just had to decide whether I would paint it on the hull or we would do vinyl stickers. Stickers being very expensive in the US, we had not much hope for them and I was ready to paint. A friend of ours at the boat yard in Guaymas told us about Graficom, a company that is know to be more than reasonable in price and doing a great job. To our delight, they gave us a quote at 1000 pesos for 8 turtles (4 on each side), 2 flowers and twice the name "Reprieve" and on top of that they were installing it for us!! The stickers were ready in 2 days and looked great!




We really like the end result. What do you think? We would love your input.

Until next time,

Cindy









Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Marina Seca Guaymas

Also known as Gabriel's yard, is a dry storage and work yard located in Guaymas.  We chose to haul here as it is one of the very few places that can haul a boat our size (thank you to the travel lift in the shrimp boat yard next door), where we can live aboard, and which will allow us to do our own work.  It also has the bonus of being relatively inexpensive.

Waiting in the slip for the travel lift
 Our adventure began with getting the boat out of the water. Gabriel does not actually have a lift for our boat but instead we make use of the travel lift in the neighboring yard which is dedicated to large shrimp boats. Now, one of the catches with this whole thing is that they are in no way responsible for the lift of your boat. While they do the actual work with the lift you need to be there every step to ensure that not only are the straps placed correctly but that your boat is level and that everything is A-OK. This is quite a bit more stressful than when we hauled in San Diego and I left to go pick up a rental car while they did all the work without a word from me. The same held true for blocking the boat down and placing the stands.


The straps for the lift are a bit rough so Cindy made some pads for them with fleece on one side and a heavy woven fabric on the other side.

Getting the boat placed on stands


With that all out of the way we were free to start working out butts off.
So what did we do exactly?  Here's the quick list:

  • Build out of sugar scoop and steps
  • Repaint entire freeboard
  • Add turtles vinyl stickers on the hull designed by Cindy
  • Completely strip bottom, apply 3 barrier coats and bottom paint
  • Install new through hull for water maker
  • Install new depth and speed transducer
  • Fill and glass over three below the water through hulls
  • Repair delamination and blisters on bottom
  • Repair delamination under traveler on stern cabin
  • Repaint Cockpit and Cabin
  • Repaint mast and boom
  • Replace all standing rigging
  • Upgrade anchor light and spreader lights on mast
  • Replace cabin windshield and port and starboard windows
  • Replace traveler system
  • Make canvas for the cockpit
  • Replace inside tile flooring with self adhesive laminate planks
  • Sew winch handle bags, gas can covers, and rope bags

The sugar scoop and steps on the stern have been something we have wanted since we left, for a cruising boat it just seemed like an essential.  Not only does it make getting on and off easier but we consider it a safety item as well, being short handed in a Man overboard situation having to pull out and deploy a ladder off the side is just one more thing for the people on board to have to deal with.   We did not do this ourselves, but rather farmed it out to one of the local workers, Francisco, who did a fantastic job.  All told it took about 3-4 weeks for him to complete the job.  Below are a few pictures showing the progress.





Beginning to build the sugar scoop



Form completed and fiberglass laid on



Steps built and glassed


Completed!
 
Repainting the boat wasn't entirely necessary but it did give us the opporunity to fix a number of minor issues from scratches to bumps, bruises, and it also allowed the new stern extension to be painted continuously with the rest of the boat instead of having to be blended on.  The picture above shows the beautiful paint job.

The bottom became quite a  big issue for us.  As it dried out and we dug into it a bit more we found that we had two or three sections that had become blistered and had delaminated.  This required us to cut out and remove two large sections of fiberglass and replace them.  While we were doing this we decided that it would be in our best interest to apply a barrier coat to the bottom so as to prevent this in the future, so we completed stripped all the paint from the bottom and started over.  I don't have any pictures to share but think dusty and dirty.  In all it took 2-3 weeks to finish the work on the bottom.  While we were doing this we also set out to fill in a few through hulls and drill a new one for our water maker.

The traveler was also a problem for us, it was an old unit and it used locking pins to control the position of the traveler car.  This got to be a hassle and a safety issue as the traveler could not be adjusted without going onto the aft cabin, it was also near impossible to adjust under load..  In addition to that it constantly banged back an forth at anchor and drove us nuts!  So we purchased a new Lewmar unit and installed it.  This turned into a larger project as we found much of the fiberglass on that section of the deck was delaminated, so we decided to upgrade.  The old fiberglass was only two layers of six ounce cloth, we redid the entire area with a layer of biaxial cloth (16ounce) and a layer of 6 ounce cloth.  All holes (22 of them) for the traveler were drilled out larger and filled in with epoxy and redrilled for the bolts. The bottom side was also reinforced with a 1/8" sheet of G10 fiberglass. 
New traveler car, track, ends, line, and cleat

Bottom of traveler

 

And if we were not busy enough we decided to pull the mast down so that we could , sand it, repaint it, re-rig it and install some new lights.  Most of this went without drama except for the rigging.  Our rig is done with Sta-Lok assemblies end to end, what we found out when we started pulling it apart was that the ends were never sealed with anything and because of that a good number of the formers inside had become corroded and were unusable.  Of course we did not have any replacements as these are not typically replaced in the process, and being in mexico we could not exactly walk over to our friendly rigging shop and buy some replacements.  We were considering paying over $100 in shipping alone to mail order replacements to Mexico, until Carlos (who was doing the majority of rigging work) suggested that if we could find a good condition former that we could have one made here in town.  So we pulled apart a few of the sta-loks at the top of the mast and got one of each size which we took to a machine shop in town, in a couple of days he was able to make exact replicas for half the price of new ones!  We had a bunch made and we were back in business!  Whew! 
Mast coming down

There is something to be said here about mexico and that is the ability to fix and make things.  There are indeed some talented people here in this country and they are amazingly good at fixing things or making new parts, it was quite the change compared to the US where things are thrown away and purchased new.  Heck, when was the last time anyone in the US walked into a machine shop for anything?  In fact the machine shops where I am from won't hardly talk to you unless you want 5,000 of something made let alone a half dozen small complicated parts.  But not here in Mexico and not at the little shop we went to, the guy there was incredibly friendly, quick to do, and excellent at his work.  In case anyone else is looking for a recommendation I would highly recommend this guy for anything you need, I cannot recall the shop name but he is on 14th street about three blocks past serdan on the left hand side (mountain side of town) it is the only machine shop on the street and is set back a little behind a set of black iron gates.  He also speaks fairly good english, which is a plus when trying to explain what you want!  We went back to him a few more times for several other small items, all made on the spot while we waited.

Hencho en Mexico

Now if you are looking for a little info about Marina Seca Guaymas here it is.  The plain and simple is that it is plain and simple.  This is a dirt lot with really nothing more to offer, there is power and water available (barely).  The water is shut off at 6pm (why? who knows) and the power is over allocated and on too thin wiring to carry the load.  There are showers available, with one set in the yard which is quite dirty and another set off by Gabriel's office which is quite a bit cleaner and more usable but doesnt always have hot water.  The yard is secured by 24 hour security guards, cameras, and is well lit at night.  The one downside is that it is quite a ways outside of town, there is a bus that picks up just outside the yard but still takes about 15 minutes to get to Centro and there is really nothing there.  Don't get me wrong here, I am not complaining just painting a real picture for those interested.  There is nowhere else I know of that is even close in price and which allows you to do your own work. 

One more thing to keep in mind here is that there is really not much in Guaymas for recreational boats, there is no West Marine or equivalent (there is a limited store in San Carlos) so you need to bring in your own materials.  You will not find quality paints of any type, and even epoxy and fiberglass can be hard to come by and expensive. All of the materials and parts we put on we brought in ourselves on the boat already or picked up in Phoenix which is about a seven hour drive. 
We filled the Dinghy with water and made a swimming pool for grace!

Gabriel himself is a great guy, very friendly, helpful and easy to deal with.  He speaks great english and can help you get things going.  Arnolfo on the other hand is the pseudo boss of the yard, he reports to Gabriel and we had a good number of run-ins with the guy and while he gives a pleasant appearance at first he is too focused on the idea of being "the boss"; so much so that he forgets who is paying the bills!  When we took the mast down Arnolfo insisted that we try to squeeze the mast with 8 foot wide spreaders between our boat and the neighbors boat which was 7 feet away, he did not give in and allow us to place it elsewhere until I told him that he would have to be responsible for the crane and any damages if he want to try to maneuver it there.  The 7 feet away from the boat next to us is another issue we had with him, when we first arrived pretty much everyone told him he put us too close (including us) but he insisted that was where we were going.  On a third incident we had dug a whole in the ground under our boat to remove the rudder, he apparently did not like that idea and came off telling us that we had to ask permission (to dig a freaking hole in the dirt, really?); he of course immediately backed off when we told him we'd be happy to go discuss our hole with Gabriel.  And on a fourth indicent he started giving our worker Carlos, who was doing the rigging, a hard time because he came back on a 6th day to help us put the mast back up when he had originally said he would only be there five days; which seemed quite out of line since I was the one paying carlos and in addition I was paying the yard $10 each day Carlos was there anyway.  The guy is all bark, no bite and just seems to enjoy bossing people around.  If he bothers you just tell him to buzz off, it seemed to work for us. 

The rest of the people in the yard are great.   Francisco, who is one of the primary workers, is an awesome guy and does incredible work, we highly recommend him if you need pretty much anything done to your boat (fiberglass, paint, construction, reconstruction, etc).


The yard community is quite interesting.  There are a number of people who return annually and yet others who are working on very large boat projects including complete reconstruction.  There was even a Christmas and New Years party, as well as the occasional "why not" party.  Most people are friendly but I think a few have been stuck there a little too long or have a bit too much boat for them to handle. Some of them seem to get upset if you sand too much or make too much noise. Apparently they have forgotten that they are in a dirt yard which is a place where people come specifically to work on their boat! However, you can also find very helpful people and we made some really good friends there.
New Years Party

Guaymas

Guaymas is probably one of the most unusual stops we will do. You don't see many posts about it on other cruising blogs and the city is not exactly on the top of the list of tourist attractions. But we were lured there by the inexpensive boat yard owned by Gabriel known as Marina Seca Guaymas as we had quite a list of projects, upgrades and maintenance to do.

We crossed the Sea of Cortez on December 10th it was quite an exciting sail as we were close hauled at about 45 degrees to the wind the entire trip. We saw up to 25 knot winds and 5-7ft short period waves. We averaged about 8 knots which put us in Guaymas about 6 hours earlier than expected, so we ended up putting the sails away at around 2am and motoring the last 10 miles at a rather leisurely 2 knots so as to not navigate into the harbor in the dead of night. As day broke and we made our way into the harbor we were quite glad we did not rush in in the night as it was littered with fish nets, bouys, and pangas; surely we would have gotten ourselves caught up in nets had we tried to make our way in at night.
Approaching Guaymas as the sun rises
Upon our arrival we found out that the travel lift was out of operations so we anchored out a day or two to find out more info which led us into Marina Fonatur as we were told it would take about a week to repair the lift and that the anchorage in the harbor was well known for its theft problems. Fonatur is a very nice marina at a very inexpensive price, we paid something like $15USD per day for the dock which included wifi (very slow), showers, water, and electricity; it is also very close to the center of the city so we were able to explore a bit, get some supplies, and entertain ourselves.

Downtown Guaymas (towards the right)

Guaymas is a very industrial working class city, there is no beach front, no tourist attractions, and not even very many bars or night clubs. For the most part this city shutsdown at around 7 or 8pm, pretty much everything closes up and there's little left open but a few restaurants, grocery stores, and taco stands. So despite being moored in nearly the center of a large city it was very quiet, if not peaceful at night, we quite enjoyed our stay at Fonatur; so much so that we choose to return there for about 10 days after we were finished with the boat in the yard.

Grace looking at the nativity scene setup on the malecon.
We were in Guaymas for the better part of two months, about 50 days total. We got the opportunity to learn our way around the city and meet quite a few people. First of note is the excellent bus system, it is between 5 and 7 pesos each way depending on where you are going and all busses start and stop in Centro near the market place. There is a wide variety of stores, pretty much anything you could want. There is Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Sam's Club, Soriana, Ley, Santa Fe, and about five hundred pharmacies, and maybe a thousand Tel Cel dealers.. There is also McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, Dominos, and a dozen or more US food chains though we mostly stuck to the local places. Overall we learned that if you want something bad enough in Guaymas you can probably find it or you could find someone to make it for you.

Grace showing off her homemade Christmas dress in front of the Christmas tree setup on the Malecon

So what were our favorites?

Starting with food, we found a place called Popeye's, it was perfect fo us as they had a very large play area for Grace and for a mere 50 pesos you get a giant burger and a huge serving of fries to go with it. There are two Popeyes in town, one on the main street of Serdan and a second on the north end of town near Mcdonalds. Second to Popeyes would be Gordos which is a taco stand that seems to only appear after 6pm, always on the same spot on 20th street a few blocks down from Serdan; 35 pesos buys you a very good torta, and 10 pesos buys you a very good quesadilla or a burrito.

Ley and Soriana seemed to have the best prices on food as well as general household items and as we've learned in other cities in Mexico Wal Mart is very rarely worth the time as their selection is limited and the prices are a bit higher. (Unless you want gringo brands)

Every Wednesday also comes a massive market near Centro which covers probably 8-10 blocks and has tons of fresh vegetables, meat, cheese, and other items. Also we found on most weekends they seem to setup some type of event either on the water front or near the City Hall building which includes free bouncy tents for kids.

Just near where all the busses pick up in Centro is a flour tortilla shop which has the best tortillas we've ever had; 35 pesos buys you 50 of them.

The Island to the right in this picture is the first part of the channel into the harbor, entering you would pass this on the starboard side with the mainland on the port side. 

Grace excited to be out sailing again!!

 About the only downside to this city is that it seems to have a pretty high level of pollution in both the water and the air; probably not worse than Los Angeles but pretty close.

Beautiful view as we depart, it was a beautiful day with 15-20 knott winds.
As for the boat yard, we will be writing a seperate post to cover all our wonderful activities there.