After finally reaching Mexico we spend Christmas with family, friends, tequila and I learned to surf. We also blow out an impeller and I almost sliced my finger off.
We crossed the Sea of Cortez from Los Frailes with a nice December breeze and were able to sail about 60% of the way across the sea. Of course about an hour after our 4am departure, we crossed paths with a large oil tanker. There was no clear way for us to cross, as there was a reef to the North, so we had to tack back to Los Frailes for a good 30 minutes until we could see where he was going. For what seemed like an eternity, we waited for the ship to reach a point where we could sail a course that would clear him. Typical -- shipping traffic even in the Sea of Cortez.
Luckily that was the only ship we saw that was close to us. We saw a cruise ship or a ferry of some kind closer to Mazatlán and heard two other sailboats on the radio trying to find a way to avoid it, but that was it.
We arrived in Mazatlán to find a wet damp fog everywhere, and a dredge blocking the entrance of the harbor busily trying to pump out the silt that is constantly filling up the entrance. After all our efforts to reach Mazatlán for Christmas and almost 9 months of traveling, we were frustrated to have to anchor for most of the day waiting for the harbor to open.
We were anchored right off the beach and we were certain we could see the beers chilling in coolers at the palapa restaurants. Although it's illegal for us to land without first clearing into the port with the officials, we almost launched the dinghy and headed for the beach -- almost.
Once the dredge was cleared from the channel, we followed 3 other boats thru the narrow entrance and down the long channel. We happily tied up at one of the slips, checked in, and then passed out after the overnight crossing.
After resting, we oriented ourselves with the city and the buses and went to find some fresh produce! A lot of food is grown locally here, so we were excited to buy piles of veggies and fruit for about 6 or 7 bucks. It was great to stock up for a week with only about $10.
There were a lot of neglected boat projects to take care of, and we had a week before Sherrell's dad and Jeannette arrived back from a trip to Canada. The list of work was huge and we spent some long days working on a nice stable dock, rather than on the rolling deck of our anchored boat.
Christmas came quickly and Ray & Jeannette returned in time to see the decorations that we helped put up. They had invited a bunch of their old cruising friends to their house for a big Christmas dinner. There was probably about 25 of us in their house.
Of course, Sherrell had to get in on the cooking and fought for a burner with Gerald and her dad.
We had a great time meeting everyone and seeing some of the people we had met when we joined Ray and Jeannette in La Paz in 1997 and sailed on their boat, Soul Coaxing.
No sooner was Christmas over then it was time for New Years. We met up with some friends on Ocean Lady whom we first met in Bahia Santa Maria on Baja. Scott & Liz on Ocean Lady have 2 large dogs, Casey & Rocky, and a feisty cat, Randal along with 6 (!) surfboards all in one boat. Anyway, they made the mistake of agreeing to join us and a bunch of other sailors at a New Years Party with an open bar. This bar wasn't watered down and slow. They poured them strong and kept at least one full drink in front of you at all times. It was a dangerous scene. Surrounded by about 100+ other people from the marina and other cruisers, trouble was bound to happen.
And Ray and Jeannette showed off their dance moves.
After this, things got a little blurry. But I did find these photos on the camera.
Somehow Sherrell knocked down her dad, and Jeannette. You can see her helpfully pulling on the chair. There was a lot of sand in our bed the next day, and Sherrell and Scott (from Ocean Lady) took about 2 days to recover -- they never left the boat.
After some drying out, Scott and Liz invited me to try surfing with them. I've never surfed before and it always looked like a lot of fun, so I gave it a try. Now I'm officially a grom. Surfing has it's own lingo like, left's, right's, close-out's, going over the falls, tubes, mushy, blown-out, etc. Not only was there a new language to learn, it took me forever to learn how to sit on the board to watch for waves, but I'm holding my own now. Scott and Liz taught me how to "check my fins" instead of just falling off the board. They said it looks intentional. I figure I look pretty cool checking my fins and surfing waves.
The board I'm showcasing here is a long board (obviously) which we borrowed from a friend. Long boards are good in small waves and it was good for me as a beginner. We had a great time surfing at Playa Bruja. So much fun that we decided why rush out of Mazatlán? Let's stay for the third biggest parade in the world: CARNAVAL!
This is a serious parade, second to Rio and New Orleans. However, it has a more conservative Catholic approach that is lacking in the other two cities. Nonetheless, we bought our tickets, phoned my sister and told her to come and see it with us.
Kate, unfortunately, only had a few days in between quarters to join us. She brought her boyfriend Ben Lee to join in the fun.
The weather turned sour the day they arrived, and it poured rain! POURED! There were parts of the city that were completely flooded. But we gave it our best efforts anyway!
Kate can't hold back the excitement, decked out in rain gear and ready for Carnival!
The six of us, Scott, Liz, Kate, Ben, Sherrell and me, went to see the fireworks battle between the Navy and the public ferries, but the pouring rain forced them to reschedule. The outdoor bands weren't letting anything stop them and we spent the evening stage hopping (or pushing through huge crowds) and dancing until about 2am.
Kate and Ben had to fly out the next day, but weather had cleared up and they had to at least see the beach. So we drug ourselves out of bed and hit the beach for a couple of hours before packing them up and sending them off to their plane. (The photo on our homepage was from Kate on our quick beach trip).
I think the short trip was just enough of a taste that Kate and Ben are ready to meet us again in the Sea of Cortez this summer at a moments notice.
We managed to make it to the parade, despite Kate and Ben's efforts to wear us out.
With Carnaval out of the way, we started to focus on finishing some of the boat work and completing the website design for the Marina (www.marina-mazatlan.com). Ugh, was that site a lot of work. I spent a lot of late nights working on the graphics and writing the text. We even played "reporter" documenting the events around the marina like the Copa de Isla Regatta, Valentine's Party, Carnaval, and the Tsunami Fundraiser (organized by Sherrell's dad at Mazatlan Marine Center). Look at the marina events closely and you'll see us in the Valentine's Day photos taken by the harbor master.
However, the website work was winding down and we were all getting anxious to head out to "surf Punta de Mita" a small spot south of Mazatlán and north of Puerto Vallarta.
Our plan was to depart with Ocean Lady and head south with them. Despite their best efforts, they kept having equipment problems and struggled with getting parts shipped to them. In the meantime, we decided to head south assuming they would only be a day or two behind.
Then we ran into problems of our own. Our newly modified connections for the autopilot didn't work, so after testing it on the open water, we decided it was better to go back to the old setup while in Mazatlán rather than try it at anchorage in La Cruz. Since the weather was nice, we decided to enjoy the sail back. We sailed around some of the islands, enjoying the brisk winds.
When it started to get late, we fired up the engine and turned towards the breakwater. Sherrell quickly noticed the engine didn't sound right. She kept insisting it sounded funny so she started looking around and noticed our raw water pump (keeps the engine cool) wasn't working right. We quickly shut off the engine and had to raise the sails to sail around the tip of the nearby island. As we were being pushed towards the island, we trimmed the sails harder and beat into the waves.
The conditions were really choppy; definitely not ideal for working on the engine problem. So we formed a plan to sail behind one of the closest islands and drop the anchor behind it to get out of the waves and wind. We've never had to sail up to an anchorage, but now we suddenly had no choice.
We gybed carefully around the point and headed towards the deeper spot in the channel. Keep in mind that this area is uncharted, so with only 18 feet of water under the boat in the "deep" spot, we were nervous, especially without engine power.
After a few more gybes, we were in a position to round up and drop the anchor. Out of the waves, the motion on the boat was more calm and we let the anchor fly, keeping our fingers crossed that it stuck in well because we only had one chance, with the beach directly behind us. As the wind blew us backwards against the anchor, we could feel it dig in and stop us. We let out a lot of chain to make sure we stayed put.
Then I went below and stared to look for the problem. I tested the raw water intake, it was fine, the filters were fine. So I took the pump apart and found the impeller was in bad shape. The fins were torn up, so we quickly replaced it and gave the engine another try. Water gushed out and we cheered, because entering that tiny entrance under sail would have been very tough.
We think that a plastic big might have temporarily blocked the water intake, causing the impeller damage. Then after sailing with the engine shut off, it cleared itself. It's a strange problem, but Sherrell's quick response saved our engine from any damage.
So, we were back in Mazatlán! The next day I started working on putting our autopilot back the way we had it before. As I was working on it with a razor blade, I had a nasty accident. I'm putting this photo up here for all you vicarious voyeurs. I thought I'd save you the gore of the wound right after it happened, so I took this photo before the stitches were due to come out. I helped Scott pull two of them out myself. Don't worry mom, I'm all healed now!
Just "soft tissue" and no muscle the doctor said. But 4 bright blue stitches later and I was cursing my stupidity. This delayed us until I felt I could handle the lines on the boat again. So we decided to have some new parts made to improve our autopilot design while I healed, rather than go back to the old setup.
To save us some trouble, and cost, "Doctor Scott" removed my stitches so we didn't have to go back to the hospital. Ocean Lady had as much trouble leaving as we did! However, two weeks after our attempted departure, they finally made it out and went surfing at Punta de Mita.
We're still very anxious to get underway, but taking every day as it comes. Mazatlán is a GREAT place to hang out. Here's the cathedral in the historic part of town.
Lots of good food and places to get parts and hardware. And of course, Ray and Jeannette are here to look after us and lots of nice beaches, great weather and all. In fact, some friends we met in Baja, just pulled into the slip next to us (they're vegetarians too!) so there's plenty to do. We're also redoing all our brightwork and patching up a dinghy we found in the trash. So we have lots and lots to work on. Hopefully we'll get our parts soon so we can set sail again shortly either for La Paz or south to Punta de Mita.
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