Friday, November 26, 2010

Mazatlan - We arrived at dawn on Thanksgiving Day

Whew! I am Thankful that all the weather that was forecast was far to the North of us!  We had a very nice trip down the coast of Mainland Mexico to Mazatlan. We arrived in Mazatlan at dawn and headed over and anchored in the Old Harbor, a free anchorage.

Eating off the fat of the boat
We did a little checking around to see what was going on in the area as far as Thanksgiving festivities and found that there something going on that cost $200 to $250 pesos per person at a restaurant in the square.  With this information we decided to see what we had in our ships store and go from there.

Together with our buddy boat SV Blue Dolphin we put together a Thanksgiving dinner, all we had to add was some bird.  We sent Nils (Blue Dolphin) and Leo (Aquadesiac) out to the market on a quest for the main course.
Leo, our crew
They returned with chicken!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Leaving Topolobampo this morning

We are leaving TOPE TOPE la BUMPO this morning on a high tide.  Our plans are to go anchor out towards the sea more and wait for a good weather window to head South, might be as soon as tonight at around 6:00 pm.  We want to arrive in Mazatlan during day light hours.  With deep regret we are leaving one of our buddy boats (SV Peregrine) here in Topo at the new Marina Palmira.  They need to return home ASAP for a family emergency.

We are now with just Blue Dolphin and their German crew.  We still have our French crew member and are eating very, very well!  It looks like we might be at sea for Thanksgiving.  I guess we will need to catch some fish and make some stuffing.  I have everything to make a pumpkin pie, but only if the weather is very calm.  I'm missing everyone as the Holidays approach.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Three Amigo's anchored in the Bahia
 Ah, Topolobampo in the morning!  Such a different place to see.  I woke up bright and early this morning to make sure we were still in deep enough water to navigate back to the main channel.  Everything looked good so Leo and I took Tucker over to the beach to empty his holding tanks.

Mucky, wet sand! Great fun!
We pulled up anchor and set off for the Yacht Club anchorage farther up the channel.  On our way up the channel a guy named "Pancho" came by on a jet ski and told us that we really needed to stay in the channel because it was shallow.  On our first pass we missed the entrance to the Yacht Club buoys, so we ended up at the end of the caravan again.  We hung back and watched both Blue Dolphin and Peregrine miss the next set of buoys and run aground!  Blue Dolphin had to wait for the tide to come back in.  Peregrine was pulled off by a nice power boat.  We anchored without any trouble but we are also way out in the middle of the harbor way away from everybody else.

Pancho asked what we were doing here anyways, and we told him of the alternator troubles on Blue Dolphin.  He said "No problem" bring it over to me at the fuel dock and I will go have it fixed.  Wow, really?  So that's what we did and as promised Pancho brought it back within the hour good as new.  At least we hope so.

Doug and Leo have been out in the dinghy buzzing around the harbor all day and landed a ride on a power boat going out for a short dinner cruise.  I guess Leo ended up cooking dinner for the group.  They came back to the boat long enough to grab the bread and return to the power boat for after dinner drinks.  Fun times in Topolobampo.  I think we will continue South tomorrow to Mazatlan.
Breakers at the buoy, this is where we were aground momentarily the night before.
Leo's French Bread

Topolobampo or Bust!

Whew! We left Guaymas a few days ago with SV Blue Dolphin, new crew on board,  Nils & Caroline from Germany and SV Peregrine.  It's pretty tough coordinating leaving a harbor you have been in for any length of time.  Just when you think you are ready one of the buddy boats develops a mission critical item that needs to be fixed.  All that aside we finally made a break for it!  We met up with Blue Dolphin just outside of the Bahia Catalina anchorage and just kept heading South.  The weather was splendid and we were able to sail most of the day and well into the night.  Doug is over his cold and I finally got it just as we were leaving.  Leo seems to be fighting it off with honey in his tea.  I think washing everything down with Clorox helps too.

During the daylight hours we saw a Marlin jump out of the water at least 5 times, I guess he was hunting.  It was amazing.  He was well over 6 feet.  We also saw Rays jumping and a huge pod of Dolphin.  The only other boat traffic we saw was 8 fishing boats in a line, it was during daylight so we were able to avoid them easily.  We had our fishing lines out but did not catch anything. We took 4 hour watches during the night and the evening was pretty uneventful.  There was almost a full moon which was nice as we could see all around.

Day two was a little more exciting.  First thing in the morning the fishing lines went out.  Leo went up on deck and announced "Fish ON!".  I had to laugh because I had given him very detailed instructions on how we land a fish on the sailboat and he just went into "AUTO" and started emptying the cockpit of all the contents down the hatch.  Doug and I were at the bottom of the stairs trying to get up on deck with all the stuff getting tossed down.  I started laughing and coughing so hard!  We had two lines out.  A hand line and a fishing pole.  Leo was pulling in the hand line and Doug had the gaff, I had the towel and vodka.  I looked over at my fishing pole just as the last of the line payed out, zzzzzzing! Darn!  Missed another fish and lost another lure.  We were so focused on the hand line I didn't hear the fishing pole hit.  Leo landed a really nice Mahi Mahi.

Day two and there was no wind at all.  We stayed in sight of our buddy boats and motored South.  SV Blue Dolphin developed a taste for alternator belts and went through a few during the day.  SV Peregrine's alternator turned out to be discharging their battery so he had to put the generator on.  With no wind and critical issue we decided to enter Topolobampo even though it would be dark.

As a rule we do not enter into anchorages at night but we needed to pull in for repairs so as night approached we all came in close together and set off as a caravan into the Bahia Topolobampo.  This is the first anchorage available before entering the harbor.  Looked like a piece of cake on the chart.

If you are wondering what this is like just step into your closet and close the door.  We purchased, at great expense, charts of Mexico that are turning out to be very unreliable.  As we were coming into the channel the lights on the buoys were all wrong and the depth of the water was decreasing at a alarming rate.  At some point we decided we just needed to follow the lights and forget about our plotted course.  This is like taking the "Indiana Jones" leap of faith, if you remember that movie.  So Rojo, la derecha, volviendo!  This seemed to work until Peregrine, in the rear, commented on the fact that the Baja Ferry  was behind him and closing fast.

So we really hugged the channel just outside the red buoy giving the fast moving ferry LOTS of room to pass. As anyone who frequents the SF Bay knows these rather large vessels create a pretty good wake.  A really good wake in shallow water actually creates "Breakers" so you can see the shallow water.  Leo watching on Starboard did his best in at least 3 different languages to tell Doug to steer PORT, Left, gire a la izquierda, tourner à gauche! he even tried saying waves, breakers all to no avail.  I was ready to grab the wheel myself but it didn't matter Doug figured it out, bump, bump along the bottom.  We went aground right before the red buoy.  There was absolutely no room for error.  In Doug's defense there was a lot going on.  The radio was squawking with chatter, the dodger windows were completely fogged up, both Leo and I were talking and the buoy wasn't even a true red buoy.

Since we have a lot of experience with being in shallow water we were able to use that same wave action that got us aground to get us off.  We continued up the channel, very slowly and headed into Bahia Topolobampo, now at the back of the caravan.  When buddy boating if you are in the lead position and you make a bad call you have to go to the end of the line, even if you do have the forward looking scanner.  We watched as Blue Dolphin and Peregrine circled around in the bay looking for a deep enough spot to drop the anchor.  At one point Blue Dolphin came up so close to the sand spit that they could have stepped off the boat.  After a few passes we decided on a good spot and dropped the anchor for the night. 

I couldn't quite fit this part about the big blue footed boobie in my story above so I'll do a postscript.  Like I said above it was dark.  The moon was bright but covered by cloud cover so visibility was poor.  At some point I just happened to look up and looming in the dark saw a huge boobie bird trying to land on the top of our mast.  Leo and I jumped up and started yelling at it, banging on the mast, slinging a halyard at it and shining a beam from the flashlight.  We finally deterred it after several attempted landings.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Another Sunday in Guaymas

Oyster Bar by the Sea
It's been a busy week here in Guaymas.
Five days ago we took on crew, Léo Lestant, of France has joined us.  He is a young man traveling the world.  He crewed on a boat being delivered from Tonga to Berkeley (22 days) and road his bicycle from San Francisco to Guaymas.  We are heading South and so is he and we had space available. We moved a few things around and he has bunk space for his pack, bike and a place to sleep.

He cooks and he is very good at it!  He has been with us for 5 days and so far made 4 loaves of bread, crepes, curried fish, coconut rice, ham rolled in goat cheese.  Other cruisers are getting jealous as they sit eating their same old rations.

Our "Buddy Boats" SV Peregrine and SV Blue Dolphin are both just about ready to set sail.  Blue Dolphin is awaiting the arrival of their crew from Venezuela.  They are some young German kids who rode their bikes from Alaska to Venezuela.  We are just about all provisioned up for the trip South to Mazatlan.  Our other "buddy boat" SV Ubuntu is still up on the hard in San Carlos, waiting for its Captain to come back from Hawaii.  They will bring up the rear.

Muggs and Larry on Peregrine cleaned out their sail locker while they where in the yard getting bottom paint and discovered they were carting around two jib sails that did not fit their boat.  With space being at a premium they where chucked over the side.  Landing on the tar mack of the yard.  Splat!  We tried with no luck to find new homes for these brand new jibs and in the end decided they where actually just material for other useful items such as tote bags, bike covers, etc., so without too much heavy sighing Kathy from Blue Dolphin and I have started cutting up the jibs and making useful things out of them.  Michael, our power boat friend on MV FNFUN is looking forward to us making a cover for his FNMOTORCYCLE. 
We have pretty much finished all our projects that kept us at the dock so we are now anchored out in the bay with Peregrine.  Blue Dolphin is still in Marina Real.

Since we have spent a lot of time here in Guaymas we were able to get their $800 alternator repaired and picked up a spare one for $600 pesos.  We also found a seamstress who resewed Peregrines dodger with new thread for $500 pesos.  It was reinstalled this morning good as new!   It is nice having a car here, errands that would normally take all day are done in just under a few minutes allowing for lots of time to actually get the work done on the boat.  I know all the back streets now, I can even avoid a protest if I need to :)

For the last 3 nights there has been a big stage set up on the Malecon.  We are anchored pretty much in front row seats for the show.  The music has been wonderful.  When the show has intrigued us we have gone over to watch in the free seats provided.  It appears to be put on by the Sonoran Culture folks and I think it has something to do with the Holiday on Monday November 15th, another revolution.  I watched a show the other night that lasted at least 2 hours.  It was a walk through 200 years of history with a mix of modern music and modern dance.  It was really good even though I didn't understand much of what they were saying or singing.  There have also been many, many dancers in very elaborate costumes dancing in very traditional ways.  These shows are not in any way geared towards a tourist scene, there are only a handful of gingos in crowd.  And what would any production be without the strange, scary clown!  He was ranting on about something the other night with his little red nose, fake cactus made out of 7 up bottles and tattered Mexican flag.  Everyone in the crowd seem genuinely interested but after about 10 minutes I did the good old exit stage right and went back to the boat.  I could hear him from my bunk and he was still ranting at 11:15 pm!  The best show I saw by far was a Mexican version of a Chip and Dale dancer.  I was sitting in the cockpit with the binoculars hooting and hollering!  He was dancing around the stage with his boots, levi's, SIX PACK and a white cowboy hat.  Oh, he had a white shirt on but at some point it came off!  I couldn't believe what I was seeing, and wished I had been closer to the stage.  I tried to get Doug and Leo to come up and have a look, but they just said let them know when the girls started taking off their clothes. 

This afternoon we had a visitor, Rudolfo and his Papa who lives in Guaymas came down to the Marina to see if we were still here.  Rudolfo is an air-traffic controller from Hermosillo.  I took them out to our boat via dinghy along with 3 jugs of water, 1 jug of gas and a cooler full of beer!  I try to make every trip count.  They came out to ask us if we wanted to go out and eat oysters.  Heck yeah!  Two trips back to the dock, I really couldn't put 5 people, beer cooler and the dog in the dink.  We all piled into the Simmburban for a road trip.  We drove South on Mex 15D past Empalme and turned right at red and white antennae (no sign) onto a washboard sand road.  We went past cactus, broken fences, dried fords.  Still no signs, made a left turn through a gate, right at the fork in the road.  We drove past a shrimp farm in the desert out towards the Sea until we came to a little palaypa on the beach of an estuary.  The oysters are farmed just for this little restaurant and they were excellent.  I had 6 each and everyone else had a dozen.  We ordered a plate of fried shrimp and a plate of fried fish to share.  All where wonderful.  There was not another gringo in site and I'm pretty sure Leo was probably the first Frenchman to eat there.  The place was actually pretty busy, even though it is way, way off the beaten path.  You could not give someone directions to this place.

We are hoping to head South this next week.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Life in Guaymas

We have now been in and about the Guaymas area for 6 months!  I have gotten to know the streets and shops pretty well.  I really, really wish I spoke Spanish.  I think I'm missing a lot by having the language barrier.  Most of the time I get by but it is very frustrating.

Ernesto and Linda from Mazatlan visited us here in Guaymas a few days ago.  It was really great to see them.  They were on their way to visit friends in Phoenix.  They brought fresh shrimp from the Pacific Ocean.  Ernesto's father works on a shrimp boat.  There was enough shrimp to feed 7 of us!  We invited Muggs and Larry from SV Peregrine over for the shrimp feast.  Ernesto introduced us to a old friend of his from Mazatlan that now lives here in Guaymas, Moses.  Moses is a merchant marine and operates a Pemex oil tanker out of Guaymas.
Moses and Doug talked all about the coastline of Mexico for ages.  So we have the inside scoop, I think!

When Moses left he said something about the weekend and I said "Sure!", well Sunday morning at 10:00 am sharp Moses and his amiga, Aurora, were here at our boat saying "let's go!"  It's really hard to make firm plans when you have trouble communicating.  Moses' English is mucho better then my Spanish.  I pulled Doug out of bed, he had a cold, and said I think we are going some place.
We in fact had a wonderful day!  Our first stop was the fish vendor in a the small town of Empalme.

This is basically a couple of coolers along side the road.  We picked up 2 kilos of huge shrimp and 1 kilo of cleaned, cracked crab.  It is now just the beginning of the season.  Next stop was the street market in Empalme where they sell everything American second hand.  It was like a huge yard sale with food vendors either walking around or cooking over portable heat.  I saw one guy selling any portion of the pig you wanted.  All cooked in various ways.
Moses picked up a cup of coco's with hot-sauce.  This is hunks of coconut meat and is very popular here.  They offer all kinds of toppings on it.

We also saw honey vendors walking around with honeycombs in a wheelbarrow, complete with bees buzzing, selling honey and bee pollen.  Live bees are actually pretty common inside some of the downtown stores that sell sweats.  Ants are also very common and can be found on most pastries!
Our next stop was a small tienda to pick up some tomatoes, cilantro, onion, cucumber, jalapeño, mayonnaise and tostados.  I still wasn't sure where we were going, I was guessing back to the boat.
We ended up at the home of Moses' godparents, I think!  We all piled out of the car.  I'm pretty sure they were not expecting us as they had just finished breakfast.  The Mexican people we have met are so gracious and hospitable.  I always feel very welcome in their homes.  We were invited to have a seat at the table under a beautiful tree in their front yard.  Moses and Aurora took all the groceries into the house.  I eventually wondered into the kitchen to watch all the prep work for the upcoming feast.
Their home was a very typical Mexican style with the kitchen just inside the front door and a pot of beans on the stove.  At some point their son-in-law Oscar, a local chemistry teacher joined us for the feast.  We had a lovely meal of crab tostadas and boiled shrimp.  We also enjoyed homemade tequila and frozen guava juice.
The entire day was such a treat.  Oscar returned us to the boat where we looked around and couldn't really remember what we where suppose to do today so Doug just decided to take a nap!  That was good for his cold.