Monday, December 19, 2011

Sea of Cortez - Part 2

Present time: In La Cruz, Mexico (20 miles north of Puerto Vallarta). Settling in and getting ready for Christmas in warm weather. My sister, Colleen will join us here to celebrate so we are all excited to have family here for the holidays, although we will miss the large family gathering at home. Now a flashback to last week…

Sail across Sea of Cortez – Part 2 (December 16 - 18)

I digress in mentioning that we were itching to get out of La Paz, although I really enjoyed it there. The weather had turned colder and I am happy to report that I was looking forward to getting out on the water again…..hmmmm I must be catching the sailing bug! The comfort of a marina is nice, but as a friend commented about her desire to get moving, “it’s kind of like living in an apartment”. In contrast, being out on the water is like living on a huge parcel of land, the amount of human interaction is decided by you and the vast, wide open space is refreshing and relaxing.

I also forgot to mention on the way out of La Paz, we stopped to search for the whale sharks that inhabit the bay there. They are docile, huge creatures and people swim with them with no incident. Their enormous mouths and imposing size are fascinating and intimidating at the same time. My pictures don’t do them justice and we were ecstatic as they bobbed in the water alongside our boat. Just another perk of having an RV on the sea and living on the ocean!

After anchoring in Los Muertos for a night, we set out across the Sea of Cortez for an overnight sail (36 hours). Captain Ben pulled out at 3:00 a.m. so we could reach Mazatlan during daylight hours. The remaining crew slept down below until about 8:00 a.m., when I relieved him of his duties so he could get some sleep. After doing several days/nights at sea, an overnight sail has become much easier for me and not such a big deal. There are times when I even enjoy it….like when there’s a full moon and spy a huge pod of dolphins headed my way!

The sail was uneventful barring a couple of technical difficulties. Our first few hours were calm with waters smooth enough to water ski on. Not the best conditions for a boat powered by wind, but we enjoyed a peaceful morning of motoring. Around this time, we caught our first fish of the trip using our new hand fishing line. Ben dragged in the Dorado carefully and called for me to grab some alcohol so he could subdue the fish before bringing him on board. I quickly offered up his bottle of Glenlivett which he declined and asked for something more along the lines of “rot-gut” booze. I hurriedly surveyed our liquor stash….Patron-no!....Port-no!....beloved and hard to find red wine in Mexico…no!

I’m proud to report I couldn’t find any rot-gut booze aboard (storage space is valuable…can’t waste it on that junk) so I handed him a bottle of Sky vodka (high end rot-gut?). The three foot tuna was subdued enough to pull him on board where Ben quickly went about gutting the fish. This was met with mixed reviews by the crew members. “Vegetarian”, J.P., went down below, proclaiming it “sad” that the fish died. “Scientist” Mickey observed with a curious eye as the Dorado’s bright green and blue hue started to turn black as he gasped his last breath. “Always Hungry” Molly just daydreamed about the sushi and barbecued Ahi as Captain Ben carved up tuna steaks for lunch. In the spirit of the Native American studies we are covering in home schooling, we also offered up thanks and respect for the fish for providing us with food (although I have to admit, I was a little sad for the guy).

We happened to be “buddy boating” with two other friends over to Mazatlan. This is not unlike caravanning on a road trip in cars. We all left the Los Muertos anchorage at the same time (3:00 a.m.), so we sailed across the Sea of Cortez together. As is the tradition, we radioed them on our VHF to inform them of our catch and promptly offered to share our bounty. About an hour later as the wind kicked up, we approached our single handing friend, Rob on ‘Wings of the Dawn’ and tossed over some fresh tuna. Swab Mickey was sent up to the bow of our boat to throw over the bag, and as we approached Rob put out his boat hook. With the increasing winds and building seas, Ben produced some quality maneuvering and we were able to poke the bag onto the hook. Rob later reported via radio, that the tuna was an excellent dinner and fueled him for the long sail ahead.

Soon the waters became choppy with the wind coming out of the east and we were beating into it. The swell patterns were coming from east, north and south (perhaps we angered the fish gods who are allies with the ocean gods). When swells are coming out of different directions like this, it makes for an uncomfortable and bouncy ride for our little boat. The boys are troopers during these long sails and have learned how to pass the time and entertain themselves quite well. One game that we play together while underway has been “how well do you know your family?” (We have modified it from a book I have onboard, ‘How Well Do You Know Your Husband?’).
Questions like:

*Has he ever shot a bow and arrow?
* If you gave him money to buy something at the store, would he give you the change?
* What would is his idea of a fun evening?

Much like the silly tradition of reading Chinese fortune cookies and finishing it with “between the sheets”, I’m concerned to report that our answers for Ben ended with…..”while drinking beer”. Not so bad when you consider the last two questions, but quite disconcerting while answering the “bow and arrow” inquiry.

As we passed the time with conversation, games, and Nintendo DS, a few hours later the wind died again. However, the swells continued, so we began to motor sail. Ben was feeling tired from getting up at 3:00 a.m., so I took the first watch around 8:00pm. As I puttered along checking our course and gauges, the engine suddenly revved down in RPMs (perhaps the fish gods also are friends with the diesel engine gods). It didn’t take long for Ben to quickly hop out of bed to inquire, “Did you do that?” Honestly, this guy never moved that fast when we had newborns screaming for a midnight feeding.

Unfortunately, the answer was “no” so Ben started checking the fuel filters and other engine functions for any sign of trouble. Everything seemed on the up and up so he returned to his bunk to get some shut eye, proclaiming it to be an anomaly. A half an hour later, the same problem occurred. So here we were, smack dab in the middle of the Sea of Cortez, a hundred miles offshore confronted with engine trouble.

During these stressful times, I often look for information as a coping mechanism, so Ben obliged me and sat in the cockpit giving me a quick rundown on what the problem could be. Air bubble in the fuel line, sediment in the diesel, filters clogged…they were all options and not good ones from my perspective. Ben’s philosophy was quite different. We have a sailboat and it’s meant to sail, not motor, so that’s what we would do. It may take us longer to get there, but we had a good weather window and all was well in his book. I have been with him many times as he sailed a boat into the slip “just for fun”, so I knew he was capable of maneuvering us anywhere without an engine.

Ben blew out the fuel line just in case there was gunk clogging it (this is the extent of my engine vocabulary), but he was disappointed when it didn’t produce a dislodged clog. I guess it was meant to be, because just then the wind picked up so we hoisted the sails and off we went. Going seven knots without the annoying thumping in the engine was wonderful. Ben went down below to catch up on sleep and I remained on deck for the next few hours, which were uneventful except for the beautiful moon and the neighborhood dolphins again stopping for a visit.

At 11:00 p.m., Ben took over and I went down below for a snooze. Being the gracious Captain he is, I was afforded a whole five hours of sleep while he stood watch. If you’ve ever had a newborn baby as a roommate and awoke every two to three hours to feed it, you know how much of a treat it is to sleep for an extended amount of time. Most of my life, I have been a restless sleeper, usually awakening every couple of hours, lying awake…worrying about something….and then after solving the world’s problems, falling back to sleep. I’m amazed at how living on a boat has changed and improved my sleep patterns. When my head hits the pillow, I am out. In addition I can sleep through a heeled over or rocking boat, and a diesel engine banging away in my ear.

As it is with sailing overnight distances, the memories of engine trouble dissipated as we neared our destination. An hour outside of Mazatlan, we spotted whales spouting off our starboard side and went to investigate. We were able to watch as a mama whale and her baby cruised through the waters, spouting and diving deep. As we turned back towards Mazatlan, we were treated with flying Manta Rays so far out of the water, I first mistook them for birds. Next up was a gi-normous sea turtle floating on the surface. I was amazed at how close he allowed us to get, when we noticed his was foot was caught and tangled on a plastic bag. Our attempts to free him were thwarted, when he dove deep and never resurfaced again (those hundred old beings can be so stubborn sometimes!).

After acknowledging our wildlife-sighting karma, we headed into Mazatlan (maybe the fish gods don’t communicate with the ray, whale and turtle gods!). Mickey was given the task of reviewing the charts and leading us past the breakwater to our destination. He did an outstanding job, using binoculars, charts and intuition to get us to our marina slip safely around 3:00 p.m. Crew and Captain were rewarded with a lovely resort with two pools, restaurants and Happy Hour!!! But more on that later…..

Cheers and Merry Christmas to all!!

P.S. If you would like an on-line Christmas card w/ photos from our trip, forward your e-mail and we’ll send you one!

1 comment:

  1. I want a card and Jack is on his way to get his passport