S/V Nereida sails around the world

9Feb2015 - La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit, Mexico

Monday 9 February 2015 - La Cruz de Huanacaxtle

A good visit to London for the January Boat Show where I gave two well-attended presentations on my sailing and saw several people about technical problems and replacement parts, with very helpful outcomes.  It was nice to meet up unexpectedly with good friends visiting the Show… and good fun ‘riding’ a Honda race bike on the new Show’s sponsors’ stand (CWMFX):


Before leaving for London, I had prepared 'Nereida' for my planned passage by tidying and stowing things away, as well as checking the engine and generator ….neither of which wanted to start!  Alejandro had come by that weekend to remove old impellor bits from the entry to the heat exchanger - even more bits were there than I'd expected, so that was a good job done.

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While I was in London, Jesus and Salvador saw to the two engines - and reported the start problem in both cases was due to corrosion which they were able to deal with fairly easily - but corrosion in several other areas on wiring and connectors was something I would need to check over on my return.

Back to Phoenix from LHR and then a drive on to Ajo with friends Ed and Charlene to get some sleep before crossing border into Mexico...  Up with the sun, hoping to arrive San Carlos mid-afternoon, but Mexican Customs wanted to charge an inflated amount of tax for their replacement ship's motor so we returned to Ajo to leave the motor behind and retraced our route through Arizona's fascinating 'Organ Pipe Cactus' National Park to the border and beyond, with some dramatic mountains just south of the border:

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We arrived well after dark, just in time to get fresh provisions at Santa Rosa's and then a meal at "L'Esquina" before making for the marina to get ready for leaving at High Water, soon after midnight.  It was essential to leave by 2 a.m., to be sure of getting out safely with Nereida's nearly 7ft draft, but there was a distinct lack of lit channel markers out from the marina entrance through Bahia San Carlos and the night was pitch dark with overcast skies, so it was nice to have Charlene's extra pair of eyes to keep a look out ...  Even so, we only just missed some new, unlit pilings where an extension to the present docks is being built out into the Bahia.

It was a relief finally to make clear water, having avoided both the shallows to starboard and some dark islands and rocks to port on our way out...   There was no wind so we were motoring and once further out into the Sea of Cortez (a.k.a. Gulf of California) there was a distinctly uncomfortable short swell which frequently made us roll about over the next two windless days.

Charlene was keeping me company for the 4-5 day nonstop sail south which meant we could keep a good watch overnight for the expected fishing boats and ferries en route.   In the event, almost none were seen but it was a nice trip down, with lovely clear starry skies at night and the seas slowly lessening. We got very excited on seeing a pair of whales close by and lots of dolphins and seabirds another time.  This area is well-known for its marine life.

The tides had quite an effect on our speed which ranged from 4.7kt to 6.3kt.  Up in the far N of the Sea of Cortez, the tidal range is 20ft or so, with currents of up to 11 kt in some inter-island passages, but as we headed further S the tidal effect lessened.  On the last day, some wind arrived as we approached the islands of 'Las Marias'. so we finally had a nice peaceful sail into the night, with a beautiful sunrise over Banderas Bay as we got close to the small rocky Marietta islands in the entrance.

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We made La Cruz de Juanacaxtle early on 28th January and soon met up with Canadian friends Maggie and Tom, who had flown in to Puerto Vallarta the day before to cruise with me on 'Nereida' for a time.   It's been a very nice change to have company on board!  Being boat-owners themselves, Tom and Maggie have helped me with several boat jobs, one being replacement of the corroded antenna lead to my backstay in an effort to resolve an urgent on-going problem:  the HF/SSB radio has totally lost transmission power.

 A ham friend, Don N7BD, has kindly sent me a Watt meter to instal in the system and Dan of 'Dazzler' came over with a long coax lead to test the connection directly between my radio and the tuner - the radio transmission was booming out...!  Conclusion?  ...Corrosion in one or more of my coax connector(s)?

(Today I had a lot more help from Eric, from s/v 'Scoots', using my new SWR/Watt meter with a dummy load and checking all connections.  There seems to be a ground problem to the tuner – sometimes it tunes, sometimes not - and I spent all afternoon removing cables, a shelf and lots of other items around the radio, to gain access to what seems to be the possible faulty connection.  "Work in progress...!"  Postscript on Friday 13th Feb: All now working fine, with more much-appreciated help from Eric.  Turned into a bad ground connection in two places, a cable and the tuner connection, both now dealt with - so I can now make good radio contact, although the Marina causes a lot of noise.  Winlink is now also working fine, using the new Pactor 4 'Dragon' modem and a bluetooth connection - so we're back in action...Making use of the new SWR meter - Many thanks to Don, N7BD.  If I hadn't gone down with a bad cold, with loss of voice and a sore throat over the last few days, all would be good - but recovery must take place soon and I've been getting lots of sleep to help things along)

With Maggie and Tom, we sailed over to Yelapa last Wednesday, on the opposite side of Banderas Bay from La Cruz...  What a delightful village!  It has only had electricity for two years now and its steep, cobbled, narrow, winding streets cannot take any cars. Not surprisingly, there's a lot of building work going on by N. Americans, renovating dilapidated old village houses to use over the winter period when it's cold and icy back north where they live!   We walked up to where a high waterfall tumbles over a steep cliff into a pool, surrounded by high trees on the edge of the village - a beautiful green spot.   The busy coast road passes quite a distance away, at the end of a steep path, so the main approach is by sea.

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Lots of tourist 'pangas' bring people for the day from elsewhere in Banderas Bay to enjoy a long sandy beach opposite the village at the river entrance in the bay.  We picked up a mooring buoy in 50m/160ft depth of water close inshore - anchoring here is difficult with the sea-bed dropping away so steeply and small fishing boats moored in the small area of shallower water close to the main village.  The weather was fairly calm but the small bay in which the village lies is open to big swells when the wind gets up.   We had an enjoyable two nights there and I vowed I'd return soon.  On the way back to La Cruz, we had good sightings of several pairs of whales (a couple breached) as well as dolphins and a turtle, in addition to the usual frigate birds, boobies, gulls and pelicans.

Now I'm alone again, it's back to boatwork in the daytime - but there's plenty of excellent live music of an evening here in La Cruz.  Sunday evening was spent with friends Robert and Rose of 'Tillicum' at the 'Black Forest' restaurant - with fabulous classical guitar-playing by 'Lobo' during the entire evening.  There are several good places to eat here and I keep meeting up with cruiser friends last seen in San Carlos.  The weather is mostly dry and sunny, with just the occasional heavy rainstorm - as we had early last week....   So I'm looking forward to a nice mix of productive daytime work and plenty of evening music over the next few weeks here.

Hot work on the hard...

24th June 2014 - from Marina Seca, San Carlos, Mexico

I've been busy since my return but it's baking hot here (35C/95F in shade) from 8 a.m. onward - I've been getting up early, to start work while it's cooler - often around 5:30 am!! By midday, it's difficult to do anything much - above or below deck... (and painting, epoxy work & varnishing is impossible!). It gets very tiring trying to get work done in the heat of day and I'm drinking loads of water and fruit juices. Some people have installed air-conditioning - lucky! There's a good fan above my main bunk which makes for a reasonable sleep overnight and I eventually managed to rig some sunshade, making a big difference on deck. Work is going very slowly, with collar bone problem not having helped (even now, it often still aches) and even the Mexicans slow down in the heat, not surprisingly. It's so hot that the laptop starts overheating & misbehaving during daytime. We're in a desert here!

A couple of weeks ago, the steering wheel was removed to expose the totally rusted/useless/ 'exploded' bearings - had three very knowledgeable and experienced guys helping, with great difficulty, to remove the steering components and take everything apart - bad corrosion helped by mix of aluminium and steel in a poorly-designed system with little or no anti-seizing grease used originally - no wonder steering had been difficult - amazing that I was able to steer at all! A local good metal worker in the town of Guaymas nearby had to deal with some damage unavoidably caused to some items during removal of the steering system shaft and bearings and I also had to find the local bearng specialist to replace one bearing I didn't have a spare for...

The keel is looking good after a lot of effort by yard workers Sergio and Edgar who have stripped off all the old anti-fouling, faired the lead keel and its join to the GRP stub and then coated everywhere with epoxy. I sanded some parts myself - including the propellor and shaft, ready for Propspeed to be applied later. The plan was immediately to apply the Coppercoat in the early morning, around sunrise.... but the heat, even so early, has put that plan on hold until October. In the meantime, the epoxy is reacting to the intense sunlight, so I'll have to cover it up during the 3-4 months in dry storage.

I managed to sunburn my back while dealing with the starboard forward lower shroud that had broken loose on my way down the South Pacific towards Cape Horn in December 2012. All I had to do was undo a connector, loosen the rigging , replace the shroud protector, tension the shroud correctly and secure a few split pins - but I managed to replace the protector upside down - so had to undo and re-do a lot of work - all took a time in the burning midday sun with no shade over me - not good!

The yard workers are presently making a hard top in place of my canvas sprayhood... Glass fibre is about to be applied, after a long time preparing the 'mould' - mostly in wood, with Formica covering, resulting in my having to perform a 'limbo dance' in order to access the companionway steps to get down below...

The good news is several cruiser friends here being helpful and the Mexicans generally being cheerful and friendly - although timing is not their forte!  There are many other jobs still waiting...   many as a result of my recent ocean voyaging...  Rough seas are tough on a boat!

I gave a well-attended Presentation on my solo sailing recently in 'Tequilas' with a rigged-upcloth for screen and Pitt and Ron supplying essential equipment and generally being very helpful - it was good to enjoy the air conditioning!

Later last week, I decided to take a break from being constantly in the dusty, hot workyard and went over to walk around the marina area after my shower - and enjoyed some live music... 'Los Tres Amigos' grew to 'Los Seis Amigos' when two more guitarists and a harmonica-player joined the group! I later had a lovely walk back in the light of the full moon.... San Carlos feels very safe. The evenings after sunset are definitely the best time - a lovely cold shower and a walk in the night air are very welcome.

While waiting for a ride down from Phoenix/Tucson area back to San Carlos, I heard that old boat-friends Karen and Bryan were not far away - so had an unexpected, very enjoyable trip to Clarkdale, with visits to the fabulous red rocky outcrops of Sedona, old Cottonwood, the old Native settlements of the (mis-named) Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot and a fascinating high lake (equally mis-named Montezuma's Well!) caused by upwelling of underground water - a resource for locals from time immemorial...

Santa Cruz

Monday 11th November 2013

Up to have breakfast in the open air in company at Aldo's (with Suzy, John, Brian), before heading over to the fuel dock with Brian for some circling around, while waiting to tie up and top up with diesel - lots more motoring is likely in the light winds expected during the 2-day passage to Marina del Rey - in between Santa Monica and Los Angeles.

It's been a busy 3-day stay in Santa Cruz with at least one good job done - I finally fixed the rod-kicker/vang firmly in place onto the boom with three machine-screws on Saturday - two were completely missing and the third had come completely loose, so the mainsheet was just holding down the boom, whose end was rather high. A nearby boater kindly helped pull out the split pin and knock out the clevis pin holding the kicker connection onto the boom and the rest was straightforward.

That was done in between lots of visitors - it's been delightful to have had so many people coming by when they realized I was tied up in the harbour - some had read of my travels in 'Latitude 38', others via my website logs, but all were friendly and it was lovely of them to take the time to stop by to welcome me to Santa Cruz. Brian Beers and his wife Louisa have been great - as well as dining together, laundry was dealt with and wholesome soups and snacks, as well as a big bag of 'long-term goodies', were left with me - I'm going to have to ration my intake if my waist is to remain intact!

It was great to watch some of the local Junior sailors rig up their Lasers before going out on Sunday in light airs.... to be among pelicans, gulls and sealions in a feeding frenzy inside and outside the harbour entance, where a large shoal of anchovies have been present for quite some time - and are being fed on by whales as well. (I kept hearing that two whales, at least, were just off the breakwater nearby, but missed seeing them.) Big 'aerators' have been installed in the river to try to prevent a recurrence of the recent mass 'die-off' of the anchovies - there were so many of them in the water, they were starved of oxygen.

Ham friends came by both to chat and to help ... We all had lunch and Jim, K9YC, came back two days later and spent quite a time with a view to reducing RF noise on the radio using big ferrites - I'd had to empty out the aft cabin (again ..... no mean feat!) to access wiring and was able to add a 'noise silencer' to the coax lead at the tuner. I later had help from Ray Millard, with his sailing grand-daughter Lilly and family, who'd driven over to visit from Monterey, with putting the cabin back together so I could sleep there Sunday night....

Suzy C. came by and took me out to the 'surfing hotspot' (calm sea, NO surf ...!) close to the green O'Neill house overlooking the sea, after we'd first walked out to the light-house to watch the dive-bombing pelicans, excited terns and gulls and the well-organized sealions working the anchovies in groups - a good photo-opportunity! I chatted to cruisers on two visiting boats - sturdy aluminium 'Perpetua' from Bellingham is headed S (I tried to help them with their radio/emailing set-up) and wooden 'Morning Star' was headed N, back home to Alameda - they were lucky to have light S winds to help that passage yesterday.

Very many thanks to everyone (including Greg at SCYC), especially Brian & Jim. I enjoyed my stay and would have liked to have stayed a bit longer.

As I've been writing this, darkness has been falling and we've just rounded Point Sur,with its light-house flashing a bright white light every 1 in 15 seconds on a coast otherwise almost devoid of lights. I had a short sleep earlier and have set the radar on alarm, as well as the usual AIS. But I'll still have to grab just very short naps overnight- we're not offshore enough to do anything else. The wind is light northerly, our course is SSE and we're having to motor to maintain 5kt with mainsail set, but doing very little.