S/V Nereida sails around the world
Report from Mazatlan: 19 May 2015
La Cruz de Juanacaxtle was left behind early in the morning on 8th May, with the idea of stopping at anchor overnight close to the small island of Isla Isabela - a bird reserve where frigates and boobies nest and lizards abound. But my alarm failed and I left two hours later than intended - which meant that by the time I got close to Isabela it was too dark to anchor - it was just not a safe option with all the rocks around.
I had the engine running and although I'd raised the main hopefully before leaving, there had been almost no wind all the way so far. Speaking to the Pacific Seafarers' Net, I decided to cut the engine, hoping to reduce the noise on frequency - it made no difference! I debated going a good distance off and trying to heave to (but little wind for that to work) or maybe I could just drift around until first light, when I'd be able to anchor and spend the day snorkelling and relaxing.
But the engine refused to start from the cockpit and made very unhappy noises each time I tried... Eventually, I persuaded it to start but the incident made me feel it would be best to push on to Mazatlan overnight so problem could be looked at. Still very little wind so little chance to sail....
Fairway buoy, well off Mazatlan Harbour entrance channel, seen in the distance in second photo:
Distinctive hill at entrance to Mazatlan main harbour:
Plenty of small islands along the coast, with shallows inshore, heading north of the old town:
Small, but hard ....a !urking rock to be avoided! View looking back to Mazatlan harbour entrance and old town:
As I got within sight of the newer (small boat) harbour entrance mid-afternoon, having passed the old Mazatlan Harbour (used by larger vessels and the ferry over to the Baja peninsula) an hour or two earlier, the engine failed again, close to the rocky lee shore of Isla Pajaros with what was by now an onshore breeze blowing... My suspicion was lack of fuel, having heard the engine noise varying in pitch not long before - but, on checking, there was plenty in the tank, so I then suspected dirty fuel/clogged filter. No time to investigate ... The genoa was quickly unfurled (the mainsail had already been dropped ready for entering harbour under motor) and I was able to sail gently away from immediate danger. Nice to be a sailboat, not a motorboat, in such situations!
The anchor was dropped not too far from where I could see the breakwater marking the entrance channel. I changed the fuel filter (TG for an easy switch-over Racor system!) and tried the engine again, connecting the house batteries to the start battery for extra 'oomph'.... Initially, it still wouldn't start properly but eventually it started and kept going... (I'd begun to wonder if injectors were a problem) Friend Randy ('Spirit of Hanalei') had come out with two helpful Mexicans in a panga to give a tow but instead was able to escort me to a berth.
To San Sebastian (28th February - 2nd March)....
It was my first time inland in Mexico since a trip to the Mayan remains at Chichenitza from the east coast (the Yucatan) in 2004 and I was impressed by the mountainous terrain we passed over, with its impenetrable jungle in many places. San Sebastian is a small village high up in the mountains of the Mexican Sierra Madre.with his own band and a lively Latin group - Luna Rumba. We stopped off at a Tequileria and had a good time tasting a variety of tequilas, liqueurs and mezcal. Tequila is made from the roasted crowns of blue agave in the state of Jalisco and the mezcal is made from yellow agave - to my mind, even the best was not as good as the 'anejo' (aged) tequila.
San Sebastian has an amazing variety of fruit and vegetables with lots of citrus trees, many of which were used to give shade in an interesting coffee plantation. The low-tech coffee production was very interesting to see! In addition, there were the tropical fruits and vegetables one expects here, along with a colourful collection of flowers. Being so high up, it has no lack of water.
The pleasant church had a museum nearby with an organ from England among its few exhibits...
My friends, Stuart and Karen, and I were in an old house just outside the village which originally had a silver mine close by and we had a lovely walk into the village, which grew up here because of the silver mining around.
The evening was spent as a group in the courtyard of an old hotel off the town square.
We had a barbecue and enjoyed plenty of good music, some by the light of a camp-fire... It was good to get dancing - something I've been missing!
There was a working silversmith in the village with three men busily making silver jewellery, often using the many semi-precious stones found in the area. The workmanship was good and the prices low.
Mid-March ... to London for Hanson Lecture ....
- to give the annual Cruising Association's Hanson Lecture in Limehouse Basin, just off the Thames in East London's docklands area. That was a very enjoyable evening in company with a friendly group of fellow-sailors.
England was basking in warm air, with blue skies a lot of the time I was there, and spring flowers were out in force. It was a lovely time to be driving around the countryside and a trip down to Devon, with its steep-sided twisting country lanes with banks full of wild primroses and occasional cowslips and violets, was a real pleasure.
Mid-April - To Visalia, in California...
... for the annual International 'DX' (long-range radio) Convention, where I spoke about my circumnavigations and my use of radio to over 550 diners after the final Saturday evening Banquet. I had met up with several 'hams' at the Convention who had contacted me via HF radio on my way around - always a pleasure to meet up with the person behind the voice! It was also good to renew acquaintance with people I already knew and very interesting to look at the many exhibits and chat to the people making the equipment.
- Dramatic high peaks and waterfalls ...
I eventually went hiking high up in the Valley itself to well beyond Mirror Pool - a big loop trail. What an amazing area!
A well worthwhile visit, despite the resulting long next day's drive down to Phoenix to catch a flight early the following morning to Mexico. I came eye-to-eye with a coyote early in the morning and then with a small woodpecker I crept up on later that afternoon - it was making good use of one of the many dead but still standing trees in the forest above Mirror Pool.
24/25 April 2015 - To a Mariachi Festival...
No sooner had I landed in Mexico than I was leaving heavy luggage with friends and then taking the overnight bus to Queretaro where I was met by friend Kyle .... The annual Mariachi Festival in his lovely village of Mineral de Pozos had been (unfortunately for me!) moved from May to late April.... but it sounded too enjoyable to miss.
His village is surrounded by many, often dangerously-unfenced, mineshafts and related buildings, mostly dating from the 1800s, with some earlier.
A mine-owner's grand house close to the mine workings - reminded me of a Victorian 'folly'!
Mining was mainly for silver but several other metals were also brought up. We spent a fascinating few hours driving around and walking in the area - keeping an eye out for edges of open-cast mines and mineshafts hidden by undergrowth. (A 5-yr-old boy was killed recently falling down one - they are amazingly deep and a rescue team had trouble getting his body out)
On my first morning, I was delighted to come across a young Mariachi group practising in a beautiful old house for the evening Show.
It turned out they were all around 19-20 yrs old and had come in from Chula Vista. They played impressively well, and were coached by Mark, originally from a farming village near Seattle!! His father's work had taken him to Guadalajara (where Mariachi music was born) at 13 yrs old and he had fallen in love with Mariachi music and effectively dedicated his life to it.
The Mariachi groups all played extremely well and with typical lively enthusiasm but a cold wind, that we were certainly not dressed for, got up during the evening to test our stamina.... We were better prepared the following night! The parents of one of the young group, who were sitting in front of us, were bursting with pride at their son's performance... with good reason!
They were thrilled to hear I'd video-ed their son's group practising and I promised to let them have a copy of both that and the evening performance, although the evening recordings were nothing like as good as the daytime one. I was interested to see that all the groups generally comprised half violinists, with 2-3 guitar players (the bass guitar was always prominent, with a resonant beat), often a small harp, 2-3 trumpet players and at least 1-3 very good solo singers, with the whole group often joining in the singing.... with occasional group movements to the beat, of course - typically Mexican!
A two-hour drive was followed by a tour around the lovely old city of San Miguel de Allende (the birth-place of Mexican Independence from Spain!):
A tasty Mexican meal prepared especially by Kyle's friend, was followed by the overnight bus-ride back to the coast. The buses are so well used in Mexico that the long-distance ones are very comfortable with good facilities, so I had a reasonable sleep both ways, helped by an empty seat beside me each time. The route looked very convoluted on the map as a consequence of the rugged mountains of the Sierra Madre inland, nudging right up to the coast. The two-lane, often bumpy, road certainly had frequent steep drop-offs at its edge outside towns and villages - best not to look too often as we swung around the bends at speed!
Last week, I took a bus around Puerto Vallarta - I'd not explored that town since 2005! The main church, with its distinctive 'crown' atop it, was beautifully light and airy inside, with a quite different exterior to another older church on the edge of town:
Work goes on.....
As I write this on board 'Nereida', I can clearly hear the music from the town square of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle - in fiesta all week long with crackers going off every day at dawn and dusk to annouce the festivities and a man carying a bull's head on his shoulders adorned with fire crackers and Catherine wheels he let off at frequent intervals charging around the town square, making people scatter, during a pause in the events.
Yesterday, the 2015 Queen was crowned and the music and dancing afterwards lasted until around 4am... I joined in the dancing for a bit and got to bed rather late, well before they finished. A 'Mexicubana' band, it was very popular (half Cubans, half Mexicans) and it was amazing to see how some couples moved and turned energetically at speed together to what was basically a 'pasa doble' rythm.
The good news after today's work was getting my VHF working properly again (repaired unit was brought back from UK with me), after a slight problem with connecting it all up correctly. I think I've finished (for now!) with the instrumentation side of things - generator control panel has also been replaced, satphone GPS input located, after a search, and connected to system - which is now working (although not being made use of just now) - and plotter has been put back into position after being removed for access.
My windsteering system now has all new bushings and bearings - all the plastic parts had got very worn and there was a lot of play in the system. Many thanks to Robert of 'Tillicum' for a lot of help in dealing with that for me and also to Sarah Curry for prompt mailing of certain parts, with others being well fabricated locally.
Plan is to leave here late next week for Mazatlan before heading further north, so my next big job is to check over the sailing side of things - sheets, running rigging all need sorting out and deck gear (blocks, winches etc) need to be cleaned and lubricated before I sail away.
I'll post this text shortly but the many photos I'd have liked to post with it might take a time - Internet here is, to put it politely, very slow and unreliable! (Photos finally posted over a week later - a lot of effort with an equally unreliable Internet wifi connection in Isla Mazatlan marina)
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.