Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Monday, January 29, 13 – underway south - Mazatlan to San Blas

We had a wonderful northern holiday.  It was beautiful and snowy and Christmasy and perfect   We saw all the family and had Christmas afternoon and dinner with our three Alaskan sons and families.  Steve’s kids were not there and we missed them but we were eleven for dinner, if the one in the high chair merits a full number!

We had less than a week in La Conner, but it was enough to fill our bags with stuff that we had to take to Mexico.  As usual the list was something that we could have used for the game “ I packed my grandmother’s trunk”:  The major items were food, dvds, a large number of (probably expensive) stainless  steel fittings for a project of Earl’s and a 30 inch LED light to mount ooutside for running at night.  Earl said my bag was too heavy, so at the last minute I moved some things to his bag, which was a good move. Our three bags were all between 46 and 50 pounds. 

Earl spends a lot of time doing internet research and inevitably finds things that we need for the boat.  The new LED light is an example.  It uses only 9 amps and puts out something like 10 millions candle light equivalents.  Obviously we needed it.  He had made preliminary arrangements with a man who does stainless work for a bracket for said light before we left La Paz in December and the work and installation were completed within days of arriving in La Paz on the 14th.    So far, although we made a night crossing to Mazatlan and to San Blas, I cannot report on its usefulness.  It is dazzling!  In fact it was so bright that when we turned it on, the reflection off the railing around our bow was blinding. We partially wrapped the railing with black and tried it again last night, but with the full moon and a lot of moisture in the air it seemed underwhelming.  No matter, with the moon we had plenty of light, but it will be interesting to try it again when it is really dark outside.

The rest of Earl’s week was consumed by his ‘project’.  He had installed a bimini before we left Washington in 2009.  It had been wonderful and heavily used, but Earl had spent much time thinking of alternatives.  Minor alteration made to the design a couple of years ago had worked, but the canvas needed replacing and the stainless bows kept coming apart.  We now have what we are calling “The Pavilion”. This is a square piece of canvas, held up by 4 magnificent stainless posts and an impressive amount of hardware.  It needs a little tweaking, but it does provide a much better view and more coverage than the old bimini. 

The Scarboro’s arrived on Friday, just 4 days after us, and work was still underway, so we could not leave immediately.  Joan arrived with a nasty cough which has taken more than a week and some drugs to get rid off.  Earl and Clark both had a touch as well, but I think we are finally on the road to recovery.

We could not have left right away anyway, because the weather had been violent.  The first day we were in La Pas, it blew 35 in the boat basin and outside there were twelve foot sees.  The port was closed most of the week.  Finally on Sunday we had everything finished and reasonable weather and we took off for Mazatlan on the western mainland of Mexico. 

We got about 3 miles before the electrical system stopped working.  We obviously were not going anywhere that way. Earl swung the boat around to head back into the marina, just in time for a Mexican navy dingy to stop and board us to check our papers, then back into the marina we limped.  Earl and Clark spent the day looking for solutions, and Earl called his favorite electrician, Jim Rovang, in Washington.  We went to bed, hoping things would look better the next morning.  And they did!  Laying in bed, Earl came up with the possible problem – and he was right.  In putting in the wiring for the new light, he had knocked a connection loose.  When he called Jim to tell him, we found out there was a technical name for this –owner sabotage. 

So Monday morning we started off again and had a reasonable run down to Los Muertos.  It was lumpy and neither Joan nor I felt well, but Earl and Clark were in their element.  It is some 190 miles to Mazatlan from Muertos, a little more than 30 hours for us.  That means a 5 am departure will get us in by early afternoon.  For once, we did not leave earlier than advertised.  The further we got from shore, the nicer the seas, and we had a pleasant ride.  As an added bonus, there was an almost full moon.  There is something quite lovely about running at night when the seas are good.  A special quiet time!  Well, almost quiet.  Our auto pilot which is working well on the auto function (taking us on the course we set) is not working on the ‘nav’ function which corrects the course for drift.  As a result, every minute, an alarm starts ringing.  A push on the button to reset the pilot turns off the alarm until it comes on again.  Thus, there was no chance of anyone sleeping on watch.

To add to the excitement, at around 11 Earl noticed the electrical system acting up. The alternator was not doing what it should.  He turned on the generator and it kept all the systems running, but things were clearly not as they should be.  Early Wednesday afternoon we pulled into a slip at the Mazatlan marina and started looking for a repairman.

Thursday afternoon, Rick who lives on a sail boat in the marina came, puzzled over the autopilot, examined the alternator and announced it dead as a door nail, drank two beers and said his alternator man would be by at 8 am to get the alternator.  This being Mexico there is an alternator man who showed up at 11.  He did a great job of repairing it for a modest price, but it was not ready till Monday, so we spent longer in Mazatlan than we intended.  The diodes were burned out and there was a problem with the stator.  Apparently the type of alternator that we have is not very expensive, so I think we will be adding one to our spare parts.  

The Marina Mazatlan where we stayed is a 20 minute bus ride from El Centro.  The old city is quite charming.  It has a spectacular old Mercado, although the meat section can put one off beef.  The fruits and vegetable are gorgeous.  Each vendor seems to have a more beautiful display than his neighbor.  Joan, Clark and I toured the town on Saturday and had a lovely lunch on a little square called Plazuela Machado at the Beach Burger.  The food was yummy!  We spent a few hours wandering around and checking out the little archeological museum and a couple of shops selling the work of local artisans.  Lovely for us, but sadly for the town, the streets were almost deserted.  We took an open air taxi back.  Delightful – but best remember to hold on to one’s hat!
The area around the Marina is not very appealing. It is a development that ran out of capital and buyers before it was finished and it looks rather sad.  The Marina itself is very nice, although the water is not potable and the pump out facilities consist of a couple of men with a very large plastic tank on a wheeled cart who don’t work on weekends.  By the time we left on Monday, our holding tank was full and –due to a leaking hose outlet- our fresh water tank was virtually empty.  Definitely time to head off.

We are having a pleasant run to San Blas.  The weather report was iffy for Monday afternoon, but we found it fine.  We are back in the land of whales!  We have seen a number of them, several repeatedly slapping their tails.  One put on quite a show, repeatedly slapping its tail twenty or so times before stopping to breathe. The porpoises came for Daisy, and they too put on a show.  Two of them jumped as high as our rail right in front of our bow.  The night was peaceful.  We were going through a large number of shrimp boats but we never really got close to them.

We will be in San Blas sometime this morning and are all looking forward to a repeat visit in this little town that we have loved in the past