Saturday, March 25, 2017

Pacific Ocean Crossing Preparation

The Terrapin crew is less than `10 days away from setting sail across the Pacific towards French Polynesia. For the past two years we've extended our arms to give hugs to friends who've left us dockside as they've sailed west.  Finally, it's our turn. Just as important as it is to have your boat in what one conceives as "ready" condition for such as a passage, it is important that all crew is mentally ready.

For us getting ready meant spending more money on the boat in the past two months than the past two years; 500 watts of new solar, new  stainless steel davits and solar array, new handheld satellite tracking device, back up auto pilot, MPPT charge controller, back up chart plotters, international health insurance, bottom paint,  etc. etc. etc. 

We brought with us from the States most of what we needed in order to get Terrapin ocean ready. The tricky part was tracking down a welder who could actually deliver on what was being promised. After 4 weeks, several threats, demanding our money back and a different welder, we were able to get all of our welding accomplished. 

If you are considering crossing the Pacific Ocean towards French Polynesia here are some of our suggestions.

Join the Pacific Puddle Jump (a phrase coined by the editors of Latitude 38 magazine editors) sponsored by Latitude 38 magazine. Due to the presence of this magazine primarily on the west coast of the US, roughly only 30% of all boats making the passage are signed up to do the "Pacific Puddle Jump". Each year approximately 300+ boats leave from the west coast of the States, Mexico, Central America and Galapagos.  Signing up for this free event will provide a tremendous amount of information, support, resources and the ability to join others in receiving a bond exemption upon entering French Polynesia. 

Find a "Puddle Jump" friendly area to prepare. We chose Banderas Bay, Mexico as our stagging area to get ready and will have spent 7 weeks in La Cruz preparing. Other "Puddle Jump" friendly areas include the Panama City on the Pacific side of Panama as well as Shelter Bay Marina located at the Caribbean entrance to the Panama  Canal. 

Many of the boat anchored in La Cruz will be crossing the Pacific 

Banderas Bay offers a variety of ongoing seminars all designed for those who are planning to sail across the Pacific. We had started attending the seminars a year before our planned departure as a way to better prepare our boat and our minds. Some of the seminar topics (mostly held in La Cruz) include:
Weather and Navigation
Fiberglass Repair Workshop
When big things break
Losing a rudder

Fiberglass repair workshop

In addition to stocking up on food needed for the 3 week passage, load up on food you care not to spend an arm and a leg for once you've made landfall. Food in French Polynesia is expensive....especially after living in Mexico! Our loot includes 70+ cans of chicken, 50+ can of chili, 10+ pounds of masa to make tortillas,  more than 3000 liquid ounces of beer, 100+ packets of oatmeal and enough granola bars to orbit the Earth. $900 USD food + adult libations.

In La Cruz, charts are provided by Cruiser's Comfort (near the marina) to be borrowed and copied at Office Depot in Puerto Vallarta. $18 USD to make copies.

Solar panels in Bucerias were a score! Less than a $1 USD a watt. 
Pondering how to get the new solar on the new davits.

The most exciting part of preparing to cross and ocean besides watching your money evaporate is playing Tetris with all the food purchased. Thankfully the family before us complete refit the settee area to store enough food for approximately 4/5 months. When exactly is a good time to stop purchasing food? We figured when the girls started complaining they could no longer find their clothes through the bags of beans and canned food stored in their closets maybe we should pump the breaks. 

And the most important piece of preparation for us.....finding crew! Adding another adult into the mix was essential for our family. Allowing each adult a full 8 hours off in between manageable 4 hour shifts and an extra adult in the event something were to happen to either myself or the Captain was a non-negotiable.  The Terrapin tribe is looking at a April 1st or thereabouts as a set sail date.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Isla Isabel

We are arrived for the 3rd time at Isla Isabel under a partially full moon around midnight and dropped anchor. Only with trusted waypoints would we attempt dropping anchor in the middle of the night. If you plan to visit Isla Isabel we recommend the way points from Sean and Heather's guide near Las Monas. While the other anchorage near the fish camp may appear to provide more protection, we've only met one boat who was successful at anchoring in the other spot. 

As with our other visits to Isla Isabel, we were greeted with dozens of humback whales, schools of fish and an island full of boobies. Don't go to Isla Isabel and not hike the small'll be missing the whole point of anchoring in such a gorgeous place. 

We've all agreed that boobies remind of us golden retrievers, cute, docile and not much going on upstairs. 

We called this yoga bird, Namaste.

Boobie couple, Bob and Betsy

Baby frigate peeking out of the nest
Come for the boobies, stay for the iguanas

Each time we have visited Isla Isabel it's been during nesting season for boobies and just after when the baby (not so cute) frigates have been born. We stumbled across a baby frigate that had unfortunately fallen from his nest and was literally screaming (wretched sound) for his mother who was nowhere in sight. It was tough for our daughters to continue walking away from him knowing he wouldn't make it 24 hours.

We also came across an egg that had fallen from a nest and most likely provided a meal to a lizard. 

We love that blue footed boobies have different shades of blue. All so cute!

We are currently in La Cruz finishing up with large projects like installing 500 watts of new solar and creating a new solar array, amung various other projects.  We are eyeballing the last week in March to take off across the Pacific. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Living on the hard

A boatyard represents two things; a place where dreams come to die or a place that fosters promises and progress. Thankfully for us, being reunited with Terrapin after 7 long months meant it was time to get busy on progress with the promise of crossing the Pacific in a few weeks. This was our first time actually staying on the boat while it was on the hard, and every minute sucked just as we had anticipated. Marina Seca Guaymas is all dirt, actually it's more like grit, and with a steady cold wind of at least 20 MPH there was no escaping being covered in it. 

First item we worked on was the blister (read: crater) we discovered on the keel. With a little help from the dirt dwellers in the yard we were able to get our delamination issue resolved in a few days. We had brought from the States 5 gallons of bottom paint, all of which we applied ourselves. With a new bottom paint color applied, I couldn't help but think that Terrapin needed a new sassy color on the boot stripe and applied a little ray of what I like to call "sunshine" to her hull. 

Before and after bottom paint and boot stripe

In between paint and epoxy we put together our new 88 pound MANTUS anchor.

So happy about my new Mexican ceramic knobs.

Swabbies earning their keep

An inexpensive project that made a huge difference was applying faux tin backsplash from Lowes.
 20 minutes and less than $40 later.

Want to instantly feel 20 years older? Resurrect a boat that has been sitting on the dirt for 7 months with a self generating 'to-do list', while continuously climbing up and down the tallest ladder in the yard (13 feet). For 12 consecutive days we felt trapped in either an Aleve or arthritis commercial. Each day ended the same by literally crawling into bed by 8pm, laying there, grousing. 

"I haven't been able to feel my lower back since Monday."

"I'm going to have a limp tomorrow. That's if I can ever walk again"

"Not sure what you're bitching about. My left hand looks like a club. After two solid days of painting while clinging to a ladder, I can't open my hand."

"If  tomorrow I can't remember my name and I drool on myself, I'm blaming the fumes from the past few days."

"Jesus Christ I feel old."

We survived, we conquered, heck we even accomplished all of our "to-do" list and then some. We even survived the freakishly cold winds that blew morning, noon and night. I survived climbing up and down the ladder in the middle of the night to head to the ladies room while the howling wind attempted to blow me off the boat. We are back in the water and headed to La Cruz this Monday!