Saturday, May 28, 2016

Sailing the northern Sea of Cortez....what a change

We made it to the northern Sea of Cortez and wow what a difference 80 miles makes. Sailing north from Santa Rosalia things drastically  changed. We found ourselves in feast or fathom winds blowing in between 35 knots and nothing, water that turned emerald green, and surrounded by fin whales. By the time we had arrived in San Francisquito I felt sick.....sick from staring through binoculars for hours watching the enormous amount of whales! From the boat it looked like we were surrounded by smoke stacks from all the whale spouts. Completely amazing. The only vision that was less than amazing was the Sea water temperature gage.

Holy crap! Check this out..

What is it? More whales?

I wish! For every hour we've sailed the temp has dropped a degree. It's hardly 70 degrees 

Not sure why we were surprised the water temp had dropped so much, we've been sailing in fleece for the past week, a far cry from a year ago when we were sweating our butts off running from a hurricane. 

A common sight in the northern Sea is white objects, that appear to be rocks or old fenders and actually it's washed up whale bones....and they're everywhere .

Searching for the perfect momento in a pile of whale bones

Yes, we're sailing with whale bones.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Postcard perfect paradise....Isla Coronados

For one to truly enjoy the Sea of Cortez they would need to spend as much time off their boat as on it. 

I pity the fool who doesn't  get off their boat and hike the red rocks in Los Gatos. 

It's downright silly to not get off your boat in Agua Verde and hike up and over the small hill, down into an old cemetery and then through town. 

You'd be considered crazy to not get off your boat and do one of the two hikes offered by Isla Coronados...either straight to the top of a dormant volcano or hike flat along the waters edge till you hit soft white sand on the beach directly opposite the anchorage. We spent last week in Isla Coronados for Emma's birthday. Because is was her birthday, we didn't hike up to the top of the dormant volcano. We did that last year and she didn't speak to us for 4 hours. This year she chose the easier route...heck, it was her birthday. 

Don't like hiking? Fine, grab your snorkel. The snorkeling in the Sea of Cortez is awesome, some of the best on the Pacific coast of Mexico. We've seen 6 foot long moray eels, dozens of different starfish, huge spotted eagle rays and countless fish just yesterday. 

We're excited to be making our way up to the Midriff Islands as we end this year's cruising season. Judging by the guidebook we're in for a real treat....anchorages all to ourselves, pale pink mountains, white sand beaches and an abundance of sealife, all waiting for us. 

Friendly game of catch while sitting in floaties

Friday, May 13, 2016

Cost to Cruise --- April 2016

Here are the costs for a family of four to cruise Mexico. We're happy to be back into the Sea of Cortez as there's really no place to spend money the farther north you sail. Before heading off into the Sea of Cortez one needs to provision hefty, especially north of Loreto as the farther north you go the less "real" grocery stores you'll encounter. We just filled one of our gas tanks for the last time and did our last provisioning as we plan to haul out for hurricane season. Unfortunately, we have about one month left of sailing before we haul out...time to eat all the food, drink all the beer and enjoy our final weeks. Don't worry...there's another sailing season in our future. Heck, there's even talk of actually sailing away from Mexico.

Check out our Cost to Cruise tab for other months expenses

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The reality of cruising: When a $2 part prevents you from sailing.

When most people think of cruising their minds fill with white sand, gin colored water, cocktails and sunsets. Active cruisers know the ugly truth. Cruising is slightly more than fixing your boat in exotic locations. If you follow our blog (I'm talking to all 3 of you) you already know the boat troubles we've been experiencing.

So here we are only 3 weeks after having the transmission "fixed", the davits welded back on the boat, the mixing elbow repaired and the prop shaft issue fixed...broke down again.

Now what?

In short, we took the transmission out in Barra after it was stuck in forward and with the "help" of a local mechanic (at $80/hour), had the damaged foward clutch pack replaced. We put the thing back in and all seemed to be well for a while...

The scene from just last month
Fast forward three weeks: We miraculously made it up into the Sea of Cortez and had a friend visiting us. As we are pulling up anchor at Isla Carmen, we noticed that the transmission was, once again, stuck in forward. It seemed to even be worse this time as we could only get about 2 knots out of her at full cruise. At this point there are explatives flying everywhere and all of us wondering how the hell this could have happened again.

We limped into Puerto Escondido, picked up a mooring ball and within a couple of days, had the transmission out again. When Phil opened up the forward gear, the first thing he noticed was a snap ring falling out onto the floor. That's bad. Without getting too technical, the forward gear and clutch pack is held together by two rings that snap into place, hence the name. These rings are the same diameter, but different thickness. 

Apparently Mr. $80/hour didn't notice that part and put them in backwards. It is amazing that we got as far as we did.

So easy fix, right? Just put it all back together correctly, throw the damn thing back in the boat and be on our way, right? Nope. When the gear came loose, it smashed a two dollar piece of rubber on the piston and it would be leaky if we put it back together as is.

The preventer of cruising....a lousy $2 piece! 

After looking everywhere in Baja for the part with no avail, we found the part in the US as part of a whole gasket and seal kit for this tranny.  No one online had only the $2 part in stock and we were forced to buy the entire kit. Sweet...we're making progress till we found out that our online company could only FedEx. Unfortunately, FedEx in Mexico takes anywhere from 3 weeks to never to deliver a package.

We were desperate to get going again. Then came the idea to ask on the morning net if anyone had people coming in from the USA that would be willing to bring us our package. We FedEx'd our package to the wife of another cruiser, she packed it in her luggage, and we had it in a couple of days.

After we had the part in hand, it only took one day to put it all back together with the new gaskets and seals and reinstall with the help of our friends.

Phil in his Sundays best
Pro Tip: Use your halyard to haul the thing in and out. It will save your back and your sanity.

Who doesn't love a transmission swinging through the living area?

We left Puerto Escondido yesterday and sailed back out in the Sea of Cortez. Somedays I really wish cruising was like it appears in the fancy charter boat advertisements...nothing but playing 'Slap N Tickle' all day on powder white sand. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Steinbeck Canyon Hike near Puerto Escondido

As much as we love Puerto Escondido, after a few days we find ourselves looking for something fun to do. If you don't know, Puerto Escondido is gorgeous but anchoring here is the equivalent to stranding yourself in the middle of BFE. Other than the FONATUR marina with their less than marginal WiFi and empty pool there's a small restaurant up the street and that's it. A round trip taxi to Loretto will cost about $50. 

Steinbeck Canyon lies behind Puerto Escondido and is highly recommended for everyone looking to spend a few hours hiking in a gorgeous spot. To get to the trail, leave the marina and walk towards the mountain range, past HWY 1, past the electric station and keep walking till the road ends. Once the dirt road ends, head right and follow the "duckies" or  cairns. The hike is broken into two parts.. The lower part has "pools" although theres no water this time of year. The second part of the hike involves climbing ropes up to a "waterfall" thats also dry this time of year. The hike used to have ropes to help with the intense steep hike to the waterfalls but as of this season, someone has taken down the ropes and you now need to provide your own. 

The view of the anchorage from the hike

Follow the cairns to the top