Due to some technical difficulties, this blog posting has been delayed a bit. Fortunately, Dan was able to resolve them today, so here it is a little late but no worse for the wear. 🙂
My, how time flies! It seems like only yesterday we were in the middle of the holidays, and now somehow January is almost over! I guess it’s time to catch you up on where we’ve been and what we’ve been doing.
We stayed in La Cruz an extra week or so, partly because it was so hard to say goodbye to the dear friends we made there who weren’t going south. Whenever you say goodbye to a friend there is a chance that it is forever, but in this case it’s much more likely. We ended up hosting a “big” Christmas dinner with our friends Bo & Anna (on Aquarelle), Conor (on Moondance, but without Lanea), Wes (on Tumbleweed) and Rob, Kai & Etolin (on Vellela Vellela). Our galley was filled to capacity, and everyone except the turkey was in high spirits. We just managed to squeeze the 23lb bird into our small oven – and Dan’s apple pie a la mode was a hit! A week later Rob on Vellela Vellela organized a bonfire to celebrate the New Year. He circulated the news among many of his closest friends, but then later learned that the news was going “viral”, so he said he was going to boycott the event! 🙂 It actually turned out to be a wonderful evening for all. The local “Kid’s Club” gathered nearby a bit earlier and that party sort of morphed into the bonfire gathering. About 40 people turned out, though most of them were there for only part of the evening. There were dozens, or perhaps even hundreds, of other parties around the bay, and many of them were setting off fireworks and airborne candle lanterns throughout the evening. At midnight there were probably a dozen displays of fireworks, some of them quite spectacular. As you may recall, we had heard of an international fireworks competition and were excited to see some of the participants. We never really understood what went wrong, but the event fizzled. There was a nice show on the opening date, but none after that. Perhaps some of the teams shot off their arsenal after all, on New Year’s Eve. Whatever the story, we enjoyed the show!
On January 2nd, with the new year still in its infancy, we motored out of La Cruz and dropped the anchor 10 miles away in Punta de Mita for a couple days. We wanted to take advantage of the cleaner water near the mouth of the bay to run the watermaker and clean the bottom of the hull. While there, we picked up a couch-surfer, who stayed with us while we traveled south to Tenacatita Bay. Joey is a 20-something engineer from Alberta, Canada who is taking a year or so off from his regular life to travel around Mexico, Central America and perhaps further south. He is a bright, friendly guy and we enjoyed his company as we sailed across the bay and down the coast. While we were underway Kathy worked on making chaps for our “new” dinghy. Unfortunately, at one point we hit a largish wave (or, perhaps more accurately, it hit us) which knocked the sewing machine off of the table it was sitting on. We replaced a few bent parts with spares, but it still doesn’t sew consistently. We will need a repair shop to figure out whether it is salvageable, much to Kathy’s dismay. She’s had this machine since high school, and it’s been a real champ! That put a crimp in many of Kathy’s sewing plans for the foreseeable future, although she was able to finish this project using our sail-repair machine. The dinghy is now sporting our new signature color, burgundy, which will eventually be featured on all of our sail-covers. In order to match the big boat during its transition phase from navy blue to burgundy, and also to use up some of the old Sunbrella fabric that we stil have lying around, the chaps are trimmed in navy, “last year’s color”, with cooler white patches in the area where one might sit. Dan made some wooden benches for us, and Kathy has made some cushions for those as well. We now have the snazziest dinghy in the fleet… as long as the chaps stay on! (The first day we took the chaps out, an egret stood on them, using the dinghy as a vantage point while fishing. His feet were all muddy, and the prints looked a little like Chinese characters.)
Once we arrived in Tenacatita, we took Joey on a dinghy tour of the estuary and walked through a crocodile preserve in the town of La Manzanilla before sending him off on a bus to continue his travels. Here are some photos from those outings:
We briefly met a couple at the New Year’s Eve bonfire that we later connected with 150 miles south in the Tenacatita anchorage. Anna and Andrew on Jumble are taking 9 months to zip around from San Diego to New York via the Panama Canal. They are both in their late 20’s, living a thoughtful and adventurous life. Their boom had broken as they rounded Cabo Corrientes just south of Banderas Bay and they were stalled in Tenacatita for a few days while they repaired it. We had them over to dinner one night and enjoyed their company so much that we invited them again the next day (and the next and the next and the next). The conversation was vibrant and wide-ranging. We discussed dreams and boats and books and family. We convinced them to move to Barra de Navidad for a couple of days along with us for provisioning rather than leave immediately and we spent every available evening with them until we were forced to part ways. I don’t think that we will ever get used to the constant parting from every close friend we make – and I don’t think I want to.
While in Barra, we found some fraudulent charges on our credit card, so we contacted our bank and had the account closed and a new card sent. We are now without a credit card for a couple of weeks until we can arrange to get the new card brought down to us by someone traveling this way. At first we thought that this would mean waiting until March, when Kathy’s mom is coming for a visit, but then a friend on another boat told us that she was going to be popping up to Los Angeles for a few days, so she will be able to bring some mail down for us sooner. Coincidentally, we had just applied for a second credit card from a different bank, “just in case”. There are so many stories of identity fraud circulating these days (and it is so difficult for us to get a new card from the bank), that we had concluded that, much like heads, having two cards is better than one. The new card hasn’t yet arrived, so it didn’t actually make the situation seamless – but it did prove the concept! Oddly, another boater had had his debit card information stolen at roughly the same time and the thief was draining his checking account and the linked savings account. It sure can be frustrating to find that the services that are supposed to make our lives more convenient can dramatically complicate our lives when things go wrong!
We came to Barra in order to pick up some more couch-surfing guests, a couple from Massachusetts in their 50’s who are seriously considering buying a sailboat and cruising when they retire. Wayne and Keith are thinking about spending a year as crew on a sailboat that is circumnavigating the globe in 2016, and the week with us was a bit of a preview. We sailed with them from Barra back to Tenacatita and had an enjoyable, relaxed week, achieving a comfortable balance between recreation, socializing, and boat-work. I have to admit, though, that I’m a little concerned that a week on Lungta may have spoiled them for the reality of life on most other boats. 🙂 We took a dinghy tour in the mangroves, went snorkeling, and visited the crocodile reserve in La Manzanilla. We trounced them at a new card game they taught us; we probably have a huge store of beginner’s luck since we rarely play cards. They helped us clean the hull and repair a water pump, they participated in the daily kitchen work, and they even washed windows and swabbed the decks! It was a new experience for us as well because the people we’ve had join us previously have been guests, and these guys really wanted to participate as crew.
One morning, Keith noticed that there was “a bit of water” in the bottom of the generator hold, which turned out to be almost two feet deep! Our bowthruster motor was once again flooded. We spent the better part of a day pumping out the hold, diagnosing the failure and putting a temporary fix in place. (The problem turned out to be a previous temporary fix that didn’t hold up well. 🙁 We’re still waiting for parts to arrive to get the job done “right”.) The last day they were with us, though, Dan found that the generator had a lot of diesel fuel in the oil and we worried about an even more serious problem with this equipment that we so depend on, such as a leaky head gasket or damaged injectors. As soon as we dropped our friends at the taxi to head off to the airport we sailed back to Barra, where we thought it would be easier to get parts and to do the work in the calmer conditions of the lagoon. We spent another day sorting through the symptoms and history, and realized that the problem was probably self-induced. A few days before Keith and Wayne joined us we had swapped the supply and return fuel lines to the generator because it was choking and stalling, as if it couldn’t get enough fuel. We thought there was a partial blockage in the supply line, that would be less of a problem in the return line. We planned to run a larger hose when we could find some hose. However, our assumption about the return line being less critical to the generator was wrong; it turned out that fuel was getting forced into the oil, probably around the rings, since it couldn’t get through the return line. We also remembered that we had shifted some items around in the storage areas that the fuel lines pass through and may have introduced a kink or pinch in the line. We opened up 8 of the floorboards in the forward half of the boat and emptied 4 holds looking for a smoking gun – which we indeed found! A few heavy items had piled up on one small section of the hose leaving a visible crimp. We re-routed the hose and secured it to joists along the way to try to keep it from getting pinched again in the future. We also changed the generator’s oil and filter so that it would be properly lubricated again. Now our generator is running merrily, though we are carefully monitoring it to make sure that it didn’t suffer any long-term damage. While this sort of story isn’t the most picturesque part of cruising, it is a “real” part of living life on the water, and can be rewarding if one maintains a healthy attitude.
Tomorrow we plan to do another major repair while we’re still in the quiet waters of the lagoon. As you may recall, a few months ago we made a repair to the cuffs that hold the shrouds (cables that support the masts from side-to-side). We noticed that these cuffs were sliding down the masts as the masts shrank in the hot climate and dry Baja desert air, and we hoisted them back into place and tightened them up. It turns out that one has continued to slip so we’re going to attach some wooden blocks underneath the cuff to support it. That will require a little woodworking to fabricate the blocks, a little aerial work to install them, and a little paint to make them blend in. Sounds like another full day! Thank goodness for the French baker, delivering breakfast each morning! 🙂