Friday, March 31, 2017

San Diego, Sirocco Back in the US of A

After quite the exciting trip up from Los Cabos, Sirocco arrived with all of her crew in Southwestern Yacht Club in San Diego. Despite having pretty strong northwesterly winds from Turtle Bay all the way to Ensenada, there really wasn't any serious damage to the boat, which is good because it looks like another weather window is forming later next week to make it to the Bay Area.

As a result, I'm making a quick turnaround and heading out this afternoon with a friend from college, Mike. Our destination is Morro Bay, 250 miles away up the coast. The winds look good to get around Point Conception, which is probably the most dangerous part of this next trip.

I will drop Mike off in Morro Bay so he can return to San Diego and get ready for his backpacking trip this summer where he will hike the entirety of the Continental Divide Trail, a combination of a few trails and roads that allow hikers to go from Mexico to Canada through the Rocky Mountains.

I haven't had a chance to upload photos from my phone to the Google drive so no photos for now. But hopefully by next Thursday I'm in San Francisco and I'll upload a lot of photos from the last few weeks and even from Panama as well.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Baja Bash

My dad is in the air on his flight from LAX into Los Cabos airport, scheduled to arrive at 6:50 pm. Once I pick him up, we'll get some dinner and take a quick nap before waking up at 3 am to head out for San Diego.

The trip from Cabo to San Diego is known as the "Baja Bash" because most of the time you are smashing into waves from the dominant north westerly winds. The forecast right now looks ok with winds less than 15 knots and Friday and Saturday around 5 knots from the northwest. However, later next week the low pressure system coming into California may produce some westerly winds which would really help us be able to sail.

In any case, Erica, Bridget and I had a great trip across from Puerto Vallarta to San Jose del Cabo. Winds allowed us to sail to within 30 miles of the harbor which was really nice after the long motor up from Huatulco. After we did some sightseeing around San Jose and Cabo San Lucas, they flew home Sunday.

Enjoy some pictures! If all goes well, my dad and I could be in San Diego by next weekend! Otherwise it may be Tuesday the 28th, just in time for my dad's flight out on the 29th. I plan on stopping in Turtle Bay and Ensenada, but have a bunch of other anchorages scoped out in case of bad weather or engine/rigging failures.

Last sunset in Puerto Vallarta. The colors were spectacular.

Erica's first watch!

Bridget staying cool below decks

Erica being a sailor

Erica not impressed by my picture taking.

The drunken sailor bar! I went here when I was here three years ago, didn't get a chance this time.

The girls enjoying hard earned margaritas on our first day in San Jose.

Tamales are still here, though I didn't see any nuns... they also weren't quite as good as I remembered, though still pretty darn good.

Bridget presents a safety moment. These electrical wires were hanging right over the stairs for the pedestrian overpass.

Lover's beach in Cabo San Lucas. We took at water taxi from the main marina for $10 each and I got to jump off a big rock on the way out. That's money well spent!

Erica and I on Lover's beach. Dawwww...

Erica was soooo excited about the springbreakers... NOT! We all agreed it was much better that we stayed in Puerto Vallarta for the majority of the time.

Concert/danceoff/beauty pageant in downtown San Jose

Sunday brunch with Erica before she left. Some of the best eggs benedict I've ever had

Decent pizza at Fiorenza's, but I found better stuff the next night at Toro''s Pizza, which is right next to the marina.

Sirocco's spot for a few days

I won't be using this as a navigational chart, but it gives a nice idea of just how completely desolate the next part of the trip is.

Burger at Retro Burger

Pecan/date pie for pie day! Not incredible but probably the best I could find in San Jose.

These cows just roamed around everywhere in the marina. Sometimes they would really spook me at night.

Last sunrise in Puerto Los Cabos! Next stop, San Diego!

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Puerto Vallarta, A Hard Rock Life

I can't take credit for the Annie reference, that was completely Erica's creation.

But it's true I've made it to Puerto Vallarta! This area truly is teeming with exiting things to do. When I first arrived I took a short bus ride to the next town north of here called Bucerias. It has a concentrated tourist center with some really quality restaurants and shops. They also have a nice open air market on most days that grows even bigger on the weekends. You can find literally anything here: tools, clothes, sculptures, paintings, ornaments, food. It's all there. And of course you are right next to the water so there are a variety of top notch seafood restaurants that all have seating right on the beach.

Sirocco is currently tied to the dock at Paradise Village Marina. The marina rates are very reasonable, even though it is considered high season. I also have complete access to the entire Paradise Village complex, including all their pools, spa, beach and gym. For the first four days I was here, it was really nice to go jump in the ocean then hit the hot tub after a day of working on the boat. There wasn't much boat work to be done, but there was a nasty mess created in the long term food storage area underneath the cockpit. It appeared to be tomato soup and beans mixed together and left to sit in the baking tropical sun. Not a good combination. But some elbow grease and bleach made it like new and forced me to go either throw out containers from back there or bring them into the kitchen. Moral of that story is don't over provision with canned food before you leave the states!

Now Erica and our friend Bridget have arrived and we are staying at the Hard Rock which is conveniently located right across the street from Sirocco. We will be staying here until Tuesday when we'll take off to sail to Cabo where Erica and Bridget will fly back to the states. My dad will be joining me in Cabo for the bash up the coast. If all goes to plan I hope to be in San Diego by March 27th or thereabouts.

Here are some pictures from the trip up from Huatulco!
Erica descending the stair case in the Hard Rock. We are staying on the "Rock Royalty" level so they do make you feel pretty special.

Eating at a nice little seafood place in Bucerias. It really feels more like southern California here than Mexico sometimes with the number of expats and tourists.

Manuel Cota, a senator for the state of Nayarit, was out and about in Bucerias talking to constituents. He seemed very down to earth and had a large group of people following him hanging on to every word.

The beach and palapas in front of the Paradise Village resort. Not a bad to way to relax after a long trip.

After spending the night just bobbing around Banderas Bay, I motored in at first light and was tied up to the dock by 9 am. Here's a picture of the hotels in Nuevo Vallarta.

Sirocco at anchor in a tiny little cove just south of Chamela Bay, Jalisco.

Enjoying a nice Fresca in Chamela Bay before heading north to Vallarta, about a 100 mile trip.

In Acapulco I found a sistership to Sirocco! Cal 39 as well and probably very similar model year. However it doesn't look like this one gets out very much, which is sad.

In Acapulco these Beetles are everywhere. About 80% of their taxi fleet are these little cars.

Coming into Acalpulco. I had to stop to get fuel as well as add a remote starting solenoid on the engine to solve a "hot engine" starting problem. Basically the wire going to the starter gets too hot when the motor has been running too long and therefore increases its resistance. Not enough voltage is then present at the starting solenoid and when the start button is pressed, nothing happens. This fixed completely solved the issue, which only occurs when the motor has been running for 12+ hours and may not even matter when I get to cooler climates.

Before I left Huatulco I sailed around to a little bay where the Club Med was located to relax and clean the bottom of Sirocco. Fine day, but a little to much swell to enjoy the little reef that lays off the left side of the beach. Oh well, next time I suppose.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Leaving Huatulco

Got back to the boat from the states yesterday and put up the new backstay. A big thanks to Hayes Rigging for standing behind their work and making a new one. Today I cleaned the bottom of the boat, put a new zinc on and motored around to spend the day anchored in front of Club Med. Not a bad afternoon.

Tomorrow I leave early in the morning to head north to Puerto Vallarta. The wind and current will be against me the whole way but I should be there before Erica gets there on March 2nd. I'll probably also have to make a stop or two to refuel and check winds around Cabo Corrientes.

Terrible wifi in the marina here but I should have faster connections in PV so I'll upload photos then!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Made it to Mexico, Manta Rays

A recap since I left Costa Rica:

I left Costa Rica with no wind and had to motor for over a day until I got to the Papagayos winds off Nicaragua. These pushed me for another 200 miles until they failed and I had to start the motor again, finally motoring a total of 80 hours on the way to Chiapas, Mexico. 

Marina Chiapas is a really wonderful place. They have great facilities, a good restaurant and a very helpful marina staff. Not to mention a good haul out yard with a large travel lift. The only two complaints is it doesn't have a pool and it is miles away from any actual city, so re-provisioning is difficult and there isn't much to see except the beach. If you like surfing though the beach has decent waves when the Tehuantepec winds blow out of the north. It is still a beach break, but there's also no one there so you have it all to yourself.

Once I checked into Mexico in Chiapas though, I decided that even though I was flying out of Chiapas, I'd take the weather window opportunity to get across the Gulf of Tehuantepec now instead of after I get back from the states. So last Tuesday I left Marina Chiapas at 4:00 pm and pretty much had to motor all the way across to Huatulco where I docked at Marina Chahue by noon on Thursday, successfully avoiding any winds in the Tehuantepec, which are known for sometimes blowing up to 60 knots sustained. Indeed, the boat that left just behind me, an Island Packet 485, saw sustained winds of 36 knots with gusts in the 40's and ripped their bimini. With the Tehauntepec, timing is everything I guess.

Marina Chahue is a nice marina, though the marina staff can be frustrating because they are not very helpful but very good at getting angry at you for not following every rule on their long list. There seems to be quite the rift between the staff and long term cruisers who stay there, so it sometimes causes the vibe to be less than tranquil.

However, the city of La Crucecita as well as Santa Maria in Huatulco are both really cool. Definitely the cleanest cities I've been in since leaving the Virgin Islands. Because of the huge National Park 
nearby, the state of Oaxaca takes great pride in keeping the cities clean and it shows. In addition, there are a lot of really cool little stores to shop in and great restaurants for any taste.

Also, the diving and snorkeling around Huatulco is pretty good. The visibility is not as consistent as the Caribbean, but the sea life is incredible. On a dive I did Saturday I saw more starfish than ever before, a big sea horse and to top it all off, a huge manta ray! It had a wing span of 16 feet and cruised within a foot of my face! I've wanted to see one of these since I heard about them three years ago being seen near the islands off of Cabo, the Islas Revillgigedos. Pictures definitely don't do it justice, which is just as well because I didn't have my GoPro with me...

It's too bad I only got to spend three days here, it's definitely worth more. However I'm now back in Chiapas for my flight that leaves for California at 6 am tomorrow morning. Here are some of the pictures from the crossing to Mexico, Chiapas and Huatulco. Enjoy! I'll have more photos from Huatulco once they load up from my phone.

Bye bye Golfito!
Some fresh cantaloupe to start the trip off right!
Aimee and Jed had found a banana tree in Bahia de la Muertos where they harvested a bushel of bananas and brought them on board. They just ripened right before they left. This is the first banana I've ever eaten in my life. The sad part is shortly after they fell off the back of the boat so I only got to enjoy two...
A beautiful sunset on the way to Chiapas

This was a very frustrating part of the trip. There was a solid 2 knot current against me for almost two days. But before that there was a knot with me so I guess I can't be too upset. But at the time it was incredibly frustrating.
The ridiculous calm coming into Chiapas. The ocean literally looked like a pool and being below deck was like being at the dock except for the rumble of the engine.

The new set up for motoring with the tiller pilot attached directly to the wheel instead of to the windvane. Makes for much more accurate course holding, less total miles run.

Coming into Marina Chiapas one is greeted with the wonderful smell of dying fish and low tide, courtesy of the fishing docks.

Back in Marina Chiapas!

Driving through miles of banana groves on the way to check into Mexico at the Guatemala border

A beautiful sunset coming back from checking in.

Hello Huatulco!

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Golfito, Crew Change

After an excruciatingly slow trip from Isla Secas, we got into Golfito yesterday afternoon. The wind was consistently out of the west of north of west and the current that follows the coast was from the same direction, making sailing difficult. Around 3 AM I decided it was time to motor so we motored for about 11 hours to make it into Golfito around 1:30 PM local time.  And on the way in, we saw two baby whale sharks swimming around in the bay! We followed them at a distance for a while until they swam off.

The first thing that struck me was the utter cleanliness of Costa Rica versus Panama. As beautiful as many parts of Panama were, it was difficult to enjoy sometimes because of the about of trash just thrown everywhere on the side of the roads. It was exceedingly common to see people on the bus throw styrofoam cups out the side of the bus after they were finished. Costa Rica, however, has either educated their people better or they have very good sanitation crews that clean up, because there's no more trash on the roads here than in the U.S.

But upon our arrival and getting solid internet for the first time in over a week, Aimee and Jed had multiple emails that indicated they needed to travel back to the Bay Area. They are supposed to be getting on a bus to San Jose and then on a flight back to the Bay Area today.

In any case, that leaves me sailing solo! Because of the lack of crew and the need to press on further up the coast, I've decided to take an offshore route from here to the Gold Coast of Mexico, leaving in the afternoon tomorrow and landing hopefully in Acapulco around February 3rd. I just need to find a way to fill up my propane tank before I leave, which is easier said than done in Costa Rica.

I have good internet here so here are some photos from Panama. The islands between Punta Mariato and Punta Burica are some of the most pleasant and peaceful I've seen. It was hard to leave.

I probably won't be able to update the blog again until I reach wherever I land in Mexico, but follow me on the Yellowbrick tracking page.

Sirocco going through the Miraflores locks. Thanks to my mom for managing to take this picture from the online webcam feed as we were transiting!

From Panama City we went 170 miles to Isla Cebaco, the first of the so called "West Perlas Islands." Though much less well known than the main archipelago just to the southeast of Panama City, these islands are incredibly secluded and very beautiful. Through our 9 days in these islands, we only saw one other sail on the horizon and had every anchorage to ourselves.

Instead of going to Isla Coiba, which I heard can be very expensive because of the park fees, Aimee, Jed and I dcided to take a dive trip there from Santa Catalina. Santa Catalina is a unique town made up of almost exclusively surfers, divers and really good Italian chefs. We did a two tank dive, seeing some really nice coral on the first and attempting to spot a whale shark on the second. That didn't happen, but it was fun.

Aimee having fun on one of the many beautiful white sand beaches in Coiba National Park. We had coconuts freshly cut from the tree. The water in those tastes different than the stuff you buy in the store, but it's still an acquired taste. 
Snapper for our last meal in Santa Catalina. Nearly identical to the one I had in St. John's, but half the price! There was also an amazing pizza restaurant that had an actual brick oven. You can take the Italian out of Italy, but they'll still cook the best food in the world.

After Santa Catalina we moved just a bit more up the coast to Bahia Muertos. Despite the foreboding name, it was the coolest spot yet. If it wasn't for the jellyfish in the water, it would have been perfect. Instead we decided to explore on shore. 

We found a river running up into the jungle and paddled up it. The little trip felt like something out of Indiana Jones, with birds and howler monkeys calling back and forth constantly. It started getting dark, so we had to travel back to the boat to have dinner.

Sunset at Bahia Muertos

Pancakes to get us ready for a big day of hiking!
Flower I found the next day on my hike

Aimee, Jed and I started on a hike up a trail that is maintained by a foundation set up by the billionaire that owns an island just south of Bahia Muertos. Aimee and Jed decided to hang back and I continued up the hill a bit more.

I'm glad I did because after talking to a local installing some new signs at a fork in the road, I asked him where the other fork went. He said it went to a pool at the bottom of the hill. Sure enough, I got down there and there was a nice little waterfall going into a pool that was about 5 feet deep filled with clear, cool water. I jumped in and had a really nice bath, just hanging out in the middle of the jungle paradise.

After hiking in the morning, we left around noon from Bahia Muertos with the intent of making it to Isla Cavada, about 15 miles away. But when we were less than a mile from the anchorage, I noticed a small fishing boat hailing us. I approached cautiously and saw it was a family of 5 with their cover off their outboard, the universal sign for I need help. After we tried to get the engine started without luck, I decided to tow them 10 miles to their home port up the Rio Santa Maria to Puerto Yurre. The tow went fine and the Panamanian Coast Guard even came out to finish up the tow up the river. We followed behind and after finishing up some paperwork the coast needed to complete the boats owner treated us to dinner. Same amazing snapper as we had in Santa Catalina! 

The next morning we explored the town of Quebrada de Piedra. Not much there so we decided to press on to Isla Secas, about 20 miles south west.

Isla Secas was what we had been trying to find the whole time. Beautifully clear, jellyfish free waters. Amazing snorkeling with all kinds of puffer fish, trigger fish, turtles, eels and rays. Coral that had more variety than even Coiba. And a very protected anchorage. The only downside is the anchorage is very steep to, so you have to anchor in deep water (40 feet) to avoid hitting the bottom if a northerly starts blowing at night, as we found out... But other than bouncing on the bottom for a bit this island was perfect. On shore there is a eco resort that is currently under renovation. It is truly a work of art and it would be nice to see it when complete.
Last view from the almost completed restaurant on Isla Secas. I'm confident the resort will respect the marine life around the area. As it's part of their primary draw to the island, it would be prudent to keep it in pristine shape. After this, we left for the overnight trip to Golfito where we are now.