Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Let loose at last

Saturday in Mazatlan found us well rested with a long task list completed.  We had grilled chicken, potato salad, slaw, chopped carrot and celery sticks and hard boiled eggs premade in the fridge.  The boat was   We had our credit cards paid off and our affairs in order.  I walked over to Total Yacht Works and paid Bob the remainder of what I owed him and we moved the Dolphin to a safe parking space, placing aluminum shades in all the windows and disconnecting the engine and house batteries.  The marina office settled with me, finding a discrepancy in the bill at the last moment, but I paid it with a smile and a good word.  We got showers and caught up on internet mail and such.
Traveler at sea
fully provisioned with food, water, and fuel.

Then at 2:00 PM we hugged our friends at the dock and cranked up the engine.  The spring and stern lines came off.  Then Nina, Hal and Joe slowly walked the boat backwards out of the slip, tossing the remaining lines aboard as the bow cleared the piling and I pointed her head to the west.  As we motored slowly through the marina Nina and Hal tooted horns and waved goodbye.  Connie was kept busy bringing all the lines and fenders back to the cockpit and rigging the headsail sheets through the turning blocks.  The mainsail cover was stowed below and we were ready for the sea.  Out past El Cid we glided through the smooth waters of the lagoon.  Then around the corner we saw the wide open sea. It was choppy, white-capping with a five foot swell, what one might call “brisk” conditions.  
I know this has nothing to do with our trip but isn't it refreshing to see our president shaking the hand of Raul Castro?  I dreamed about Barak Obama last night.  I was showing him around town.  And here I see him being very generous and very presidential and leaving behind 60 years of stupid US foreign policy nonsense. 

Traveler’s bow went straight into it as we ploughed over the bar (only 12 ft deep) and headed out.  This close to land and in relatively shallow water the swell seemed huge.  Soon we had wet decks as the bow plunged up and down shipping water down both side decks and around the stern.  “Yahoo!” , we screamed, holding  on tight.  In a quarter of an hour we were out a mile and started raising the mainsail.  Connie kept Traveler’s head to wind as I raised the main with the main halyard to the first reef point, slipping the ring over the hook and yelling back to her to take up the slack and tension the luff with the big mainsheet winch.  She grinded it tight and yelled out, “Made.”  With the topping lift tightened the boom was plenty high for me to haul in on the reefing line to the first reefing clew. Doing so, I noticed that the pawls on the decktop winch were not clicking.  Something to add to the repair list.  We loosened the topping lift, hauled in on the mainsheet and the main was set, double reefed.  Then we rolled out he big Genoa on the furler, hauled our wind to the starboard side and we were sailing on a beam reach heading south past the protective islands of Pẚjaros, Venados, and Lobos (Bird, Deer, and Wolf).   

Ensenada de Matanchen

We dodged two large freighters coming out of the old harbor then set about getting the Hydrovane self steering adjusted.  Soon we were well south of Mazatlan, on a broad reach with the vane doing all the steering and the crew reading in the cockpit. The control line on the Hydrovane broke where we had connected it so we knotted the two ends together to await a more permanent fix later.  Traveler loped over the seas at 5.5 knots, the swell taking her from the starboard quarter.  

I had taken two Bonine pills earlier so I had no worries about getting sea sick.  Connie stayed up deck to ward off the ‘male de mere’.  She noticed the genoa tack flopping around so we went forward and saw that the tack fitting had broken in two.  We dug through the excess hardware box and found two shackles that would suffice for a while and we installed these on the furler.  And so we sailed south as the sun arched across the sky and finally set in the west in a burst of orange, yellow, and violet.  With only three hardware failures the first afternoon out we felt pretty lucky and were looking forward to more hardy challenges in the days ahead.

Whale cooling her fin
At 19:00 (7:00 PM) Connie noted in the log, “Wind shift – lumpy seas.”  At 21:00 I came on shift after trying unsuccessfully to nap.  Later at 02:00 I jibed the headsail waking Connie who took her through the night the remaining distance to just north of Isla Isabella.  She observed in the log “7 shooting stars into the sea” at 03:00.  With the dawn, Connie went below to sleep and I decided to bypass the Island because of the rough sea conditions.  I felt that we’d not get very good sleep there with the swell so high.  The boat would probably be tossing us side to side.  Still sailing, we changed course more towards land and found the wind freshening at noon.  

The solar panels were reporting a positive 12 amps charge and the battery banks were still looking good.  With the vane doing the steering and the LED navigation lights drawing next to nothing, the only real draw we had on the batteries was the refrigerator compressor drawing its meager 3 amps per hour.  The GPS and VHF radio draw about one amp together.  We went below to the nav station each hour to record our position and plot it on a paper chart.   That way if we lost our electronic nav gear we could dead reckon from our last known position.  We do this on any overnight or long day, or anytime we are out of sight of identifiable known landmarks.  Needless to say, we also wore PFDs on deck at night, clipped in with tethers.  The rule is also that no one goes forward without the other watching from the cockpit.  During the day, in calm weather we forgo the PFDs if we stay in the cockpit and pursue a clothing optional policy as well. 

Chacala:  Traveler and her dinghy Guido with Panga looking on.
Twenty eight hours out of Mazatlan we dropped the anchor in Matanchen bay just south of San Blas.  The first thing I heard after we secured the anchor chain was the pop of a cork of Chilean red wine.  We stayed two nights at Matanchen, just resting up during the day, reading, playing music, and napping.  I had my first experience speaking on a Marine radio net on the single side band and found that I can legally talk on the Amigo net but not the Sonrisa net.  Time to take a radio test to get my amateur license!

Port Captain's office in Chacala
After spending a lay day at Matanchen we headed south down the coast to Chacala finding a couple of whales sunning their fins in the water as we coasted by fifty yards away.   The trip took less than six hours so we got into the rolly anchorage of Chacala with enough time to deploy our flopper stoppers and get settled in to watch yet another sunset.  After a rough night of me trying to squelch all the little tapping and rattling objects aboard we woke to the beautiful little town of Chacala with its fishermen coming into harbor in their little pangas at first light.  

Later we rigged the dinghy and motored to shore and checked in with the young, handsome port authority who spoke hesitant English but was very polite.  We walked to the fishing pier and bought a beautiful Sierra to have for dinner.  Fifteen Pesos is about a dollar and a quarter and is a good price for a half kilogram of fresh fish.  Connie is making ceviche as I write this blog entry on the laptop in the cabin.  We’ll go to shore soon to buy a tomato and some eggs and maybe we will find an internet place where we can send off this report.  

Later that day:

We are at a little seaside café named Chacmool,   Shhhh, don’t tell anyone, drinking cold Negra Modelos and plugged into their 120 volt power and wireless internet named cha cha cha with a password of 1234567898.

Beach musicians at Chacala
I cannot tell you how good it is to be back into the mode of hopping from one anchorage to another, watching the fish and birds, and visiting little towns along the way.  Wish you were here to share this experience.

By the way, you can... come visit, just let us know.
Connie talking to Tesla on the phone.  Connect!

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