At Sea

2-28-2002 noon Third day out.

N 15 53’39” Clear skies Air 88F Water 82F
W 97 38’28” Sailing at 5-6 knots with a knot of so of push!

We reached the point where we thought we might stop for the day but there was a bit of a swell running (probably from the Tehuantepec though I haven’t checked the weather yet). It looks like the anchorage might be rollier then the sea as it is open to the direction of the swell and is shallower. Also we have no chart of the suppositive anchorage. Birgitta is really tired but since we don’t feel we will get much rest there we will press on. Birgitta is currently sleeping in the cockpit I hope this will allow her to catch up on her rest so she will feel better this evening.

The good thing about pressing on is that we will be south that much sooner. Sailing all night saves a lot of time. More then you might think because the best wind tends to be in the afternoon when you want to be anchored down for the night. Right now we have a very nice 8.5 knots from just behind the beam. This afternoon and evening wind is caused by the land being warmer then the water. The air over the land rises and the cooler air over the sea fills in. In the early morning we get a bit of the reverse. We are also experiencing a great current. It is pushing us the way we want to go at about 1 knot. This is much to be preferred to the knot and a half on the nose we had for much of the trip so far. With this boat speed and the current we will be at our next anchorage “Chachacual”, which is just a couple of miles west of Huatulco, at about 4 am. Since I expect we will not keep this speed and will probably need the engine after midnight we will easily make it in at sunrise. We will stay there until we are rested so we don’t have to deal with the formalities of a Huatulco entry while tired.

After 3 days and nights as sea putting the anchor down will be a very welcome event.

I haven’t been sending the e-mails out everyday because currently when we transmit on HAM the autopilot makes the boat turn left about 90 degrees. I think some of my ground paths are corroded and all the ground RF is traveling to the Dynaplate which is mounted near the electronic compass. I will either have to replace some of the wiring or move the compas. Right now someone has to hand steer when we transmit. Sorry but we are just to lazy for that so you will have to wait for your updates.

South of Acapulco

2-27-2002 4:30 pm 30 miles south of Acapulco

N 16 34’44” Clear skies Air 97F Water 82.6F
W 99 30’55” Currently sailing at 5-7 knots with 1 knot current against

For the most part we motored and motor sailed yesterday and through the night. All the while with this current against us. Much of the time this morning we only made about 3 knots over the bottom with a wind right in our nose. On my first night watch shift I heard the bilge pump running a lot. It was keeping up but that isn’t something you want to hear. I started rummaging through the boat trying to find where the water was coming from. I finally traced it to a broken hose clamp on the engine exhaust hose. I had to clear everything out of the port lazerette and replace it. Other then that it was an uneventful night. Very warm! T-shirt and shorts all night. Birgitta saw some spinner dolphins this morning. They always put on a great show. I have seen a lot of dolphin during my daytime watches but they are just bow riding and not really jumping high out of the water.

We were feeling good this morning so we decided to give Acapulco a miss and push on south or actually east as we are traveling nearly due east with the Mexican coast. We may stop tomorrow at Chacahua a little bay on the way with no port captain. We don’t really have a chart for it but we might give it a try if conditions look good and we arrive, as we expect, at mid-day tomorrow. Then it’s another 100 miles or so to Huatulco.

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Moon rising

Last night we did 4 hour on 4 hour off watches. We did this a lot coming down from San Carlos. It lets me take much of the dark hours and I catch up with my sleep at 8am. I think tonight we will change to 3 hours on 3 hours off. The conditions are very mellow and not a big stress for Birgitta but mostly with the sun coming up at about 6:30am I get 1 and a half hours of sun before I try to get my big sleep. This is hard as the light wakes me up. Also sleeping during the daylight is hard with the heat. We seem much more used to the heat then when we first got to Ztown but the problem with heading south so fast is we have to keep getting used to hotter conditions. Soon, with the sun moving north with the summer and us moving south, we will be south of the suns path through the sky. At this point the temperature should start dropping. Of course this is when the real rain will start and the humidity will be 100 percent all the time. It will be interesting to note the sun in the northern sky though.

Zihuatanejo to Acapulco

2-26-2002 3:00 pm Moving south from Zihuatanejo to Acapulco

N 17 29″10′ Sunny Hot and clear Air 94F Water 83F
W101 27″12′ Sailing at 6 knots with one knot of current against us. SOG 5k

We spent 2 weeks in Zihuatanejo (man will I be glad to not have to spell that any more). We planed to check out on Friday morning and leave Saturday but we took a walk with a group of cruisers in the morning and when we got back we found a big list of problems. Our dingy motor (the little 4hp Johnson) started overheating. Our water maker wouldn’t make water and the bottom was terribly fouled. I decided these things had to be dealt with before we left and there were just no enough hours in the day (actually the port captain’s day) to get checked out after I fixed them all. I didn’t want to check out first in case we needed more time to fix the problems or get parts so we just decided to stay until Tuesday. I took the dingy motor apart and checked the water pump but all looked well. I thought it was pumping fine but wanted to check that one impeller blade wasn’t broken. It all looked ok so I decided that the problem had to be calcium carbonate buildup in the head. I filled a bucket with vinegar and ran the motor in it for a while. I kept vinegar in the motor for the rest of the day and the night by running it every little while and tried running it under load the next day. It seems to have helped as the motor doesn’t seem to overheat. The water maker wouldn’t run right then it stated making water but only about half as much as it should. After messing around with it for a while I figured that the electric pump must have something in it’s valves and let it just run as well as it could for a while. It seems to have mostly cleared it’s self as it is now making almost as much as it should per hour. By this time the port captain was closed so our decision about checking out was truly made and I decided to wait till the next day to clean the bottom. That night we had to mess with our masthead LED lights. On a recommendation from the people at Deep Creek Design, the manufacturer, I went up the mast armed with some fine sand paper and lube and cleaned the connections on the devices. I spent the rest of Saturday cleaning the bottom (I am very disappointed with the Mexican bottom paint we had put on in San Carlos) and generally hanging around the boat. That night it looked like the tri-color was working again but the anchor light was not. Sunday morning it was back up the mast to replace the anchor light with an incandescent bulb. The anchor LED light must have been hit the EMF of a lightning storm that went through Zihuatanejo when we first arrived. It was toast. 3 of the LEDs were visibly blackened and when I applied power just 2 of the 10 or so lit and started blinking. Got to hand it to the guys at Deep Creek though. They say that a new one will be waiting for us in El Salvador when we get there. That is 2 failures of that light on the trip so far. I hope they get the bugs sorted out soon.

 

The walk we took with the walking group this morning was in a park in Ixtapa, the resort side of Zihuatanejo. We saw alligators, turtles and birds and then had a nice breakfast before heading home.

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We checked out of Zihuatanejo Monday morning. This is always a major pain to do in Mexico. And one of the reasons we are happy to be going south. But here in Zihuatanejo it is the worst I have had to deal with in Mexico. The process takes a minimum of 3 hours and requires taking a taxi or walking about 5 miles. The Port Captain requires you to fill out a form in Spanish and seems to take great pleasure in making you wait in line for the answer to what goes in one field at a time. When I checked in a fellow cruiser was also checking in who spoke Spanish well. I suggested that he translate the form so th Port Captain could post it. We went up the window and got a blank form for this purpose and Neil of Tranquilo made the translation and gave it back to the Port Captain. He accepted it but didn’t post it even though there were many cruisers currently still struggling with his form. When I checked out I asked for the translation and he said he didn’t have it. He had to admit that he had it but I guess he just threw it away so he could keep playing his little power trip on everyone. He seems a really nice guy on the surface, very friendly but not at all concerned with providing any service whatsoever. When you finally fill out the forms to his satisfaction you have to wait for them to finish all your paper work and then they give you the forms to take to the bank. Most other places in Mexico they just give you the bank paperwork and send you on your way while they do the rest. After the bank, which means another 20-30 minutes of lines, you have to wait about 20 minutes for them to find you paperwork and give it to you. Started the process very early. I was at the immigration office, the first step in this maze, when they opened. When I left the Port captain the first time I was talking with some other cruisers who had submitted their paper work and were setting and waiting. When I came back from the bank, about an hour latter, they were still there waiting. This system is ridiculous and expensive and seems to serve no useful purpose. Just another example of Mexican government gone out of hand and a people who don’t seem to care. Even the Northern Mexicans don’t expect much of the Southern Mexicans.

 

Today we finished making the boat ready for sea and headed out after lunch. We will be passing Acapulco tomorrow and may duck in for a day of rest or push on for a port further down the line. I expect we will give it a pass as we don’t want to pay the 30 dollars and loose 2 days checking in and out just to be able to sleep well for the night. We have 3 sailing days until we reach Huatulco, the last port we will likely stop in in Mexico. We may spend one night at a little Bay called Chacahua, which has no port captain, if we arrive in the vicinity during daylight hours.

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We didn’t get around to writing an entry about Zihuatanejo so I will talk about it a bit here. Maybe we will write more latter and stick in in. Zihuatanejo seems to be one of the sticky bays in Mexico. Boats show up and get stuck. I know boats that have been there for more then 7 weeks. While you are there there are lots of things to do. When we were sailing down we crossed some friends from last year headed north saying they had to get out of there so they could get some work done on the boat before they crossed to Polynesia next month. It is hard to get work done in Zihuatanejo because it is such a nice place. There are lots of little restaurants and not all of them serve Mexican food. There are tons of tourist junk shops, we have to admit we bought a couple of little ceramic turtles with heads that bob up and down for the office. There is a Comercial (a modern air conditioned supermarket) and lots of little corner food stores. The is a bar called Ricks that caters the cruisers, he is very helpful and loans his bar out for many events like cruiser meetings, fist aid classes, Spanish classes, etc… One of the only bad things about Zihuatanejo and why you shouldn’t jump right on a plane and come out here is most all of the cruisers are getting sick here. Birgitta and I both were slightly sick for most of last week. Some friends of ours were sick enough to require a hospital stay. While there the doctors said that they wouldn’t eat out in Zihuatanejo as the food safety is poor. That is a big difference between the US and other places. Not only so we have great food safety but if a doctor thought that someplace was substandard I think that they would try to do something about fixing the situation. Here I guess it just means more business for his clinic. And an “Oh well it is just not my problem” attitude. More is the pity as the hamburger that made me sick was one of the best I ever had. Made on a cart on the street it had avocado, onion, tomato, 2 types of cheese, fried ham, mayonnaise, mustard, ketchup and … Oh yea, a hamburger patty, a real one bigger then a quarter which is really something down here, on a nice toasted bun. All for the whopping price of about $2 us. That and a dollar beer made a very nice cheap dinner. If it wasn’t for the sickness it would have been a great deal.

While we were in Zihuatanejo I decided that the 7.5 hp Honda engine I bought in PV was just too big for the porta boat. I tried to mount wheels on the little folding boat but it was just too flexible. The strong point of the porta boat is that it requires very little power and I decided to play to it’s strengths and go back to the 4 hp Johnson. I found that without wheels I couldn’t comfortably drag the little boat up the beach with the big heavy 4 stroke motor. Too bad though, because the bigger motor burns so much less fuel then the 2 stroke Johnson. I will try to sell the Honda. If I still have it when I get back to the states I will think seriously about getting a small aluminum boat to use as a dingy. I really don’t like deflatable boats and the porta boat will probably need replacing by then as it will be nearly 10 years old and has been used a lot. It is getting a bit too flexible. Though the reinforcements I added in PV for the big motor will likely add years to its life. A new dingy will take a lot of thought as to carry a non-folding 10 or 12 foot little boat I will have to change the sail plan on the yacht a bit. I will have to loose the club foot I use on the stay sail. Well I will have a lot of time to think before I get back to the states. I don’t think anyone sells aluminum boats in central america so my earliest chance to get a new one will likely be Florida.

One of the best things about Mexico is the fresh squeezed orange juice. I bought a little hand squeezer last year but it was too much work to use. While in Zihuatanejo I decided that since we were likely going to try to settle on Florida when we get back to the states in 2003 or so I should buy a GOOD juicer. Well I got one of the ones that the juice stands down here use. It is made of aluminum and stands about 3 feet tall.

It squeezes ALL the juice from a half of an orange in about 1 second. Two oranges make a big glass of orange juice and oranges are only 2 pesos a kilo. That is the same as 10 cents a pound. I will have to take a picture of this thing and post it on the web. It is not the kind of thing one expects to see on a boat but we might get a house sometime and something like this would likely cost 100s of dollars in the states. I paid $35 for it down here. It is all hand made out of aluminum. Even the nuts that hold it together were sand cast and ground and polished by hand. You can tell because the holes aren’t even close to being in the center but that just adds to its charm I guess.

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Last month I broke Birgitta’s electric mixer/blender. (It turns out that it isn’t strong enough to crush ice.) We have a friend, Terry Montoya, in Seattle who is looking for a new gear right now. In the mean time, since Birgitta really misses her hand blender for making soups, we bought a new hand blender. It doesn’t have mixer attachments but will fill in the blanks while we wait for the new part. I believe it was a bit cheaper down here then it would have been in the states. So we both got ourselves new gadgets in Zihuatanejo.

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I just made some popcorn for Birgitta. She denies it but I think she is getting her sea legs. After only about 6 or 7 thousand miles. She (and I) have felt queasy at sea this year, especially in the sea of Cortez. But she hasn’t thrown up this year

Zihuatanejo

2/25/2002 Zihuatanejo

Air 85F Water 82F

We have been in Zihuatanejo for the better part of a week and we see why so many cruisers like it. It is just big enough to have what you need but not such a big tourist trap as Puerto Vallarta. I spent much of the week dealing with the big motor I bought in PV. I thought I had everything solved with the dingy and the storage and lifting on the yacht but when we first tried to land the thing on a beach I discovered another big problem. The dingy was easy to haul up the beach with the little 4hp 2 stroke weighing in at under 30 lbs. But with the 7.5hp 4 stroke at 75lbs it was just about unmanageable. Most of the boaters down here use inflatables with wheels to help them haul their BIG engines up the beach. Many dingies are carrying 15 and 20 horse motors. I decided to try to fabricate wheels for my set up. I codged together a first attempt but the wheels sank in the sand and the aluminum I was using bent. The next day I created an all wood and stainless steel design with double wheels on each side. This worked better but was still too much problem to deal with. I have decided to give up on the big motor. I mounted the small on the dingy this morning and will put the big one up for sale. If I don’t find the right home for it I will just keep it until I get back to the states and get my next dingy. I really don’t like inflatables for various reasons but chiefly they are a wet ride. Our porta boat works really well but it is showing it’s age and will need to be replaced in the next couple of years. I would also really like to be able to mount wheels on my next dingy. So I think I might just get myself an aluminum john boat about 10 feet long. I can store it on the foredeck if I give up my club footed staysail (which is just in the way most of the time anyway). This would carry the big motor well and will accept wheels. It will give even a better ride then our porta boat and row well. I just have to check on the weight of one and of course wait until I get to somewhere where they sell them. The locals only use big heavy fiberglass panga’s down here. Anyone out there know how much a small aluminum john boat weighs and what they go for? There are none listed in the catalogues I have with me.

Clark

Zihuatanejo is also a prettier town than many we have seen. For one thing, it is more tropical than Puerto Vallarta. The hills are all green and the beach walkway is really lush with exuberant trees, bushes and flowers. Many of the hotels are tasteful and blend somewhat into the hills. There are no tall buildings within the town and several streets are pedestrian-only, allowing carefree strolling. What it is missing, though, is a dinghy dock. We have to do beach landing which requires you to get your feet wet, and pull hard on the dingy to get it up the beach. There are about 100 cruising boats here, many planning to travel to Panama, and many activities. This morning, I joined a “walking for exercise” group and they do walk very fast! In the evening, we will gather at a dingy raft-up potluck. Two days ago, we had a girl’s day, including lunch, pedicure and gossip. Saturday is the boat swap meet (rummage sale for boat parts) in the morning and a dance show in the evening. Sunday, we have volleyball on the beach and a food fest in the square in the evening. There isn’t much time left for boat work! It is hot and humid with very little breeze to relieve the oppression so we use the fans more than ever. it is difficult to do much in the afternoon unless you drink a lot of caffeine. I hope you are all doing well.

Birgitta.

2-11-2002 5:00pm Anchored in Zihuatanejo

N 17 37’25” Air 86F Water 82F Overcast
W101 32’59” Anchored bow and stern into a gentle swell

 

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We arrived at about 8am and found friends of ours (Paul and Allison on Espresso). We motored around them and said hello then anchored nearby. Paul came out and helped us set our stern anchor. We don’t usually set a stern anchor but this is one of the places it is a good idea. The wind can come from any direction or from nowhere but the swell always comes from the harbor mouth. So if you keep yourself pointed at the harbor mouth you don’t roll with the swell. So there are about 100 yachts all pointed at the harbor mouth. We understand that Zihuatanejo is one of the most fun cruiser towns in Mexico. Everyone seems to love it here. We met some friends motoring north while we were headed here saying they needed to get away from here to get some work done. They are preparing to “cross the pond” to Polynesia. We were much to tired to do anything fun so we just went to bed. We got up around noon and had a bit of lunch. We put up our awning and launched our dingy. It was overcast today which was nice as it made for better daytime sleeping weather. Tomorrow we will check in with the port authorities an see what Ztown has to offer. We plan on staying here about 2 weeks.