Thursday 19 March 2015

Just another relaxing day on the boat.

I had a newsletter to 100,000 people I had to get sent out, and I had a deadline of 4 pm to get it done. I had been working on the email for three days. It was 3:45 and I was almost done when I realized I had made a mistake and had to go back into the email system to change it.
We were anchored off the city of La Paz in southern Baja and the wind was picking up. They had forecast thunderstorms, and the clouds were building up large in the sky, dwarfing the city and the mountains behind it. We were in the very same place that only four months earlier a hurricane had come through. You could still see the wrecked boats on the beach a few metres away from us, and the crooked masts sticking out of the water just down the channel where three people had lost their lives.
If the impending storm brought with it wind and waves, at least it was daylight, and if our anchor dragged, at least we could motor away from the beach.

Kai and Liam had gone to shore in the dinghy to get a cheap lunch at the Oxxo - the equivalent of a 7/11. That was fine, it gave me a bit of space to finish off the email. They were suppose to bring back some water for our tanks on their return.
It was 3:50 and I was rushing to finalize the email as the boat started to heal over as the waves built up. I heard the sound of the dinghy engine approaching and voices mixed in with the wind. No worries, I had it all under control I thought. In a few moments I would be finished, I could then go attend to the gathering storm and assure that the boat was OK.
“What do I do with the water” Liam called out as they climbed aboard from the dinghy. “Put it into the water tank through the side deck” I said half listening. Kai came below and flopped onto his bunk. “Can we go to shore please” he said, “I don’t want to be on the boat if it gets hit by lightning”. I wasn’t really listening. You could hear the thunder in the distance. Just then the radio crackled to life: “22 knots in the anchorage” someone on one of the other seventy odd boats announced. The wind was building and the storm was not yet even upon us. Just then Liam poked his head through the companion way hatch: “I have some bad news” he said, and in an instant I new what had happened…

“No! Don’t tell me you put the water in the fuel tank!?!” I said. “Sorry” he said. And then I lost it. With water in the fuel tank we could not start the engine. I had five minutes to get the email finished, the wind was picking up, and now we would have no way to motor to safety if the storm pushed us to shore.
What to do - first, freak out. Not at Liam as it was an honest mistake, but at least to send home the message that we could have a serious problem. And even if the storm blew over, it may cost money and time and a lot of hassle to get someone to remove the water from the tank.
I sat down to finish the email. Now however I was somewhat distracted. I did not know if I fixed the problem with the email I had been working on, and then I saw another one. More thunder, and the boat started to buck up to the waves as if to add to the urgency.
Ugh. That is it. I have to send out the email. Hopefully it all works. A hundred-thousand people getting an email with links to buy something only to find that the links do not work is not a good way to run a business, but my time was up. I hit the send button.
The water in the tank - what to do. I got on the radio; “Attention the fleet, attention the fleet. My son accidentally poured water into our diesel tank. If anyone has advice on what to do I would greatly appreciate it”. Most people were tending to their boats in the storm. No doubt my call made them think “geez, bad timing, thank god that is not me…’. I got a number of responses, the most useful being to drain the water out of the bottom of the tank if I can. The least useful being “Oh Outrider, why did you not tell me you were in town. So naughty of you” - apparently there was another Outrider out there that someone was missing. When I told her that we were someone different, she still wanted to chat.

Liam stuck his head below, “it looks like the storm is passing” he said. I looked out the hatch. Large clouds had obscured most of the sky and the mountains beyond were gone. But he was right, it seemed the clouds were moving in a different direction.
On to the water in the fuel. Liam and I pulled the fuel line from the bottom of the tank, got a jug and a small pump I use for oil changes, and pumped. Water and diesel and all kinds of gooey crap came out of the bottom of the fuel tank. We pumped until it looked like most of the water was out, put it all back together, started the engine, and watched the fuel filter to see what came through. Water, mostly water, and then diesel.
Storm passing, engine working. Back to my email. I tried to log onto the Internet to see if the email went out, but got a message that my monthly Internet account had expired. The email had been sent just in time, but now I had no way of knowing what came of it.

“Can we get off the boat now” Kai asked. “Yes” I said. Off to Kai’s ‘welcome to the boat’ dinner at the restaurant on shore. Two margaritas for me.

Tuesday 3 March 2015

It Was Huge!

We arrived in the Loreto Bay area after two days at san Juanico. We did a 4 hour passage through the whales and dolphins over to Isla Coronados and stayed for the night, the next morning we got up and head over to Puerto Escondido to pick up friends that we have from Toronto that will be staying with us for the next few days.

Due to a northerly coming through that week, we will only be able to stay in one anchorage for the time due to the weather conditions. We headed over to an anchorage called Puerto Ballandra which is on an island across from Loreto, just north of Puerto Escondido. We bashed into 15 knots of wind and 4 foot waves for three hours in order to get to the bay on the north end of the island.

We finally made it, and when we arrived we anchored and tucked in as well as we could to protect from the swell wrapping around. A couple hours after we arrived, a big catamaran pulled in front of us to get tucked in, at first it seemed fine but they were a bit close to us, they then circled around in front of us again to find a spot, but on their way around they came really close to the front of our boat, at this point we were in the dinghy, me my dad and our friends, and we were on our way to the beach, we looked back at what they were doing and realised that when they came close to our boat, there anchor had clipped our anchor chain because they left their anchor dragging along the surface of the water.

Next thing we new this big catamaran was dragging our boat with them without them aware of the situation, because it was a catamaran they have a much lower draft then our keel, so if they were going forward onto shallow water, our boat would get pulled right into the shallow rocks. My dad just started yelling at the people, and he told me to head to the boat at full speed from the dinghy. We circled the boat and saw our chain wrapped around their anchor, the two kids got off the dinghy onto the boat because it was safer, I was at the wheel of our boat, and then my dad and the dad of our friends went off in the dinghy to free the chain. Because the anchor of the other boat was already down, they had to pull theirs up, but they couldn’t because of our chain, so the wind ended up blowing them against us, and there were a few minor collisions.

Finally my dad got the chain off and they were able to go somewhere else, about 10 minutes after the dilemma, another catamaran by the same manufacturer came and tried to anchor in the same spot, my dad just went to the front of the boat and stood looking pissed, sure enough it worked. The next day we went for a hike up the mountain, it was a couple hours, and at the top we had a perfect view of the boat and the whole bay, after the hike we went dinghy trolling.

One of our friends said don’t return until you catch a big enough fish, we ended up with a fish too big that we couldn’t return. We were in the dinghy and my rod started buzzing as the line was pulled out, I fought the fish for about 30 minutes, it was the hardest fight I had ever had, finally it got to the surface and it was a massive yellowtail. There was no way we would have fit it in the dinghy, we didn’t know what to do, luckily the people in the catamaran that caught our anchor were now anchored next to where we caught the fish, they called us over because they had a net, they got it out of the water and the owner of the boat Brian even cleaned it for us, we became very good friends with their boat. After it was cleaned we took the fillets of the 50 pound, 4.2 foot yellowtail back to our boat, it was delicious, even after the twentieth meal.

The next day we returned to Porto Escondido to drop off our friends after a bit less than a week, and we are now on our way to La Paz.

Saturday 21 February 2015

Losing Liam and Fishing In Mexico - Peter

I thought I was going to loose Liam. When I looked down through the companionway he was unconscious and shaking. I can’t begin to describe the feelings of panic and fear I felt in an instant.

We were anchored in San Juanico. A beautiful, secluded anchorage miles from anywhere. We had arrived the day before and planed on staying for a couple of days. This was one of those ‘no internet access’ anchorages. Internet is available wherever there is cell phone access, and that is pretty hit and miss in anchorages on the Baja peninsula. In order to get work done, I need internet, so I try to space these anchorages so we are not more than a couple of days without it.

The weather was due to turn windy, so we were going to whole up here until it blew over. Mr. Liam likes to watch his movie in his bunk at night, and then get up pretty lazily in the morning, usually a few hours after I have put in work. This morning was no exception. I was in the cockpit having a coffee listening to Liam laying in his bunk blabbing on about planes as he usualy does. After an hour or so of this he got up and climbed the companionway steps to look at a plane that was passing over. I followed his gaze up.

The next thing I new I heard a loud crash and Liam was gone from the steps. I jumped up and found him laying in the galley on his back, shaking. ‘Liam, Liam’, I shouted. He stopped shaking and opened his eyes. He did not know where he was and what was going on.

We checked to make sure nothing was broken. However, he fell from two steps up and into a small, confined area. He had a large scrape on his back. He acted groggy and had pain in his neck and his back.
We concluded that he had been pretty lazy and got up to fast, and immediately looked up. He then just passed out and fell. It was not the passing out that worried me, but the fall.

The rest of the day he was tired, groggy, and in some pain around his neck and his lower back. I suspect he had minor shock. The neck pain was in the muscle, and so it seemed that there was nothing broken. And I was in a bit of shock too. I don’t think I will ever get the image of seeing him passed out and shaking out of my head.

We went for a walk on the beach a later, but he was tired and so we did not push it. Later in the day Liam wanted to go dinghy trolling to catch a fish for our dinner. So we got the dinghy all set and went out. I was not really expecting to catch anything, but on our way back after an hour, low and behold Liam caught a nice big fish for our dinner.

We brought it back and he cleaned it and I fried it up. It was a good way to end the day.

The next morning we headed off to our next destination, Isla Coronados. We stayed in the lee of the island for the night and had dolphins and whales around us.

We heard on the radio that there was a whale tangled in fishing line just a few miles away from us. It was getting dark and no one could do anything to help, at least not until the next day. We listened on the radio. I thought of the whale and how people were powerless to help, and how sometimes things happen we have no control over.

Thursday 19 February 2015

Night at Sea- Liam

We have finally left the Guaymas area after two weeks of preparing for the crossing, our plan was to pull out of San Carlos just after noon, and arrive the next day in Bahia Concepcion at sunrise. Once everything was ship shape, we left. The seas were very calm and we had around 12 knots of wind, it couldn't have got much better. One of the greatest things about the Sea of Cortez is the sunsets out at sea, and that night we got it. Once it got dark we were cruising comfortably with both sails up, no engine at seven knots.

 My first shift was 4:30 to 6:30 PM, then we had dinner and after I slept from 7:00 to 9:00 PM, once I got up my shift was 9 PM to 3 AM, so I had a long night ahead, the way I like to spend my crossings is get food and blast Coldplay all night, this is how I make some of my best memories from our trips. At one point the win died so I had to start up the engine, but once it picked up again I adjusted the sails, killed the engine and we went flying over 7 knots. Where ever you are in the Sea of Cortez, once night comes the sea fills with phosphorescent, these are a very small plant or algae that when disturbed lights up in a green turquoise colour, if you have seen Life of Pi you would know what it is like, when the whale breaks through the surface. But it is much cooler in person then through a TV, especially when there is something in the water.

 During the crossing at around 1 in the morning we were joined by a group of dolphins, by this time the phosphorescent were very strong, so the dolphins swimming next to us were not grey or blue, they were green. It looked like something from a dream, these green dolphins just swimming next to the boat, it is something you really can't picture as impressive as it really was. The boat would also pass through the occasional school of fish, but it wasn't only the water being lit up that night, all around us there was lightning the whole night coming from different places every hour. We ended up arriving ahead of schedule when it was still dark so we had to sit outside the bay for a while until the sun rose. We anchored in Santo Domingo in Bahia Concepcion, from the boat the area didn't look like much but the sunset again was incredible.

 I decided to go see how the beach was, and it was definitely not what I was expecting. The beach was wide and long white sand, the water was crystal clear and warm, it was definitely not what we thought it would be like from the boat. That night we had a fire on the beach with the two other boats there, Harmony and Rosalita, we cooked food on a grill and then ate as we talked with sunset. The next morning we set off for our next destination further south, San Juanico.

 We rounded the point of the bay and started heading south. I was making some noodles down below, my dad was also down below so I stuck my head up to look around and make sure everything was ok, but when I looked up I caught a glimpse of something. I continued to look and then I saw it again, and we were heading straight for a blue whale. 
We put the boat into neutral and slowly drifted to where it had just been, after a while we realised that the whale was circling us, we put the boat back into forward and eventually it took off, throughout the trip we saw the occasional blue whale, and then a pod of pilot whales. We arrived at the next anchorage 8 hours later, I went for a kayak ride, went fishing and caught a puffer fish, ate dinner (not the puffer fish,) then sat down and rote this blog, now I have to go do the dishes so bye.

Saturday 14 February 2015

Rain in Paradise - Peter

It rained here last night. Like ‘really’ rained. That is unusual when you are in a desert. The boat was dirty; full of dust from the dirt-yard marina it had been in for the last ten months.

I could draw a metaphor about how the rain washes the past away and leaves a clean surface to begin anew. However, this is not a tropical garden, and the sun did not come out after the rain. This is a desert, and the rain feels out of place here. The sky is grey and sullen, and it makes the desert below seem little more than mud.

The boat did get washed, but the funny thing about boats is they leak, not from the water pushing up underneath, but from the water washing over the deck. There are many more holes on the surface of a boat than there are underneath, and the water on the deck finds ways of getting in - in through the old windows with the dried-out seems, in from the miss-fitting hatch over my bunk. We are litteraly sinking from above.

We left the Singlar Marina, the main marina in Guaymas, and headed out to the ‘Almost Free Marina’ (thirty pesos a day, about $3 Canadian). It is nice there because it is behind a mountain from Guaymas, so even though it is only thirty minutes away, it feels like you are in the middle of nowhere.

Liam wanted to get off the boat and take pictures, which we did. From the top of the mountain by the marina you can see the Sea of Cortez, and Liam started pining for heading out to sea. But before we could do that there were a number of projects that needed taking care of on the boat.

So we hoisted the sails, did an oil change, as well as a number of other jobs. Liam’s job was to try to catch fish from the dock with the new line and lure we got in town.

There were only two other boats here. I recognized them both from the previous year. Both are Canadian, and they winter in Mexico at this marina every year. “I just go back up to Canada in the summer to get by asshole fixed, I get it fixed every year” - so said the fellow on one of the boats who came over to talk to us while we were putting our sails up. Liam looked at him out of the corner of his eye. In the course of the couple of visits to us while we were working he told us he hated Leach and McBride - the folks that made the sails for our boat, he hated Mitsubishi - the maker of our engine, and finally “You guys are pretty small, that is too bad, sorry to see that”. Liam later commented that he was “not too sure about that guy…”.

The Almost Free Marina was nice, but after a day it felt like we had seen it, so Liam pushed me to make the passage to San Carlos, about 3 hours away. I was a bit nervous as the boat was not really ready, and you could see the storm clouds heading towards us from the south. But we had not been to SC before. In the end the passage was good, and it was nice to finally be out at sea.

And we arrived just in time. We picked up a mooring buoy, and within ten minutes the rain began. Liam made dinner, then made popcorn and watched a movie. I spent the evening I staring at my computer screen, listening to the rain, wondering if the boat, and I, would be washed clean.

Wednesday 11 February 2015

In the water - Liam

After about ten days of getting the boat ready we are finally in the water, getting the boat ready the last night was mayhem, but we got it done. The next morning I was dragged out of my bed by my dad at 8 in the morning to help him get the boat ready... again. Getting the boat put in the water is pretty stressful, you can always tell that their machine hasn't been updated in a few years, and the fact that they are lifting your boat with all your personal belongings in it is not very reassuring.

 Ever since our trips began, my brother and I have taken advantage of not having to get up early for school, so we have always gotten up around 10:30-11. Even tho my brother is not here I have continued to take advantage of this. The only problem is my dad thinks I should be getting up much earlier, so he has always come up with ways to get me out of bed, or at least to wake me up, while being innocent. Some of his methods are knocking on the side of the boat, doing the dishes, or putting the stereo on full volume while the morning cruisers net is on. He also sometimes complains that there is too much stuff on the stairs, and he cant get out, he does similar acts to get me out of my bed. At this point I wouldn't be surprised if he starts getting coffee beans instead of grindings so that he can grind them next to my bed every

Even though the passage from the yard to the singlar marina was only 20 minutes, it felt really good to finally be back on the  water. Even in a garbage filled bay we still saw a sea lion, and lots of different birds, we docked at the singlar and got straight to work on getting final provisions and laundry and anything that couldn't get done once we leave.

That night we went out for tacos and ended up eating a meal we didn't know what it was, it was a hard shell filled with some type of meat and salad. They never tell you what kind of meat you are eating, and according to my dad "were in mexico, for all we know it could be dog." Today was the same, getting the last things we would need. We went to a fishing store to get some lures and line, it was a very strange place, first of all it was in the middle of the slums, and the building obviously did not belong in the area, secondly the people working in the store seemed that they couldnt care less whether we bought anything or not, these people were definetly not being paid based on what they sold. Everything was done incredibly slow, they did not try to make us feel welcome at all, and we had to wait for around ten minutes for god knows what to actually buy the stuff. Tomorrow we are leaving to go to an anchorage on the other side of the mountain, although it is still in Guaymas, you wouldn't notice because of the mountain blocking you from society. Once the weather is good, we will leave Guaymas and cross the sea, this is where our trip really begins.

Sunday 8 February 2015

Doing Time in the Yard - Peter

Liam and I have been at the boat for a week today. We are still 'on the hard'. That is, we are still a boat on stilts in a dirt yard. 

What is wrong with me that I cannot remember people's names. I tried the trick of repeating a name back to the person after I have been introduced, but it does not help. Hi, I am Bob. Nice to meet you Bob, etc. etc. I can talk to someone day in and day out and not remember their name. Liam remembers - "were you talking to Frank?". Who is Frank I ask. "Oh my god, you talk to him every day, I remind you of his name everyday". It is difficult holding a conversation with someone that you have spoken to for days and in the back of your mind know that you have no clue what their name is. 

There are some people here in the yard that I can remember their names, but not many. There is George. George is a nice old timer. He lives on his tiny sailboat, and as far as I know he has never had the boat in the water and does not have any plans to. He comes down every year and spends the winter on his boat, on stilts. He knows everyone, and everything that is going on in the yard. 

There is Minnesota. I remember his name because Liam heard that he was from Minnesota and so we call him that. Don't know what his real name is, but I don't have a problem remembering him as Minnesota.

Ted (his real name) I have met every time I have been down here. He is working on his 50 foot wooden boat. It actually looks like it is coming along. Unlike a number of other boats here that have been worked on for years, if not decades. 

We have been here too long, in the boatyard. I am feeling the inertia settling in. A couple came down the other day, a day after us, and have already launched their boat and are gone. That is the fastest I have seen anyone launch. The couple on the boat behind us came down mid December. They tried to fix one thing, then they would find something else that needed fixing. They have to be home by April 1st. They are not sure yet if they will launch at all this season now. 

Still, it is better than many. When I stick my head out of the hatch in the morning there are a number of silent sentinels perched around us like vacant ghosts of someone's abandoned dream. Boats that have not moved since I first came here what, over five years ago now. They have been packed away, as though left for the season. The owners went off and have not come back. The boats are now soulless avatars perched on stilts like heads on a stick to warn off other would-be dreamers. 

When we arrived back at the boat we went to sleep at night hearing the dogs having their barking session, or as George said, having their "dog wars". In the morning it is the roosters screaming out as though they know today is the day they are getting their necks wrung. "The dogs have been attacking the baby sheep" George said. I have not heard them in the last couple of days I said. "Oh, they put out poison the other night to get rid of them. Just as well, they were starving anyway". 

Minnesota likes his beer. I am not sure what he does. He is relatively young - 38 - for the marina. At that age most guys here are just passing through. Minnesota isn't going anywhere soon I don't think. "Hey, you should come over for a few beers" he said. "We are going to get a drunk on n' go carousing". Carousing I said, where are you going to do that around here? "Oh, I don't know, maybe some of the old guys will let their wives off their boats tonight...". 

I had to change the transmission. If there is anything I have put into this boat to ensure that I do not have to worry about it, then I can feel pretty confident it is going to break. The engine, three times, the rudder, twice. Now the transmission. It was new five years ago. They are suppose to last for decades. In any event, I had to put a rebuilt one in. I thought it would take me days. I was pretty impressed with myself when I had the old one out, and the new one in within six hours, though it is pretty much just a heavy Lego job.

Later I climbed down the ladder to do an inspection thinking we could get the boat in the water in a couple of days, I found a problem with the rudder. It was full of water and had delaminated. The rudder I had made five years ago. Three years ago it had fallen off the boat. Now it needs fixing again. It is either time or money, or just something to try to forget. "Oh, just F&*king go sailing" said Dustin. Dustin is the guy two boats over - at least that is what Liam and I call him. "Just call him Dustin, Dada, he looks like Dustin Hoffman". OK, I said. And of course I remember that. 

Maybe we'll just go sailing with the rudder as it is. Last year was the windlass, this year the transmission. Next year can be the rudder. Hopefully it won't break. That sounds fair to me. Liam wants to get going. He has his heart set on running along the beach in Punta Chivato. A beautiful deserted anchorage we were at last year.

Liam and I watched the Shawshank Redemption on the computer the other night. Good movie. Tim Robbins goes to prison for a crime he did not commit. He just wants to run off to Mexico, but spends over 20 years in Jail, walking around 'the yard'. I bumped into Minnesota at the washroom this morning. "Hey, if your kid is getting board just have him swing by my boat. I have a bunch of porno mags he can borrow...". 

Hopefully we will make our break before we give everyone in the yard a name I can remember.