Mar 24 2010

Life in La Cruz

Tag: routemattholmes @ 10:40 am

We have been anchored a half mile outside of La Cruz for just over a week now, and it has felt like approximately 3 days. The time passes effortlessly unnoticed. For the first week we spent a lot of energy getting accustomed to the scene and taking care of business. Finding groceries, doing laundry, picking up parts for broken items, etc. Most days we dinghy into the marina, sometimes before lunch (more often after).   We’re anchored towards the back of the pack (there are about 30 boats out there with us), so it takes about 20 minutes of fighting with the outboard to get us into the marina.  We tie up next to the boat of newly acquired friends and then walk a half mile around the marina and into la cruz.  Three times now we have caught the bus towards puerto vallarta–a slow local bus that immediately turns the trip into a full-day affair.  We have eaten most of our dinners in town–the food is usually cheap and often it doesn’t make sense to return to the boat to make a meal.  We now plan only one task for each day–getting groceries is definitely a full-day affair; doing laundry ended up being a two-day affair.  I have experienced “mexican time” in the past, but each time I return it takes time to adjust.

We’ve made many new friends. There was a potluck on the roof of the yacht club, a couple dinners at friend’s boats, dinners on our boat. There was a swap meet this past weekend.  Many of the friends we met through their blogs before we even arrived to the area.  It was very cool to meet Diane, Evan, and Maia aboard Ceilyadh; we’ve been following their progress down the coast for months.  I spent nearly a full-day slacklining with Maia and a few of her friends.  We had Mike and Hyo from Io aboard for dinner last night, and I laughed to the point of tears over some of their stories.  Our friends Louis and Laura from Cirque are in the area–they’ve been cruising this part of Mexico for years now and were our inspiration for heading to La Cruz.  I learned how to sail while racing on board Cirque up in the bay, and they just won their division of the banderas bay regatta for a second year in a row.  Last night we had dinner with Mark on Wendaway (previously SolMate), who we met in San Carlos years ago when we first bought our boat; both the food and conversation was excellent and I will remember it as a special evening.  Raptordance (Bill and Mary) are also in the area; Raptordance is a Valiant 50 and Bill was one of the founders of the yahoo Valiant owner’s forum that has been such a helpful resource for me.  Wally Bryant from Stella Blue is anchored near us in the bay; he was up in the bay area with us while we were fixing up our boat.  His detailed blog is incredible and his advice in fixing up Syzygy was, and continues to be, top-notch.  It has been great to finally spend time with him over a few beers instead of email.  This place is full of cruisers who are doing the same thing we are, and it’s good to be able to bond over similar experiences.

The warm weather is wonderful.  It feels fantastic to be able to wear only shorts, all day long and into the evening.  I’m getting a tan for the first time in years.

Most boats that are doing the puddle jump–crossing the pacific to the marquesas–are leaving within the next week or so, or have left already.  We’ll definitely be one of the last boats to head out; we’re ok with that.  We need the time to relax and recover, and finish getting the boat ready.

Honestly, I’m still finding it hard to relax–I have been so long out of practice.  I have had difficulty sleeping–I’m thinking that it’s mostly the hotter temperatures, to which I haven’t yet acclimatized (but I love that it is hot, don’t get me wrong).  Then I wake up and feel as if I should be getting stuff done, working on the boat, running errands, etc, and unfortunately there is still a lot of that to be done.  We want to depart for the south pacific in about three weeks and there are items to fix and improve from our trip down the coast, so half of the days we’ve been here I’ve been working on something.  Each day I feel a little less pressure, but there hasn’t been a dramatic release of stress and responsibility as I had expected.  I feel that it will take a while to adapt to the changes, to become accustomed to having free time.  We have no hard deadlines anymore, we can do what we want when we want, and surprisingly the absence of such deliberate planning has been difficult to get used to.  Time, we’ll give it time and see how it feels.

The truth is that the mere absence of boat work does not in itself cause happiness–it has taken me a few weeks to recognize this.  I have the time now to again participate in other activities: reading, thinking, socializing, exercising, etc, and these other activities in life bring me my joy and fulfillment–just as soon as I again remember how to let them happen.

Mar 15 2010

Our view

Tag: routemattholmes @ 12:38 pm

some images and video between Ensenada and La Cruz

Mar 15 2010

First Storm

Tag: routemattholmes @ 12:14 pm

(post dated–this post refers to events on 3/7)

Before leaving Ensenada I pulled in a weatherfax over the SSB (our shortwave, long distance radio) and noticed that we would be heading out into a developing low pressure system with a cold front moving over our position–i.e. a small storm.  The wind speeds were predicted at 25-35 knots and seas 12-18 feet–these sort of conditions are fairly substantial when you’re offshore in the dark, but not the sort of thing that need be dangerous if you’re prepared for it.  So Karen and I discussed the forecast and decided that we were game for it.  Personally, I was interested in testing our mettle.  Also, I thought it would be good to get our first storm experience under our belt, as a confidence-building exercise.  And really as far as storms go it was a small one, not too crazy.

As it approached, the wind shifted around from behind us–where it is convenient for the wind to come from—to directly ahead of us–not so convenient (though expected).  Still keen on making forward progress, however, we started beating into the wind.  For the first five hours or so of windward sailing we were ecstatic to discover that it was our most comfortable point of sail so far: the wind waves had not yet built, so were were sailing smoothly into the wind with a following sea.

As the winds increased, we progressively decreased sail area.  We had been sailing for hours with a full main and full jib.  First we took one reef in the main, then took two reefs in the main, then switched down from the jib to the staysail.  With the staysail and double-reefed main we beat upwind in increasingly shitty conditions for a number of hours. Here’s a really crappy little picture I just drew and took a picture of to illustrate:

This is the position we found ourselves in–beating upwind in the darkest night with double-reefed main and staysail–when the worst of the storm came upon us.  The “worst of the storm” involved 30 knots of wind, an immense quantity of driving blinding rain, occasional ambiguously located flashes of lightning, and reasonably sized obnoxiously pounding wind waves.

Beating upwind is not an advisable thing to do in a storm, unless you are trying to deliberately subject yourself and your boat to the strongest forces possible.  You can sit there and say that we should have changed things sooner, before we found ourselves in the situation of being over-canvassed beating upwind in a storm that is.  Three weeks ago I probably would have said the same thing–but I have learned some things since then.  One of those things is that if something is working well enough, then leave it well enough alone.  Too often I fall victim to experimenting with sail changes and modifications, only to find myself needing to change everything back–and exhausting myself in the process.  When there are only two of you, and sleep becomes a high priority, you must eschew the textbook sailing setup for one that is working well-enough to leave well-enough-alone.  So even though beating upwind in the storm was not ideal, we were still “fine”–fine in the sense that I judged neither us nor the boat to be in any immediate danger.  So, despite the increasing ridiculousness of beating upwind in those conditions, I still found myself wondering whether we should bother taking any measures to alter our situation.

Well eventually of course conditions deteriorated to the point where we needed to modify our situation.  Ahhh now the tricky part is what to change and how to do it, in the middle of the storm, isn’t it?  Trying to get something accomplished in those conditions–i.e. two steps shy of “worst conditions imaginable”–is touch and go.  If you mess something up with the sail, it will promptly flog itself to pieces before you have a chance to save it.  If you make an honest mistake with steering, you’re liable to find yourself on your ass, which in a boat means “knocked down”, which means getting your mast to touch the water–not cool.  Basically, you don’t have many chances to get it right.  Whatever you do, you want to pull it off right the first time.

We decided that we should heave to, and we also decided that we should get it right this time.  The last time we tried to heave to while experimenting in the dark prior to entering san diego, I was dissatisfied with our setup.  Specifically, I was annoyed that we were unable to completely stall the boat.

This time it worked out perfectly fine for us.  We hove to under double-reefed main and staysail, the motion of the boat became relatively calm, and we slept the night away (in turns).  The boat still fore-reached at about a knot, so I still want to work on that a bit, but as it turns out the hove-to position was still stable and calm, so perhaps I was being a bit perfectionist about it before.  If we ever experience a real storm we’ll see.

Perhaps that was an anticlimactic conclusion to our storm story, sorry about that, but we were safe and fine so that’s a good ending right?

Mar 15 2010

Anchored in La Cruz, Banderas Bay

Tag: routemattholmes @ 8:45 am

We arrived mid-day yesterday after a 9 day 1200 miles passage from Ensenada.  There are many stories to tell, which I will need a few days to write up and post–there are a lot of things occupying our time now that we are back among people again (like showers and food and laundry, etc).  Some brief notes: it was extremely challenging, and is now extremely satisfying to have accomplished.  We certainly hadn’t planned on staying out for so long or going so far before stopping, but we were both of the mindset to keep going as long as we were feeling ok, and were continued to feel ok all the way down here to banderas bay . . .

The second day out from Ensenada we experienced our first storm–a small one, perfect for practicing.  You’ll hear that story in another post.

We had a lot of wind and big seas almost the entire time.  Like 20-30 knots of wind and 10-15 foot seas, for all but the last few days.  This was good, in the sense that we reeled off 150 mile days and got south fast.  But wind and seas like that make the experience tiring and challenging.

And I should emphasize that it was really challenging.  It was hard not because of any technical difficulties, but simply because of discomfort and frustration and lack of sleep.  At times the discomfort of the boat motion and frustration of seemingly easy tasks was overwhelming.  I now well understand the expression “mouth of a sailor”, because at times I swore harder and louder than ever before.  At one point I had a teapot jump off the stove and spill water all over my head WHILE I was finishing mopping up two bowls of cereal from the floor.  That’s just one of dozens of comically ridiculous things that happened, all of which elicit an emotionally explosive need to simultaneously cry, scream, and laugh.  “Too ridiculous to have just happened” went through my head often.  I started thinking of our boat as a funhouse; it was laughable to be down below when everything was going every which way, things flying all over the place, etc, which was most of the time.  It got better.  We became more efficient with the watches and the sail changes, and more accustomed to the funhouse nature of being down below.  It got sunny and warm shortly after passing Cabo, and that was a big turning point.  By the end we were sleeping 6 hours at a stretch and drinking beers, and it was feeling good.   Now that we’re at anchor having successfully made that monster passage, it feels really good indeed!

So, I will post some more entries with specific stories from the trip.  Our priorities are sleep, relaxation, food, drink–the basic essentials of comfort really.  Eventually we’ll get around to such motivated tasks as laundry and writing emails etc, but there’s no reason to rush these things!

fyi we’re planning on sitting right here where we are for about a month.

Mar 04 2010

Ahora estamos en Mexico

Tag: routemattholmes @ 8:24 pm

[writing this at the nav table, in a slip at Baja Naval, Ensenada, BC, MX; these are some disconnected notes and observations regarding the 1.5 day passage from San Diego to Ensenada]

We departed San Diego mid-day yesterday, in an attempt to time our arrival at Ensenada during the following day. At first, the wind was excellent (10 knots off the beam) and we made great time–yet again we found ourselves in a position to enter the harbor sooner than expected, in the dark, so we doused the jib and sailed obliquely away from Ensenada and then back, killing time until the sun rose (of course, on the tack back towards Ensenada the wind disappeared entirely, so instead of bobbing around in the 5 foot swell we motored slowly for a few hours).

Both of us felt a bit queasy on this passage.  The quartering sea didn’t help (in which the waves get you from the right butt cheek of the boat, if the boat had a right butt cheek that is).  I anticipate that the first day or two on passage will probably take some getting used to, each time.  However, once again the hardest thing about the passage was getting adequate sleep.  As soon as we were secured to the dock this morning we got back in bed and napped for another few hours.  I think that we will become increasingly comfortable with the abnormal schedule as we make more passages (one can hope).

We are in a slip at a marina called Baja Naval for tonight; we head south again tomorrow morning.  The check-in procedure was straightforward, except that the port captain here requires liability insurance, and there’s only one insurance place in town that does it, and they charged $210 for a year’s worth of insurance that probably isn’t worth jack because I doubt if they would ever pay any claim (the woman would not provide me with any paperwork outlining the terms of the policy).  The insurance thing is clearly a scam to take some more money from the yatistas down here.  It makes sense to me for a marina to require insurance, but not the government.  Hell, even in the USA your aren’t required to have insurance on your boat (though most marinas do require it).  We should have taken care of it while up in the states, but I had mistakenly thought that insurance was not absolutely required.

This baja naval marina is a trip.  Apparently the swell readily finds its way into the harbor, because all the boats and docks are in constant motion, as if all of us and all the docks were all lightly lashed together and set free, without any pylons or connection to land.  Like we’re tied into one big floating raft, with all the pieces going every which way and bouncing off each other ad infinitum.

Mar 04 2010

drinks and a toast from Jon

Tag: Uncategorizedmattholmes @ 8:22 pm

Karen and I have been really excited by the number of people sending a drink our way, cheering us on, and we intend to put up pictures etc for each one under the “Drinks” page.  We’ve been busy taking care of logistics still, so we have a lot of catching up to do, in the way of drinking, but I want to say thank you to everyone out there who has sent a drink our way, and eventually we’ll get to all of them!

I think it’s appropriate to kick off the drink links section with a donation of Belgian beer from Jon (Haradon, one of the other owners of Syzygy), and the toast he wrote to go with it (which he asked Karen to read to me).  Jon wishes he could be on the trip currently, and is planning on joining us in June, but in the meantime he sent us to a pub in San Diego with Belgian beers on tap (he emailed us with two location choices).  Thank you, Jon, for the Belgian beer and the kind words as well.

The footage makes Karen and I seem ridiculous.  And maybe we are.  But it was a fun evening.  (please stay tuned for the toasts from other drink donors, and thanks again to all of you we love you!)