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Heading North

3/6/04 Waiting for a water pump

So John and his cute pixie-like friend Karen (AKA Tinkerbelle) showed up right on time on the 22nd of February.  They took a cab from the Manzanillo Airport direct to the beach palapa in Club Santiago and sat down for a couple of Margaritas before the dinghy ride back to the boat.

We got up early the next morning and hot-footed it back to Barra before the big winds kicked up right on cue about noon.  Our intended two days at the marina became four in order to miss some more big winds that blew through here.  People who were out in it assured us we made a good decision to wait for our trip to Tenecatita.

Once again we experienced the famous Manana Effect as our planned two days in Tenecatita became four, but luckily our good friend Roberto gave Karen a ride to the airport so she could return to her job and son back in Ojai after a much too short week.

So John, Barb and I came back to Barra planning to refuel, top off water tanks, pick up a few provisions, and get going within two days for the trip North.

We were just getting ready to leave Barra behind and begin our return trip to Puerto Vallarta and eventually the Sea of Cortez.  Barb suggested maybe the engine oil could use a change, since I’d been talking about doing it for awhile, so I agreed and began to do it.  It was then that I noticed a little drip that had been coming from inside the water heater seemed to have increased to the volume of a small waterfall.  The funny thing was, I couldn’t see it, only hear it.  All I could see was the same small drip that had been there.  After much head scratching and colorful language, I finally found the source, and it was a new one, the raw water pump.  Oh well, thought I, no problemma, I bought a spare before we left Oxnard so it’ll just be a matter of changing it out.  Any reader who knows about boats must be laughing already.  There is never any such thing as an easy fix.  The spare I had been assured was correct turned out to be the wrong size, too big everywhere.  Let’s see, two options, #1: get a new pulley and have a new mounting bracket fabricated for the oversized spare, or #2: maybe rebuild the old pump.  After a day’s investigation, neither option looked good.  I looked online, and it appeared a new pump could be ordered from the States for $150-$200.  I could get a Mexican supplier to order me one but it would take a month and cost $400.

Upshot is, the new one is on it’s way from the helpful folks at Bosun’s Locker in Costa Mesa, and should be here sometime next week if all goes well.

The good part is, we really didn’t want to leave Barra so quickly anyway, but since we’ve been <stuck> in or around here since December 10, it seemed like it must be time.  Next week will be fine with us, but unfortunately John may have to take a bus to Puerto Vallarta in order to catch his flight home on the 12th if there is any snag.  We’re keeping our fingers crossed, hoping we will be able to buddy boat north with our good friends Captain Louise and Crewman Brad aboard the Swan 65 Mehetabel.

Keeping our fingers crossed!

Stuck in Barra,

Mike, Barb, John, and Buddy

Flash!  A miracle has happened and the pump came today (Monday) after only being shipped Friday!  Delivered right to the boat!  I am looking for a new pulley today and will install the pump tomorrow.  We should be on our merry way north in the next day or two, as soon as we get provisioned.  Maybe John won't have to take a cab to PV after all!


03/28/04         Back in Paradise

The most amazing thing happened in Barra.  The water pump I ordered from Costa Mesa on Friday afternoon arrived at the dock via DHL on the following Monday!  I couldn’t believe it.

Even so, it wasn’t until Saturday that we finally said our sad goodbyes to our friends in Barra and headed Arabella North.  A couple of days in Tenecatita, three in Chemela, an overnight in Ipala, and we were back in the Bay of Banderas.   All easy smooth one day sails with only the normal mechanical problems any boat experiences.  I wanted to show Barbie what Yelapa looks like, since I had seen it and she hadn’t.   It was right on our way and in the middle of the south side of the Bay, so we decided to stop there for the night provided we could get comfortably anchored.  The cove has a very steep shoreline, goes from 200+ feet deep to 50 in a matter of a few yards.  The 50’ goes to 20’, 10’ and beach in a matter of a few more yards.  It’s not an easy place to anchor.

As we pulled into the beautiful cove, a beautiful big sailboat was anchored near the beach, and it turned out to be the Swan 65 Mehetabel with our friends Captain Louise and Brad aboard, along with the owners and their guests.  We hadn’t seen them for a couple of weeks and it was great they were there.  As we struggled to find a spot to drop the hook, a Trojan 40 comes ripping around the corner from the direction of PV and it turned out to be some more good friends, Chicago Bill and Barbs old school chum Joey.  Talk about coincidence, two other boats in this unlikely spot and we know them both!  We got the hook set in about 95’ with a two to one scope and it held us tight all night just off the panga mooring area.

So we arrived in Paradise Village marina on Monday, and it was just like coming home after summer vacation.  We were just in time to sign up for the Banderas Bay Regatta, and set about preparing the boat and recruiting crew.  Joe offered, Mike and his friend Karen from Lifee Baker, and Brad and Louise from Mehetabel  also agreed, so we were set.  We gave it a really good college try, with a third place finish on Friday, and not quite so good Saturday and Sunday, we ended up 4th overall in our division.  It’s supposed to be a cruiser’s regatta, raced by fully loaded cruisers, but there were lots of boats that didn’t quite fit that description.  Magnitude 80 was one glaring example, but they were in their own class and not really competing.  Anyway we had a blast and it was great to see Arabella sailed to close to her full potential.  On the last downwind leg Friday we did some 9.5 knot surfing under spinnaker, main and mizzen, averaging close to 8.  That’s pretty fast for a big heavy boat full of stuff.

So it looks like we might be here for a couple more weeks because I need to get a new flexible drive coupling installed, and a dripless packing gland, before heading up to the sea.  We also need to get our FM3 cards so we can import boat parts duty free, and that takes a while too.

There are some more pictures up, by the way. 

So we’ll be in Paradise somehow struggling through this hot weather and 87% humidity.  Must be time to hit the pool!

Hasta la Pasta,

Mike, Barb, and Bud the Spud.

04/28/04  In Mazatlan

I had a whole regular log entry started, and lost it somehow.  No time to redo it now, about to leave Mazatlan. 

Briefly, we had a great passage up here from Puerto Vallarta, beam reaching at 6+ knots the whole way except at night, sunny days and starry nights.  We anchored in Punta Mita the first night, had dinner with Mike and Karen on Lifee Baker, went to Mantagen Bay (next to San Blas) the next day and anchored, then an overnight to here, arriving at dawn.  Shift cable broke while anchoring at Mantagen, and developed an electrical problem that had our batteries discharging even while under power, so engine wouldn't start...made an ugly landing at El Cid Marina, but no scratches or anything.  We got a new cable here and put it in, and had a guy look into our electrical problem.  All is well again. What follows is a story about how bad luck can become not so bad:

Dinghy Thief Apprehended in Mazatlan

Arabella cruised into El Cid marina April 25, after a leisurely trip up the coast from Puerto Vallarta.  We arrived as a big swell from a Pacific storm was about to close the harbor for 3 days, so we decided to put the dinghy into the water for visiting friends a half mile up the channel in Marina Mazatlan.  We were relaxed and feeling very casual, so never even thought to lock the dinghy up at night.  We were on an end tie, and had it snuggled up behind the bow, tied to the dock.   You guessed it, the second night it disappeared while we were aboard the boat, just after returning from dinner.  Jorge, the El Cid night watchman, came by in his panga as I was snoozing in the cockpit, and asked if we had loaned our dinghy to someone.  I said no, and he said he had just seen an inflatable heading out of the harbor full speed.  He was ready to take off in hot pursuit, but since the harbor was closed, had to get permission from the Harbormaster before he could do so.  As we tried to raise the Harbormaster on the radio, I made a call to the fleet on the local hailing frequency, and immediately had an answer from Mike Wilson on Tortue.  It turned out that he, and several others, had also had dinghies stolen in the past month or two, and he offered to call the Police, Navy, and Port Captain to make the report.  This was the first dinghy to be snatched from marina El Cid, and Estevan, head of security, also made the calls.  By the time we decided it would be too dangerous (and most likely futile) to try crossing the waves breaking clear across the harbor entrance, the police were arriving and ready to take our report.  Everyone was amazed the thief had actually made it out through that 10’ surf in an inflatable powered by a 6 horsepower engine.  

Anyway, thanks to the quick report, and prompt response by the authorities, the thief was caught by the Navy as he came ashore near the Fisherman’s Monument several miles away.  All we had to do was go to the District Attorney’s office the following day, file a statement, and we would be able to reclaim our dinghy and motor.  During the night he spent in custody, the thief was persuaded to confess to stealing the other dinghies, and three of them were found at his home.  One was the brand new Caribe and motor that Mike Wilson had lost only two days after he had bought them.

Mike offered to drive us around and get all the paperwork done at 9:00 am, but “El Cid Estevan” was waiting for us, and he happened to be an ex-policeman who knew everyone we needed to deal with.  After three hours of driving from one government agency to another, eventually we found our dinghy at the Municipal Police station.

It ended up taking another day before we actually were able to retrieve the dinghy, and again, Estevan and another El Cid employee were there to drive and help load the dinghy into the truck.  When we arrived at the station, it turned out the police wanted to display all the recovered dinghies and motors and have the local newspapers photograph them with the thief standing handcuffed in front!  It was a classic situation, and worth the extra time it took.  The thief will get about 15 years in jail, and they were anxious to make an example of him.  It’s a really bad thing to mess with the tourists around here, since we’ve become the lifeblood of the place as the shrimp fishery declines.

We learned a lot from this; primarily that it is smart to inquire on the morning net whether there are any security concerns when arriving at a new port, and never get so relaxed and casual that you risk losing something as important as the ship to shore transportation device!

Going to head for La Paz tomorrow, time is running out.  We'll have the boat in San Carlos by June 1 for summer storage.  Looking forward to being on land for a few months!

Mike, Barb, and the Buddster

In La Paz  05/06/04


After the fast and easy trip from Puerto Vallarta to Mazatlan, the 3 day passage from Mazatlan to La Paz seemed like a snail ride at first.  The original plan was to go straight up to Agua Verde or Puerto Escondido, so we left about 1300 Friday and found ourselves heading into a 15 knot Northwesterly and a lumpy confused seaway.  We were traveling with a buddy boat, Two Can Play, and were at least comforted by the fact that they couldn’t make much headway either.  Arabella would get up to 4 knots occasionally, motorsailing as close to our course line as possible, then she'd get whammed by a series of waves that slowed her to 1.5 or 2.  We couldn’t sail a course that didn’t take us right into land or south of Cabo, and it took forever just to get out of sight of Mazatlan.  There was no improvement that night, with Buddy seasick and the two of us just hoping for relief, nor did it abate much the following day.  We began to question the wisdom of trying to go so far north, and wondered if we should just shoot straight across to Los Frailes.  In retrospect that would have been a great plan.

Midway through that second day, the engine began to overheat, so by evening we were resigned to running at 1500 rpms to keep it cooler, instead of 1900 or 2000 like we usually do.  By evening we had thrown a belt from our raw water pump (quickly replaced), but were also losing coolant at an alarming rate; no evidence where it was going.  So we decided to split off from Two Can Play and head for La Paz, where there are more services available.  We were also concerned about fuel, since we’d been making such slow progress and burning more than planned.

Soon after the course change the wind began to back to a southwesterly, the seas began to lay down, and we were happy.  Then, soon after sunrise, the pulley fell off the raw water pump.  The key had slipped out of the keyway and the pulley had been munched up where it slips onto the shaft.  It now had lots of slop instead of a nice tight fit.  After numerous attempts to get it to stay on, trying fabricated wedge-shaped keys, finally I epoxied the thing on and it lasted more than an hour.  Actually it lasted all the way here, and I don’t know if it will ever come off!

The third night was a joy, except for having to maintain constant vigilance over the exhaust water and temperature gauge.  The sea turned into a giant lake, light wind on the beam, and a full moon lighting our way to the island north of La Paz.  Since we knew it would be several hours before dawn when we arrived, we opted to take the longer but safer route around the islands to the north instead of attempting the narrow channel that is the more direct way.  About midnight the breeze picked up enough to turn off the engine.  We had a great sail for the rest of the night, doing 6.5 knots and absolutely loving life.   

It was just after lunch Monday when we made the entrance to La Paz, filling the coolant reservoir every hour or so, and coasted into the fuel dock at Marina Palmyra with the engine overheat alarm buzzing.  Whew!

Yesterday we took apart the heat exchanger, soaked it in dilute muriatic acid for a few hours to remove the scale and rust which had accumulated inside, replaced both hoses which had been leaking, and got everything reassembled by late afternoon.  It seems to work great.

Today we’ll look for a new pulley for the water pump, change the oil in the engine and tranny, and try to have some fun in town.

We’re hoping our good friend Captain Bill will fly down to join us for a few days, and plan to kick back here for a week or so to take care of a few more maintenance issues.  Then it’s day hops up the coast to Bahia Concepcion and back across the Sea to San Carlos by June 1, where we’ll leave the boat for the hot months.

That’s it for now!


5/20/04 Puerto Escondido and Loreto

We found a new pulley for the water pump in a True Value hardware store in La Paz, but it was aluminum.  Didn't seem like a good idea to me, but I let myself be convinced it'd be fine... 

So we left La Paz at the crack of noon Saturday, and motored north to the end of Espiritu Santos island where we found a great cove named Ensenada Grande.  After a couple of hours the engine began to overheat again.  The pulley was still on solidly at that point, so I thought, what the hell, might as well change out the thermostat since I'm about out of ideas.  That seemed to help some.

After a windy sleepless night on the hook at Ensenada Grande (we kept thinking we were dragging but we weren't), we took off early for San Evaristo, out next planned stop.  You guessed it, the engine began to overheat again at the magic 2 hour point.  I had one last idea.  If you know marine diesels, you know the sea water is pumped through a heat exchanger to cool the closed coolant system, much like a radiator in a car, then it exits through the exhaust system, keeping the exhaust cool as it exits through the hull.  There is a tendency for soot and salt to clog things up where the water meets the exhaust, and I wondered if that was happening on Arabella.  Well, we had shut down the engine and were having a great sail, so when it got cool enough, I went down and squeezed the hose, which made a scrunching noise, and then took off the hose and dug around in the exhaust elbow where it hooks on.  That appeared to be the solution to everything, when a huge black ball of sooty salty snot blew out the exhaust, forming a black cloud in the water that grew to 5 feet in diameter very quickly.  Suddenly the formerly anemic trickle of exhaust water became a robust flow, and all the next day it ran cool as a cucumber at full RPM's.

That day's run put us into Agua Verde, one of the prettiest spots we've ever been.  There were lots of folks we knew there, and we met lots more at a fun get-together bonfire on the beach that night.  If we weren't out of beer, ice, and cigarettes we probably would have stayed several days there, but there are some things a cruiser can't live without.

So we left the next morning for the short run up here to Puerto Escondido, and it is really a beautiful place as well.  Of course, just as we were about to anchor, the engine overheat alarm went off- it turned out the new pulley had self destructed and was falling off- but we got the hook down OK and got the old pulley back on the next day.  I'm pretty sure it will stay on...  We've been here for a few days and plan to head north again tomorrow towards Bahia Conception.  There are some new pictures, and we are really starting to look forward to getting back to civilization as we remember it, but know we'll start missing the boat as soon as we leave her.


Mike, Barb, and Buddy “The Bud Man”

5/30/04  Finally in San Carlos

From Puerto Escondido we cruised into a pretty place called San Juanico.  It was Bob from Joggins birthday and we had a heck of a blowout party aboard Arabella.  Maybe that's why I couldn't remember the name of the place for awhile.  It is a spot where there is a tree that cruisers hang little decorations depicting their boat. 

After an enjoyable 11 hour cruise north from there, we arrived in Bahia Santispac, inside the 22 mile long Bahia Concepsion.  It was mostly a motorsail into the wind, but when we “turned the corner” into Concepsion we had a great sail for the last hour or two into Santispac.  The engine ran great with no more overheating problems.

We enjoyed a great four nights in this beautiful cove,  making a couple of trips into nearby Muleje for supplies and sightseeing and just kicking back.  It was a rather bittersweet feeling knowing the end of the season was so close, but being in such a special spot surrounded by good friends.  Miff and Carol on Four Winds were there, along with Bob and his pals on Yemiah, Jim on Destiny, Bob on Joggins, and a few others.  For three nights running we had dinner at Rays Place on the beach- an inexpensive but gourmet restaurant in a most unlikely spot.   Their sign says “best food between Tijuana and Cabo” and I believe it just might be.  Extremely habit forming anyway.

We had planned to wait until Sunday to leave, but we were running out of everything, including dinero ($) and there is no bank or ATM in Mulege.  So with heavy hearts we pulled anchor at 7:00 pm Friday night for the 16 hour run across the Sea to San Carlos.  It was a beautiful night sail, mostly a beam reach, with only a few hours of motoring when the wind was too light.  The moon was up most of the night, leaving a beautiful trail on the water that we wanted to follow, leading back to Baja.

We arrived in San Carlos in the middle of a fishing tournament and a regatta as well, so the place is really hopping.  Our best buddy John is on his way down to pick us up and drive us back to Oxnard, and we are faced with mucho trabajo (lots ‘o work) to get the boat ready to leave alone for several months.

Stay tuned for further adventures we are planning “land cruising” this summer.

Fair Winds and all that stuff,

Mike, Barb and the Buddster

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