Wednesday, 31 December 2014
Friday, 26 December 2014
Christmas eve started with a "white elephant" gift exchange for about 20 of us, mostly from dock 3 here at Marina Palmira. Rather fun with some "interesting" gifts. This was followed by caroling, which was when, in our tradition, Michelle and I slipped away to Pelagia. For good reason, as Michelle had prepared and excellent short-rib stew for dinner for five of us.
Christmas morning was sunny and the north winds had stopped, making for a rather warm potluck breakfast on dock 3. After breakfast, Michelle and I took off on our bikes for a swim at El Coroumel. Sea temperature was a comfortable 23 deg C.
|El Coroumel beach|
|The creature from the turquoise lagoon emerges...|
After swimming, we went for a short hike up to the cross on the hill behind the marina.
|Marina Palmira and La Paz beyond|
Christmas day ended with a very good turkey dinner at the "Dinghy Dock" restaurant, followed by a Flor de Cana nightcap in Pelagia's cockpit.
Monday, 22 December 2014
Last year, we were pretty impressed with the Christmas decorations in La Paz; but this year the decorations have really taken off!
|Christmas village/Santa's workshop (across from Marina Palmira)|
|Yes, that's snow on the hill with Santa's sleigh and reindeer coming down (sort of)|
|Further down the Malecon|
|Unusual countdown clock for Christmas...|
|Goats are Michelle's favourite...|
|This elf looks familiar...|
|This Santa is a little scary|
|Not sure how happy she is with this Santa...|
|New clothes and new this year: boots!|
Friday, 19 December 2014
|Pelagia in El Mezteno|
The first two nights, we anchored in El Mezteno, a small indentation on Isla Espiritu Santo. The cove has a beautiful sandy beach with a small pond behind. There was water in the pond with hundreds of small fish providing a yummy treat to a heron.
|Heron fishing at El Mezteno|
|El Mezteno (Pelagia on left)|
Water temperature was 25 degrees C, so swimming was great. We were the only boat on the first night (2 boats on 2nd night)
We then moved next door to Caleta Partida -- again, only a few boats anchored.
|Looking East into Caleta Partida|
However, a power boat anchored nearby insisted on running his generator 24 hours/day as well as lighting up the ocean with its blue underwater lights -- so after one night, we decided to move over to Ensenada Grande (Isla Partida).
|Pelagia anchored in the North Cove of Ensenada Grande (behind catamaran Ascension)|
Next day, on the way back down, we saw many humpback whales, including one that breeched only about 30-40 meters from Pelagia -- that was a "WOW!" moment!
|Humpback "spying" near Caleta Partida|
We decided to spend one more evening in the islands, anchoring in "Ensenada de la Raza" (Isla Espiritu Santo), an inlet that feels like you are anchoring at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. With a little imagination, one can see many faces (of the Raza?) in the cliffs.
We were the only boat.
|Dropping the anchor in Ensenada de la Raza|
|See the face?|
On our last evening of this 6-night trip, we anchored in Caleta Lobos on the Baja peninsula, making it a short 2-hour trip into Marina Palmira.
Tuesday, 2 December 2014
|Our route from Mazatlan to La Paz|
It feels great to be back in Baja and La Paz. The "islands" are beautiful.
|Playa Bonanza (Isla Espiritu Santo)|
A couple of nights ago anchored at Bonanza Beach (Isla Espiritu Santo), we marvelled at how clear the water was, how we could see our anchor and chain along the bottom.
White sand beach, beautiful turquoise sea, fish everywhere, rays jumping, etc.Beautiful.
Nexy day, we did a short hop to Caleta Lobos for one night, then went in to Marina Palmira, our "home base" for December through April.
Friday, 28 November 2014
Finally "escaped" Mazatlan! Left 1030am Thursday and arrived 6pm Friday here in Bahia Los Frailes in Baja Californa Sur. (We were last here in December 2013.)
Arrived just as it became very dark -- lots of other boats anchored -- glad we've been here before and the weather forecast was benign.
A rocking, bouncy (and sometimes uncomfortable) sail across -- but we sailed sailed ALL the way (well, 150 of 160 nm). Close-hauled upwind, Finn our Hydrovane did a fantastic job.
Saturday, 22 November 2014
We have been ready to leave Mazatlan for several days. (We have decided
to return to La Paz.) Unfortunately, we have to wait until a cheque
clears (payment for our upgrades/repairs as well as for a survey);
something that is taking far too long!
Then there's the weather. Early next week a "norther" is forecast for
the Sea of Cortez, bringing unpleasant (rough) seas and winds, all "on
So, we wait.
Friday, 21 November 2014
UPDATE: see also our October 2015 post on sailing down the west coast of Baja and making GPS-accurate Google Earth "charts"
Thursday, 13 November 2014
All went well until we tried to start the engine. Nothing. Yet we had brand new batteries. Looked for a loose wire but saw none. So, we called Rafa, who had done all the work on the engine over the Summer and last week.
Indeed, his shop had left off a wire. Bingo, engine started easily. But, now, no water out of the exhaust. (We had worried about this possibility, and David had looked for any blockages before going back in the water, finding none.) After going through the same things plus a few more, and a lot of head scratching, Rafa and colleague discovered a gear had gone on our just-rebuilt raw-water pump. No problem, it is "guaranteed". All this after we had to be towed over to a dock at the marina.
Next day, re-rebuilt water pump back in and engine running well and spitting out water as it should.
On the positive side, the new windows look great, the welding looks great (new system holding the anchor and additional bracings for the pushpit railings), the hull has a smooth newly painted bottom (all the old bottom paint had been removed and a new barrier coat added), and above the water line nice new blue stripes and waxed hull.
But, elsewhere, Pelagia was a mess, we had a LOT of cleaning inside to do. Decks still need cleaning. And to top it off, David has the flu or something -- and cabin temperature reaches 35 degrees C by mid afternoon.
So, we are working out problems, suffering in the heat. (No, there is no swimming pool.)
Loving the life....
Friday, 7 November 2014
|Posada Barrancas: Michelle loved these dropoffs along the canyon rim|
Our first stop was the cute colonial town of El Fuerte. Once the capital of Sinaloa, this old town on the river is highly recommended. Unfortunately, we arrived a little late to see much (the main square was quite lively). Also unfortunately, our pre-booked hotel was a bit of a dive.
Next morning, we caught the "El CHEPE" train. The schedule on the CHEPE website was confusing and incorrect. We wanted to take the "economico" train which runs only a few days per week (about 60% the price of 1st class, which runs daily). According to the website, it also came an hour later. NOT SO! The 1st class and economy class "trains" are the same train, same stops (on days when both are running), and same schedule as 1st class. Lucky we didn't arrive at the later, incorrect, time and miss the train.
|Sitting in "economico"|
|El CHEPE chugs north -- one of many tunnels|
Scenery along the way got better and better as went further inland and higher up. Mind you, nothing that "knocked your socks off", but pleasant. At the stop in Divisadero, everyone gets off to see the view of (one of) the canyons, as well as to buy some decent and cheap food ("gorditas"). Pretty decent views here. We stayed on the train until the town of Creel.
|Tarahumara woman looking down canyon...|
|Valley of the Mushrooms ("Hongos")|
|Valley of the Frogs (but we could only see one. Climate change?)|
|This used to called the "Valley of the Penises"... wonder why?|
|... now it is called the "Valley of the Monks" ... hmmm|
Posada Barrancas El Mirador Hotel, at C$240 per night (including meals) was a little pricey for us, but the view from the room balcony, hanging over the canyon was indeed "knock your socks off" material. We enjoyed our one night there. The food was pretty decent ('til we saw that the meals were the SAME each and every day, with NO choices...) although the staff, at best, unenthusiastic and the hotel totally lacking in any amenities (WiFi? forget it). A real treat, though, was the excellent hiking on top of/around/ down the canyons (one does NOT need to stay at the hotel to access these trails).
Many other guests took tours, went on the world's longest ziplines, took the ($65) cable car into the canyon, or went horseback riding. We simply hiked -- and enjoyed ourselves.
|Looking up at El Mirador Hotel|
|Sunset view from our hotel room|
All-in-all, a good trip, albeit a little long on the land travel. Almost all travel was comfortable and, except for the bus driver missing our stop at Posada Barrancas (and that led to a fun experience with the miners), essentially hassle free.
Highlights were: mountain biking around Creel; the view from our room at El Mirador Hotel; hiking the canyon, and yes, the miners.
We have posted many photos for this trip on FLICKR:
Pelagia's FLICKR photo album for Mexico's Barrancas del Cobre
Wednesday, 5 November 2014
Go to here to see Vance's history:
Monday, 3 November 2014
Saturday, 1 November 2014
Sunday, 26 October 2014
Monday, 20 October 2014
Hauling Pelagia (at Fonatur) tomorrow morning (October 21st) for bottom-work and other miscellany, including some minor welding (to strengthen bimini/solar panels, and to better-secure the Rocna anchor), boot-stripe repainting, and new portlights (5 of 7). Unfortunately, we discovered that the new pilot house windows we had installed over the summer (while we were away) are totally inadequate. So, we will also have these redone with thicker, more-appropriate windows. More time (and money) required....
On the positive, the engine is all shiny with new or overhauled parts, the teak shiny, the boat clean, and there does not appear to be any mold/mildew. Oh, and the tacos and margaritas are pretty good.
Will likely be here for 2-3 weeks -- may take a road trip.
|Haul out at Fonatur yard, Mazatlan|
|Haul out at Fonatur yard, Mazatlan|
Friday, 17 October 2014
As boats congregate in San Diego, preparing to head south to Mexico, it seems timely to comment on provisioning in Mexico.
Update October 22, 2014: Surprise, surprise, we found plenty of (small size) Tillamook Aged Cheddar (pretty decent cheese) at the Mazatlan Gran Plaza Mega store.
Update: November 3: Unfortunately, no more Tillamook cheddar! And our hopes are dashed.... Aged Cheddar is very hard to find (even harder in La Paz)
Maple syrup (the real stuff): (for Canadians) once you have real maple syrup, it is rather difficult to accept "Log Cabin" or "Aunt Jemina" "maple-flavoured" syrups. Only place we've found real syrup was at Costco.
Molasses: Still have not found molasses in Mexico.
Update October 22, 2014: Another surprise, we see new varieties of dental floss at the Mazatlan Gran Plaza Mega store. (Did they read our blog post?)
Saturday, 27 September 2014
Friday, 19 September 2014
The Cape area (including Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo) was hard hit with significant damage. Surprisingly, little damage to cruising boats in the marinas.
La Paz and Puerto Escondido were also hit hard, with many anchored or moored cruising boats aground or sunk (at least 25 in La Paz) and the deaths of at least three cruisers (including the iconic Gunther on SV Princess). Boats in the La Paz marinas did fine. Numerous boats in the Atalanta boatyard were blown over.
The older marina up in Santa Rosalia was swept away and destroyed, carrying boats with it (no information available yet).
Untold number of Mexicans with lost or damaged property.
Very, very, sad.
Saturday, 13 September 2014
Just a week ago, Hurricane Norbert hit the Cabo area, and, especially, Magdalena Bay area. At the beginning of a tropical cyclone, it is often not clear the direction it will travel. For Norbert, it turns out Pelagia was safe in Mazatlan.
Now we have Hurricane Odile heading up the coast, packing gusts up to 135 knot (250 km/h). Current projections suggest Odile will miss mainland Mexico (and Mazatlan) and again hit Baja California Sur.
|Odile's projected track|
Saturday, 6 September 2014
Thursday, 4 September 2014
Saturday, 30 August 2014
Tuesday, 12 August 2014
Arrived safe but tired, after missing connection in Seoul. No problem, Korean Air took care of us.
Katmandu is hot and humid. Today we head out for 19-21 day trek (Annapurna Circuit with Nar-Phu valley add on).
Of course, pissing rain right now!
Offline for duration of trek.
Sunday, 3 August 2014
Plan is to start the Annapurna Circuit, divert a few days later for a 7-day camping trek in the isolated Nar-Phu valley, then return via the Kang La to the lodges of the Annapurna Circuit and go over the Thorung La. All going well, the trek should be 19-22 days.
After Nepal, we will relax in Bali and Thailand for a couple of weeks, then return home to Vancouver and Whistler.
Friday, 1 August 2014
The biggest decision? We've decided we wanted to live in Whistler. In the mountains so we can ski, hike and all those things we love (in addition to sailing). Also, as much as we loved our Summer in Vancouver, we also found it to be a little too hectic and noisy; Whistler is quiet (excluding the "village").
Next decision? Well, if we are going to move to Whistler, why not get a place now? That's what we have done: no longer "homeless", we have found and moved into a beautiful (to us, at least) one-bedroom recently renovated townhouse condo with a great view of the mountains (including the ski runs); it is located <10 minutes walk to the ski lifts and even closer to the village, but is across the highway in a quiet residential area. We are now living in it and love it.
We've also decided we will get Pelagia back to Vancouver some time next Summer (2015) -- which route still be determined (sail via Hawaii? Marquesas? or "direct" via freighter?).
We return to Pelagia in Mazatlan in the 3rd week of October.
Wednesday, 23 July 2014
Information for cruising Mexico (charts, guidebooks, weather sources & communications) – Pelagia’s experience (2014-2015)
- UPDATE: April 10th: Geary's SONRISA NET Weather website now working fine
- May 2016: see our post comparing C-MAP and Navionics charts for Mexico
- March 2016: see also post concerning CM93 electronic charts.
- UPDATE: see also our October 2015 post on sailing down the west coast of Baja and making GPS-accurate Google Earth "charts"
- UPDATE: A post concerning official Mexican (SEMAR) nautical charts and C-MAP charts was posted on May 28, 2015
When we left Vancouver in August 2013, we had (what we thought) was a reasonable inkling of the various guidebooks, communications options and weather sources for Mexico. After a season of cruising Mexico from Ensenada to La Paz, the southern Sea of Cortez, and Mazatlan, we now have a more critical (and detailed) view of options. It seems appropriate to share this with those cruisers planning to sail to Mexico this Fall (2014).
Note that these represent our experience and opinion – your mileage may vary.
- Paper charts (most common seemed to be chartbooks based on NMA charts)
- Electronic charting for onboard chartplotter (C-Map; Navionics; Garmin)
- Electronic charting for computer for use with freely available (e.g., OpenCPN) or for-purchase (e.g., Fugawi; Nobeltec; Navsim) software using raster or vector charts. These charts may be the same as the C-Map, Navionics, etc chips, or may be the older vector CM93 charts that many cruisers trade with each other.
- Tablet-based charts for IPad or Android (available for relatively low cost from Jeppesen/C-MAP or Navionics)
[We also had older CM93 electronic charts (used in OpenCPN) and the DMA-based chartbook – neither showed acceptable detail or accuracy for coastal cruising/gunkholing. NOTE: make sure you have the latest version of CM93 charts -- approx 2010/2011 seems the latest date for Ver 2 CM93 (Ver 3 does not work in OpenCPN). There are major improvements between pre-2007 and later.]
Both C-MAP and Navionics have major areas lacking accuracy/detail. Some cruisers suggest one is better than the other – this may be the case for some specific areas, but for Mazatlan and the Southern/Central Sea of Cortez, we did not see significant differences. (Still, at little extra cost, having the “alternate” data set on the Android tablet was comforting.) Unfortunately, none of the above charts had acceptable accuracy for the Pacific Coast of Baja. [Update: C-MAP 2014/2015 has reasonably good coverage for Ensenada and Turtle Bay.]
UPDATE: The detailed charts in the Blue Latitude Press guides are available as GPS-accurate charts for PC, Android, IPad and Mac. The charts are the same price for all platforms; however, software required to view these charts is expensive for PC and Mac, but quite reasonably priced for Android ("PathAway") and IPad ("INavX") tablets. See Blue Latitude Press and Fugawi X-Traverse websites.
UPDATE 2015: C-Map updates show good detail for Altata, San Blas, and Loreto. Navionics charts do not show these updates [see this post]
When we came down the Pacific coast of Baja (November, 2013), we felt uncomfortably limited in our weather sources for Mexico. Used to "official" frequent, detailed and accurate forecasts for Canada and the USA, we could not find similar official forecasts in Mexico. (Occasionally, we would hear a Mexican Port Captain, such as in San Carlos near Mag Bay, read off a forecast – in Spanish, of course – but they were few and far between and hard to understand.)
We learned to rely on amateur forecasters, especially Geary of the Sonrisa Net, who provide daily forecasts via HAM (or any single-side band receiver) radio as well as via the web. These forecasts are easily available via Saildocs if one has a Pactor modem and either HAM or Marine-SSB Sailmail (see below). Also, many morning VHF nets (e.g., La Paz) provide forecasts, although I was never sure of their sources.
[UPDATE 2015: they were scheduled to become official at the end of 2014, but this has now been delayed -- apparently indefinitely.]
|NOAA Eastern Pacific Zones|
- Sonrisa Net (3968 kHz LSB HAM; 7:30am Mountain time; weather at 7:45am)
- Amigo Net ( 6212 / 6217 kHz USB Marine-SSB; 1400Z Daily; weather at 1415Z)
- Southbound Net (8122 kHz at USB Marine-SSB; 0000Z Daily). [UPDATE JAN 2016: according to https://southboundnet.wordpress.com/ , the Southbound Net, which has been out-of-action for awhile, has started again. Now as an evening net.]
Single-side band radio (weather fax): less useful
Weatherfaxes do not provide detailed information for small areas of the Mexican coast, but they are excellent for seeing the big picture (and they DO involve a human forecaster). We did not use them often while in the Sea of Cortez. They would be useful for forecasting hurricanes (if internet access not available).
April 10th 2016 update: After not being updated for a while, the SONRISA NET Weather website is now fully functional,
Updated November 2014: Saildocs and Airmail now make it easier to obtain Sonrisa and Solmate weather forecasts. Both sets are now available in the Airmail "Text-Weather" window.
!! Airmail has an easy method to have text (i.e., small size) forecasts sent by Saildocs:
- Send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org, with line(s) in body of message requesting forecasts [no subject]. “Send” sends one time; “Sub” subscribes. For example: Send Sonrisa.Sea [this sends Geary’s daily summary plus additional forecast info for the Sea of Cortez]
- Sonrisa forecasts: see http://sonrisanet.org/Saildoc_info.html (Geary provides how to "subscribe" to his forecast using Saildocs and the full web URL. One can receive a one-time sending of a forecast by using "send" instead of "sub".
- NOAA (experimental): http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/experimental/epoffshores/data/WRKOFFPZ7. Via Saildocs: "send http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/experimental/epoffshores/data/WRKOFFPZ7"
- Solmatesantiago (Stan, Amigo Net):Fore info see: http://www.weather.solmatesantiago.com/fcstemail.html [we found these forecasts less accurate for the Sea of Cortez]
- Other pages: In general, one can request Saildocs to send a text version of any page on the web. However, Saildocs will strip all images etc, and one might have to rename the text file received to xxxxx.htm and read the file into a web browser such as Firefox or Chrome
For a warning about GRIB fioles, send an email to: GribWarning@saildocs.com
- Cell phone: we obtained a TelCel SIM card in Ensenada. (Ask for an area code for somewhere south, where you expect to spend more time – we chose a La Paz area code). Amigo Plan: If you purchase 200 MXN each and every 30 days, there are no long distance charges within Mexico, per-minute rates are the lowest, and long distance to the USA & Canada is very reasonable. However, one has to be sure to do this every 30 days. We found we did not use up 200 MXN each month, so ended up with somewhat more expensive rates. Note: no charge for incoming calls or texts.
- Cell data: we initially purchased a “Banda Acha” data stick and SIM card, so that we could access the internet while cruising. We subsequently found that our Android phone with TelCel SIM card provided at least as good connection as a “hotspot” (allowing computer and tablets to connect via the Android wifi; IPhones do this too). So the banda acha stick is no longer needed. After a little research, we found it was easy to top up the data plan by web.
[UPDATE: Cell coverage in front of Villa del Palmar Beach Resort at Bahia Candelario/Ensenada Blanca, just south of Puerto Escondido is good]
- WiFi: We found the WiFi at marinas more-often-than not to work poorly while on the boat. Purchase of a WiFi amplifier antenna helps substantially.
- !! Single-Side Band (voice and email): We especially found the combination of Single-side band radio, pactor modem and Sailmail made communication (by email) very easy, and possible almost anywhere. We would not want to be without it. (We found Sailmail to be much faster and easier to connect to than HAM Winmail.) We are not big “talkers” on the net, but we do enjoy hearing boat reports on the regular nets.
[We will update and revise the above, as necessary.]