Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Shawn's Daily Life- Obvious Lessons (Re)Learned

In early January 2010,
Shawn and Grizzly waved goodbye to Chris as he raced to make his connection to LA from
San Francisco. It was official, Shawn had decided to commit to becoming a strong yoga teacher, thereby, changing their joint plans. Shawn was on her way to Petaluma, CA to learn from the mentor she had chosen, Lynn Whitlow. As both Shawn and Chris know, Lynn is an effective and inspirational senior Bikram Yoga teacher. Plagued by self-doubt regarding her decision, Shawn felt lost, knowing little about the details of her new situation. Without Chris to lean on, it was a rough transition. Shawn and Grizzly spent several nights in hotels first in SF and then Petaluma while searching for a suitable living situation.

“Trust the process” was commonly heard throughout Bikram’s Yoga Teacher Training (trust is very difficult for Shawn), often followed by, “You’re right where you’re supposed to be.” These phrases kept rattling around in Shawn’s brain. “Is it what you expected?” asked long time White-family-friends Burg and Marcia, “No” was the resounding answer. First lesson: Let go of expectations and preconceived ideas and just flow in the present, trust yourself. The Petaluma yoga studio that Lynn and Jeff were opening was still under construction, so Shawn had no where to teach. She was able to help in the final weeks of studio construction, invaluable knowledge for how to open a yoga studio, but still, was impatient to be teaching and improving- isn’t that what she came here for? Yet she felt powerless and cornered. It took some of the not-so-gentle nudging that Lynn and Jeff are well-known for, to get her second big lesson: Take control of your life.

Having made the commitment to improve her teaching fresh out of training but without work in Petaluma, Shawn went in search of studios where she could teach. First, she made a list of all the yoga studios within a two hour drive (fifteen of them!), and researched how big the studio, how many classes were available, the studio director’s reputation, and what the possibility of picking up classes at each studio were. Shawn decided to focus on the closest best fit according to all the variables. Daily, she scoured the online yoga schedules to see who was teaching at what studio when and set her schedule around what classes she would take that day, spending the rest of the day helping where she could at the Petaluma studio. She made a point of going to studio directors classes and after class striking conversation telling them she was interested in teaching at their studio and available. Then, Shawn made her presence known at the studio by practicing there as frequently as possible taking different teachers’ classes all the while.

Bikram Yoga Santa Rosa, which is located twenty minutes north of Petaluma, was a no-brainer. Since moving back to California, Shawn had been practicing there daily and discussing feedback with Lynn and Jeff about each teachers’ class she took. Thus, she learned how to verbalize what teaching was effective and what was not. The very nice studio director, Bill Butcher, quickly made space for a new, enthusiastic teacher and placed Shawn on the Santa Rosa schedule with two classes a week while she looked for more permanent work.

Bikram Yoga Walnut Creek is a little bit over an hour away, and Shawn went to take studio director Virginia Lam’s class. Unfortunately, Virginia didn’t teach because a new teacher was doing an audition class. Still, Shawn was able to meet Virginia and immediately felt positive and comfortable. Thinking of the positive reminders from her friend and yoga teacher Margery, Shawn put aside her insecurity and told Virginia exactly when she was available to teach an audition class, which “conveniently” coincided with classes that Virginia was scheduled to teach. She told Virginia that "Now was the time". After her interview class, Walnut Creek promptly snatched her up and put her on the schedule immediately with 14 classes in February. Lesson: be your own cheerleader, tell them how it is.

Bikram Yoga San Rafael is a half an hour south, the second closest studio to Petaluma. Shawn took class from both directors, Jefferson and Arjay. At the studio, she reconnected with another familiar face, Mel Molino, one of Shawn’s advanced yoga teachers from Funky Door in Berkeley. Shawn had high hopes to teach at San Rafael. After several weeks of eagerly showing up and reminding the studio she was there and available, Shawn finally got an audition on February 4th and was promised classes. Shawn persistently sent her availability every week, without losing hope. As the weeks went by, and no classes were presented, she was finally called in to teach her first class on St. Patricks Day. She is now on the schedule for Wednesday evenings. Lesson: Persistence pays off, never give up!

Bikram Yoga Petaluma finally opened February 17th. Shawn is currently on the schedule teaching 3 classes a week and practices there even more frequently, constantly giving and receiving feedback. Petaluma is now her home studio and Shawn’s learning curve has rapidly steepened as she learns about yoga and life directly from her mentors, Lynn and Jeff. As long as the benefits outweigh the drawbacks, Shawn will continue moving forward towards becoming the yoga teacher she would like to be. Lesson: It will never be easy, but it will be better.

Now, three months to the day from when we parted in San Francisco Airport, Shawn is preparing to board a flight south to Puerto Vallarta to be reunited with Chris and Tao for a 9-day long April birthday celebration. Lesson: Absence makes the heart grow fonder...

Saturday, March 20, 2010

How did we get here?

There was recently a request for more information about where Shawn is and how she is doing. We recognize that there has not been much blogged about her recent individual adventures with Bikram’s Yoga. We keep meaning to, so why haven’t we? Well, it is not as easy to explain or as outwardly exciting as our sailing adventures. But to be honest, it is mostly that Shawn is a very private person and this has been largely a journey of self discovery. However, in an attempt to be more open about what she is going through, following is some background that brought us to where we are.

We started practicing Bikram’s Yoga while attending graduate school in Fort Collins, Colorado, in 2002 and immediately recognized that it benefited us both in many ways. Aside from the obvious physical benefits, Shawn practiced Bikram’s Yoga because it improved her chronically low self-esteem by empowering her to find peace in the present moment and improve her self awareness, about her life and her potential. When she turned thirty in April 2005, she realized she felt stagnant while working at Stillwater Sciences, a wonderful, but ultimately unsatisfying job. Shawn remained at work for fear of poverty, lack of approval, and societal expectation. Over the next several years she began to live more intentionally. She shifted from the well respected position scientifically testing rivers to working and living on them as a multi-day river guide and educator. This was a more emotionally fulfilling change, though less lucrative and rarely understood by others. During the remainder of each year, she practiced yoga daily and lived on and outfitted Tao with Chris, while continuing to explore her sense of self.

In November 2008, we (finally) set sail out of San Francisco Bay in Tao. We spent 3-months sailing down The Outside and 4-months sailing along the Baja peninsula in the Sea of Cortez. These were seven months treading lightly on the planet, living off-the-grid, and close to nature on the water. Though it is often idyllic, this lifestyle has required many sacrifices. We both took substantial pay cuts to realize our dream of cruising and we've been drawing down our savings to continue. Onboard Tao, we live with Grizzly in fewer than 250 square feet of space, we have no running or hot water, no flush toilet, no refrigeration, no address, and are at the whim of the weather. We reuse and recycle everything, and draw all of our energy needs from the sun. Shawn has been happy with these sacrifices, but she has struggled to find the balance between her wanderlust in nature and yoga. Though there have been several blissful days spent practicing yoga on the beach in Mexico, she has missed the centering of daily yoga practice and its benefits to her self-confidence.

As hurricane season approached, we decided to put Tao on the hard. Chris had plans to guide for another season in Idaho over the summer, 2009, and after a considerable amount of thought; Shawn decided to commit to a 9-week Bikram’s yoga teacher training. She had been thinking about it for years and suddenly realized that she was ready and didn’t want her opportunity to slip away. Thus began the most dangerous part of our cruising lives yet- returning to the States and re-entering the rat race. We thought we would both be back to the boat by Thanksgiving... First, the training got pushed back a couple of months. Then, Shawn realized that the 9-week training was only the beginning- she had to gain some experience immediately while everything she learned was fresh. This, in turn, led to our most recent shift in cruising plans.

It has been a shaky transition, but after initial frustration at our cross-Pacific plans being postponed, we have both approached our dilemma with a positive attitude. In working toward becoming a solid yoga teacher Shawn is doing some much needed self-improvement and Chris is facing a fear of his own- sailing and managing Tao singlehanded. Although we are not currently physically in the same place, each of us knows that to be strong while separated will indeed make us stronger when we are back together in the near future. And don’t you worry; we still have big plans to sail together!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

San Blas Ramble

Passage: Isla Isabela to San Blas

Travel time: 10.5 hours (1 hr engine to recharge batteries)

Average speed: 4.1 knots

Approximate mileage: 43.5 nautical miles

At 0715, March 6th, the morning of departure from Isla Isabela, Chris was on Tao listening intently to the weather forecast from Don Anderson on the Amigo Net for the roughly 45-mile journey to San Blas, Nayarit. His weather sources correlated well which hopefully meant another beautiful sunny day with 20 knots of wind building from the NW. Plume and then Estrella powered out of the anchorage early to ensure reaching the destination by nightfall. Waiting for wind, Chris on Tao and Ryan and Kristina on Caramelo were left comfortably rolling in the island’s southern cove. Chris had prepared Tao the night previously for an early departure, but the wind remained light after his preferred departure time, so he fired up Yannie, weighed anchor, and made his way slowly out of the rocky cove. At last, the first consistent breezes piped up from the north at around 0900 local, and he was able to shut off the engine and set sail SE out towards the San Blas waypoint.

Chris felt sadness while watching Isabela slide out of view astern of Tao, but he held tight to his goal of reaching Punta de Mita and Banderas Bay by mid-to-late March. Although the main attraction for Chris is the surf, the Bay is also reputed to be good sailing and full of places to explore. And above all, recent news that Shawn had finally booked her flight down to Puerto Vallarta in early April set Chris’s plans in stone for the journey south. Chris has sorely missed Shawn’s company and partnership onboard Tao, and is very much looking forward to her visit.

San Blas was an intermediate layover point on the journey south. It was a place that Chris had heard was great to visit, but not to stay. Not for the local atmosphere or the bad anchorage, because both of these things were reported exceptional, but for the bugs. A large estuary and mangrove forest surrounds San Blas, creating perfect breeding grounds for the little beasts. Yes, mosquitoes swarmed around, but it’s the no-see-ums that really present problems. These little buggers have no problem passing directly through most normal sized mosquito mesh. To top things off, the entrance to the estuary where the best anchorage is found requires some tricky maneuvering as the surf surges in along the silt and sand shoals that build up all around the southwestern jetty. A safe entrance depended greatly on the position of the shifting shoals, tide, swell, and wind direction. (In fact, a controversial expatriate now living in San Blas has taken advantage of this and charges cruisers for his assistance upon entering. Several other cruisers have rebelled against the status quo and have provided a map with printed waypoints so that entry can be undertaken without assistance. A considerable amount of heated drama still remains concerning this situation.)

Chris put these thoughts out of his head as Tao slowly sailed away from Isabela, close-hauled in a very light NE, veering breeze, making it difficult to maintain course towards San Blas. Around 1100, the wind completely died and Tao was left rolling around in the left over slop, still 27-miles from the destination. An hour later, Chris started Yannie and began to make way at 5 knots under power. By 1330, wavelets were lapping against Tao’s hull and 5 knots of wind was blowing from the NW. Chris turned the engine off and again set sail. The wind quickly built to a solid 10-17 knots and Tao was flying downwind occasionally exceeding 7 knots. The miles were ticking by, and Chris maintained faith that he would enter San Blas before the sun set. He frequently checked in with Caramelo, who were still within VHF range. While approaching San Blas, he saw numerous whales breaching; one launched itself out of the water so close to Tao, that he thought that he might have to alter course. Luckily, the whales passed in the opposite direction without incident.

On final approach to San Blas, friends Jody and Russ from s/v Smokin’ Blues radioed Chris and Caramelo with helpful waypoints for safe entry to the estuary. Just around the corner from the entrance to San Blas estuary lies Matenchen Bay, the backup destination if navigating into the estuary were to prove too problematic. As luck would have it, the swell was small, the tide was high enough, and the sun was still out when Caramelo and Tao entered between the large shoals creating what looked like an incredible surf break (Chris later found out that it indeed is a popular surf break, especially during the summer months when swell rolls in from southern hemisphere storms). Motoring into the flat calm waters of the estuary was a welcome break from the roll out at Isla Isabela. Tao had made it to San Blas just before sunset and was happy to set the anchor in a calm safe anchorage.

Crocodiles, Mangroves, and No-See-Ums

The morning after his arrival, Chris awoke to a brilliant sunrise over the current sailing fleet (Plume, Estrella, Caramelo, Smokin’ Blues, and Tao) at anchor. All was calm except for daily swing in the current, in on the rising and out on the falling tides. The hot shower and internet at the Singlar Marina located a short dinghy ride away were luxurious. Daytime shore excursions revealed that San Blas was an important Spanish supply depot for cargo ships making their way north and south along the Mexican coast and beyond. Our fleet visited a large fort atop the closest and highest hill, complete with canons and old church structure surrounded by old banana tree plantations. The cobble streets were full of rounded rock so large, Chris had sore ankles after a day of walking. Luckily, due to the incessant bugs during the evening and morning hours, prices for goods and services in San Blas have not been inflated by tourism. Several good 10 peso taco stands set up around the main square were visited for lunch and dinner and labor for boat work in the yard is purported to be the most reasonable in Mexico.

The large and extensive San Blas estuary is full of sinuous waterways weaving through thick mangroves, providing an amazing habitat for unique species of birds, crocodiles, fish, and iguanas. At 0630 on March 8th, our sailing fleet all hopped on a panga for a half day tour up into the mangroves, to a crocodile zoo, and to a fresh water spring. The pangero (or panga driver) was very knowledgeable about the local ecosystem, providing answers to all of our questions about what we were seeing. It was a peaceful morning boat ride, in which we observed a ton of wildlife
throughout, but crocodiles in all stages of development from egg to mature adult were the main attraction.

Water from the fresh water spring is pumped up and out to the municipalities of San Blas and Tepic. What remains creates a crystal clear fenced in natural pool with just the right temperature to refresh us during the afternoon siesta in the sun (no crocs!).

Ball and Chain

In addition to providing easy access to San Blas, the calm anchorage in the estuary allowed Chris to complete several boat projects that had been awaiting his full attention. As with homeownership, boatownership comes at a price; constant vigilance and maintenance. However, unlike a house, most boats have not been maintained to explicit codes or standards, and the infrastructure for maintaining and repairing boats isn’t nearly as exhaustive and ubiquitous as that for land homes. As a result, most boats and their systems have been put together according to the whim of their owners, which tends to result in poor and unprofessional project execution, and requires any new owner to carefully study and familiarize oneself with the idiosyncrasies of each item onboard. Only with the complete knowledge of how all systems are put together and work will a boat owner know what to do when a problem arises, undoubtedly far from help and in a rolling, raucous sea. Thus, intimate knowledge of a boat is a matter of safety and survival, not just a matter of interest or a hobby. Finally, and most importantly, our boat is under the constant onslaught of salt, water, and sun, a highly corrosive combination to every material imaginable. Although Shawn and Chris have both admittedly struggled with this continuous responsibility, we have both also found ways to enjoy what we view as a once in a lifetime experience and have integrated the boat chores as part of the adventure.

What follows is a short list of the repairs and upgrades Chris accomplished over approximately 35-40 hours sprinkled over the two week period spent in San Blas. This list is not complete list, nor is it out of the ordinary. It is an example of the constant efforts put toward making our cruising dream a reality.

1.) Re-torqued the head bolts and checked valve clearances on the Yanmar; it had been run over 20 hours. Chris successfully borrowed one of the only torque wrenches in town from the local mechanics shop for a negotiated price of two cold “Ballenas” (extra large bottles of beer) and luckily completed the job in one afternoon.

2.) Installed a Link 20 battery monitor with shunt and an 800 watt inverter; purchased the previous summer, it is nice to be able to power the dust buster without the noise of the generator. The new battery monitor is mesmerizing, and Chris has often caught himself having just spent 15 minutes or more sitting and staring at a screen that continuously scrolls statistics about power consumption and replenishment onboard.

3.)Maintenance of “SeaHor”, Tao’s 2HP outboard, which has been acting up. First Chris changed the spark plug, which made a difference for approximately 1-hr run time, after which the engine wouldn’t start easily anymore. Second, he pulled apart and cleaned the carburetor which only slightly improved things. Next, he took the fly wheel off to inspect all the electrical connections and the agneto. Ultimately, the connections within the spark plug wire needed to be redone. While pulling apart the engine, Chris managed to strip one of the bolt holes in the cylinder head. Nothing a little more time, some trusty 3M 5200, and a heli-coil donated by Caramelo didn’t fix. Chris is now researching the possibility that the fuel he has may be contaminated in some way. He’s trying a new filtered batch as an experiment. Now, she runs but still takes a little TLC to get started. One night, in frustration, Chris pulled the starter handle “rather aggressively” and managed to break the plastic handle in half. His relationship with the outboard is definitely tenuous because he now has his eyes set on upgrading to a 2-stroke 15 for long range surf expeditions and general exploration. Shawn believes Chris has hurt SeaHor’s feelings and is planning to treat her well when she returns.

4.) Galley fan rebuild; our multi-directional, 3-speed, timer fan has not been working. After carefully pulling the fan apart, Chris discovered that several items on the fan’s brain, a motherboard of sorts, needed to be re-soldered.

5.) LPG system leak test; a regular maintenance item that hadn’t been completed in more than a month. No problems there…yet.

6.) Cabin top fiberglass chafe; Over time the movement of the traveler lines has worn holes into the cabin top, the starboard side wore completely through the ½ inch fiberglass and created a small hole for water ingress into the inner cavity. Using a vice, hack saw, dremel tool, and a metal file, Chris produced two custom pieces of stainless steel rub strake for chafe protection which he then affixed to the cabin top with 3M’s 5200.

And it doesn’t end there…Chris spent a morning sawing and re-glueing the outer fitting of Tao’s aluminum whisker pole that had buckled under off-angle load. Now the surfboard rack looks like it’s putting holes into the fiberglass longboard… More projects reveal themselves daily, and the list of “to do” items never seems to diminish. Sometimes the list can grow so overwhelming that it’s important to stop, reflect, and recognize how much has actually been accomplished instead of focusing every ounce of energy on what hasn’t. Little reminders like this allow us to enjoy ourselves along the way as we continue forward.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Southbound to Isla Isabela

Passage: Mazatlan to Isla Isabela

Travel time: 21.75 hours

Average speed: 4.1 knots

Approximate mileage: 88 nautical miles

After nearly 3 weeks in Mazatlan, it was time for Chris and Tao to make plans for their trip further south towards Banderas Bay. Isla Isabela was the first stop on the itinerary, an island about 30-nm off the mainland coast and 85 miles south of Mazatlan, reported to be the home of numerous frigate birds, various species of boobies, marine iguanas, and great diving. The island was featured in a National Geographic by Jacques Cousteau, but has a reputation for bad holding which may take the boat’s anchor as payment for the visit. Also, any weather from the south makes anchoring off the island untenable. These warnings found in Charlie’s Charts were confirmed by other cruisers, notably by Julia and Jacob from s/v Pisces, who had recently visited Isabela.

Chris and his friends from Estrella, Caramelo, and Plume all monitored the weather for a window to travel south. Nervous for his first attempt at truly single-handing Tao on an overnight passage, Chris was glad to have the support from so many boats for the journey. At long last, Sunday, February 28th, Tao sailed off her anchor on very light southerlies at the hands of her only crewmember. Problems arose immediately when Tao couldn’t out-sail the currents flowing into the Mazatlan harbor entrance. It must have been comical watching the only two boats attempting to sail out without motor, Caramelo and Tao, criss-crossing back and forth effectively blocking the entrance trying to make their way out. Eventually the newly fixed motor had to be employed and both boats putted out towards the south in pursuit of Estrella who opted for the engine from the start. Plume decided to stay for the night and wait for more wind the following day.

It turned out that it was a good night to test the Yanmar, as seas were nearly flat and wind was negligible with only a few minor gusts. She took to her new job with enthusiasm, pushing Tao ahead at a comfortable 5+ knots all night long. Coincidentally, this was also the first time the tiller pilot was able to be used, as Chris had just finished putting together the pieces for proper function amid the tornado of engine repair tasks. It only took a few minor adjustments before “Captain Tilly” took the helm and steered a straighter track than any helmsman could ever hope to.

With the assistance of two nearby boats with radar, Chris was actually able to take a few half hour catnaps throughout the early morning hours of the night passage. With only 20-nm to go, the sun rose, winds picked up from the NW ever so slightly, and Chris decided to fall behind the other two boats to sail the rest of his way in towards Isla Isabela. There’s nothing quite like sailing to anchor on an island in the middle of a large body of water. Chris came in under sail at 2.5-knots of speed over ground and watched as the island’s features grew more defined.

The sound of waves crashing against the volcanic basalts of the rugged island became louder, along with the constant bird calls and the sight of whales flapping their tails and pectorals while blowing spouts. Chris happily set the hook next to Caramelo and Estrella who were already anchored deep in the south anchorage. Guidebooks describe the anchorage as what remains of the primary caldera on the island. After inflating the dinghy and cleaning barnacles off of Tao’s bottom, Chris was barely able to cook a meal before crashing into bed in exhaustion.

The next 5-days were spent recovering and enjoying the rewards of finally exiting the big city of Mazatlan. First, Chris free dove to check Rocky’s set in the clear beautiful 20 to 25-ft depth. The chain was tending to wrap around rocks and other large items, so he put a float on the anchor to make it easy to slip (and subsequently retrieve) if necessary. Then, he went ashore and enjoyed a hike around an old crater and to the northern shores of the island and back. Along the way he visited a fish camp where fisherman were busily cutting up their catch of hammerhead sharks and a university camp where students were studying the blue footed boobies. Next, he finally broke out his newly acquired SCUBA equipment going for a small dive among the rocks and around the anchorage to reacquaint himself with the process. He had forgotten how amazing it was to be able to breathe under water. On a very calm Thursday, March 4th, snorkeling and spear fishing were the main delight on the east side of the island around two striking rock pinnacles called Las Monas (the monkeys) and the north side of the island, where friends Ryan and Adam and the two Kristinas from Caramelo and Estrella joined.

This mini-Galapagos was truly amazing. Pelagic and reef fish were mixed together among the crags of the ancient volcanic flows that formed the northern shore of Isabela, where strong currents of cooler nutrient rich water intermixed with the warmer surface waters of the area. Whales could be heard making their calls while the group snorkeled, especially at depths greater than 20 feet. Numerous frigates and boobies were constantly seen flying overhead and as a black mass in the distance over the island, mixed with pelicans and gulls. It was hard not to stumble into a nesting booby on the ground or pass within a few feet of the frigate nests in the small trees while walking around the island. You wouldn’t want to hang out under the branches of the trees, as you were sure to have something unwelcome drop onto your head from one of the frigate birds perched above. Land iguanas scuttled around the ground sounding like mice fleeing from your footsteps on a leafy forest bottom when walking through the grass clumps that clogged the moderately well marked trails on the island.

On Friday, March 5th, Chris awoke to the deep red colors of an early sunrise reflecting off the dense cloud cover brought from nearly 4,000-miles away on the Pineapple Express. Most of the Sea of Cortez as well as a large portion of the Mexican Riviera is often affected by this stream of clouds that is formed to the southwest of Hawaii before making its way east to the continental coast. Chris spent this day taking care of a few boat tasks and preparing for the roughly 40-nm journey south to San Blas, planned for the following day. Overall, the stay was well worth the effort to get there, the requirement of diving on one’s anchor several times to make sure it was secure and the chain was not wrapped around the rocky bottom, and the moderate roll in the anchorage caused by the southwesterly ground swell.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Monte, meet Yannie

After Carnaval, focus was again shifted towards Tao and her engine. In order to avoid a rather large marina bill, Chris decided to sail Tao engineless out of the Mazatlan Marina district down to the Old Harbor where anchoring is free. Adam from s/v Estrella offered to help crew the boat through the narrow and sometimes dangerous marina channel. With assistance (push) from two outboard motors on a very light offshore breeze, the morning of February 16th, Tao was finally free of her docklines once again. As usual during calm weather periods, afternoon onshore sea breezes picked up, and a couple hours later, Tao maneuvered nimbly to her new home anchored next to Estrella and several other sail boats in the Puerto Viejo (Old Harbor).

Chris still had hopes to get the engine fixed and Tao ready for sailing before his good friend Monte was due to visit February 19th-23rd. No dice. Apparently, parts shipped from the US using a preferred mail courier first get held up with customs paperwork, and then the courier drivers want a cut before they deliver the item to its intended destination. This occurs with DHL and UPS alike and, according to Total Yacht Works, could take up to 3 weeks depending on the demeanor of the person who was in charge when the package arrived. So, with a well timed visit from Monte on the horizon, Chris opted to 2nd Day Air the gaskets he needed from Florida to Monte’s house in Golden, Colorado.

Monte arrived safe and sound and hand delivered the ordered engine parts on Friday, February 19th. Monte’s first full day was spent with Chris and Adam putting Yannie’s head back on by reversing the steps Chris and his Dad went through to get the head off. Once finished, Yannie had received a new head gasket, exhaust manifold gaskets, and a new mixing elbow (Total Yacht Works manufactured from scratch at a local machine shop). Valves were adjusted, the correct torque was applied to both the studs and nuts with a borrowed torque wrench, and all hoses were connected. The time had come to turn the engine over, and… Wait for it… She fired right up! Thanks for the support from all the folks on the Sonrisa Net who jumped in to give some good help and advice during the early stages of the blowout, those who lent a hand in Marina Mazatlan and the Old Harbor, and especially to Adam and Kris from s/v Estrella and Monte Lunacek for their hands on support aboard Tao during this ordeal.

After enjoying a lovely dinner and a few tasty margaritas with Estrella in the main square of old town Mazatlan, Chris and Monte hit the hay tired from a long, productive day of work. They spent half the following day changing the oil in Yannie and preparing Tao for her first outing with Monte, avid outdoorsman but not so much a sailor (yet). In the afternoon, Tao sailed off her anchor in Old Harbor towards Isla Venados (Deer Island), the most prominent island located in the middle of a chain of 3 directly off the Gold Coast of Mazatlan.

It wasn’t far, but Monte had a flight to catch and time was short. They spent the night on the hook off the southeast corner of Isla Venados, and apart from a slight roll and steady NW breeze, they both slept well. Morning of February 22nd dawned bright and beautiful over Mazatlan. Chris and Monte went ashore and hiked to the highest peak of the island which entailed a moderate bush whack through the last few 100 yards. Views of Mazatlan to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west were the welcome reward.

They enjoyed a pleasant sail back to the Old Harbor, and then spent the rest of the afternoon researching Monte’s options for a trip down to Puerto Vallarta where his flight was scheduled to depart the next day. Chris and Monte had a dinner in town and then visited new cruising friends Ryan and Kristina on their sailboat, Caramelo, on the Singlar dock in the marina that evening. They said their goodbyes at around 9PM so Monte could catch his red-eye bus from Mazatlan to Puerto Vallarta. The trip was fast by cruising standards, but Chris much appreciated a visit from his long time friend from grad school. Thank you, Monte (aka Tao-buddy)!