Sunday, January 31, 2010

Practice pays off, really no engine...

All our previous practice sailing around with the engine as unused backup really pays off when the engine decides not to work.

Chris and his father Dave flew from LAX to Loreto, Mexico last Friday (1/22). Noah from Scheherazade, still working on repowering his boat in Puerto Esconditio, picked them up from the airport and delivered them to Tao. The next two days were spent organizing, shopping, and in general preparation for cruising. After confirming, by adding nearly all the water from our 7 5-gallon collapsible jugs, that our tanks which the specs say hold 35-gallons each actually hold only 20-gallons, on Monday (1/25) they waved goodbye to Noah and Virgil and sailed off the mooring at about 3pm. The short trip across to Isla Danzante was good sailing with NW winds cranking about 20-25-knots for the straight shot east. Only about 2-miles from the mooring inside Puerto Escondido, it was nice to finally be moving.

That evening around 9pm as Chris was reading, the NW wind finally blew itself out, completely died, and was followed by small south gusts. Honeymoon Cove is very tight side to side with a beautiful sand beach at the shore end. As Tao started drifting closer to the walls, it was time to put the stern anchor out. Chris rowed it out in Eeyore while Dave’s calls echoed off the walls to help him position it. Success! The next morning (1/26) after a nice hike on Isla Danzante with good chats and great views of Isla Carmen and their track to Agua Verde from the peak nearest their cove, they were off again heading south on "no wind" from Don's report, and a southerly component according to Geary.

They made it to Agua Verde that evening, mostly under motor with an hour and a half of sailing wing-on-wing at 3.5-knots. It was one of those beautiful days with perfect amount of sun, perfect board shorts temperature, and just light breezes on the water. The swell from the Norther had really diminished, so the sea barely had any roll too it. Around sunset Rocky was set in the southern lobe of Agua Verde. Given the forecast for SE the next day a layover day was spend exploring the main beach and awaiting the forecast fresh westerlies and northwesterlies.

At oh-dark-hundred (3am) Thursday (1/28), the crew was up and off again heading south for a big 50-mile day. After an hour of motoring Yannie started making a weird hissing noise with every compression of one cylinder. Well, wouldn't you know it but she blew a head gasket. Although she still starts, she won’t stay running at idle and really shouldn’t be run. So, on they sailed into light, very light air, and then finally some wind, making 4-5-knots for a time but against the current. Along the way they saw several whales, lots of birds, lots of sun, clouds and water and they arrived just as dark descended in spot which thankfully had good holding, 7-miles shy of their Evaristo goal, in a tiny hamlet called Nopolo. All day strategy was discussed, and is continually developing. Shawn was wrangled to do internet research and contact diesel mechanics from the states and current ideas range from the do-it-ourselves stop in La Paz to pick up DHL’ed parts to sailing directly across to Mazatlan (where Dave has a flight connection (2/9) and there is a known diesel mechanic) to allow more time for the 170-mile-sans-engine crossing…

Friday morning dawned (1/29) and sails were set for a lovely downwind sail; 10-15-knots and slight 2-ft sea from the NW, drifter and sun with grey clouds over the mountains and a light morning drizzle near Evaristo. Stunningly beautiful. Another tiring day full of good sailing, the hook was set in Bahia Grande on Isla Partida, and the crew enjoyed some solid sleep in the moonlit anchorage. Awaiting e-mails with answers to engine questions, Chris and Dave enjoyed hiking around on Partida in the morning then sailed off of anchor in Bahia Grande and back onto anchor in Bahia San Gabriel at the southern end of Espiritu Santo (1/30).

There was a little trouble with no wind when passing by Candeleros and Isla Ballena but they waited it out basking in the sun and flat calm water just off of Puerto Ballena (the large bay with two islands south of Candeleros). Many powerboats with wakes went by and jet skis even came off of one. It's crazy being so close to La Paz again with a much different feeling than the Loreto/Escondido area. San Gabriel is a gigantic bay with shoaling very far out and gorgeous views back toward La Paz and Ballandra as the sun sets and rays disperse through the clouds. After getting weather from Don, this Sunday (1/31), day-6 of the adventure, will be spent on a hunt for hot springs to soak in on the east side of Espiritu Santo and more discussions about the strategy...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Catching up with ourselves... 2010 already?!

Post yoga bliss at Just A Taste Ithaca, NY

January 6, 2010; As Tao bobbed around her mooring in the sunshine of Puerto Escondito, in Baja Mexico patiently waiting, all 3 of her crew members (including the feline cohort) sat in the Ithaca, NY airport looking out the windows at the winter scene of snow falling and blowing amidst a blinding white layer of frozen land. Another delayed flight through Philly, surprisingly reminiscent of our reuniting there and being delayed overnight on the way to the east coast for the holidays. But there’s a lot to catch up on that got us here we should back up…

Shawn started teacher training (TT) October 4th after Chris drove her and all of her gear to Las Vegas. Chris returned to his dad's in Palos Verdes to collect equipment for Tao. He purchased and serviced the new-to-us 2006 4-person canister Avon life raft, AIS (thank you Jane!), auto pilot, 200’ of chain, tricolor masthead light, redesigned the head system, visited Minnie’s twice and West Marine 3 times (thanks to Scheherazade!). All the while Chris did PT and rehabilitation for his shoulder and spent time with Dave and Anette as they remodeled the interior of their new home into which they moved in early December. Chris also notably had a reunion with Santa Monica high school friends at the Bagel Nosh a classic high school brunch hangover hangout and on to a BBQ at Ari’s house. Halloween weekend Chris visited Shawn in Vegas.

In November Shawn continued with TT in the crazy yoga-bubble life in Las Vegas taking two yoga classes a day plus lectures and Mahabharat until the wee hours of the morning. Chris, on the other hand, was moving. From the 4-12th he and Pepe were in Mexico at the boatyard in San Carlos for 10 long sweaty dusty days to recommission Tao. When he got there, the deep sump and bilge had over topped with water up to the sole from Hurricane Jimena. The key issue is the lazarette locker leak for which we’ll continue to search for yet another “fix”. A few achievements:
· Our close up job was bomber and Chris undid all that work and is still trying to get adhesive off from duct tape.
· We had a bottom job done and last moment had to re do the boot stripe.
· Customized our head system (this is the fifth upgrade) by installing a MarkV Whale sanitation pump to replace our Headmate hand pump, which failed early in our voyages, for a final product of a half Lavac and half Thetford Headmate system. Works great so far!
· Improved and rust-proofed our original (1979) stove by reshaping currently made burners to fit our stove.
· After filling our dried out port tank and disinfecting our starboard tank that had a bit of algal growth in the bleach water that we had left in the tank, Chris installed an in-line filter between our freshwater tanks and our galley hand pump.

The 14-22nd Chris came back to the states. First to Flagstaff, AZ for WFR recertification through NOLS (unfortunately the first day was spent fighting montezumas revenge, gracias Mexico). He then made his way to Vegas for one last visit to Shawn at TT and on the 22nd headed back to Mexico via Tufesa bus, leaving Pepe with Shawn. November 24th Tao splashed after nearly 6 months on the hard. Thankfully Pisces was there to assist Chris anchoring in the harbor (with our new system 200-ft of ¼ inch high test 7800-lb breaking strength). Chris then readied Tao for her first passage of the season. Rewired switches for electrical panel, climbed the mast several times, ran rigging, bent sails, installed a new masthead light (after luckily and thankfully finding an extra available wire), installed a new VHF for the sweet new AIS system. Buffed topsides. Pumped Eeyore and got the Seahor running (although she’s begging for a spark plug replacement). Reinstalling Moni and our boom alone were feats of great magnitude. Thanksgiving was bittersweet spent apart- Shawn in Vegas with yoga family and Chris with sailing family Pisces in San Carlos.

December we finally got back together! On the 20th both of us flew east, Shawn from SFO, Chris from LAX. We met in Philly for a snowstorm that delayed all flights, stayed there for a night, and arrived in Ithaca 24 hours later than expected, but all luggage intact and ecstatic to be together. A very nice homecoming, we spent Christmas proper with Shawn’s entire little family based at her Mum, Judy’s, holiday decorated moose-laden home. Shawn’s Dad, Ken, as well as her brother, Chuck, sister-in-law Maura, nephew Liam and twin nieces, Campbell and Ainsley came to visit, exchange gifts, and have a lovely holiday ham dinner together. This is the first time in a decade that Shawn has been home for the holidays, thanks to Bamp for bringing us all together! We miss her very much. After a quick trip to Kingston, Ontario to say goodbye, we returned to Ithaca, spent a lovely evening with Shawn’s best friend from high school, Leah and her partner Gretchen and then 3 days straight of teaching/taking classes at David Corson’s Bikram studio in Ithaca, we rung 2010 in mellow-style in Ithaca after a nice hike then early dinner with Shawn’s parents (Judy’s cooking = YUM!).

2010 already?! January 1-2nd we headed north in Leah’s Honda Civic (same era as Pepe) who did very well in the winter wonderland of upstate NY. We had a very nice visit with both Chuck & Maura and our nearly walking nieces Ainsley and Campbell (10 months) and rambunctious nephew Liam (3). We are amazed at how smoothly they are handling having three little kids!!! We also managed to have a fun snowmobile and dinner with Aunt Barbie, Uncle B and Cousin Daniel too! Back in Ithaca, the 4th was a momentous day in which Shawn taught a 25 person class with 3 beginners one of which was her father!!

And that brings us back to the airport as we traveled away from the winter wonderland of Ithaca; all three of us together flying across the country to SFO spending our last moments for the next few months together. Chris continued on to LA for his final shoulder rehab check for “full duty work release” (aka 100% recovery) then back to Mexico and Tao. Shawn and Grizzly went north to Petaluma to take advantage of all her hard work at TT by gaining experience actually teaching as well as taking advantage of a tremendous opportunity to work with Lynn Whitlow. 2009 passed by like a whirlwind. Some of our last year’s resolutions came to be, while others were swept away in the constant swirl of life’s turbulent flow. We entered 2009 together and focused; we enter 2010 separate and scattered. Again we will be apart for the coming months, but we know that it will bring us closer together for a better-quality future. Welcome to the next chapter in our story…

Thursday, January 21, 2010

December 5th-20th, 2009; Back to Baja!

Many important changes have passed since our last entry. First, Shawn successfully graduated from Bikram’s Teacher Training in Las Vegas on December 5, 2009. Congratulations! In addition to her certification, she received the great honor of being one of 36 selected by Bikram for the final yoga demonstration where she performed the entire 26 posture series, including several advanced postures, to an audience of many friends, parents, and fellow graduates. A day later, Shawn drove north to Clear Lake to begin teaching under direction and tutelage of Lynn Whitlow. We met Lynn in 2004, while practicing yoga at the Funky Door studio in Berkeley, and agree that she is one of the most inspirational Bikram’s Yoga instructors we’ve met. We promise to fill you in more on Shawn’s yoga experiences as things move forward.

While Shawn was demonstrating Full Cobra on stage at the Las Vegas Hilton, Chris was down on Tao in San Carlos, Sonora. Now that she was afloat, Tao finally began to feel like the home he remembered. They were both happy to be rid of the constant attack of dirt, dust, and the suite of toxic aerosols that life “on the hard” brings. Apart from the normal pre-sail preparations (running rigging, sails, water and fuel, etc), Chris spent his time working on several other “need to do” projects. Yes, like most boat owners, we have an exhaustive list of maintenance tasks and improvements that keeps us busy while we’re cruising. We have found that as long as we are living and sailing, we can effectively keep enough momentum to slowly make improvements. Yet, on the other hand, if we take time away from Tao, her upkeep is difficult to maintain.

Mercifully sparing our blog readers the torture of a true project list, here is a brief list of what was completed the day that Shawn graduated:
· Installed new AquaSignal 40 masthead light with tri-color, anchor light, and strobe functions. Of course this required several trips to the top of the mast and some luck. The new unit required two more wires and more footprint space than the nearly useless 1970’s antique it replaced. Luckily Chris found the end of an old triplex encased within the remains what appeared to be the previous owner’s wind instrumentation “tower” during the initial top-of-mast recon mission so no longer had to worry about worst case scenario of “pulling the stick” to rewire. A voltmeter quickly identified the three wires exiting just above the mast step on the keel. Unfortunately, the wires were little more than nubs protruding at the top, so Chris spent a good hour with a hacksaw blade cutting the pipe surrounding the wire careful not to lose what did exist. Then to make space for the unit Chris spent the rest of the afternoon discovering why it’s probably not a good idea to wield a hammer and impact driver at the top of the mast while the wakes from the continuous stream of fishing boat traffic roll under the boat. (Thankfully, he did not put a hole in the deck with either of these heavy metal items). The effort yielded a spare aluminum masthead plate, 4 badly beaten up stainless steel machine bolts, and enough space for the new masthead light. With the wiring and placement woes behind him, Chris drilled and tapped new mounting holes, connected a few wires, and installed the light.
· Other top-of-the-mast jobs: While up there, Chris also replaced windex wind indicator, untangled a jammed sheave, ran a new halyard, applied lanacote to all dissimilar metal contacts, and put sail tape on spreader boots.
· Back down in the cabin, Chris led a new set of wires between the electrical bus at the base of the mast and the 12v panel, amidships over the engine. Although the entire electrical panel and rats nest of wires behind it have to be dealt with during a future campaign, Chris was able to locate a logical set of switches, providing power and ground to the different functions of the new masthead light. He is proud to say that Tao’s anchor light now looks like a bright light, not just a distant star bobbing around in dark space. Now if he can only figure out how to keep the lights from interfering with the masthead VHF signal…

On December 6, Noah Peffer boarded an overnight ferry from Santa Rosalia to Guaymas to help Chris sail Tao south across the Sea of Cortez to Puerto Escondido. Noah and his girlfriend, Alex, are good friends that we met last year in La Paz while they were completing a new dodger for their boat Scheherazade, a Yamaha 33. Noah is currently working and writing about his epic struggle to repower on the hard in Fonatur Singlar’s yard in Escondido ( During their last two days in San Carlos before heading across, Chris and Noah finished installing teak chocks for the new liferaft, tuned the standing rigging, and spent the requisite afternoon at the fuel dock filling water and diesel while using a few wrenches on the persnickety Yanmar 2QM20. They did not forget to spend some quality time socializing with the local riff-raff; of course, topping this list were Jacob and Julia from s/v Pisces and Adam and Kris from s/v Estrella.

It was a “gentleman’s” start on Wednesday morning, December 9, for Noah and Chris. Waking up at around 7:30 AM, they were able to listen to the morning weather on the Sonrisa and Amigo nets, have a civilized breakfast, and even take the last bits of trash off the boat and shower before sailing off the anchor in San Carlos harbor at around 11:30 AM. Tao’s main came up first, followed by the 100% working jib after Noah stowed the anchor. We made course heading 184 degrees, almost directly south, for the opening between Islas Coronado and Carmen near Loreto, Baja California Sur. In total, the journey to Puerto Escondido was a little over 140 nautical miles. Wind conditions began with steady 10-15 knots from the northwest off the starboard quarter, with a 1-3 foot short period wind swell from the same direction. Although they had a slight roll, it was a relatively comfortable downwind run so far and the boat was gliding along at a respectable clip of 6 knots. Conditions remained the same during a beautiful sunset, and apart from a few fishing boats, we sailed alone in the moonless dark with low-level stratus clouds obscuring the horizon, and amazing views of the star-filled Milky Way above us as we zipped downwind through the night.

Dawn broke to the sight of the large volcanic mound of Isla Coronado off the starboard bow. Isla Carmen looked like a low lying landform directly ahead. We entered the passage between Loreto and Isla Carmen at around 9 AM, and completed our journey to the south end of Isla Carmen where it gives way to Isla Danzante. We were within a few miles of the entrance to the Puerto Escondido harbor at around 11 AM when we decided to sail into picturesque Honeymoon Cove, a well protected anchorage on Isla Danzante. We then tacked on beam reach toward the Puerto Escondido entrance, started Yannie, the engine, and pulled up to mooring ball 85 in the primary harbor. This has been Tao’s home since then. Overall we made the run in about 24 hours, with an average speed of just under 6 knots!

Upon landfall in Puerto Escondido, Noah showed Chris his work progress on Scheherazade; impressive, to say the least. Two days later, Jacob and Julia from Pisces motored into Puerto Escondido having spent a night layover at Isla Carmen on their way down from San Carlos. This visit was a surprise, as they had not originally planned to stop on the Baja Peninsula on their way south to the Mexican Riviera (Mazatlan and points south). Any questions Chris had about their intentions were immediately cleared up, when they approached in their dinghy, Pesky, and stated, “We can’t miss Noah’s famous hot dog crawl in Loreto.” Yes, you read it right, a celebration of Loreto’s secret food delicacy, an epicurean delight, the hotdog. Noah had been talking about his favorite Loreto hotdog joint ever since he arrived in San Carlos. His obsession obviously had an effect; now people were changing their cruising plans to make it to his favorite Saturday night activity. And yes, indeed, the hotdogs did not disappoint. We went out along with Noah’s local friend Wade to the king of hotdog stands (Incidentally, Wade also built Nor’West boats in the mid-70s in Alameda, CA. He did not build Tao, hull #10, which was after his time). This particular stand was family run, only open during the weekends, and located in their two car garage. For 15 pesos, what came out was not just a hot dog with ketchup and mustard, but a work of art. The hot dog and bun were just the foundation for a mountain of additional ingredients, including a number of grilled veggies, a special mayo sauce, bacon, and salsa. Yum. Following this event in Puerto Escondito, Jacob and Julia christened the first annual hot dog crawl in La Paz ( Their final report states that La Paz may give the Loreto hot dog a run for its money.

On December 13, Chris sadly left Tao on her mooring, and caught a bus from Loreto heading south for Cabo San Lucas for holiday visiting with his family at his mother’s annual time share. Flying in from Los Angeles, CA, and Juneau, AK, were his mother (Jane) and stepfather (Abe) and his sister (Sarah) and brother-in-law (Jimmy), respectively. Chris spent one night in La Paz before heading down to the San Jose del Cabo airport to pick up the rental car and Sarah and Jimmy, at around 3 PM. All three of them drove down to Cabo San Lucas proper to rendezvous with Jane and Abe at the Pueblo Bonito Blanco resort. (Coincidentally, the magnificent and well manicured Pueblo Bonito property faced directly out to the yacht anchorage in which Tao had been anchored just one year before). Time for some R&R. Over the next 5 days, Chris savored visiting with his close relatives while enjoying the royal treatment that he could only observe from his rolling cockpit during his last visit. His daily routine at the time-share included a morning workout in the on-site gym followed by a long trip to the spa, where he enjoyed the soothing effects water in the shower, hot tub, steam room, Swedish shower, and cold water plunge pool. The whole family enjoyed sun time by the pool, in the ocean, and going out on the town for several dinners. Everyone wished Shawn were there (most notably Shawn), but she was riding the post-teacher-training wave teaching her first 6 classes during that time.

The view of the sun setting during the evening flight from Cabo to Los Angeles was memorable. The next morning, December 20, Both Chris and Shawn were rudely awakened in LA and San Francisco respectively by alarm clocks indicating early flights bound for snowy Ithaca, NY and the beginning of another adventure: the first time to spend our holidays with Shawn’s family in New England.