Thursday, April 19, 2018

Hawaii, here we come!


We motored over to the anchorage in La Cruz last Sunday to do the engine and hull checks.  It wasn’t particularly comfortable in the afternoon as the wind picked up to over 25 knots and Ka’sala pitched and rocked on her anchor as if raring to head out to sea.  Nonetheless, we were able to complete all the tasks assigned to this short passage.  Doug changed the oil and checked the engine  – tiptop shape.  I re-familiarized myself with our sailmail program and confirmed I could communicate with my family, and on my blog, while we are at sea.  Doug dove on the bottom, when the conditions were calmer the next morning, and cleaned the prop and bottom of barnacles and scum.  Then he checked the zincs and made sure everything was fine below the waterline.  The visibility wasn’t that great, and the water wasn’t all that warm, but the deed was accomplished.

At anchor at La Cruz
We met up with Jan and Joanneke, but were stranded aboard Ka’sala for a couple of hours waiting for the choppy sea conditions to settle down.  In the early evening we reunited aboard Witte Raaf, then ventured into La Cruz to have one more fabulous dinner at Tacos on the Street.  Puttering back in the darkness, to our boats, in our little dinghies, reminded me of all the many adventures we had shared together over our last few winters in Mexico. 


The next day we returned to Paradise Village, and our E58 slip, as the paying guests of the Vallarta Yacht Club.  Doug had been monitoring the weather and wanted to make sure we would have some breeze to push us off the coast of Mexico, out of the effects of the Sea of Cortez, and into the trade winds that would take us all the way to Hawaii.  Of course, the weather is not precise a week in advance, but trends become apparent, and it appears that Monday, April 23, will be our departure day.  Our planned destination will be Honolulu, approximately 2900 nautical miles away, a little over 6000 kilometres, or the distance between Vancouver, BC and Halifax, NS.  All going well, the journey should take us three to four weeks - nonstop.

Doug looks down from the bridge on Ka'sala in Paradise Village marina
Over the next few days we will complete the final chores to have Ka’sala ready for the passage.  Filling our internal and external water tanks (about 560 precious litres), our diesel tanks (about 390 litres or 600 nautical miles worth of fuel) will be essential.  Assembling our life saving gear - such as our life raft and ditch bag (we use our dinghy, fully inflated on the foredeck with ditch bag and water tied in), harnesses, lifelines, jacklines, Jordon drogue, Epirb and radios. The sails and rigging have all been checked and the staysail and stormsail rigged.  The self steering systems are ready to go.  Inside we still have to re-organize for sea and, of course, find, buy, sort, and store a month’s worth of provisions.

In between all the preparations, we have been able to find time to spend with our friends Jan and Joanneke.  They have joined us in Paradise Village and all four of us have been enjoying the great facilities here.  J & J are planning to sail with us as far as the Revillagigedo Islands, about 320 miles offshore, where they hope to explore the underwater wildlife, before returning to the Sea of Cortez for the summer.  We will continue on to Hawaii.  And we will miss them.

Joanneke and Jan
While we are underway, we will be checking in with the Pacific Seafarer’s Net and you can follow our passage through their website as well:  
  • www.pacseanet.com.  (Click on the Menu button on the top, then “position reports”.  Our call sign is:  VE0KSL (that’s a zero, not an “O”) and if you scroll down on the position reports page you will get more details about the reporting system.  

  • I also believe you can still follow our course graphically by going to the Yotreps website:  www.oceantracking.com and clicking on “reporting boat list”.  On the next screen you will see a yellow table.  Look for our call sign, then look to the right and click on “track”.  You should then see a map that shows where we are in the Pacific Ocean each day.  

  • And if you are still wondering, and love to play with technology, you can also track us through our AIS.  Try the websites: www.vesselfinder.com or: www.myshiptracking.com and play around.    

When we are at sea we have a lot of time to think.  When I am on watch, especially, I find my thoughts drifting to family and friends who care for us and think about us when we are so far from home.  I can feel your positive thoughts and prayers and they make me feel like we are not alone - not an easy thing when you are in a 34 foot sailboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  From the heart: thank you!
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Saturday, April 14, 2018

April in Paradise Village, Nuevo Vallarta

After the Banderas Bay Regatta we spent a couple of weeks just relaxing and enjoying living on the docks at Paradise Village.  Our marina fees include the use of several of the resort's facilities, such as the swimming pools, the gym (for a small fee) and an air-conditioned hospitality suite (which is like a huge living room with giant TV, comfortable chairs and sofas, great wifi, a kitchen and showers). 

Lap pool at Paradise Village

Living room in hospitality suite

My "office" in the hospitality suite - tough, eh?
We dragged the bicycles out of the quarter berth and have been riding the many bicycle paths and wide boulevards to explore the Nuevo Vallarta area.  Even the main highway between La Cruz and Puerto Vallarta has a generous curb.


Staying in Paradise Village has been like living in an enormous garden filled with exotic flowering plants and bushes and shaded with majestic palm trees.


Each afternoon a breeze picks up, keeping the temperatures comfortable.  At night, we have rarely seen more than 20 degrees.  The birds are everywhere - from frigates hovering high in the sky, to pelicans flying in formation, to cormorants diving for fish around the boat, to cooing doves, scolding grackles, melodious kiskadees and many colourful others that create an endless cacophany of sound. 

Grackle

Kiskadee
There are crocodiles in the marina.  We haven't seen one yet, but we have been warned.  Instead, the monstrous looking green iguanas have come to hang out - one 3 foot example even climbed our self steering device to try to join us in the cockpit for sundowners.  The next morning he decided to sun on our bimini.  Both times  it has taken firm encouragment for him to find another place to suntan. 

Green iguana - I know they are vegetarian, but still......
There are two Bengal tigers as well, but they live in a cage and have been part of a successful breeding program.  Duke paces his enclosure, lifting his tail and emitting puffs of spray at Daisy - as if it were the most refined of perfumes. (Well, maybe for her!)

Duke and Daisy

An interesting story
Of course, we have also been preparing for our upcoming ocean voyages to Hawaii and Alaska.  Doug has always kept Ka'sala in top shape and, as a result, we don't have a long list of repairs to do or equipment to buy.  Additionally, we have completed these passages before, so are familiar with what is required. Nevertheless, Doug has been double checking the systems to make sure he hasn't missed anything and continues with regular maintenance.  I have been working on provisioning and where we will store everything.  The only research I have been doing is to find others who may be making the passage at the same time and where we will stay when we get to Hawaii.  So far I have only found, and been in contact with, one boat, Charabia, who completed the passage earlier in the month.  While there are over a hundred boats making the passage to French Polynesia this year, it looks like we may be alone on our voyage to Hawaii.  Perhaps that will solve the problem of finding a place to moor Ka'sala in Honolulu!

I think two of our major questions right now are:  1. where to put the kayaks on deck so they don't interfere with the staysail lines (it would be tragic to leave them behind) and 2. where can I buy fresh, unrefrigerated fruit and vegetables that aren't ready to eat the day I buy them?  Hopefully these challenges will be the worst of it.

This week we will be moving Ka'sala over to the anchorage in La Cruz for a couple days to check on the hull.  Doug will dive on it to make sure there are no problems below and then clean it so the bottom is as slick as it can be.  We are also looking forward to reconnecting with our good friends Jan and Joanneke from Witte Raaf .  Later, we will return to Paradise Village to do our final preparations.  All going well, will leave for our 2900+ nautical mile voyage to Honolulu sometime in the last week of April.



 


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

March in Banderas Bay

Since late February we have been living aboard Ka'sala in Banderas Bay.  We arrived here from Tenacatita after an overnight, upwind sail, toward the end of February and spent our first four weeks on Dock 9 in the La Cruz marina, surrounded by other active cruisers. 

La Cruz marina with anchorage just past the breakwater, Bucerias in the background

We arrived just in time to celebrate Doug's 65th birthday with a weekend in the old town of Puerto Vallarta.

Happy Birthday, Doug!
Soon afterwards friends, Nellie and Mark, came to visit.  They stayed at a resort near the La Cruz marina where Ka'sala was berthed.   Years ago, we had promised them a sail as part of their wedding present, and they finally received it.  We had a gorgeous, sunny time out on the bay and couldn't believe how many whales we saw - at least 40 - all cavorting around - jumping, spyhopping, fin flipping - quite exciting.  It was a special day.  They had never been to PV before, so we enjoyed showing them around - even got out to Sayulita.  When Nellie and Mark left, they took an overnight bus to Guaymas, picked up our Roadtrek and drove it back to Canada for us.




Soon afterwards, we rented a car and drove through the narrow and twisty backroads and mountain passes of Jalisco to the Lake Chapala area.  We were very impressed with the beauty of the landscape as we climbed over 5000 feet above sea level. 

On the way to Lake Chapala

Agave farm - the plant that produces tequila

Gorgeous Mascota Valley

Pilgrims on their way to Talpa - we passed hundreds of them 
We drove through pine forests, agricultural areas, charming old towns and villages until we reached Jocotepic, surrounded by shrouded Driscoll berry farms perched on the western end of Lake Chapala. 

A typical berry farm along the side of the road - growing raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and blackberries - all under shade cover
We stayed with friends, Chuck and Diane, at Los Dos B & B, which belonged to a relatively famous Austrian/American artist named Georg Rauch, who died a few years ago.  His wife, Phyllis, still lives there among his paintings and keeps his studio intact. 

Los Dos B & B

Georg Rauch studio

Living room of our casita, decorated with Rauch paintings



There are a lot of expats, who mostly live in gated communities about 10 km further east, but there are also more villages. One of them caught my eye in particular: Ajijic. The town is very arty - murals, artisans, craft markets, cafes and restaurants with a lovely malecon along the lake.  I hope we go back to the area some day in our van - we saw many mountain biking opportunities - and the warm day/cool night high and dry climate was very comfortable.

Quaint Ajijic street scene

A large loom in a small portion of a large weaving studio

Colourful urals line the streets of Ajijic

The Malecon at Jocotepic - each town along the lake had its own lovely variation

Cobbled street on the way to the B & B in Jocotepic

Out to a delicious Mexican dinner with Chuck and Diane

Mural on the front of a restaurant illustrating their regular patrons

View toward the eastern end of Lake Chapala - the paved roadway ended here
When we got back to Puerto Vallarta in mid March, we had to move Ka'sala to the marina at Paradise Village in Nuevo Vallarta to be closer to 40 Love, the boat we would be crewing on in the Banderas Bay Regatta.  We waited until late morning so we could sail on the beautiful breeze that picks up every afternoon - rarely more than 20 knots - and calms down in the evening.  The seas stay relatively flat, so conditions are comfortable.

Paradise Village Resort - marina in the foreground - Ka'sala's dock is at the extreme right
Another view looking west - Ka'sala's dock is at the extreme right

Looking north - Paradise Village is on the top side of the breakwater, Ka'sala's dock is by the bridge in the distance
On our dock by the bridge - note the bicycles on the foredeck
Sailing in the Banderas Bay Regatta was a wonderful experience.  We joined skipper/owner, Joel and his wife Chris, as well as Margie, from Dreamcatcher and Victoria-based pediatrician, Richard Taylor.  We had been crossing paths with Joel aboard sailboats in Mexico since 2011 and had spent many good times together.  This year, he asked us to join him in the Regatta and we accepted without hesitation.  We spent 4 intense days on the water: one practising and three racing.  There were four other boats in our class and we had a lot of fun keeping them all in our sights.  We didn't place, but we sailed well and I, for one, learned a great deal.  Many thanks to Joel and Chris!

Valient crew of 40 Love:  Doug, Margie, Lyneita, Richard, Joel, Chris

40 Love, a Hunter 40

On the rail

In heaven:  Doug at the helm of 40 Love while the crew is on the rail, Puerto Vallarta in the background

Awards night - we didn't rake in a trophy, but the prize was sharing the experience with these great people
Once the Regatta was over we found time to re-familiarize ourselves with Paradise Village.  We had stayed here for a few weeks in 2011, just before we made our last passage to Hawaii, and were happy to return.  Not much has changed, and this extensive, well maintained, 5 star resort is still a beautiful place to be.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Blog Update: Where have we been these last two years?


Almost two years have passed since I last wrote in this blog.  Why so long?  Well, a few reasons.  For one, many of the people who used to follow my blog had moved on to Facebook.  They told me they were more interested in a “spot check” of how and where we were, as well as a few photos.  The blog was a lot of work for me – most entries took several hours to complete, while a Facebook post could be done in minutes.  So.....I continued posting, but only periodically, and only on Facebook.  No one complained.  Secondly, for the last couple of years most of the places we found ourselves, I had written about in previous blog entries.  I was not particularly interested in repeating myself.  Thirdly, blogs seem to be less popular now than they used to be.  My original blog, which I kept for our adventures in 2010/11, had over 200,000 hits.  I had lots of positive feedback from readers I knew and didn’t know from all over the world.  When I began again in 2015, my readership was drastically reduced and I began to feel that if I was going to write for myself, I would keep a personal journal instead. 

Why am I reconstituting the blog now?  Since I began my first blog, and before we left Comox for our second cruise in 2015, we purchased a Pactor modem, which connects to our SSB radio and allows us to send and receive emails.  This ability is especially useful when we are offshore - without access to the internet and Facebook.  Through the modem I am also able to post on the blog – something I was unable to do on our first north Pacific passage in 2011.  In a few weeks, we will begin the long trek back to the Pacific Northwest via Hawaii and Alaska; through the blog I will be able to report on our progress, plus keep contact with family and friends while we are at sea. 


I guess the next question would be:  What have we been doing these last two years?  My last entries were about our trip north into the Sea of Cortez in the spring of 2016.  We continued north from Aqua Verde to San Juanico, then crossed over to Guaymas in late April.  There we left Ka’sala for the summer on the concrete hardstand at the Fonatur marina, right in the heart of that small city.  

Sailing in the Sea of Cortez
High on the cliffs near Honeymoon Cove - Gigante mountains in the background

At Aqua Verde with Witte Raaf
On the hardstand at Fonatur, Guaymas
Ready to store for the summer
In the summer of 2016, we returned to the Comox Valley to housesit for friends and bought ourselves a 2007 diesel Sprinter Roadtrek.  In July, we loaded it with our bicycles and drove across North America, visiting with family and friends along the way.  After rounding Cape Breton, we headed into the USA, using the locales of the American Civil War to guide us.  We travelled as far south as Tupolo, Mississippi, birthplace of Elvis, then crossed through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona before reuniting with Ka’sala in October.

Roadtrek on our first trip to Bere Point, Malcolm Island, BC
Cycling in New England
Camping in the woods of  Widby Island, Washington state
Cycling at Niagra Falls

Checking out the waves in PEI
Exploring American Civil War battlefields
Mount Rushmore

Hiking in spectacular Sedona
 In the winter of 2016/17 we stored the van in San Carlos and spent our time cruising Ka'sala in the Sea of Cortez along with our Dutch friends, Jan and Joanneke, aboard Witte Raaf.  For the first half of the winter, we were also joined by Bill and Sandra, aboard Greybeard .  The three yachts crossed to Santa Rosalia together, then worked their way slowly down the eastern Baja coast and islands to La Paz.  In late winter we retraced our route back to Guaymas where we left Ka’sala for another summer in the Fonatur yard.

Sandra, Bill, Doug, me, Joanneke and Jan at Isla San Francisco
Ka'sala, Witte Raaf and Greybeard at Aqua Verde
Anchored off Algadones near San Carlos
Overlooking Santa Rosalia on a very windy day
Shell rock formations on the beach at Bahia San Domingo

Punta Chivato anchorage

San Juanico anchorage
Anchorage in Bahia Conception

Looking down at the anchorage from the top of Isla Coronados
Ka'sala at Coronados
On the beach in Los Gatos
Cowboys on the beach in Los Gatos
Loreto waterfront
Near Puerto Escondito
Isla Partida anchorage
San Evaristo
Anchorage at La Paz

Southern anchorage at Isla San Marcos
Kayaking off the remote northern tip of Isla San Marcos
Back on the dock in Guaymas
We moved back into the van in the spring of 2017 and drove it north through the central mountains, taking every opportunity we could to bicycle along the way.  We were totally taken with Arizona, Utah and Colorado for the beautiful landscapes and recreation opportunities.  Another summer was spent house sitting and visiting friends in the Comox Valley, then we headed south again in the Roadtrek – this time with mountain bikes strapped on the back.  Using the Apps “Campendium” and “Trailforks” we planned our route back to Mexico to coincide with great trail rides and inexpensive camping.  It was an amazing experience.

Boondocking at the Dragoon Mountains near Tombstone

Biking on the south rim of the Grand Canyon

Canyon de Chelly - one of the many pueblo ruins we explored in the Four Corners area

Navajo Monument trail

The road to Marble Canyon
Looking over Black Canyon

Mormon's Crossing near the source of the Columbia River

Spud Lake near Durango

Mesa Verde cliff dwelling

On the road between Durango and Silverton
Grand Teton Mountains
Granite Springs

Hiking in Yellow Stone National Park


With Nellie on the top of Table Mountain

Hiking Table Mountain

Tubing near Pincher Creek

Cycling in Waterton National Park

Writing on Stone Provincial Park
With Bella and Benny

With my new mountain bike near Elk Bay, Vancouver Island

New rack for our new mountain bikes
In late fall we were back in Guaymas.  We stored the van in San Carlos once again, and launched Ka’sala.  This time our plan was to join friends in Barra de Navidad by Christmas.

Goodbye Fonatur, Guaymas
We sailed down the west coast of the mainland in three hops, breaking the passage at Mazatlan and San Blas.

Fishing off the beach in Nuevo Mazatlan

Isla Marina Mazatlan - Ka'sala is docked just under the lighthouse

Ka'sala on the dock at Fonatur San Blas
After the new year we split our time between Barra de Navidad and the beautiful anchorage at Tenacatita.  We were not alone.  At any given time there were at least 35 boats in the anchorage and the lagoon, not to mention the nearby marina.  We spent our days swimming, strolling the beaches, snorkelling, kayaking, biking, playing cards and socializing.  Somewhere in there we did some boat jobs, but each day passed like a dream.  The only flies in the ointment were the high heat and humidity, as well as the nasty biting/stinging insects.

Isla Navidad Marina with the Barra Lagoon anchorage in the background

Christmas swim at the Taxi Aquatico docks, looking toward Isla Navidad in Barra de Navidad

With our dear Dutch friends Theo, Joanneke, Marion and Jan
Kayaking up to the lagoon at Tenacatita
Looking over the Tenacatita anchorage on a very humid day
Dinner with good friends aboard Ocean Voyager
Sunrise between Tenacatita and Barra de Navidad
In mid February we began our long journey home by heading north to Puerto Vallarta.  I will write about our time here in my next blog entry.