Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Lobster is back on the menu!

It has been more than two months since we have had that sweet, rich, succulent taste of lobster on our lips.  While we were in Baja we visited several places looking for the tasty yet illusive spiny lobster. We did find a few while we were in Isla San Marcos but none since, and it was not for a lack of trying.

However, here in Tenacatita we decided to take an evening stroll along the rocky coastline to see what might be lurking below in the dark of the night.  I was not extremely hopeful as we headed out for many reasons.  One of which is that we are in a very popular anchorage and other cruisers have similar pallets.  As soon as I was in the water and searching it was apparent that there were two major road blocks...a big surge and hundreds upon thousands of long, black, spiny urchins.  Just as you move down toward a rock or ledge you find yourself being pushed into it with  an oncoming swell.  It was a little sketchy.

Sketchy or not, we managed to bring home four nice bugs.  Tonight we feast.  Let me paint the picture for you.  The tails are split in half down the middle of the shell. The rich, white meat is basted with garlic butter and then placed on the bbq, shell up, meat down.  A few minutes later when there is a slight braising you turn the shells over and baste again, allowing the garlic butter to run down through the meat and then settle to the bottom of the shell, the succulent lobster meat now boiling in the bastings.  Only a few minutes more then they will grace our plates aside fresh vegetables grilled and sauted and poured over pasta.  Yes, that should do it.  I hope you enjoyed our meal with us here aboard SV Liahona.  Until next time...

SV Liahona
Bret and Marne

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Crew change. Miss you already Tarren!

This morning we dinghied across the bay here in Tanacatita to the town of La Manzanilla about 3 miles to the south to drop Tarren off so she could start her trip back home.  La Manzanilla is a small town so she had to grab a local bus from here to Melaque about a half hour away where she would then grab a larger bus from there up to Puerto Vallarta.  From PV she will grab a "collectivo" or mini van filled with locals, out to La Cruz where she will spend the night with Ken and Sherri on SV Cake.  Tomorrow morning she will make her way by collectivo back to PV to catch her flight out to Salt Lake City.  We already miss her.

Getting back to the boat we are back to just Marne and I.  Today will be a lazy day with a little pick up here and there but most of all...celebrating Marne's birthday!  She is the queen for the day, week and year!  Whatever she wants!  Feliz Cumple beautiful Marne!  I am so happy and lucky to have you in my life and sharing this wonderful life aboard.

Yesterday the three of us took a dinghy tour up the mangrove lined estuary at the head of the main anchorage.  It winds through thick mangroves for about two and a half miles.  In some places it was so narrow the dinghy was barely able to fit through and sometimes we had to duck our heads to avoid the mangrove canopy above us.  A tunnel of vegetation and wildlife.  Near the very back end of the estuary we spotted a couple of small crocs, one maybe 5' long and the other a bit smaller.  None of us had ever seen a crocodile in the wild like that before.  It was amazing.

Not sure how long we will stay here in Tenacatita but we won't wander too far as there is much to see.  Ciao for now.

SV Liahona
Bret and Marne

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Broken drive belt.

This morning we left Barra and headed north a short 15 miles to the popular anchorage of Tenacatita.  We first stopped in at the very northern anchorage which is along side "the aquarium", a well know diving/snorkeling spot.  We enjoyed some time in the 82 degree, clear water and then pulled the anchor to go around the corner to the main anchorage.  Just a mile or so out the high temperature alarm on the main engine began beeping.  Looking at the temp gage confirmed that we indeed had a problem.  I immediately shut down the engine and even though we had very little wind we threw up the genoa, put Tarren at the helm and poked along at 3 knots while I went below to see if I could fix the problem.

My first two thoughts were the raw water strainer being clogged with some sea vegetation or whatever and the second thought if the raw water strainer was ok is that maybe the impeller, although brand new at the beginning of the season, might be toast.  I pulled off the starboard and front engine covers to begin the research.  As a reached down to close the salt water through hull that feeds the two engines I noticed the shredded belt.  I was actually pumped.  3 minutes into the discovery phase I definitely knew what the problem was.  Now, do I have a belt?  A quick look into the parts locker and I had a brand new belt in hand ready to be put into service.

Fortunately the belt was an easy install and within 20 or 30 minutes and some help from my always willing first mate Marne we lit the diesel burner, checked the gages and were back under way.  Having a problem, discovering the real root of the problem and then fixing it is indeed gratifying.  Every time something breaks I get an opportunity to self educate, sometimes with, sometimes without a few cuss words and then have more knowledge stored away in the recesses of my brain that may be used at some later date.

Not all problems are this easy.  Some issues require hours to diagnose, hours to remove other things just to get to where the problem really is, hours to remove and/or replace parts and hours of cleanup.  Today was not that day.  Today was a great opportunity to learn and fix without the hours of frustration and headache.  Today was a good day.

After arriving, under water cooled power, to the main anchorage of Tenacatita we went ashore, had some chips and guacamole and cold drinks under a palapa and then went back to the boat to just chill.  A great day indeed.  Ciao for now.

SV Liahona
Bret, Marne and Tarren

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

In Barra de Navidad for Christmas!

The town of Barra de  Navidad

This morning we picked up the anchor around 7am and headed south for Barra de Navidad (Christmas Cove).  Where else do you spend Christmas in Mexico if it's not Barra de Navidad?  Barra is about 40 miles south of Chamela where we were yesterday and a short 15 miles or so north of Manzanillo.  I suppose that we spent some time here back in 1980 on my dad's boat but I honestly don't remember.  Even if I did remember being here I'm sure that nothing looks the same.  The lush, thick green hills surrounding the anchorage are spotted with expensive homes and hotels line the beach.

We are anchored inside the lagoon that is completely protected from the swells of the Pacific.  Although that provides a night's sleep on perfectly flat water, like we were on a lake, there are some definite disadvantages.  When you think of the water in a lagoon, usually it is not crystal blue water that you would want to get into.  If that is the image you have in your would be very correct.  The water here is muddy brown, most likely pretty stagnate and definitely a breeding ground for all sorts of biting insects. is not the paradise that you might imagine.

However, beyond the mucky water and bugs that thrive after dark, it is quite beautiful.  The hills and mountains around us are a thick, lush green jungle.  Palm trees and mangroves border the anchorage and the marinas close by.  Outside of the lagoon there is a beautiful white sand beach with the ocean a very comfortable 84 degrees.

Getting into the lagoon is a bit tricky because there is a poorly marked channel through several mud and sand bars.  We were tip toeing in trying to stay in the main channel watching the depth gage get shallower and shallower until we finally had exactly zero inches of water under the keel and we came to a slow stop.  Stuck on the bottom.  After a bit of jockeying around we wiggled free, got some advice from a local Mexican in a panga and slowly motored over to where we anchored in a whopping 10' of water.  Keep in mind that we draw 7"+.  This is definitely a record for the shallowest anchorage yet.  Word is that we definitely will need to wash the chain off when we pull the anchor as it comes up covered in mud.  Yay.  After getting settled we promptly got to work putting up the infamous 18' tall LED light Christmas tree on the foredeck.  With some nifty rigging of lines, block and tackle between the mast and the furled genoa we hoisted the beast.  We have yet to see it in lit form, hopefully everything works.

Tomorrow we will do some exploring in the dinghy then go into town and also to a couple of hotels that supposedly are "cruiser friendly" where we are welcome to enjoy their pools and restaurants.  Tomorrow evening there is a Christmas party where a lot of the cruiser attend and also others from the town.  The party is complete with turkey dinner and a gift exchange after.  We are looking forward to it.

Ciao for now.

SV Liahona
Bret, Marne and Tarren

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Sailboat surfing down to Chamela.

The ham radio signal has been very poor being close to the big city of Puerto Vallarta so here is a brief recap of the last couple of weeks.

Hidden Beach, Banderas Bay

PV - After arriving in Banderas Bay a couple of weeks ago we have meandered through the various anchorages that the bay has to offer.  A few days at Punta de Mita with it's decent surf break, nifty shops and quaint beach restaurants.  Several days in La Cruz where there is a marina and more resources for any needed repairs, restocking or just hanging with friends as there are a lot of boats in the marina or on anchor just off of La Cruz.  At one point we left La Cruz heading out to Punta de Mita for a jump the next day south around Cabo Corrientes and farther south down the Mexican coastline.  However, a refrigerator glitch sent us back to La Cruz the very next morning to get someone to look at it.  It was a simple fix fortunately and we were back online by the end of the day. a quaint little town on the southwest side of Banderas Bay that is home to indigenous people who have lived there for centuries.  There are no roads into Yelapa so it is only accessible via boat or mountain trails.  We spent an awesome day there walking up through the little town's stone and cement walk ways up to the base of the waterfall that feeds the town with fresh water.  The waterfall itself is about 150' tall with the water cascading down the sheer face of the rock and splashing into the large pool at the bottom.  From the base of the falls we walked up a stone and dirt path that winds steeply up the mountain and takes you to the top of the falls.  As we walked through the jungle going to the top we saw several black hoses that feed the various homes down in Yelapa with clean, fresh water.  Well, not water that most of you would consider clean as it was actually kinda of brown, but to them it is "agua dulce", fresh water.  As we were walking through the narrow street we were passed a few times by young me on small horses or donkeys packed with supplies being carried to homes further up the mountain.  We also came across a boa constrictor that was ambling along the path.  I quickly picked it up as he slithered his 5' or so length around my arms, shoulders and neck.  Boas are awesome, so docile.  We planned to spend the night in Yelapa but there was a huge north swell coming into the anchorage and the boat was rocking wildly so we left and headed back over to La Cruz where we arrived at dark around 7:30pm or so.

Looking down...

Chamela - We left La Cruz at 5am and headed toward the infamous Cabo Corrientes (Cape of Currents), aptly named.  Cabo Corrientes is a prominent point of land that protrudes out into the Pacific forming the southwest boundary of Banderas Bay.  Because of it's prominent point weather patterns and currents are magnified for many miles along the coastline near the point.  All cruisers respect the point and many are simply fearful to round it so most, or those that are prudent, chose a very calm day and also try to move through that area at night or the early morning hours of the day in order to take advantage of the greatest possibility for calm.  By the time we rounded the point, on what was supposed to be 3-5 knots of wind and calm seas, we were in the middle of what seemed like a washing machine with waves coming from all directions and winds in the 15-20 knot range.

That lasted for a couple of hours then the seas began to organize a bit with the dominant swell coming from the northwest at about 4-6'.  Not bad.  However, the wind increased to 25-30 knots from the north which made for exciting sailing and we found ourselves surfing down the faces of the waves flying the drifter out front doing 8 knots for well over 3 hours.  Our max speed for the day was 10.2 knots as we sailed and surfed down the big swells.  It was a wild ride!

The original plan was to dip into Punta Ipala, a small fishing village 45 miles from La Cruz and south of Cabo Corrientes, spend the night there then arise early the next day and travel the additional 50 miles south to Chamela.  With the large swell and wind we doubted how protected the small fishing village would be and so we elected to blow by Ipala and continue on to Chamela, even knowing that we would arrive there an hour or two after dark.  It was a long day, a total of about 94 miles which took us from 5am to 7pm.  Chamela is a large bay with excellent protection and we arrived safely under careful vigilance as we entered the island and reef protected port.  Just before we rounded the reef into the bay I saw a dark object just off the bow.  It looked like a 6' tall fence post or buoy, maybe a rock, I just couldn't make it out.  We slowed the boat down as I saw, lost sight of then saw again this mysterious object.  When we got within about 50-100' of it we heard a very loud SLAP.  Then another and another.  It was a humpback whale lounging on it's back slapping it's pectoral fins on the water.  Because it was dark we really couldn't see much we were amazingly close to this magnificent creature while we listened to it frolick and then disappeared below the surface as we moved by.  An amazing moment to a LONG day surfing downwind in uncomfortable seas to Chamela.

Cappy and his new buddy found on the trail.

That's a wrap my friends.  Ciao for now.

SV Liahona
Bret, Marne and Tarren

Monday, December 14, 2015

Surfing at Punta de Mita

I had forgotten how rolly the anchorages are on the Pacific side.  Last night started out calm then later the swell rolled in and we began the not so gentle port to starboard roll.  We have the "flopper stopper" out to help dampen the roll but there is only so much the device can do.  That said, it wasn't horrible, we just have to get used to rolling ourselves to sleep.  On a positive note, the water here on the Pacific side is 80 degrees versus the 69 degree water that we left in Baja once the northers sent the temperatures plummeting because of how mixed up the seas were.

Today was a surf day.  There is a nice little right break in front of the anchorage here in Punta de Mita and Marne felt like she was ready to step into fire and give it a shot.  We paddled out off of the sandy beach but quickly learned that as soon as you get into the water it was almost all rock where the waves were breaking.  Par for the course. After a few instructions about body position, paddling and "popping" up to her feet at the right time on the wave she was in the lineup and waiting for her wave.  Unbelievably, the first wave she paddled into she stood up on and rode in toward the beach.  You have no idea how pumped she was.  We stayed out for about 45 minutes or so and she managed to catch a couple more waves making her grand total 3 for 3.  I wasn't really pumped on the rock bottom, mostly because I didn't want Marne getting scraped up nor did I want the nose of one our new boards slamming into the rocks either.  

Marne with her new surf buddy Juan Pablo 

Since we left the beach Marne has been smiling from ear to ear and we can't shut her up.  She is definitely on a major high right now and we might even have to lock her in the stern locker with no lights, food or water until she settles down a little.  On that note, and it's a good one, if you don't believe me, just ask Marne...we will say adios!

SV Liahona
Bret, Marne and Tarren

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Good, the Bad and the Sleepless.

Sunset at Punta de Mita

Last night we spent what turned out to be the most miserable night at anchor onboard the Liahona yet.  We were securely anchored in Chacala the night before with friends and it was delightful.  The next day it rained, a LOT, all night and then all the next day.  Near the end of the day Marne bucked up, put on a rain coat and drove me out in the dinghy to a left point break to do some surfing.  The break was amazing but it was a little stronger than the day before and unfortunately, like most good breaks, crashes over rocks, not sand.


Anyway, the surfing was excellent, just me alone on a point break and Marne waiting in the dinghy.  I was a little more timid than the day before because it was definitely bigger, more powerful and hollow.  I wasn't really too excited about becoming intimate with the rocky bottom nor was I fond of the idea of either of my two brand new boards meeting the bottom neither.  I did catch a few lone swells and then we rode back in the pouring rain to the boat.

Getting the new sled ready to go.

Around 9 or 10pm the wind started to blow, not super hard but maybe 15 knots or so.  It accompanied the very heavy rains.  There must have been a pretty nasty squall offshore somewhere near because we began to get very heavy swells into the anchorage which threw us around like a cork. We rolled crazily from side to side, maybe 30-40 degrees. It persisted all night.  Nobody slept and nobody was happy.  It was frustrating because there was nothing we could do but ride it out, one sleepless minute after another.

This morning the bay in Chacala looked like the muddy Mississippi after a hurricane.  Totally brown and lots of stuff floating about.  So we decided to leave and head south to Punta de Mita which lies at the very north end of Banderas Bay, the home of Puerto Vallarta.

The seas we super big today but our point of sail was good so we bounded down the coastline under the umbrella of our big drifter in 15 knots of wind.  Several times we saw 8.5 or more knots of boat speed.  Crazy fast!  The seas were running 8-12', much bigger than is normally comfortable but even with the big seas the sail was awesome and we enjoyed a visit from some dolphins along the way and also saw a sea turtle.
Sunset at Punta de Mita 

Tar, happy to be here!

There are several surf spots here around Punta de Mita so we will probably spend a few days here.  We do have internet so we are hoping to post some pictures up soon.

SV Liahona
Bret, Marne and Tarren

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Baja is just a memory

The weather forecast changed slightly so we adjusted accordingly and jumped off into the deep blue.  We left Bahia Frailes around 9:45am this morning under sunny skies, fair but brisk winds and a rolly sea.  As the sun moves across the southern sky the Baja coastline begins to disappear from view off the stern.  By the time we awake in the morning we be far from sight of land in any direction and probably won't see any signs of terra firma until late in the day tomorrow.  

If you want to map our current position we are at 23 degrees, 7 minutes North, 108 degrees 57 minutes West as of 2:45pm, Wednesday.  Our heading is 110 degrees true and our speed is appx. 6.5 knots.  The seas have been  pretty sloppy all day with most of the swells following the winds from the NNW around 3-4' with an occasional set in the 6' range.  Winds have been fairly consistent from 13-20 knots coming from the NNW, putting the wind on our port beam.  Although conditions are not perfectly comfy they are reasonable and predicted to remain the same throughout the night and then decline a bit tomorrow.  With this wind we could be doing 1-2 knots faster but I have the sails reefed back to a fairly conservative sail plan so we don't heel too much and also to allow for any unforseen gusts.  

We haven't seen any marine life yet but we do hook up with on Bonita on the handlines which we promptly threw back.  We did, however, see three whale spouts yesterday on our run to Frailes.

All is well on board.  Crew is doing great, both Marne and Tarren are taking a short nap preparing for the night watches later tonight.  We will try to update again tomorrow sometime between the morning and afternoon but don't panic if you don't see anything as it might be too rough to update.  For now we head into a beautiful Pacific sunset at sea and then into the darkness for a few hours.  Ciao for now.

SV Liahona
Bret, Marne and Tarren

20+ knots and 6-8' seas to Bahia Frailes

We left Bahia de los Muertos around 8am this morning heading south for Bahia Frailes about 45 miles to the south.  Frailes will be our hopping off point to head over to mainland Mexico which lies about 2 days sail to the southeast.  Today's sail was ALL sail with winds from 15-25 knots and a following sea.  It was not a very comfortable ride but nobody got sick and we only used the motor to pull the anchor in Muertos and then again to put the anchor down in Frailes.  A full day of travel for about $2 bucks!

We traveled with our friends Ken and Sheri on SV Cake.  They are a smaller boat, a 36' Beneteau so they go a bit slower but it is nice to talk with someone along the way on the VHF radio.  We had two other boat friends, Harmony and Le Chat Buete who got to Frailes yesterday and left this morning for the mainland.  There is a small weather window of slightly milder winds that a lot of boats are taking advantage of.

Upon arrival in Frailes we noticed a Mexican shrimp boat in the anchorage so after getting settled we put the dinghy in and buzzed over to see if they had any shrimp on board. The did of course and so we asked them how much for a kilo.  They asked what we had to trade and were looking for cigarettes, booze or porn. We were fresh out of all three!  The did not want pesos.  So we headed away dejected but they soon called us back and gave us a huge bag of shrimp, probably close to 2 kilos and they would not take any money from us.  How awesome is that?  Fresh shrimp, potatoes and carrots, a great dinner... on the cheap!  That is the extent of our day here aboard.  We will probably sit tomorrow and head across on Thursday.  Ciao for now.

SV Liahona
Bret, Marne and Tarren

Saturday, December 5, 2015

La Paz in the rear view.


We are finally out of La Paz!  In La Paz for a week, out to the islands then back in La Paz for another few days, all due to strong, relentless winds that have kept us from crossing over to mainland Mexico.  However, that is now behind us.  Yesterday morning Tarren jumped a bus from Buenaventura where she spent a couple of weeks with Nathan.  After a short 6 hour bus ride we found her walking down the Malecon, bag in hand and backpack strapped on.  It was awesome to see her after being gone for 2 months!  By the time we got to the boat it was about 5:30pm so we quickly threw her stuff on board, checked out with the port captain and headed 6 miles north to Bahia Falsa where we spent the night.

This morning we were up early, around 4:45am, to pull the anchor and point the Liahona south the 52 miles to Bahia de los Muertos.  This morning was dead calm but around 8am or so we turned off the motor and sailed for a couple of hours then we lost the wind. Typical Baja.  So we motor sailed for about 3 hours then around 11am we were able to turn off the motor for good and enjoyed an awesome, light wind broad reach through the Cerralvo Channel towards Muertos.

Along the way we picked up a Sierra and a nice Wahoo, both delicious, that we will share with some friends tonight.  We also caught 2 Bonita that we tossed back.  The sail was so peaceful.  The seas were calm and we never saw more than about 10 knots all day until we pulled into Muertos.  We will stage here for a day or two, watch weather, then hopefully head another 45 miles south to Frailles which is where we will jump off from to head across, most likely to Isla Isabel.

That is a wrap on a spectacular day here on the Sea of Cortez!  Marne and I are definitely happy to finally be moving farther south.  Ciao for now.

SV Liahona
Bret, Marne and Tarren