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Leg 2 - 2006 San Diego; Cabo San Lucas; Acapulco

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Leg 2 - 2006, Update 1
Rock n' Roll!
April 15, 2006, 2100 hrs., 25.30 N, 113.35 W, Log: 98,202 miles, 80 miles N of Magdalena Bay, Mexico.
Rocketing along at 7.6 to 8.5 kts in 25-33kt NW winds, 8-12' steep, breaking seas, triple reefed main and jib. Baro: 1013.9, Cockpit Temp: 62F, clear skies, Cabin: 71F

Our six days between Legs 1 & 2 passed too quickly. Word came back on Wednesday that the 10 year old master board on our radar was dead and that Raymarine no longer supports that model with parts, so we had to replace everything; the scanner and display. After some research

San Diego West Marine
(thank you Chuck Hawley and Jack Radant) we chose a Raymarine C80 display and a 4kw, 48 mile radome. We were very fortunate that the huge, well-stocked San Diego West Marine store had those units in stock.

Of course, nothing about the new radar matched our old installation. We had to modify our backstay radar mount with an aluminum plate to take the new domes wider bolt pattern and painstakingly pull the old cable through the boat from the nav station to the backstay with the new cable attached. The new display is a horizontal orientation instead of vertical (totally goofy, as mariners need to see further ahead on radar than on the sides) so we needed to modify the nav station panel. I haven't carried a jigsaw aboard in several years, but Bill Chapman on Leg 2 is a custom woodworker and agreed to bring his jigsaw by on Saturday afternoon and help out with some precision cutting.

We held our breath as I hit the radar transmit button for the first time although I was still in worried on the Sea Talk hook up. The unit worked well and with help from a previous Offshore Seminar graduate, Doctor Electron (Alan Katz) I was able to connect the final SeaTalk wires and sort out basic operating instructions. Thank you Alan! Incidentally, he specializes in marine electrical and electronic installations and comes highly recommended from several people including Bill Chapman and the West Marine electronics manager, Jack Radant. alan@doctorelectron.com is his contact info.

On Saturday we did a Costco run for bulk food supplies, then Monday Amanda and I filled the rental car with fresh produce, bread and goodies from Vons. As this is the last time we will have the boat within easy access to West Marine we also tried to anticipate and purchase everything we'll need from there in the next year or so. The giant San Diego store is the largest of 400+ West Marine stores and had every single item we needed, even including some charts of Mexico.

During these few days Amanda managed to remove all the toerail hardware, sand and apply three coats of varnish with less help than usual from me as I was busy with the radar. Last time in San Diego we only varnished one side, waiting to do the other in Acapulco.

Any thoughts of trying out our new folding bikes on picturesque Shelter Island melted as we hurried to complete our projects by noon on Tuesday when our Leg 2 crew arrived. We did have some fun diversions: sunny morning runs along Shelter Island and the adjacent waterfront, and delightful dinners with previous expedition members Sam Parker, Ron Poulson and Laura and

Ensenada Harbour
Giorgio plus a surprise morning visit from Al Maher bearing Italian food goodies from broski Larry.

Tuesday morning I was chiseling and sanding quick-glued teak deck plugs minutes before heading up to meet our crew in the marina parking lot. We got all of our projects done, but just barely and without a minute to catch our breath.

With a forecast of yet another cold front due to hit Southern California, we decided to set sail that afternoon, once I'd cleared outbound US Customs and Amanda had done crew safety orientation. Leaving San Diego harbor was as busy as entering with a huge Honda car carrier passing us in the narrow channel. We were treated to a colorful sunset and enjoyed the San Diego skyline lights long after sunset, along with a mellow sail 70 miles through the night to Ensenada, Mexico.

Whereas in past trips we noticed how many bright lights there were north of the border and how few lights were in Mexico, this year there were lights all along the coast to Ensenada. At dawn we slowly sailed into Ensenada Bay and daylight revealed tons of large construction cranes. What had been a sleepy little near-border town was now a busy cruise ship and trans-shipping port.

Bill had previously moored his boat at Cruiseport Village Marina in Ensenada (www.ecpvmarina.com) and recommended it. We found several empty slips in the gorgeous new marina and Enrique, one of the staff, had all the forms needed

Central Services Center for Mexican clearance
for customs and immigration and showed me how to fill them out. There was a day charge of $50 to use the marina berth and facilities, but viewing the crowded harbor and limited anchoring possibilities, this seemed like a good option. We were all required to go to immigration and the total process took 2.5 hours in this new facility where the officials are in numbered windows. Previously cruisers had to traipse back and forth between immigration, customs, port captain and the bank, frequently taking two days to clear in to Mexico.

Amanda inquired into a fishing license and was given the total price of $400 - $97 for M.T, $34 for the dinghy and $34 per person. She promptly gave away our fishing lures to a sport fishing boat.

After clearing in, half our crew found lunch in town while half headed back to the boat for

Landfall at San Benito
lunch and showers before going off exploring. Amanda and I enjoyed touring the two museums in the historic 1930's casino then wandered around an artisan's furniture and art shop housed in an old motel. We found a little sidewalk café that boasted free chips and salsa with any drinks purchased and enjoyed relaxing and people watching, as we sipped our juices and savored some tasty guacamole.

We set sail around 1700 and our second night provided plenty of entertainment with the wind up and down rather shifty. We had a full moon and several visits from dolphins along with a steady stream of vessel traffic. At first light both Cedros and much smaller San Benito islands were visible.

Crew writing:

San Benito Island is home to friendly fishermen, lizards and lots of sea lions. We found

San Benito fishing Village
anchorage in an opening in the kelp on the south side of the San Benito near the small village. Protected from the NW swells, it was only a short dinghy ride to the beach and village.Carefully avoiding the huge sleeping sea lions on the beach, we walked up to the village of modest dwellings and asked directions to the summit of the near hill.


We met David and Ramon who said few yachts stopped at this isolated island. They offered to guide us to the summit. A steep trail brought us to a bird's eye view of the island, with Cedros Island in the background and Mahina Tiare surrounded by kelp in the anchorage below. At the summit these men have erected a swivel chair mounted with a pair of powerful binoculars. We understood this set up was to watch for out-of-season lobster poachers as we were told this

Greg takes in the summit view
is the reason the 14 guys were stationed on San Benitio. Lobster season was reported to run Sept.-Feb.

Another, longer hike was to the site of the new lighthouse where there is a commanding view of the sweeping Bahia Sebastian Visciano as well as the old lighthouse. The hike to the top and back took about one hour, after which we were all ready for a swim off the stern of MT. A baby sea lion kept swimming around the boat as we swam then followed us quite a way out to sea. It seemed like he wanted to come with us.


We set sail at 1345 with mellow with following winds. Some of the time we sailed and when the winds faded we motorsailed. During anchoring class this morning the wind started picking up and it's just kept building until hitting the low 30's a few hours ago. The seas are very close

Greg and Christine take reef
together and steep, as one would expect to find over shallow water and Greg just tucked the third and final reef into the main to try and slow us down, but we're still scooting, nearly touching 9 knots!

Earlier today when setting the whisker pole the inboard end suddenly released, dropping the pole 25' onto John Graff's head. OUCH! John said he was ok, but after a couple minutes blood started to ooze out from his hat and Yvette, an ICU RN took him below.

After cleaning the head wound with Hibiclens and applying Betadine ointment, Yvette chose to use butterfly closures instead of suturing the wound then covered it. Although we had just serviced the inboard pole fitting before departing Roche Harbor we were shocked that it had released and reckoned the catch must have hit on a halyard. Amanda taped the latch closed so there is no way

John's Head injury
this could happen again.


April 18, 2006, 2100 hrs., 22.06 N, 108.35 W, Log: 98,563 miles, 197 miles WNW of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. A magical evening following a sighting of the green flash at sunset. Broadreaching at 5 kts in 12 kt W wind Baro: 1009.7, Cockpit Temp: 76F, clear skies, tons of stars, Cabin: 81F

Our winds held at 18-22 out of the NW as we zoomed eastward on a course that took us right by the entrance of Magdalena Bay, famous for calving grey whales. On the chart we located a fairly protected and easy in-easy out anchorage north of the entrance deciding to stop for a swim and

Yvette (on the helm) and crew enjoying the excellent downwind sailing
shower. What a desolate place! Ashore we could see remains of a phosphorus mine and an abandoned seasonal fishing huts. The water was a little warmer than at San Benito, I think, and we enjoyed stopping for a couple hours.

By 1600 we set sail in increasing winds, occasionally touching 28 kts. We had some great practice setting the whisker pole and gybing as the winds normally follow the coastline here. That night we had several cruise ships pass us, all deck out in their party lights.

Cabo San Lucas is one place many cruisers had told us to avoid, being chokka with fancy sportfishing boats and timeshare condos, but I have been curious. Our course took us within a couple miles of the entrance, and since we had plenty of daylight left in the day, we made a

Cabo San Lucas
side trip into the harbor. Yvette had recently visited Cabo with her family a few months ago and Bill had sailed out of the harbor a couple years ago, so we had great local knowledge. The harbor did look quite full, but the fuel dock was empty, so we tied up and topped up with 48 gallons of fuel, at the amazingly reasonable price of $2US per gallon! We saw only two sailboats inside the marina and two anchored off, so this didn't look like a Mecca for cruisers. We bought ice cream for everyone, looked around a little and then set sail for Puerto Vallarta, 290 miles ESE.

Since leaving Cabo the air temperature has gone up by 15 degrees or more, but sadly the winds have dropped and we are encountering a 1 knot southerly current. With a good W swell rolling in, we are hoping the winds fill in today.

Let's have our Leg 2 crew introduce themselves:

Yvette Nichols, 41
I am currently a ICU registered nurse and live in Spokane, WA with my husband Carl. I will be taking a leave of absence from my job for 1-2 years starting this August to cruise Mexico aboard our 46' Formosa. My two boys Joel, 13 and Kyle, 11 can't wait to go!

Lori Abrahams-Dana, 37
My husband Steve and I own and operate a 24 hour emergency and critical care hospital for small animals in the SF Bay area. I have been a licensed veterinary nurse for 12 years and love my field. We bought our first boat in June 05, a Scepter 43, Pacific Wind. She is currently in Vancouver over the winter. We plan to enjoy the Northwest this fall and then hope to sail south in '07 for a six month sabbatical...the first of many, I hope!

Greg Putnam, 47
I have been a project manager with REI for 18 years, working on development of logistics infrastructure. I enjoy getting out and about on local Seattle waters on my 16' Hobie Cat, but am looking to extend the range of my trips. During this expedition I've been discussing options for a good boat in the 34-40 range with John for trips up the Inside Passage and to the West Coast of the Queen Charlotte Islands. Our visit to San Benito showed that my "learn in your car" Spanish is good enough to make me ships interpreter in addition to chief fly swatter.

John Graff, 59
I retired from Ernst & Young (accounting firm) after 30 years and two transfers from Denver to West Palm beach and then to Minneapolis. Christine and I have a Valiant 42 in San Diego, our fourth and largest boat to date. We are looking forward to sailing south from San Diego this fall.

Christine Graff, 55
I am "the other half" of a retired team, but having been a homemaker I am not sure "retired" applies, but I am certainly embracing the concept and having a ball. I joined this expedition to gain confidence in my skills and also to overcome my fears of sailing. So far, so good!

Bill Chapman, 55
I have a custom woodworking business in San Diego. Four years ago a good friend and I bought a Tayana 46 and have enjoyed sailing to Catalina and Ensenada, plus around San Diego. I have chartered for years but joined MT for the real experience and knowledge of cruising. I am looking forward to doing the Baja Ha Ha rally and sailing beyond this fall.



Leg 2 - 2006, Update 2
IT DOESN'T GET ANY BETTER!
April 20, 2006, 1708 hrs., 19.57 N, 105.41 W, Log: 98,843 miles, 60 miles S of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Baro: 1006.2, Cockpit Temp: 86F, clear skies, Cabin: 80F


Here's the scoop: we're surfing along - Christine is doing an awesome job on the helm with winds touching 30 kts, we have up full main and 80% on the headsail - MT is screaming along, reaching the low 9's. Amanda has the soundtrack to "The Big Chill" crankin' and we're minutes from what

Bill, Greg, Yvette and Lori miling their braid splice closed
may be our fifth green flash sunset of the expedition. Awesome smells wafting out of the galley, Amanda is working on another one of her fabulous dishes; Greek Olive Chicken. Crew are taking showers on the aft deck and life is great!

A couple hours ago the sailing was similar and I remarked to Bill, who was helming, "You know, it just really doesn't get much better than this." Seas were fairly even and with full sail we were surfing along nicely. Not more than a minute after my comment, the waters surrounding MT exploded! Spinner dolphins, dozens of them, surrounded us. Then, they started showing off with flips, spins, tail walking, and massive belly flops. The ultimate was when (I am not making this up!)

Dolphins bow riding
two dolphins simultaneously did high back flips exactly in front of the boat, looking right at Greg and Lori before landing so hard their splashes reached the deck. The faster MT surged down the waves, the more excited the dolphins became. It was as if they were competing with each other to see who could do the wildest flips and spins. Lori spotted a couple of babies zipping down our bow wave, joining in the fun. Earlier this morning we had a 40-50' long grey whale swim over quite close to check us out. What a day!

I think I would have to rate our 17 hour stop at Paradise Village, Puerto Vallarta as a 12 on a scale of 1-10. We have long heard about the legendary hospitality of marina managers Dick and

Paradise Marina


Dick and Gina - marina managers
Gina Markey so decided to scope out the marina, having visited the municipal marina five years ago.

Dick answered our radio call, gave us a waypoint off the difficult to see channel entrance and stood by with two dock boys to take our lines. With 200 slips, the marina is half the size of the municipal marina, 3.5 miles away, but included in the modest charge of $.70 US per foot per night use of four swimming pools and the resort facilities. There is a yacht club, showers, laundry, zoo with tigers and monkeys and an amazing shopping mall with very reasonable grocery prices. Within 2 hours of our arrival, crew had taken swims, showers, explored and all three ladies bought nifty dresses to wear out on the town.

Dick explained that the resort was started by an Italian-Canadian guy who was a gem to work for. He had arrived in Vancouver at 18 without a cent and had paid cash for the entire resort construction. Dick had sold his own business and sailed away from San Francisco twenty years

The girls in their party frocks - ready for town
earlier but after four years of cruising he got bored. He was hired to run Mazatlan Marina before being lured away to design, build and manage Paradise Village marina.

Downtown Puerto Vallarta is normally a half hour away, but Easter holiday traffic had all roads packed. The malecon, or downtown waterfront strip was thronging with people, 90% Mexicans, enjoying the musicians, artists and evening beachfront atmosphere. Amanda was able to find the exact upstairs restaurant, overlooking the beach that Michael and Joanne Gray had led our crew

The Malecon, PV
to last visit and we enjoyed watching the sunset green flash before an excellent and reasonably-priced dinner.

After dinner an amazing nine-member mariachi band performed on the front steps. The band leader played a mean trumpet and the four violins were an impressive force. We stopped several more times to listen to live music, all synthesized with light displays. The large sidewalk area above the beach has dozens of fanciful bronze sculptures and several artists had created amazing sand sculptures on the beach. The sidewalks thronged with people and children enjoying the moonlit evening.


Mariachi Band

Templo de Guadalupe


This morning was a busy one, as we aimed to set sail for Tentacatita by 0900. Everyone was up before dawn for runs, hikes and swims, plus we washed down MT. I changed the oil and watermaker pre-filter while crew took turns going up the mast for rig inspections. We set sail and true to the advice of a cruiser on the dock, we had moderate winds for the 30 miles to Cabo Corrientes. Soon after rounding the cape, winds built to 20, with gusts to 35, then the dolphins showed up!



Leg 2-2006, Update 3
April 24, 2006, 0130 hrs., 17.06 N, 101.02 W, Log: 99,177 miles, 70 miles N of Acapulco, Mexico. Baro: 1009.7, Cockpit Temp: 81F, clear skies, Cabin: 84F


We arrived at Tentacatita early, before dawn, and motored slowly into the bay as first light appeared. We were pleased to see three cruising boats at anchor and within minutes of anchoring had the dinghy in the water and were headed up the river in search of crocodiles and exotic tropical birds. We went a way's up the twisting, mangrove-lined estuary until it became quite narrow. Although we didn't see any crocodiles, we saw several places where it looked like they had come and gone from the water, plus we saw tons of interesting birds. It was strange to be in a jungle setting, then to look up and see cactus and desert mountain scenery directly above us.


Crew hauling the dinghy over the river sand bar

Exotic bird taking flight


That afternoon we practiced Lifesling Rescue procedures, sail repair and headed SE toward Isla Grande, arriving the following afternoon. What a picture of Easter Break this tiny, nearly uninhabited picnic island was! A few jet skis zoomed around, lots of Mexican families on holiday lined the sandy shores and a handful of locally owned motor yachts were anchored off. We hopped in the dinghy for trip to the south side to find some coral and lots of tropical fish in a protected snorkeling area. By the time we returned to MT, all of the day-trippers had ferried back to the mainland on overloaded outboard-powered launches and stepped ashore for sunset drinks on the beach. The guys who were packing up and heading back home to the mainland stuck around long enough to serve us sunset margaritas.


The boys learning the nuances of sewing

Sunset margaritas


This morning we had a leisurely start at 0900, motoring six miles past Ixtapa to Zihuatanejo, one of cruisers favorite towns in Mexico. As it was Sunday, town was a little quieter than last visit, which must have been a Saturday, because the beaches and town were packed.

We shared the anchorage with three cruising boats, Mark and Diane Rector's HR 36 (www.contepartiro.com) from Seattle was one of them. Graduates of our Offshore Cruising Seminar four years ago, they purchased their boat from our friend Pete McGonagle at West Coast Yachts and have enjoyed two years of Mexico cruising, another yacht was the Ramus 35, Gava Jelly also sold by Pete.

With hardly a foreign tourist in sight, Z-town is very much a Mexican beach town. Families having fun at the beach and shopping, polite, well-behaved children and friendly, relaxed people

Zihuatanejo waterfront
was what we found. And, this time we found the amazing handicrafts market, complete with artisans making jewelry and painting ceramic bowls and plates (we bought several at $3-6US each) and. The produce market was not too busy, and it was nice to have more time to look around. The food prices were excellent.

With more places to choose from for lunch than one could imagine, Amanda and I ended up at a quiet little beachfront palapa, steps from the water's edge. We could keep an eye on MT as we relaxed, enjoying fish tacos, shrimp tostada, guacamole, chips and cold drinks for under $10US. Crew opted for a back street restaurant and had and equally tasty fair for half our price. After three hours in town, we thought our crew might be ready for an earlier return to the boat than we had planned, but when we met them on a side street, they were laughing and joking and said they needed as much time as possible to see the town! This is a good sign!

All too soon it was time to meet on the dock and set sail for Acapulco. We have had some good wind and had fun practicing celestial navigation but all too soon the wind went light, so we've

Bill takes a sextant sight
had to start motorsailing. Great news! When I called Sr. Marques, the Acapulco Yacht Club harbormaster yesterday, he said he had received my letter and that they have space inside their marina for Mahina Tiare for the week between Legs 2 & 3.

April 25, 2006, 1530 hrs., 16.50 N, 99.54 W, Log: 99,247 miles, Club de Yates de Acapulco dock. Baro: 1006.7, Cockpit Temp: 96F, clear skies, Cabin: 87F

We're HERE! It took some juggling, especially after Amanda was not too keen on being moored next to the travel lift but the harbormaster finally found a slip that we can use for at least two days (until the owner returns) and then they will find another. Yesterday our crew finished their final test then headed for the pool where they floated around until dinner, which they decided should also be at the club's poolside restaurant.


Travel lift a Acapulco Yacht Club

Crew enjoying the high life poolside


While Amanda and I were heading toward the pool, Mike Dawkins who with his bride Linda sailed from Noumea to Auckland with us in 2002 dinghied over, saying they had been following our updates and were waiting to see us before sailing south to Costa Rica. Mike invited us (and crew) over to see the shiny Hylas 49 that they took delivery of just 1.5 years ago. Linda is incredibly organized and showed us computerized forms for maintenance and stowage and they both said that they have never been happier. Thev'e sold everything on land, have a mailing address in Nevada and look forward to their grandkids joining them frequently. You've got to check out their website, it is awesome! www.svaquila.com.

Mike and Linda joined us for breakfast in the cockpit this morning before setting sail and regaled us with stories of their first year of cruising, plus Linda brought a DVD that she'd compiled of doing the Baja Ha Ha race that Latitude 38 organizes each October. They said they had a blast doing the Ha Ha and are now cruising to Panama and the Caribbean with friends they met during the race. Then all the sudden Leg 2 was history. Everyone finished wiping down their cabins and lockers with Windex, signed our guest book, traded email addresses and packed up. MT seems quiet and empty after everyone leaves. This was an excellent crew - full of laughter, great senses of humor and they are getting together tonight for dinner and more fun.

I couldn't keep Amanda away from the varnish joints in the caprail but she is using our new Magma boat umbrella so a least she isn't getting fried in the scorching sun. With no major boat projects we are looking forward to some relaxing time - maybe checking out the museum and some serious swimming and city exploring time.

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