[pin 4320] Our first update didnt post. I’m hoping this one will Day 5 Mar 24 Fish On!!!! Shortly after Jim;s shift started he saw a fish at the end of the line. It was a 20+lb yellowfin tuna. Of course this happens the day after we had a nice clean shower and there was blood all over Jim’s clothes and the deck of the boat. Nick miraculously didn’t get a drop of blood on him. We filleted the fish and froze half for later and ate sashimi for lunch and cracked pepper tuna steaks for dinner. It was amazingly tender and melt in your mouth and much tastier than skipjack tuna. The winds picked up today and we were on a beam reach and going fast. Way more rocky and rolly so cooking was a challenge as everything wants to roll away from me. Overnight Ian broke due to the strong wind & wave action so we’ve all got to hand steer overnight. A stainless steel bracket holding a pulley bent up (a lot of force considering this is 1/2 inch thick stainless steel). Day 6 Mar 25 We passed our 1/4 distance today! The winds slowed down today and Jim is worried that we’re going too far west so we’ve been trying hard to head more south. Today we put up our drifter sail – it’s like a large headsail but pretty like a spinnaker. It flew well in the light winds. Provisions wise the avocados and mangos are getting really ripe whilst the apples, oranges and potatoes are doing nicely. Since the winds were light, I did some clothes washing today. Mainly Jim’s blood stained clothes from yesterday and threw in some other clothes as well and set up the clothes line on the sunny side of the boat. We had tuna fried rice for lunch and leftover steaks for dinner. No more fish for a while. Overnight the wind died down to 4-5 knots and the sails were flapping and the boom banging so we turned on the motor for a few hours and headed south. We made water, charged up our batteries and turned off the engine when the wind picked up. Day 7 Mar 26 Everyone is tired as we have been hand steering for the last 2 days/nights. Also the sea has been confused which makes the boat roll up and down and side to side. The boom creaks, the sails flap and the blocks rattle whenever we get hit on the side by the waves as the wind is too light to keep the wind in the sail. It makes it difficult to sleep as well. So we’re more grumpy and irritable. We used the whisker pole on the head sail and it stopped the sail from slapping around. Jim is unhappy about our heading but we can only go where the wind takes us and maybe we should just head to Hawaii. The winds picked up steadily through the day but our heading is dead down wind and our boat doesn’t seem to want to head in that direction. Every day at 5pm we have a gathering in the cockpit for happy hour where we have a special treat and sometimes a beer or margarita. Today we had chocolate ice cream that I smuggled on board. We had cup of noodles for dinner. Day 8 Mar 27 Another tiring night of hand steering last night. Jim finally jibed and put out the mizzen sail to port and our poled out genoa to starboard on a wing on wing configuration, Ian was happy to steer the boat. Phew! We don’t have to hand steer tonight. Ian worked well, even with his dislocated shoulder in the 15-20 knot winds. The 2 cookbooks that I have found most useful is “The Boat Galley Cookbook” by Carolyn Shearlock & Jan Irons and “The Essential Galley Companion” by Amanda Swan-Neal. Today I made mango cream pie, thanks to Amanda who’s a kiwi (from New Zealand) as her book had 5 different mango recipes. As the oven was going to be on, I also made hamburger buns for our dinner tonight. It is challenging trying to cook with the rolly waves but I’m getting the hang of it. We had the mango pie for happy hour and Nick cooked up the hamburgers for dinner.
[pin 4320] We’ve had such a pleasant stay in Mexico that it was sad to have the immigration and customs officials come to our boat to check us out of the country. We got our official “zarpe” which is the official document. Without this we’ve heard that it can tie your boat up with red tape at the next port of call in the next country. We’ve made many friends and had to say goodbye to some of them as our paths separate. We hope to meet up with them someday, at sea or on land. Flying Squirrel’s Dave & Amy and their kids Matthew & Morgan, who played minecraft with Jacintha are heading back up north doing the “Baja Bash” (sailing north up the Baja coast). We’ve had a few meals with Tom & Kelly and Sofie from Stochastic at the Vallarta yacht club (think cheese stuffed chicken wrapped with bacon) and for steaks at Sonora el Sur. They are also heading north. Yolo had Presley & Colton aboard and they had a few playdates with Jacintha. They are heading up the Sea of Cortez for the summer. Hannah on Ohanna is adventuring further south with her family towards Panama. Pelagic with Anna, Xander and Porter are currently in Panama awaiting their turn to transit the canal. We miss Billy and Gracie from Seahorse V and Bucket from Velvet Sky, they are south in El Salvador. We’re excited that Family Circus are also doing the Pacific Puddle Jump since Jacintha has so much fun playing with Amaia and Alina. They’re leaving a day later than us but will probably pass us along the way as their boat is faster – the advantages of having 2 hulls (catamaran). Korbut Rose will be crossing in April, we wish them good winds and hope to catch up with them in French Polynesia. Other boats on the puddle jump are Lorien, Daybreak, Sarita and Aussie Rules! Day 1, Mar 21, 122 nautical miles – We took off yesterday from Paradise Village heading towards another paradise. We were all chomping at the bit to leave (Jim most of all) but we had to have our last frappacino from Starbucks, McDonalds Happy Meal and Chinese take out lunch. After a couple of hours motoring, passing the dinghies of the regatta hosted by the Vallarta yacht club, we hoisted the sails and when we were just past Punta de Mita we turned off the engine and sailed. We had good wind with light seas. Perfect sailing weather. For dinner we had mushroom soup I had cooked the night before in anticipation of being seasick but the swells were minimal so I got to enjoy the meal as well. Our friend Lance has been sending us weather reports on our SSB email which is helping to determine which direction we have to sail. We were disappointed not to be able to hear the SSB radio net to see how many boats had left with this weather window including our friends. Overnight the sail was beautiful. 10 knots of wind with little swell. The stars were out and the lights from Puerto Vallarta grew dimmer and dimmer in the horizon behind us. Champagne sailing and the icing on the cake is that we’ve managed to tweak Ian (our Fleming wind vane) so he’s steering the boat perfectly on a beam reach, which means less work for us! Day 2 Mar 22, 140nm – Everyone except Jacintha was a little tired today but after a breakfast of chorizo omelette, mango and oranges, and naps for everyone, all is well. The fact we’re not hand steering makes a lot of difference in the exhaustion scale as well as having an extra person to take watch. Thank you Ian and Nick for being troopers. We sailed all day with all 4 sails up. A pod of dolphins swam by the boat this afternoon, jumping up and down around the bow of the boat. We also passed a couple of cargo ships and spoke to SV Kookaburra who were within VHF radio range but we didn’t see them. No bites on the fishing lines. On the SSB we found out our AIS tracker was interfering with our signal so we could communicate with the net tonight. We learnt that a bunch of boats took off the over the last few days. Day 3 Mar 23, 110nm – Today we had to head a bit more south to clear Isla Socorro. This meant that we were pointing further downwind and Ian did not like this point of sail as much. As the wind was lighter 8-10kts, it meant that there was not enough wind to steer our wind vane (he works on current and wind power). We took down the staysail and poled out the genoa which took a bit of effort. We had to hand steer a lot of the day. A flying fish visited our boat. It was tiny, about 2 inches long and had flown into the cockpit near Nick’s feet. We showed him the way back to the water. Jacintha has been super about being on the boat. She has been watching a lot of movies on the computer. High School the Musical 2 and the Lorax are her current favourites. Nick cooked pancakes this morning so she was very happy. Our batteries were running low today so we ran the generator to top them up. To conserve power we’ve turned off a lot of our electronics. This evening we instituted happy hour and had some margaritas with ice from the new freezer to celebrate. We had teriyaki chicken wings for dinner tonight. During night watch, I saw the Southern Cross low on the horizon. It’s such a comfort to me to see it and the pointers up there in the sky amongst the Milky Way. The moonless night makes the stars even brighter and I’ve been playing with Starwalk app on my ipad to show me the different constellations. Now all we have to do is bone up on our celestial navigation and dig out the sextant to find our latitude and longitude the old fashioned way. Day 4 Mar 24, 119nm – Today we passed to the South of Isla Socorro and headed more west again trying to catch the trade winds that we can see on our grib files (wind report). The winds were much lighter today and eventually we ran the motor for a couple of hours. We also made some water when the motor was running to fill up our drinking jugs. We are keeping a close eye on our fuel consumption as we only have what’s in the tanks (110 gallons left) and in our 2 jerry cans (10 gallons), so we have to be conservative. Having light winds is not fun as the boat tends to get swiped more by waves and rock and rolls sideways. Everthing swings and creaks, the sails flap and the boom rattles noisily. A bird decided to catch the bait on the fishing line trailing the boat and got it’s feet hooked. We had to pull it in and unhook it. We saw it take off after sitting in the water for a few minutes. We also took a solar shower on the deck this afternoon. It’s nice having clean hair and body and fresh clothes. Jim tried hailing any boats on the VHF but there aren’t any boats close by or they’ve turned off their radios. The SSB net at night is a social highlight for us as we find out where all the other boats are and what’s happened in their day.
It’s time to begin another chapter in our year-long cruise aboard Apropos. Tomorrow we are departing Mexico and heading for the South Pacific, where we expect to make landfall at Hiva Oa in the Marquesas. This passage typically takes about 3-1/2 weeks, during which time we will update the blog from sea.
Over 150 boats are part of the Pacific Puddle Jump this year. Some are leaving from Panama and others from various ports of Mexico. A large fleet is based here in Banderas Bay (Puerto Vallarta, La Cruz, Nuevo Vallarta) with 4 boats pulling out today and a few more leaving tomorrow with us. We will be keeping in touch with each other along the way via a SSB radio net that happens each morning for check-ins and weather reports.
We’ve had a lot of fun for 2 months in Puerto Vallarta and La Cruz. Its also been a lot of work getting Apropos ready for the crossing. During the past month, we had our coach-top decks re-caulked, had some welding done on the wind vane, re-did the control lines for the wind vane, finished the ratlines, had dinghy chaps made, fixed some leaks, re-stitched some canvas, scrubbed barnacles off the bottom, made canvas pockets for the cockpit, re-bed some leaking chainplates, and changed engine & transmission oil. Our final preparations for the crossing included filling the diesel and water tanks, provisioning, packing away the dinghy and finding a place to stow everything.
Many thanks to our family (mom and dad, Amanda) and friends (Lance and Carol, Marvalynn, Christy, Nick) who came to visit us in Mexico, bringing some of our favorite foods that can’t be found in Mexico, as well as the all important boat parts.
For the next month, we will update the blog from sea, and our DeLorme tracker will update our position every couple of hours.
We are sad to part ways with many boats we have become friends with during our 5 months in Mexico. Some are headed south to Central America, some are remaining in Mexico, some are going back to the states, and some are doing the puddle jump with us.
For our jump to the Marquesas, we decided that having 3 adults on board would be much better than 2. A 2-person watch can be exhausting especially in heavy weather, and since this crossing will take 3-4 weeks, it just made sense to have another crew member aboard. So, a few years ago we mentioned our cruising plan to Nick, who lives in England, and he was all for it. In fact, he was so gung ho that he contacted us in February 2014 to let us know he was all ready and was going purchase his airline ticket to meet us in Mexico. After we let him know he was a year early, he then had an entire year to really prepare!
So Nick flew from England to Mexico via California and arrived on March 7. He will be with us until April 26, when he flies out of Tahiti bound for New Zealand, then back to England.
While anchored in the bay near La Cruz, we’ve been tackling some final boat tasks during the day and going to live music in La Cruz at night. The local bands have some pretty amazing musicians playing 70’s, 80’s and 90’s music. One venue called Anna Banana’s had about a dozen leather Crown Royal whiskey pouches hanging from the ceiling that contained the ashes of former cruisers who hung out there. Another favorite was Gecko Rojo, so named when they were painting the walls red and a gecko happened to be on the wall and got painted. We watched a 2-person band at Ballena Blanco called The Traveling Band, who played amazing electric guitar to the beat of a mesmerizing bongo drum. Here’s an 8-minute video of her bongo solo: http://youtu.be/KZOu1qV-v2c
We’ve also been attending some of the cruising seminars that are put on at various marinas around Banderas Bay. Topics such as Medical, Electrical, Fishing, and Weather have all contained useful information as we prepare for the jump to the South Pacific.
Baby Turtle Release II
We went to another turtle release that was held along the beach about a mile from Paradise Village. This one was a bit more relaxed compared to the one we went to in Zihuatanejo. After a brief and very informative talk by the volunteer coordinator, everyone in the group scrubbed all scent off their hands using the sand, then were handed a baby turtle. We got to hold it and give it a name, then place it in the wet sand 15 feet from the surf. It’s important that they make their own way to the surf, especially the females. While they are on land, they are using their senses to “map” the exact location using the earth’s magnetic fields, and the females will return to the same exact beach in about 7 years to deposit her eggs, just as her mother had done. It’s an amazing process and is why sea turtles have survived for millions of years, where many other creatures have become extinct.
YouTube video: http://youtu.be/XV9U_Sr3h78
A little about WEATHER
We’re still in Puerto Vallarta waiting for the right weather window to open up for the jump to the Marquesas. I attended a Puddle Jump weather seminar put on by Mike from PV Sailing and learned a lot. It’s looking like this year the jump window (prime time to depart from Mexico) will open up later than normal–around the 3rd week of March. We’ve been experiencing El Nino trends since 2012 where a band of warm sea surface temperatures develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific. This affects surface pressure in the southern hemisphere and sometimes means lighter trade winds in the south pacific.
We had hoped to leave around March 15, but will stick around until the weather gods give the go-ahead. It all has to do with the Pacific high stabilizing and moving into place so we can sail along the 1015 millibar barometric pressure line. When this happens, then you wait for a cold front to come down the outside of the Baja peninsula that will give you the push needed to reach the trades, which typically takes 4 good running days. If you leave at the wrong time, there will be too little wind and, unless you motor, you’ll be going nowhere fast.
So we’re keeping a close eye on the weather trends. The images shown below are part of what we look at. These are NOAA charts for a region of the Eastern Pacific and can be downloaded from the internet when land based, or from single sideband when at sea. The top one shows barometric pressure lines and the ITCZ (inter-tropical convergence zone ie doldrums) for today, March 1, 2015. Puerto Vallarta is at 20.7N, 105.3W, and we want to cross the equator near the 125 degree longitude line. The diagram shows a large part of the pacific sitting at a pressure of 12 (1012 millibar), meaning there would be very light winds.
The next diagram shows wind and wave height for the same region. The wind barbs point in the direction of the wind, and show the wind strength (each full barb represents 10 knots of wind, and half barbs are 5 knots, so the one in the top left is 20 knots, and the 3rd one down is 25 knots). The numbers next to the wind barbs represent average wave height (mostly 7-8 feet in the diagram). If you compare the 2 diagrams, you will notice that the higher wind occurs near the higher pressure gradients–in the upper left.
The diagram below indicates areas that are predicted to exceed 35 kt winds. It’s something we will look at every day during the crossing and we want it to look exactly like below–area void of high winds!