I must apologize for ignoring our blog lately. Life in Mexico is rewarding, relaxing and wonderful, but it also has its challenges. One of those challenges includes finding good reliable Wi-Fi access to upload our pictures and blog posts. So we spend a lot of time moving from café to café utilizing free Wi-Fi while enjoying a bebida fresca. Most of the time the Wi-Fi is iffy, at best, so I have to utilize the time online very efficiently.
We are currently anchored in La Cruz (“The Cross” in Spanish) de Huanacaxtle in the state of Jalisco, Mexico. It is a small fishing village just north of Puerto Vallarta in Bahia de Banderas (Bay of Flags) on the Pacific mainland of Mexico. La Cruz is a popular destination for cruisers because of its benign weather during the winter months, relatively quiet anchorage (although rolly at times), and easy shore access via a dinghy dock in the La Cruz Marina. The village is growing from its original roots but still holds its small town vibe due to its beautiful town square and cobble stone streets. Along the marina malecon is the open-air fish market where the pangas are docked and fish is carted off straight from the bay. Every Sunday there is a farmers market where I buy organic fresh salad greens, fresh fruit, handmade jewelry and art and, most importantly, yummy homemade baked goods.
La Cruz Sunday Farmers Market
La Cruz Fisherman’s Panga Beach
La Cruz’s Fresh Fish Market
Stingray swimming by in the La Cruz Marina
So far we have been here for about a month. And we love it. The people are so friendly and the restaurants located here are so diverse and interesting. There is a German restaurant, a British pub, and an Italian restaurant with wood-fired pizza. And not to mention the many cheap and delicious local taco stands that pop out of the wood work after dark. One of our favorite places is Huanacaxtle Bar & Café that is is owned and run by a local family. They are super friendly and make you feel like one of the family every time you show up. They have an awesome happy hour, 10 peso draft beers, and host karaoke night on Tuesdays, but Oliver is ready for some karaoke any night of the week and will try his hardest to convince you of the same!
Patrick and me singing karaoke after a few 10 peso happy hour cervezas.
It’s also a popular day trip for tourists from Puerto Vallarta and Punta de Mita because of the easy and inexpensive bus ride. Since La Cruz is so convenient to get from PV’s airport, we had our friends, Melissa and Ruben, down for a visit. It is always so nice to see friends from back home. We took a bus up to Sayulita, a quaint hippy surfing town known for their beach palapa restaurants and surfing schools. Since they were visiting from Seattle, they brought a gift for us…rain and clouds! We hadn’t seen rain since we left San Diego! That didn’t deter us from enjoying ourselves so we took a bus ride up to Sayulita.
Melissa, Ruben and Pea getting wet in Sayulita
Sayulita beach during our wet beach walk
Downtown Sayulita in the pouring rain
At least we got an amazing rainbow in payment for the rain and clouds.
Double rainbow over the La Cruz Marina
And when the clouds and rain cleared up we took at trip into Old Puerto Vallarta and explored the city a bit. We really enjoyed this part of Puerto Vallarta because of its beautiful beach, historic buildings and streets and interesting art work. This is much better than Neuvo Vallarta and Paradise Village, which has a very sterile and “Americanized” feeling.
Walking along the malecon in Old Puerto Vallarta
View of the breakers along the malecon in Old Puerto Vallarta
Patrick trying his first tamarind-flavored margarita based upon Ruben’s recommendation…yes it was quite yummy!
This February was our second wedding anniversary and it was my turn to plan our celebration, which wasn’t too hard since there is so much to explore and experience in this area of Mexico. And so I surprised Patrick with a surf lesson in Sayulita. We decided to use Patricia’s Surf School, which is located right on the beach. Edgar, our teacher, gave us land-based instructions before we hopped into the water to try and catch some waves. The small surf allowed us to get up quickly and we had such a blast that we decided to make more time for surfing and consider buying our first boards.
Sayulita’s beach after our surfing lesson….enjoying mas guacamole and tatopos
Sayulita’s local surfers at the school enjoying the sunny evening on the beach
Sayulita’s beach just as the sun begins to vanish behind the hills
So what’s next for Deep Playa and her crew? The month of March will be a busy one…there is a regatta from March 2 through the 18th, Regatta Copa Mexico http://www.regatacopamexico.com/, which is a HUGE event including J24 races, kite surfing, laser and big 80 foot yacht races, which is held in PV and La Cruz on the Bahia de Banderas. Many of the boats and events are taking place in La Cruz Marina and right outside the anchorage. So we will be hanging out here to watch the boats racing and hopefully hitch a ride on some viewing boats to get close up to the action. The entire town is being beautified for this event and is quickly being transformed into a clean and well-primped world-class marina. There is also a big Stand Up Paddle (SUP) and longboard surfing contest in Sayulita http://puntasayulitasurfclassic.com/ that we want to watch. So our cup runeth over for the month of March. After March, it all depends on the weather, but we plan on making our way back north to La Paz and up the Sea of Cortez.
Having landed safely in Mazatlan, we headed to Marina El Cid to meet Patrick’s parents for the holidays. We had arranged to have his parents stay in Marina El Cid Hotel while we acquired a slip in the marina, which worked out very well indeed. El Cid Resorts are sprinkled across Mazatlan and each has a different set of offerings to its patrons. The Marina El Cid Hotel and Marina had two nice pools, a Jacuzzi, a couple restaurants and bars to choose from. This was a little high-end for us but we splurged since his parents were visiting and it was Christmas, after all. We had decided to partake of a few tours during their visit. The first tour we went on was the Old Mazatlan city tour. It took us through the historical sections of Mazatlan and allowed us to explore the Mercado (open public market), Cathedral and town square.
Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception
The Mercado Central in Mazatlan
Here we go! Trolley tour of Old Mazatlan
Our favorite tour was the Puerta de Canoas Tour and the Los Osuna tequila factory.
Los Osuna Tequila Tour
The tequila tour was very interesting and the farm in which the agave was growing was incredibly beautiful. The tour guide explained to us the process in which the agave is farmed, roasted, and then fermented.
Tequila bottling and aging facility
My most favorite part of the tour was the lush green and vibrant flora and fauna on the farm. The small buildings that dotted the farm were painted in bright colors that contrasted nicely against the deep greens of the palms and bright pinks and oranges of the Bougainvillea bushes. They were attracting a ton of beautiful and graceful migrating butterflies that fluttered amongst the brilliant back drop of the Bougainvillea flowers.
Bougainvillea and White Butterfly
Purple Bougainvillea and a blue butterfly
The old fashioned method for extracting nectar from the agave plants
The latest technology for chopping up the agave plants.
Pure tequila dripping from the still. 100% alcohol waiting for aging.
Our next stop on the tour was the small village of Puerta de Canoas. We visited a horse farm where they trained dancing horses, yes, dancing horses. These horses are hired for municipal and state events and parades such as Carnival and Revolucion Day. I worked on a horse farm in high school and have rode my share of horses, so I appreciated the hard work that went into training these very large animals. A couple of these horses were easily 19-20 hands tall while the trainer pushed 5’3” (including his heeled cowboy boots)!
After the horses danced, it was time for almuerzo (lunch). We went to a small family-owned open air restaurant where the lovely senoras provided us with a mortar and pestle, roasted chilis, garlic and tomatoes so we could make our own salsa. After we made our own salsa, they showed us how to roll and bake our own homemade corn tortillas. There is nothing better than fresh warm homemade tortillas, salsa, and guacamole. I think that was one of the best meals that I have had in Mexico!
Homemade tortilla lesson
Throughout Bill and Becky’s visit, we were able to enjoy several local restaurants in Mazatlan, including Te Lucy, which had excellent food and some of the best mole Patrick has ever had! We appreciated the personal service and the local knowledge imparted by the maître d’.
Te Lucy Restaurant in Old Mazatlan with Bill and Becky
Thanks to Bill and Becky for coming to visit us during the holidays. It made it feel a little more like Christmas having some family near to help us celebrate!
El Cid Morro Christmas Tree!
While we understood why many cruisers claim that La Paz is where cruisers come and they never leave. We had plans to meet up with Patrick’s parents in Mazatlan for Christmas holiday week so we weighed anchor and headed back down the coast to return to Ensenada de los Muertos, which is approximately a two-day sail to Mazatlan. Mazatlan is located in the state of Sinaloa on mainland Mexico. It is approximately located just north across the Sea of Cortez from Cabo San Lucas on the border of the Tropic of Cancer. It borders the southern end of the Sea of Cortez and has a more lush and tropical climate compared to the desert-like climate of the Baja Peninsula. After having our share of Northers and cooler temperatures they brought to La Paz we were ready for warmer temps and tropical waters of the mainland. After staying overnight at La Bonanaza anchorage on Isla Espiritu Santo with s/v Bella Star we headed out early to make Los Muertos before night fall. The water was like glass leaving the anchorage with absolutely no wind so we needed to motor to make it through the Lorenzo Channel. As we were motoring along, I noticed a ton of fish jumping out of the calm waters so I took that as a hint and dropped the hook. I had a feeling we were going to land something good! A few hours later just before heading into the anchorage we heard the wonderful sound of the line whizzing out of the reel. Patrick grabbed the rod and I got my gaff and the “fish booze” ready, which is cheap vodka in a spray bottle used to knock out the fish after it lands on board. This time we caught a Skipjack tuna! This fish was soooo beautiful and strong!
Just as we were bleeding the tuna on deck a pod of dolphins showed up to greet us and check out our catch. I threw the head overboard for them but they didn’t seem too interested in my measly scraps.
We quickly got on the radio to let Bella Star know that we would be hosting a tuna dinner onboard Deep Playa that night. After quickly bleeding and fileting the fish I threw it into a marinade of soy sauce, fresh ginger, mustard and lemon juice for a couple hours. It was a good fish but, like many say, Skipjack Tuna are the ones you throw back, and now Patrick and I agree. It was a little too fishy for our tastes, so next time we will throw it back.
After spending some quality time hiking and enjoying nachos with Bella Star, they took off the next day for Mazatlan. We decided to wait till the next day for the seas to settle a bit more. The following evening we weighed anchor for Mazatlan about 7:30 in the evening. After leaving the anchorage in a completely moon-less night we experienced rough swell (not forecasted of course) and after 45 minutes we decided to turn around and head back.
The next day we decided to leave about 4:30PM to avoid departing in the dark. S/v Journey, who we met in La Paz and were fellow participants in the Baja Ha-Ha, buddy boated over to Isla La Piedra anchorage with us. Everything was going great, we were even able to put up all the sails, including the mizzen, and sail along at 5 knots for about 6 hours! Just as the sun was setting and Patrick decided to go below to take a nap the winds increased and the swells built to 6-7 feet on the beam. Patrick came up to see what was going on and decided that perhaps this was not going to be a nice calm night of sailing. We reduced sail to a double-reefed main. Throughout the night the winds built up to 30 knot gusts with 8-9 foot swells with a very short period. Due to the conditions, we decided to take short naps in the cockpit while the other was on watch. The spray was coming over the dodger and combing making for a long, cold and damp sleepless night. At one point, I opened my eyes to see the port side solar panel flap in the wind so we had to tie it down to ensure it didn’t flap off the boat. Around 2:00 in the morning we chatted with Journey about our decision to turn up into the wind and the swell for a few hours to make for a more comfortable ride and they agreed and followed our lead. Finally about 4:00AM we were able to turn down wind, which put the swell and wind on our stern and made for a MUCH more comfortable ride. We were able to watch the sun rise just as Mazatlan came in to view. Oh what a beautiful sunrise it was for such very tired eyes.
After weighing anchor in Isla La Piedra anchorage we crashed hard for many hours. We didn’t even drop the dinghy in the water the next day. At least we were in Mazatlan, in warmer weather and water! Or at least we had hoped…but no mi amigo…it was only 68 degrees and the water was 65!!! AAAGGGHHHHH!!!!!!!!
I love to do me some research and as I was figuring out what to do about our fishing setup, I read The Cruiser’s Handbook of Fishing by Scott and Wendy Bannerot. I even had a couple of one on one email exchanges with Scott about our setup. Some of the advice is a bit outside our budget the general advice in the book is awesome and I highly recommend it.
I did end up following some of his advice and bought a really big Penn 12/0 Senator reel (used on EBAY). I originally had planned to mount this in a fixed fashion without a pole on the stern pulpit. I couldn’t figure out how to make that happen and others advised me I’d never be able to reel in any sizeable fishes that way. Now if you get an Alvey Deck Winch which is mentioned in the book (>$1000 not available in the US) then yes you can do this. We made a last minute purchase of a pole in West Marine in San Diego. And now that we’ve caught and landed two 15" bonitos and two 36"+ Dorado I can tell you yep, without being able to "pump the rod" to get slack line form the fish, there is no way we could reel in those suckers without the rod.
The rest of our gear includes several lures which were recommended by Outdoor Emporium in Seattle. I forget the guys name, but he was awesome! Our lures break down into the "Mexican flag" colored feather looking squid things, a purple and black cedar plug and a red\white cedar plug. We caught bonito with the Mexican flag and we caught the Dorado with the purple\black plug. My assumption was the Dorado eat the bonito and the purple\black looked more like a bonito. Throughout the Baja Fleet boats were fishing with similar gear and caught similar to us as well as a 67" Wahoo and some squid of various sizes. One boat was even using homemade lures made from Heineken cans with good success!
In order to land the fish, you need a gaff to haul it on deck. The retail gaffs were too short to pull a fish onto our boat or too expensive so, we made our own. The gaff hook itself is the same as the commercial ones. We bought it at the chandlery in Newport, OR. For the pole, we used a broom handle.
When we bring the fish alongside the boat we gaff it, haul it on deck and hold it down and use cheap vodka to subdue the fish by spraying it on its gills and in the mouth. This makes the trashing stop pretty quick. We then bleed the fish and clean it on the side deck. The fillets are then soaked in salt water and taken below. Dawn does the final filleting and skin removal in the galley while I wash down the boat. The whole process can be a bit messy!
Our system has worked pretty well so far for fishing while on passage.
I made another of my feature comparison spreadsheets this time comparing the features and prices of MPPT Controllers. You can see the MPPT Solar Charge Controller Comparisons on SKyDrive. I always use SkyDrive with IE.
Here’s a little sample of the data
|Make||Model||Price Google Shopping||Max PV Watts (12V)|
|Morningstar||Sunsaver MPPT||$ 199.00||200|
|Morningstar||TriStar MPPT 45||$ 390.00||600|
|Morningstar||TriStar MPPT 60||$ 478.00||800|
|Outback Power||FlexMax 60||$ 520.00||900|
|Outback Power||FlexMax 80||$ 599.00||1250|
|Blue Sky Electric||Solar Boost 2000E||$ 258.00||350|
|Blue Sky Electric||Solar Boost 50L||$ 407.00||700|
|Blue Sky Electric||Solar Boost 3048L||$ 456.00||-|
|Blue Sky Electric||Solar Boost 3024iL||$ 334.00||540|
|Blue Sky Electric||Solar Boost 1524iX||$ 222.00||270|
|Blue Sky Electric||Solar Boost 2512i||$ 198.00||350|
|Blue Sky Electric||Solar Boost 2512iX||$ 197.00||350|
Richard (the owner) was gracious enough to come down to the boat and meet us personally to help replace one of the gaskets which was sticky and hard to open. Cutting out the gasket, cleaning up the frame and glass and putting in the new gasket took about 45 minutes of actual work time I’d estimate. A very simple repair and we were impressed with the personal service.
Richard is the kind of guy who always has a great story to tell and we heard about a slew of products he’s working on and the very cool plant in China to build them. If you order portholes and have the option to pick them up in Port Townsend and meet Richard I highly recommend it. New Found Metals is a company recommend fully!
After purchasing Deep Playa, the first project Patrick and I completed was to tear out all the old vinyl foam that lined the entire hull of the boat. After this was complete we prepped the hull and, in some areas, we painted and installed insulation to cover interior spaces and inside cabinetry. This makes a really big difference in the comfort level on the boat especially when sleeping near the hull!
We decided to beautify the interior by adding wood Ash battens in the v-berth, aft berth and the salon cubby holes. I followed Jerry’s recommendations for preparation and installation of the battens with a few modifications. http://www.pearson424.org/interior/Q424walls.html
55 – 2” x 3/8” ash battens cut to 82” long
Around 10 pieces Fir firring strips 1” x 1”
West System Epoxy
I was able to find a local hardwood specialty shop that was able to cut the ash according to my specifications. After receiving the battens I had our buddy, Jim Harris of Classic Wooden Boats, put a ¼ round edge on the battens and had him sand them down. Jim has all the high-end tools and know-how to finish them off beautifully. If you would like to complete the project without outside help, then please feel free to read through Jerry’s detailed instructions for recommended procedures.
I then laid out 20-30 battens at a time to sand and varnish the battens in our workshop. I first sanded them all down using 100 grit sandpaper, both sides and worked my way up to 120, 150 and finished them off with 220 grit. I then vacuumed and wiped them down with a tacky cloth and mineral spirits to remove any debris.
I decided to use a polyurethane varnish with a Satin finish which leaves a nice sheen but not a shiny finish. I applied three coats and sanded lightly with 220 grit sandpaper between coats on both sides of the battens.
I prepped the hull buy sanding all of the old sticky glue in the areas where the firring strips would be installed. The firring strips will be epoxied to the hull and will provide the surface to fasten the battens. I ensured that the hull was clean and wiped free of dust and residue. As the final step, I wiped them down using Acetone. I first removed all of the trim from the areas and measured the length of the hull and installed three evenly- spaced vertical firring strips in the aft berth and four, each side, in the v-berth. Since some of the trim was going to cover the messy ends of the battens I made sure to include them in the measurements. You don’t want to install the firring strips and then realize the screw heads will look unevenly spaced after the battens are installed. I first tried to kirf the firring strips but then quickly realized that I did not have the skill level or tools to complete the job to satisfaction. After my kirfing was complete, I did not have enough material left to epoxy to the hull.
Again, Jerry was obviously much more skilled then I and completed this step on his own. I decided to cut the firring strips into small pieces so they fit snug to the hull. I then thickened up some epoxy and placed the strips on the hull ensuring that they are perpendicular to the berth. I then held them in place with tons of blue painter’s tape. I ensured the strips were straight so that the screw heads lined up after installing the battens. After the epoxy dried I went back and wet down every inch of them with epoxy to ensure that any moisture accumulation behind the battens would not penetrate the Fir strips. To ensure the screw heads lined up straight I took a carpenters’ square and drew a straight line down the middle of each firring strip. This acted as a guide for placing the screws into the battens.
I then cut pieces of insulation to fit in between each firring strip. I used the insulation tape that is recommended in combination with the insulation to hold the insulation in place. I recommend using Reflectix insulation because it was really easy to use and install. It is eco-friendly and does not require any special handling or protection to install. http://www.reflectixinc.com/
I cut the battens to fit starting at the top of the berth underneath the cabinetry and making our way down. I had a foam brush soaked in some varnish to apply to the unvarnished ends of the newly cut battens. Ash wood tends to blacken with age so I dabbed each end and each screw hole with varnish in hopes of preventing this from occurring. I then predrilled the holes through the battens and countersunk the holes. We chose #4 ¾” stainless steel flat head screws. Patrick and I created an assembly line to make the process faster. We would dry fit the batten against the hull. I would drill the holes ensuring that they lined up with the ones above it, then using another drill with a countersink bit, he would countersink the holes I just completed. After this is complete we held up the batten and screwed it into place.
After we completed the process I had to retrofit the old teak trim pieces we removed. I had refinished the varnish on each piece to make it really shine! It took quite a bit of modification to make the varnish trim that surrounds the scupper hose in the aft berth. Since we were pulling everything apart, we decided remove the old hose and replace it with a new one. The new one was less flexible so it stuck out slightly further then the old one.
I repeated this same process in the cubby holes (what we refer to as the “Library”) in the salon.
Some things of note:
I bought way too much Ash wood for the job. I didn’t take into consideration that Jerry’s original project used 1 ½” battens and I decided to go with 2”. So I recommend doing a final measurement on your own to ensure you don’t purchase too much wood.
So if anyone is interested in trying this on their Pearson, or any other boat, please feel free to reach out me. I have some finished Ash battens that you can purchase from me! :0)
I knew the previous owner had reduced the size of the ice box, many cruisers do that. He did this by adding several layers of 2” foam insulation and then starboard on top of that. There was also a huge void in the bottom of the refrigerator that had a big jug of mystery labeled “A” and with a skull and crossbones on it. Well the refrigerator had that old refrigerator smell so Dawn took out all the now moldy foam insulation and cleaned the ice box.
We will definitely put back the starboard to mount the refrigerator element, but while we’re here in Puget Sound with cheap access to ice we’ll also use the larger ice box.
Next year, we’ll do the big refrigerator project to permanently shrink the size of the box, insulate to modern standards and reclaim the unused space for storage. This was just a clean up project and Dawn did an awesome job at that!
Tuesday evening we put Deep Playa back in the water sans rig!! She only spurted a little while I tightened up the stuffing box, which is to be expected since you don’t want to tighten it “too much” and you can’t tell if it’s “too loose” until you’re in the water. The prop shaft is also still not properly adjusted because that also has to be done in the water. So we slowly limped back to our slip and are now tied up at D Dock in beautiful Shilshole Bay Marina. Thanks to CB from sv Palarran for warping into the slip. Turns out sitting in the yard for 4 months did not make me any better at driving the boat. I’m really looking forward to anchoring more then docking!!
The yard is now getting the spars painted then we can run the wiring conduit, attach the rigging and all the new toys and wiring and then we will have our our masts re-stepped and we’ll look like a sailboat again!
We’re happy to be back in the water, up and down the ladder was getting pretty old.