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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

4/12 Getting ready for the Sea of Cortez

We are back in Mazatlan, in the yard doing boat projects. Mazatlan won by default for the work because we needed to be back here to meet my sister and my mom for a visit. We had a great visit though I was forced to spend the last few days holed up in bed fighting a high temperature so I missed some precious time with them.

The work that is being done stems from the emergency repairs we did a few months ago in Marina Del Rey where we had attempted a hasty repair on our leaking rudder post. Their quote of $267 for the first three days turned into $267 A DAY for the first three days (approximately three times the going rate.) After that revelation we rushed the job and now have to pay the piper. While in Muertos a few weeks ago while we scrubbed barnacles off the bottom eagle eyed Bill noticed what looked like delamination over the area of our repair on our rudder skeg . We had applied some of the epoxy over our sloughing bottom paint. We needed to pull her out of the water and see exactly what kind of damage there was. Once on the hard we could see the epoxy slowly peeling away from the repaired area. In time it would have simply fallen off! Oh well what is it they say “cruising is really just doing your boat jobs in exotic places. We should be back in the water in a day or two and then it’s off to the Sea Of Cortez for the next 7 months. Seven months! I am excited at the chance to really sink into living in the Sea but I am also a teensy bit apprehensive about all the things other cruisers have been telling us about the upcoming season.

For clarity let me explain that of the roughly 28,000 boats that come into Mexico every year there are four basic routes that they have to choose from. The majority of the boats spend a few weeks to 6 months between La Paz and Zihuatanejo before they turn around and go back into California and points north either under their own steam (beating back against the prevailing seas) or by truck over land. The next group spends their winter in the same but then go south to Central America or to hook a left for the Caribbean through the Panama Canal. The third group leaves mainland Mexico in March or April for a three week passage to the South Pacific and beyond (our route next spring.)

The fourth group goes into the Sea of Cortez for the season. That fourth group is then further divided. You see a summer in the Sea of Cortez is terribly hot, absurdly dry, extremely remote and in the southern end hurricane prone. So of those who head into the Sea most only plan on spending a few months there. Usually they take their boats out of the water and take the opportunity to travel north to cooler climates to attend to homes, families and work during the hottest months. We are part of the small group that stay the entire season mucking about in the Sea.

But no matter the choice for each boat they have to get far enough either south, west or north of the main Mexican cruising waters in order to get out of the hurricane zone. Most boats have to be north of a certain latitude in order to have insurance coverage. Our policy pays for whatever difficulty we have as long as it is NOT a named storm. If it has a name we are on our own. Our goal is The Bay of L.A. which should be safe and secure. In addition we will monitor the daily weather forecasts and if there is any indication of a storm headed our way we will run to which ever hurricane hole (already scoped out on our charts) looks like the safest harbor.

Of the problems with staying in the Sea all season the heat will have the most impact. It is reported to be hot. Hot, hot, hot. 110! I have been busy working on a full boat shade that I hope will give us some protection. In a perfect world I would just be able to hang a giant rectangle over the deck that would be easy to put up and take down (in case of sudden high winds.) But this boat is not a perfect world. We will be spending weeks at a time at anchor and will be relying on our solar panels for power. In order to allow our solar panels to work for us I had to devise a series of sort of stair stepping pieces. In the end we will either use it a lot or decide it’s too much trouble and never put it up. Time will tell. We are definitely counting on our ventilation which is better than most boats. Our old school boat has16 opening port lights, two companionways and three large hatches all of which now have home made bug screens, yea!

Another big difference in the Sea will be the relative isolation. There are only a handful of places to get provisions so we are looking at this as a sort of a dry run for when we sail across the Pacific next year. We have already begun the first of many trips to the grocery with our day hikers hauling home long shelf life foods. My plan is to flesh out meals of fish and rice with canned goods, pasta and sauces (the fishing is reported to be fantastic.) New stores of meat, dairy, fresh fruit and vegetables will be expensive, limited in choice and few and far between. But though I have gotten pretty self sufficient by being able to make my own flour and corn tortillas, fresh bread, rolls and biscuits, homemade yoghurt and even fresh cheese I am not sure how enticing kitchen chores will be if it’s sweltering hot in my galley.

We have been given lots of pointers on provisioning which helps but in the end you just have to sort of guess. Do you know how many rolls of toilet paper you use in a month or how many boxes of cereal you go through? Nobody is going to starve to death but we are told that things like packets of pudding mix, canned fruit and chocolate will become worth their weight in gold.

Our trusty water maker is the one item that will make the difference between a season of comfort and a season of roughing it. Fresh water will be extremely valuable if we are swimming, snorkeling and diving to while away our time. The old days of having to ration our drinking water is behind us thank you very much! Having the luxury of a fresh shower everyday is going to be mighty wonderful and many say it will become the highlight of our day.

We are very excited to begin experiencing the sea life that is legendary in the northern Sea. We have heard stories of wondrous things. One from my wish list will be the chance to swim with the whale sharks. There are several families of whale sharks living in the northern reaches of the Sea and the cruisers keep tabs on them simply because it’s an amazing experience to swim with the huge creatures. These filter feeding sharks grow to more than 40 feet long and weigh up to 79,000 pounds (that’s not a typo!!) They are reported to live for up to 70 years and are virtually unchanged from the whale shark of 60 million years ago. They are gentle things that seem to enjoy human company so if we find them I promise when I jump in I will be sure to bring along my underwater camera so I can share the pictures with everyone.


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