It is December 23rd and we are just short of a left turn into Banderas Bay. We’ve been motor sailing the last few hours under blue sky hazed with wispy white clouds with a healthy roll nicely pushing us along. Despite a forecast for 40+mph winds we managed to stay ahead of the winds that will soon be rolling twelve foot waves down from the Sea of Cortez. I am already picking up bits of chatter on the local crusiers channel and we should be settling into the anchorage at La Cruz within the hour.
Our three weeks in Mazatlan was night and day different from lasts year. Amazing how much difference a year makes. This time last year everything was new and well, foreign. Learning the bus routes and fumbling for correct peso coins, twisting our tongues around a new language and simply making a purchase were all a part of making our way around Mexico. Last year we were overwhelmed at times by feeling apart from everything and mostly sat quietly by as the stream of returning cruisers filed into Mazatlan. All around us folks seemed to be meeting old friends and heading off to dinner or gathering in small groups in cockpits up and down the docks. No one was unfriendly they just all seemed preoccupied. This year when we arrived in the Mazatlan channel there were friendly waves from the docks, shouts of hellos, calls on the VHF to welcome us and even a heads up warning on the channel dredge. Then when we pulled into our Mazatlan slip we had piles of hellos, hands taking our lines and hugs all around.
Incredibly and completely unknown to us our friends on Espiritu who we had hoped to meet up with in La Paz were making their own passage from the Baja peninsula to the mainland. They heard the radio calls and were barely an hour behind us! Then their arrival was our turn to warn about the harbor entrance buoy and the mid channel dredge before being there to take a line and give out hugs.
As a Mazatlan bonus our planned haul out was made much more bearable by our Seattle friend Sheri from M/v Mi Casa. She owns a condo at the marina and had graciously offered us her spare room. It gave us the time to take a trip with her to the Juarez market, share several meals and gave a heaven that allowed us to dodge most of the usual boatyard toxins.
The yard work we managed to complete helped jump start or to-do list for our upcoming Pacific crossing. This was our third time to try a fix on our rudder tube leak. The first time out of the water for a fix was during our original passage down the US coast more than 12 months ago. That first attempt didn’t fix things at all so we hauled again in Mazatlan this last April with some improvement but soon the leak was back in force.
It is incredibly expensive to pull the boat out of the water for work. Each trip involves hundreds of dollars just for the trip out of the water, up on blocks and back in the water. They price it out according to how big you are and how much you weigh. The lift and splash in California was over $700 and Mazatlan cost us $400+ twice. So when on our last crossing from La Paz to Mazatlan our bilge pump was cycling on every five or six minutes . This time we were determined to get it right.
Water can only come from a couple of sources and since none of our water tanks was leaking it meant only one thing: salt water! We were in no danger, our pump worked diligently and we have a backup manual pump and a high speed pump at the ready but the sound of that pump cycling on and off made for poor sleep during our off watch hours: your mind just can’t help but register, catalog and respond to the sounds around it. Your mind soon learns to set most noises aside but a cycling pump seems to click into a very primitive part of your brain, a sort of oh $*&% sound.
The boatyard haul out went smoothly enough. We had the hull stripped down to fiberglass and then covered with three good coats of Comex -Mexico’s miracle bottom paint, the rudder work was complete (keep your fingers crossed!) and I had managed a considerable start in my spring cleaning.
I had decided it was the perfect opportunity to begin the preparations for our upcoming Pacific crossing. So when I wasn’t working with Bill on projects I spent my time house cleaning. Virtually every locker aboard was emptied, cleaned and repacked in process that gave me free, open space. In all I managed to free up three and a half empty cupboards and a shelf and a half of shelf space in the main saloon along with a large locker in the galley and an even larger locker under our settee. Next up will be sorting through piles of hardware, spare parts and bits and pieces of boat projects to come. We are going to need every inch of space I can find when it is finally time to provision for our next big jump.
Once the repacking was done it was time to try and get things in order for our crossing to La Cruz. I always try to take off on a passage with a clean boat. That means clean laundry, clean sheets, everything loose stowed and the fridge stocked with passage foods. I also washed most of my upholstery, the bedding, the lovely Mexican blankets I use to “save” our cushions, scrubbed floors, cleaned toilets and washed counters all while high in the air on blocks and without the use of freely running water. When we are out of the water you can’t just pour things down the drain. If you forget and use the sinks the water pours out of your thru holes and over $1600 worth of still wet bottom paint and ~ick~ over the heads of the crew working on your boat.
Typically I wait until we are off the hard then spend about two days getting everything clean and settled again. This trip out we were severely delayed which closed the gap we had left ourselves for making our passage to La Cruz. By the time we had a concrete splash date we were going to need to literally splash and dash. So it was my job to figure out a way to get the job done without the use of running water and a day or more on the outside with my trusty hose.
The yard promised they would have a crew power wash us early on the morning of our launch. It wouldn't be as thorough a job as mine but I could live with that. The rest I did with many trips up and down and back and forth on the ladder. The actual cleaning was by sauce pan and rag with the dirty water being tossed into an empty lot off the bow of the boat.
I also needed to coordinate cleaning the condo. Sheri had graciously allowed us to stay on after she flew home but that meant I owed her a clean condo and needed to follow her check list for closing things down. OK, getting moved out of the condo and onto the boat while getting both clean would take some brain power and a few tricks to organize but it was do-able. When a notice appeared in the elevator saying the condo water would be turned off at 9am the day of my planned assault I cringed.
Sheesh, OK more water issues. Wide awake at the condo at 630, kick Bill out so I can clean, clock is ticking; scrub the bathrooms while the water is running, fill the sinks and buckets with water in case they shut it off early. Clean a section, mop the floor, make the bed, mop some more, clean the kitchen, mop, shut off water and spray for bugs. I finally locked the door at 1030 with bits of wet water lines still railed on the tile floors. Back at the boat I scrambled to stow things while we waited for the lift driver to arrive. Once the lift driver arrives we splash and go. Bing, bang, boom. No waiting around or time to put anything else in order.
Now nearly 200 miles south and I can see the point at Punta Mita ahead of me and the islands of Tres Marietta’s sitting low at the mouth of Banderas Bay. The high smoke grey mountains circling the bay rise in the background welcoming us to our favorite place. The passage went smoothly and again it hits me hard how much things have changed. A two day crossing no longer wipes me out. As we motored into the bay I still have enough left in me to pull out my Christmas decoration and add some festivity to our main cabin. Then with the water smooth and glassy I grab my recipe box and start working on the potluck dishes we will need to a couple of upcoming parties. If I start pies now.......?
Merry Christmas. Kat