View Full Version : Baja Bound Beetle

11-06-2013, 10:02 AM

Rob MacFarlane, his lovely lady Kristen and crew have exited the hustle and bustle of city life aboard Tiger Beetle,
a N/M 45 IOR two tonner circa 1983 which has been short hand sailed both offshore and near shore for its entire existence,
we will tag along with Rob's South Bound adventure as long as he keeps up the blog!

"Greetings from aboard good ship Beetle! - we are making super time down the coast headed for Santa Barbara
(nice marina there complete with adjacent train station that John wants, as he likes trains and will use one to get himself back home).

The trip so far has been uneventful, which is a good thing. We waited for a weather window it looks like we found it.
Breeze has been up and down between 2 knots and 15 knots, mostly from behind, with a nice 6 foot NW swell to go
with it and that is propelling us along very well. That and the motor, which is chugging along and keeping us moving in the 7 knot range."


Oddly enough, we are within cellular tower range of the coast, which provided my first opportunity to actually pull up the
NWS web site and click on the buoys to get their readings (you're not allowed to do this during races, so this is my first time doing this offshore - very slick!).


"Dinner was a frozen lasagna that Jimmy heated up, John did most of the day watch and is now asleep until 10pm,
Jimmy has gone on for his watch a couple of minutes ago (8-10pm), and I will be back on at midnight when John comes off watch.
I'm actually hoping to be up sooner as we will be making the next big course change to run down to pt. Arguello when we pass Pt. Sur,
which is currently 21 miles out in front of us.

Very little traffic to speak of, though AIS shows a fair number of container ships and tankers and tugs and tows about 30 miles to the west -
we are staying inshore of the shipping traffic and haven't really seen much yet.

The moon-set was wonderful, there's a big planet up there as well (or it could have been Venus, and no, I did not try to raise
Venus on the VHF radio this time having learned my lesson in the 1996 SSS TransPac race - that does not work and Venus does not respond)".


"I hope everyone ashore is having a fine night tonight, we sure are out here. A bit rolly with the quartering swell, but making good time.
And we have the third reef tucked into the mainsail to help steady the boat a bit."

- rob/beetle


11-07-2013, 10:44 PM
"Good morning! It's a fantastically brilliant and calm day out here off Pt. Piedras Blancas, tooling along at 7 knots or so, wind has dropped off to zero, Jimmy and John are both asleep and it's my watch for another 40 minutes.

About the only interesting/unusual thing from last night was hearing the USCG broadcast regarding an abandoned overturned yellow (red?) life boat located 20 miles south of Pt Sur. The problem was the Coast Guard couldn't be more specific than that, so when we motored by on our way 20 miles south of Pt. Sur we did a bit more peering forward past the bow light than usual.

All is well on board, plenty of food and fuel and water, the swell has dropped from perhaps 6-7 feet earlier to negligible now, though an occasional 4 footer passes by and we roll a bit. There is a sailboat just ahead of us, likewise south-bound, I believe we are motoring along slightly faster than they are and will eventually cross paths with them.

We are 66 n miles from Pt. Arguello, and hope to be there by nightfall; this would put us into Santa Barbara some time early Thursday morning, which is a pretty quick hop down the coast.
I will take a picture with the iPad and see if that can make it through to the wordpress blog, or not!"

- rob

11-07-2013, 10:46 PM
"We are around Pt. Arguello and Pt. Conception, headed for Santa Barbara - breeze is light, seas have gone flat, the oil platforms are out in abundance, and the shipping channel off to starboard is corralling the big boats and keeping them out of the way.

It's been a super day of tooling on across the ocean, we had a swimming shark go by (most likely a 5-6' blue shark), sun fish, a most excellent view of Vandenberg AFB (and safety zone 4 was closed today, we stayed outside of it). We should be in Santa Barbara around 2AM (6 hours from now), and will see about arranging a overnight transient berth, plus a visit to a laundromat, a shower, and the fuel dock.

It's been interesting to see how communication equipment affects the way the trip has gone as regards news of the outside world, especially as we've been running down quite close to the coast and therefore are often within range of a cellular telephone tower. For instance, Jimmy was able to telephone his mom and let her know he was safely around Conception and that it was flat, Kristen has been able to track the boat via it's AIS transmission (we're running a Class B AIS transponder), as well as position from an InReach Iridium transponder. Armed with this information one can then make an educated guess as to when the boat might be within range and know when to telephone - so we've had a fair bit of phone conversation on board.

Using the same cellular tower data transfers we've been able to pull up the national weather service web sites (Monterey and LA/Oxnard) to view the weather buoy data, read the marine forecasts, and look at current weather models via NOAA and Passage Weather. This is a huge change from 20 years ago when you didn't have any of the technology in place, and as a result I think we've made reasonable decisions on where we went and when during the 250 mile hop down from Half Moon Bay to Santa Barbara.

And right now I'm typing up this log/note on an iPad that is blue-toothed to an Apple keyboard, into the gmail application - in the expectation that it will be ready to send when the next cellular tower comes into clear view as we approach Santa Barbara. The iPad uses significantly less power than the laptop and is slightly more hardened from damage as it is in a rubber and lexan case. The external keyboard makes it easy to type (the onscreen iPad keyboard is not suited for real typing). Plus it is possible to include images with the cellular email, something not really feasible via sailmail (sailmail is the normal offshore email mechanism on board, and has a 10kb attachment limit - and given the low baud rate possible via HF radio you don't really want to send or receive an entire 10k attachment as it takes a long time to send over the radio and pactor modem.

So it's been interesting to be kept up to date with Kristen's activities, discuss with Dad a marina to meet at in San Diego, research the Santa Barbara harbor patrol phone number and slip rates, and send out significantly more detailed logs than I would normally do on the laptop (low power consumption is a good thing).

We've eaten well, had a killer salad from John this evening, motor has run well, used the mini-bilge pump to suck up some water that accumulated (most likely will need to repack the stuffing box), the moon has been magnificent this evening, and we're all quite excited to have this leg under our belts.
- rob

Charlie Tuna
11-07-2013, 11:47 PM
Looks like Rob is living right!

11-11-2013, 11:25 AM
Approaching Avalon, Catalina Island to starboard.

Beetle arrived in Avalon last night just after dark, met up with the small orange patrol boat with all the side lights, exchanged credit card information and now we have a mooring for the next three days. Actually finding the mooring in the dark was another story as the moorings are packed in here as fore-and-aft arrangements: you pick up the wand on the mooring ball at the bow, drop the hawser over the bow cleat, then quickly pull up and follow aft a weighted line that leads you to the stern hawser that you have to really pull on to get up to the stern cleat. In the morning daylight you can see that what you're really doing is lifting a rather large chain the stern hawser is attached to, and the catenary of the chain keeps the boats in alignment - everyone here is bow out into the prevailing very light swell as it creeps around through the port and starboard breakwaters.



Yesterday was a pleasant trip over from Santa Barbara, we got underway at 2AM with Jimmy on board and motored out onto the Santa Barbara Channel in a darn near straight line to Avalon some 94 miles away. There is a north-bound current sweeping up the channel, as a result most of the day we were down one knot of speed over the ground. In the mid-morning a southeasterly wind filled in and we sailed for an hour until we got headed 50 degrees and the wind dropped off, so away went the sails and back on went the motor.

The stuffing box flax needs replacing, it still leaks more than it should, and I will do another round of mini-bilge pumping this morning.

After arrival last night we made up some mini-quiches and mini-pizza things in the stove, ate them, set up the dinghy and made a quick tour of the small town. It's actually rather nice, and the original Tuna Club is still standing - that's a bit of history for the place.

Kristen is on the 8:30AM ferry coming over from Long Beach, so we are quite looking forward to her arrival. She just drove down from San Francisco, so I wager she will be somewhat tired upon arrival. But Avalon is not a bad place to wake up, sunny, warm (t-shirt weather).


The Casino, now fixed up as a theater, movie house, and I believe there is still a museum in the ground floor.

- rob


11-11-2013, 11:32 AM

All the moorings that I am aware of (at least in Avalon) are privately owned, and the one we are on is no. 142 for boat La Vita Dura. And it's available for sale, according to the list maintained by the harbor patrol. For a mere $530,000. At a daily rate of $39, we worked it out would take 37 years of being here every single day to break even on the mooring. It must mean that the owner both has an incredible amount of money, and a great desire to never be told that there is no mooring available for him in Avalon! Upshot, we are quite happy to not own the mooring :)


Went for a snorkel yesterday in front of the casino, lots of Garibaldi fish (the California State Marine Fish, no less) hanging out in the vertical kelp fronds. The water was a bit chilly at 62 degrees F, but the fish were fun and Kristen to go get wet. Afterwards we washed off in fresh water (nice to have a watermaker on board to make more fresh water as necessary) and it was nice to sit in the sun and warm up like a lizard on his hot rock.


The three of us went ashore later in the evening in search of Luau Larry's (at the advie of friend Sylvia), and Kristen had a Wiki Wacker which comes complete with straw hat. Also some good food.

Upshot is that Avalon is being a good place to pause on our way south. Ben Mewes (with Lucie and Charlie the Dog onboard Georgia) just telephoned to say they were around Point Conception and headed straight for San Diego. And Jeanne on Nereida is around these parts as well, it looks like we may all arrange a get-together in San Diego later in the week - that would be fun! Of course these are all Singlehanded TransPac folk, so it might be a mostly anti-social gathering, but at least we could all sit on the same boat and not talk to each other :)


- rob/beetle


11-12-2013, 10:06 AM
In this chapter we find that friends have arrived in Avalon and Beetle can stay two additional days:

This morning the telephone rang and I woke up to answer it in hopes that it was the harbormaster from the Sheraton Marina in San Diego; turns out it was an even better caller: Ben and Lucie on their boat Georgia were ringing up to let us know they were just outside the harbor and coming in; much fun! And shortly afterwards Georgia came into the harbor and picked up the mooring next door.


The harbor master stopped by to organize Ben's check in, and we discovered that there is a Veteran's Day special for the mooring rates: pay for 2 days, get 5 (continuous) days - a nice surprise! Upshot is Beetle, Jimmy, and I are going to hang two more days and Kristen is going to hop the ferry back to Long Beach this evening.


Yesterday Kristen and I ran the dinghy up the coast a bit and found a nice spot in shallow water with kelp and sunlight and went for a snorkel. The water is a bit chilly but you can manage about 20 minutes before getting too cold. While doing this it occurred to me that we have the makings of a hookah rig on board: gas-powered generator, 3/4 hp air compressor, and the 60 foot hose and regulator that I normally use for cleaning the boat bottom. We decided to return (today) and try all this out from the dinghy.

In preparation I charged the battery in the Olympus camera that has a dive housing, and cleaned up the CF card the camera writes to. All checked out ok so far. Here's a bit of what it looks like down in the kelp:


On the way back from snorkeling we came across 5 or 6 Risso's Porpoise moving slowly back towards Avalon. We moved the dinghy up in front of them and shut off the motor, leaving us drifting quietly as the Risso's approached, then swam directly beneat the dinghy. These are large, slow moving animals, and it was amazing to see them so closely. We do see them periodically out near the Farallone Islands, I did not know they are also down south in the Channel Islands.


And last night Jimmy cooked up a bang-up dinner of all sorts of things made up into a curry, and then we headed in to town to the Marlin Club, apparently it's the good dive bar in town and sports a small pool table. We met up a couple of other folks in from their boats and had a pleasant couple of games of doubles on the table.


And now it's Monday morning, we've changed plans to stay here in Avalon until Wednesday morning - at which time Beetle will head for San Diego. Ben and Lucie have just come in from off the ocean (they departed San Francisco Friday afternoon, arriving here in Avalon this morning around 7:30AM). I made up a breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and turkey bacon, Ben and Lucie and Charlie (their dog) brought coffee, and we sat around and swapped stories for a bit.

Now it's off to the ferry building to see about getting Kristen a ticket on this evening's boat, and Ben would like to use the dinghy to get Charlie ashore.

And Kristen is sometimes hard at work (literally - she's online doing work work using an external keyboard and her ipad working remotely from Avalon through Beetle's local MiFi unit)

IOR Geezer
11-12-2013, 10:36 AM
Good on them! Looks like they are doing it right!

The Flash
11-12-2013, 10:53 AM
Ben and Lucie are my heroes.

Alan H
11-15-2013, 12:05 PM
I didn't know Rob was keeping this going until now!! I'll be watching!

11-17-2013, 07:31 PM
"Tiger Beetle departed Avalon Wednesday morning and in very light air motored the 76 miles southwards to San Diego. We've been in Cabrillo Isle Marina for two nights now, and will be moving out to the available anchorages.

In Avalon we had a fun 'snorkel' dive with a cobbled-together hooka rig by taking the Honda generator, plugging in the small air compressor I use for cleaning the boat bottom, putting both into the dinghy along with the hose and regulator and the three of us ran out to the small kelp bed we'd snorkeled on the previous day. That worked out super, as the water was shallow and therefore relatively warm and hadn't lost too much light, and with the compressor running it meant a lot of bottom time (in perhaps 20 feet of water) to watch animals and take pictures. The reported downside was the noisy compressor, so next time bring ear plugs for the people staying topside in the dinghy."


"Kristen departed Monday evening on the ferry back to Long Beach, and Tuesday Jimmy was up Georgia's mast in an attempt to find out why the Lunasea masthead light refused to produce light, nothing obvious, so he brought down the unit and Ben & Lucie are sorting out what might be going on with it."

Departing avalon, no wind, sun is rising, nice quiet morning

"On board Beetle I got busy with labeling up the insect specimens from trips to Panamint Valley (CA) and Rackensack Canyon (AZ), as my Mom would be visiting Beetle when we were in San Diego and she could transport the field boxes back to the main collection in Arizona.

Wednesday morning we pushed off from Avalon at 6:30AM and found a pretty good north-bound current out around the island; I believe this is some sort of Catalina counter current, as it stayed with us consistently for 40 miles, eventually tapering away to neutral current about half way to San Diego."

Underway and getting labels completed on some insect specimens

"And now we're at Cabrillo Isle Marina, the marina was going to leave a key for us in the dock box as we were arriving after marina office closing hours; unfortunately we couldn't find the key and that meant no showers that night (Rats!). Fortunately, a neighbor offered his key and showers were back on the table. A shower felt great, instant new person!

We've been exploring the docks here, lots of very nice beautifully maintained power boats, sport fishing boats, and a 1965 North Sea fishing boat (Varnebank) that has been refit as a world cruising trawler - very impressive. And super nice people on the dock. I've also been to West Marina (boat parts including fuel filters and stuffing flax) and Vons (heavy groceries) courtesy of Mom's car.

Today it's chilly, with a grey overcast as the area settles in for what is forecast to be two days of south breeze from a low pressure system, possible drizzle, and cooler temperatures. The humidity has remained high, resulting in impressive fog when the temperature drops below the dew point.

I'm also attempting to move images files to zenfolio utilizing the marina's wifi network (and avoid consuming metered data movement on the Sierra Wireless cellular modem), and that's not working so well. I may need to look for a better way to do that, we shall see."

Beetle in a rather nice marina in San Diego

~ Rob~

11-17-2013, 07:39 PM

"It's a little bizarre, but Beetle & I are sitting here at anchor inside the Shelter Island breakwater, a stone's throw from the San Diego YC and Southwestern YC - Anchorage A1 as it is known to the SD Harbor Police. You're allowed to be here a couple of days at a time provided it's a weekend, which it turns out to be.

Had a wonderful visit from Mom, have lots of cookies as a result, and the insect field boxes are back in Arizona at the main collection.

It's convenient to walk from here to West Marine (procured a replacement dinghy outboard motor lock as the Masterlock bar lock was no longer useful after the Masterlock 'marine' key lock failed after 30 days, plus 2 deceased mackerel fish for use as bait tomorrow), Ben & Lucie & Charlie the Dachsund are over at Southwestern YC at the moment, and I will be visiting them for a shower this evening (at the YC).

There are quite a few gigantic boats nearby, including 3 sail boats with 5 spreader rigs that have spreader lights that point UP the mast, which are quite spectacular when turned on at night. There's also Lady Lola, a 200'+ power yacht at the police docks or nearby that I have met the owners of when they were in town in San Francisco - super people, not to mention the Nordhaven 92 tied up directly in front of San Diego YC. That Nordhaven is quite the vessel, including a pair of stainless steel hose nozzles that point straight at the bottom of the anchor roller sheaves - I imagine one turns on the gigantic deck/chain washing pump and the goo is blasted off the chain as it is raised."


"Tiger Beetle was purchased by me in 1996, just before Christmas, from Yachtfinder/Windseeker here at Shelter Island, and I strolled over to their storefront this afternoon, it's interesting to see where the Beetle was at that time, and where Beetle is now - it's been a long road and lot of learning and a lot of fun!

Elsewise all is good, the mackerel are in the base of the fridge (wrapped up in their plastic bags so as to reduce fishy smell amongst all the food), and life is fine! Plan for tomorrow is to spend an afternoon floating about off San Diego and float the mackerel at the end of the fishing line to see if anything decides to bite. Perhaps something will!"



11-20-2013, 02:11 PM
San Diego and Pt. Loma is now behind Beetle as we trundle down the coast (under power again - no wind!) towards Ensenada, which is currently something like 44 miles away (less than one SSS Farallones race - we are moving along rather quickly today). The goal is to arrive in Ensenada with some daylight remaining as I am told the harbor chart is way wrong and the city lights in the background make it difficult to navigate the harbor in the dark as you can't pick out the bouy lights against the background clutter of city lights. It's 9:40 in the morning, I should be there around 4pm which leaves about an hour of daylight to find Baja Naval Shipyard.

San Diego was a good place to visit, spent a fair bit of time with Ben and Lucie (Georgia) helping with the masthead Lunasea tricolor/anchor/flashing light fixture. Fortunately for Ben the third light that Lunasea gave him as a replacement finally worked, including after we pulled the wiring down out of the mast and inspected it completely before plugging in the new light. There was some corrosion in one half of the very new quick-disconnect coupler that Lunasea uses, so we bypassed that coupler and the light stayed on. My suspicion is internally the coupler was shorting out and blowing the light's circuit board. The new light at Georgia's masthead is hard-wired directly to the wires, no more coupler in the mix.

Lucie and I went out to the San Diego zoo yesterday, and that is a great place to visit. We saw the pandas getting their dinner, a giant jet black jaguar protecting a large hunk of meat, the lions were out, we found almost all the snakes in the reptile house (and one lizard was also hiding, didn't find him either), and the hyenas came over to the fence to check us out - very interesting to be four feet away from these animals and at eye level with them as they study you. Perhaps the most interesting thing we ran into there was at the gorilla enclosure, where there is a large thick glass wall that the gorillas like to sit close to, and the people are on the other side. The younger gorilla was leaning up against the glass and watching intently a video that was playing on a fellow's iPhone. The gorilla understand that you could make it do things by pushing your finger across it, and he/she repeatedly tried to do this. The gorilla watched until the video stopped, then she made push motions until the fellow made it play again, and she sat down to watch some more. Pretty amazing to watch an animal that powerful looking at the device so thoughtfully.

On the boat front, Jimmy left Beetle yesterday to make his own way into Mexico (I believe he is planning to be in Ensenada), and I stayed at the police dock again yesterday/last night after dropping him off in downtown San Diego at the fish boat docks. If all goes well, he will hook up again with Beetle when I depart Ensenada.

Beetle has stayed fairly clean and organized, no major boat projects so far, the stuffing box flax was changed out and has stopped leaking, which makes for a dryer bilge and less time spent pumping out seawater with the mini-bilge pump. It's always exciting to back off the stuffing box nut and watch the water squirt into the boat at a rate that makes the bilge pumps work to keep up with.

I also have a new stainless steel outboard motor lock from West Marine, and this one came with all the parts (unlike the first one that was missing several of the rattle-dampening foam inserts). That was a bit of a run-around to sort out, but all is good on that front. The lock key lives on the monkey's fist floating key ring that Erica gave to Beetle, which makes it easy to find the dinghy lock key.

This morning I left the police dock at 6:30AM headed southbound, there's a small rolling swell that causes the boat to roll fairly heavily at times, so all the little bits and pieces that get left on flat surfaces while at anchor have been put away - cutlery, glasses, computer mice, AA batteries (they roll into difficult-to-get-to places and are the worst when they fall on the cabin sole), and the tool boxes are strapped down again.

The plan is to spend tonight at Baja Naval, organize the haul out for tomorrow, and Guillermo at Baja Naval will help me do the immigration/entry paperwork for myself and the boat in to Mexico - should be fun!

This note is going out over SSB/sailmail, so no pictures attached. I will update with pictures when I sort out internet connectivity and telephone details in Ensenada.

It's a good day out here just off the coast of Baja, and now back to reading my book and keeping an eye on the course!

- rob

11-23-2013, 11:05 AM


Beetle pulled into Ensenada just after 4pm, with some breeze filling in from behind as we arrived, just in time to make docking just that little bit more interesting. Breast lines are a good thing, far more useful than fore & aft dock lines.

The harbor is roughly rectangular and there is a gigantic national flag of Mexico flying over the harbor, with Baja Naval's docks and boat yard just to the north of the flag - which makes actually finding Baja Naval rather simple as all you do is aim for the giant flag.

The harbor has a variety of bouys, some red, some green, some yellow... and apparently the yellow ones mark underwater obstructions. I didn't find out, as I stayed away from the yellow ones.

A fellow from another boat at the dock came out and helped me tie to the dock, I did not know that Baja Naval uses VHF 77 (and does not monitor VHF 16) so I just went for the open end tie and was on the dock, the fellow walked me up to the marina and yard office using his key to open the doors as we went (you have to card-key in and out of everything), and the yard manager was still there. We're all set for the haulout tomorrow, the place is immaculate, and I hope all goes well. And it was helpful to arrive with daylight to see what was going on, it would not be so much fun in the dark. By the time I was all set up with the yard office it actually was dark, so I did not go explore the town much, but rather went back to Beetle and made up a quick dinner.

Now to keep working on the book, be ready for hauling out in the morning, and check in to the country. Hopefully all goes well! It will be nice to get the bottom paint that I've been hauling around over to the yard, as that will clear up some useful space that has so far been occupied by paint tins and thinner!

This note is going out over Baja Naval's marina wifi, which is a bit sketchy for large stuff (I have not yet pulled out the big WiFi antenna); I hope to get pictures going tomorrow.

- rob




It's been a reasonably busy day today, and a fair bit has been accomplished.

First off I was up at 6AM re-reading the details of what I need for Immigration, Port Captain, Customs, and Conapesca (Mexico equivalent to US Fish and Wildlife). Seems I need serial numbers of practically everything in the boat; I start. There are a lot of serial numbers on a lot of things on board.

8AM Rojallio appears with two of his folks, I move Beetle over to the travel lift ways, they start shuffling the boat around for the haulout. They work to solve issues of clearance vs. underbody configuration on their 75 ton travel lift (way bigger than what I'm accustomed to at Svendsens in Alameda) and we get the boat up and out and run across the boardwalk and blocked.

Jimmy arrives and picks up his remaining gear and clothes and heads north; he has decided to not join up for traveling further south, especially as it's too expensive for him to hang about Ensenada. It was fun to travel down the coast with him, hopefully he will continue to have good adventures on his own.

the giant fold-up door at the yard, once open a really big boat will easily run in and out (as will the entire travel lift.

Back at the yard office I get instructions from Rojallio regarding how to check into the country and import the boat. You want to import your boat into Mexico if you want to leave the country while the boat is left behind, and also for bringing in parts from the USA as you won't be paying duty on parts - so something pretty much everybody does this. I head off to the CIS office/building, which is actually a smallish single floor single room that houses Immigration, Customs, the Port Captain, a bank, plus a bathroom and Conapesca. Everyone speaks English quite well, and there's lots of Brownian motion back and forth across the room as there are several other folks here doing what I'm doing.

Example: The fellow behind the glass labeled 'Immigration' examines the passport, stamps crew list, sets up tourist visa (after he tells me how to fill it out as I can't particularly read it given the Spanish I do not know), then stops and says, 'OK, now you go to the bank and pay the Mexico entry fee, then come straight back to me' and he points at the glass-covered counter directly behind me. I turn around and walk 4 steps and I'm at the bank. Two people examine the paperwork, all is in order, I pay them, they stamp things (lots of official stamping is going on) and xerox things and say to me, 'You are paid. Go back to Immmigration' and point behind me. I turn around and 4 steps later I'm back at Immigration. I am first in line as no one else in the room is at Immigration at the moment. The Immigration fellow reviews the stamped receipt from the bank, he stamps my tourist visa. He stops. I ask him what to do next? He says, 'Ah - you have a boat, you need to visit the Port Captaion' and points to the glass-covered counter next to him. I take 2 steps sideways and I'm at the Port Captain's office, and take a number from the cardboard box of printed numbers (I am number 9, though that doesn't seem to matter as numbers 1-8 had already been helped and had moved back to the bank or on to Customs, but the Port Captain wanted me to have a number anyway, so I did). Other people are now doing the same slow dance across the room, flitting from fishing licenses to importing their boat, to the bank to pay for things, to getting their passports stamps, and the port captain is examining insurance paperwork and the crew lists. All quite fun, really, as everyone is working together, and it is very well organized.

Upshot: I have a lot of official-looking documents with many many ink stamps on them, and even have my first stamp in my passport, which is fun! I've been to Canada and Mexico on the passport, and while it gets looked at nobody bothers to stamp it, at least not until today.

It has also been raining much of the day, a drizzly wet rain that is somewhat warm, and the rain kept most of the people off the streets. They also have really tall curbs here, and the waiters or owners of the restaurants like to stand out on the sidewalk and wave their menus at the people passing in their cars. I don't know if that technique works, but there does seem to be a lot of parking around so I imagine if you desperately felt the need for a fish taco breakfast and the fellow waived at you suggesting he had some, you might be tempted to pull over on the spot!


Later on I sorted out the cellular telephone details and elected to go the simple route: switch from AT&T US plan to AT&T Viva Mexico plan, which means the telephone number doesn't change, the service continues uninterrupted (unlimited minutes starting at 7PM). That took an hour of conversation with AT&T International Customer Service, who then passed me along to AT&T not-International Customer Service to handle the billing details. So now my phone works just fine, the USA is a local call, as is all of Mexico. Pretty cool and the cost was $10 more per month than I was paying before; Telcel would be less expensive, but not when factoring in any calls back to the USA.


the view alongide the yard, the office is on the left, a rather nice one. the concrete is very clean, especially for a boat yard. there are four trash barrels at most boats (on a pallet), one each for regular trash, solvents, sanding dust, and paint.

And then I fiddled with the propeller a bit, pulled the MaxProp zinc that was looking a bit eaten up, located the replacement zinc in the spare bits box (had to drill out the holes in the zinc that had flashing left in them), and will order up two more boxes of zincs from PYI in Washington state.

And now it's evening and dark, I now reside in a tall tree house of sorts in the boat yard, and several other cruiser folk in similar circumstance have stopped by to say Hi and let me know there is a regular Ensenada Cruiser's dinner tomorrow night at TJ's. 4pm computer discussion starts, and 5pm everyone else shows up - something I might do tomorrow evening.

All is good, the boat yard is immaculately clean, I have good WiFi connectivity, there are no unexpected issues with the underbody of the boat or the haul out, and it's time for a cerveza!


the McDonald's in town, it is used as a 'major landmark' when providing directions to the grocery store.

A bit of Ensenada
by rob macfarlane

I was out and about yesterday in the town, primarily to get to the Banamex bank to get pesos from the ATM machine at the bank (it is strongly recommended to only use an ATM at a real bank, as opposed to, say, using the ATM at an OXXO store (equivalent to USA 7-11). Also to TelCel to sort of the cellular data modem, and find the grocery store.

The streets are darn dangerous to walk on as the sidewalks are full of holes, tripping hazards, have abrupt elevation changes, and generally would not be safe to walk on at night if for no other reason than to not break an ankle. Also explains why so many people here walk around with lit flashlights at night.

The people themselves are nice and courteous, everyone stops at the ALTO (stop) signs, and some of the roads actually have street signs (though most cross streets seem to not have signage, which makes knowing latitude simple - read the sign - the knowing longitude is darn near impossible - is this 1st street or 2nd street? I don't know.

Banamex went fine, it's odd to pull out $2000 until you realize it is in pesos, and $2000 doesn't go that far at the Calimex grocery store.

TelCel Centro (main TelCel company store, not a mom & pop 'authorized distributor') was an interesting lesson in frustration at not knowing the language, and it does appear that I was charged for services that I did not need or want; this morning I will telephone the English help desk line for the Amigo plan and we'll sort out what the transactions were. If there's an issue or duplicate charge then I can walk over to the store and sort it out there. At least I will then know exactly what I'm supposed to be asking for! Nice people at the store, the first lady (technical representative) indicated my AT&T (GSM) Sierra Wireless aircard would not work on TelCel network, the second lady (in a suit, behind the customer service counter, not technical) said it would all work fine and she was correct. But I do not know what I purchased for $200p twice, nor do I know why a $399p data plan cost $649p... (p=pesos)

The haulout continues, albeit slowly as there's not much for me to do. Perhaps I will do some cleaning on the hull, as otherwise the yard is just doing a sand/couple of blisters repair/apply new paint and we're done.

The yard is located essentially at town center for Ensenada, and I took a couple of pictures yesterday while walking the couple of blocks to/from Calimex, Sears (no tools there), TelCel, and Banamex.


the main courtyard/plaza in town, large gold painted heads of important people. i've not seen anyone in the plaza yet except for the cruise ship passengers as they walk through on their way to First Street and the curio shops that abound there. I haven't been into any of the shops as there is nothing here I wish to purchase. perhaps i will go into some when kristen arrives later today.

Should be a nice day weather-wise here today, the sun is out, is is somewhat chilly. Ben and Lucie are here from San Diego, as is the beautifully built catamaran from Canada that I met at the San Diego police docks.


11-29-2013, 11:32 AM
It is Thursday evening (Turkey Day) and Beetle is back in the water at Ensenada, currently on a side-tie to the docks owned by Baja Naval. There is a fair surge running here, which means the boats are pulling back and forth on the dock lines as the wrap-around from the swell outside the breakwater moves through the harbor in a fairly subtle way. There are no waves in the harbor, yet we bounce around rather than stay nicely still in the center of a slip. It's also funny to here the crackling of the shrimp through the hull, and you can sometimes catch someone up by telling them they are hearing the fiberglass mites working on the outside of their boat hull...


Today was launch day for Beetle, Guillermo had his guys put two new egg zincs onto the prop shaft (good Reliance zincs from Canada), I installed a new Maxprop zinc on the propeller, greased the prop, checked that the thru-hull valves operate (mostly to make sure no bottom paint had entered the works), and all looked good. The travel lift rolled up, hoisted the boat just enough to clear the keel and the guys ran on a coat of Tropikote bottom paint on the underside of the keel (a place that is normally not accessible during your average haulout).


An hour later the gates were open, the tide was up, and Beetle was plunked into the water. And then there was a pause while the youngest guy on the team hopped below to check for leaks and he promptly came back on deck to point his arm into the air, and Beetle quickly rose from the water... hmmm... not so good. I was able to get on board and find that the stuffing box nut was not as tight as it needed to be and the fellow did not like the amount of water coming into the boat. Never mind that I had the whole thing apart not too long ago and we had lots and lots of water coming onboard. We tightened the nut down, went back in, undid a bunch of lines, cleared the travel lift, and powered out of the ways and over to the dock. And now Beetle is side-by-side with Georgia (Ben & Lucie).




Yesterday was wine country day. Ben and Kristen were keen to see the wineries in the area, of which there are a surprising number - who would have thought? I rented a small car from the Fiesta car folks which run their local operation from a desk in the lobby of the nearby Hotel Corona. Armed with a map we headed north-east from Ensenada and drove the Ruta del Vino in what I believe is the Guadalupe Valley, stopping at several wineries of varying sizes (ranging from gigantic to tiny) and Ben and Kristen acquired several bottles of wine. The wineries also produce olive oil, so some of oil was picked up as well.

An interesting winery was Bibayoff, founded by one of 104 families that emigrated from Czarist Russia and fetched up in the valley. One room of their winery tasting room featured pictures and artifacts from the time, and I found it quite surprising that folks would have wandered so far from home and all appeared here. The old parcel maps under museum glass had lots of Russian last names throughout the area. And a newspaper clipping from 1956 indicated that 22 of the families were still in the area, 50 years after arriving. Another 50 years have passed since that article was written, I wonder how many families continue to remain?


We had a super lunch at an outdoor restaurant/campsite - which didn't sound like much when the people at a winery told us about it, but when you get there you realize this is an upscale beef-oriented grill with beef and pheasant (and bone marrow was on the menu, that was an interesting one) plus a goodly variety of wine to choose from. As I was designated driver I had a coca cola in a glass bottle and the food was good. They also had a pig in a small pen, the lid was open, and Kristen and I were able to reach in and give the pig ear scritches, he (or she) seemed to like that.


Overall it was nice to get away from the city of Ensenada, which is reasonably densely populated, there is a constant background noise from the traffic, and I would call it not a particularly nice place to spend a lot of time. By contrast, 20 minutes out of town by car one finds a large valley with greenery and lots of boulders containing a couple of small villages and lots of open space, some filled with vineyards and olive tree orchards. The valley was quiet, perfect temperature as in not too warm and not too cold, and just enough breeze flowing to be really pleasant. I'm glad we rented the car as otherwise there would be no sense of anything like that in the surrounding area.


On the people front, one does meet quite a few characters while in the boat yard. The Canadian gentleman is having his Tayana 37 repaired after it was run into by a chartered Beneteau 45, leaving a large hole in the starboard side and the nav station was reduced to match sticks. He has been hauled out for a month now and has pretty well sorted out the town, and has another month or so to go - he thinks. There is Fred on his new-to-him Nordic 44 sailboat, he's trying to figure out how much solar power he needs; he went back in the water day before yesterday. And we met Troy, a younger captain of a 60' or so sportfishing twin 12 cylinder engines power boat that cruises at 10 knots and burns 17 gallons per hour doing it (at 22 knots they are burning 71 gallons per hour, he said). On the way out of the yard the other night Kristen and I bumped into him and I asked if he played pool, he said yes. So we went off in search of a Mexican pool hall. Troy is in the yard as the 300 gallon center fuel tank failed during their run south to Cabo San Lucas and they pulled in here. Turns out that is the one fuel tank that cannot be isolated from the engines (in fact all the fuel burned is pulled through that tank) so when it began to leak it was a big problem, and it's going to be another 3-5 weeks before the new tank is constructed and installed. So he's stuck in Ensenada, and joined us for to search for a pool hall.


The first place we went into was one of the many many dingy dark bars that has 'Billares' painted on the exterior wall. Entering, you are faced with a dusty black thick curtain, and pulling it aside to step in brought us to the bar, lined with 4 or 5 locals and the bar keep lady. The locals all stopped and stared (gringos in their bar!), we waived and walked past to inspect the four forlorn bar-size tables. The bar keep lady came around and suggested we wanted to play pool there, but the torn felt and wonky tables suggested otherwise. Back out on the street we went looking for the next pool hall (earlier Kristen and I had seen two places that were nothing but pool halls, wide spaces filled with 20 or more tables and well-lit), and we were directed to one of them by a fellow Troy had met at another bar a couple of days previously. A great find! Lots of real billiards tables (all rails, no pockets) and a half-dozen regulation size pool tables with pockets that were level, good slate, good rails. So for 18 pesos we played pool for an hour or so and had a super time. In the background the locals were playing cards around a small table in the back, and another couple were mixing it up at dominos, along with the occasional crack! as we broke the rack open on a new game.


Tonight everyone is tired, Kristen is already asleep, and I will be so soon as well. The weather forecast is calling for warmer days through the weekend, and there's not too much to do. Tomorrow is fuel day, Arturo from Baja Naval has brought down a 55 gallon drum of filtered diesel for Beetle (he also brought down two other drums for other boats), and it turns out there is no fuel dock suitable for small boats in Ensenada; nearest fuel dock is 2.5 miles up the coast at Marina Coral, which we now do not need to go to. For gas we get to roll our gas cans over to the Pemex station up the street, Ragellio said we could use one of the yard's dock carts for that run.


12-05-2013, 10:26 AM

Well, the first overnight (or over two nights, actually) hop across Baja Mexico is complete, appearing this morning around 6AM some 15 miles outside of Turtle Bay, and came on in with the sun as it rose in the background. It's always nice to arrive with daylight to an anchorage you don't know well. I have been here before (twice, in 2009), and there is a semi-marked reef to the south of the entrance and lots of rock and kelp to the north of the entrance, so I wanted daylight to see what was going on before coming in. Anchor is down now, and it turns out that I can submit this post via cellular modem and Turtle Bay has a substantial cell tower network in place (though using EDGE as compared to 3G/4G for connection - so relatively slow speed but blazingly fast compared to SSB).

Turtle Bay is a super quiet place to be as compared to, say, Ensenada. I'm anchored directly off the mostly-abandoned fish pier, though the pier is heavily used as a pseudo-fuel dock (though you don't really dock to the pier as far as I know) and some of the pangas use it, though most pangas are based on the beach to the east of the pier.


And here's the view from my front porch, as it were, of the fish pier, which is also the sort-of center of water front activity. Behind the pier are the gigantic communications towers, there is a decent size hospital right there, the turquoise wall to the left is one of the restaurants that serves really good fish (fresh from the pangas on the beach!), and a portion of the abandoned fish plant is to the right in the image. When the fish plant failed as a business it hit the town hard, but some of the fisherman stayed on and the place keeps going.

I'm pretty tired from the overnight motoring, as there wasn't much wind to work with for this 300 mile jump from Ensenada to Turtle Bay. I catnap during the past 48 hours, maximum sleep was 30 minutes at a time, and then was up at 4AM until arrival as it's usually not a good idea to point the boat at a land mass and then go to sleep!

While under power I prefer to sleep in the cockpit (assuming it isn't raining) as this gets me away from the noise of the engine and then I can hear changes in the sails, wave action, anything that would signify a reason to wake up and see if something needs attending to. From my vantage point in the cockpit, I can look down into the companion way, and see what's going on around the boat. The view looks like this:


Red night-lighting is on, radar is on the right with screen brightness turned way down but it still looks really bright, laptop/navigation on the left also with brightness turned way down (it's possible to also make out the blue triangle AIS targets on the laptop screen, in case a new target shows up), boat performance and wind/depth instruments are the red gauges across the top of the frame. In one glance from where I'm sleeping, it's possible to get a pretty good idea of what's going on around the boat.


And here's the whole nav station, at night, with the other stuff I'm paying attention to, when I go below to see something specific (usually looking for AIS targets or checking my course as there are a lot of eddies and counter currents along the coast):

AIS transponder & display is the bright white square upper center, GPS information (mostly interested in distance/bearing to a waypoint, and my latitude/longitude) is lower left green display, the battery charging circuit is upper green display, VHF radio is the amber display next to the AIS, in addition to the laptop information. And on the nav station table is the small keyboard I use for sailmail and the Rains Mexico boating book - lots of information there to reference as needed.

Had one weird occurence last night that could have been bad but appears to not have been a problem - the alternator suddenly started kicking out 16volts at 65 amps, which means the external Ample Power V2 regulator had told the Ample Power 105 amp alternator to start producing power in a hurry, or else the EMon II display was incorrect about the voltage. It's nice to know the alternator can do that kind of work, but that's way too high a voltage for a 12vDC boat! Dropping engine RPM to idle causes the alternator to cut out to zero output, so I did that in a hurry, fiddled with several settings on the EMon II display/controller (upper green horizontal display in the nav station image) to disable 'AUTO' mode and force the system into 'float' mode, and that didn't work - bringing engine RPM back up brought up the voltage again. One thing I simply tried as I was interested was to bring in the engine start battery to parallel with the house bank, and that did the trick for some reason; alternator output went back to normal float (AUTO was still disabled), and I could rev up the engine without sending the voltage sky high. It's possible one of the house batteries is bad (that would be relatively easy to fix - just replace batteries), or something else is going on. My money is on the SSB RF output confusing the V2 controller. I've tested everything out here at anchor, and the V2 is back to its normal self, handing power correctly at a variety of engine RPMs. Something to keep an eye on... Still need to check the house batteries' water level, they may want some topping up after that high output they were hit with.

More squidlings on deck this morning (four total). I wonder if there is a special anti-squid light one could use that squids don't see or don't like (similar to using a yellow porch light to avoid attracting insects) that would make them not jump on your boat? Something a light bulb inventor and squid expert should get together on. I'm not sure how it would go to replace running lights with anti-squid lights, but anything is possible.

And now it's quite black here, a small landing craft has arrived and they are tinkering with some large equipment in it, a couple of boats that I met at the marina in Baja Naval have pulled in, Ben & Lucie radioed in that they are on their way. That would make something like 7 boats in the anchorage when Georgia arrives. It's real quiet, real peaceful.

Tomorrow will be set up the dinghy and visit the town, sort out fuel for Beetle, and work out when I want to head south for Bahia Santa Maria. Tonight it's dinner time on board, then a good long sleep in my own bunk. I don't mind sleeping in the cockpit in my foulies and clipped in to the boat, but it just ain't the same as being in your own bunk. And it's actually raining a teeny bit right now, that's pretty unusual for the desert - but goes with all the grey clouds we had all day.

- rob/beetle

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A fine Tuesday evening on board Beetle
by rob macfarlane

It's been a pleasantly quiet day on board the good ship Beetle, conditions have stayed mellow (in fact, too mellow - the Yanmar is still running at 1850RPM), the sun stayed hidden behind the high overcast and clouds and that was no fun as bright sun is a good thing, but mr. sun did pop out just before setting and provided some nice heat while shining through a blue patch of sky that appeared in the clouds.

A really big big pod of porpoise came over to the boat this afternoon, lots and lots of jumping leaping porpoises all around the boat, there would be a dozen or more in the bow wave all at once. They were here for about ten minutes and then moved off. Also found the first deceased squid on deck, starboard side about middle of the boat. It's amazing how high a 6" long squid can propel themselves out of the water. He was pretty sticky when removed and not completely dried out yet, leaving no ink stain (a good thing in my book).

The water temperature has climbed substantially; yesterday it was 61F out here, this morning it was 63 and now it has increased to 65. It's still chilly at night, even without a lot of wind, so going into the evening I have on my thermal underwear, the insulated Musto boots, lightweight yellow foulie bibs, sweater, a jacket, and my fuzzy wool hat. Later on I will also put on the lightweight yellow foulie jacket over everything, with the harness and tether going on over that.

Heard from Ben & Lucie briefly this afternoon, and then the long range VHF communications abruptly vanished; I'm no longer hearing USCG Los Angeles and San Diego, and the number of AIS targets has dropped from 134 this morning to 11 at the moment. I don't recall which specific atmospheric conditions enable VHF ducting, but whatever that is we had it until about noon today and now we're back in normal VHF land.

Plan for the evening is to skirt Isla San Benito and pass to the west (any kelp will be more likely to the east given prevailing swell and wind direction), actually passing well to the west to open up space between the boat and the island and to keep clear of some vertical pinnacles nearby. I was watching the cruise ship routing and they avoid the pinnacles, so I figure I can go the extra four miles and do the same. Then it's a left turn to the east and run down the south side of Cedros Island and approach Turtle Bay from the west (as opposed to coming in on a more direct route from the NW). I want to arrive with daylight, so there's no value in going fast right now, nor in passing close to shorelines to save distance; much easier to keep running slow-ish and stay out until visibility returns in the morning.

Ben has a brand new Yaesu radio installed on his boat, and he and Lucie are trying to figure out how to operate it. We had agreed to try SSB 4A at 6AM and 6PM, and tonight I'm going to turn on the SSB and see if they show up, as I believe they are too far away now for the VHF to work between us.

Enjoy the evening on shoreside, it's a pleasant evening out here, and I'm looking forward to arriving in Turtle Bay tomorrow!

- rob

rob macfarlane

************************************************** ************

Good morning from the north end of Bahia Sebastian Vizcaino
by rob macfarlane

It's morning now, around 9AM, I left Ensenada at 10:15 (away from the dock) and it's now 23 hours later and have made good progress towards Turtle Bay. Plan is definitely to stop there for fuel as the wind has not done well for sailing 'round these parts lately. Current conditions are 8-9 knots from well behind (NW) which would make for painfully slow progress southwards, so I'm motoring along at 6.6 knots at 1850RPM on the diesel, mainsail is double reefed and out to port to help push a bit and stabilize the boat. There is a low two foot swell running, a bit of wind chop on top of that, the decks are staying dry and the sun is up. There is some high cloud cover, so not quite hot yet.

Saw a lot shooting stars last night while lying in the cockpit working on 20 minute sleep-naps, interspersed with checks of the AIS receiver (two ships took avoiding action during the night, so I know my AIS transponder is working), the radar (local fisherman do not seem to use AIS, perhaps they cannot afford one?), and the charting system (this close to the shore there are a variety of back eddies and counter currents that push the boat around so course corrections are desirable). All in all a good evening, I got in enough sleep to not feel particularly tired this morning, and plan to take a longer sleep this afternoon while we have good visibility. It's also nice to be 25 miles off the coast as the pangas don't seem to come out this far. Did see a big squid boat fishing this morning, enormously bright lights that attract the squid are easy to see from 20 miles off - at least that's how far away he was according to the radar.

I've been reading Rains' Mexico Boating Guide as I go by the points, as the book contains bits of information about what is going on at each of the points as regards anchorage, shoreside services, where the towns are, that sort of thing. It is nice to have some context to what I'm seeing as dark shapes with shadows on the horizon.

Currently I'm 78 miles from Islan Benitos, and there is supposed to be some good fishing at some offshore pinnacles in the area. I will be taking the island to port prior to turning eastward towards Turtle Bay as there is a lot of kelp in that area and the prevailing wind and swell pushes the kelp to the east, which means there should be fewer gigantic kelp paddies to the west.

And for those looking for news of Ben & Lucie, they and Georgia are about 46 miles to the north of me, likewise motoring and motor-sailing towards Turtle Bay. Lucie is excited to be free of Ensenada and she told me she knows where all the restaurants are in Turtle Bay! (actually, I think there are something like 5, so the choices, while limited, are really quite good as all of them have good food).

Now it's time to make some breakfast!

- rob

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Southbound from Ensenada
by rob macfarlane

It's Monday late-afternoon (4pm) and we're out of Ensenada, off the coast, and headed southbound towards Turtle Bay and Bahia Santa Maria. Conditions today are very light, 0-4 knots of wind, a very low rolling swell from the north west, and generally pretty flat. Motor is ticking over at 1870 rpm, boat speed is in the 7 knot range and we're out far enough to be clear of the coastal back eddy that slows one down.

A bizarre thing I ran into (literally) was a gigantic fishing net, or perhaps a fish pen of some sort. It happened about 10 miles south of Pt. Banda, I was tooling along quite happily and could see up in the distance a series of large metal buoys with radar reflectors on the perimeter buoys. In between were the same size metal buoys but without the reflectors, and interspersed were floating blue 55 gallon plastic drums. Neraby were two 80-100' fishing boats, and working the area was a panga with 3 folks in it. I figured I was seeing a longline operation and those usually have the longline down 30 feet or more. I poked along through the buoys (each buoy was perhaps a quarter mile away from it's neighboring buoy) and came upon a big fat polypropylene line running across the surface between two buoys, the line could have easily been 2" in diameter - quite large.

I stopped, inspected the area and realized all the buoys were connected to each other with these big polypro floating lines, quite invisible except when they broke the surface and caused a strange looking line across the water. While slowly turning around to thread my way back out a fellow came motoring over in a small 3 meter metal net tending boat and he told me that it was 'peligroso propeller' and pointed at the lines. We agreed that I would go way around to the west and would clear their line or net. The whole structure was huge, several miles each way. I wonder how many south-bound sail boats they catch?

Ensenada was an interesting place to visit, I do not particularly like being in a boatyard, Baja Naval was a good enough yard, they did a decent job. I did not like their policy of 'the owner may touch nothing below the waterline', as this prevented me from applying the bottom paint the way I would like to, and also caused problems as regards filling a fairing a few fiberglass blisters that needed work. I think in the future I will plan to haul at a yard where I can do my own work, even if (such as Svendsen's in Alameda) you are not allowed to sand the bottom paint due to the yard's agreements to meet EPA rules.

And now we're on into the evening, or will be shortly. The plan is to arrive in Turtle Bay in two days time, stop and refuel, then push on to Bahia Santa Maria. So far the breeze has been very light to non-existent. There is a forecast that boats are repeating suggesting 20-25 knots of NW breeze out here tomorrow afternoon; if that happened that would be super as sailing would occur. However, nothing I have seen in the GRIB GFS and NAM forecast models suggests anywhere near that much wind, more like 10-15 knots tops. I shall find out!

- rob/beetle
31 21'N x 116 49'W, course 175 true at 7.1k


Ready to roll south to Bahia Santa Maria
by rob macfarlane

At the moment it's a fine Sunday afternoon here at the two-dock marina in Ensenada, I'm dog-sitting for Charlie the Dachsund such that his people can run out for a bit of lunch.

I've been buttoning up the boat, stowed the dinghy and outboard, tools are tied down in place, and the fresh food shop was completed at the Soriana Super (big supermarket) in town. Later on I will do the non-fresh food shop at the closer 7-11 and Oxxo stsores.

The general plan is to sail south 550 miles to Bahia Santa Maria, I'm hoping for a 5 day run. Winds so far are very light off Baja, which means either slow sailing downwine in light air, or slow motoring in no wind to conserve fuel. It's another 170 miles from Bahia Santa Maria around the corner to Cabo San Lucas, or 200 miles to San Jose Del Cabo. Both places have fuel docks, and I'd like to have fuel in reserve to get there should the wind really shut down.

From San Jose Del Cabo it's a northwards turn up to La Paz, with good-sounding anchorages at Los Frailes and Los Muertos, which leaves a last 57 mile hop up through channels Cerralvo and San Lorenzo to arrive in La Paz. I'd like to be in La Paz my December 21 (winter solstice!), as there's a marina there that will host Beetle for a bit.

Tomorrow morning Ragellio said here would be at Baja Naval to start the exit paperwork for the Port Captain, the Port Captain opens at 9AM, and I should be on my way shortly afterwards. I will have to remember to return Charlie to Ben & Lucie, as they might miss their dog otherwise. Plus I don't have dog food on board. (actually, according to The General, that's not true; I have plenty of dog food in the form of canned goods.)

Off to finish up provisioning!


there are a lot of fish boats here in the harbor, they are clustered together in the northwest corner. A bunch of them are being worked on, and a few look to be in rather good shape.


And there's a whole set of identical-looking tug boats, I haven't seen them go out as there are three other ones that seem to manage the container ships that come and go. But here are the boats that look to be the newest and in best shape. Wouldn't be at all out of place on the Oakland Estuary.

- rob

rob m

12-11-2013, 10:09 AM
It's Friday morning here in the Turtle Bay anchorage. Very calm this morning, not much breeze to speak of, the big blue fish boat departed at 5AM after spending yesterday taking on large amounts of fuel via 55 gallon plastic drums that were rolled down the beach to their shore boat, piled in to the shore boat, slowly motored out to the fish boat on its mooring, and laboriously lifted up and onto the aft deck via two huge swinging derricks. It takes a lot of people to do all that, which makes me wonder if the fish boat is a collective operation, lots of people were involved, all seemed to be having a good time, they were at the operation for a solid 24 hours (they worked all night last night).

Beetle will be heading south today, departing the anchorage hopefully by 3PM. Most of the other boats are also heading south today, so there will be a little armada of boats poking down the coast. There are perhaps two or three fair to poor anchorages along the way, so most boats (if not all) are planning for a 36-48 hour run to cover the 230 miles to BSM (Bahia Santa Maria). Leaving Friday afternoon means that by Sunday morning boats should be within striking distance of making the anchorage some time Sunday during the day.

The weather picture looks to be either moderate 10-12 knots NW wind, or no wind, depending on which models you prefer.

Last night Ben and I decided to forego dinner ashore at Vera Cruz, as it got dark, the fuel pier landing was not available to us as the folks operating the fuel pier lock a substantial gate at dark and go home, which made dinner out a beach landing which meant wet feet and chilly. Instead we had dinner on board Beetle. I got the little Honda generator to the foredeck, fired it up, did some battery charging and fired up the heater such that by the time Lucie was on board the chill had been knocked out of the interior; made for a pleasant discussion of sailing and weather over pasta.

Plans today are to do a bit more looking at the high current DC power cables around the motor to make sure something hasn't gone wrong with a connection or wire insulation, take a walk through town again, get in a nap, stow the dinghy, and pop the nose out of the anchorage to see what's going on out there on the big blue. It's weird to realize that looking out the entry is the entire Pacific Ocean; I seem to think of Baja as some sort of inland place, mostly as it is so calm here so much of the time - completely unlike San Francisco. So I forget that this is not a lake!

And now the sun has popped out through the broken high clouds, there are sea lions roaming around chasing fishes that then hop out of the water nearby, a smallish pod of harbor porpoise are moving past, and it's going to be a very nice day here.

- rob

12-11-2013, 10:12 AM
Well, true to form, I elected to be part of the cruising community yesterday (Friday) and remain on the beach at Bahia Tortuga with the other folk that I met at the palapa with the comfortable wooden chairs and chilled Negro Modelo. It was mucho fun to meet everyone in the anchorage, and it was a completely random occurrence that we met at all. Lucie and Ben went ashore and I was going to meet them at noon at Vera Cruz for lunch, only I ran into Lucie at the palapa as she had lost Ben, so we waited there. The couple from Las Vegas and Seattle were ashore from their ketch and were walking back from town (they told us Vera Cruz was not open for lunch) and the palapa is a place you walk through to get to the fuel pier where the dinghies are so they stopped to say hello. Lucie's friend delivering Aventura northbound stopped by on his way to somewhere and noticed the proprietor of the closed palapa was standing there, so he asked if the place would open, the proprietor said yes! and we promptly had beers in our hands. About this time the couple from the steel boat from Nanaimo, BC made their first trip ashore and, as luck would have it, they walked through the palapa as well. So we all sat there on the chairs on the b each and told stories about how we got to be here and where we were all headed next.

Which leads an example of just how small this world can be. The fellow delivering Aventura northbound to San Diego... from La Paz... mentioned it was a Hunter, I asked if that wasn't the same Hunter that John owned (John the Truck Driver?) and he said yes! Turns out the boat was a neighbor of mine in Grand Marina for several years, in 2009 he and I both did the Baja HaHa run south in our respective boats, friends John and Dawn helped to sail Aventura (with John) around from Cabo San Lucas to La Paz, I had returned north, and now I'm headed southbound and run into exactly the same boat! I was informed that John liked LaPaz so much he had bought a place there and didn't need the boat any longer, so it was off to San Diego.

After all this discussion and talk story we realized it was a super day in Turtle Bay, sunny for a change from the general overcast, it was observed to be a Friday (many sailors determine that departing on a Friday brings bad luck), and I had nowhere in particular to be the next day (other than in transit to somewhere else), so I stayed as well. Found the town bakery and had a Mexican folded bread semi-sweet flat thing that was quite tasty, a couple of fish tacos with rice and salsa and guacamole and macaroni & cheese (which was weird, I had no idea mac & cheese went with fish tacos), a pleasant evening on the boat, and now we're all caught up on what happened.

Today it was up and out early, the forecast was for breeze offshore and breeze I've got, 12-20 knots from the NW which works pretty good if you're headed to the SE, except that I'm sailing more or less really deep and the boat rolls a lot in the swell. For the first time on the run to Cabo there's real sailing going on, running deep on poled out genoa (partially furled) and double-reefed main (super comfortable control with small main) and making 6s and 7s over the ground, aiming to a point not far west of Cabo San Lazaro - an outer beach/sandy island that is the outside of Bahia Santa Maria, currently located 140 miles in front of me. And it looks like I'm seeing the Easterly shift the grib files had talked about, might need to jibe in a bit. But I digress.

Good day sailing, nice to sleep down below without the engine running (though it's running right now to recharge batteries and to supply power for the SSB radio that I will use to send this note out, and one squid must be a super jumper cause he made it all the way into the cockpit; all the other squids only made it as far as the side decks.

So that's the up to the minute shock news, headed south on very pleasant if rolly evening, the moon isn't really visible but the overcast cloud layer is thin enough that the moonshine gets through and sets up a horizon, which is nice to have.


- rob

12-11-2013, 10:14 AM
It's been a most pleasant 24 hours more or less since I departed Bahia Tortuga and the wind has cooperated and stayed fairly steady through the night, keeping Beetle propelled down track (at times in even the desired direction!) to arrive here at 25 38'N x 113 20'W, some 50 miles off the coast and rolling on with one reef in the main and the no. 2 genoa partially rolled out. The cross sea that was possibly a reflection of the swell coming back from the coast died away about Bahia Ballena (watch for whales!), leaving a nice solo swell train that involves less rocking and rolling and we weeble wobble down hill. That's one thing IOR designs like to do is weeble wobble roll (or more affectionately known as the elephant roll, aka death roll should you happen to be flying a big spinnaker DDW in San Francisco Bay).

The bilge has stayed dry and therefore I suspect the stuffing box flax replacement was a success. As a result my tennis shoes have stayed dry.

Current conditions are 18-20 knots from behind, puffy flattish pancakes clouds up above with plenty of space in between for the sun to shine down through. I'll be coming onto what is apparently a large area of underwater pinnacles and banks that are close to the deep water canyons, and that brings up pelagic fish, which brings fisherman; part of the game today is to watch for fish boats containing fisherman and avoid them. I did pass a 60-80' sport fishing multi-day party boat (Adventure? Adventura?) that was northbound from the area, and they had literally hundreds of fish rods sporting gleaming gold Penn reels. Must have been a lot people on that boat, though they were crashing to weather on their way northbound while I was gliding the other way southbound. There was only one person on deck on the fish boat, and he didn't look all that happy as the spray would fly by. He might have been cleaning fish, I wasn't sure.

So today's plan is to continue making miles towards Bahia Santa Maria, hopefully arriving there not too late in the evening. There is a good amount of moon out in the first half of the night, so if there are minimal clouds then the moonlight should help in finding a nice anchoring spot in the bay. The bay itself is huge, something along the lines of Drakes Bay in San Francisco, only not so cold. Plus they have a mangrove tree estuary to explore, provided the surf hasn't closed out the estuary entrance. And lots of sand dunes.

Should be a fun day! And Ben and Lucie are pulling up on me, they are now even in latitude and perhaps 5 miles to the west. They are working out if they want to stop in BSM or push on to Cabo San Lucas directly (another 185 miles down the road from BSM). I'm more interested in timing a weather window in the south end of the Sea of Cortez for purposes of proceeding to La Paz, and the current long range weather models suggest a window may be opening up Friday. I will be keeping an eye on the forecasts to see what transpires, and will depart BSM accordingly.

- rob

12-11-2013, 10:19 AM
It's now Monday afternoon, and Beetle is at anchor here in Bahia Santa Maria. This is a fabulous play to show up, it's an enormous wide bowl with two tall mountainy bumps to the west and ringed with low-lying sand dunes all the way around to the south. I arrived (ahead of Georgia by perhaps 20 minutes, but it wasn't a race, right?) last night after dark, and used the radar to verify that the charts were accurate, and the charts are - the electronic charts I am looking at are from Maptech and are labeled as confirmed by NDMA, so they have been corrected to work tie to GPS.

I heard over the VHF from Captain's Mistress, a Nicholson 55 already anchored, saying that the bay was good, good holding, wind was way down from the 20 knots I had offshore, and if I wanted any information to call back. That was quite nice of them, I asked if there were any fish pens in the area and they hadn't seen any. Neither have I, though I have read there are lots of unlit fish pens down the road at Magdalena Bay - but none here it seems.

The not-quite-half moon was also out plus a clear sky made for easy visibility on the way in, a big commercial fish boat anchored out deep (they departed early this morning) and five sailboats anchored in a line along the mountainy bit to the west. I motored up towards the estuary and dropped the hook on hard-pack sand in 30 feet of water, Georgia pulled in adjacent and did the same.

In the morning it was fantastic, sun came up, green hills lit up, and all the sand dunes are there stretched out to the horizon. Beetle was mostly clean despite the dust from Turtle Bay, so I did a bit of washing with fresh water on the dodger windows, made breakfast, Ben & Lucie & Charlie stopped by in their dinghy on the way to the beach to poop Charlie.

I got my dinghy up and running, loaded up the bug gear and headed over to the beach where I found small (6") beach break and a lot of butterflies plus a neat tiger beetle with white markings.

I also discovered that the town of San Carlos is just across the low sand dunes to the east and as a result I have better connectivity way out here in the middle of nowheresville than I did anchored directly in front of the giant antennas at Turtle Bay. I have excellent AT&T telephone coverage, and the MiFi Telcel system supports 4G - way faster than EDGE. So I can post a picture of what you see from the cockpit.

I'm going to take the dinghy over now and check out some other dunes, and a fisherman came by and bartered with Georgia for beer & bubble gum & $3 US for 6 live lobsters. I'm not a lobster person but Ben and Lucie sure are, and the lobsters are interesting to observe. So plan is to have barbecue on Georgia this evening.

All is good! Best sail of the trip so far, 240 miles of good running, an hour of motoring to get out of Turtle Bay, and now we're all tucked in here. Also found that Libertad (the Down East 38 from Baja Naval) is here, as is Test of Time is also here. Seems that boats moving south do so at rough equivalent speeds going to roughly equivalent places.


Looking to the west from the cockpit, the fishing camp - now greatly enlarged since 2009 - is in in the middle on the shore, the hill behind rises something like 1200', and the mangrove and then sand dunes extend off to the right. The water is super-blue, 70 degrees, and very nice.

- rob

12-11-2013, 10:25 AM
It has been a good day in Bahia Santa Maria. I was able to give some water to Georgia (they do not have a watermaker, I do, and I had water to spare to fill up their sun shower), had a shower of my own (lukewarm, sun is not far enough overhead to really toast the water during the afternoon), went and explored the mangrove estuary with the dinghy, was invited to try out fishing from a panga (I declined), and found some tiger beetles on the beach.

Also had an interesting troubleshooting exercise with Georgia regarding why
I could hear them when they hailed on VHF 16 and yet they could not hear
me. Why? Their volume was turned down to zero. Took a while for us to
sort that out. Ben turned his radio volume up, problem solved. Those are
the good kind of problems as they are an easy fix.

Then, we decided to test out handheld radios on VHF 18. They could hear me
and I could not hear them. Why? My radio was set to international
frequencies and VHF 18 is duplex on international frequencies. In the USA
VHF 18 is simplex and designated 18A. I set my handheld to USA frequencies
and then we could all talk. Another nice-to-have problem as it is also an
easy fix.

The Mexican Navy has appeared in the form of what looked to be a buoy tender and associated patrol boat. They didn't stop by, but were here for several hours anchored out in the bay.

There are a lot of critters out on the miles and miles of sand dunes along the bay, all leaving tell tale tracks behind in the sand. There are lizards, lots of small rodents (mice? rats?) with their tiny toes showing in the sand. You can even see tracks left by beetles in the sand - they look for all the world like the track a wide jacket zipper would leave if pressed into the sand. There are also some larger animals out on the dunes, at least three different ones, something along the lines of a small fox, also rabbits, perhaps an animal larger than a fox (coyote?), definitely a dog, and what looked to be a hoofed animal - perhaps a pig?

Observed a hawk fly away with lunch in its talons, there are interesting looking birds in the mangroves, looked like an ibis to me.

Also on the dunes are enormous numbers of scattered sea shells and sand dollars, a dolphin skull and a large aquatic turtle shell, and stuff from people - dead pangas in pieces, disintegrating rectangular wire lobster traps, and polypropylene line. It's the kind of place one could spend a lot of time at if you like beach dunes. The dunes themselves are really flat with a shallow slope, which means that pulling the dinghy clear of the surf can easily mean pulling the dinghy along for 200 yards across the sand just to get to an area that is about where high tide will be. I anchor the dinghy in the sand with the anchor, just in case the tide does rise a foot when I'm not ready for it to.

The low elevation also means you can look straight across the sand dunes, and this leads to a weird optical effect. When approaching the beach it's easy to look at a particularly tall dune with plants on it and think to yourself, "I think I will walk to that dune." After landing and pulling the dinghy up the beach, you then walk inland a quarter mile to the first tall-ish dune, step up the 6 feet to the top, and realize that what you've been looking at is several miles inland across a sea of sand dunes. So bring extra water with you if you decide to hike to that particular dune.

Back on board Beetle I have been chasing down a SEMARNAT permit, which is a $27 individual permit that is good for visiting all the [marine] national parks in Baja (perhaps even in all of Mexico, I do not know), and which I will want to have if I anchor out at Los Frailes on my way towards La Paz, as the north end of Los Frailes appears to be within the boundary of the Cabo Pulmo UNESCO reef structure park. It's fairly amazing to be in Bahia Santa Maria, which is really quite remote, no roads here, no traffic lights, no nothing) and still be able to tap into the communication features of Puerto San Carlos - a town of 5000 people that is around 8 miles away across the sand dunes and adjacent Magdalena Bay. I sent email to IGY Marina in Cabo San Lucas, they suggested using someone named Victor as a boat agent for purposes of getting the permit and gave me his telephone number, I call him on the cell phone and he said no problem, I can take care of that for you. Ben and Lucie and I used the HP scanner I have to make copies of the first page of our passports and I emailed them off to Victor. He will have (or is supposed to have) permits waiting for us at IGY's office, to be picked up by me on Friday or Saturday. Pretty cool to make that happen from the middle of the bay surrounded by sand dunes.

Which leads to tomorrow's plans. Ben & Lucie want to spend tomorrow night inside Magdalena Bay, so we're off to visit Man of War Cove in the morning. Apparently there is a 50 building town there, no connecting roads to the mainland (in fact we're going to a place that is simply on the other side of the sand dunes that we are seeing from the anchorage), and there is a port captain there so we are supposed to sign in to their guest book upon arrival. Should be fun!


The mangroves are best explored by dinghy. The waterway is super shallow on either side with steep drop-offs to deeper water (deep being relative, here deep means 3 feet). The mangroves grow right to the water's edge and are pretty much impenetrable except in perhaps 3 areas where a small path had appeared in a place where a mangrove tree had fallen down. The paths looked to be animal tracks, good for something less than 30" tall and very narrow. There are lots of fish in the water,


lots of cousins of night herons in the mangrove trees, they would fly out abruptly as the dinghy neared. Also big herons, egrets, and sand piper birds running about. The sandpipers are mostly on the small flat mounds of sand that you navigate the dinghy around. Also some grasses are growing in some of the flat sandy spots.


spot the birdie?


Here's one of the flat bits that are exposed at mostly-low tide. The ground is not as soggy as one might think, though you only walk in a few feet before hitting the wall of mangroves again.

Enjoy the evening.

- rob

12-14-2013, 10:49 AM
The major developments that are outside Lands End, the rocks at the very base of Baja (Cabo Falso is 8 miles to the NW from Lands End). Discovered new navigational hazards here: sea turtles! Almost beaned one on the way in, he looked for all the world like a semi-submerged 55 gallon drum, I watched the odd floating shiny barrel until it raised its head and looked at the boat, I turned abruptly to starboard to avoid him and he did a slow dive to avoid the boat. Sea turtles are much like land tortoises - big and don't move fast. Also saw a manta ray jump clear out the water (twice), they look for all the world like a misshapen black pizza dough with pointy corners being thrown in the air, very floppy and goofy looking as they flip-flop in the air and then go crash back into the water. Would probably be a really bad thing if one of those managed to land on the boat! Very cool to see a distinctive animal behavior in person.

- rob


Arrived here in Cabo San Lucas, coming around the corner of Cabo Falso to dying breeze and the rising sun - made better time down the coast then anticipated. Tons of sportfishing boats came pouring around the corner in search of bill fish (mostl marlin, I am lead to understand).

My intention was to anchor out to the right of the harbor entrance in front of the hotels in the not-so-great sand holding bottom. Upon rounding the rocks that protect the marina from the large crashing swells coming out of the south, I found a 3 foot swell rolling on from the east, not a single boat anchored anywhere to be seen, and it looked to be a really nasty anchorage. If this were an island, I would have gone around to the other side - only the other side had a much bigger south swell. So I telephoned the big IGY marina located in the rear of the marina and was given slip G17, so in I went (at a cost of $81.58/night). Four years ago the slip fee here was $300/night, so rates have definitely come down though still very expensive.

I found the slip no problem, went up the marina office, and by the time I had returned to Beetle Georgia was tied up 3 slips over. Later on we walked up to the Port Captain's office and checked in and checked out of Cabo San Lucas, which takes care of the paperwork part of being here. Very painless, nice jovial people, this is more about keeping track of who is where rather than extracting dollars from cruisers - no charge for checking in/out. And he even helped out by making photocopies of the paperwork I did not have photocopies of (passport, uscg documentation, insurance papers, and the TIP!

Then it was shopping time, relaxe with Ben & Lucie and talk a bit, find an inexpensive restaurant for taco lunch (do this by walking away from the harbor, as where the boats are is top dollar for everything), and visit the Santander Bank and their ATM. It was Friday, I imagine people got paid today as there were very long lines at the ATM and inside the bank, plus there was a policeman at the ATM line and the military had a truck with mounted guns on it at the street corner. There is a fair bit of overtly visible security here in town, including the policeman in body armor carrying an automatic rifle, he stands in the shade of a building at the corner of the marina - he was there for the day and while friendly didn't want people to get close to him.

On the cruising front Ben is very excited that they are now somewhere warm, that is what he has been waiting for. He's quite happy with his book in the cockpit and the sun overhead.

Then it was organize and clean up boat. I talked with Fred, a local that is maintaining a Mikelson 50 SF (sport fisher) across the dock from me, he said the boat he was polishing and cleaning was the small boat and he didn't know where the owner's big boat was. That's quite something for such a machine so well kitted out to be only the small boat, makes one wonder what the big boat is. While one has to trust that the locals doing their boat maintenance (there are a dozen on the dock right now, 1 or 2 per boat, cleaning windows, polishing stainless and wiping down aluminum tuna towers, soaping down the decks, buffing hulls - each person seems to want his boat to be shinier than the next guy's) would not take anything from another boat, it's also a good idea to not put the temptation out there in the first place - so decks are cleared of movable gear, and I do lock the boat up when I leave the dock.

Later in the evening the three of us went over to Squid Roe (the huge four story dance/bar across the street), took a quick look around inside (not jumping, just lots of loud thumping music), and headed out to find a dinner restaurant - which we did. Very quite, four blocks away, prices 1/3 of those at the marina, and good food there plus an interesting conversation with the waiter. He and I were talking about where to go shoot billards, he initially suggested a good place 20 blocks away (take a taxi, do not walk) and to leave by 9pm as that's when the methamphetamine dealers showed up. On second thought, he decided there was a more-suited billards place located in the 'Casino' at the marina, he said there would be no dealers there at all, good security force, better for me there.

Out on the streets the prostitutes (aka, 'rentals') were out in force at the open-air night clubs and dance halls - of which there are a lot, most don't have any kind of front wall so walking along the sidewalk is akin to walking right through each club - you hear the music thumping away, the video monitors are all going, people are dancing, club security/bouncers are on the sidewalk - which makes for an interesting walk without actually going into any one venue.

And finally, completely pooped as I was still running on four hours total rest/sleep I got during the overnight hop down from Bahia Man of War, I hit the bunk and went straight to sleep despite the booming night clubs that run until 4AM. And oddly enough, the streets are not all crowded and many of the clubs actually had very few patrons - yet the whole operation continued at full bore as if the place were packed, even the DJ's in at least two places were spinning up a treat to no patrons on the floor. Perhaps the night club folk come out some time after 10pm, I don't know as I wasn't out there to find out!

Intention is to stay here today and tonight, and tomorrow head up to San Jose Del Cabo for fuel (I could get fuel here, but have never been to the new marina at SJDC, so will be fun to check it out). If the weather is good then carry on to Los Frailes, and if weather is poor stay at SJDC. The forecast weather window is still holding, meaning the north winds just around the corner in the Sea of Cortez are forecast to die down and back off away from the coast starting Sunday evening, which makes Monday-Tuesday-Wednesday look very promising for scooting around the corner and up to La Paz.


A family of humpback whales headed south, outside of Magdalena Bay. They surfaced quite near by and I slowed down to stay alongside. I think the baby whale is the one on the right, with the really big whale the one on the left. They had interesting dives - the little one would take 2 or 3 tries to get going, waving his tale a bit and splashing. The big ones just did a slow graceful turn and the flukes went way up in the air as they disappeared underwater. After a couple of minutes they would reappear. They were traveling at 4 knots, that's the speed I had to run at to keep up.


Sunrise approaching Cabo Falso from offshore, the first point you see as you reach the bottom end of Baja California.


First fish of the trip, he went back into the water after I took this picture. Normally I trail the 400 pound monofilament hand line behind the boat, this time I had the Penn 6/0 reel and rod trailing the jig, good thing it wasn't a big fish as even this little guy pulled out a fair bit of line when he attacked the lure. I dropped the engine to neutral but he mainsail kept pulling, so it took a bit to get him to the boat.


Alan H
12-17-2013, 07:14 PM
Just checkin' in, Rob. This is *great*!~ I'm learning a lot about the route, south. Thanks for the updates.

12-19-2013, 10:56 AM
Didn't do too well in the fishing department as in I apparently was only practising fishing all day today whilst dragging the lure behind. However, this evening here in the anchorage at Balandra Cove I managed to hook an entire large ketch-rig boat. I'm down below at the nav station working with Photoshop to assemble a series of images into a panoramic view when there is a BONK and the boat shakes slightly. I think, 'Panga attack!' and hop on deck... only it's not a panga at all, but rather a larger sailboat that is quite dark that is also nose to nose with Beetle, and I suspect our bow pulpits bonked (no damage that I can see, nothing obviously bent - though I will look at the welds in the morning).

What's weird is nobody was on deck, and it was all dark. So I hung on to the other boat and then pushed them off a couple of feet as they started to pivot away from Beetle (seas are flat, wind is 4-6 knots following a 180 degree wind shift). I met the boat again as they drifted further astern, his bow pulpit then coming back in about my steering wheel, so I hung on again. The fellow finally came on deck and was super surprised, and very glad that I caught him as he was headed, albeit slowly, towards the beach.

Turns out his windlass had burned out so he was not using his all-chain rode and instead was on a CQR with rope and chain such that he could still lift the anchor without the windlass. He needs to fix his windlass, he also should figure out how to use his windlass without power (every electric windlass I know of has a mechanism for manually operating the chain gypsy - slow, but doesn't need power or a working motor).

Upshot is he managed to free his anchor from mine after two tries, in the dark (not a lot of fun) and he has moved back into a shallower part of the anchorage and is now setting the hook in the [new] wind direction. Hopefully it holds. If it doesn't, it does appear that he's not going to fetch up on me again as he's no longer directly to weather of me.

We're going to meet up in the morning and make sure nothing bad happened to the boats. Interesting way to meet new people, eh?


Sunrise at Los Muertos this morning. This is what the panorama I was working on will look like, only it will be a lot wider (I hope).


Tooling up the Cerralvo Channel this afternoon, it was very nice and calm. Fishing line is out, but no fishies today.

- rob

************************************************** ******
Wednesday Dec 18


Good morning, today the sea state is in a much better mood than yesterday - no four foot chop - and I find 6" ripples across an otherwise flat bit of water stretching out as far as one can see. The island I'm going by has a razor sharp peak running its length, and it's pretty impressive to see how starkly that peak is outlined against the cloudless sky. Sun is well up over the horizon, and it's going ot be a toasty day today.

The anchorage at Los Muertos was very pleasant last night, good holding ground, no nearby underwater canyon for the anchor to slide down into, therefore I slept rather well. La Libertade was also in the anchorage, I spoke with them on the radio after I had departed, they are staying for the day and planning to head over to La Paz tomorow. For my part, the weather today is well-suited for getting up to the San Lorenzo channel before the forecast SW winds come in tonight, and at the same time the Nwinds have calmed way down (currently 5 knots from the N is what I'm seeing).


[I]Fish line is out, yesterday I had a Dorado grab the lure and got him to the boat, at which time I realized I did not have the landing net out and he realized he did not like the big boat thing in front of him; he threw a fit and then threw the hook - worked for me, he was reasonably big and I have plenty of food on board. Next time remember to be more prepared with the camera for fish photos.

All is well on board, hatches are opened up to air things out and dry things out after yesterday's bang up the coast. It's convenient to be sailing in a desert as the air is so dry that wet things turn into dry things pretty darn fast.

I'm sending this out through a cellular tower located somewhere in the town to the west of me, will be interesting to see if this works Hopefully attached are two photos, one of the island to the right, and one of the nav station, busy navigating and computing away.


************************************************** ***********

Tuesday Dec 17

On the road to Los Muertos, and it’s bouncy out here!

Hola and greetings from the wet world of Beetle, as we bing along northwards towards Los Muertos - a nice bay to stop at prior to running throughte ?Cerralvo channel on the last bit to La paz. Where to b egin...

Left Cabo San lucas Sunday morning and went up to Puerto Los Cabos, a little town just north of SAn Jose Del Cabo. Oddly enough, the marina (and resort, and golf course, and hotel, and private beach) is named 'Marina Puerto Los Cabos'. Super nice there, the first time the WiFi system has actually worked as advertised (internet access in CAbo San Lucas was iffy at best, despite the best efforts of the marina staff. I imagine that people that run a marina might not be the best qualified to run a wireless network). Super nice at Puerto Los Cabos, no thumping disco, mild warm breeze, interesting falcons or hawks patrolling the marina, and a wonderful two-story palapa with a thatch roof for to have dinner at (most excellent burrtitos). However, the resort is also expensive:$60/night for ta slip that does not yet have electricity plumbed in, as it were ($80/night if you want power). So Isplit the ne xt morning, headed for Los Frailes.

Los Frailes is the first third of the run to La Paz from Cabo, and it wasn't a big run from Puerto Los Cabos to Frailes as it was only something like 28 miles. However... the wind turned on! 18-22 gusting 25 with wicked chop and 6' swell (or 6' chop, your choice). I went out on port tack, foujnd the bigger chop, also found a southward current driven by surface winds, so tacked back in on stasrboard - on the track the whole thing looks like a mess, but the header offshore turned into a lift onshore, and eventually made it to the anchorage on the narrow shelf at Los Frailes. We've been having a full moon of late, and that makes evening arrivals no issue, as it was just going on dark when Iarrived at Frailes.

Big question is then to push on for Los Muertos the next morning, or hang out at Frailes and wait for the forecast light air to materialize on Wednesday. Idecided to head for Muertos this morning, figuring tyhat if things were terrible Icould alweays turn around and head back to Frailes. So noiw Ifind myself more than half way to Muertos, third reef in the mainsail (for motoring purposes), 16-20 knots breeze just to right of the nose, andslightly less nasty chop than yestesrday (1-2' on the water, 4' swell/bigger chop beneat).

It's been interesting to listen to the VHF radio today, there are a little boats zooming all over the place - bound for Manzanillo, Puerto ?Vallerto, Muertos, La Paz, everybody is going somewhere., This must be a good day for moving about as it seems mostr people have left their anchorages. I wonder if it would like little ants running around an ant hill if you could look down from space and see the boats as spots on the sand. Bet it does. This ant is headed for Muertos, for to spend the night. Tomorrow is forecast 5-10 knot breeze, the hope is the seas will have settledl a bit, and then run up two channels and turn left towards La Paz.

ON boards all goes well, had a fish on board yestserday but let lhim loose (too big, nice dorado), boat stayed dry in yesterday's crashing along go weather for the day, though the starboard aft port hole in the cockpit wasn't completely se cured so the area where my fieet are when sleeping is a tad damp. At least salt water didn'te kill anything lately in the feet department, so no worries there,.

In the random notes department (more for me than anyone else), tyhe following boats are running around out here:

La Libertade, to Muertos, met them in Baja Naval &Turtle Bay.
Avante, doublehanded, arrived in Puerto Los Cabos as i left
nereida, Socrates should vbe headed down from San Diego by now
Captain's Mistress, should ber in Los Muertos or beyond (Nicholson 55), left Frailes yesterday
Cadenza, left Frailes this morning, Ithink bound for Muertos, wonder if this is one of Eichenlaub's boats. Probably not.

So that's the up to the minute shock evening news. Basically bouncing along towards a point 3.5 miles NE of Punta Pescadora, then to turn left onto 314T for 14 miles and that should be Los Muertos. Definitely lumpy, and it's fun to be able to send this email from this essentially secluded spot.

- rob


Buzz Light Beer
12-19-2013, 11:44 AM
Nice catch! Great reports! Keep them coming!

12-20-2013, 11:41 PM
Have Rob, Ben or Lucy been caught up in this nightmare yet?
Can any one contact them to give them a heads-up?


Is Mexico Committing Nautical Tourism Suicide?

December 20, 2013 – Mexico

(Click on the photo to enlarge it.) (http://www.latitude38.com/lectronic/img_lectronic_800/2013-12-20_3385_SailingMexico.jpg)
Mexico has long been considered a sailor's paradise, but new impound policies are beginning to tarnish that reputation. Photo Latitude / Andy
© 2013 Latitude 38 Publishing, LLC

We sure hope not, although thanks to the actions of a new sub-agency of Hacienda (the Mexican IRS) called AGACE, it appears the country is on the verge of doing just that — and even worse, perhaps setting the stage for possible problems with the United States government.
In the last month AGACE, which was created by the new Peña Nieto administration to be auditors for foreign commerce, has been checking the paperwork of foreign boats in 12 marinas in Mexico. To be legal in Mexico without having to pay duty, foreign boat owners are required to possess their boat documentation, proof of clearing into Mexico, and a Temporary Import Permit, and have all these documents on file in the office of whatever marina the boat is in. This is perfectly reasonable.
According to a harbormaster who attended a big meeting in Mexico City yesterday with AGACE, Tourism, and other officials, 338 foreign boats were found to be out of compliance with these rules in just the 12 marinas that were checked. That's a huge number, so let us give you a hint why.
We at Latitude 38, who have undoubtedly been the biggest promoters of nautical tourism to Mexico for the last 30 years, have had our catamaran Profligate put in what's called 'embargo precautorio', or precautionary embargo. It's not that we didn't have our boat documents; we did. It's not that we don't have a Temporary Import Permit; we have the same 20-year permit we've had for 17 years. It's not that we can't prove that we checked into Mexico because we have that document, too.
No, our 'crime' is that we weren't on our boat when AGACE officials, backed by armed Marines, came through the marina checking paperwork. Much of Mexican law is based on Napoleonic Law, where you are considered guilty until you prove yourself innocent. Since we weren't around to show our paperwork, AGACE assumed Profligate was not in compliance with Mexican law (guilty), and thus is now under 'precautionary embargo'.
It gets even more ridiculous. When AGACE officials came around a week later, Doña de Mallorca was aboard, and showed them the documents. Nonetheless, Profligate is still on the embargo list.
Other boats were found to be out of compliance because of misspellings on documents made by officials in the United States or Mexico, because hull identification (HIN) numbers were painted over after many years, because AGACE officials who know nothing about boats didn't know where to look for various identification numbers, and so forth.
Boats under 'precautionary seizure' are not allowed to leave the dock, as they are considered to be like foreign merchandise on which duty hasn't been paid.
There's just one problem with this. Most of the vessels in question are U.S. documented vessels, and it's our understanding that it's illegal to impede the transit of such vessels unless a crime was committed. We can't imagine the U.S. government is going to stand by with hands in pockets if 338 U.S. boats, worth tens millions of dollars, are illegally held for any period of time.
Surely, one would think, these minor problems could quickly be cleared up. Not so. At the meeting in Mexico City yesterday, AGACE gave no timetable for embargoed boats to be "liberated." But we've learned today that AGACE has up to four months, under their rules of operation, to assess the status of boats that have been seized. Consequently, there are cruisers who can't move their boats, and there are foreign boat owners who won't be able to take visiting family and friends sailing over the holidays. The damage to Mexico's reputation will be growing by the day, and right at the height of tourist season.
To say boat owners are pissed off would be an understatement. Both Canadians and Americans are already starting to call their government representatives to protest. If you think marina owners, Mexico Tourism, and other business interests, such as those involved with real estate, like this, you couldn't be more wrong. After all, it perpetuates the image of Mexico being a scary place, where tourists and retirees can't feel safe or believe their assets are secure. We hope this matter is resolved very quickly, as we don't think it accurately reflects on Mexico or even the Mexican government as a whole. But the damage will build with each passing day.
Please stay tuned.

- latitude / richard
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Cleveland Steamer
12-21-2013, 08:38 AM
It would seem to me that the crew of Tiger Beetle just began their voyage and are following protocol.

I would guess the crew on Prolifigate have become complacent in some area's and are caught in a quagmire of red tape.

12-21-2013, 11:34 AM
If you read the article again I think you'll come to another conclusion.

12-21-2013, 11:53 AM
Here is Latitude 38's earlier article on this problem. At that time they assumed it was no big deal as well. Latitude is hardly alarmist when it comes to Mexico, in fact they seem to downplay anything negative at the first opportunity.

December Latitude, Hot Off the Press

December 2, 2013 – Bay Area and Beyond

TIPs and Rumors About 'Seized' Boats

December 2, 2013 – The World of Paperwork in Mexico
One of the ways in which Mexico is culturally different from the United States is that for many years some laws seem to be enforced very loosely, if at all, then all of a sudden a government agency seems to go over the top with enforcement. That's what has happened recently with the Servicio de Administración Tributaria (Tax Administration Service) branch of the Mexican government. On November 26 members of its staff began checking the Temporary Import Permits of all the foreign boats in a total of 10 marinas.
In the case of marinas in San Carlos, Kirsten Grossman de Zaragoza, the general manager of Marina Seca, says 40 inspectors showed up. They were backed by 30 heavily armed guards from the Armada, apparently in case boat owners decided to resist. Similar scenes played out up and down coast. To show how determined the SAT was, Grossman reports they worked through the night until 6 a.m. — although they didn't set foot on any boats.
A Temporary Import Permit (TIP) allows foreigners to bring their boats in and out of Mexico as many times as they want without having to pay import duty. When we got ours for Profligate back in 1997, they were good for 20 years. More recently, they have been good for just 10 years. The cost is a very reasonable $50.
The easiest way to get a TIP is to apply online at www.banjercito.com.mx (http://www.banjercito.com.mx). It takes about 14 days to get a TIP. Meanwhile, you can use your credit card receipt as proof that you are in the process of obtaining a TIP. "I applied for three TIPs online in the last few months," reports John 'Woody' Skoriak of Sausalito. "They were sent to me almost immediately by DHL. It was a much more efficient process than U.S. Coast Guard documentation."
The other way to get a TIP is at a port that has a Banjercito, which is a Mexican military bank. This would mean places such as Ensenada, La Paz and Puerto Vallarta, but not Cabo San Lucas. But doing it online is the easiest and least time consuming.
In the past, nobody seemed to care that much about TIPS. As long as your boat didn't stay in Mexico longer than the length of your tourist visa — 180 days — and as long as you didn't leave Mexico without your boat, you theoretically didn't need one. While most marinas asked for a copy of your TIP when you checked in, lots of them didn't follow through if you didn't have it on you when you first came into the office. Now all foreign boats need them, and all marinas are insisting on seeing them before allowing any boats in.
We talked to many people who had their boats checked by officials from SAT, and all went swimmingly. Those who didn't have their TIPS on file with the marina were given five days to have one on file with the marina office. For example, four days and 22 hours into the deadline, the Wanderer and Doña de Mallorca, traveling inland, knew nothing about it. We then, while riding a bus from Guadalajara back to La Cruz, got a call from Mike Danielson of PV Sails saying the marina office needed a copy of Profligate's TIP within the next 90 minutes. Fortunately, de Mallorca knew where the document was, and Danielson took it up to the Marina Riviera Nayarit office. Once that was done, we were good.
To our knowledge, no boats on the hook were checked for current TIPs.
For whatever reason, apparently a lot of foreign boats either didn't have a TIP or didn't have one on file with the marina — the latter, in theory, being "responsible" for your boat if you leave the country without your boat. Those not in compliance with the TIP law were/are subject to fines and even seizure, although we have yet to hear of any boats being fined or seized, and we certainly don't expect any boats to be seized.
A couple of days ago we received an email from a friend of John Hards of the Beneteau 36 Pelican, currently in a marina in Nuevo Vallarta, saying Hards reported that, as of November 29, "60 boats had been seized" by "rogue officials," and that "yellow tape had been used to secure the seized boats." According to the email, "[Hards'] new TIP, validated by the military and Banjercito, had been declared invalid by the rogues." His new TIP, it was said, didn't show up on SAT's computer so, according to this letter, his boat had been 'seized', with yellow tape put around it, and Hards was not allowed to stay onboard. The friend was shocked because Hards had been cruising Mexico for 16 years, was laid back and well-known by locals, was familiar with the customs, and never had had a bad word to say about Mexico. The email ended with "have had no reply and no radio contact" with Hards, mildly implying that he might be in a wretched Mexican prison, likely never to be heard from again.
The term "rogue" is incendiary, of course, as it suggests out-of-control government officials imperiously abusing foreigners. While there may be some truth to this in cases of DWG — 'driving while gringo' — just before Christmas when officers need to buy presents for their kids, it hasn't been our experience with boats in Mexico. And we've had a boat in Mexico almost every winter for three decades now.
Fortunately, and not surprisingly to us, Hards is not in a Mexican prison. The SAT officials aren't "rogue." His boat wasn't "seized" in any common understanding of the term, or even wrapped in yellow tape. Furthermore, Hards will not have to make the long trip to Guadalajara to clear things up because the Port Captain in Nuevo Vallarta will take care of it. According to Hards' update email, the problem was that the marina Hards' boat was in didn't have his boat's TIP on file.
What is the chance of a boat being confiscated in Mexico over a TIP violation? We believe nil. There was a minor stink a number of years ago when, as we recall, the owners of about four foreign boats in Mexico were not only found to not have TIPs, but inexplicably refused to get them for their boats. As we recall, after government officials all but pleaded with these folks to come in compliance with the law, the boats — all of them old and beat up — were indeed seized. But trust us, the Mexican government wants two things: 1) Marine tourists in Mexico to be happy; 2) Marine tourists to respect and comply with Mexican law. Fortunately, it's easy to accomplish both.

- latitude / richard

Cleveland Steamer
12-22-2013, 09:19 AM
After reading both articles again, I come to the same conclusion. Things have been lax in Mexico for
decades and now laws are being enforced. It sounds like the folks at Latitude had a 30 year run of enjoying
non enforcement but that has changed? Ironically, it seems like their own writings may have awakened the Mexican
government to the generous loopholes that they are now closing.

12-22-2013, 09:53 AM
The article states that all the required paperwork was correct in all but a few cases. The problem for many was that they were not at or on the boat when inspected to present the documents. In most cases duplicates of the of all the documents are on file at the marina office as required by the marina to get a slip. The AGACE inspectors ignored these duplicates when presented by the marina office for owners away from their boats.

No loopholes involved.

Read the first hand account of one boat owner here:

http://forums.sailinganarchy.com/index.php?showtopic=153822 post #11

Posted Yesterday, 02:07 PM
I have one of the "embargoed" boats in La Cruz. All the proper paperwork including the TIP was on file in the marina office, shown to the officials by the marina management, and the authorities were escorted to my slip by marina management where they confirmed my US documentation placard, and hopefully my hull VIN if that LP paint job still has it legible.

I was in the states during the visit, but was assured by Marina Nayarit a day before the visit they had it under control. It was just chance that I happened to call the marina office about some other business the day before the Feds showed up. The marina was not planning to call me or anyone else AFAIK. In any event it would have been impossible to book a flight from the US to MX and get their it time.

So my crime, like the owners of Profligate, is not being aboard my vessel 24 hours a day while in MX.

The no brainer for MX if they want to know who has has a proper TIP (temporary boat import) document and who doesn't, is to simply require the port captain to confirm it on arrival. It seems the left hand does not know what the right is doing down there.

At this point I feel like an international fugitive. I will be headed back down next week to face the music. Or go surfing, rather than my planned cruise further south, if my boat is still in jail.

12-22-2013, 04:15 PM

Surnise at Balandra, just before Mr. Sun popped up above the ridge. a particularly nice sunrise when you catch the sun when it is illuminating the clouds from below. I imagine the rays are shadows cast by other clouds.

Dec 21:

This morning finds Beetle Boat sitting happily in a double-wide slip shared with a rather large power boat, in Marina Palmira - a decently long walk from the center of La Paz (long enough that I took a taxi back to the boat last night after a 45 minute walk to town). There are a lot of cruisers here and a large itinerant population of boats that migrate into and out of the marinas - you should have heard the traffic on VHF 16 yesterday as boats were constantly calling the marinas on the radio to ask if there was a slip available.

Originally I was going to use Marina Costa Baja (based on recommendation from Garrett) except I learned they have a draft problem (no deep boats in the inner harbor) and in fact the only slips they seem to have that will accommodate an 8 foot draft are the end ties in the outer harbor. When I went by to check it out the west wind was driving 2 foot waves directly into their outer harbor, and I did not want to beat against the dock in that kind of chop. So that looked not so good.

I telephoned Marina Palmira and learned they had a larger-than-necessary slip available (I'm in a set of docks designed for 60' to 100' boats) and it looked perfect, so here I am, surrounded by really big boats. Slip fee is $220 USD/week, which is less expensive than Costa Baja. Based on conversation with friend Sylvia, Costa Baja is the newest construction in the marina department and is believed to have the most swell/surge. Palmira is older, still out of town, and has a particularly good breakwater and therefore is not exposed to much swell/surge. And the further you go into town the quieter the water gets as you're more protected by the outer fringe peninsula.

Today is exterior clean up day (yesterday was interior clean up day, floor boards up, galley gone through (still need to clean out the ice box), etc.). Outside will see flushing the outboard with fresh water, rinsing the dinghy, refolding the mainsail, lots of things like that.


And the bay later in the morning. The bottom is white sand, and while the water isn't particularly clear due to all the suspended sand particles, the combination of water over white produces a rather enticing turquois color in the shallower areas. There are also sea snakes here; I met a couple on the beach (he was local with Spanish, she was French with some English) and they indicated they had seen a "sea serpent" - so there are yellow bellied sea snakes here.

Also met Elane again, a long time ago she was the harbor master at Grand Marina in Alameda, then I discovered she was the harbor master in San Diego when I checked in to that marina when setting up for the 2009 Baja HaHa run, and then yesterday she saw Beetle go by and walked over to say she had retired and they were out on Tardis enjoying the Sea of Cortez. Lots of people about, there's a big cruisers lounge (more like a small store, really, with chairs and books and tables and bulletin boards).

The cold front went through yesterday with rain and a big lightning thunderclap from one storm cell that had a huge downpour in the center of it; Ben and Lucie were docking under the cell and told me they were entirely drenched in seconds when the rain started pouring down on top of them. I was a couple of miles away and so had a good view from the side, plus a small sprinkling of fresh water from that cell. It was quite clearly defined, classic squall but big, with a central column of dark water falling out the bottom.

And now it's 7:30AM (1430 UTC), time for the Sonrisa HAM net, which mostly features a 3 day weather forecast for the Baja Peninsula. The net is on 3968 LSB, and has an online presence at sonrisanet.org. What is particularly nice about this net is the real-time observations from the boats the check in, as there don't seem to be a lot of weather buoys in these parts. Being in a marina and surrounded by RF noise generators in the from of electrical transformers, microwave ovens, and AC motors makes it difficult to get reasonable HF reception.

So it's good morning from me, and good morning from Beetle.


IOR Geezer
12-22-2013, 07:38 PM
Times change. Thank god our neighbors to the south are not like Somalia.

Honey Badger
12-22-2013, 10:45 PM
You knew that when Mexicans could start to afford cruising, Mexico would cease begging tourists there, didn't you?

Charlie Tuna
12-30-2013, 10:24 AM
Rob has not updated since Dec 21, has he fallen victim to the Federales?

01-01-2014, 08:51 PM
I received a ping from Rob. He flew back to visit parents for the holiday and will return to Beetle this weekend.

All is well!

01-08-2014, 10:24 PM
Back in La Paz – it’s 2014

January 6, 2014

by rob macfarlane
I'm back in La Paz following a two week trip to Arizona to be with my parents for the holidays. First thing I did upon arrival at the marina was to stop by the small store to purchase a cerveza and was informed that I can't purchase beer (from a store) on Sundays after 3pm - no cerveza sales until 9AM Monday morning. Fortunately I had put a couple of cervezas in the ice box prior to departing for Arizona, so there was a nice chilled jar of ale waiting for me on board.

During my trip Beetle stayed in La Paz, and upon return I found everything on board to be in fine shape. The watermaker had continued to do its 5-day fresh water flush routine by running 4 gallons of fresh water from the port water tank through the membrane, therefore I did not need to pickle the watermaker and I'm pleased that the Spectra little watermaker controller computer did its job correctly.

Trip north consisted of riding the Marina Palmira shuttle van to town, walking around the corner to the Tourist Bus center, hopping on the 7 passenger shuttle and riding to Todos Santos, Cabo San Lucas, and 3-1/2 hours later being dropped off at the San Jose Del Cabo airport (SJD is the airport code). Jumped on board the 2-1/4 hour USAirways flight to Phoenix, and all was done.

Return trip was essentially the same in reverse, only I was able to catch the 2:30pm EcoBajaTour shuttle bus from SJD and our route was different - we went east and north through the mountains that separate Cabo from La Paz. This time we had cows on the road, and goats, and I think there was a sheep there as well. And I now know that cows do travel by pickup truck.

Arizona was a lot of fun, did a fair bit of work curating my insect collection and organizing drawers and replacing the fumigants to keep pesky dermestid beetles at bay, and Dad invited me to play some golf on the course. Also saw Javalina (wild piggies that travel in small groups through the desert and through the driveway and sometimes end up in the garage as they don't see very well), a big ol' road runner, and a number of very well fed coyotes.

Upon return to La Paz on Sunday I met up with a couple from Alaska at the SJD shuttle office and they were discovering the downsides to international travel when flying standby jumpseat (he is a commercial pilot in Alaska, and as such can travel jumpseat in the cockpit of affiliated airlines) and all flights are filled heading north and he can't find anything to get him (and his girlfriend) home. So they wound up taking the shuttle up to the airport in La Paz in hopes they could get to Tijuana and then to San Diego. I suspect that La Paz was the last place they expected to be when they headed for Cabo San Lucas for the holidays. I hope their adventure works out ok. It was particularly humorous when she asked me if I was sailing to Alaska any time soon and I said not just yet, and then shortly thereafter a camper van with Alaska license plates passed us headed north; those of use in the shuttle suggested they should jump into the camper and see if they were driving to Alaska...

Here in La Paz the plan is to re-provision the boat today (the ice box is pretty empty as all the fresh food from San Diego and points south has been consumed, with the small bit left over discarded prior to the run to Arizona), sort out a local cruising destination tomorrow and explore La Paz, and then head out to the Sea of Cortez on Wednesday.


The inside of the EcoBajaTour station at the bus terminal in La Paz is a pretty quiet place, you walk in the front (which is not conveniently labeled - I would have walked right by it had a fellow shuttle bus passenger pointed the building out. The buses are in the rear and completely invisible from the front, the front is painted blue and doesn't indicate that EcoBajaTours is located inside. I pre-purchased my ticket (420 pesos) and discovered EcoBajaTours uses PayPal for online payments.


The arrivals area at the airport in Phoenix is a busy place by comparison. After slow and easy travel by boat for 6 weeks it was a bit of a culture shock to walk out of the baggage claim door and smack into lane after lane of cars driving by. But good to be in Phoenix!


Kristen enjoying the sun while Gillis believes that cameras are things to be eaten, or at the least, taste-tested. Gillis is a Scottish Terrier and is still a puppy at 1 year old, he likes to charge around the place and chew on everything including pants, shoes, socks, and anything else left within reach (such as eye glasses). He is a lot of fun.


The wash out back at sunset, not a lot of water here right now but when it rains hard up in the surrounding foothills the water flows through here at an incredible rate. So don't pitch your tent in a desert wash, despite the ground being flat, sandy, and conveniently devoid of cactus.


And this is how cows travel in Baja these days. This cow isn't particularly plump, but it was happily chewing away on hay or alfalfa or something in the truck bed as we pulled up in our shuttle, then passed on by. I was expecting to see a cow or two on the road, but I did not expect to be sharing the road with one at high speed.


Beetle in the slip at Marina Palmira, a particularly nice place to be this morning. It's warm, not too dry and no too humid, with a slight breeze floating through. I can see why people speak so positively about this area.

Have fun today, it's off to get groceries.

- rob/beetle


January 8, 2014

At anchor at Isla Espiritu Santo
by rob macfarlane

It's nice to be out of La Paz and back on the water; today was motor-slowly-and-run-watermaker-to-refill-tanks day, and that worked out perfectly. 4 hours on the watermaker kicked out 32 gallons of water (less 4 for backflushing) and Beetle has fresh made water again. To do this I simply motored at low speed (3.7 knots or so) to make the trip from La Paz to the anchorage here at Baha San Gabriel take 6 hours, which it did. Sun is a short while from thinking about setting, anchor is down and set in 30' of what is supposed to be nice fine sand (visibility is at least 30', given how the anchor dropped through the water), and it's time for a nice fine ale.

Everything has gone well today, a simple one, no wind on the bay of La Paz to speak of, I have my CONANP park permit in the pocket in case I am asked for it by a park ranger (I'm in a Mexico National Marine Park), dinner will be good, and there are fine books to be read. I particularly like John Le Carre' (think Tink Tailor Soldier Spy, though that's not hte book I have). And there's even cellular connectivity here, so I can send in this note via the cellular modem and not have to consume SSB radio time via SailMail.

One thing that has everybody in a tizzy about here are the audits by the Mexico equivalent of the USA IRS. Apparently they are examining foreign boats in their marinas (and there are lots of boats) and one thing you're supposed to have here in Mexico is a TIP (Temporary Import Permit). Essentially a TIP allows you to bring in equipment for your boat without paying the 16% VAT duty, or whatever the import duty might be. It also allows you to leave the boat in Mexico while you temporarily visit home.

The TIP is actually designed for a car, and one thing it wants is your vehicle number (think VIN for US folks), and on a boat that's a HIN (Hull Identifiation Number) - which is small and lightly embossed into the transom when the hull was manufactured. The HIN numbers become erased over time as boats are sanded and repainted. But the auditors are looking to compare HIN numbers to the TIP (and presumably the USCG documentation paperwork) so I went and verified the HIN number of Beetle all lines up with everything, and as the transom HIN was erased when the transom was rebuilt, I went and re-embossed it into the transom. So hopefully no tizzys on Beetle if asked for paperwork, everything is in order.

Enjoy the evening, it's a nice one here in a small anchorage on the Bay of La Paz, at Espiritu Santo.

- rob/beetle

01-12-2014, 03:56 PM
It's nice to be out of La Paz and back on the water; today was motor-slowly-and-run-watermaker-to-refill-tanks day, and that worked out perfectly. 4 hours on the watermaker kicked out 32 gallons of water (less 4 for backflushing) and Beetle has fresh made water again. To do this I simply motored at low speed (3.7 knots or so) to make the trip from La Paz to the anchorage here at Baja San Gabriel take 6 hours, which it did. Sun is a short while from thinking about setting, anchor is down and set in 30' of what is supposed to be nice fine sand (visibility is at least 30', given how the anchor dropped through the water), and it's time for a nice fine ale.

Everything has gone well today, a simple one, no wind on the bay of La Paz to speak of, I have my CONANP park permit in the pocket in case I am asked for it by a park ranger (I'm in a Mexico National Marine Park), dinner will be good, and there are fine books to be read. I particularly like John Le Carre' (think Tink Tailor Soldier Spy, though that's not the book I have). And there's even cellular connectivity here, so I can send in this note via the cellular modem and not have to consume SSB radio time via SailMail.

One thing that has everybody in a tizzy about here are the audits by the Mexico equivalent of the USA IRS. Apparently they are examining foreign boats in their marinas (and there are lots of boats) and one thing you're supposed to have here in Mexico is a TIP (Temporary Import Permit). Essentially a TIP allows you to bring in equipment for your boat without paying the 16% VAT duty, or whatever the import duty might be. It also allows you to leave the boat in Mexico while you temporarily visit home.

The TIP is actually designed for a car, and one thing it wants is your vehicle number (think VIN for US folks), and on a boat that's a HIN (Hull Identification Number) - which is small and lightly embossed into the transom when the hull was manufactured. The HIN numbers become erased over time as boats are sanded and repainted. But the auditors are looking to compare HIN numbers to the TIP (and presumably the USCG documentation paperwork) so I went and verified the HIN number of Beetle all lines up with everything, and as the transom HIN was erased when the transom was rebuilt, I went and re-embossed it into the transom. So hopefully no tizzys on Beetle if asked for paperwork, everything is in order.

Enjoy the evening, it's a nice one here in a small anchorage on the Bay of La Paz, at Espiritu Santo.

- rob/beetle

January 8th

01-12-2014, 04:07 PM
Good morning - I arrived in Bahia San Gabriel Wednesday evening, and today it's Friday morning. Each day we've had the expected North wind blowing down the Sea of Cortez (northerly breeze), and each evening we've had what are called Coromuel winds in the area, and they are an interesting localized wind that reverses direction and blows from the South (southerly breeze). Northerly winds are great for the anchorage, as there's limited fetch due to protection from the island. Southerly winds are not so great, as the fetch is for miles and even 15 knots of wind will generate wind waves that make the boats bounce and hobbyhorse uncomfortably - up to 2' wind waves so far. That isn't a lot of wind (or waves) for that matter, but it is an interesting phenomenon. The anchor has done a good job of resetting on the wind shifts, and having chain down certainly takes some of the load off the anchor as the boat has to lift all the chain first as it pulls back before applying any load to the anchor itself.

Apparently the Coromuel happens when there is little wind pressure in the La Paz area (calm winds, for example) and the sea breeze comes up from the Pacific Ocean and funnels through several valleys that reach from the Pacific clear across Baja to La Paz. About midnight the ocean breeze pours in through the valleys and spreads out across La Paz bay - bringing slightly cooler temperatures, a bit more moisture, and a reversal in wind direction. Wednesday night had the strongest winds and come morning the 5 boats here in the anchorage are all bouncing around like crazy. Four left, I decided to stay as I hadn't explored the beach yet, and by 10AM the wind was gone and by Noon the cove was flat as a pancake. Plus I had the whole place to myself (well, there were two kayakers as well, but they were a long way away) which was kinda nice.

I can see the bottom here in 29' of water, so pretty nice visibility. The bottom is white sand, with clumps of darker seaweed rooted in the sand. Also visible are dark skates sitting on the sand (not good camouflage to be a dark square sitting oni a white background), and some interesting short green pipefish that are attracted to lights at night.

The beach is a very shallow approach, so I wound up walking the dinghy across 3 low sandbars to actually get to the beach. On shore there are lots of low trees in big clumps, and the sand is a hard-packed soft silty sand covering a hard pack sand underneath.

There is supposed to be an abandoned pearl farm in the south side of the cove. My plan is to wander over there today and see what that's all about, hang out for the day, and tomorrow move to another anchorage in the area.

Ben & Lucie on Georgia are now headed this way, they went up further north to explore while I was in Phoenix and I heard them on the radio this morning, headed south from Isla San Jose towards La Paz. They should be moving by sometime this afternoon, will be interesting to see if they elect to stop for the night in San Gabriel or continue on straight to La Paz.

A bunch of relatively solid cloud cover has appeared today, and there's even a hint of drizzle outside right now. Should be a nice day here, perhaps not as warm as yesterday. Weather call on the sonrisa SSB net is for 15-18 knots of breeze from the North today and tomorrow in the La Paz area.

- rob/beetle


The beach at San Gabriel cove, the dinghy is launched and Beetle is riding at anchor in almost no wind. The abandoned pearl farm is off to the right, and the sand continues on a long way to the right. I think a wide angle lens might be a good addition for the camera, as you can get a better sense of just how big these places are.


From the dinghy, Beetle looking like a tourist post card at anchor in the sun against the back drop of Isla Espiritu Santo. The green trees are just above the beach, and run back along the flat beach area and then stop where the hills start their climb up from the beach. Very rocky and hard terrain, except for the beach part which is much softer as the sand is so fine it is almost spongy to walk on.


And looking the other way, you can see clear across to the Pemex terminal at La Paz from the anchorage (where the wind is blowing from at night), and there are four very bright lights on the far shore that come on at night; might be a restaurant or hotel or something big on the Baja side well north of La Paz. Perhaps a resort? There were dolphins swimming through the anchorage last night, I could hear their quick breaths last night coming in from the moonlit water, but didn't actually see the dolphins, though I looked around a lot for them.

- rob/beetle

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Underwater critters

Went for a snorkel this morning to see what's in the water, and took along my small Olympus camera in its dive housing. In the deeper water right around the boat the water was quite filled with floating stuff and the camera didn't take any good pictures. So I ran in with the dinghy to 5' of water where it was sandy and plopped the dinghy anchor into the sand. Once in the water the visibility seemed a lot better than what was further out in the anchorage. Also found critters on the sand and along a small hard coral reef adjacent to the sand.

I spent some time playing with the Lightroom color controls to try and put some of the color back into the image that I was able to see. Mostly this involved changing the white balance and add contrast.


The coral part of the reef was the most interesting, with many more fish than out on the white sandy parts.


An interesting thin starfish with bright blue lines down the center of each leg. These were also out on the sand as well as on the coral.


Brown sea urchins with short spines were abundant, about 4" in diameter.


This small spiny porcupine fish was hiding in a scooped out bit of sand in the sandy areas. They have big eyes and watch you as you come by. When you get too close they swim away as fast as they can, which isn't very fast. This little fellow is perhaps 6" long, and has his tail curled up so he fits into the sandy depression. These are the guys that puff themselves up with water and turn into a balloon, with all the spines pointing out. Deceased ones wash up on the beach and look particularly strange.


This is a stingray covered in sand, just in front and to the right of my swim fin. He's covered himself in sand and you can just see his two eyes protruding from the sand. I saw two of these.


And this is what a Cortez (or Round) Spotted Stingray looks like when your fin gets too close and he decides to get up and move. He's kicked off the sand and has moved a few feet and set himself back down on the bottom.

Georgia has arrived and anchored out to starboard. My plan is to dinghy ashore this afternoon in the sun, and visit with Ben & Lucie later on.

- rob/beetle

January 10, 2014

01-12-2014, 04:18 PM
Turns out that in the SE corner of the bay is a Frigate Bird colony. What's surprising is that the birds are so large yet from the anchorage you have no idea there are hundreds of them hanging out in the small mangrove trees growing up from the man-made rock embankment of the abandoned oyster pearl farm.

Each morning one or two pangas have come into the cove and are ferrying people and kayaks, and they motor on over to the pearl farm rock wall and drop everyone off. A typical load might be two kayaks and four people, the pangas take off and then return that evening. What I'm seeing are the beach-front panga adventure tours bringing folks out to the island for the day.

Given how shallow the sandy beach area is, I figured they were dropping people off in a slightly deeper area of the bay, and I thought the pearl farm might be interesting to check out. So I ran over there the other evening right at sunset to see what might be there, and turns out there is a large frigate bird colony - tons of them, all hanging out in the low trees. We're talking dozens of birds per tree, perhaps more - these are big birds and it's pretty funny to see them all stuffed in there on top of each other.

From what I have read, the female birds have the white breast and head, the male birds are all back with a red gular pouch they can inflate (makes them look especially virile, provided you are a female frigate bird in search of a mate), and this is one of the colonies in the area. I don't know how many other colonies there might be, but this is at least one of them.

The birds appear to be quite un-bothered by people floating by in their kayaks (or dinghies, in my case), and one can float by and photograph them at roost in the trees. These are soaring birds, with enormous wing spans (six to seven foot span is typical), and are easily identified by the size, the sharp angular point in the front side of the wing, and the forked tail. In the sky the look for the all the world like a large black kite, only there's no string. Then an updraft swirls through dozens of the birds will form a fairly tight spiral and go round and round and round, climbing the updraft until they pop up way up there and then start to soar around the area.

Also bumped into a new fish (for me) called a Cornet fish. I was motoring slowly over the shallow sandy areas and saw a two foot long dark long thin animal and thought it might be a sea snake. Turns out it was one of these fish, and it was in water shallower than it was long. It also seemed to like the shadow of the dinghy, and would preferentially hang out under the dinghy - which made it difficult to see (I was in the dinghy, it wanted to be under the dinghy). A Cornet fish has a long tubular snout terminating in a short 3/4" opening mouth, and the one I was watching would turn upside down and poke its mouth at the sand, nibbling along in the sand, stirring up silt and perhaps looking for good things to eat that were hiding in the sand. When I touched the fish it took fright and shot off at high speed on the surface of the water, it's head above the water and thrashing the water with its tail, essentially water-skiing for a dozen yards before submerging.

On board all goes well, ran the Honda generator for a couple of hours yesterday to charge batteries and keep up with electrical consumption on board, cleaned up the interior and organized a bit by putting things away, have charged batteries for the video camera (used the camera for getting footage of frigate birds), and have refilled the sun shower which is now lying out on deck waiting for the sun to heat the water.

Today (Sunday) is the La Paz-based Club Cruceros monthly PHRF race, held outside the port of La Paz. Forecast is for 2 knots of wind, and so far the forecaster had it correct - there's no wind to speak of out on the bay. Ben & Lucie went over to La Paz yesterday and are going to meet some friends that are arriving from San Francisco (the folks flying in moved their boat to La Paz from the SF Bay Area and now come down to cruise when they have time). Four other boats are in the anchorage with Beetle, including Serafina, which was hauled out near Beetle at Baja Naval in Ensenada.

Enjoy the day!


the colony as seen from land. The pearl farm was in the pond to the left and the trees are growing out of the rocks that were placed to protect/create the pond. The trees are reasonably tall now and there are tons of birds in them. It's interesting how quiet the birds are, it's not at all like being around hundreds of sea gulls all squawking at each other, the frigate birds are quiet and land very badly - more like flopping into the tree branches. It's not unusual to see a bird make two or three passes to get the landing right and even then it's hit or miss.


A male frigate bird on the wing. You can see how pointy the forward edge of the wing is, and the red pouch at the chin. This fellow has his tail in a straight line, when they are maneuvering they fan out the tail and do a lot of steering with the two tail forks. Still doesn't make them alight in a tree gracefully.


A female frigate bird sitting in a tree with the wings folded up somewhat randomly. The wings are so big that they take some effort for the birds to get them under control, folded up, and lying along the backside. Watching them go through that effort reminds me of attempting to fold up a road map in the car - not easy to do. The beak is severely hooked, making them look like a raptor.

- rob

January 12, 2014

01-20-2014, 09:10 PM
It's another beautiful morning here in San Gabriel cove, at Espiritu Santo. Unfortunately, the house battery bank (consisting of four 6-volt deep cycle golf cart batteries) refuses to hold a charge and the voltage drops over half a day to not much left; this means the batteries are toast.

I talked with a fellow from TexMex Services (a marine business located in Marina Palmira) after the VHF 22A cruiser's net and he said the best place to get batteries is at the Quaker State distributor located 3 blocks up the road from Marina de La Paz (right in the heart of the La Paz waterfront). I'm going to run Beetle over to La Paz this morning, get the hook down, sort out how the dinghy dock works at Marina de La Paz, then walk over to the Quaker State folks and ask for 'bateria de golfo , quatro' and see what they say.

Should be fun! And hopefully they have some.

The existing batteries are US battery US145-XC and were installed in the boat in 2009. I would think I would get more than 5 years out of them, but that hasn't happened. TexMex said the LTH batteries made by Johnson Controls (a USA company) here in Mexico are really good batteries and I should be happy with them. Hopefully he is correct and the Quaker State folks have some!

Kristen is due to arrive in La Paz on Saturday for a couple of weeks cruising, and it would be nice if the house battery bank were sorted out before then.

Off to La Paz I go! :)

- rob/beetle

January 15

01-20-2014, 09:29 PM
That worked out super well. I left San Gabriel cove in the morning, motored slowly to La Paz in order to have two hours in the deeper and cleaner water away from shore for purposes of running the watermaker, then headed slowly down the channel to La Paz towards the anchorage. The anchorage is long and narrow, split left and right of the dredged channel, with fairly strong current flow when the tide is running, which it is right now as the moon is just after full and the sun and moon are working in opposition to pull the water in separate directions, leaving thin spots in between.

I spent 45 minutes poking about the anchorage trying to figure out where there was decent depth outside the channel, mindful of the big meeting Monday between the Port Captain, the marina, the Navy (apparently), and the cruising community; anchoring out is ok, do not be in the channel so we don't have collisions such as happened recently between a fish boat under tow and a sailboat anchored in the middle of the channel, don't block the marinas, don't block the municipal pier, and please replace wornout Mexico courtesy flags - it's disrespectful. Also please put on your anchor lights so the pangas don't hit you. And don't anchor where Doug (?) is, as he's in the channel right where the Port Captain doesn't want boats to be but he hasn't moved his boat yet.

I found a spot up at the north end of the bunch, launched the dinghy, tied up at Marina de La Paz which is right in the center of town, paid the lady at the office 15 pesos (dinghy dock and usage of the marina compound for the day - they have showers, laundry, trash service, a store, a restaurant, and just about anything else you'd need for the day) and asked her where Quaker State is? She pointed and says, "Go up one block, turn right, go one block, you can't miss the building." And she's right - it big and white and painted "Quaker State" on the outside. It also has a huge LTH battery sign at one end of the building - which must be as long as the entire block on Absolo (the street).

Inside the building is a bare concrete floor with a long counter with a bunch of people behind it, everybody has a person on my side of the counter that wants something. There's no showroom, just a giant wall of catalogs of stuff they have. People are coming out with boxes of things that are needed. A person looks at me and gestures that he's free, I ask if he has 'baterias de golfo, quatro?' He looks at me and asks, "You want golf cart batteries?" I say yes, please. And what are the case dimensions? We consult the catalog, the batteries are case size GCH (not quite as tall at 290mm as the GCH2 at 302mm that are in the boat, but they fill fit just fine otherwise). He is surprised that I want four; we triple-check this, yes, I do want four. He has four. Someone wheels them out on a big cart, I pay for them (and my cell phone immediately rings as the VISA graud group call to see if I paid for something at an automotive parts store in La Paz, Baja California Sur - yes I did). Another fellow pulls the small delivery truck over, we load up batteries and drive the two blocks back to the marina, and he helps carry the batteries down to the dinghy - now that's service! The batteries are also $250 less expensive than in the states, as they are made here and don't have to be imported and transported to San Francisco.

I now have batteries, took me less than an hour all up (thanks much to Tex Mex Services for pointing me at Quaker State), run out to the anchorage, transfer them to the cockpit, pull out the old battery bank (at which point the solar panel charge controller starts complaining as the panel is putting out power but there's nowhere to send the power, so I wrap a towel over/around the panel to kill its output, the charge controller stops beeping and clicking), pop in the new batteries, everything fits. They even have voltage. Could use more water in the cells, though - they are a bit lower than I like.

On goes the generator, on goes the charger, and we once again have a happy Beetle Boat. most amazing! I'm really glad I'm here and not sitting at anchor in Turtle Bay - that would have been a completely different story, as there are no golf courses in Turtle Bay. My thinking on batteries was partly driven by the idea that there are golf courses all over the world, where there are golf courses there are golf carts, and golf carts have batteries. If I can find a golf cart, it's a fair bet that I can also find a golf cart battery place nearby. And there are definitely golf courses in La Paz. Hopefully this idea works other places as well


Battery delivery device tied off to the boat. Swinging the battery onto the deck is interesting as the delivery device pushes away from the boat at the same time as you swing the battery. I think Newton has something to do with this, I must speak to him about it at sometimes it is most inconvenient. That's why the device is tied to the boat fore and aft.


New bank in the cockpit. At 31.9kg each they are heavy. One nice thing about using 6v batteries is you can move them; trying to shift a single 140 pound 12v battery would be a whole different story.


Old bank on its way out. Removal involves unscrewing the dinette base, unbolting the battery hold-down boards and two bolts that hold the battery box in place, shutting off power (and blocking solar panel), taking notes on how everything is connected, and disconnecting the wiring.


Old batteries on top of John New's towel that was left behind from Santa Barbara. I was certain I would find a use for that towel. He probably won't want it back now, I don't know how much battery acid got on the towel, but not a lot.


New bank installed and wired, hold-down boards and clean up to follow. Batteries fit just fine. Still need to write the install date on them.


On goes the AC generator in the cockpit. It's an unusual generator in that the case houses a motor, some sort of DC generator, and an AC inverter. The inverter output waveform is quite good and will drive computers and other things that are sensitive to input voltage. It doesn't use all that much fuel (about 1 gallon each 8 hours is what I'm finding).


On goes the charger, it's a 40 amp max unit that lives below the nav station seat, along with the winch handles and motor oils and things.


Voltage check time - charger is working great! Batteries are happy. I am happy.

Today's plan is to run trash ashore along with the old battery bank, delivery batteries to Quaker State and receive the core refund, obtain distilled water for the batteries, and then see what happens next.

- rob

January 16

01-20-2014, 09:35 PM

And Kristen enjoys a sunset from atop her beanbag chair 'Fred'. The wind is from the SW in this image, so she's looking away from the island with La Paz some 18 miles off to port.

"Kristen arrived in town a'la La Paz style, as in via planes and tour busses and a lengthy walk down the boardwalk to the marina; after a brief run-around to do the hunter-gatherer thing including a late night charge around La Paz in search of Ley's in Chuck and Kathy's rental car despite not knowing where the grocery store was and not having a map but finding it anyway (Chuck has amazing peripheral vision and cat-like response time), Beetle was been provisioned and we departed La Paz this morning for a 10 day cruise of the area. Our first stop turned out to be San Gabriel cove, mostly because Balandra cove is wide open to the NW breeze (forecast, and we have a bit now), and because the little cove just before Balandra was already hosting a very large motor yacht, so we moved on to here for the evening.

Back in La Paz we left behind a really big motor yacht Kogo; it's a 235' four deck power boat belonging to one of the top folks at TAG (think TAG Heuer watches). There's no way of knowing if the owner was on board if the boat was out on charter. Either way, it is a good looking boat. The boat was also too large to fit into any of the marinas, and instead was able to tie up to the municipal pier as an end tie.

Yesterday we joined Ben & Lucie and Charlie at a local bar/restaurant at Marina Cortez to watch the big football game on the television. Seattle defeated San Francisco, it was a good game dominated by defensive rushing that routinely got through to the other guys' quarterback. Interesting to watch an English broadcast (I think it was Fox) with the English replaced by Spanish announcers. As those of us watching didn't know much Spanish it was difficult to know what the announcers were talking about, but the strangeness did not get in the way of enjoying the game.

This this morning Beetle departed La Paz around 10AM, flat water and light to non-existent wind, resulting in a mellow 2-1/2 hour motor over to San Gabriel cove. There are 4 other boats here, fairly spread out across the place so lots of room between each boat - makes things relatively quiet. Kristen and I took turns snorkeling in two different areas of the cove, and I took another bunch of underwater photos; there's a chance some of them came out and I will know shortly.

Generic plan is to wander up to San Evaristo and then Puerto Escondido, stopping along the way at places that look interesting. Kristen and I have our CONANP park permits, and hopefully the weather will cooperate and make this a pleasant sight seeing visit through the area."


Kogo comes with a crew of 21 and if the brochure is to be believed, consumes 107 gallons fuel per hour while traveling in cruise mode at 14 knots. This is what it looks like on the municipal pier as an end-tie. That certainly put the whole gang right in the center of town!


Kristen headed out in the dinghy to explore the cove. San Gabriel cove is nice and flat and fairly empty, certainly when compared to the anchorage in La Paz. Beetle is hook down in 25' of water, plenty of scope out on the all-chain rode.


There are interesting shiny red flattish crabs on the rocks. They are pretty quick, too. I sneaked up on these critters from underwater while snorkeling, lifting up the camera to get a picture before they scurried away to the other side of the rocks

January 20


01-23-2014, 11:08 AM
The weather here at Espiritu Santo is flat flat flat, with less wind expected later on today and tomorrow. We also have sun, and the should be a warming trend with temperatures just above 80 during the afternoon.

Yesterday was lots of snorkeling all over the place as Kristen and I bipped about San Gabriel cove in the dinghy and taking turns in the water (which is a bit chilly, keeping the dives at 20-30 minutes each followed by a warm-up in the sun from the dinghy while the other person is in the water). The dinghy is working out well for that and we're getting better at getting into the dinghy from the water.

Today Beetle will be departing San Gabriel and moving up to the North end of the island to a cove that is bounded to the north by Isla Partida and from the south by Isla Espiritu Santo. The cove itself (Caletea Partida) is apparently the remnants of a volcano crater that is (according to the guide book, at least, extinct - let's hope it remains that way, eh?) that you are anchoring inside of, and offers beaches, snorkeling, and a lot of protection from swells. It's not that far to the cove, about 6 miles in a direct line, though we will take a bit longer and motor slowly along in order to get away from the island and spend a couple of hours running the watermaker to put some fresh water back in the tanks. The sun shower has been receiving a workout, fill in the morning and lay out in the sun while we go snorkeling, then in the afternoon use the now-hot water to rinse off the salt.


Best image so far of the porcupine fish (known locally as balloon fish) that run around the area. They are pretty cute and let you get quite close to them before skittering off to hide beneath a rock or in the coral formations.

- rob

Jan 22

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Well, here we are in a volcano's crater - we have seen sea turtles floating around (at least one particularly large individual, though it could be more than one), high speed pangas in the dark going to the fish camp on the sand spit that joins the two islands, there are three other boats in here with us. It's real quiet tonight, and interesting. Lots of cactus in the surrounding rocky walls, and the walls are really tall so you do kind of feel like you're in a crater. Conveniently the west side of the crater is missing as otherwise Beetle would not have gotten in here.

We are considering staying here tomorrow, or possibly heading up to Islan San Francisco with it's crescent shaped bay and associated beach. For sure we will go visit the beach here tomorrow (the sand spit) and see what the dozen shacks forming the fish camp are like up close and personal.

Elsewise a nice day on the water, ran the watermaker for 3 hours on the way here from San Gabriel so we have reasonable water on board, Kristen kicked out a killer pasta dinner, and the genset is running a bit just now to keep the batteries up whilst working with all the computers on board.

Enjoy the evening! As a note, we are no longer within cellular tower range, therefore this note is going out via HF radio and SailMail, which translates into text and no images. We are taking pictures, but the bandwidth over HF radio is too slow to really make image sending a reasonable thing to be doing. Hopefully I will add pictures later when higher speed connectivity is available.

- rob & kristen & beetle

January 22

01-30-2014, 09:20 PM
This morning finds Beetle happily at anchor on the 30' shelf at the south side of Ensenada Grande, a relatively large cove at the north end of Isla Partida. We decided to move here to avoid the wind that funnels through the gap between Partidaand Espiritu Santo and blows across the anchorage at Partida cove. We moved the 4 miles or so over to Ensenada Grande only to find just as much wind but a wider anchorage; that's ok, the wind generator makes good power with 15 knots of wind.

At Partida, first thing in the morning, we dinghied through the gap between the sand & rock spits that separate the two islands and went over to the east side of Espiritu Santo. The guide book mentioned some sea caves there, and we motored along slowly to watch the ever-changing geologic structure of the cliffs. The east side of the island is quite different than the west side, I imagine because of the pounding the east side gets from the northerly winds and seas that come down the Sea of Cortez. The west side, where Beetle has been, is fairly shallow, lots of sand (almost like an alluvial fan), and nice beaches. The east side is vertical towering cliffs with huge rocks and boulders that have cascaded down to the water. No beaches (or minimal beaches) and lots of enormous cliffs, some of which overhang as you go under them in the dinghy.

We did find two sea caves, and went into both with the dinghy. Neither was particularly long or large, and both would have made great attractions at Disneyland as the water is super clear (no suspended sand), colorful fish swimming beneath the boat, and lots of large smooth round rocks embedded in the matrix overhead and going way way up. It looks like the sea water has washed away the matrix that holds the rocks in place (over time), leaving the two caves behind. The first cave had layers and layers of horizontal rock shelves, each of which looked very precarious; one good earthquake and the whole thing looked like it would come tumbling down. The second cave was not so tall but a bit deeper (perhaps 40' into the rock), and it had a narrow pebble beach inside at the end. There were also some gaps to the right side that let in sunlight, so the cave was well-lit and most Disney-like.

Outside the caves the water went very deep quickly and we saw a bunch of rays leaping out of the water; I think there is a ray here called a 'Mobius' ray (or similar), these guys we saw were 3-4' across the wing tips and would hop up out of the water, sometimes horizontally, sometimes vertically, sometimes all at once and sometimes in pairs of singly. We motored over to be in their area, turned off the motor and floated about with them for a good half hour. There were at least four of them repeatedly going through the hopping behavior. The best part is they hop out and they continue to flap their wings/fins as if they were swimming. They will get easily a body length above the water, and on especially prodigious hops will get even higher. Out they come, flap flap flap, and 'plop!' back in they go most often as a belly-flop big splash. We were hearing them last night and thought at first we were hearing pelicans feeding at night (which makes no sense as it was pitch black), and now I suspect we were hearing the rays flopping about the place. Someone needs to help out the rays, as they are not doing well at flying; one could now say that some things have the flight characteristics not of a brick but of a ray.

Later that afternoon we up-anchored and motored two coves up to be here at Ensenada Grande, got the hook down well, and late in the afternoon went ashore briefly before the sun set. There is one large eco-tourist camp/shack site here on the center beach (we are off the beach to the right of that), with pangas bringing in people and taking out people. This must be the popular spot to bring people to from La Paz. There is a marked trail from the beach head up to the ridge, with CONANP signage along the trail (in both Spanish and English, which is helpful).

Thoughts today are to hang here and explore, then tomorrow head over to Isla San Francisco and the big beach/bay there. Kristen and I experimented last night with anti-panga lighting, and came to the conclusion that the small L.L.Bean LED lights will work well; Beetle already had one, it runs on four AA batteries (I have rechargeable batteries), and features a flashing red light that is readily visible across an anchorage in the dark. I figure that one of these hung at each end of the boat will let a panga person know there is something unusual in front of him if he's blasting along in the dark through the anchorage (which the idiot panga people do), and to pay attention. Accidents with pangas running into anchored boats are rare, but not rare enough, so the Port Captain at La Paz wants people to hang extra lighting at deck level in the anchorage. I believe the LLBean LEDs will be an improvement over the LED christmas tree lighting I've been trying out; Kristen has ordered three of them and will bring them down to Beetle the next time she visits.

We are also having sea turtles, rather large what I think hare hard-shelled green sea turtles. They are difficult to get a picture of as they like to poke their head up briefly (you hear a big 'PUFF' as they exhale, that's how you know which way to look), and then they are back under the water. I have lots of photos of places where turtles once were. Just like I have lots of photos of ray-splashes where the rays just were. Good thing I'm using a digital camera as I'm not burning through rolls of film recording places where animals used to be!

This morning it is quite calm in the anchorage, there is some breeze building again, the sun has made it up over the ridge to starboard and now the solar panel and wind generator are helping to keep up with electron consumption.

And now back to the serious business of getting a turtle picture; there are turtles here, my job is to actually photograph a turtle - not just the ring in the water where the turtle just was.

- rob

January 24, 2014

01-30-2014, 09:24 PM
Greetings, radio fans (and this note is going out over SSB radio) - Beetle has been having a very nice time on the hook here in San Evaristo, on the Baja peninsula, located along the San Jose channel. Visibility has been phenomenal: from the anchorage we can look out and see Isla San Jose just across the channel, Isla San Francisco some miles to the south, Espiritu Santo and Isla Partida (from which we arrived Monday noon-ish), and out to the south east the very tops of the peaks of Isla Cerralvo are easily picked out against the morning sky.

San Evaristo is a small fishing community, though a bit more than a mere fish camp as there are real structures here, houses built of cinderblock with glass windows as compared to bits of plywood nailed to driftwood covered with a tarpaulin. There is a really large AC generator on the beach that is part of the desalinator system, a store (tienda) that has quite a variety of things, though in small quantity, and a two room school complete with basketball hoop. There is even a palapa and 'RESTAURANT' (according to the sign) and they have semi-chilled Modelo Especial (not the greatest beer, but they do have it!).

There are 7 boats in the anchorage tonight, at least two of which appear to be long term resident boats - and I believe that one of them (Willful Simplicity) is the home for a school teacher somewhere in the area.

There is zero cellular telephone connectivity in the area. The locals use the VHF radio to stay in touch with each other, so we hear about who has lettuce and tomatoes, whose uncle is home but sleeping right now, and do we know if a particular panga that left this morning is back yet? Georgia is also here in the anchorage, and we use the VHF as well to keep in touch. We've been trading breakfast and dinners between the boats, this morning Kristen made up eggs and soy chorizo and cheese and bacon and toast and butter and jelly and Lucie brought over fresh oranges picked up the prior day at the tienda. Charlie the dog joined us as well for breakfast as the sun was just up above the horizon to bring in the nice toasty day. Dinner the prior night was on Georgia: chicken mole' and salad, most good.

Kristen has been snorkeling in the cove and getting photographs of fishes, I have been out walking in the arroyos, and went over to check out the large evaporated sea water salt ponds in the adjacent cove. Also met the local cow on the road, it had sharp pointy horns and didn't seem too surprised to see me, I was somewhat surprised to turn the corner on the dirt road leading to the school to find a large cow just standing there in the middle of the dirt road. It walked by me and made a right turn. Today I was walking up an arroyo and came upon a burro that was eating leaves from a low tree; it studied me, I studied it, it clip-clopped about thirty feet away to stand beneath another tree and continue eating. And the folks in town use horses for transport, not just for fun. It seems that about half the houses have a car (there are 20 houses or so), and the others have horses. It's kinda fun to walk up from the beach and there goes a fellow by on his horse, cutting the corner between two roads, and he's wearing full-on cowhide chaps and big wrap around leather plates to protect his legs and the horses flanks from all the cactus and sharp pointy plant bits that are everywhere in the desert. Lots of sharp stickery plants 'round these parts.

General plan is to head over to Isla San Jose tomorrow (Wednesday) to investigate the mangroves there, and Thursday spend the night at Isla San Francisco with the huge beach.

I've been participating in the Sonrisa HAM net, it's up on 3968 lower side band at 7:30AM local time (14:30GMT), and Baja Geary gives those in attendance a 12-15 minute rundown of the weather and the forecasting for the Sea of Cortez. We are expecting same conditions tomorrow as we had today (12-15 knots breeze from the NW), and then a 6-10 knot southerly wind on Thursday. Doesn't sound too bad to me.

All is well on board, it is evening now (8pm local time), and there is tons of activity in the water after dark; the copepods all come out, squid are hovering about, all sorts of little crabs and segmented worms are swimming about (yes, there are swimming crabs, the fish seem to like them), and it's pretty cool to sit out on the side deck with a bright flashlight and watch this big soup of activity happening just feet away. That and the stars have been pretty amazing to watch, as the community doesn't have a lot of lights, which makes the sky really black plus the moon is mostly a late-rising crescent and that leaves the entire sky wide open to star watching.

Enjoy the evening!

- rob

January 28, 2014

01-30-2014, 09:26 PM
We've had a pleasant sail today, traveling under main-alone from the fishing village of San Evaristo essentially straight across the channel to Isla San Jose on the eastern side of the channel. There's a long flowing beach there set behind an outcropping of rocky shore, and we were interested in the navigational aids set on the point... apparently the big concrete looking painted horizontally red and white stripes was wiped out in a hurricane, to be replaced (in 2012 according to the guide book) with a spindly looking rig supporting a light (think of a hi-tension power line support pole with a light on top) set directly in front of the big concrete structure. There is also supposed to be an abandoned evaporating salt pond operation in behind the lights, only it was windy enough in the channel to make stopping and going ashore to explore not so tempting.

Instead we sailed south along parallel to the beach down to the mangroves at the south end of the island, but the north wind continued to not cooperate for stopping, therefore we continued on down to the next island and swing into the anchorage here. It's a wide anchorage with good protection from the north as regards waves, with some wind protection behind the tallish rocks on the north side of the bay. Currently we've got 6 boats in here with us, the wind is still blowing intermittently across Beetle as gusts make it around the rocks.

Kristen and I launched the dinghy shortly after arriving and popped over to the steep-to beach, and found that the 'sand' is mostly small gravel that when wet acts as a soft spongy material that is actually difficult to walk through as you simply sink into it - most interesting. Above the beach is a parallel sand dune that runs the full length of the cove, and beyond that is a depression that is completely filled with salt - one big salt pan. There was a fair bit of fresh water in some areas of the salt, perhaps left over from the light rain the other night. Though it would be difficult to characterize fresh water in a salt bucket as 'fresh', as that water would have to contain a high degree of salt, or so one would think.

It's been a quiet day overall, good sailing, and now the sun is setting behind the peaks off to the west. The sky has been really clear all day, so we should have good stars tonight. One thing I'm hoping to do is spend some time looking for polar-orbiting satellites, they are visible shortly after sunset as tiny dots that speed along very quickly. The trick is to look for them when they are still high enough to be lit by the sun, while at the same time the sun is down far enough to make the sky go black.

Georgia is not in the anchorage with Beetle tonight, as they elected to keep on sailing over to Isla Partida and see some of the anchorages they have not yet visited. The plan is to hook up with Georgia on Saturday in La Paz and perhaps have a nice dinner out with everybody.

All is well on Beetle, hope all is well for everyone else.

- rob

January 29, 2014

01-30-2014, 09:29 PM
It's been a fun day today, what with whipping out of Isla San Francisco and popping around to the east side and then up north to the reverse side of the place we were yesterday - the big mangrove area at Isla San Jose. Oddly enough we elected to anchor at the south entrance to the mangroves despite the south breeze - though it was forecast to be only light south breeze. And the anchor held just fine, wind waves eventually built to perhaps a foot so nothing to get too excited about.

With dinghy launched, Kristen and I headed for the break in the sea wall that marks the south entry bar, and had some fun motoring uphill (literally) as the water came pouring out of the mangrove area. These are big mangroves, covering a lot of square miles of water that are draining out rapidly enough to create something of a rapids, plus the water level inside the sea wall was noticeably above the water outside the sea wall and the bottom was mostly large stones that one would not want to run a prop into. So we were uphill salmons and ran the motor extra hard (yet carefully) to make it up and over the rapidly outflowing water and shallow rocky bottom.

Inside the mangroves we tooled along slowly, watching fish, and not finding too many birds. We did see two birds that were possibly storks as they had interesting curved beaks. Will have to check on that later this evening. What we did find inside were four large black Zodiac inflatables with names like 'Puffin' driven by people wearing inflatable lifevests standing up aft adjacent to the outboard as they watched over a flock of yellow kayaks spread across the alley ways through the mangroves. Turns out we had met up with the National Geographic Seabird boat, currently in town from Alaska. They offer some sort of guest small-group expedition/tours, and they were in town. We talked with the ship's doctor as he paddled by in his kayak, he lives in Bellingham and joins the expedition boat part time; he thought it was a lot nicer to be here in the Sea of Cortez in a kayak rather than in Bellingham, way up north with the rain and cold.

After visiting the mangroves we upped-anchor and headed over to Isla Partida, motoring into the light southerly breeze. On the way we found a large floating sea turtle, the first one I've seen where the entire shell was above water, which makes the turtles look for all the world like an upside down saucer such as one would use for sliding downhill on the snow. Only the turtles are beigy-brown, not aluminum silver. And I may have finally picked up a proper turtle photo. Also learned there are at least two kinds of boobies here, the ones that dive vertically into the water from great heights (as seen here in Ensenada Grande), and the ones that fly along just above the water and then suddenly dip and slam into the water horizontally (as featured at San Evaristo).

As one approaches Isla Partida from the north the first thing you actually run into are the twin rocky lumps of Los Islotes and the sea lion colony that hangs out there. Quite a few sea lions there, I bet these guys are a lot warmer than their friends at Pier 39 in San Francisco. You can get reasonably close to the rocky uprisings as they are near-vertical with plenty of water nearby. In fact it is so deep at the islands that the CONANP park people have installed a dozen mooring balls for use by the pangas that bring out snorkel and scuba divers to the rocks.

And now Beetle is at anchor here off the north beach of Ensenada Grande, the sun has just dipped below the hills to the west, and it is once again time for satellite spotting. Last night we saw two, perhaps there will be more tonight!

- rob

January 30, 2014

02-04-2014, 10:02 AM
It has been a nice tour of the local islands with Kristen, and now Beetle has returned to the anchorage in La Paz. I have been participating in the morning Sonrisa HAM net (I am KI6HFC - kilo india six hotel foxtrot charlie), and the net mostly exists for purposes of disseminating Baja Geary's pacific coast of Mexico weather information. The group is also keen to see the Seahawks win the super bowl - lots of sign offs end with 'go hawks!'. As a result, I am going to look around and see if there is going to be a super bowl party in town that features an English language television broadcast, despite the fact that I am not much of a football fanatic.

There have been two issues so far with the boat, the first has been solved and the second is a work in progress.

The first one was a squeak in the steering wheel system, along with a slight clunk that would transmit through the wheel to your hands, and a 'PONG' noise that occasionally filtered up from the geared chain drive. Turned out the key connecting the quadrant chain to the steering wheel shaft was not a perfect fit, allowing some play to develop between the toothed chain drive gear and the shaft. I disassembled the unit at San Gabriel cove, found the loose key, and after consultation with Ben (on Georgia) I cleaned the metal with gasoline (a super solvent for grease and oil) and applied a small amount of JBWeld to the key and reinserted the key, and then did not touch the wheel for the next 12 hours. The JBWeld epoxy cured, and now no more play in the key. The squeak was caused by the rear pillow block bearing being slightly loose, a quick turn of two bolts with the socket wrench fixed that. Steering is once again crisp and silent.

The second issue is potentially worse, and that's well underway as regards sorting out. The problem is the main engine-driven alternator is not always putting out power to recharge the batteries; historically when the engine is one the batteries are always held at float voltage (at a minimum), and that has not always been the case the last couple of weeks - in fact this problem could go all the way back to high voltage noticed when traveling down the coast from San Diego in November.

The charging circuit consists of three components:alternator, ample power smart alternator regulator V2, and ample power energy monitor &regulator controller. The alternator has demonstrated it can kick out 60+ amps (it did so yesterday after using the electric windlass to lift the anchor) so I know the alternator is good. There is a field coil input on the rear of the alternator that could have been loose, and two days ago I replaced the electrical connection with a better female quick-disconnect spade connector. So I know the field wire connection is good.

The batteries themselves are effectively two 12v units, connected in parallel via a battery switch such that both batteries see the house load and charging input. When I checked the battery voltage with my Blue Seas volt & clamp ammeter in order to verify the voltage as read on the Emon II - and discovered that one battery was floating way above the other (e.g., 12.94v vs 12.6v). Ahah! The battery switch had failed in the 'ALL' position, such that only one battery was being used for the entire house. Ouch. I rewired the battery cables to bypass the switch, also cleaned up the cable lugs with the Dremel tool (again, the Honda generator is great for this as I was able to use several 100watt AC work lights and the Dremel tool with all 12vDC disconnected). After reconnecting the cables I then used the Honda to power the 40amp AC battery charger to bring up the now 'single' house bank.

The SAR V2 is controlled by the EMon II, and it is entirely possible the EMon is not sending the correct signals to the SAR V2. I have the manual for the EMon and have been going through all the regulator control settings to see if something is not right, and so far have turned up nothing.

By being back in La Paz, I could then use my telephone and internet connection to find the telephone number for Liem at LTD Marine in Alameda - he's the electrical system guru in the area. I telephoned him yesterday and he gave me some information on troubleshooting the system (e.g., how to rewire the SAR V2 to bypass the EMon control feature), and pointed out the SAR V2 was at least 15 years old. I asked Liem how he's setting up boats today, and he said to use the SAR V3, do NOT control it with the energy monitor unit (which isn't made any more, either), and that's what he does.

Today is going to be some troubleshooting of the SAR V2 - mostly meaning I change the wiring to let the SARV2 work automatically, without input from the EMon unit - and see what I can find out. Having the small Honda generator on board means it is possible to keep the batteries up and charged even without the main engine working...

And now the La Paz cruiser's morning VHF net is over, and we're off to the EcoBajaTour bus station so Kristen can see about her ticket for tomorrow morning, and then it's over to the Club Cruzeros club house to pick up flat mail that Kristen can post from the states.

Over and out for the moment.

- rob

February 1, 2014

02-04-2014, 10:12 AM
It's been a good couple of days here on board Beetle. Liem was able to email over the wiring diagram for stand-alone mode operation of the Ample Power SAR V2 alternator regulator, which didn't look very much like how I had the unit wired to work when controlled by the Emon II unit - I'm glad I didn't try to rewire it based on the SAR V3 wiring diagram that I do have. After rewiring and doublechecking everything, I fired up the engine and the alternator started kicking out tons of power - 60 amps at 14.2 volts and then eventually settling at 8 amps 13.6v, a good float voltage. Upshot is the engine/alternator/regulator is working correctly and can manage the house batteries. Liem is sending down to La Paz the new SAR V3 regulator, it is due to arrive at his shop in Alameda California today or tomorrow, Kristen will get the unit over to friends Sylvia and Tom, and Sylvia is dragging the unit in her luggage to La Paz, hopefully to arrive next week on their way to Cinnabar. I will swap out regulators and retain the SAR V2 as a spare.

Watching the super bowl was something of a different experience; the selected place was up the street from 'Fritz' at a place called 'Tail Hunter - a frinking and dishing establishment'. Turned out Fritz didn't get their English television feed worked out, whereas Tail Hunter did. Tail Hunter is a restaurant/bar set up for the big game fishing folks, and has the feel of a sports bar only you can sit in tall chairs on the sidewalk and they have several televisions that are mounted to the outside of the building - as you are watching the game cheering on whoever has the ball (did not make me popular with the Broncos people when the Seahawks did something good, and the Seahawks did not like me too much when the Broncos did something good) people are walking up the sidewalk right through where you're sitting. I had met a crewmember (paid) from one of the huge powerboats up at Marina Costa Baja and he'd said the crews from two other big boats had tables reserved at Tail Hunter to watch the game and had it on good authority that the game would be in English. Too bad the red guys got so badly trounced, and good on the Hawks for doing so well.

I had the interesting experience of going to the bus station by boat; have never done that before. Kristen needed to catch the 9AM EcoBajaTour bus bound for San Jose Del Cabo, and the bus terminal is a long walk from the marina, especially when pulling a large case with small black wheels through the lumpy, sometimes broken, and pot-holed sidewalks - not too mention the severe up/down stair step effect of how the sidewalks are constructed (people here do not seem to go in for sloping ramps but rather for abrupt elevation changes of a foot or more to handle changed in ground height)... so we decided to do the run ashore in the dinghy and land at the sandy beach directly in front of the bus terminal. Only the wind was up which meant the waves were up, which made it interesting to keep her bag dry during the landing - success was had, and two fellows sitting on the short seawall offered to help get her suitcase up and over the seawall.

Then it was back to to the boat to work on the regulator, which worked.

On our way in to La Paz we went through a ton of animal life just outside the port entrance - sea lions playing shark with their fins in the air, Boobies diving from terrific heights to plunge vertically into the water while chasing fish, and schools of rays tooling along just beneath the surface. We saw more critters in that 45 minutes than we did for most of the trip. And we finally got good photographs of sea turtles and hopping rays!

Beetle is once again anchored out in front of Marina de La Paz, 250 feet closer to the marina entrance than before. The weather forecast calls for the wind to lay down all across the area starting tomorrow morning, which makes for perfect go-north conditions. Today is Beetle prep day, refuel the diesel, refill outboard motor gas jugs, throw food on board, and get ready for heading out tomorrow morning. Tonight is darts night at La Costa restaurant (friendly game of group cricket) and I will aim to be there for a while, and will have some pizza at the good pizza place just before that.

All is good on board Beetle Boat, sun is up, crispy clear sky, and I've been working on taxes (downloaded forms, turbo tax software, and instructions), monthly budget stuff, and everything is working out fine.


A big turtle is out sunning him (or her) self out on the Bay of La Paz. This fellow was out in the middle of nowhere, in calm conditions, and was floating with his shell way up out of the water - long enough for the shell to dry off and presumably get toasty warm in the sun. When the turtles see you they turn their head to inspect, and then usually slowly submerge. If startled, they flail their flippers and don't dive quite so gracefully as the Boobies.


Here's a Boobie in mid-descent from well above mast height, so that's at least 65 feet off the water. Turns out they do not have nostrils in the front of their beaks, and instead have nostrils towards the rear of the beak that has a self-closing flap - this is why they do not have to hold their noses when they strike the water, unlike us people. The birds hit hard enough that they go down for several seconds before popping up like a cork, hopefully with a fish in their beak.


And here he is doing the missile thing, about to slam into the water. This guy would make a fine Olympic diver as they leave almost no splash as they go in.



At the other end of the spectrum are these rays, they are really poor fliers and make tremendous splashes as they land. And being plankton feeders, they probably don't need to make sneak attacks from above to catch their prey. This guy really looks like he's trying hard to be a bird but is concentrating too hard on the landing and is not paying enough attention to the flying aspects of being a ray. They make lots of noise all night long as they go flip - plop out of and back in to the water. I sure wonder why they are doing this, as it must take a lot of energy to launch that far.

Have fun!

- rob

February 4, 2014

Charlie Tuna
02-04-2014, 10:58 AM
I thought you said "boobies"

IOR Geezer
02-04-2014, 09:52 PM
In the 60's, there were boobies flying everywhere.

02-09-2014, 01:37 PM
Today finds Tiger Beetle returned to the anchorage at Isla San Francisco. I got a bit of a late start from La Paz and ran out of daylight for getting up to San Evaristo, so instead pulled in here. Had a fine motor in no wind for many hours, then the breeze filled in from the right at 8-12 knots, just enough right to put up the main and no. 2 and stay on course. Beetle does like to sail, and we even passed a sailboat, he is now anchored behind Beetle - most likely on the same 5 fathom shelf that all the other boats are on (there are 12 boats in total here, so up a few from the first time last week).

The reason for the departure delay from La Paz... was the Missing Oar. The port oar fell off the dinghy when I was motoring back from the sand spit beach just before sunset, and I did not realize it until after tying up to the boat and turning around to turn off the outboard... and no oar. Rats! I then went back out and searched for quite a while. No oar. It is a two-part aluminum tube with a plastic blade and plastic handle, so in theory it could have floated for a while.

A dinghy with only one oar, particularly a 3.1 meter rubber one, is not easy to row. I checked around on the La Paz cruiser's net this morning. There are no Achilles dinghy dealers in the area, no one had a line on where to get a matching oar, and nobody would cop to the idea that perhaps they had already lost one oar and would want to sell/trade their lone oar to me. So they must have kept their lone oar, much as I kept my lone oar, or perhaps never lost on in the first place. Losing an oar is no fun. Suddenly you are pretty much dependent on the idea that the outboard will work all the way to the beach and all the way back to the boat. At least I have an anchor in the dinghy in case the outboard decides to stop (though the anchor is really more for holding the boat in one place while snorkeling).

Turns out that the Dinghy Doctor in San Diego has Achilles dinghies on his show room floor, and he was willing to pull a pair of oars off a show room model and make them available to me. That's in San Diego. How to get an oar from San Diego to La Paz? (Brian at Dinghy Doctor thought it was pretty interesting to be talking to a potential customer in La Paz). Turns out that Ben is flying to San Diego tomorrow. And Ben was gracious enough to take some time out to fetch a cardboard box containing two dinghy oars and bring them back with him. It's amazing what one can do with a telephone and internet connectivity...

So that all took until 10AM this morning, so I got a late start, and did not get all the way to San Evaristo in one go. One the way here I was passed by a half-dozen big white sided dolphins, they were going fast and liked to surf along in the boat's wake, taking turns to ride in towards the transom as they followed on the 'V' shaped waves Beetle generates. That was really fun to watch, as there was plenty of sun slanting into the water to make it really easy to see the animals zooming about, and they seemed to take turns riding up the wake to the transom, then ducking out of the way and letting the next dolphin come in. Also saw numerous big whale spouts near Isla San Francisco. I did not see any whale tails, which makes it unlikely these fellows were Humpback whales. There are supposed to be Blue whales up in these parts, and these were big whales - so perhaps it was a group of Blues moving south down the channel.

And the Boobies are at it again, as are the Mobula rays doing their hip/hop/flop thing.

Now that I'm here, I'm thinking to stay here again tomorrow and do some more exploring of the salt pan/pond behind the beach dune, and enjoy the scenery. It's supposed to be more windy Thursday, and then mostly zero wind Friday - so this is likely to be a fun place to be for a couple of days and it will be interesting to explore.


- rob

PS - we're back on SSB email, so no images are going out with notes for the next couple of days.

February 5, 2014

02-09-2014, 01:38 PM
Last night was a ton of fun here in the anchorage at Isla San Francisco. The copepods were up in force (tonight I'm going to try and catch some and look at them carefully), a sail boat anchored nearby was running underwater lights that cast an enormous blue-tinged light all around their transom, and this attracted birds, fish, and then the sea lions were everywhere. The water was phosphorescent, it was quite dark even though the moon was still up a bit, and it was lots of fun to sit on the foredeck and listen to the big splashes from the big furry mammals charging around the anchorage in the dark. It alsmot sounded like a whale came in to the anchorage, that's how quiet it is here with no breeze and how loud the sea lions are when the exhale. The result was a lot of people got up on deck to find out what all the commotion was, as the sea lions are so large that their body mass shifts aside a lot of water when they go charging around after fish - all the boats started bouncing, halyards were clanging, and then a lot of heads popped up to try and figure out what was going on - quite funny in retrospect, though at the time I was actually concerned that a whale had really come in to the anchorage. There are more than a few anchor lines down, and I know of one boat (way back in San Francisco) that actually did manage to lasso a grey whale calf with their anchor line and got towed towards the rocks before they cut the anchor line to release the whale. I was wondering if we would see something like that last night, as the boats were sure moving around a lot!

And sea lions do not like having bright spot lights shined in their faces - they dive quick when that happens.

This morning I listened in on the weather net, should be light air today from the ENE then building to 18 from NE Friday and Saturday, which sounds pretty reasonable to me. Being this far north of La Paz may help to escape the occasional coroumel S winds that come out of La Paz, as last night we did not have anything like that - calm and quiet instead.

Today I'm charging camera batteries then will run ashore and explore the salt pond. I'm hoping that there will be a more-sandy beach at the south end of the anchorage, as it was essentially impossible to get the dinghy up and clear of the water at the west beach due to the quick-rock nature of the little pebbles that make up the beach; all I did was sink into the little pebbles, and then the dinghy wheels did the same thing, and then the dinghy could not be dragged up and out of the water. The beach shelf looks to be a flatter angle on the south side, and perhaps there is more sand and fewer pebbles there.

And National Geographic Seabird arrived in the anchorage this morning, they've been busy lowering the big rubber shore boats from the top of their three story ship.

Have fun today!

- rob

February 6, 2014

02-09-2014, 01:39 PM
It's been a fine day here at the anchorage - wind held around 10 knots, sun was out to make things toasty, and I spent the day tooling around the island with the video camera and tripod, attempting to avoid capturing folks from the National Geographic boat in the background (there were several groups walking about the place, and they definitely leap out of the background scenery what with the yellow and green and pink and white of their shirts not looking in the least like shrubbery greenery).

I also spent an hour under the boat looking at the bottom, did a bit of cleaning of the prop shaft and propeller, and the boat is looking pretty good on the tummy.

This afternoon it was a bit like grand central station on the beach, given the beach is very narrow (15' across front to back) and the folks from National Geographic Seabird walking along, people laying out on their towels, and people like me simply walking back to their dinghy. I tried to step to one side or the other to give at least a sense of separation as I walked past people reading their books or sunning. And talked with German couple from Seabird, they were enjoying their boat ride. Yesterday it was ballenas (whales), today it was here, tomorrow they go somewhere else, and started in Puerto Escondido. I wonder if the boat has a full time shoreside contact that does nothing but prepare provisions and collect them to enable a quick turnaround when they dock.

Plan is to remain here tomorrow (Friday) and take the camera ashore again to pickup bits and pieces I did not get today, and re-shoot some material that didn't work out quite the way I had hoped it would. One nice thing about the La Paz area is the weather doesn't change all that much, which means clear skies today will probably mesh well with clear skies tomorrow.

Now it's time to wrassle up some food in the galley and enjoy a movie; perhaps it is movie night on the aquatic cinema Beetle.

A good night to all.

- rob

February 6, 2014

02-09-2014, 01:41 PM
It's a beautiful morning here in Isla San Francisco, and after listening to the Sonrisa net weather and jotting down the boat check-in locations I'm beginning to understand why people would prefer to be on the mainland side and south in the Sea of Cortez: the water is warmer (80 vs 69F), the wind is warmer, and the wind tends to be lighter. On the other hand, there is a reason there are 30 boats in Tenacatita and 50 boats in La Cruz vs 5 boats at Isla San Franciso - more privacy and less crowded anchorages up this way to the north.

Yesterday I had lots of friendly bees visit the boat, they were so friendly in fact that I decided I was no longer interested in shouldering my way through them to get to the peanut butter. It is not easy to make bees forget where the water is, and that's what they are keen to find: fresh water. Next time I need to remember to squeeze out the sponge such that it can dry. Any idea how many bees you can fit on a sponge? Answer: a lot. And bees have memory, plus their famous waggle dance, so simply shooing the bees out of the cabin doesn't solve the problem as all their friends are still on their over to your galley as they already know where to go to find the water (even if the water is no longer there as it has been moved to the cockpit). So moving 20 bees out of the cabin only seemed to make space for the next half dozen to fly in and start inspecting for water. No more leaving bowls out on the counter to soak - gotta dry 'em before the bees find 'em! Eventually the bees gave up as I had removed all the fresh water, took about an hour for things to calm down.

Went for a super night time walk through the dunes and salt flat last night. The trick seems to be to make the dinghy landing in the last of the twilight when you can still see the beach and associated rocks, haul the dinghy up and out and anchor it in the sand, and by then it's pretty darn dark but you're already ashore. Relaunching the dinghy later on when it is pitch black is pretty easy as you're pushing the dinghy back out through an area you've already been through. I have a super bright Petzl head lamp (NAO model) that has what they call 'reactive lighting', and it actually works; there are two LEDs on the unit, one focused for far away as a spot, the other focused for nearby as a flood, and some sort of sensor (infrared?) that detects the distance from the sensor to where the lamp is pointing. It's bright enough to make it easy to walk along and not step on cactus, and I like that.

Today I'll do some more work on polishing stainless steel, run the generator and use the ShopVac to vacuum the floor boards, and generally get Beetle ready for morning departure tomorrow morning (Sunday), headed for either La Paz or a stop somewhere on Espiritu Santo (most likely San Gabriel cove, as I enjoy watching the frigate birds there).

On a side note, a large catamaran with an 'A 57' on the mainsail, named Espiritu Santi, pulled into the anchorage last night. It looked like it has a steering station ahead of the cabin and just behind the mast (e.g., you stand and steer from directly beneath the gooseneck). I'm wondering if this is one of those Australian catamarans that Jeff Lebesch (TransPac) was going to get. Something to look up when I get back to internet-land tomorrow or Monday.

All is well here!


February 8, 2014

02-09-2014, 01:43 PM
Good morning. Breeze is up here at Isla San Francisco, 15 gusting 21, sun is poking up around the island, it's warm and looks to b e a nice sail back towards Espiritu Santo or La Paz. Dinghy outboard is stowed on the transom, and am wrapping up stowing gear inside the boat.

I had a fun walk last night on the sand dune opposite the cove I am in. This dune is on the windier side of the island, and the sand there is slightly heavier (presumably it doesn't blow across the island) than the fine sand on my side of the island. I imagine the fine sand is stripped away from the east side and deposited on the west side. On the dune I came across a large tarantula, moving hardly at all, and when the light hit the creature it stopped entirely. This was a larger, heavier tarantula than I have seen in the wild before, legs were on the order of 3/16"-1/4" in diameter, the body was large and heavy perhaps 3" long, and legs were quite long. I'm accustomed to the smaller tarantulas in California, they are lighter with legs perhaps 1/8" in diameter - so this was a big one I was observing. Coloration was a fairly uniform brown, with slight darker segments in the legs. There are tons of little wolf spiders in the grasses around the salt pond, their eyes reflect the headlamp from a great distance so it is easy to see how many spiders there are about, and then to run across the tarantula was a bit like unexpectedly finding a goliath. I also know what the Pepsis wasp I saw the other day is hunting for. I wonder if tarantulas are normally nocturnal?

That's the news from here, time for breakfast, and then get underway. Wind should remain from behind and that ought to make for a quick trip in the right direction. I heard on the net that KI6HFN (s/v Dream Catcher) reports that they are in Bahia San Gabriel with calm winds, 23% humidity and the bees are out in force looking for water.

- rob

February 9, 2014

02-18-2014, 08:49 AM
Yesterday had a super sail south across the Bay of La Paz in lots of breeze funneling down the San Jose channel - the prevailing pressure-driven northwest breeze gets compressed between San Jose Island to the east and the Sierra de la Gigante mountains to the west and accelerates. Winds were 20 gusting 30 for the first 8 miles south from the anchorage at Isla San Francisco, Beetle was zipping along south with a very choppy swell at 5-6' coming down the channel, top boat speed was recorded at 11.8 knots (single reef main, partially furled no. 2 genoa, autopilot driving), averaging 8s, on the way to Isla Partida and points southwards along the island.

By comparison, approaching Isla Partida from the north you sail into a wind shift to the west as the wind bends around the island, so coming in on port gybe means you get headed which is a good thing for sailing the length of the island. The wind dropped way off but left behind the sloppy washing machine swell and chop, which makes for a rolly bouncy slow sail along the island, to the point that I needed to prevent off the boom - that's how much the boat was rolling. I need to talk with the swell people, as they seem to be out of phase with the wind people - when the wind drops off, it would be most convenient if they would remember to also drop off the swell. And almost ran over a large tern or tropic bird that flew up out of the water from just under the port gunwale - surprised me and surprised him!

At San Gabriel cove it is completely calm this morning (nicer than 15 knots gusting higher in San Francisco), good visibility in the water, dropped the hook in 25' of water, and was able to talk with Lucie on the VHF radio to learn that Ben did make it up to San Diego and visited with the Dinghy Doctor and has returned to La Paz with two new oars for the Achilles dinghy. I managed to lose an oar (down to one at the moment), and it will be nice to have a full set again.

Plan for today is to make this post to WordPress with some images that I've been working on, fire up some breakfast, then head over to the anchorage at La Paz. My friends from Cinnabar are due in today via the airport in Cabo and the shuttle bus to La Paz, and I have it on good authority that there is an alternator regulator in their luggage, along with the two new Beckson port lenses to replace the lens that cracked when I opened it.

Should be a good day!


The fishing village of San Evaristo at sunrise, as seen via a panorma constructed from 11 images using Photoshop. I don't have a super wide angle lens for the Nikon D90 (rectilinear or fisheye) so to get very wide angle shots I take a series of images with the camera on its side to capture extra information above and below center and then take enough images to get a 30% or better overlap - this gives the algorithms in Photoshop sufficient information to assemble the panorama. The downside to constructing such an image is controlling exposure. The final file size was 95MB, which I then cut down to 3MB by resizing the final image to 2048 pixels. The village is all laid out there in the image, and it's a very nice place to wake up to in the morning. The school is on the far right, with a house in front of it on the beach, and the restaurant is on the far left. About center is the big walter desalination plant and associated generator. And that's Georgia off to the right.


And here are two birds in the mangroves at Isla San Jose - very fun beaks! I think these are White Ibis adults, something one doesn't find too often hanging about the beach in Northern California.


This is the salt flat at Isla San Franciso showing some of the succulents and grasses growing along the edge, it is located just over the dune from the anchorage. Pretty much all of the thick white material is salt, and some of the standing water is orange (perhaps from iron?) and some is absolutely clear, all of the water is only 3 or 4" deep. With the rain that had just occurred there was water in a few places in the flat. The flat isn't that large (we're not talking Owens Dry Lake here) and it is super flat - easy to walk across in 5 minutes and see all sides. Very interesting place. The Pepsis wasp was seen flying across the salt flat, a big flash of black and orange about 8 feet above the pan.

And now it's on with the day !

- rob

February 10, 2014

02-18-2014, 08:57 AM
It's a very fine Wednesday evening here in the anchorage off Marina de La Paz, or more accurately, slightly west of the municipal pier. The wind has died down, it's 10:06 at night and it's warm t-shirt weather. The air is clear, the sky is clear, the lights of the malecon are all on and people are strolling about. Plus the Municipal Police pickup trucks are cruising the area with their lights on (red and blue flashing light bars on top of the cab), which makes them especially visible; exactly the opposite of an unmarked police car.

Plans are solidifying to cross over the Sea of Cortez and stop in at Mazatlan and then visit several anchorages on the way south to Puerto Vallarta, or sail directly to Isla Isabela and then on to Puerto Vallarta. Isla Isabela is a bird sanctuary and receives high marks as a place to visit and get up and close personal with boobies, iguanas, and other critters. And if I start at Mazatlan then I should pass through San Blas - which has saltwater crocodiles that one can go up-river and visit. Either way, sounds like many things to see across the way. I have been to the Allende bookstore and purchased a copy of a cruising guide for that area. Just finding the book store was something of an adventure as it is set back some blocks from the malecon. When you depart the malecon and head inland/uphill you quickly realize that most stores do not have numbers, and most streets do not have signs. This explains why most directions start with something like, "go down to the Burger King, turn right, go two blocks, turn left; it's on the corner". The locals do not know the street names, either - they reference structures, the polka dot painted tree, the place where the trees were before they were cut down, and the Pemex station. So it makes it interesting to find a place when you only know its street name and number - odds are good that you are the only one that actually knows the address!

Boat parts have arrived on board on Beetle; from Ben I have two oars, and from Sylvia I have an alternator regulator and two porthole lenses. I'm glad the regulator came with a wiring diagram as there are more than a few wires to attach in the correct place. It would not be good to do something incorrectly as there is going to be a lot of power flowing through wires and electrons, while small, can pack a wallop if attached backwards. I would like to keep the wiring forwards, as it were.

Today was a trip to the Mega (literally, that's the store's name) down the road past Chedraui. Mega has the feel of a Kmart/Sears/Walmart all rolled into one building. The entire underside of the building is a parking structure, so you go up an escalator that is a ramp (no steps) to the second story and get your cart, enter the store to wander around and find things to put in the cart, and then on exiting the cashier line with someone to help you find your way to the taxi stand - you roll the rather heavily loaded cart onto the downhill escalator ramp. I was most surprised to discover that the wheels of the cart were suddenly anchored to the escalator moving floor and the carts did not try and zoom off downhill to run over the person in front of you. My suspicion is that there is some sort of magnetic release associated with wheel clamps, as the wheels did not want to rotate at all when the cart was on the metal escalator traveling floor. I've not seen that before - very cool!

This evening I went ashore to get a taco at the local restaurant, ran into Lucie at the same restaurant, and turns out they had arranged dinner with Sylvia and Tom; I joined the group and along with Charlie we went to a different restaurant that did not have a live band and was therefore quieter, for some good tacos.

And this morning I checked in with the Sonrisa net and heard friend Steve on Westerly calling back - he was part of the SSS TransPac, and I knew he liked to hang out in Mexico. Turns out he is in Isla Isabela (I think); I was not able to make contact with him after the net as reception fell apart and turned into static. I'm going to try tomorrow morning to hook up with him on the radio and find out what's what with his activities down these parts.

Here are a couple of pictures of La Paz, from where I've been walking...


Seamar is one of the bigger marine chandleries, and it is located directly across the street from Marina de La Paz - which has the dinghy dock when means that all the cruisers land there and can walk right across the street to purchase stainless steel fasteners, 3M sandpaper, line, 1x19 wire... the list goes on. The name is painted on the building, and the buildings in La Paz have a lot of color to them, and most everything with an entry way or glass window has metal bars welded over them.


The big TelCel central office near the city center (it's actually to the left of the Mega). I went here to find out if my auto-renewing pre-paid TelCel internet access account would auto-renew at the end of the 30 day period (I know it does this as that has already happened) as well as auto-renew if I used up all 3GB in the data plan. I was assured by the English-speaking representative that there was no such that as auto-renew on a pre-paid account. I assured him that there was, as it had already done so. Hmm... I'm not sure it was too helpful to walk over to find this out, but with Mega right next door I was able to do the boat provisioning for going to Mazatlan.


The dinghy dock at Marina de La Paz. Lots of different kinds of dinghys tie up here, you pay the office 15 pesos for use of the dock for the day, plus you can use their big trash dumpsters, and get potable water from a tap right on the dock. That's what the fellow in the picture is doing, he's filling his blue water jugs from the tap.


The malecon at night, as it appeared around Christmas time. Lots of people out on the streets, lots of lights, it's a wide walkway that's more of a boardwalk than a sidewalk. The cars are on the street just beyond, and the shops are across the street from the malecon. Pretty much everything you need is located within a couple of blocks inland from the malecon, and directions to most every place you might wish to find are referenced from here.

- rob

February 12, 2014

02-18-2014, 09:00 AM
Yesterday Tiger Beetle departed La Paz with two additional characters on board: William from Palo Alto, California and Emerald from Devon, UK. Both are ex-cooks from their respective home towns and William has been cranking really good food and Emerald has been providing William with food-inspiration and cleanup afterwards. I am eating really well! Both of them are bound for Mazatlan, I will have some extra eyeballs on deck for the 180 mile crossing, and they get inexpensive transport as compared to purchasing a ticket on the Baja Ferry.

Currently Beetle is at anchor at Los Muertos, one of the places I stopped at in December on the way up the coast to La Paz but did not have time to go ashore. A 'normal' jumping off point for Mazatlan is another day south at Los Frailes, and given the current moderate 11-14NW wind forecast there is no need to go further south before making the overnight run across the Sea of Cortez to Mazatlan.

It is Sunday, and it appears that Los Muertos must be something of a weekend destination for fishing people and camping people, as there are a lot of fancy pangas on big trailers being towed by large 4x4 vehicles; the trucks are lined up along the sandy beach with their empty trailers pointing at the water. There is also supposed to be a good restaurant here with the owner's model railroad collection on the second floor - something to find out about later on.

The updated charging circuit has been working well, and a nice feature of the new unit is the error-reporting annunciator light; it is telling me the batteries are over-temperature when the charger shuts down; I am going to swap in a new temperature sensor that came with the unit and see if that does the trick to keep the alternator continuously putting out float-voltage charge while under power. Elsewise I can simply disconnect the temperature sensor and check battery water level a bit more often. I know for a fact that the batteries are not at 125 degrees F, they are more like 80 degrees.

This morning there were two humpback whales in the bay very close to the anchorage, and the water visibility has been at least 33', as that's how deep it is where the boat is and it is easy to see the anchor chain laying across the bare sandy bottom. It's going to be another pleasant day on the water, get in a good night's sleep tonight, and tomorrow morning we're off to Mazatlan, hopefully to arrive some time Tuesday afternoon.

Georgia with Ben & Lucie on board should have departed La Paz this morning, to arrive in Los Muertos tonight. They are also heading to Mazatlaon. Rick on Regardless is also heading this way, he is thinking to depart La Paz Monday. And the funny part is I met up with Steve on Westerly on the SSB, and he is arriving from Mazatlan this morning, pulling into a bay at the bottom end of Espiritu Santo - so I will miss seeing him. Yesterday he and I were talking on the VHF at a distance of 90 miles (phenomenal VHF range for a while) and he was out in a super calm spot, under sail (meaning floating mostly) and picking up whales on his radar - he had tuned his radar to see things that were small disturbances and he was enjoying counting whales by radar.

I'm off to swap out the battery sensor, then head to shore in the dinghy and check out the sand dunes. Tomorrow morning it's off bright and early to points east.

Have fun!

- rob

February 16, 2014

02-18-2014, 09:03 AM
It's been a super calm morning so far, brilliant sunrise into high wispy clouds, nothing in the anchorage as regards wind. The boat Isa had already departed for Mazatlan at some time during the night - they were gone at 4:30AM when I was up to check on the anchor. Georgia is perhaps 40 miles out in front, and I've been talking with sailing vessel Pincoya that is inbound to Espiritu Santo.

In the calm I've been powering along at 1850 RPM holding around 6.5 knots, moving along nicely.

We've been going through a batch of sea turtles, they are green sea turtles as far as i can tell, of healthy size in the four foot range front to back along the shell. You do have to watch out for them as they appear to be completely asleep, and don't even budge much when they go by a few feet from the boat. It isn't until the wake causes them to flip-flop in the water do they seem to poke up their head to see what's about.

There have also been whales (humpbacks) breaching and doing tail slaps on the water, plus a pod of dolphin went by early on.

Best news is that not 20 minutes after clearing the anchorage, William hooked a dorado, we boated this fish, and shortly afterwards baked fish came up from the galley. He's really good on the galley, and knows how to make all kinds of things. He's reading the Betty Crocker cookbook to try and find new things to do with the fish.

The charging circuit is now working perfectly. I do not know if rerouting the wires away from the heat of the engine box helped, or swapping out the temperature sensor helped, or perhaps a bit of each. Either way, the SAR V3 is holding a perfect float voltage on the bank and letting the alternator kick out just enough power to keep the boat running. This is good, for already-charged batteries.

Today Regardless should also be departing La Paz headed for Mazatlan. And Pincoya called on the VHF to let me know that he now had 7 knots of breeze from the NW. This is probably not enough breeze to want to slow down and sail in, but it will help to cool the boat off. Currently there is 162 miles to go to Mazatlan, and all is well on board.

Los Muertos was a fun anchorage, the best visibility we've had so far with 33' in the water, and I found a pile of shark heads on the bottom right where we had dropped the anchor. So there are definitely hammerhead sharks around these parts, and some other kind of shark that looked a bit like a blue. At least these fish were completely used for food, as opposed to the practice of shark finning that I saw some of the fisherman doing in Turtle Bay.

Upshot is we're off to chase Ben & Lucie and Charlie the dog on our way across the pond. Forecast is for 11-14 knots of breeze from the NW, which could yield some nice sailing. And Georgia now has sorted out their HF radio enough to broadcast and be heard. They are sending .3KHz off frequency and therefore Lucie sounds a lot like Donald Duck on the radio, and even so is clearly readable. I went off frequency to meet her, and she came back and told me that now I sounded like Donald Duck. Great that her radio is working!

And now it's off into the morning, I'm going to give Georgia the noon-o'clock call on the VHF to see how things are progressing up their way.

- rob

February 17

02-18-2014, 09:06 AM
It has been a mellow day, and it's proving to be a quiet night though a little bobbly as the prevailing wind, light from behind at 9-10 knots, is running up a low chop that is rolling on from behind as well and which causes the boat to roll and lurch unexpectedly. The wind proved too light for the mainsail, and to quiet things down the main has been reefed to the third reef point to act as a motoring reef.

Georgia and Beetle have been talking each three hours, next conversation is due to take place at midnight local time and we'll see where everybody is. Isa has been joining in on the conversations, they departed Muertos before we did and are currently motor sailing towards Isla Isabela. Georgia has a slip set up at El Cid, one of the marinas in Mazatlan, and Ben said he would ask the marina if they would have a slip for Beetle as well, perhaps for two days. It would be nice to wash the salt off the boat, and it would be convenient for walking around town to be at a dock. According to Ben the prices are apparently reasonable at 0.90 USD/foot.

Moonrise was particularly fun tonight as the moon popped up dead ahead, a bright orange disk that gradually turned white as it rose up through the clouds.

And one of the humpback whales put on an extended display of breaching in the late afternoon, he must have been at it for 30 minutes or more, diving down, leaping up and crashing down in a huge spray of white on the otherwise glue/green water. A few minutes later he (or she) would do it again. Lots of splashing!

Now we're taking turns on board to run two hour watches, mostly to look for current deviations that move the boat off course, and keep an eyeball on the horizon to scan for other boats (none seen at all).

Enjoy the night!

- rob

February 17

Dumass Head
02-20-2014, 09:27 PM
Loving Rob's reports!

02-23-2014, 11:24 AM
It's Friday morning here in Mazatlan, the last couple of days have seen good stuff done as regards cleaning the boat, rinsing off salt, fresh water flushing the outboard, washing the dinghy, running tow loads of laundry (I seem to use a lot of socks), vacuuming the interior, sorting out tachometer power problem (a switch was not completely closed, allowing the tach power supply wire to turn off), getting some foods on board, and all is ready to depart El Cid and go looking down the coast towards Isla Isabela. Plan for the day is to check out with the harbormaster (who in turn is checking me out with the port captain), move over to the busy fuel dock and re-stock the tanks with diesel, and depart the harbor around noon-ish. It's about 96 miles to Isla Isabela, that's tough to make in a daylight hours run and instead I will hope to have a pleasant overnight run at slower speeds, timing to arrive at the islands with the morning sun.

Yesterday I was at WalMart picking up some additional foods to replace what was consume on the run over from La Paz, and shortly after leaving the store I stopped at another store... and that's when VISA fraud prevention telephoned to see if I had charged $69 USD to my card. Answer was yes. Good thing I'm carrying the cell phone as I suspect the card would be turned off pretty darn quick if I wasn't able to respond and say the charges were correct. I warned them to expect charges in Puerto Vallarta and Cabo in the coming weeks, and the lady said she had noted that information on my account. What would have happened if my phone were not in my pocket at the time VISA telephoned?

Overall it's been a useful stop at El Cid, it sort of feels like the halfway point through my relatively brief cruise in Mexico. The first 5 weeks were spent checking out the arid islands around La Paz, the next 5 weeks will see poking along through the more humid coast between Mazatlan and Banderas Bay. It's nice to start the second half of the trip with all the bits of Beetle working, and I'm looking forward to hitting the road again, as it were. This part of Mexico called the 'Mexican Riviera' and is far enough south to avoid the bulk of the northerly winds that funnel down the Sea of Cortez. There is also greater concern for pettty theft and therefore dinghies and equipment are more carefully locked up than I saw in La Paz.

On the radio there is a local cruisers net in Mazatlan, also on VHF 22A, modeled after what is happening in La Paz. There are a lot fewer boats on the net here as compared to there, which can make the net go by really quickly, as in five minutes and we're done. Today Beetle and Georgia will check out of the net (one of the questions is: 'Arrivals and Departures. Who's coming and who's going?' - helps the net to get an idea of the Brownian motion boat movement). These are the folks that pointed me towards the local chandlery that had the SPST switch I wanted for the SAR V3 regulator, and I spoke with Liem - put the switch into the on/off wire coming in from the engine panel ignition switch if I want to defeat the SAR V3; do not put te switch into the Battery+ wire that powers the SAR V3. Armed with this knowledge I will experiment with the two wires and see how they impact RF noise I'm picking up on the SSB, and install the switch as needed. There's always something interesting to learn while poking about with boats.


There are iguanas residing on the rock breakwater at El Cid. I suspect these animals are semi-captive, as there's no good way into the marina except through the hotel lobby and I do not see large iguanas sneaking through the lobby undetected. However, I did not see any kind of feeding station and these animals are not tame, they are just sleepy


Here's a chuckwalla-type lizard, complete with loose skin around his middle. When disturbed he darted into a crevice between two of the rocks. What the chuckwallas do is the same thing, and then inflate themselves with air and that wedges them into the rock, plus their skin scales act as little hooks and make it difficult to pull them back out. This guy displayed that same behavior.


Here's two more iguanas sunning themselves. People are walking by a couple of feet above their heads and they don't have a care in the world; perhaps they know that visitors from Kansas are not going to bother them.


There was also an interesting heron on the docks. He's similar to the big herons in the bay area, except this one has a white front and black stripey feathers down his throat. He grabbed a perch from the marina water, and that's a tall fish from top to bottom. Most herons I see grab long skinny fish that will fit down his neck, but not this guy. Undeterred, he spent some time with his meal, got it turned around head first, and amazingly enough the skin around his throat got real wide and the fish slid right down.

Have fun today! Time to get back out on the water.

- rob

February 21

02-23-2014, 11:28 AM
Outside Mazatlan the conditions are super for a nice trip down the coast towards what is termed the Galapagos Islands of Mexico - isla iabela. Georgia is perhaps 2 hours behind Beetle, as they have abeam the first island that shelters the recreational marinas. I went by the island a while back.

I am seeing breaching humpback whales to the east, closer to shore in shallower water (it's 240 feet deep where I am), and even had a small humpy, possibly a baby or young juvenile, breach not 200 feet from the boat. Very cool to watch, as I happened to be looking at exactly the right spot when he came out of the water.

On the AIS I can see containership Overseas Skopelos headed into Mazatlan, presumably to the commercial port as if he tried to get into the recreational marina port he would wedge in the narrow channel.

With the wind holding this well, I've changed course slightly to the east, now holding 162T and going too fast for a planned arrival at the islands in the morning. According to the forecast the wind should back to the WNW and drop significantly, and that may still happen. My thinking is to run deeper when the wind is stronger, if winds back off then I can reach up a bit and keep the apparent breeze going. Currently the direct-course distance to the islands is 78 miles, though I'm on more of a dog-leg course with the intention to come into the islands from the west rather than directly from the north. An interesting feature in the navigational question is to stay at least 20 miles away from the prison islands Isla San Juanito, Isla Maria Madre, Isla Maria, and Isla Maria Cleofas - they are a to the east of Isla Isabela, and apparently there are navy patrol boats around the islands and they shoo people away. My course should be about 30 miles off the islands, which ought to be outside their point of concern.

And it's now 6pm local time, time to check in with Georgia on the SSB (4A is the channel, 4.146.0 USB) and we'll find out how well their radio is working. Might also raise Cinnabar, if they are following our radio schedule. Seas remain mellow, wind has shifted to the WNW at 11-12 knots, and the sun is about to set into the sea. I've been napping and reading, it has been nicely warm on deck, and I'm going to put on a light sweatshirt now that the sun is below the horizon. I'm about 62 miles out from the islands, and all is going well.

And now it is 10:08pm, still motoring slowly through mild following seas. The radar picked up a couple of targets 6 miles out, and now I can see what look like two slow-moving fish boats with their lights on. It's pretty black out here as the moon has not come up yet, and the dark makes it really easy to play spot-the-light. The boats should now be within the four mile guard zone set up on the radar, and should pass by two miles to port.

11:20pm, another target has appeared, another fish boat. These guys are going too fast to trawl, perhaps they are longliners?

At midnight the moon rose and it is now really nice out on the water, visibility is picking up. Also went by three soda pop bottles tied together, not 10' off the beam, hopefully I don't run into more of those as they must be marking something on the bottom. Depth is 189'.

Georgia is having trouble with their radio, I can hear Lucie calling but she cannot hear me. I suspect their radio volume is turned down and they don't know it. There's nothing particularly obvious about the radio's volume, especially in the dark.

5AM and I'm early. I've put the camera batteries on the charger, and am going to put the motor in neutral and sleep for an hour or so, just let the boat drift around out here as there's zero wind and very light swell. Beetle is making 0.3 knots on course roughly 130 true, not bad.

And now it is dawn and i'm 3 miles out from the island. A pair of humpback whales are off to starboard, and three boobies flew by on their way to sea - the early boobie gets the fish! I'm going to go around to the south side of the island and see what's available as regards anchorage. This place is mostly rocks on the bottom and the game is to find a sandy patch in between the rocks and set the hook there; it is also recommended to put an anchor float/trip line on the anchor for recovery should the anchor become wedged.

8:40AM and the hook is down in 40' of water. The books are correct - when the depth hits 50' you can see through the water column and count the large rocks on the bottom. You can also see the huge boulder rising up towards your keel - quick, turn away! - and you're back in deeper water. You can also see when you are over sand, and that's what I'm anchored in, a big sandy patch. The anchor ball is on the crown to facilitate retrieval if the anchor gets stuck. Georgia is over watching whales and is going to trundle by shortly.

A very nice evening and run down from Mazatlan.

- rob

February 22

02-23-2014, 11:31 AM
The island I am next to, Isla Isabela, is 17 miles off the coast of mainland Mexico and is a relatively small island that reminds me a lot of SE Farallon Island outside of San Francisco. All you'd need to do is swap out the sea gulls and cormorants for frigate birds and boobies, add a lot of green trees with big birdies roosting in them, and warm up the water 20 degrees (plus remove the white sharks and add colorful tropical reef fish).

After arriving yesterday I spent quite a while sleeping, to make up for broken sleep during the 96 mile overnight run south from Mazatlan; I had intended to have a two hour nap and instead slept until 2pm. After waking up (again) I hopped into the 78 degree water with the snorkel and camera and snorkeled over to the the large rock called 'Isleo Mona' that the boats here are anchored behind; the rocks are covered white guano, even though most of the birds seem to be in the trees on shore. Lots of fish in the water, and the substantial visibility is nice as there doesn't seem to be the super fine sand I was finding at Espiritu Santo, but rather a heavy dense sand that doesn't stay in suspension for very long. Also put the dinghy and popped over to Georgia to say hello.

The weather here has stayed calm for the night, there are four boats (3 + me) anchored here in the sand patch adjacent to the Mona rocks. Georgia and Beetle have put anchor balls on the anchors, the other two boats did not - hopefully everybody's anchor comes up ok. Forecast is for similar conditions today and Monday, and possibly increasing breeze Tuesday.

Plans for today include going ashore to walk around. There is a series of perhaps a dozen similar green-roofed huts in a row along the beach in the south cove of the island, and paths across the island are maintained by the bird folks. Apparently there is a fair bit of bird conservation work going on here, much like PRBO has a group working on SE Farallon Island. Hopefully it will be fun to meet the folks on the island. There is also a crater lake of water (fresh, I think) on the island - that might be why all the birds like it here so much. Think of the giant bird bath they have.

I'm anchored to the east side of the island, which is supposed to be a larger anchorage than in the south cove, and keeps the me not so close to shore. From the cruising guide I've read that Jacques Cousteau was here and filmed the birds, and that makes me want to go back and watch the National Geographic Cousteau films - those were super. In 2003 the island was named a World Heritage Site - I don't know much about such sites but I suspect this indicates this is a particularly unique ecosystem. Several friends have visited here over the years, in particular Lou Freeman on S/V Seabird was here and raved about seeing all the birds, and they are not afraid of people so you can watch them from quite close by.

So, it's off to enjoy the water and birdies, make up some breakfast, get the dinghy in the water (it lives on the foredeck during the night), and if some humpback whales come close by it might be fun to go over and visit them. Yesterday there were two very close.

- rob

February 23

02-26-2014, 10:36 PM
Ben & Lucie & I went for a walk around the island this afternoon, and we had a super time. Turns out there is an active fish camp in the green sheds in the south cove; as they do not have cars on the island they cannot pull the pangas up onto the pebble beach; instead, each shed has a large line with an eye splice in it anchored to something set deep in the beach, and when the panga comes into the inner cove the panga drops an anchor out a ways, the panga is run up onto the beach (the motors need to be raised before the boat hits the beach as it is too shallow on approach for the big outboards to be down), and the panga's painter is tied to the eye splice by the shed. This means the boats are actually in the water, held out by the anchor and held in by the painter. Works quite well as long as you are careful to not run over the other fellow's anchor line set out in the bay as you run in with your dinghy. One of the sheds was empty, so we used that shed's line to secure the dinghies.

There are a zillion birds on the island, and they are completely carefree as regards people getting close to them. In many ways the problem becomes that you need to avoid them as they do have razor sharp beaks and will readily use them to defend themselves - it would not be good to be slashed about the ankles by a nesting boobie if you attempted to walk through the nest!

The island has a surprising amount of dirt, especially after all the arid rock up north on the Baja side. The dirt is very fine, almost dust, with a lot of volcanic rock mixed in. The trees are uniformly about 12-15' tall, are easy to walk in between, with a crown of many small branches - some trees had leaves, a lot did not seem to have many leaves at all. There are tons of lizards all over the place, ranging from 4" long striped ones up to 2' long iguanas that didn't seem to mind you walking by as long as you weren't too close, in which case they would scramble away a couple of feet.

We walked from the fish camp up to the crater lake (perhaps caldera is the better term, as this is believed to be an extinct volcano), and (later on) learned that the lake is brine, in fact more salty than the surrounding ocean. Apparently the mist and rain brings in a lot of salt which accumulates over time as the fresh water evaporates. There was nothing living in the lake that I could see, not even much in the way of algae.

We walked up and over the crater's rim and out to the beach overlooking the boats at Monas. This is where the boobie colony is, and the birds are nesting directly on the dirt, some nests with two eggs, most with one, and a couple were being made up as we walked through. You had to be careful where you walked as the birds were definitely not going to get out of the way for you. The frigate birds were all up in the trees, and the boobies were on the ground. And whomever wrote that frigate birds cannot land and take off from the ground is completely incorrect; there were lots of them on the ground, walking around clumsily, laying out with wings spread (soaking up the sun for warmth?), and they had no difficulty taking off again. It's pretty interesting to come face to face with a 6' wingspan bird flapping down the path you're walking on, at just about head height, and you have to duck to avoid them.

On the beach we were invited by the island biologist to join him at their outdoor kitchen, and that's where I learned a lot about what's I'd seen on the walk over. There were also iguanas surrounding their camp. I asked the fellow about why they had apple boxes strong from ropes between the trees, complete with upturned boxes to act as tops, and he said the problem was the iguanas like the fruit and veggies they bring in, so this was iguana-proofing. Not iguana-proof enough, as one was on top of a box trying to get in, and another was half way into a box by forcing his way between two slats. I now know how to discipline an iguana: you open up the box, lift out the contents down to the depth of the lizard, grab the lizard by the tail and lift, point him at the ground, and smack him on the rump while saying, "bad lizard!" and letting him go. Didn't seem to bother the lizard much, he moved a couple of feet and turned around to examine the suspended fruit box again.

There used to be feral cats on the island, those have been eradicated, and the rat population was just removed via helicopter-dropped poison pellets. The fellow said they had some loss from gulls eating dead rats, and lost a few iguanas from eating the pellets. However, the boobies are doing great, and the iguana population had exploded now that the rats were gone.

I will have to do some more reading about the place and the program, as they've been studying the boobies for 30-35 years. And I learned how to spot the better boobie: you examine the color of their feets. The darker the blue, the better. The color depends upon the animals health, amount of food intake, changes depending upon when the last mating occured, and changes as the birds get older. So you can tell a lot about looking at their feets. The fellow was wearing a pair of blue crocs shoes, I wondered if this was an attempt to blend in with the birds.

And now it's back on board Beetle, the dinghy is stowed, and the plan is to head out tomorrow morning towards a bay sound of San Blas.

Enjoy, and pay attention to those feets colors!

- rob

February 23

02-26-2014, 10:38 PM
It's been a pretty quiet day on the water today, departed Isla Isabela at first light (7AM) for the run southeast towards San Blas. There was little wind to speak of, seas were flattish with a small swell rolling by under the boat - that helped to push Beetle along nicely. So I motored along in the flat water.

The goal was to get to Matanchen Bay, which is 3 miles south of the entrance to San Blas. San Blas is the big town along this bit of the coast, has a harbor, a Pemex place to fill up with diesel, and at least one marina. However, the entrance is over a real bar that results from the outflow of water down the river (Rio Pozo, I think), and with an 8' draft I really didn't fancy running Beetle over a bar that often has less than 8' of water over it. If one were to search for videos online, it's likely you'll find some of other boats crossing that bar - at least that's my recollection from when I checked it out.

Conveniently, there is a large open bay to the south of the river mouth, and that's where Georgia and Beetle were heading to, and where we are anchored now. There are lots of ceratopogonidae (biting midges, aka noseeums) in the area, so being anchored out away from shore is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I can report zero mosquitoes and zeros midges on board this evening. What is interesting is to notice the smoldering coconut husks burning at the restaurants lining the shore - the decidedly smelly smoke drifts out across the anchorage and it smells a bit like you're downwind of the neighbor's chimney in the middle of winter, which is odd as it's not at all winter-like here.

The entire coastal area is surprisingly shallow and the water is filled with cloudy material brought down by the rivers flowing from the tall mountains inland. There was quite a bit of plant material floating about, too - most bits were small at a foot or two across, but I did go around one large chunk that might have been an entire tree top at 10' across. It was weird to be in 40' of water yet miles from shore in what is essentially open ocean. The big fish boats were out in force on that flat bank, 100 feet long or so, each pulling a large net spread out to each side; maybe they are in fact two separate nets, one each side, I'm not sure about that, and the net has a huge barn door on the outboard side that acts as a spreader; my guess is they are bottom trawling for shrimp. The fish boats that weren't actively trawling are anchored out on the shelf, nets up in the air, and covered with frigate birds acting for all the world like gigantic pigeons, festooning the rigging with birds.

The anchorage itself is quiet, shallow (I'm anchored in less than 20' for the first time in a long time), and someone has a two-seater ultralight hang glider running around, which was interesting to see; it sounds like a large lawn mower from a distance and they were running it around the bay, miles from shore. In the anchorage I found EDGE network access, which is mostly too slow to do much computer work. Despite that, I was able to receive some text emails; I'm hoping to send this note out over the airwaves as well. There was 4G connectivity while directly in front of San Blas, but there were also larger swells so not the greatest place to stop for web surfing (no pun intended).

Tonight there are 6 boats here in the anchorage, including Isa, the boat that discovered a cracked motor mount while crossing over from Los Muertos to Mazatlan; it's fun to see them here, I hope they were able to repair the motor mount during their stay in Mazatlan.

It's now 9pm, I'm going to do a bit of interior boat clean up, read some, then turn in for the night. We shall see what tomorrow has on tap!

- rob

February 24

02-26-2014, 10:46 PM
It's Wednesday afternoon and Beetle is wobbling down the coast towards Punta Mita, the big bump on the end of the point 13 miles in front of the bow. There is a decent breeze blowing and sails are up, tooling along nicely at a speed just about as good as when motoring. The swell is running 3-4' from the west and that makes for a rolly ride as the swell lifts the starboard side, we roll to port, the swell passes under and we stand up straight, and then the swell exits to port and the boat rolls back to starboard. The boom is prevented off to stop the boom from swinging and banging from side to side.

Matanchen Bay was kinda fun, though the town got low marks from Ben, Lucie, and Jeff from Isa. I took the dinghy up to explore the mouth of the river behind the town to find a large breaking bar there and elected to not to try and run it. Jeff took his dinghy the additional mile or two and went into the river that is the entrance to San Blas proper and noted dilapidated Fonatur marina docks (lots of bolts sticking out, one sailboat there) and the big sand bar in the center of the river was bigger than last time he weas there and nobody was anchored out. Lucie tried to find a TelCel representative to fix her banda ancha problem (she needed to add monies to her account, but her account was turned off as it had expired) and neither of the two TelCel reps she found could manage that. On the positive side, Ben noted that the taxi fares were low (30 pesos to town, 40 pesos back, which seemed odd to him) and the walk across the super-shallow bay with floating dinghy in tow was not difficult.

For my part, I went ashore at the same palapa that Ben had tied their dinghy to (literally, you tied the painter to one of the posts holding up the palm leaf/frond ceiling), and the fellow sleeping in the hammock there surprised me when he woke up and said it would be ok to leave my dinghy there, then he went back to sleep.

The beach is nice sand, there are tons and tons of palapas and plastic chairs all around the place, and nobody was there. It was weird - I suspect I am here way out of season. There's a note in one of the guide books that in the summer the place has large surfing waves, unsuitable for boats to anchor, and there are lots of people there and lots of surfing to be had. I imagine so, as the infrastructure is all the but nobody was using it.

Ben scoped out the panga tour up the river, and that would be a full-day event, so I passed on the excursion; instead I am out here on the bright blue water in nice sun, tooling along to Punta MIta. Earlier today I came across one of the floats with a tall wand sporting a plastic trash bag as a flag, and then realized there was a series of plastic coke bottles tied running away from it. Upon close inspection I realized there is a thin polypropylene line strung between the coke bottles, and that would be a great thing to found the propeller on, so I turned hard right and started following the string back to the flag, hoping that the flag marked one end of the net. Turned out the floats continued on, and then a panga came zooming over with two fellows in it, it was their fish gear, and they pulled up to the line just in front of Beetle (I slowed down to find out what was up), they hung a weight on the polypropylene and lowered the net for me to go across. Sure beats hanging up in a net and having to dive over the side to cut it away, and I'm surprised the fisherman would set a long surface net across a well-traveled track. I wonder how often they catch boats and not fish?

Also had another of those interesting small-world happenstances last night: I went over to Georgia to join Jeff & his girlfriend in the cockpit with Ben and Lucie. I mentioned that Kristen would be calling prior to going to her SF Ballet event tonight, and turns out Jeff is a backstage hand at those shows; he does the opera season, and when they are done the ballet company moves in and he works the shows for them. So he is intimately familiar with everything that you can't see from the front of the stage, and also had pointed on where the best acoustics are. (avoid being under any overhangs, you do not want orchestra level seats, some of the mid-level balcony boxes are a good compromise between distance from the performers and the sound, upper balcony in back has some of the best sound in the place). Jeff has his Brewer 35 in San Carlos during the summer and returns to San Francisco to work the SF Opera and Ballet seasons, and then quits for a couple of months so he can come down to Mexico and cruise the boat.

And it's on towards the new anchorage to see what's happening in Banderas Bay.

- rob

February 26

03-05-2014, 10:54 AM
Kristen has arrived at the Puerto Vallarta airport, direct flight in from San Francisco which was not delayed despite the winter Low pushing into the NE Pacific and bringing with it high winds and rain. During the morning local cruiser's net (8:30AM PV time, VHF 22A) it was pointed out that the Low was causing 30' swell in southern california and that same wave train would begin to wrap around Cabo San Lucas and arrive in Banderas Bay Monday - so it was reminded for folks to double check their ground tackle as conditions are forecast to be boisterous as regards swell state shortly.

Here in Marina Vallarta (at Puerto Vallarta) we are so far in from the bay that the water is even more quiet than in the back of Grand Marina; it's really still. The marina itself is falling apart, which is unfortunate; the wooden beams connecting the concrete dock components are mostly fractured, bolts protrude, corner triangles are rotted through, some of the dock boxes have water spigots that work (most do not), and some slips have power (most do not). I would not recommend Marina Vallarta to anyone... but there are not many alternatives if you want to get off the bay - the anchorages are Punta Mita at the head of the bay (fabulous) and La Cruz 6 miles east of Punta Mita and slightly around another point (haven't tried this anchorage out yet). Once you go east of La Cruz you're limited to open roadsteads or shifting into one of the two ports. The other port/harbor is Nuevo Vallarta, much newer, and has few slips therefore is difficult to get in to. The folks at the Marina Vallarta said they had recently bought the marina and are in the process of upgrading and rebuilding it. They have two docks under reconstruction, and this might be a really nice place in 2-4 years time - depending on how strong the commitment is from the owners.

But, this place is close to reprovisioning shops, 0.5 miles from the airport, and well protected - a good hurricane hole. Other interesting thing is that the saltwater crocodiles are hanging out in the water... which makes the decision as to whether or not to dive the boat that much more interesting. Early evening Kristen and I watched a 10-12' crocodile slowly glide by, one seriously large lizard. Never had to consider crocodiles in the mix before!

Plan is to put Beetle back on the road tomorrow and head over to La Cruz tomorrow afternoon. It may be roly, but we will be out on the water and that will be nice. Plus Georgia is there and Kristen hand-carried some bits & bobs for their boat and Lucie would like to hook up with us, pick up her gear, and go out for some foods tomorrow night up at La Cruz.

As regards on-board excitement, the spring pin that is part of the Nicro Marine snatch block gave up the ghost, I had a spare pin/spring/ringding and swapped it in - the snatch block works again - and I've ordered up two additional spares for the spare bits bin, to be sent to my brother courtesy of Fisheries Supply in Seattle. I will pick up the spare pins when I swing through Seattle in May. Also swapped in a new 2 micron diesel fuel filter in the Racor filter manifold.

In addition to the bits for Georgia, Kristen brought in some useful parts for Beetle: 3 additional anti-panga LL Bean lights, a stack of 50 DVD rewritable disks (I've been burning through some of them for image storage), and a replacement on/off battery switch that I will be wiring in.

That's the up to the minute shock news from on board Beetle. And definitely remember to look under the bed at night to make sure a crocodile is not lurking there.

- rob

March 1, 2014

03-05-2014, 11:04 AM
There's an interesting undercurrent of conversation revolving around - What time is it? UTC is fairly well established as we've all agreed upon an arbitrary geographic location (as regards longitude) and call the local time there as UTC. The problem is more interesting regarding what time is it locally? as Beetle has traveled a fair bit east while moving around in Mexico - and now I find myself here in Banderas Bay and there are two time zones here! Knowing the local time is useful if you want to know what time one should be at Charlie's to, say, watch the Academy Awards broadcast last night.

Puerto Vallarta, 6 miles to the east, is two hours ahead of Los Angeles. OK, got that. Here at La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, it is also two hours ahead of Los Angeles, so it is now 11:18AM. However, 9 miles to the west is Punta Mita, and it's 10:18AM there. This leads to lots of questions from people as they move from anchorage to anchorage and try to keep track of what time it is. You can drive 10 minutes up the road and show up 50 minutes before you left; kind of interesting, no? The morning cruiser's chat/net on 22A is at 8:30AM Nuevo Vallarta time, so if you got to Punta Mita you must remember to do things an hour earlier.

Yesterday Kristen and I did 'the shop' at the big Wal Mart across the street (and bridge) from the Puerto Vallarta cruise ship terminal. There were no cruise ships in the terminal, but the Wal Mart was still there - it's huge, looks a lot like the Wal Mart at Mazatlan, and has a terrific foods section with all kinds of good stuff, and we were able to do our provisioning there in one stop, all done. That was one of the easiest provisioning runs I've had to date. Wal Mart may be a lot of things, but convenient and good quality is one of them.

On the way out of the harbor we stopped for fuel at the Pemex fuel dock (pay at the Caja General at the head of the dock), Kristen checked Beetle out with the PV port capitan, complete with phonetic name spelling, and we were under way. The trip yesterday was only 8 miles across Banderas Bay over to the anchorage at La Cruz, where we are hook down with perhaps 50 or more other boats in the roadstead outside the marina breakwater. Friend Rick on Regardless is here, as is Ben & Lucie on Georgia. Kristen had brought down goodies for Georgia (light, GPS hockey puck for their navigation computer), they were duly hand delivered by dinghy, and I set up the GPS unit for Ben - he is a happy camper now. Then we walked up the cobblestone (literally, stones set in mortar) street to Charlies - a place run by an ex-pat or two that had both American (KOMO, Seattle) and Canadian (Vancouver?) broadcasts of the Academy Awards up on the screens. The Canadians were 3 seconds ahead on the broadcast, and had different commercials than the Americans. By watching the Canadians you had a short forewarning as to when the commercial breaks would begin and end.

Today it is sunny, we are looking at going to Sayulita by bus, this is a beach front location with no good anchorage, and it is supposed to be nice and Kristen wants to visit. There is also a pair of tiny bat rays slowly swimming at the surface through the anchorage, they are rather nifty to watch.


That's Puerto Vallarta in the background as we motor out of the harbor. There's a steep canyon just at the harbor mouth, and it drops off fast - you're in 500 feet of water in very short order, at which point the depth sounder produces useful numbers such as 6.5 (we'd already be aground!) or '- - - ' which is actually more useful as you know there's no return reading from the sounder's clicking sounds. Whales are here, also - they like the upwelling where the deep water meets the surrounding shallow water.


Kristen enjoying the warmth and sunshine, quite different from the storm front and associated rain that was moving through San Francicsco the morning she headed south to Puerto Vallarta. Auto is driving the boat, and that's one of the big inflatable fenders all clad in international orange; they can be readily deflated and stowed in a smaller mesh bag (mesh for drying) and being deflated don't take up as much room as they otherwise might.


Looking aft at the La Cruz anchorage - lots of boats here. This place is functionally the equivalent of the La Paz cruiser's anchorage; it's the only good, large, relatively protected anchorages in Banderas Bay. Once you're down at Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta you're sitting out in the afternoon wave train and breeze and in front of a lee shore. There's a point off to the left (in the image) that blocks most of the north and nortwest swell and keeps the anchorage relatively peaceful, though it is semi-rolly


And the boats act a fish attraction devices, with each boat having its own school of fishes. This is the bow of Rick's boat Regardless, and there are lots and lots of the little schooling fishes. While visiting Rick we watched as a frigate bird repeatedly tried to grab a fish by swooping down to just above water level and then using his feet (failure) and beak (almost failure) to grab a fish. Fun to watch such activity from 6 feet away. Rick said he's seen some much bigger fish come flashing through the school and grab a fish or two, that would be a sight to see!

- rob

March 3, 2014

03-05-2014, 10:08 PM
Beetle has returned to Isla Isabela, a long day's run north from Punta Mita, complete with running over and through five nets that the panga-people set.

We (Kristen, Beetle, and I) arrived just after sunset, which was unfun as this meant we could not see the bottom for purposes of finding the sandy patch south east of Isla Mona (the big tall rock just in front of the bow at the moment). However, armed with the prior incoming and outgoing tracks preserved by the Coastal Explorer software running on the nav station laptop, it was possible to duplicate the track and arrive where the prior track ended - hopefully where Beetle had anchored previously. We dropped the hook in 40' of water with anchor ball attached to the crown, and it will be interesting to jump in the water tomorrow morning and find out whether or not I was able to actually hit the sandy spot. At least we're not dragging, the anchor bit, and hopefully it's in sand and not hooked on a rock.

On the off-chance the anchor is hooked into a rock, the anchor ball should help with retrieval as you can pull the anchor out backwards from the crown, and if that doesn't work I do have the hookah rig with 60' of hose and as long as I anchor in less than 60' of water I have a good shot at getting down to the anchor and working to free it.

This morning we were at Puta Mita and bipped out early from the anchorage, just as soon as the shore was visible in the pre-dawn light. It turned out to be a good thing not to leave in the dark, as we discovered the fisherman have lots of floats (on top of traps?) set out along the sandy bar between Punta Mita and the islands to the south - and that space is right where all the boats are traveling. We had float-avoidance drills on the way out. And outside Punta Mita we met up with the marlin fishing crowd, more than a few well done sportfishers sprouting enormous outriggers tooling along through the water with baits skipping behind and paying customers hanging out in the cockpit waiting for a strike. One of these boats was nice enough to shift significantly to port and take our transom, which was better for me as I had no idea how far back their baits are trailing should he have decided to cross our bow.

The swell at Punta Mita was way up, the result of the storm off Northern California late last week. The swell was big enough that I was not happy with the idea of taking the dinghy in to the beach at Punta Mita and instead Kristen, who wanted to go ashore, jumped overboard from the dinghy and swam in while I hung out outside the break and watched the surfers doing their thing.

Today is Wednesday; on Monday Rick and Kristen and I did the taxi run up to Sayulita to see the town. It's about 20 minutes north from La Cruz, and it was fun to get a drive through tall green trees, towering palm trees, and lots of vines covering everything. Sayulita was definitely the surf spot, lots of people on the beach lounging beneath big beach umbrellas, folks in the water on boards, and not a lot of wind out on the water beyond that. Rick and I spent some time watching the lack of wind and both thought it would have been a decent day to be heading north - except for the large swell wrapping around from Cabo San Lucas some 280 miles to the west northeast. Good food was had, and we spent just about all our pesos. So the next day (Tuesday morning) Kristen and I popped over to the Banamex ATM located at the Mega in Bucerias for purposes of replenishing the peso supply. Bucerias is a reasonable distance from La Cruz, and fortunately for us we ran into the folks from SV Sequoia at the La Cruz marina gatehouse (I stashed Beetle's dinghy with Georgia to avoid the 40 peso dinghy dock fee, but didn't have a gate key!). We had met Sequoia at the Academy Awards broadcast the night before, and they have a car and offered to run us over to Mega as they were going their for provisioning. 15 minutes later we were standing in front an ATM, got pesos, grabbed a taxi back to the marina, someone else let us through the gate, and zoom! - off to Punta Mita.

Which brings us to here, at anchor at Isla Isabela. The weather is forecast to lay down and stay that way for a couple of days, and that makes the island accessible to smaller boats such as Beetle. The run up the coast was uneventful except for crossing over multiple unlit, unflagged, marked with small bottles, nets. We discovered, by accident, that you can run over the polypropylene line joining the floats - by the simple act of running over one and having it not hang up on the keel, propeller, or rudder. The trick is to hit the line at right angles to the line, and go over with speed. I was also watching the floats on either side to see if they took off after us, indicating that we had hung up on the line (if that had happened, over the side with knife to remove the line) - and the bottles remained still. Also checked the speedo to see if we dropped speed or stayed put. And we stayed put and chugged up the coast.

So now it is evening, Kristen is attacking the pasta and preparing some foods, plus she cooked up a nice Huachinango (red snapper) fish and we had fish tacos for lunch.

All is good on board!

- rob

March 5

Charlie Tuna
03-05-2014, 10:27 PM
So it goes. Keep em coming!

03-07-2014, 10:52 AM
Thursday morning was the first opportunity to dive the anchor to inspect the bottom and see how things were set down there. Turns out we had just missed the most sandy bits while anchoring, and then Iolanthe (Freya 39, I believe) with Nick on board appeared from around the corner - he had singlehanded south from Mazatlan bound for Isabela. Kristen and I got busy moving the anchor, which involved three different trips to the bottom to lay out chain that had bunched up, verify the anchor was in sand (actually heavy sand and ground up coral), and get the anchor ball line adjusted to the water depth. By the time all was done the boat was in reasonable anchoring state, and two spotted eagle rays had gone by slowly and very gracefully.

The water is fairly clear, not as clear perhaps as at Santa Catalina Island in Southern California, and Kristen and I went snorkeling around the rocks with cameras to watch the fishes. Kristen particularly liked seeing the rainbow parrot fish and large coronet fish, and there are moorish idols here as well - super pretty fish. The morning started off quite calm and by noon the wind was up to 12 knots and that produced sufficient waves to stir up some of the sand and reduce visibility. Therefore it seemed like a good time to go ashore to the island.

We dinghied around to the south cove and discovered two boats were at anchor there, which is pretty impressive as it is a narrow cove with many rocks in it. One boat was more or less dead center and the smaller sailboat was off to the east side and tucked in under the large cliff - both boats looks very close to all the rocks, at least closer than I would be happy doing. But they seemed to be quite happy to be there.

Kristen and I walked around to see the boobies and frigates, and found a whole bunch of what I think are terns had appeared in the booby colony. Terns are vocal birds, tons of squawking and squeaking and chirping, and they did not take kindly to two pedestrians moving through. Many of the terns were working on their single large speckled eggs; how a bird that small can produce an egg that large is amazing!

It was also fun to watch several large iguanas do the lizard-press-up thing with the front legs, sort of doing the 'I am taller than you' thing to the other lizards. And iguanas move pretty quickly for short distances when they want to, such as when being pursued by a bigger iguana that does better press-ups.

And last night Nick came over to join us for dinner, he is a scuba dive master and is at Catalina Island operating a shore boat at Twin Harbor during the summer (and had some hilarious tales of woeful anchoring by customers he is running in to shore, and upon return their boat has shifted all by itself clear across the anchorage), and enjoys running his boat down to Mexico during the winter.

This morning has appeared with a generally cloudy sky and the air is more tropical (or at least more moist). Baja Geary mentioned a plume of air and water moving from Hawaii to this area, perhaps what I am seeing is that plume. As result of the clouds it is slightly grey, the wind is holding around 8-10 knots which makes it a little bobbly on the hook. The anchorage at Isla Isabela is only good for fair weather, and the big question of the morning is do we stay here today or head for Chacala 55 miles to the SE. I think we should be ok to be here today, and can plan to head out tomorrow morning; the radio net comes up in a few minutes and I shall listen to Geary's forecast with interest.

Good morning!

- rob

March 7, 2014

03-14-2014, 09:18 AM
It's been a super fun couple of days here on the good ship Beetle. The weather was really really good out at Isla Isabel, which meant we were able to remain there on the hook for a second day. We used that day to go ashore with the video camera and collect two hours of frigate bird footage doing what frigate birds do: collect dry plant material for nest construction, attempt to attract female frigate birds with their big red balloon sack under their chin, chicks asking for food, and generally a lot of soaring through the trees and also just above the ground. While I was playing photographer Kristen and Nick went for the long walk around the island, which took them out to the northern point (lots of birds!), and then the trail petered out and rather than scramble along the cliff back towards the caldera we had visited the prior day, they retraced their steps and found even more birds.

We also went out to visit with the humpback whales. There are lots and lots of whales in the area, it's not unusual to see three sets of spouts from different groups of whales spread out around the island. Some of the whales were coming in very close to the point we were anchored at, so the three of us headed out in the dinghy to see what the whales were up to. One thing I've never seen is a whale from under water, so I was hoping to find some whales that were more or less stationary such that I could hop in the water and snorkel over towards them until I could see them - but that didn't work out as the whales are definitely moving, and they move way faster than I can swim. Even so, it's pretty amazing to be in a dinghy and have a 40+ foot animal pop up to the surface a body-length away - big animals!

There is also a fair amount of boat shifting happening as different boats arrive and depart, headed off in different directions. A Canadian couple appeared in the Caliber sailboat and stayed for a few hours, anchored even further inshore of Beetle - and I thought Beetle was close, these folks were way in there. Turns out they had been there before and knew what they were doing; the pangas charge around to tend their nets and long lines, and we heard the Mexican Navy on the radio hailing a boat in some sort of danger and in the background of the Navy's VHF call we could hear the siren going.

Friday night Nick had Kristen and I over to his Freya 39 for quesadillas and dinner, and we saw a lot of shooting stars flying across the sky. Plan was for up and out early Saturday morning to move the 55 miles over to Chacala, and from there set up to return to Punta Mita and Banderas Bay.

Sure enough, 6:30AM or so Beetle was up and on the move, as was Iolanthe (Nick) and the silent boat that had appeared, anchored, and never responded to a wave, hail on the radio, nothing. We dubbed them the 'ghost boat'. They were also the 'no anchor light boat' until way late at night their masthead light went on.

The trip across to Chacala was pleasant, light wind from the beam that the engine pushed forward as apparent wind, the mainsail added a half-knot to the boat speed, and the wind just stirred up the water enough to make the ocean look like a huge field of blue carpet set out before us. Lots of turtles were encountered, and they are funny in the way they stick their head up slowly to inspect the boat as Beetle passes by. Also lots of whales breaching, fin slapping, tail slapping, and spouting. Some of the breaches result in tremendous splashes - imagine dropping a VW bus in the water - that kind of splash.

We arrived at Chacala late afternoon to find that Georgia and Regardless were also here, then Sequoyah (the folks that drove Kristen and I over to the Mega at La Cruz) arrived, Nick came in, and there was a group decision to have a pot-luck of sorts hosted on Beetle (we have the biggest cockpit available).

While everyone was charging around getting ready (Rick brought dorado, Sequoyah vino and candied walnuts, Nick brought wine & quesadillas with mushrooms, Kristen did up pasta, Georgia brought extra cutlery and salad), I cleaned up the cockpit. Chacala is a really nice place to arrive, the hillside is bright green with palm trees and leafy trees, there is a sandy beach which the locals are enjoying, a series of thatch roof palapas along the beach, the swell was down and the anchorage is most pleasant. And then it was suddenly dinghy-arrival time and a most pleasant evening was enjoyed swapping stories. For example, I learned that Sequoyah has navigated the entire way from Southern California on an iPhone using Navionics charts!

Today is Sunday, another nice day with mild breeze (just enough to cool off the boat), and it is time to head ashore to walk around and see what's in the town.

- rob

March 9

03-14-2014, 09:19 AM
Beetle finds the keel floating above the sandy bottom at Chacala for a third day, and a lovely day it is. Sun is out, bit of breeze from the NW ruffling the water, puffy tradewind clouds in the sky, the little Honda generator is humming away on the pointy end of the boat and Kristen has set up a CD from Mana playing from the speakers.

There was a virtual VHF radio meeting a little while ago, the aim being to decide what to do for a group dinner. We had earlier in the day voted to have evening drinks and munchies on Iolanthe, and Nick pointed to the shore and claimed that his boat was now ashore and looked just like that palapa over there - no need to dinghy to the fiberglass thing off to the south, instead head for Iolanthe shore-base palapa. We took him up on his offer, and have decided that the plan is meet up for drinks and munchies on Nick's Palapa Iolanthe. Funny part is that Nick's VHF radio transmitter has failed, so all he can do is key the mic and make clicking sounds (2 clicks = NO, 3 clicks = YES), so we had to ask simple yes/no questions of Iolanthe so he could be part of the virtual meeting - especially important to him as the point of the meeting was to determine if we were all going over to his boat this evening :)

Yesterday was time to swap out the filters on the Spectra watermaker (Beetle has the Ventura model, it will produce 6 gallons/hour though what I'm finding is that it produces more like 7.5 gph in the warm water 'round these parts), I went to the spare filters bin and pulled out replacement carbon charcoal filter (strips any chlorine out of the fresh water flush to protect the reverse osmosis membrane), a half dozen 5 micron pre-filters, and NO 20 micron pre-filters... odd, where are the blue-topped 20 micron filters? Didn't Anders at Swedish Marine set me up with some when I purchased the unit and put on spares? Rather than tear the boat apart to see if I had placed the 20 micron filters in some location other than aft-port-side-near-the-watermaker, I was able to locate on gmail Anders' email listing the spares contents: six 5 micron filters, and no 20 micron filters. Rats!

I figured that being near Puerto Vallarta must be good for something, such as finding someone that might have Spectra watermaker parts. Idug around the web, found Azimuth Marine Services, called proprietor Kim on his cell phone (it was listed on his contact page), and no, he only installs and fixes Spectra watermakers and he does not stock any parts. He suggested I call Elizabeth Shannon as she has the chandlery across the street from the Vallarta Yacht Club, and no, he didn't have her number handy. Hmm.... I did some more digging on the web, and discovered there is a Vallarta Chandlery, and they mention Spectra Watermaker parts... I call them, I get a machine speaking to me in Spanish and then a beep. That's not helpful. I reconsider the problem, perhaps there is someone at Vallarta YC I could call - and then I re-read carefully the SGMarine listing and realize there is a cell number there as well. I ring it up, and I get, "This is Elizabeth - what's up?" I explain the desire for 20 micron filters, she says she's open every day and has lots of them. I tell her I am at Chacala and will be in Nuevo Vallarta on Tuesday, she says, "Chacala?" I say Yes, she says, "We're headed there right now on the boat, how many filters you need? We have the white mooring in the bay, and will be there tonight."

About 7pm last night a 65' power boat appears over the horizon, they are cruising right along, anchor out, back up to mooring that is used as a stern anchor, and I dinghy on over - there's Elizabeth with six 20 micron filters, hand-delivered to a sailboat floating in Chacala. Pretty amazing how some things work out! I installed the replacement filter this morning, and have the other five to go with the five 5 micron filters I have remaining from Anders.

All is good in the world today! And should you find yourself on the beach at Chacala this evening around sunset, wander on over to Nick's Iolanthe palapa and join us. Look for 8 somewhat ragtag folks having bebidas and diners.

Oh - and as regards Banderas Bay Regatta, Beetle is entered, we will be at Paradise Village Marina tomorrow night, and start up four days of low-key crewed racing Wednesday morning. Should be lots of fun. Crew on board are:

Rob (me)
Rick (old IOR racer)
Bernard (foredeck on SC50, I believe)
Ben (SSS Transpac vet)
Lucie (Pacific Cup vet)
Nick (ex-dinghy racer)

Should be lots of fun!

- rob

March 10

03-14-2014, 09:20 AM
Today was our first day on the water as a team (well, a group of friends) and get out on the water for some race practice. Banderas Bay Regatta (BBR) is three days of low-key racing for predominately cruising boats, hosted by the Vallarta Yacht Club here at Paradise Village Marina. In fact, the yacht club is a two minute walk from the boat, go to the end of the dock, out the gate, across the small boat launch ramp, and you're at the front door.

The club is a nice facility, there's a small pool and really good showers in the lower level, the upper level is large and airy, lots of tables and chairs, with a great view across the marina. The sense I have is this entire area, as in Paradise Village, is aimed at the non-Mexican group, e.g., the gringos. Most everybody speaks English, there is a good size set of shops here that specialize in hard-to-find American foods and goods that one doesn't normally see at the local Soriana mercado, this is an upscale resort, lots of condos and lots of hotel rooms, and the marina is rumored to be the top marina in Banderas Bay. So it's pretty funny to have a bunch of cruisers hanging out here, though if all the cruising boats looked like the well-cared for Oyster 485 that is racing then we all would be welcome everywhere!

The race committee (RC) has their act together, this is a big event for the club (I believe it was stated at the skipper's meeting that this race is the biggest event of the year for the club). It's fun to be part of something that is so well organized. Today the RC went out to run through the entire race start sequence twice, and invited the boats to come out and practice starts while RC practiced moving marks, running the flags, horns, radio traffic in order to keep the flow going smoothly. On board Beetle we got going with six folks, Bernard is driving upwind, Ben is driving downwind, I'm doing the starts and then move out to the foredeck, Nick is grinding like crazy, Rick is running the mainsail, Kristen is jib trimmer upwind and pit downwind when the kite goes up. Our first spinnaker gybe wasn't the greatest, and then we banged off four more and were getting pretty good by the end. Everybody is busy, essentially all the time. Good thing the courses are relatively short!

After bounding about the bay for several hours we zipped back in to the marina and reversed into our 104' slip in order to get the boat's AC power inlet close to the dock box at inboard end of the slip. There's an absolutely gorgeous Chris Craft runabout side-tied inboard of us, and that's the tender to the fellow's gigantic sportfisher located three slips over; the owner stopped by and asked if he could swap places with us in the slip, as his tender isn't going anywhere for a couple of days whereas we are running in and out daily. I'm glad he asked, as it would not be fun to get Beetle around the 'tender to J & B' (from Dallas, TX) twice a day, especially as it's so well maintained.

The guys came down from their boats at La Cruz, and were able to split a big taxi van to make the run. Bernard also negotiated with the driver to pick them up on time each morning for the next three days - no need to worry about not finding a taxi when you need it.

A good day on the water, Beetle is working well, lots of McLube on everything stainless, it will be interesting to see if we can do as well tomorrow with all the upping and downing we will be doing on the windward-leeward courses that are planned. There is one similar boat we're sailing with (Roller Coaster, Peterson 44), plus a C&C 44 that is close, and it is fun to have someone to sail alongside and see if we can pass them while they see if they can pass us. But the name of the game here is safety, zero collisions (every boat is required to remove anchors from bow rollers), don't be too aggressive, don't frighten people, and above all have fun. The club is rolling out an event each evening (tonight was tequila tasting followed by dinner and a latin music soft rock band ); with the boats staying so close to the club it's easy to stroll over.

- rob

March 12

03-14-2014, 09:22 AM
This afternoon we had the distinct pleasure of port-tacking the fleet on the start (less one boat, we did have to duck them by a couple of feet as it was way too close to call as regards getting over their nose), and finished with no broken headsails and no broken spinnakers and no broken people. Placed third as well, I think (out of 6 boats in our division - missed second place by 4 seconds - so we were in the hunt today).

The race committee sets up two miles to the NW of the breakwater at Nuevo Vallarta, and we had two humpback whales cavorting off to one side while heading for the starting area - this made Ben happy despite my telling him that whales were not in the racing budget so I had not ordered up any. There were also turtles on the course, and we did not run over a single one.

The pre-start was fun as we got to hook up with Roller Coaster and see how we did with them - I think we were marginally faster, though we didn't point any higher. Unfortunately for Roller Coaster, their jib leech cord let go on the first beat to the weather mark (set straight upwind by RC), and when they missed the layline by one half a boat length they had to throw in two crash tacks to get around, during which time the leech cord wrapped up on the rigging near the first spreader, resulting in the entire leech tearing out of the sail. That was a fiasco, and then they set their borrowed asymmetric spinnaker and when the jib wouldn't come down both sails were up and flailing for several minutes before the asymmetric kite tore across in a big zig-zag. They dropped out of the race and went home.

The reach from the weather mark over to 'S' near Puerto Vallarta looked like a pretty hot angle for a spinnaker, we were third boat in our group and realized that everybody around us was flying asymmetric kites and having trouble holding, so we left our symmetric kite on deck and ran along with the no. 2 and main, holding hull speed in 16-20 knots of wind. We felt pretty good about this after watching a boat ahead split their kite, leaving the halyard and headpatch at the top of the mast and the remainder of the sail in the water. That's expensive and slow, a painful way to sail in a race.

Ultimately we got back to the leeward mark, turned upwind for two miles to the weather mark slightly over-powered with the no. 2, leaving Rick to figure out how best to depower the mainsail and keep the boat on its feet. Bernard was driving and working hard to find the groove, I was playing headsail trim aiming to depower the no. 2 as we sailed upwind in 16-20 knots of wind (well over the 14 knot limit we typically see on the no. 2), Kristen was calling the layline to the mark, and we made it ok. By the time we got to that mark we knew that Roller Coaster had dropped out and that was our real competition, so we skipped the spinnaker set, poled out the jib instead, and had a nice ride down to the leeward mark and a short hop back up to the finish. Mucho fun! That might have cost us the 4 seconds to second place, but it's a lot nicer to not have to fix anything on the boat.

Tomorrow everyone is back on board at 11AM, and I have it on reasonable authority that we are going to get the longer parade race down to turning mark at Puerto Vallarta (it was explained to us at the skipper's meeting that part of the game is to have the boats sail along the beach in front of everyone, as that makes the sponsors happy, and given the wonderful warm conditions here I am more than happy to oblige). We are feeling a little more brave and may go for the spinnaker tomorrow, especially if the wind is either a) slightly lighter, or b) slightly more to the NW than it was today. Flying the shy kite in 16 knots true on the beam is a lot of work...

Afterwards we went over other jacuzzi and swimming pool at the big resort here, then hit the yacht club for tacos al pastore (I like these). And Norman and Candace came over from La Cruz; Norman helped sail Beetle to Cabo San Lucas in 2009 as part of the Baja Ha Ha, and now his Swan 44 is at the marina just up the bay from Nuevo Vallarta. It was super to see them and hear about their adventures with managing vintage race cars in Europe during the summer, and sailing their boat in Mexico during the winter.

Tomorrow I need to take some time and get some photos of the racing, as the conditions are marvelous - windy but not too windy, the air is warm but not too warm, and the water is just the right temperature when you get splashed - nobody is complaining about hiking out on the rail when we punch into the water.

- rob

March 13

03-18-2014, 03:34 PM
Day two of the regatta is complete, Beetle placed 2nd - pretty darn cool. No big drama, everything held together and we had a super day on the water.

I talked with Roller Coaster this morning, their jib is not repaired (yet) and the asymmetric spinnaker is toast - no fixing. He is not happy, but is going out today as he was carrying two 6-packs of Pacifico (in cans) to the boat for his crew. I also learned that the jib on another boat that seemed to lower very slowly slowly on the weather beat from the start (when jibs are NOT supposed to lower) had broken the head ring - which means the halyard did not break but instead the sail failed. They were getting it fixed today, ready to sail tomorrow. Found this out at the grocery store while purchasing supplies for our crew. You can tell who is purchasing racing crew stuff at the check-out line as they have lots of beer, lots of soda, and no tequila or Cubans.

Race today was the big tour from Nuevo Vallarta to Puerto Vallarta by way of 'S' mark off the river mouth north of Puerto Vallarta. We had a good start at the committee boat end on starboard, albeit perhaps 20 seconds late though that was taken up by other boats tangling with each other and allowing us to scoot through into fourth. The weather beat was straight forward, we're figuring out how to go upwind with the no. 2 in chop, passed Roller Coaster at the start, and picked off the C&C 44 Fury on the way. That left ahead of us the untouchable Olas Lindas (two bullets, brand new, very fast), the Capri 37, and Bright Star.

The wind was way left from the previous day, turning the run towards Puerto Vallarta into a tight reach under white sails except for Olas Lindas that flies a spinnaker in the colors of Vuitton or similar, and they were fast. We followed doing hull speed, and watched Fury set a super flat asymmetric behind us. At 'S' it was a 10 degree turn downwind and we set our shy kite in 15 knots breeze and held off the C&C 44. Roller Coaster was the Ruggles in the Rear, going nowhere particularly fast.

The return reach to 'S' was another parade, with Olas LIndas missing the mark and turning around to sail back towards us in order to round (didn't affect their results, they are that fast), we hung on and did ok.

Kristen called the leeward mark we had to get to and we were able to sail minimum distance, we caught up with the next two boats, and suddenly it was upwind with 18-20 to weather mark (in order to complete the W-L sausage leading to the finish line) with the no. 2 and full main. It was a full court press as we thought we were close. Bernard drove, Ben kept up trim on the jib sheet and adjusting the cars as needed, Kristen maintained a point on the windward mark (we did NOT want to overstand), Rick played the traveler like a mad man, and we were good to go.

On the way in to the weather mark we watched other boats have spinnaker problems, so we elected to instead run deep with the no. 2 on the pole and it worked a treat we hit 9+ knots DDW aimed directly at the leeward mark, maximum VMG. Bright Star boobed their spinnaker jibe and wrapped everything up on the headstay, the Mexican boat (Capri 37) goofed, and suddenly we were in contention - very cool. Hard to beat a boat going straight downwind at maximum VMG relative to rating.

At the leeward mark we messed with a J80 from a different course (they were bounced out as they were on port and we were on starboard, they were not happy and later tried to get even by tacking onto starboard directly in front of our bow - they were lucky to not get cut in half, I will speak to RC tomorrow about that as it was uncool to tack into an advantaged position and give us no warning, we missed them by three feet or less even after a wild bear off to avoid them). By the time we were at the finish it was still blowing 20 knots and we now know how to make Beetle go upwind well with the no. 2 up in that kind of wind - keep boat speed at 7.2 knots and play the main traveler to keep up point when we can.

Afterwards it was pool and hot tub, and then off to club, we learned we had taken second, and are now tied with the Mexican boat for 2nd in in the regatta. Tomorrow will tell. Most amazing!

Tomorrow is supposed to be a shorter race to get the fleet back to the dock early in preparation for walking over to the Paradise Village beach for purposes of enjoying the big buffet dinner, awards presentation, closing presentation, and sunset.

All is good from this end! And Kristen's duffel bag once again has a restitched handle at one end, which is useful if you want to pick it up and shift it about the boat.

The Beetle Boat gang hard at work; Ben (jib trim) is on the left, Nick (grinder extraordinarie) is behind him, Rick (mr. Main Trim) is holding the wheel, Bernard (upwind driver) is holding onto the backstay and watching the wind shifts prior to the start, Kristen (start timer, mark spotter, pole lift operator) is next to Bernard, Norman (grinder and spinnaker halyard up/downer) is behind Charlie, there's Charlie the dog (he drools a lot down below and tries to climb into the spinnaker bag as it is being repacked), and Lucie. Rob (me) is hiding behind the camera.

Rick watching the main trim. He's raced on IOR 50s and a bunch of other boats, and is quite happy to hang out and make the helmsman's life easier (or harder) as he plays the traveler, giving the boat point or letting the boat foot.

Nick, prior to the start. He didn't look quite so relaxed after grinding the genoa for two hours, but we were faster for his efforts. He also made all the sandwiches that we ate on the way to the leeward mark!

Ben working the twinger on the reach to 'S'; he's done several SSS TransPac races, and it's super to have him on board Beetle to keep the program going forward fast


Bernard driving; he has done a superb job of keeping the gang focused and organized during the legs, and has a good feel for when the boat is going fast and when the boat is dogging along not quite-so-fast. He is used to racing on bigger boats (SC 50, Andrews 56) and is quite enjoying hanging out with us on our lowly N/M 45. Super guy - his boat is over in La Cruz, where Beetle will be come Monday.

Norman did some genoa grinding today, and then managed the halyards on the spinnaker up/down work as we were headed for the wing mark off Puerto Vallarta. Norman's Swan 44 is at La Cruz, and he's invited me over next week for dinner and drinks. Norman did the 2009 Baja HaHa run on Beetle, and he's quite good at anticipating issues and solving them so they never happen in the first place.


Kristen doing the mark-spotter thing on the way towards one of the marks. The mark spotter is often in front (gets the most wet of all in this case, as the bowman is behind the camera), and Kristen was really good at seeing the next mark and then calling out the most direct path to it, which saved us quite a bit of time as we did not wobble above/below course and instead were able to sail straight at the mark.

Lots of fun today, the third race is tomorrow, hopefully it is as fun as today's sailing was.

- rob

March 14

03-18-2014, 03:43 PM
Third day on out on the water for Beetle was not the greatest day; it was lighter air (10-11 knots max, often 5-7), and we didn't put up the no. 1 genoa as everyone, including all of our competition, thought it would fill in at 18 knots - everybody put up the no. 2 jib. Everyone was slow, it was a light-boat day and we were the heavy boat in our fleet. At least we had transferred the 275' of chain and the big anchor to a location just ahead of the mast, that reduced the pitching moment somewhat.

We did ok at the start, deciding to come in from port - only Roller Coaster decided to block us and ducking to avoid them slowed us down at the start, we ended up last off the line by some seconds but headed in the direction we wanted to go - and then we had brain failure and decided to try and chase down the lightweight Capri 37 sailed by the local racing team. Not the brightest idea! They could tack on the shifts and get up to speed way faster than we could - so we had to abandon that idea and instead simply head for the weather mark.

At that weather inflatable mark it was a super spinnaker ride down to 'S' 3 miles away, big 0.7 AirX kite up with the pole on the headstay, Beetle chugging along nicely, that was the best bit of the sailing for us in the regatta. Lots of fun, whales about, looking good.

The reverse reach back to the leeward mark went ok, we kept boat speed up and the wind never filled. We had an up-down windward-leeward sausage to complete before rounding up to finish, and the leeward mark was our undoing as our driver (Bernard) over-amped, got excited, we rounded the mark and then went into... irons? what happened?... argh! Lots of running around, we crash tack (well, slow motion crash tack) and manage to come out with zero speed and going sideways. Oh well, happens to the best of us. We recovered, made it to the finish, missed a right side of the course wind fill, and then finished. I thought we were toast in the standings...

turns out we actually did place third in our division in the regatta! - very cool. I didn't find this out until Tiger Beetle was called out at the awards presentation, which was held on the sea beach in front of the resort, a ton of good food at the buffet, a band was present and having fun as well, and then we suddenly were handed a trophy. Not too shabby!

Today Kristen has headed for the airport at Puerto Vallarta to catch her flight home, tonight I will remain at Paradise Village Marina and do some laundry and a bit of shopping, then tomorrow over to La Cruz and relax in the anchorage there. Turns out I now have several friends there (Rick, Nick, Ben, Lucie, Bernard) and I'm certain we will do some hanging out and catching up on stories whilst there.

Tonight I will also be meeting Rob Murray from Avante at the Sunday night 6pm yacht club potluck dinner - he is from Vancouver, British Columbia and he's going to mark up my Evergreen cruising guide to that area - as that's where Beetle is headed next!


We worked darn hard for this blue-painted bit of wood; it's really rather nice and swoopy in shape with the Vallarta YC logo engraved in it. Kristen is taking it home, as I don't have a good place for a three-dimensional trophy on the boat (can't screw it to the bulkhead, for example).


Kristen is particularly pleased to have won a trophy on the boat, it was significantly her idea that lead to the impetus to entre the regatta. It worked out very well to finish up her two week stint in Puerto Vallarta with the boat back at Paradise Village Marina, though we never did get into PV proper as we were extremely busy with the regatta and boat prep and sailing, followed by long bouts of sleeping. I have a good bruise on the right side, and Kristen looks like she has gone three rounds with a yacht - lots of bruises from banging around the race course. And off the dock we have palm trees, which make a nice rustling sound when the wind is moving through them.

- rob

March 16

03-25-2014, 09:24 PM
Something tells me, rob didn't race for the pickle dish

03-27-2014, 03:26 PM
It's Friday morning and Tiger Beetle has been happily anchored in the roadstead outside the marina after arriving Monday afternoon from Nuevo Vallarta. This is a fairly large marina in the relatively small town of La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Nayarit (which everyone shortens to La Cruz) - and currently is hosting a large series of Mexico Cup races - Regata Copa Mexico. A whole bunch of J24s and wind surfers are competing, plus Lasers, Optimist dinghies, plus some warm up races for the upcoming MexORC event next week. A large section of the beach has been built up with grand stands for the wind surfing, and another big chunk of the parking lot has a bunch of fancy temporary buildings set up for hospitality for the racers. There are teams here from Peru, Mexico, USA, and lots of other places - this is big time racing 'round these parts, and this crowd looks like it would fit right in at the St. Francis YC - well done boats. Even the Mexican Navy is represented with their three large beautifully maintained IOR boats; it's pretty funny to see the team fly in each morning on a big grey military helicopter, they fly over the in the morning, do a loop above the marina, then drop down on a cordoned-off section of the parking lot - nothing subtle about it! Helicopters are pretty rare to see down here, so when a huge one flies in kicking out loud thumping rotor noise everyone stops to watch.

First order of business in La Cruz was to locate Guy on s/v Elan, he's a Spectra Watermaker 'roving technician' and Tony at Spectra in San Rafael said to find Guy, he was supposed to be in La Cruz and would have replacement O-rings for the carbon charcoal pre-filter. The O-ring that was in the pre-filter housing had stretched when replacing the filter (to do every 6 months), and the stretched O-ring was not going to fit back into the slot around the perimeter of the filter housing. I found Elan on the VHF net, he did have O-rings, he's from northern california and it was fun to hear more about his travels. Back at Beetle I burrowed back into the watermaker area behind of the aft ring frame to install the new O-ring and verify there are no leaks.

Second order of business was to spend some time at Philo's Cafe and his Cruiser's Center to upload to zenfolio a mess of pictures taken over the last three months. I did some of this in La Paz over a DSL connection, and it was super to find out that Philo's has a far faster connection; for 65 pesos a day you can hang out in the cruiser's lounge in the back of the building past the courtyard, use the network, read the books and charts and magazines there, and use the shower (hot!). A nice quiet place to spend two half-days and get that work done. An added bonus is the front room hosts local bands, so I got to listen to the musicians do their sound checks and practising for a couple of hours each day - fun to listen to three guys working on the congas, violin, and acoustic guitar to get the sound they wanted. I didn't work out to hear them play complete songs, as I was not back in town that night.

And last night I was invited over to join Norman and Candace for dinner aboard their Swan 44, located in the marina. They are prepping the boat for a summer stay here while they head back north and attend to the vintage auto racing circuit in Europe (Norman makes sure the race cars and engines perform perfectly for the driver/owner). Lots of stories about La Cruz (this is their third season here), and auto racing.

Today's list of things to do is pretty much whittled down to: change engine oil. Only one thing! I will get that done and then can go walk around the town and local area. I like this place, it's a lot cleaner than Ensenada, the streets are real cobblestone (sometimes also cobble-missing-stone), the people are super friendly, and I watched yesterday while two folks built a fishing net by stringing the top-line between a telephone pole and a post they had stuck in the street and then slowly and carefully tied on the lengthy net to the top line - they were at it all day, might have been 100 meters of brand new net when they were finished.

And I heard on the morning VHF net that Gecko Rojo (red gecko), the other large gringo-oriented bar/restaurant/night club, is hosting a three piece acoustic group tonight plus good pizza. Might be fun to try and make that and see what it's like.


The anchorage at La Cruz is large and fairly well protected from the wind and swell by the point poking out to the left in the picture and the hill rising above the town off to the right. I'm anchored in 25' of water, and just like in La Paz, each boat has its own private school of 4-6" fish that like to hang out in the boat's shadow. The pelicans and boobies know this, and will come in and do some amazing crash-dives inches from the hull to get a fish. From inside the boat it sounds like a small bomb has gone off when a pelican hits the water just on the other side of the hull!


Beetle hanging out; the pole on the mast is for lifting the dinghy - each night I pull the dinghy from the water and stow it on the foredeck. So far I have found zero growth on the dinghy bottom, and I do not worry about the dinghy painter parting nor anyone attempting to 'borrow' the dinghy. Dinghy theft is a big concern down here (though I have not heard of a theft in the time I have been here), as the dinghy and associated motor are expensive, difficult to replace, and are used every single day - imagine if someone stole your car and there was no car rental and the nearest place to buy a replacement car was 1000 miles to the north. That's the situation with the dinghies, so people tend to be careful about where to leave a dinghy and effectively 'garage' the dinghy at night by lifting them onto the deck or up on davits.


The marina at La Cruz, featuring large concrete docks in excellent condition, a serious break water to keep the swell out, and lots of parking all around. This marina is used by a lot transient boats, and I'm impressed at how much nicer it is here as compared to Marina Vallarta - and no surge, unlike Paradise Village Marina. Plus you're right at the foot of town-center for the small town of La Cruz


When walking to Philo's, this is the second right turn you could make, just after the town square. That's veterinarian in the red-painted storefront on the left. The streets are quite uneven vertically, which means that people drive quite slowly through the place, and the sidewalks are super-narrow, which means that most people walk in the street and not on the sidewalk. The nice part about cobblestone is the cars do not kick up dirt and dust as they go by - a big improvement over plain dirt roads. And it's green here, lots of green trees and plants.


The Cruiser's Lounge at Philo's, that's my computer and hard drives set up on the table, sending images back to the servers in Chicago. There's also a VHF radio and telephone on the ledge behind the computer table, and the door to the shower is directly behind the telephone. The network connectivity was excellent, making relatively short work of moving data.

And now it's on to engine maintenance!

- rob

March 21, 2014

03-27-2014, 03:41 PM
It's Monday morning here in the anchorage at La Cruz, and one of the things one does in La Cruz is try to keep the frigate birds from landing on the masthead wind speed/point indicator and on the windex; the birds are heavy and have a history of breaking the gear when they land on it. The birds are also quite fearless of heights and waving gear beneath their feet - I imagine they are accustomed to crash-landing into tree branches waving in the breeze, and a wiggly masthead with small rotating, weaving, and bobbing gear doesn't present much of a challenge to them. Either way, when they do the landing thing they apply their weight to the gear and can snap off the wands, break the cups, and mess up the bearings. Expensive, and difficult to replace here.

To combat the birds people have put up brooms, rakes, and tied string around the masthead to deter the birds. I've made up a pig-stick with a flag on top, hoisted to the masthead - which presents a problem for the birds as the stick reduces available landing area and the flag is a visual annoyance. The life of a frigate birds seems to involve spending a lot of time hangout at the corner drugstore and waiting for some other bird to pick up something useful out of the water, and then dive bomb the other bird in hopes it will drop the food so the frigate can swoop in and recover the food mid-air. At least a couple of the frigates prefer to hang out on mastheads rather than hover in the air like everyone else. So far my flag has worked.

I got the engine oil and transmission fluid and filters changed,yesterday and stopped by the boat yard to drop off the used oil for recycling. Beetle's floor boards look a little nicer as they are now washed, and I made a minor running repair to the dinghy floor boards - the rubber end caps on the aluminum rollup floor have a single rivet holding them in place, and two of the end caps came off, which presents a sharpish metal edge to the rubber fabric (not good). I ran in two holes each for the rubber end caps, and put in a pair of aluminum rivets each to hold the end caps in place. So far that is working fine.

Today's 'job' is to get to the larger market (Mega) and pick up provisions for the run over to San Jose Del Cabo, 288 miles to the NW from La Cruz. The weather forecast is looking good for a Wednesday morning departure from La Cruz and a planned Friday afternoon arrival at the southern tip of Baja (which is oddly referenced as 'The Baja' round these parts). I'm hoping there will be enough wind to sail some of that distance, which would be nice. Lindi is flying in on Saturday to join Beetle for the big loop up to Puget Sound/Seattle that we will be taking off on right around the first of April, and I need to be set up to meet her at the marina in Cabo.


The little bat ray friends swim around super slowly through the anchorage, these fellows are about 14" across wingtip to wingtip. Sometimes they travel singly, sometimes in small groups of 4-8 rays. The tiny fin-tips pop up above the surface on each stroke and the first thought when you see one coming is 'two small sharks!' and then they get closer and you can see their brown diamond-shape. This guy cruised by Beetle this morning when I had the camera ready.


You want your masthead to look like this, devoid of frigate birds. The flag is up on the pig-stick secured to the starboard spinnaker halyard run as a loop (the halyard tail is tied to the snapshackle where the sail normally attaches), hoisted until it two-blocks, and then crank down on each side of the halyard to keep the stick (in this case a spare mainsail batten) standing vertically. Also a really good use for the red protest flag


This is what you do not want to see - big frigate bird hanging out at the masthead (this is a neighbor's boat), standing on the wind speed/point wand. This bird is actually standing not on the wand, but even worse(!) - on the little air paddle that rotates to give wind point (direction). Bad bird!


The pig-stick as assembled on deck. I've got some gorilla tape wrapped around the batten to hold the flag in place, the halyard is looped at the mid-point of the batten and again at the bottom of the batten - loops held in place with more gorilla tape. Hoist it up, apply tension to keep the batten vertical, and the flag protrudes up above the masthead and flaps away in the breeze. If there's breeze but some rolling going on, the flag continues to flap with roll. At least one frigate bird came by to inspect the flag (gave it a quick nibble) but did not attempt to land. Good frigate bird.


And this is the non-OSHA approved method for staying dry in your RIB dinghy while running through the anchorage. Stand with legs wide apart, hold onto the painter in one hand, the dinghy throttle in the other. Note that this fellow is NOT using the little red-corded kill switch on the motor - if he falls out of the dinghy that outboard will continue to run and the dinghy will zoom around the anchorage until it flips, runs out of gas, runs into the shore, or somebody else catches it. You, as the recent operator only now treading water, have to hope the dinghy won't come back in your direction while you're still in the water. This happened recently to a dinghy operator in La Paz and the good samaritan that went to help and retrieved the person in the water, was himself run over (twice!) by the high-speed larger dinghy that was careening around the anchorage with the engine running at high speed and nobody aboard. The injury was severe, resulting in medevac to San Diego and loss of lower part of the leg. So use the kill cords.

- rob

March 24, 2014

03-27-2014, 03:43 PM
A quick note before passing Punta Mita (and while I have network connectivity) - Beetle is underway from the La Cruz anchorage and headed NW across to the marina at San Jose Del Cabo, 265 miles beyond the horizon. Weather is currently pleasant, the morning thermal easterly is pushing gently out of Banderas Bay, forecast is for fairly flat conditions today and tonight as there is a large trof out in front of me and depending on where the trof wobbles the wind will wiggle around from all different directions at 0-10 knots, at least that's what the forecasts are calling for today and tomorrow.

Basic plan is to run out and aim at a point west of Islas Marias as there is a 20 mile restricted area round the prison colony there, then point up slightly towards San Jose Del Cabo.

I will get out some more notes as I roll across the water, should have half way there (more or less) this time Thursday morning, hoping to arrive some time Friday morning at the marina; a slip is already reserved, and all is good on board.

Have fun!

- rob

March 26, 2014

03-27-2014, 03:45 PM
The small group of boats I have found myself traveling with, initially just Georgia and Beetle, has gradually expanded as we've moved along through the anchorages. Ultimately the gang expanded to six, and all of us ended up in La Cruz at the same time. Last night we decided to go out for a joint taco expedition in celebration of hanging out together, tell stories, and discover what each boat is going to do next. The season is winding down in Banderas Bay as it's getting warmer here (too hot already for some folks) and the heat is shortly followed by hurricanes - I believe hurricane season is typically considered to get under way June 1, and very few boats will be out on the water after that (hurricane season ends November 1). Choices for the boats are: depart the area completely (head for the Marquesas, return to the USA, head for Panama), go up into the Sea of Cortez where the water is cooler and hurricanes are less likely to get to, or stay local and hunker down in one of the few hurricane holes

Turns out I'm the first one out, having left this morning, and am headed over to San Jose Del Cabo to pick up Lindi (Jimmy's Aunt, if you remember Jimmy from the trip down from San Francisco in November, she was initially thinking of joining up for that run and couldn't make it, and instead is going to make the jaunt north from Cabo), and then do the big offshore loop to the Pacific Northwest.

Nick on Iolanthe is departing this weekend, headed for La Paz, Escondido, then down around Cabo and back to San Diego. His job at Santa Catalina Island starts up and he needs to be back for that, along with Iolanthe as that is his home on the mooring at Twin Harbors.

Rick on Regardless is going south to Barra for a month, leaving this weekend, I think, then up to San Carlos to haul the boat out for the summer. He hauled out there last summer and thought it worked out quite well.

Bernard on Simple Pleasures is doing some boat prep for another couple of weeks, then going up to the Sea of Cortez for a bit, and then making the sail north to San Francisco. He would like to spend a year back in San Francisco and tackle a significant refit of his boat to prepare for another round of cruising.

Sequoya is doing the hurricane hole thing and has taken a slip deep in Costa Baja Marina (La Paz), a good hurricane hole as those docks are well-protected by the tall hills to the south and east, land mass to the west, and the hotel buildings to the north. They are planning to then spend the summer in Italy visiting Alan's extended family in that area, and pick up the boat in the fall.

Ben & Lucie on Georgia are going up to Chacala Friday for the music festival, then head over to La Paz on Monday and get in some more time in the Sea of Cortez, and then decide what they want to do. Options include sailing to Hawaii to meet up with the SSS TransPac folks in Hanalei Bay, return to San Francisco, or do something else entirely!

It was a much fun to hear all the different plans, everybody is up to something!

Currently on board Beetle I'm moving along on course 286T making 6.5 knots over the ground, and need to stay outside of the restricted zone of the islands in front of me. This heading puts my outside-the-zone waypoint 34 miles out in front, and from there I can turn north to 20 degrees and head directly towards San Jose Del Cabo, roughly 220 miles up the track.

All is well on board, having fun, a relaxing way to start this leg.

- rob

March 26, 2014

03-27-2014, 03:46 PM
The weather has been cooperative today for making good time towards San Jose Del Cabo (SJD), the wind has remained light and from the side, the sea state has remained down, and Beetle is moving alongside the Islas Marias islands.

Turns out I am not alone out here; there are four other boats also traveling from Banderas Bay to Baja. I'v spoken with Tardis, they are sailing at moderate speed up the east side of the islands and they have a particularly good radio installation. Also traveling to the east side are Pura Vida, Loomba Loomba, and Klickatat (sp?). Klickatat's VHF radio is not working well, I am told, therefore I have not heard directly from them. All these boats are aiming for Los Muertos, I am aiming in roughly the same direction though to a slightly lower latitude.

One of the decisions to make when departing Banderas Bay is which side of Islas Marias to go. The forecasts called for slightly stronger winds from not the best direction in the vicinity of Mazatlan, and it's a slightly longer trip over the top of the islands. The deciding factor for me was the amount of nets Kristen and I found when traveling to Isla Isabela (lots of nets), and it struck me there might be no nets out in the deeper water further away from the coast, mostly 'cause the pangas probably aren't out that far. It was therefore with a small sense success when I listened to the east boats describing all the net locations as they ran across them, the lead boats calling back to the trailing boats as nets were crossed. Hopefully this continues and I do not find nets this evening.

Currently Beetle is about 1/4 of the way to SJD 208 miles to go. I'm listening to the Southbound SSB radio net, some of the boats I can pick up, and it seems that almost nobody can hear net control on board Cricket - so lots of relays going on to get the information through. In general it seems that winds are down up and down the area, most boats are motor sailing (as am I) and most folks are pushing north given the weather window that is open at the moment. There's also a whole bunch of boats that departed Mazatlan this morning, en route to Los Muertos. There might be a big gathering in Muertos come Friday as everyone shows up.

It's on into the evening for Beetle, running lights and steaming light are on, deck is stowed, time to make up a quick spot of dinner and keep reading my book!

- rob

March 26, 2014

03-27-2014, 03:47 PM
This morning the sun popped up over the water to the east, something of a rarity when exploring the pacific side of mainland Mexico, and it looks to be a good start to the day.

Last night was a quiet evening out here in the deeper waters of the Pacific - no fish boats, no pangas, no nets, no longlines, lots of big commercial traffic running their AIS transponders which means that the WatchMate and the computer can plot them for me. The only ship I actually saw was a large Carnival cruise ship running up the coast at 20.7 knots from Puerto Vallarta to Cabo San Lucas. The ship was nice and changed course to create a 4 mils separation, and was lit up like a gigantic electric office building laying out its side.

Last night I listened in to the Pacific Seafarer's Net on 14300 MHz at 0300UTC, this is a shore-based ham net to support maritime mobile traffic (of which Tiger Beetle would be one), and comes off as a professionally-managed net designed to cover the entire Pacific Ocean. Last night's net was run from Indiana, with relay stations spread around the perimeter, including relay stations in Hawaii and New Zealand (or Australia). The net runs in two phases with an 0300UTC warm up during which boats sign up for roll call, check propogation, and it also turns out some of the net controllers have phone patches so a boat can connect via radio to the controller, supply a telephone number that the controller dials, and then that radio is patched through a VOIP box and onto the phone system. As a VOIP system there appears to be no charge to 'use' the system and place the call. Interesting things one learns from hanging out on the HF radio - a phone patch will be fun to try out.

Currently I'm a bit over half way to San Jose Del Cabo, conditions are light winds at 4 knots from the West, motoring reef is in, engine is turning over and Beetle is cruising along at 6.1 knots with 129 miles to go, if conditions hold I should be arriving there tomorrow (Friday) morning. Haven't seen much in the way of marine life, except for one single boobie bird - I wonder if he was lost? At least he wasn't all tired out as he did not try to spend the night perched on the bow pulpit. I'm also listening to the radio nets that operate in the area (Amigo net and Sonrisa net) to pick up the two local weather forecasters take on what the breeze will be doing for the next 24 hours.

Enjoy the morning ashore, I'm having a good time out here reading books and watching the clouds.

- rob

March 27, 2014

03-28-2014, 03:33 PM
It's now 0200 UTC and I'm roughly 56 miles from the entrance to Puerto Los Cabos marina at San Jose Del Cabo, and given current speeds and conditions I should be there sometime early Friday morning, perhaps even before their office opens. If so, then I'll run on in and tie up at the fuel dock - one of the nice features of having been to the marina before is I have my original track to reference, and I know what the marina layout looks like. Otherwise I would not enter in the dark; of course, I have to get there in the dark for that to make any difference, and as it is I am slightly ahead of schedule.

This run has continued to be a pleasant one, especially as the weather has cooperated so nicely. Seas have remained low, wind was out of the SW for most of the day and has now shifted around and dropped to 4-6 knots from the W. I'm headed NW (305T) and that puts the light breeze more or less close to the nose, but the flat seas mean that the motor is doing a fine job of pushing Beetle along towards the harbor. I do get the occasional bonk from the chop, and hopefully the wind read the same forecast this morning that I did and will not build up into something significantly stronger. That's supposed to happen Saturday, and I would like to keep it mellow tonight and tomorrow morning.

I got in some good reading today, including the radar manual (gripping stuff, radar manuals) as regards why the guard zone alarm sometimes won't go BEEP-BEEP when something enters the guard zone? Turns out that the zone will work in two modes: alarm on entry, and alarm on exit. When the zone is set the little computer in the radar examines the zone for targets and if any are found inside the zone the computer decides this must be an alarm on exit zone and if there is no target then you have an alarm on entry; there is no visual indication of this behavior, it's just something you have to know, it seems. Kinda like you have to know how a cell phone works as they have so few keys and so many functions overlaid on those keys. Well, with the radar's default antenna gain setting it is easy to set the guard zone with targets popping up in it when in fact what I really want is an empty guard zone that will then be alarm on entry. Now I know this, and have monkeyed around with the gain control when setting the guard zone and now I can make the radar go into alarm on entry. I sleep better that way!

The water is 3 degrees cooler than in Banderas Bay, and the flying fish have returned in force. They like to zip out and away when the hull goes by. I also went by two large fishing trawlers out here setting long lines - radar goes BEEP-BEEP when they pop up on the horizon and I go look for them. Long line equipment is ok as the gear tends to be down under the water a bit; it's the on-the-surface nets that are the big problem, and I've seen none of those today.

My plan is to be in a slip tomorrow, wash down the boat, sort out the mechanics of checking out of the country - where to go, who to see, that sort of thing - and then take the afternoon off and relax. That and get in an interrupted night of sleep, that will be nice as well.

- rob

March 27

03-28-2014, 03:35 PM
Beetle and I arrived at Puerto Los Cabos (the marina) in San Jose Del Cabo (the town) on the Baja peninsula this morning, and I was tied up and asleep at 0430 at the enormously long (like 500') fuel dock. Shortly thereafter I was woken up by the security guard asking who I was and what my plans were; a nice discussion in spanglish followed and it was established he would leave my passport at the marina office and I would sleep at the dock until I checked in with the marina office in the morning. I promptly went back to sleep and got in a solid 5 hours sleep.

Last night's run in to the marina went very well, winds went calm 30 miles outside the indentation/bay that faces the Pacific, flat enough to see the individual stars reflected in the sky. It's really neat to be gliding along in the black water, no moon, no clouds, no shore, a zillion stars up above all around way down to the horizon, and have the stars be reflected back at you in the glassy water. There is no way to sense the break from sky to water, so for all the world it feels like you're slowly floating along with no sense of weight inside the universe and you're completely surrounded by stars - above, below, to the sides - it's one of those amazing things that do not happen all that often, but when they do - they are stunning.

I have found that the engine start battery has died and will not hold a charge; as part of checking in to the marina this morning the girl at the marina office made two telephone calls for me and found the desired battery in town at the FerreteriaMar (I suspect that means something along the lines of marine chandlery), I talked with the fellow and he has the group 31 starting battery ('one or two?' he asks. I say, 'One only, please'). In a bit I will call the marina on VHF 22A and ask them to send over a taxi so I can run over and pick up the battery. The marina I am at is part of a large resort, and the marina is filled with gigantic sportfishing power boats, all of which are going to have multiple batteries to start each engine - I figured I was going in to a good spot to find an engine start battery!

I also got a slip on the east side in the cheap seats - meaning the docks have water but the electricity has not been brought in yet. I was here in December and I'm in the same set of 9 slips that don't have power, therefore I got the same price break again. The showers are in the one-story building just behind the dock gangway, and the palapa restaurant with the good food is also right here.
Dinner plans are made!

A good run, only issues were the start battery (that I have been watching for a while), and the steaming light bulb seems to have gone out. Something to sort out later on today.

- rob

March 28

04-03-2014, 11:04 AM
Tomorrow morning Tiger Beetle, along with rob (me) and Lindi (newly on board) will be rolling out of San Jose Del Cabo and Mexico in a short while, headed out onto the big blue highway aiming for points northwards. This is the 'big leg' of the summer, perhaps 3500 miles of sailing from the southern tip of Baja California, Mexico - up to the Strait of Juan de Fuca that separates Canada from the United States. First land fall is intended to be Friday Harbor US Customs dock, in the San Juan Islands. And then commence enjoying the waters north of Seattle, such as the San Juan Islands, Desolation Sound, Vancouver Island, and points north in British Columbia, Canada.

The boat is looking pretty good, yesterday was the big shop at Wal Mart Super in Cabo, Victor Barrera's agent Daniel checked Lindi and I and Tiger Beetle out of Mexico - yep, we are allowed to leave - and Beetle has its first zarpe (paperwork allowing departure from the country). Often the next country one arrives at will want to see the prior country's zarpe, as having a zarpe means you departed the prior country in good standing. Getting a zarpe before departing the US is problematic as the USA Immigration/customs/border patrol (DHS) doesn't issue zarpes to recreational boats - which means that often US boats arrive with no exit paperwork indicating it was ok to depart the USA. At least in Mexico they didn't ask for a zarpe, once I told them I had come from San Diego.

On the subject of 'it is a small world' - a 35' sailboat arrived the morning after I did, and the fellow on board was Ralph. He had retired, bought his boat in Sausalito and outfitted it for going to the Marquesas, then decided to go to La Paz first. I invited him over to Beetle for a sunset beer, Lindi was here, and it turns out that Ralph had his boat at Mario's slip in Grand Marina (right down the dock from Beetle and opposite Kristen's boat), Mario did the welding work on the stern pulpit, Lindi had met Ralph there and invited him up to Arne's shop Christmas party, and at the party he had met Kristen. And now, four months later, the same boat pops up next to Beetle here in Cabo - tiny world, eh?

I've dived the bottom of the boat, removed the extra-sticky and apparently super-fast growing barnacles from the underside - a whole lot of tiny 1 mm barnacles that knock off easily, and around 20 big centimeter size ones that are actually difficult to remove - they are gone as well. How these fellows adhere and grow so darn fast is beyond me; the bottom was really clean 3 weeks ago... oh, and there was one solitary gooseneck barnacle trying hard to cling on at the transom - that one was also consigned to the deep. The little Honda generator is chugging away on the foredeck and bringing the batteries up to full voltage - always nice to start a trip with topped-off batteries.

Where Beetle will show up next is difficult to tell. The weather forecasts are quite good out 2 days, when you go out four days it gets iffy, and beyond that is pretty much crystal ball gazing. Unfortunately for me, the boat doesn't go that fast - so I really don't know what the weather is going to be down the road. The full trip to Washington is perhaps 25 days - too long into the future to have a forecast and plan accordingly. What I have done is come up with a series of bail-out options should weather to the north look bad enough that I don't want to get caught up in it.

Generic plan is to depart Cabo on a SW trajectory and use the trade winds to move 750 miles west of Cabo - that gets us all the westing needed and puts Beetle on a longitude roughly suitable for San Francisco (I am way east of San Francisco, CA now). This is well south of all the nasty Lows up in the Gulf of Alaska, and a fairly straightforward sail.

Once out there the plan is to arc NW relative to the winds and start to parallel the coast. This is where the forecasts begin to fall apart, as it will take 4 to 5 days to get 'out there' in the first place, and the forecasts aren't accurate that far into the future.

If weather to the north looks bad, the first bail-out is Southern California. Should be easy to get to as this is generally speaking south of all the nasty weather up near Alaska. If we got to San Diego (short trip!), it would be a hop across Southern California to Santa Barbara, and from Santa Barbara wait for a two-day weather window and run the boat up to San Francisco. Then wait for more stable weather (primarily Pacific High stabilizing) and then push on to Washington.

Bail-out option no. 2 is San Francisco - a bit more in the future than Southern California, and barring a major storm coming down the coast it is likely we could get to SF without too much trouble.

Beyond SF it gets more interesting as we are getting closer to the big Low pressure systems that are still sweeping out of Japan and into the Gulf of Alaska. There is a port of refuge in Oregon, up near Portland: Port of Newport, Oregon; this is about half-way from SF to the Strait, and this port does not have a significant bar to cross to entry and therefore doesn't usually close in the event of a big storm. If weather looks good north of San Francisco as Beetle approaches the bail-out turning point east towards San Francisco, then we can proceed north for some days and then if we had to, run for the coast and into Port of Newport.

If everything works out fine and we don't run into a major Low, then best of all possible worlds is Beetle arrives at the Strait of Juan de Fuca in late April, with the Friday Harbor customs dock ahead of us.

(note: and this is Wednesday morning)

It's Wednesday morning - and based on current weather forecasts the goal has shifted from aiming all the way at the Pacific Northwest, and instead now aiming for Santa Barbara (actually, Long Beach - there's a US customs dock there). The weather remains unsettled to the north, the current plan is to get out west for two days, at which time the winds are forecast to soften and then I will point Beetle more NW, aiming for a point roughly 30N x 130W. The very long term forecasts call for a cut-off low to appear off Southern California with a bunch of northerly wind behind it as the High squeeze in. If that actually happens then it would be nice to be east of that Low (around 30N x 135W) such that we can ride north-east towards Southern California, and later reach in to the coast on port tack if the High really does bring in strong northerly winds. The breeze is also forecast to go dead come Monday/Tuesday over the whole area - at which time we would motor slowly northwards. If the wind does fill from the north, then it would be nice to be in a position to come into Southern California on port tack without too much crashing. From there re-group, re-fuel, and see what happens next! Should not be too difficult to run up to San Francisco from Southern California, and wait there for a better weather window to set up for going north.

So that's the plan this morning! Not to worry, everything can change with each set of forecasts that come in.

All is well on board! Time to put the show on the road :)


Beetle at Puerto Los Cabos, these are gigantic slips that are way too long and way too wide for the boat - good thing to have long dock lines. There's no power to this dock, and that keeps the cost down as the marina charges less when you don't have power. On the plus side, these are the docks that are closest to the showers.


The marina office is on the opposite side of the marina from where I am, lots of huge power boats here that go out and chase marlin. I haven't seen anyone actually bring in a marlin, so perhaps they are using the catch and release approach to fishes.


Dived the bottom yesterday, that's the honda generator attached to the air compressor attached to 60' of yellow hose attached to the regulator, and that makes it really easy to work under the boat. There were tons of tiny little barnacles the size of a large grain of sand, and maybe 20 larger ones that are the size of half a dime in diameter. I'm amazed at how quickly these little buggers grow - the bottom was clean for the Banderas Bay racing just three weeks back. They are gone now! Zincs look good, too - nothing to replace there, and the propeller has been cleaned up again.

- rob

April 2, 2014

04-03-2014, 11:05 AM
Tiger Beetle cleared Cabo Falso this afternoon and headed out onto the open Pacific - and we've discovered these things called swells and waves. Not too many of them inside the Sea of Cortez where it was flat flat flat, out here it is bouncy!

All is good on board, we're holding a course of roughly 255T, working towards the west without giving up too much north position - though I knew it was going to be a south-westerly departure from Cabo so we have dropped some in latitude. Hopefully we can make that up over the next couple of days.

I checked Beetle into the Pacific Seafarer's net, Beetle is now vessel no. 8 in the roll call (last boat today), and heard about a major aftershock off Chile following yesterday's big earthquake. No tsunami has been reported that anyone knew about. During the net's warmup a spanish-speaking fellow came on frequency and we learned that there are three ham channels now being used for communications to assist with any disaster recovery efforts in Chile. One of the frequencies is 14.255, just below the seafarer's at 14.300. I did not write down the other two frequencies.

Conditions here are boisterous though not bad, 18-19 knots of wind from the NW, 5-6' seas, and we're running with a triple-reefed main and headsail rolled up to 80% or so, the goal being to keep boat speed down around 6 knots and keep things comfortable on board. The wind itself is oscillating slightly, so there are times the boat will speed up and bonk into a wave as the wind goes aft - well, more sideways, actually as we're close-reaching. Then the wind will shift forward a bit and we slow down to a more sedate speed and things get quieter below decks.

Above decks the stars are out in force, the moon is just setting as it is now 0434 UTC (roughly 9:30pm local time), there's little water going over the boat which is nice. Lindi is asleep, I came on watch at 8pm and will keep an eye on things until 11, at which time it will be her turn again.

In the morning I should have some more weather forecasts to look at. Most recent one was from a telephone call from Kristen, stating that the GFS model was calling for lighter winds backing to the north in our area tomorrow (Thursday) afternoon. If that happens then I will bring the bow up more and press more into the wind as compared to the close-reaching that we're doing now.

All in all it's been a good departure from the tip of Baja, next goal is to get our westing and also some northing and see how the weather plays out. Elsewise it's reading books, hanging on, sleeping, and keeping the boat chugging along under reduced sail area to keep the whole program comfortable and fun without too much banging off the waves. The wind generator is also keeping up with power consumption, so no need to run the motor tonight for charging purposes.

Have a most excellent evening on shore, it's a fairly nice one out here.

- rob

April 2, 2014

04-03-2014, 11:06 AM
Good morning, it's Thursday here, white high overcast scattered about with bright blue above, winds have dropped slightly to the 15-19 knot range and I've unrolled four more rolls of the jib. We're still close reaching, the wind has backed slightly and we're now doing roughly 275-280T at 5.5-6.5 knots. Speed varies depending upon how tall a wave we just climbed up and over. This sort of sailing is exactly the same thing one does when departing Hawaii, reaching across the trade winds to get to the High. The key is how high and how fast do you want to go? The wind will let you push the boat very hard and then it's completely uncomfortable down below. Most folks leaving Hawaii will go into race mode and do that for several hours, until they realize there's no race and it's difficult to read in those conditions. Then they throttle back a bit - which is where we are now, slightly throttled-back mode.

Current position is 22 degrees 23 minutes N x 111 degress 56minutse W, which puts us not-quite due south of Bahia Santa Maria. There's another 5 degrees of west longitude to make before getting to the same longitude as San Diego, so going west is a good thing.

I haven't pulled down any weather data yet (next wfax broadcast, the 24 hour surface forecast) is due out in 3-1/2 hours. I'm going to request a GFS model grib file through saildocs, that will cover our local area (Baja to San Diego), and Kristen may have some additional information as she can look at what's available on the web (primarily wfax, passage weather gribs, and predict wind gribs). What I'm hopoing for today is the wind to back more to the north and back off, which would allow more northing in possibly flatter water.

On board all is well, Lindi and I have been trading off 3 hour watches, she is asleep at the moment and I'm sitting in the nav station typing up this note. The interior has remained reasonably dry for the most part, no surprising large waves have made it in through the hatch, and the hard dodger is working a treat. Nice to hunker behind when some water comes your direction.

It's fairly warm still, not cold like it would be up off San Francisco, and that makes overall conditions bouncy and lumpy but reasonable. It's certainly been no problem to sleep in my bunk, which is well padded with pillows. Lindi's bunk is well padded with Kristen's fancy blue memory foam mattress topper thingy.

Last night we did sail by one strange sight: four large ships spread out in an east to west line, all with lots of bright lights on, none with AIS on, and none appeared to be moving. It was almost as if a flotilla had decided to go to sleep right there in a group in the middle of the ocean.

That's the morning report, now to type up the grib file request and send this along to shore!

- rob

April 3, 2014

04-04-2014, 11:21 AM
It's a beautiful morning out here on the water, winds have gone light at 4 knots from the north, chop is essentially gone, and a largish 6' swell is running through. Sun is up, puffy box car clouds are hanging out above, and we're making good time at moderate engine RPM towards Mag Bay - some 28 miles up ahead.

The above is a vast improvement over yseterday afternoon, lumping along with 15-18 knots of breeze headed west. Much nicer to be tooling along in smooth water headed north. San Diego is north, San Diego is not west - unless one goes a very long way west to then turn north (at which point you would be doing what we are doing now) and then turning east for another 600 miles. Lindi is happy, I am happy.

There is the issue of fuel to resolve, along with cash to pay for more fuel in Turtle Bay. Turtle Bay doesn't do credit cards, and I had not intended to be coming up the coast - so I am a little cash-poor in terms of purchasing full loads of diesel fuel for Beetle. I do have $515 US in my ziploc baggy piggy bank, and I'm hoping that San Carlos, inside of Mag Bay, will have an ATM or a bank with an ATM - though I am not optimistic given how far outside on the coast San Carlos is. On the positive side, there is a Pemex station in town and I require perhaps 30 gallons of fuel. Pemex usually accepts credit cards for payment, I hope this place does, and that would leave me my full piggy bank for purchasing fuel in Turtle Bay.

On another optimistic note, the expedition cruise ship National Geographic Sea Lion just entered Mag Bay this morning and I can see them on the AIS as they navigate the channel to San Carlos. There is a good chance that I can speak with them and see if there is a way to obtain fuel from them and/or help with getting fuel from shore and pesos to boot. And if they can't, then at lest it will have been an interesting conversation!

Last night was another pretty night out under the stars, and I talked with two cargo ships as regards passing directions - both ships altered course a small amount and were quite happy to increase their standoff distance as they went by. It's also good to know that Beetle's AIS broadcast is being received by ships 18 miles off, both ships were aware of my presence and were cordial on the radio.

Plan for today is to get into Mag Bay, turn left, and anchor at Man O War cove. I was here in December, I believe, with Georgia - so I have a clue on what I am doing as regards getting that far. Next thing is to talk with the port captain in San Carlos and sort out the channel (narrow, mud flats on either side, marked with buoys and stakes) and sort out fuel, then plan to hop up to San Carlos Saturday for fuel and pesos (if available) and return to Man O War Saturday night. Weather forecast as of last night called for less wind starting Sunday night, so I would depart Mag Bay Sunday late afternoon and head for Turtle Bay.

All is well on board, enjoying the morning sun and having a bit of a read.

- rob

April 4,

04-07-2014, 04:59 PM
It's Sunday morning, the wind has backed off, the sun is doing its thing coming up behind the clouds, and Beetle finds itself back at anchor off Man O War cove. The wind generator is generating and the interior of the boat shows signs of yesterday's fueling adventure to the commercial fish wharf in San Carlos and back.

The goal Lindi and I had set ourselves for Saturday (yesterday) was to obtain diesel fuel for the run to Turtle Bay. It's 245 miles to get there from here and while there ought to be fuel on board to do that even including the 126 miles already run Friday to get to Mag Bay, that would not leave a lot in the tanks to handle any headwinds; we do not want to repeat what happened to a Gemini Catamaran out there in 2009 - they ran out of gasoline 30 miles short of Turtle Bay and pulled up to a cliff beneath a house, anchored, and were able to somehow get some gasoline lowered to them in 5 gallon drinking water tins which took them much of the night to do - sounded like a nasty business when they told me the story from the comfort of their cockpit at anchor in Turtle Bay the next day.

I know that San Carlos is a commercial town way up in Mag Bay, reachable through a zig-zag channel that is marked with bouys, and the pier has a reputation for not being a good place for yachts as there are rumored to be mostly big rusty commercial shrimpers, long liners, and net boats tied up there as they load and unload their catch, stock up with ice, and take on fuel. Think of the pier at Half Moon Bay, make it concrete, remove all docks but leave the vertical pilings, all in concrete and rebar - that's what it's like, not a yacht-friendly place. Fish boats are rafted in 3 and 5 deep around the pier, and there are no docks but there is a huge wide road on the pier onto which are driven commercial size big rigs to pick up fish and drop off supplies. Relatively delicately-built private yachts are not made to handle the load of heavy but immensely strong fish boats crushing in on them against the concrete. Oh, and there are no ladders on the wharf, instead you climb up the big tires hung out as fenders alongside the fish boats, and then you climb up the tires that are hung down from the pier; going up and down through the boats and tires presents a good case for why you should climb the jungle gymn in elementary school - someday you might need to do that again.

The zig-zag channel to San Carlos is narrow and deep, 38-50' deep in the center with vertical edges upon which storks walk around in knee-deep water. You do not want to stray outside the channel. According to the guide book, in 2010 a hurricane blasted through here and took out much of the fish pier and dumped enormous amount of rain on the town of San Carlos and moved all the bouys around. Therefore it is unclear as you enter the channel whether or not the bouys have been reset or are scattered about and the local fish boat captains simply know which bouys to use and which to ignore... and the bouys as seen in front of the boat through binoculars certainly do not line up with the bouys as they appear on the chart. Makes for an interesting, somewhat nervous run up through the channel, a hairpin turn at the top to reverse course and go back down the next bit of channel, to turn left and hairpin back up to San Carlos.

Fortunately for me, there are three other boats here, and one of them, Betty Jane (Hans Christian 43) was up at San Carlos at anchor and was very happy to share information with me as regards how the channel worked (all the bouys seemed ok except for one green one that was simply in the middle of the channel, look out for the mud flats on the edges), and boats Willow and Bonita that shared their local knowledge as regards Spanish and behavior of the local port captains.

There are two port captains here, one at Man O War cove - Gregorio or so is his name, I met him the last time I was here, super nice - and one at San Carlos - a stickler for paperwork, no fuel without seeing paperwork, it's a fair walk into town to his office where he wants to see the USCG documentation before he will authorize you for fuel. Willow offered that Gregorio might have diesel as she had purchased some from him, but Gregorio had taken his wife to La Paz to see the doctor and she didn't see his panga on the beached in front of the big navigation light that is at his office. And nobody else in the fish camp seemed to be authorized to sell fuel on Gregorio's behalf. Bummer. That would mean that rather than a pleasant dighy ride ashore to pick up fuel, we would have to run up the channel to the stickler's commercial pier and sort things out there.

After a conference call on the VHF between our four boats it was decided the best solution was to show up at San Carlos and then call the port captain and find out what hoops i would have to jump through before getting fuel. Consensus was that the San Carlos port captain was difficult to understand over the radio, and it hadn't helped to talk with him prior to arrival. Willow and Bonita said they would monitor VHF 16 and if there was a Spanish language issue they could jump in and help me out with their two Spanish-speaking folks. So I would go there and then call and if I couldn't figure it out then Willow and Bonita would help translate.

So off Beetle went, up anchor and out around 10AM. It was extra windy, 20-25 knots on the nose and 2' chop in the channel. The chop and wind waves made it difficult to spot the shallows on the edge of the channel, radar went on to play spot-the-bouy above the chop (navigation bouys are relatively short compared to what one finds in the USA), we plugged along through the chop.

Just ahead of us was an large (80' ?) power boat yacht Tourbillon also navigating the channel and they were trying to raise the port captain on VHF and asked Betty Jane if anybody was selling fuel on Saturdays on the pier. Betty Jane said they didn't see anybody up there yet. I figured that worst-case we'd be anchored out there off the pier Monday morning and be first in line for fuel. And there was no response from the port captain, it may be that his office is closed on Saturday.

By the time we rounded the last corner in the 'N' shaped channel I could see that Tourbillon was rafted up to the outside of three fish boats and there was lots of activity on the pier, fishermen moving around, big hoses running, and fuel was flowing. Good stuff! Actually bringing Beetle in to the pier to raft up did not look like a good idea, what with the chop tossing the boats around and the wind compressing the boats into the concrete pier, even on the more sheltered east side of the pier up against the mud flat. I tried to raise the port captain on the VHF, no response. I decided to anchor out, inflated the dinghy and mounted the motor, put on my foul weather gear and boots (dinghy was going to be really wet going in and out in that wind and chop), grabbed my two jerry jugs and set off for the pier. It takes a lot longer to do that than it does to write it.

At the pier I met up with the outside fish boat and the four guys on the boat stopped cutting bait for their long line and helped me to tie up, I clambered across their boat, the next boat, and scrambled up the tires and iron plates to road-level. One of the folks, seeing my jerry jugs, pointed me towards the diesel fuel cabinet and two attendants standing there. Super nice people, everyone interested in the yacht person carrying jugs through their midst. They helped lift and lower the jugs, make sure I didn't fall off, pointed out where to go, they made me feel welcome. And one of them had some English, which amazed the other fish boat people.

I walk over to the fuel attendant, expecting to be told to walk in to town to report in to the port captain; instead, the fellow looks at me and we work out how much fuel I want (tres trips, lots of pointing, I pull out my Spanish for Cruiser's book and look up a few words such as 'times' as in how many times to refuel the jugs?) and we're in business.

Dinghy ride back out with full jerry jugs is really wet, Betty Jane empties their three fuel jugs into their tanks so I can use them for Beetle on my second trip in to the pier, I stop by Betty Jane and pick up their jugs, go back and repeat the fill. Note to self: carry more than two jerry jugs as that will cut the number of round trips needed to refill diesel tanks. Part of the problem I have is I did not expect to be running up the coast under power and therefore do not have a lot of cash on board. I do need cash in Turtle Bay as i know the fuel dock there cannot handle plastic of any kind. Bonita (back at anchor in Man O War) had said there was a way to pay by credit card at the fish pier by taking a two minute truck ride in to the office from the pier - that would be great for me! Only there was no one at the office on Saturday to take the credit card, or so I was told by the attendant at the fuel pump. I paid cash, he had to radio in to the office to find out the cost in US dollars and log the fuel quantity with them, and I only had to take on 26 gallons (100 liters) for Beetle; I therefore know I have sufficient cash on board to refuel at Turtle Bay (a good thing).

Ran back out in the dinghy, talked with Betty Jane and returned their jerry jugs with fresh diesel in them (they gave me cash to pay for it), and as quick as possible pulled the motor and dinghy out of the water, got the anchor up, and took off. It's much more pleasant at Man O War cove than San Carlos and I did not look forward to running the channel in the dark despite now having a perfect track to follow on the chart plotter from the run in (theoretically I could simply walk that track back out and be fine) and knowing that the bouys were in fact reset after the hurricane and were good to use.

So we skidaddled from San Carlos, did not have to run in to town and talk with the port captain, and the diesel looked really good - that pier goes through a lot of diesel to keep the boats running! Also found out that my telephone wouldn't work at San Carlos, it said 'Emergency calls only' and wouldn't do much else, which mean I could not call Kristen and say, 'Hi!'.

We are now back in the anchorage at Man O War, Betty Jane followed us down the channel as I told them it was really pleasant there as compared to nasty chop at San Carlos, and it's now Sunday morning. No big plans for today, the weather window opens up tomorrow morning and looks to run through to Friday night. Today is a bit of organizing on board, not going nowhere, and relaxing!

- rob

April 6

04-07-2014, 05:04 PM
(editors note, insert this above the previous post to keep things chronologically correct, sorry)

I've been evaluating and examining and parsing the available weather forecasts and currently there does not appear to be a good way to get all the way to the Pacific NW (lack of solid Pacific High), and there are enough lows and activity happening to the north that made a direct run to San Francisco look not so good.

So I've decided to head for Southern California and work Beetle north from there. Having made that decision, next question is how best to get to San Diego? There's no need or value in sailing way west to the High and then way back east again; that's 1800 miles of sailing to travel 650 miles north. Much better to follow True Blue that was bashing their way up the coast yesterday, and that's what I'm doing now. Though not exactly in their foot steps, as I'm heading to Mag Bay some 102 miles to the north to take on fuel and wait out the current lumpy weather. The forecasts call for the wind to lay down early next week, and that could be a super time to be running up to Turtle Bay, once again to take on fuel and wait for a weather window.

Elsewise it's been an uneventful day on the boat, lots of resting, reading, and keeping an eye on what's going on around us. Tonight Beetle will be re-crossing the Panama great circle traffic, of which there is a fair amount. However, the AIS tells us exactly where they are, and my AIS transponder tells them exactly where I am. So far there has been a remarkably small amount of VHF traffic between boats as regards how they are going to pass - AIS sure is helpful in that regard.

Enjoy the evening! Hopefully tomorrow night will find us anchored in Mag Bay, Saturday run up to Puerto San Carlos for a couple jerry jugs of fuel and back down to anchor at Man O War cove, and we will watch the weather to see if a Sunday or Monday departure makes sense.

- rob

April 3

04-09-2014, 01:46 PM
Evening all, it's been a particularly nice day out here on the pond, as it were. The sun has recently set, Beetle is currently in the afterglow of the sunset, there's perhaps 8-10 knots of wind whiffling the surface of the water as the swell slides by beneath, the funny Mexican fisherman are making their animal noises on the VHF radio (lots of growls, whistles, and the occasional piped in rock music, plus laughs that sound what one might imagine a hyena to sound like - it all certainly does wake on up if the radio is on loud), and the gang of four is spread out in a line: Beetle in front, Bonita next, followed up by Wendy on Willow and then in last place is the party barge Betty Jane.

Last night was much fun, the impromptu group decided to have a drinks and chips gathering on Betty Jane (aka, party barge), and Beetle offered taxi service with the dinghy - which involved picking up Wendy from her boat (left her two cats behind to guard said boat) and tow Bonita's crew and dinghy over to Betty Jane. Had a fine evening on board, swapped stories, I got to see a Fleet Broadband 150 in the flesh, as it were, and at a cost of $1968/mo with a two year contract minimum the owner of Betty Jane hadn't actually written that check and that explains why they were anchored for four days in the nasty channel at San Carlos - Mark needed cellular modem connectivity to take care of business as he is running a full-on business from his boat.

Also heard stories about Elena and Ryan on board Bonita - at age 23 and 24, they have already done a bunch: he's been fishing in Alaska for 5 years and set aside some money ('you can make $10,000 in five weeks if you hit it right'), bought the boat, sailed to Mexico for the last 7 months, and are now headed back to the bay area to figure out what they would enjoy dong next. Seems to revolve around selling their boat, which might work out for them. Wendy has been wandering about Mexico for the last 18 months on her Pacific Seacraft Orion (slightly longer than a Dana 24, similar boats otherwise), and Mark and Jim are taking Mark's boat back to LaConner up near Anacortes. We also found out that Ryan had his boat in Grand Marina in Alameda, and in fact had been to some of Arne's barbecues to boot. Seems to me that most everybody we've met here has been to Arne's barbecue at one time or another!

The morning dawned with no wind, everybody was out, we're all powering in the good conditions directly towards Turtle Bay and the fuel dock there. The Mistress, a 60' powerboat, went by earlier today - they are running the boat up to Marina Del Rey with a professional captain and the captain had retained the services of a private/professional weather forecaster. He relayed his information to us when I asked him on the radio, he said their forecast called for benign conditions for the next 12-15 housr. They had left Cabo San Lucas yesterday morning, had a bumpy night out (that's when we were hiding in Mag Bay as 25 knots from the NW went by), and they were making good time at 8.4 knots burning 1 gallon per mile headed north; with a 700 gallon capacity they were going to make Turtle Bay no problem provided they didn't open up the engines and start pouring fuel down the cylinders.

On board Beetle it's been quiet, motor is ticking over nicely, played through some long lines set off Thetis Bank 15 miles north of Bahia Santa Maria, and are now powering on into the evening. The breeze did pick up a bit in the afternoon, 12-15 knots or so, and the wind did stay to the west of the path, allowing the triple-reefed motoring main to help with stability and a tiny bit of forwarding. Upshot is we're doing nicely, and have reduced distance to go to 180 miles after starting with 245.

Lindi is now banging together some instant mashed potatoes and chopped up hot dogs for dinner which was just handed to me (she used the four cheese mashed potatoes, it seems). This is gluey, sticky, warm, and it was handed to me - that is the best kind of food to find out here on the ocean. Given the water is now colder (62F last check) there is a distinct chill in the air. We're not wearing shorts and T-shirts anymore, move like socks, shoes (or sea boots), sweatshirts, jackets and wool caps. Hot mashed potatoes fits right in.

Plan is to continue powering along tonight and tomorrow, aiming for a Wednesday morning arrival at Turtle Bay to pick up fuel. Mistress said they would call back on the radio as they left Turtle Bay to tell us of their fuel dock experience, and Beetle should be the next boat into Enrique's fuel dock.

Enjoy the evening, we are having a fine time of it out here what with the good progress and all!

- rob

April 7

04-09-2014, 01:48 PM
It's a most excellent morning outside, the wind has gone calm, seas are smooth, a slight swell running in from the port bow and we're gliding along at 6 knots making comfortable cruising towards Turtle Bay, some 99 miles ahead. Lindi is sleeping, I've been reading up in the cockpit, my floppy PRBO hat perched on the head and sunscreen on the nose - it's a clear day overhead and it's going to be a warm one, much warmer than last night.

The goal is to be in Turtle Bay tomorrow morning, fill up with diesel, do a weather check, and make a go/no-go decision on pushing on directly for San Diego or, if conditions deteriorate, Ensenada. Current forecast I have (which is now 24 hours old) suggests that we can keep moving and be in the States with good running conditions by Saturday morning. It doesn't really matter what the forecast is right now, as we're definitely going to Turtle Bay - therefore I am not going to pick up weather data right now. Once I get there I'll pull down a new set of weather forecasts and have a better idea of the updated expected weather conditions.

Last night was uneventful, good half-moon for the first half of the night, and we are traveling close enough to he Panama-bound ships on the great circle route to see their lights at night. There is an extraordinary amount of traffic in the big ships, all moving stuff around the planet. Passenger ships, tankers, cargo ships, all running in lines along the shortest-distance route possible from point A to point B. Sort of reminds me of the comments made by a pilot that flies the US to Hawaii route: from within the plane the passengers only see what's off to the side of the plane, and will sometimes catch a glimpse of a plane flying the reverse route at a slightly different altitude - makes you feel like you're all alone up there in the sky. However, the view from the cockpit is quite different as you can see forward, and what you'll find is a whole line of planes flying nose to tail, and the sky is anything but empty from that perspective. The ship AIS information provides the same view the pilot has; when you only see the lights within a couple of miles, the ocean looks empty. When you can see displayed on the chart plotter all the ship data, you realize there are often 30-40 ships within 80 miles of you, and the tracks show how in-line they are as they motor along across the ocean, almost as if they are on scribed roads.

One fun thing you can do with AIS is get a sense of weather up ahead by watching the speed/track of a passing boat. Yesterday I talked with The Mistress, an 18M powerboat headed north, they were running a constant RPM to conserve fuel and making 8.4 knots. Last night, when we were plunking along into 15 knot headwinds (and therefore slower) I could watch them 20 miles ahead also going slow, down to 7.1 knots. And when they picked back up to 8.4 a few hours later I knew the wind, or waves, or both, had backed off and Mistress was back up to speed. (It's also possible they had simply picked up revs to make port on a schedule, but the captain said they were carefully running for fuel efficiency as they wouldn't have a lot to spare when they got to Turtle Bay.)

Beetle is looking good inside, we've been keeping the boat tidied up, no loose gear out and about, and the bilge has remained dry. Today even the decks are dry, not even splashing from the bow wake coming up onto the foredeck. The radar is doing it's watchman 4-off-1-on sweeps and did pick up a south-bound boat passing by 2.5 miles off to the east last night. Betty Jane & Co. are 36 miles astern, no problems were reported last night across our little group of four boats, and this morning we chit-chatted to discuss weather and whether or not we can bolt directly for San Diego rather than hang around in Turtle Bay waiting for a weather window. Consensus is to keep moving, as this window is supposed to last at least until Friday.

Tourbillon, the 80' power yacht from San Carlos, spent the night at Bahia Ballenas, and I picked them up on AIS this morning, headed north at 9.2 knots. Based on conversation with the captains on Betty Jane and Mistress, Tourbillon is running a lot of fuel into those motors to do those speeds. One of the data points is an Azimut 85 that is run around, at 10 knots they are consuming 40 gallons per hour; at 28 knots the twin 1000 hp engines are consuming 200 gallons/hour - of course you'd get to Catalina Island really fast at 28 knots!

I'm going pop back topside to continue my book, and see if any dolphin are coming over to play - so far several small troupes have stopped by this morning.

- rob

April 8

04-09-2014, 01:49 PM
We're now 42 miles out of Turtle Bay, hurtling in at 6.3 knots (!) as the little engine pushes the boat along through the calm seas. There's been very little to no wind for most of the day and this has made for fantastic going-north conditions.

A number of times today small pods of white sided porpoise were going by north-to-south and each time a couple of the critters would peel off to come over and play for a minute or two in the bow wake. The water was incredibly clear and without wind ripples, and it was fun to watch them come zooming up from way down underneath the boat, rise vertically to just below the bow and then level off to play in the boat's bow pressure wave. And then they would scoot off, turn tail and head back to the pod.

Also had my first shark sighting of the trip, I think - a smallish blue shark with a 4" dorsal fin poking up above the surface, going slowly along as we went by.

Life on board has been mellow today, not much to do other than keep the diesel day tank topped up and watch the course. Meanwhile the radar is waking up and checking for any boats in the neighborhood.

Back behind us on the track Bonita is having a bad hair day. This afternoon their motor changed noises, they shut it down, and Ryan now believes he has a blown transmission. Betty Jane and Willow stood by for a while as Elena and Ryan did the troubleshooting on the motor and Betty Jane even offered to tow them the 100+ miles to Turtle Bay. I did not hear the resolution, as they are now beyond VHF range; last I heard it sounded as though Bonita was going to sail (slowly) to Turtle Bay and consider their options. In this conditions it would be possible, theoretically, for Betty Jane to tow the smaller Bonita, but that would definitely stress the Hans Christian 43's transmission as it is not rated for that kind of sustained low RPM load. Would mostly depend on how good the cooling system is on the HC43 transmission. On the positive side there's nothing life-threatening about losing the transmission but it does throw a big monkey wrench into any kind of mental schedules one might have prepared.

Up ahead of us I can now see Tourbillon at anchor in Turtle Bay (via AIS), and I wonder if The Mistress has already been and gone of if I will find them there as well.

My plan is run into Turtle Bay tonight (this will be the fourth time I've been in/out of the place) and with conditions this mellow it should not be a problem to get to the entry and use the radar to run in. There's once again moonlight tonight, and depending on arrival time that might be helpful as well. We'll anchor out and pick up fuel and forecasts as early as we can, then make plans from there.

Enjoy the evening, it's off into the quiet seas for Beetle!

- rob

April 8

04-09-2014, 01:51 PM
It's noon o'clock on Wednesday, and we're back out on the water, motoring along at a leisurely 6 knots - good range with a hint of speed - with Turtle Bay some 20 miles to the rear.

The moon set just 20 minutes before Beetle arrived at the entry to Turtle Bay, which was unfortunate as there are often lots of crab pot buoys strewn about the entry, plus big kelp beds along the edges. The kelp beds aren't that difficult to avoid as they are relatively predictable based on water depth; the pots are completely random and can be anywhere. The fisherman here don't use weighted line for the pots, opting instead for polypropylene (that floats) between the buoy and the trap, and worse yet they apply simple large loops to the line in order to 'shorten' the line to match the depth; the result is large arrays of polypropylene floating about the buoys. When we exited today, in the sunlight, it turns out there were no pots set - perhaps crabs or lobsters are out of season in these parts?

We got in ok using the radar and prior tracks to run in, found Tourbillon anchored where I normally anchor, and so just dropped the hook about where it seemed reasonable. It was 4:00AM when I went to sleep.

At 7AM I was up and about, found Enrique's cell phone number in the guide book, as it is Enrique you want to telephone to see if his fuel shed is open on the abandoned fishing pier. He answered, yes, they were open, come on over! Alternatively, they would put fuel into a panga and bring it to us provided I could tell him how much I wanted. Turned out there was 14' of water at his rickety anchored floating docking stuck out from the pier (cannot bring a small yacht alongside the pier, same problem as in San Carlos, and that's why he got the floating dock - to allow smaller yachts to tie up and get fuel), so we motored over, a fellow climbed down to help tie up, and his fenders on the dock were at least twice the diameter of the fenders I have, so no danger of having a protruding bolt or nail punch into the hull.

Twenty minutes and 165 liters of diesel later, we were done. Cost was $210 US, and I did climb up to the pier to verify the counter was reset to zero before he started. They preferred cash, the fellow I spoke with wasn't sure if the credit card thing was working or not, and I have used up most of the cash on board - at least all the 20s and 10s are gone, so he and I spent a while counting out one dollar bills on his desk to come up with the necessary amount.

All was good, we cast off, and headed back out to the bay to float for a bit and check things out. The TelCel cellular modem SIM card service and account had expired yesterday, and last night Kristen was able to logon to the MiTelCel website and sign up the account for another 2GB of data for one month. This essentially runs out the money I have had in my account at TelCel (thanks much, Carlos - the system works quite well!), and with Kristen making sure the system would work, this morning I was able to login and pull down a bunch of weather data and forecasts. Conditions look to be light to moderate from the North through to Friday night or Saturday morning between here and San Diego, so decision made we headed out. Definitely the fastest stop I have made at Turtle Bay.

Current conditions are bright sun, 8-10 knots of wind from the North, no seas to speak of, and we're making 6 knots on our way to the States. This will be one of the longer runs, something like 337 miles, and Beetle has a full load of diesel to push our way north. Ensenada is available as a bail-out point some 80 or so miles south of San Diego, and hopefully that won't be necessary.

I've also heard word back from Betty Jane this morning (actually, a relay via Willow, as I can't hear Betty Jane directly on the VHF). They have Bonita under tow and are making progress towards Turtle Bay, hoping to arrive around 1AM Thursday morning. I gave them information regarding lack of pots at the entrance, depth at the fuel dock, and Enrique's phone number. Seems that Bonita is going to have to do some sorting out of their transmission, either have it rebuilt in San Diego or have a replacement transmission sent down to Turtle Bay. Willow has sailmail and SSB radio, and she is sending requests for information up to a friend in San Diego that can help track down parts up there. Lucky for Bonita that a bigger boat was right there when they had their problem (Bonita is a Columbia 38 or 39, it seems).

And in other news, Rebel Heart (another Hans Christian) was abandoned by the owners and long term liveaboard cruisers, after departing La Cruz headed for the South Pacific. ARound 900 miles out it seems their one year old child got badly ill, then they had some problems with the boat, resulting in the US Air National Guard parachuting a group of EMT-type folks into the Pacific who were able to board the boat and stabilize the kid, and a US Navy ship was nearby to take on everybody. All of that is pretty wild stuff; I haven't heard much more than that, though I did hear that the US Navy then sank the Hans Christian as they do not like to leave hazards to navigation floating around in their wake. Rebel Heart is a well-know blogging cruiser in the cruising community, it's a bummer that this happened to them. Hopefully they will pick up and keep on going.

So that's what is going on out here - lots of boats are moving around these last couple of days as the weather has been so nice, and continues to be so. I was passed by the 78 meter long 'VENUS' a little while ago, they are northbound at 13.4 knots; that's the largest private yacht I've seen out in these waters. Another sail boat was entering Turtle Bay as we were leaving (Catalina 36, I believe), and we're northbound. General route is to the west initially to clear Cedros and the shoal bank to the west that can house big kelp beds, then turn more north and run the length of the Vizcaino Bay. Thinking is to be half way across by Thursday noon, and off Ensenada Friday noon. We shall see!

And now back to the serious task of reading my book.

- rob

April 9

04-11-2014, 09:44 AM
The wind has dropped off at the moment, leaving behind a somewhat confused, though low, sea state behind. Unfortunately for us, the choppy water is making Beetle hop up and down, and then the two sets of swell roll through and cause Beetle to then roll from side to side. Between the four motions happening at random, but short, intervals, it is now difficult to move around the boat and I am collecting my fair share of bruises as I bang into things. This is all good though, as we're progressing up the track quite nicely - having knocked off 75 miles since departing Turtle Bay this morning.

The VHF radio reception has been amazing tonight; currently I'm listening to a US aircraft carrier 8 running around with lights that do not accord with the rules of the road off San Diego telling the world they are out conducting night time flight operations and to stay away at least two miles away. A tanker and a lightering ship are conducting transfer operations that will take 20 hours whilst traveling at 5.5 knots - they are also by San Diego. And the US Coast Guard is yelling at the Asian fisherman to stop yacking on VHF 16. I don't know if that last bit is going to help much, as I rather doubt the fisherman understand the English the USCG is broadcasting.

Astern of us I can see, via AIS, the Santa Cruz 50 J World Hula Girl; I believe they participated in the San Diego to Puerto Vallarta race, and they are now powering up the coast back to San Diego - which is where I think J World has their sailing/racing training program. It's been interesting to watch the larger power boats stay inshore as we cross the Vizcaino Bay while the smaller sailboats are on the outside track. I chose the outside track mostly to stay away from the island and associated kelp beds, I wonder if the power boats went inside to play counter current?

I'm still working on my book, I've got my red light headlamp on, and have been sitting in the cockpit turning pages in between standing up to inspect the horizon for boats. So far no boats seen, which works fine for me. Currently there is 248 miles to the Coronado Islands, and from there it's about 10 more miles to San Diego. Part of the game is to make the run up the coast before stronger winds fill in over the weekend. It's unclear now if the new winds will arrive Saturday or Sunday, and I'm hoping to be off the water and at the US Customs dock in San Diego some time Friday night or early Saturday morning. I also need to remember to tell the US Customs folk, when I call them from the dock to let them know I have arrived, that I do not have a 2014 Customs fee sticker and to please bring one with them. I heard the fee decals were implemented during the Reagan administration as a way to have the people that are actually crossing borders to help pay for the Customs folk, and I guess that's fair enough. The stickers aren't very pretty, though - kinda unsightly to have a small sticker with a big number on it affixed to your craft near the entry way; perhaps they can employ someone to design a better looking sticker, eh?

And lastly, the sky is now mostly overcast, which would normally turn the ocean into a jet black world. However, Mr. Moon is up and he is lighting up the sky from above such that it feels like I am in a perpetual pre-dawn state, the sky doesn't get darker, and the sky doesn't get brighter - it just sort of glows enough to make out the waves on the water. Kinda interesting.

Here's to getting to San Diego!

- rob

April 9

04-11-2014, 09:45 AM
It was a good night's run last night, winds have remained down and we're continuing to make good time north bound.

One problem has developed,the vesper watchmate AIS unit seems to be failing; it goes into a re-boot mode, sometimes comes up, sometimes goes down, and sometimes tells me that there is no GPS signal. About the only thing I can actually do is re-seat all the cables and cycle the power on the unit, which I have done a couple of times. No corrosion is evident, there is no splice in the Vesper Marine-supplied GPS antenna that could be problematic, and no issue is evident at the exterior antenna. Rats! The Vesper Marine products have a good reputation, and I have a note from the owner (in New Zealand) that I can send the unit back to him and he will check it out, upgrade whatever there is to upgrade, and he will send it back. Of course that's in New Zealand and I'm in Mexico - so while a very nice offer it is not too helpful. What I really need is a unit that actually works, not one that fails after less than a year in service. So right now I am not impressed with the Vesper Marine WatchMate Vision. It also means that I now do not have the AIS information as a tool, which is unfortunate as one gets a surprisingly large amount of information from that data. Oh well, it's not as if the world has ended or anything, eh?

Currently we're 178 miles from San Diego, going right up the track. The hope is that tomorrow morning we will be off Ensenada, and then can make the additional 65 miles to San Diego by nightfall - straight to the US Customs dock for purposes of checking in to the country. I've already checked out of Mexico and have the paperwork to show to Customs, and hopefully it will be a straight forward US entry.

Kristen has been helping out with keeping me posted on the weather forecasts, and current call is for a significant weather system to arrive in Southern California by Tuesday. Kristen's comment was to point out that wherever Beetle was come Tuesday morning, Beetle would want to stay most likely through Friday or Saturday. Fortunately it's pleasant conditions now and Beetle wants to be north - so north we scamper.

I'm going to go troubleshoot the AIS transponder a bit more, see if there's anything else I can check, and if nothing works then simply depower it for an hour to see if there's some sort of thermal problem with it that cooling off can resolve.

Elsewise it's on into the day!

- rob

April 10

04-11-2014, 09:47 AM
Beetle is charging a little faster to the north, as I ran into a significant portion of the Humboldt current that flows south bound (which is actually a renaming of the Kuroshio current that flows north from Japan, then across the Aleutians, and circles down past British Columbia and the US west coast, changing names as the current passes different locales). We are now running at 1930 RPM and have the fuel to burn to do it so we're pushing north again at 5.5 knots, much better than 4.8 that we were seeing for a while. Seas are relatively smooth, wind is 2 knots from anywhere, and it's good to be running like this.

I talked with Willow earlier, turns out Wendy on Willow was also a shore boat driver at Catalina Island (she worked Avalon) and she knows Nick on Iolanthe (he was a shore boat driver at the other end of the same island) - another case of Tiny World! I heard that Betty Jane dragged Bonita into Turtle Bay, and now Peregrine (Fuji 45), Willow (Orion), and Betty Jane are all now making best time possible northbound to capitalize on the perfect conditions out here for north-going boats. Peregrine checked out at La Paz and they think they are going to make it all the way around Baja to San Diego in 8 days - astounding! Looks like I got really lucky to catch this ride up the coast.

Willow and Peregrine have both supplied ideas for cheap digs in San Diego: Wendy recommends Harbor Island West - right next to the runway, and Larry on Peregrine recommends Sun Harbor at Shelter Island, very close to everything. There's not much in the way of good all weather anchorages in Southern California, other than Catalina Harbor at Santa Catalina Island. Wendy said that if I go for Avalon (they sometimes have good winter rates for the moorings there) then expect an incoming Low to have SE wind and I want to ask for a mooring on the south side of the harbor near the pier, and when the Low goes by expect to see semi-Santa Ana conditions and I want to move to a mooring as close to the casino as possible. Good things to know, could prove useful in a couple of days.

And for whatever reason the AIS has now turned itself all the way back on again. It spent several hours rebooting, and I did discover that during the reboot process the first thing to turn on is the WiFi access point, followed shortly by a flow of incoming AIS data that the laptop can then display. Some 15-20 seconds later the unit bogs down trying to get its own transponder up and running, at which point it reboots. This means that the laptop, which I normally consider the backup display is in fact the only display for the data as the Vesper unit is still only showing a progress bar that never finished. And then suddenly it went all the way and now I'm transpondering again. Go figure. I've sent a note to friend Don Rock to ask what is the best AIS Class B transponder out there at the moment, and hopefully he will get back to me on that. I would like to put a working transponder on the boat, will see what he recommends.

Conditions outside are good, visibility is going up and down so I'm running the radar at this stage. Right now I've got about 3 miles, earlier it was to the horizon, and before that perhaps a mile. Fair bit of warmer air running over cooler water, that's what it feels like to me.

Had an interesting conversation with Seven Js, a 48M power yacht headed north - they were towing what looked to be a fish boat way behind them, and I wanted to know if they could see my AIS information (they could, and no, the captain did not know what AIS transponder was on his boat as he didn't install it, but it also didn't always work right). He said they were towing the little boat, the 42' sport fisher, behind the big boat, and nope, in these conditions and given the bridle setup they didn't need to put anyone on the little boat as it followed right along behind them as they made 10 knots to the north. Pretty funny to hear a fourty two footer termed the little boat!

Also talked with Hula Girl, the SC 50 coming up behind. Turns out Wayne is the only one on board as he skipped town from Cabo San Lucas when he saw the forecast. He has 60 gallons tankage in the boat, eight 15 gallon diesel tins on deck, plus the usual jerry jugs, and is making best possible powering north. He also said the boat is going into the Police Docks at San Diego, and he has a car there if I need anything done as regards running around, and then he gave me his cell phone number. It's great when people offer to help each other out.

So all is well tonight, I've got the fuel to run a little faster, make a little better time without putting too much stress on the gear - and looks like Beetle might make the US Customs dock by midnight Friday.

- rob

April 10

04-22-2014, 12:56 PM
It's 4:40 in the afternoon, and we're coming alongside the Coronado Islands, with the Tijuana bull ring (it's marked on the chart) up ahead to starboard to more or less demarcate the border. It's been a good run last night and today, and there's been tons of VHF traffic as all the warships talk to each other. One boat has three small boats with dive teams in the water doing anti-mine work, another is doing continuous turns to calibrate compasses (did nmot specify direction of turns, so no dancing with that ship), another boat is doing life firing exercises up ahead (stay 10 miles clear), and there will shortly be live flare exercises west of San Clemente Island.

I talked with Kristen, she's at the Oakland Boat Show and having a lot of fun running into sailing buddies - seems that everyone is there, including Candace (whom I saw in La Cruz when they were visiting their Swan), Dan (his Wyliecat 30 is on display there), Garrett, the whole gang.

Current plan is to do the check-in to the US, get some fuel filters at West Marine in San Diego on Saturday, then Sunday move the boat up to Marina del Rey and wait for a weather window up to San Francisco.

Beetle is chugging along, the bull ring is 9.16 miles off in the distance!

- rob

April 11, 2014

04-25-2014, 03:34 PM
US Customs visited Beetle at the Customs dock - a section of the San Diego Police Dock that is painted yellow (quarantine) - and it was a trivial clearing in to the country. To get the fellows to the dock requires tying up the boat and reading the sign that says, "Go to the top of the dock and use the public pay phone to call Customs - *82" or very close to that. When you actually walk up the gangway there in fact is no public pay phone; there's no phone at all. Nada. Zip. Missing - removed. There is a brand new shiny kiosk containing a computer and a metal keyboard that allows one to reserve a slip with the SD Harbor Police, along with a note taped to the kiosk that says, "To call US Customs dial ... " and the phone number. This is difficult to find, as you're not looking for it, and even more difficult to read once you figure it out. And cell phone coverage is terrible right there at the kiosk, plus if you don't have your own phone than guess what? There's no way to call Customs; good thing I had a cell phone that still had service. If I had a TelCel Mexico phone then I would have been sitting at the dock until 8:30AM the next morning waiting for Customs to open...

But the guys came down in the dark, checked us in, took a while to get the passport numbers across to them over the phone (they check passports and boat information before leaving their office at the San Diego Airport), we're not allowed to bring in the eggs, apples, and our lone mandarin orange. We kinda knew this would happen, so we ate of lot of eggs and apples and oranges on the way up the coast.

Saturday was a runaround locally to get the telephone service reset to USA (no more Viva Mexico plan), get the AT&T cellular modem service turned back on, and a visit to West Marine to pick up some fuel filters (they had four I could purchase, another boat had set aside 16 filters in will call - I know they are headed to Mexico!), two 5 gallon jerry jugs (after not being able to find them anywhere in La Paz, Puerto Vallarta, and La Cruz - it was pretty funny to walk into a single store in San Diego and there's an entire wall of jerry jugs of red and yellow in all different shapes and sizes!), and some walking cane rubber tips that are used on the swim ladder. The rubber deteriorates pretty fast in the sun, and the tips on the ladder were pretty dead after 5 months in the sun.

And Kristen telephoned to let me know that friends John and Dawn were here in San Diego attending a conference, I rang up John and they popped by last night and we went out for a fun dinner and told stories. We went over to Old Town in San Diego and had Mexico food; not quite the same as the taco cart on the street, but it was nice food.

Today is Sunday, and Beetle is pushing on up the coast towards Marina del Rey, about 100 miles up the coast. It's too far to make in a day hop, so we're leaving in the afternoon and will make an intentionally slow crossing, and possibly get in some fishing on the way there. A big part of the game now is waiting for a good weather window to hop up the coast from Santa Barbara to San Francisco. Currently the weather is not going to be good in time for us to make it to SF, so instead we're relaxing in So Cal and are looking at making the hop in 5-7 days.

The commercial fishing pier at San Carlos, Mag Bay - it's blowing hard at 25 knots across the water, the boats are lashed in several deep on all sides of the big concrete pier. The odd boat out is Tourbillon, the big private yacht rafted up to the outside of the outside fish boat - I expect they had a ton of fenders out to keep the fiberglass off the rusty metal hull of the boat next door. I was impressed they even brought the boat in alongside - they must have really needed fuel. The fuel hoses on the pier are enormously long, and the hose is strung out across the boats to get to whomever needs the diesel.

By comparison, my small jerry jugs are a piece of cake to move across the boats. I dinghied in and tied out upside of these boats, and the fellows cutting the pot bait helped to transfer the jugs up to the pier. The fellow on the left knew English, much to the amazement of his friends.


The pier is tall, big, and strong - just the thing for fish boats. And a surprising amount of activity is compressed into this small area on a Saturday. I was half expecting things to be shut down as it is a commercial operation and it is a weekend, but nope - trucks running around, people driving in supplies, skippers and crew working on their boats.


The cockpit of Betty Jane, the Hans Christian 43, was a great place to have an impromptu drinks and finger foods gathering back at Man O War cove, following the fuel run the day before. That's Jim in back with the blue T-shirt, he's a professional delivery skipper, and is on Mark's boat (nearby with yellow shirt). I met them at the fish pier in San Carlos and told them that Man O War cove was much more pleasant than sitting up at San Carlos, so they upped anchor and followed Beetle back down the channel. Next sunset they hosted the gathering. Ryan on the right is the one with the bad transmission on Bonita, and Wendy on Willow has the better radio of the bunch even though she was on the smallest boat.


Tourbillon departing Turtle Bay, just as we are getting ready to go in for fuel. With the AIS I could keep track of whom we were moving with, and this boat liked to move during the day and then anchor out for the night; as a result Beetle kept catching up with them as we would run all night. Tourbillon has a Ferrari-red tender of some sort stuck up high, and that color was amazingly visible out on the water. To describe the boat over the radio, all one had to do was mention the Ferrari in back and it was instantly obvious which boat was being referenced.


The fuel dock at Turtle Bay is a bit iffy at best, but it sure is more convenient than doing a med-style anchor to bring the stern into the pier. The three dock sections are anchored in place, and are aimed more or less at the incoming swell (nominal at 2'), and this reduces sideways pressure on the anchoring system. One does have to be careful as the swell surges the entire structure and your boat towards the dilapidated pier, and you gotta hope the anchor lines don't break. Also don't fall in the gaps between the docks, that would be bad.


These are the guys towing the 'little' boat, running at 9-10 knots up the coast. That little boat is 42' long, and the scale doesn't really leap out until you realize just how huge the big boat is. These guys had a professional weather router working with them for their trip north and were friendly and shared the information over the radio to us.


On board Beetle one needs to transfer fuel in to the main tanks on occasion. I have two yellow jerry jugs for diesel and use a siphon to move the fuel; trying to do a straight pour into a funnel doesn't work well as there's too much movement to hold the tank steady, and a full jug weighs 40 pounds and it's hard to hold that much weight stable long enough to get a pour to work. The siphon solves all that, just insert hose, squeeze the black bulb to start the flow, and use the jib car bungee cord to hold the tank in place. In 5 minutes the diesel is transferred, no muss, no fuss, no spillage.


The Mexico courtesy flag has been flying continuously for five months, and it's beginning to show a little tattering on the rear edge - this flag probably no longer receives the La Paz Port Captain seal of approval. I lowered it shortly after crossing the maritime border out of Mexico, and it is saved below as part of the trip.


The police docks / public docks at San Diego, it's overcast this morning, lots of boats all about, and very pleasant.


It's also fun to be back in a country where you can read the signs.

- rob

April 13

04-25-2014, 03:35 PM
t's 9pm Sunday night and Beetle is half way across the Gulf of Santa Catalina between San Diego and Palos Verdes. We departed the SD police dock around 11AM, went over to get fuel at Pearson's Fuel Dock (took on 40 gallons), and discovered that our friend Tourbillon is docked right near by - fun to see the boat all in its slip. And there are a lot of gorgeous boats in San Diego, and big ones at that. The 12 meter Stars and Stripes was there, complete with towering black mast.

Outside Point Loma we turned north and the military traffic turned on, jet fighters swooping by, big helicopters buzzing around in pairs, and I talked with Warship 22 when they said they were commencing flight operations and it turned out the position they provided was directly in my path, only it would be 3 hours before I got there. They asked me to pass east of them, and then they spent hours charging around the place - which makes it really difficult to predict what they will do when they start doing fairly high speed continuous port turns... I gave up trying to pass them and let them pass me, which they did a short while ago.

Catalina Island is up ahead off to port, the place that Iolanthe will be at come June or so, as Nick has his mooring there at the north end of the island. We will be passing the super busy port of Long Beach tonight, and they usually have lots of shipping traffic running about. I replaced the steaming light bulb this morning and now we're street legal as regards motoring in the dark, and the AIS transponder is working tonight - a good thing given the traffic about.

Conditions are fairly light, winds at 5-8 knots and slightly bumpy seas and no real swell to speak of. I can see the lights of Dana Point off the beam, and the next interesting thing will be to decide how to cross the shipping lanes. You're supposed to cross them at right angles to minimize time in the lane itself; if there's much traffic then we will do that, if there's no traffic then we will simply continue on with our course that will take us diagonally across the lanes.

There's a high marine layer overcast with the moon above that which makes visibility pretty good out here, and there are no shipping nav lights on the horizon.

Tomorrow we should be arriving in Marina del Rey, another 100+ miles knocked off on the way north.

- rob

April 13

04-25-2014, 03:39 PM
Arrived yesterday morning early, to find the sun rising as we approached the breakwater at the marina entrance. It's interesting to compare the marina here to the marina at San Jose Del Cabo - both are completely man-made structures, lines with concrete, dug out of the ground, with a wide sandy beach along the bay. Marina del Rey is gigantic, surrounded by condominiums, and caters to all sorts of boats. The marina at San Jose Del Cabo is inside a single big resort and pretty much caters to only really large boats, little development, and is tiny by comparison if one looks at boat slips; my guess is that the entirety of San Jose Del Cabo would fit comfortably into one half of one side of one finger at Marina del Rey. Upshot is it feels like you're just one of the normal folk here at del Rey, while at San Jose del Cabo you're definitely one of the few in a resort. I prefer it here at del Rey.

I've got a slip for a couple of days, my brother is in town and he stopped by yesterday afternoon, I also have the dinghy inflated on the foredeck in preparation for applying patches on the little center tube that goes under the floor board - the tube has a worn spot in the hypalon that is letting air out and it needs a patch.

It was a a quiet run across from San Diego in the dark, except for trying the stay out of the way of Warship 22. The warships like to put out securite calls on the VHF when they are going to do something strange, such as dive operations, high speed runs, continuous turns, that sort of thing - so as to not surprise people and to ask for folks to stay out of the way. Warship 22 put out a call for flight operations and provided a position that happened to be directly in our path but three hours ahead of us. I did not want to get in their way, I call them back and they suggested that if I passed east of them that would be good. However, by the time I got there they were off doing donuts in the water as high speed continuous turns to port, then ran off into the distance, then came back, then announced they were commencing man overboard drills. I gave up going east of them as they kept moving east... so it was many hours to get past them! Turns out that is a huge ship at 684', and I could look up warship 22 and find out it is the USS San Diego 'amphibious transport dock ship' - they were nice on the radio but wouldn't stay put. Would also be handy if they would turn on the AIS transmission as that would make it much easier to plot them on the chart and then I'd know where they were and then I could maneuver to stay out of their way.

Given the US Navy isn't running an AIS transponder, I turned on the radar when it got dark. I'm quite certain they knew exactly where I was (they probably could also track sea gulls with their radar if they wanted to), but I'd like to know where they are as well. And then suddenly two spots would zoom across the screen - my radar was picking up the low-flying helicopters that are flying about the place. That was different - not often I'm tracking helicopters by radar... though it is difficult to find the spots under one realizes you have to look UP to find them.

Plan is to be here in Marina del Rey until Thursday morning, and then head out to Santa Barbara and wait for a weather window to scoot up the coast to San Franciscso. From there it is three more hops to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, using Humboldt Bay, Port of Newport, and Neah Bay as stopping points before the final run in to Orcas Island. For each hop I'd like to have a 48 hour weather window and we can power up the coast in slightly less time than that. I've not been north of San Francisco before, so everything up in that area will all be new stuff!


The entrance to Marina del Rey as the sun is about to poke up is a nice thing to find after a long night's run from San Diego. The water has been glassy all evening - since passing Catalina Island, in fact - and we made excellent time here and managed to show up early. The marina did not open until 8:30AM, and I elected to head in and tie up to one of the end ties that would be available - and that turned out to be the end tie where Beetle was able to stay for the next couple of days.


The center tube in the dinghy is what holds the floor boards up and the fabric bottom of the dinghy down. The metal boards can chafe on the top of the center tube, and now has rubbed a small thin spot in the tube - it will hold air for a while, then deflates slowly. A couple of oval patches on the tube should have it all back perfect again - to be done today!

- rob

April 15

04-25-2014, 03:40 PM
It's a somewhat grey iight-air mid-morning here in Santa Monica Bay, Lindi has returned to the boat from visiting up in San Francisco, and Beetle is underway headed west.

The weather is forecast to build along the coast north of Point Arguello, and while the forecasts have enticing small windows of lighter air right along the shore, those little windows close abruptly during the day. It's supposed to blow hard mid-week, and it would not be fun to be stuck out in the anchorage at San Luis Obispo if it really does come up at 35 knots from the NW. So the Beetle-boat plan has been modified to 'move boat to Santa Barbara and wait for weather window'. To that end, step one is shifting over to Santa Barbara from Marina del Rey, and we're going to do that in two steps mostly because the Santa Barbara Harbor folks have a noon-to-noon transient slip rental policy, and if we show up before noon then we'll get charged for the entire day even if we arrive at 3AM in the morning. To combat this, we're going to overnight at Santa Cruz Island - currently 50 miles out - and then head over to Santa Barbara tomorrow morning, to arrive shortly after 12 noon. I'd like to get good value for my slip fee!

The AIS transponder is transponding again. This was accomplished by plunking down another $1150 to buy a complete new Vesper Marine Watchmate Vision from Milltech Marine (based in Washington, they have supplied all the AIS gear I've had over the years). The unit swap took all of 15 minutes and it is working correctly. I'm going to send the first unit that has been acting up back to Jeff at Vesper Marine in New Zealand, and hopefully he can sort out what's not right about it. And I do not know if I will be able to return the new unit, or if I'm going to have a backup fancy transponder; I don't really want a backup transponder, I want a unit that works correctly. But the important part is that the new unit is working correctly and that's good.

MDR was a fun stop, the people at Marina del Rey Marina are super nice, there's a Ralph's super market right there at the foot of the yacht basin, an easy walk to the store to fetch foods. A West Marine is also there, and they had glue brushes for use on the dinghy center tube repair. The dinghy fix went well, two patches installed and the tube holds pressure like it should.

I was also able to visit with my brother, he was in town from up north in order to get some work done, and it was fun to see his studio. I also borrowed his car and ran over to BioQuip, one of the largest entomology supply shops around and it happens to be right here in LA. Good to see the people there and I picked up a collapsible pocket net to add to the kit.

Yesterday was the run-around in the marina, did the shop, motored over to the fuel dock to fill up the tanks and the (now) four jerry jugs that live in the cockpit just forward of the traveler, and stowed the interior in preparation for departing this morning when Lindi arrived. The AIS unit was delivered by UPS to my brother's studio, he brought it over to the boat late yesterday afternoon, and all went well.

So we're off to Smuggler's Cove at Santa Cruz Island, there's a light southerly circulation in Santa Monica Bay due to a mild Low pressure off to the southwest, and we're going nicely along with light wind on the port beam. It's flat flat flat here, and that makes for a comfortable ride.

Not too much excitement, and that's a good thing. Perhaps it will be warmer at Santa Barbara?

- rob

April 17

04-25-2014, 03:46 PM
Yesterday was a great deal of weather watching, phone conversations with Kristen regarding weather, and running up the coast from Marina del Rey. As we were passing Point Dume (where the fancy people have their houses) a new weather forecast was put out by NOAA which suggested a narrow weather window north to Morro Bay. By narrow, I'm talking about +/- 3 hours would make/break the run to Morro Bay. If you made it you were golden; if you missed, you would be hating life for many hours dealing with 25 knots from the NW gusting 30. But at least the window was there... we changed course, abandoning the idea of stopping at Santa Cruz Island and instead aimed directly for Santa Barbara, figuring that the next forecast could be picked up about the time Beetle was outside the breakwater and I could decide at that time to a) go for it! or b) punt and step off the trail and into a comfy slip in the harbor at Santa Barbara.

About this time the USCG started a broadcast stating that an EPIRB had been triggered somewhere outside Channel Island Harbor - if anyone sees something please to let them know. And sure enough, an hour later there's a Coast Guard orange rescue helicopter buzzing about and then a 25' big red USCG boat comes up alongside and they ask if I have an EPIRB? I say YES (have to shout over their engine noise), and they ask for the serial number. When I read it off to them they were disappointed that it wasn't the one they were looking for. Off they sped, looking for other boats that might have an EPIRB that had accidentally triggered. (later the Coast Guard broadcast that they had in fact found the EPIRB, and everybody on board was safe).

Then later on in the evening, around dark, the latest forecast was released and it still showed a super-narrow window with significant wind coming in, so I punted. A quick tie up at the Harbor Patrol dock, stepped up to the office to procure a transient slip (paid up thru Sunday night), and it was off to sleep.

And the steaming light went out again - what's up with that? I checked the bulb and it is definitely blown though I can't see the break in the filament - something to put under the microscope. Lindi ran me up the mast again this morning and I replaced the bulb (again), then walked up to the West Marine store at the head of the marina and, too cool, they had two more light bulbs of exactly the correct kind, so I bought them to put back in the ship's stores.

Kristen is hoofing it down the coast in her automobile, she's due to arrive in a couple of hours and it will be fun to hang out with her in Santa Barbara. I do not know if Nibs (aka, Black Cat) is in the car with her, or not. One never knows with cats.

The stop here in Santa Barbara is solely to wait for weather, and it does look there's a good window opening up Sunday night that will run through Tuesday morning, and that should get us to Morro Bay. Assuming the forecast holds, current plan is to bail from Santa Barbara 11pm or midnight Sunday night and do the 100 mile run to Morro, to arrive there Monday late afternoon/early evening. This window has held through two forecasts, PredictWind shows nothing of this whereas the local NWS guys are calling for it as well as the NAM and GFS models. Hopefully this happens, as we can keep on moving up the coast and watch for the next window.

It's pretty nice here in Santa Barbara, this time I'm over on the south side of the harbor with the bigger boats, and there are some pretty boats here. There's a Sundeer 56 across the dock, a huge Grand Banks trawler the other way, and a bunch of other really well maintained boats. It's fun to see the boats when everything is shining and gleaming and they look good.


Bad forecast - there's a big patch of green and brighter green down in the lower right corner where I want to go. Would be nice to NOT have green there; in fact, white (0-5 knots breeze) would be ideal! That's the GFS model forecast for midnight Saturday evening local time. You can pick up these model displays from http://www.passageweather.com, a super site for quickly viewing world-wide weather model data.


Better weather. This is for Monday afternoon, lots of white and light blue down in the area of interest between Point Conception and Morro Bay. Of course this is only a computer model output, so who knows if this will actually happen - but I hope that it does. The model data changes every 6 hours, therefore I will be checking it over the next several days to see if the model comports with the NWS Oxnard forecasters - those are real people looking at a lot more data than just a weather model output, and so far they agree with what the model thinks.


Beetle at the interesting marina in Santa Barbara. In this particular marina you don't get the extravagance of a dock finger on each side of your boat, but you do get a concrete vertical piling to ram into upon entry to your dock; I guess the pillar provides a stern cleat to wrap the dock line around so at least the fenders don't squeak again the dock continuously. Still - if you're going to go to the effort to put in a dock piling then you might as well go ahead and put in the dock to go with it.


The steaming light is working again. I do not know why it went out the second time - hopefully it was only a bad bulb. The little bulbs are expensive at $26/eaches and I would like them last a good long while. I've now checked again with a voltmeter and ohmmeter the continuity and voltage through the wiring from the circuit breaker up to the wires that enter the light fixture, and everything looks perfect. Hopefully it was only a weak filament that caused the light to go out.


My brother demonstrates how to look good on a boat. He actually was a male model at one time and it's important in this pose to NOT have your entire hand in your pocket, that's why the right hand thumb is exposed on the outside of the pants pocket. Note the upraised eyeline to camera right, the chin is solid, I think we have a winner here. It was fun to grill up some burgers and catch up on news with him.

- rob

April 18

04-25-2014, 03:53 PM
Had a good evening last night running up the coast from Santa Barbara, out and around Point Conception and Point Arguello (home to Vandenberg Air Force Base), past Point Sal and San Luis Obispo, around Point Buchon and zoom into Morro Bay and the Big Rock. It's now 6PM Monday night and both Lindi and I have got in our naps to make up for last night's limited sleep.

Morro Bay is a fine place to be, a bit grey and much colder than Santa Barbara - we are no longer in Southern California, and instead get the wind in directly from the Pacific Ocean with no filtering, heating, or mixing over the land. It's even downright chilly at the moment! Time for jackets and wool caps. Beetle is tied up at the Morro Bay Yacht Club dock, a single pier that runs parallel to the tidal channel, with a Whitby 43 now rafted up outside us. Based on displacements (we're nominally 21,500 and they are similarly 25,000) and the large number of fenders both of us have out, Beetle should be just fine, in fact even snug as a bug.

The run up was Santa Barbara was fun, we got going just about sunset and by 10pm were running along in calm conditions past the oil rigs. For this 105 mile hop I was working with a weather system coming in - it's unusual for the USCG to put a call out a weather-related Securite call, and they are doing it every four hours or so telling everyone the National Weather Service is calling for widespread and strong gale force winds Tuesday and Wednesday and therefore to get into port before the wind shows up. Based on the weather forecast we wanted to be off the water no later than late Monday night. Given the relatively short hop and the narrow weather window I ran the motor up to 2150 RPM and kept it there - we are less efficient at burning fuel but are loping along at 7 knots and have a lot more power for punching into chop and don't slow down that much on each little bump.

We hit Point Conception about 1AM and turned from the relative flatness of the Santa Barbara Channel into the chop and 12-14 knots wind from straight ahead as we powered up towards Point Arguello. We ran about 1.5 miles off the coast, it was quite dark, and used the radar and a prior track on the chart plotter to make sure we didn't get set in towards the rocks on the shore. And we started to go BONG! off the chop, throwing huge sheets of water sideways as the bow section of the hull belly-flopped onto the chop. It's a lot of fun to watch that happen in the half-glow of the red/green bow nav light, up until the first time the mast makes a big bang as well. I tightened up the backstay and runners (we had the 3rd reef up on the main to act as a steadying sail), and I went to sleep as Lindi took over the watch. It was somewhere during her watch that Beetle stuffed a wave, resulting in a lot of water running over the pulpit, down the deck and up over the top of the dodger. Lindi said the dodger worked great, she was under it and stayed dry, I managed somehow to sleep through all this so I missed it.

3AM we were around Arguello, turned northwards and found the swell to be large at 12-14' but conveniently well off to port, so we stopped slamming so hard, and then the wind backed off to very light. It was neat to see Vandenberg AFB in the dark from that close, lots of lights, and later on the moon came up and helped out. The swell stayed way up for the rest of the run to Morro. And some idiot sets crab pots out in 400' of water! - nobody needs 400' deep crabs, particularly when it calls for three-float trap lines strung about in front of us. I spent my entire watch in the dark standing behind the dodger playing dodge-em crab pot. The closest call was having one pot line hook up on the rudder while swerving to avoid the floats, and fortunately the floats did not get caught up in the propeller.

Lindi took over again at 7:30 Monday morning (this morning) and took us up to the entry at Morro Bay, we popped into the channel which only had mild 5-6' swell despite the very large swell offshore, dropped the main, and motored along the channel to the Yacht Club. Tied up, powered up, connected to the club's WiFi, got a nap in, and now it's evening 'round these parts. A very satisfying run up the coast and we did not get caught up in any bad weather. Turns out Lindi grew up in this area and may be able to visit with some friends during the time we are here waiting for the weather to improve.

Santa Barbara itself was a fun town to visit, dinner on the wharf at the marina, walking around to look at boats, Kristen and I spent a morning at the Natural History Museum, which I thought was a well-done smaller museum that included minerals in displays that hi-lighted the differences in how rock responds to light wavelengths, plus displays of local insects, mammals, and birds. At $12 eaches to go, I would highly recommend spending several hours there! Kristen also wanted to visit the wineries in a section of town coined the 'Funk Zone', we stopped at two and she found several bottles of vino she quite liked.

Now it's time to pause here in Morro Bay and wait out the weather coming in. Looks like the next weather window is opening up Thursday evening - we shall see!


An amazing glass wall display at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, displaying insects local to the area. I've not seen a display like this before, it's a 1/2" thick sheet of acrylic, with pinned specimens set into the plastic from both sides, so at first it looks like you're looking at a mirror to see the underside of the specimen until you realize you're looking through the acrylic to see the underside of a specimen on the opposite side of the display. Very well done, the note on the case said 4,000 specimens were in the display!


The museum went to great effort to be not just a display of things, but also to bring in relationships between animals and weather and people, so there is a lot to read and a lot to learn as you move through the rooms. This is a case study of fire resistant chaparral, and also brings in the animals that repopulate and area that has burned out. It's a terrific museum!


Inside the bee colony room in the museum, looking up. There's a mirror on the top of the hexagonal bee hive cell, so it feels like you're in the middle of a bee's honeycomb. I'm not sure that bees carry iphone cameras and samsung cameras, but those two bees have them.


Nibs, aka Black Cat, did make the journey to Santa Barbara. He made the journey down in Kristen's car, and then spent the weekend carefully exploring Beetle to see if anything had changed. He also slept a great deal, generally speaking directly next to Kristen's shoulder, if not actually on top of her. He wasn't too sure what to make about the seal that hauled out on the dock, and the heron that was bigger than him did not make him want to chase birds - quite the opposite!


It got chilly as the sun set in the Santa Barbara Channel after we departed the marina. It's 40 miles to Point Conception and is generally a mild run through relatively flat waters. There's a lot of naturally occurring tar in the water, seeping up from the oil bearing floor of the ocean. There's enough tar to smell it for miles, and when I was here as a kid we'd find gooey black blobs of it on the rocks - much fun to play with, and darned hard to get the brown stains off your fingers.


Morro Bay has a gigantic rock, which is the first thing you see when rounding point and turning in towards the harbor. I talked with the USCG via VHF at 4AM to ask if there were any issues with harbor entry closures, as there was a rather large swell running - generated by a Low pressure system way up to the north. The USCG came back and said no bar closures were anticipated for the next 8 hours, and to check with the harbor patrol when I got within range.


The dock at Morro Bay Yacht club is really quite pleasantly wood, after all the concrete docks in the other places I've been stopping at. Somehow the wood is more pleasant under foot. Morro is a narrow strip estuary with a large sand bank to the west between the boats and the ocean, and there's a commercial marina up near the entrance. When I asked the Morro Bay Harbor Patrol about berthing they said they send sailboats over to the yacht club, which doesn't require reciprocal privileges - you just tie up and make sure to sign in. I signed in and have a key to the heads, showers, and laundry facilities, plus we're welcome to stay here as long as needed - provided we don't move in permanently! The boat outside of Beetle is also headed to the Pacific Northwest, they are going to Port Townsend - just north of Seattle.

- rob

04-25-2014, 03:56 PM
Good morning - it's 4:48AM this fine Friday, and Beetle is under power in light air about 14 miles south of Point Piedras Blancas, making good time towards Point Sur and Monterey Bay. The weather has been more or less windy from the north since Tuesday morning, and tonight is the first good opportunity to work north - the pressure gradient is sliding southwards with max winds moving down the coast to Southern California and reduced winds the further north one goes. Hopefully the forecaster folks at the National Weather Service Monterey got it right this evening and we can make comfortable time all the way up past Point Sur.

Point Sur is the the 'big' point 60 some odd miles to the north, and tends to be the starting place for relatively strong breeeze 'round this part of the coast. Being north of Sur means you're getting into the calmer breezes in Monterey Bay, being south of Sur means you can get bottled up in Morro Bay or San Simeon while winds whistle down the coast past you - the wind is fenced in by the hills and cliffs south of Point Sur and therefore the wind has nothing to do but accelerate and run along the cliffs. This is not so good if you are a north bound boat!

Tonight the three north bound boats departed the most pleasant guest dock at the Morro Bay Yacht Club. In the lead is Seevogel with Cameron singlehanding his way north, he left at 11:30pm. An hour later Waverider departed with Doug (and jim?) on board, and then we split at 2AM. The yacht club has been a great place to hang out while waiting for a weather window, a quiet facility, a nice dock, and a web cam overlooking the dock that Kristen quite enjoyed looking at to see what everyone was up to. The fuel dock is up the narrow waterfront, there are two bars in town that were recommended to me by the fuel dock operator whilst he was unloading Dungeness crab from the big blue fish boat Fierce Leader. I also heard that Fierce Leader got stuck outside in the big blow that was here on Tuesday - they were taking water clear over the entire boat, that would be something like 20 feet tall and maybe 70 or 80 feet long - the fuel fellow was observing them with his binoculars and said it was pretty spectactular to watch them hammer up the bay to the entrance at Morro Rock. For those of us inside the bay it was very windy at 27-32 knots, sounds like it was extra nasty outside. But there was Fierce Leader tied up to the fuel dock and preparing to offload their crab into 38 degree water inside a dozen 4' cube boxes with hoses running between the boxes to keep the water pumping. I wonder if that particular temperature is a good one for keeping crabs quiet?

I made two runs to the fuel pier with the dinghy and took on 30 gallons of diesel. The fueling setup in Morro Bay is geared towards big fish boats and they have a tall pier, no dock, and lots of barnacles growing on the pier pillars. It did not look at all inviting to bring Beetle over, so instead i put together the dinghy and ran up and down twice to visit them. The fuel pier also operates a small set of adjacent slips and I was able to run the dinghy to the small boat dock, tie up, and walk up to the diesel pump with my jerry jugs under the arm as it were. It's pretty funny to use a 2" diameter hose to fill tiny little jerry jugs; to make it work the operator threw the flow control valve mostly-closed to avoid having the diesel come crashing out of the hose at speeds designed to fill 1500 gallon fuel tanks.

And another small-world event on the docks; when you're all sitting around waiting for weather to turn in your favor, one of the topics of conversation is, 'Where is everyone going?'. Turns out that Cameron (Seevogel) is bound for Orcas Island, same as me. His folks are on the island, and his address is in Eastsound. He was very surprised when I told him I was also headed for Orcas, and it is likely i will run into him at Doe Bay and Westsound. He had just purchased his boat (O'day 39, I believe) and a bulkhead had fractured in a place where too many holes had been drilled in close proximity for purposes of passing bilge pump lines; he spent his time at the guest dock grinding fiberglass, vacuuming, and applying glass and epoxy to the cracked area. He was pretty happy to get that job finished this morning.

Kristen and I have been having weather talks on the telephone, she is getting pretty good at sorting out what's going on, what's likely to occur (the forecast), and then factor in boat speed to see where Beetle is likely to be at a given time as we move up the track. Game plan is to clear Point Sur this afternoon, get out into Monterey Bay (less wind as the wind field can spread out across the bay), and hopefully continue straight on towards San Francisco. The big Vallejo Race is this weekend, and if we are in the bay Saturday morning it would be fun to run up to Vallejo and hang out there; Kristen should be there (racing on a boat), as is Lindi's Jon (racing on another boat). I have no idea if the two marinas there have dredged since last year's race, when they had not dredged and as a result Beetle, along with several other deeper draft boats, spent the evening anchored out in the channel instead of rafted up inside.

So we're powering up the coast, it's 5:15AM now and I will be waking up Lindi at 6AM for her watch. Conditions continue to be moderate, a 5' swell or so, winds in the 2-5 knot range from in front, and to do the occasional bonk but not very hard. This makes it nice to type this note on my little Apple blue tooth keyboard into my very cool Samsung Note tablet thingy. Given all amazing variety of electronic gadgets on board, the Samsung by far gets the most use. And as I am running only 3 miles or so off the coast the MiFi unit can connect with the shore cell towers - I can send email, get weather data, and even read the BBC news. Much fun!

- rob

April 25

05-15-2014, 10:09 AM
Rob MacFarlane stopped by his old home in the Alameda Estuary and relaxed a bit, visited some friends and reprovisioned then wasted little time getting going to Beetle's newest destination in the PNW. Here's the lastest as he heads north!


Headed North

Beetle is departing San Francisco in about 40 minutes (2AM) this quiet Thursday morning. First stop is hoped to be the Humboldt Bay fuel dock - perhaps by 5pm Friday evening.

Weather is forecast to lay down along the coast, the forecast says we want to be north of Pt. Arena by Friday evening.

John Guhl is joining Beetle for the run northwards, hopefully this is fun!

I will send more information once we get underway.

- rob

May 8


Thursday with Cape Mendocino Up Front

It's Thursday afternoon and we're trundling along up the coast in the misty afternoon low fog and drizzle, wind is out of the south at 10-12 knots and that makes for a very pleasant ride northbound. John is asleep in his bunk, I'm up on watch sort of beneath the dodger and I've got my little Samsung unit and Apple keyboard set up on top of the sliding companionway hatch - the hatch makes for a convenient table in these conditions and I can keep watch whilst typing my note.

We departed Alameda at 2AM this morning and have made good time since then. There are a few crab pots still out and about, they mostly look like abandoned pots (lots of green growth on them), the pots that the fishermen could not find when they went out to retrieve all their gear at the end of the crab season (I believe that crab season has ended on this coast, though I could be mistaken).

Off Bodega Bay, in the fog, we ran into a whole heap of fish boats tooling around very slowly in search of salmon - looks like salmon season must be here! Also made for dodge-em fish boats and John has now learned a great deal about how to operate the autopilot he finds on Beetle. Certainly don't need sunglasses here though wool caps and full foulies are in order.

For my part I'm mostly keeping busy staying warm and monitoring everything while letting the boat run north - keep the fuel up in the day tank, maintain course, and watch out for the fish boats.

The weather window we're enjoying right now is the driver we're out here at this time - there's a lightweight front moving overhead and through at the moment and the front is bringing light southerly winds with it (plus fog and drizzle). When the front departs to the east the wind is forecast to fill in from the NW; all the forecasts have suggested that if one is north of Pt. Arena before the front clears then there is going to magically appear a large bubble of High pressure all the way up to Cape Flattery at the top end of the coast in Washington. It's that bubble that we're hoping to travel in as we proceed north. To do that we're running at 2150 RPM to try and keep speed around 67.5-7 knots over the ground despite bucking the Humboldt current, and so far that's going about right.

There are two planned fuel stops: Humboldt Bay on Friday and Newport Oregon on Sunday. The fuel dock in Humboldt closes at 5pm Friday afternoon and if we're there in time then we refuel and keep going. If we're slow then there is another fuel dock 56 miles further up the coast at Crescent City - so all we would need to do is skip Humboldt and move on up to Crescent City for fuel Saturday morning (when the fuel dock opens) and then be on the road north again. Currently we're 23 mils from Pt. Arena as of 2:20pm running at 7.4 knots (must be some good current behind us) and that would have us on schedule for fuel in Humboldt.

All is good, nice to be on the road and feel the boat moving with the small waves, and it's been interesting to watch the temperature fall as Beetle moves north. I wonder if an Eskimo would think of this as warm t-shirt weather?

- rob

May 8

Midnight off Fort Bragg

It has continued to be a most excellent run north - it's midnight and we've already rounded Pt. Reyes and Pt. Arena and are now just north of Fort Bragg and headed for the next point: Punta Gorda and Cape Mendocino. As I spent the winter studying Mexican navigation charts, I now know that Punta means Point. I've never heard of Punta Gorda but most folks that have listened to NOAA weather radio have heard of Cape Mendocino.

It's fun to be north of Point Reyes, as this is all new territory for Beetle and me. That said, mostly what I've seen of this new territory is low clouds and fog - running along 5 miles off the coast and still no coast in view. That's why it was fun when the lights of Fort Bragg popped up from under a cloud and now I can see the town. The cell phone also worked there, and Kristen gave me the low-down on the current weather forecasting up the coast. So far it looks like all systems are go and I continue to hope that Beetle will be around the top end of Washington and into the Strait of Juan de Fuca come Monday night.

Most of the day was spent running north under the small front that has now exited to the east. Life within a cloud is chilly, wet, limited visibility and lots of wet. While at Fortman Marina in San Francisco last week I did a temporary fix to the forward big hatch on the foredeck; that hatch has leaked for a bit and the proper fix is to pull the hatch and re-bed it. I didn't want to get into that project in Mexico, nor did I in San Francisco, as there's a possibility of damaging the hatch frame and that would be a time consuming problem - so something to look into when I get to Orcas Island. In the meantime I purchased a tube of Liquid Life Caulk and squeeged that around the perimeter of the hatch frame and pressed it in with my finger (which became wonderfully black as a result). And it has worked out that the frame is now not leaking where it meets the deck - at least for the moment.

Out here on the water I can see a bit of the moon poking through in between cloud bands, there are a couple of big back fuzzy drizzly clouds drifting about - one is behind (more wet on deck for a while) and the other is approaching. There are also two fish boats in the area, the one ahead seems to be running north at about the same speed and course as us, the one behind has been south-bound and is all lit up with the gigantic sodium lights that attract the squid.

We're about 84 miles from Humboldt Bay, and hope to be there tomorrow afternoon to take on fuel and keep the show on the road. I'm going to send this note out over the SSB radio, then wake John for his 1AM watch.

Nice that we're able to scamper north so quickly!

- rob

May 9


Fri at Point Mendocino

It's Friday morning and Beetle finds that the Mendocino coast is nearby to starboard, the sun is up albeit a bit shy hiding behind the clouds, the wind has gone to somewhere else leaving zip here, and there are interesting white caps in the water where the big swirls of current collide with one another. A very nice morning to be up and looking for the buoy moored off the cape. Plan is to take the buoy to starboard thereby avoiding the reef inshore, turn right a bit, and run up the coast and enter Humboldt Bay. Humboldt sometimes closes, as in there are breakers clear across the entrance and the USCG will close the port and bar crossing to all traffic - that should not be an issue today as the swell is moderate and there's no wind and no storm on the way in.

During last night's watch a pod of small black with white stripe dolphins came by to play in the dark. I did not get a good look at one, it being dark and all, but John had a whole ton of them come over later on during his watch and he got a good look at some of them. Neat playful animals.

Today should be fun, as we're going to try out the new fender boards on the boat when we tie up to the fuel pier in Humboldt. The fellow I spoke with on the telephone last week said they do not have a floating dock for small boats, but rather a tall pier set up for fish boats in which you lay against the vertical pilings (often covered with creosote, barnacles, and other lovely hard things) and he passes down the fuel hose. Fender boards are the answer to that sort of arrangement for small boats when you prefer to not have the hull crunching up against the pilings. Not having such boards, I went and made some while in SF, using a 2x4 cut to 7' length (to facilitate storage by making the board long enough to span two stanchion bases for lashing-to-stanchion-base purposes), and cutting some lines to size for tying the fenders to the board and the board to the boat. I have two of theses 2x4s, and I hope they work as otherwise it's going to be a somewhat arduous job to run jerry jugs up and down the fuel pier while not actually tying up to the pier. Think somewhat similar to San Carlos pier, but hopefully not as windy.

And while there in Humboldt I can check weather forecasts and then we can depart and put the show back on the road. This bit of coast has a well deserved reputation for being particularly nasty and it's really nice to be running out here with calm winds and moderate seas making good speed.

- rob

May 9


Northbound from Humboldt Bay Friday night

Good evening, the pit stop for fuel at Humboldt Bay went well, I'm glad our arrival aligned with daylight as that would not be the most pleasant place to enter for the first time in the dark - big swell building up as you run in towards the beach that would not be well lit by buildings behind as the town is not on the beach. Running in towards a beach never seems like a good idea, though there are two large parallel breakwaters that extend out to sea which do provide some protection as you enter. Once inside you turn left and run 4 miles up the river to the Englund Fuel Dock - a building on a tall pier lined with concrete-filled steel pilings. Fender boards worked great, and I have figured out how to whip a dock line around a fat piling (which you cannot put your arms all the way around) such that the end of the line wraps around the piling and back into your hands - that's how we lashed Beetle to the pilings.

Took on 43 gallons of red-dye diesel no. 2, and three hours after passing the outer buoy on our way in, we were past that buoy on our way out.

Once north of Humboldt we fell in with a fish boat that appears to be doing the same run north that we are, though he is taking time out periodically to stop and fish - perhaps that is a way to pay for the fuel costs of the run they are doing. Currently the boat is hanging about 2 miles to the west of us as we run parallel to the coast towards Cape Blanco, the next big point to round, currently some 66 miles ahead.

There hasn't been a whole heck of a lot of sea life to be found out here so far, but today fixed that: found a large grey whale right at the entrance to Humboldt Bay, he or she was spouting and hanging out at the river mouth, lots of albatross winging around the boat this afternoon, and then early evening observed three different sharks pass by the boat very close as in 5-15' away depending upon the shark. My guess is we are seeing Mackerel sharks (a cousin of the Mako, according to my fish book) that is found up here in the colder waters. Definitely not a blue shark as it's way too cold for them and the fin didn't look right for a blue.

Conditions are slightly more lively than last night, we're moving with 8-12 knots of breeze from the west, the occasional large rain cloud moving by from west to east that brings some rain and colder air, swell is up at 6-8' from the west, and we do the occasional BONG when a white cap plonks against the port bow.

Running well, should be at Blanco sometime tomorrow morning, and that will put Newport Oregon squarely in our sights. Crescent City is to starboard and the border between Oregon and California is just ahead. Plus we're having a good solid moon today in between the high clouds, and the moon really lights up the water out here - nicer to run when you can see the waves as compared to running in total blackout conditions.

All is well on board, hopefully it continues that way.

- rob


Saturday morning off Port Orford and Cape Blanco

It has been a good night's run up from Humboldt Bay, and with the sunrise we're out here off Port Orford with Cape Blanco in the offing not too far away.

Had our first problem of the trip - the starboard fuel filter failed to pass fuel when Is wrapped over to it, resulting in shutting down the engine (fuel starvation). I was swapping filters in the Racor 500FG ganged filter set because the port filter was showing high enough vacuum (sucking too hard to get fuel through the filter) that it needed to be replaced. This has always simply meant swinging the fuel flow handle to point to the starboard new filter, the motor continues to run, and I can change the port filter at my leisure. Not this time. I swung the handle and within seconds the vacuum gauge goes way high and the motor dies... rats! We drifted around for 10 minutes while I swapped in a new port fuel filter paper element and the motor fired right up. I pulled out the starboard pap;er element to verify I had in fact replaced it (Marina del Rey? San Diego?) And it looked just fine - so at least I hadn't done something dumb like swap to the new fuel filter and forgotten to replace the old one. Will want to sort this out in Newport Oregon - our next port of call.

There were several large black fuzzy squall clouds that we went through last night, though it's really more that they ran over us as we don't go fast enough to avoid them. Beetle got a good fresh water rinse with lots of rain falling out of several of them. And in the middle of the second rain cloud (which you can see easily on the radar, even to the point of knowing when you will exit the rain) we came into a bunch of south bound fish boats running with super bright lights on pointing forward. I called one of them on the VHF to ask what they were up to - fishing? Netting? Squidding? And I did not want to run into their gear. The first boat that went by us called over to the sailboat on his port side and he told me they were out shrimping, everybody was shut down, and there was no gear in the water for me to worry about. That was most nice of him.

I talked with Kristen via telephone when we were abeam Rogue River - she's on the train headed for Newport, there to join the boat for the remainder of the run up the coast. She was seeing snow (!) Outside her window as they ran along the tracks through the mountains. I imagine the big black squally things we're having out here are turning into white fluffy snowy things in the mountains. These squalls should represent the backside of the front that went through last night to the north of us, I have now arrived at that latitude, and should see better conditions (as in smoother) as the front clears off to the east and we motor up what will now be the west side of that front line. Make sense?

Weather forecast continues to look good for departing Newport on Sunday to continue the run up to Cape Flattery, nothing big is forecast to move in other than the High which is due to appear over Vancouver BC - the folks in Seattle are all excited about getting some sun! I wonder if they will know that Beetle brought some up in a box from Puerto Vallarta just for them :)

All is well so far this morning, I'm now keeping a closer eye on the vacuum gauge on the port side fuel filter (running with no resistance at the moment), we are 10 miles south of Cape Blanco with a lalrgish swell running at 8-10' and 10-12 knots of wind from the NW - not too bad at all as the water is remaining fairly smooth over the swell.

Enjoy the day!

- rob

May 10

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Monday morning at sea – Columbia River coming up

That was a mister toad's wild ride for the first 6 hours after departing Newport Harbor last night. We had cleared the harbor entrance with the last of the sunlight at 8pm, straight into 20 knots from the north - exactly where we wanted to go. The wind would not have been so bad, but it had been blowing out there all day long and had generated a wicked 3-4' chop and we started to pound the moment we turned onto course 351True from the harbor's outer buoy. After a few minutes of this, which mostly involved banging into a steep wave and lifting up most of that wave onto the foredeck and watching the water come rolling down the deck and into the cockpit (plus a couple of deeper waves that rolled up and over the dodger) we turned west 20 degrees and slowed the boat down in an effort to get away from the coast and the crab pots and not to bang directly into the chop.

Kristen doesn't do well in these conditions and promptly got seasick and emptied her stomach contents into a ziplock baggie she had in her hand expressly for that purpose, then managed to get some sleep in. John took first watch, I took second watch, and we tacked back towards the coast when we were 11 miles offshore. The NWS forecast called for stronger wind from the north outside and lighter wind inside - so we headed back inshore after going through a 50 degree tack (motorsailing with the third reef up). The swell was negligible, but the chop kept up slow and wet.

About 2AM Kristen was back up feeling much better and stood her watch, and I kept running fresh fuel into the day tank with an idea to keep the fuel level higher in case there was in fact something going on with debris in the tank and keeping fuel high would lessen the sloshing effect in the tank. I have no idea if that helped, but the fuel filter I swapped into place in Newport harbor is working perfectly, 0 vacuum, and we're continuing to make good time moving along at 2000 RPM.

And now I've just woken up, it's 8AM Monday morning and we're running at 6.8 knots through glassy conditions with a bit of left over motion about 29 miles from the border between Washington and Oregon. Washington here we come!

Goal is to carry on up to and around Cape Flattery, hopefully arriving there 24 hours from now (Tuesday morning some time), and if necessary stop in at Neah Bay for fuel, and carry on for Port Angeles and stop there Tuesday night. If that happens, then it becomes a relatively shortly hop across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Orcas Island on Wednesday. NWS forecast indicates that all this will work well given the weather out here: we're north of the wind that is supposed to fill in today off Newport (same 20 knots we had yesterday), there's light 0-10 knots all of today and most of Tuesday, and we will be in the Strait before the wind fills in at 20 knots Wednesday off the west coast of Washington. Will be interesting to find out just how well the wind reads the forecasts.

So, morning here, nothing broke last night, Kristen is sleeping, I'm typing, John is looking around for sharks and whales, the sun is up with a crispy clear sky, water is a shiny mirror with zero wind. Not too shabby given what we started out just outside the bar at Newport!

- rob

May 12

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Monday afternoon, passing Gray’s Harbor, 100 miles to Cape Flattery

It's been a super pleasant day today as Beetle tools along smoothly through the flat water off the coast; breeze has held at 0-10 knots from the NE and N, swell is running at 1-2', and wind waves are on the order of six inches - makes for kindly traveling conditions.

The three of us have been taking turns hanging out in the cockpit to soak up the sunshine, read books, and tell stories. John's Nikon camera lens has magically come back to life after several years of having the autofocus mechanism not work - now it works and he's amazed! Kristen has been feeling better, brought Fred (the big beanbag chair) up to the cockpit and has been mountain-peak-spotting. I've been reading, along with resting/napping and keeping track of fuel usage - so far I've run two of the jerry jugs into the port tank as the port tank is the easier of the two tanks to fill, and we're doing fine at this engine RPM.

There has been very little marine life visible out here, apart from the Murres and gulls. We did have a couple of people-related events today, namely a huge number of triple-float crab pots set SE of the Columbia River, and the case of the mysterious drifting bulk carrier. The crab pots were set in 450-500' of water, which is real deep in the world of crab pots, and there were hundreds of the floats set about the place. There was also a longline flag that we saw, and then beyond the flag and pots was a great big blue fishing boat- at 100 foot or longer it looked like the kind of boat that would have set tons of pots out here. I called him the radio, he answered, and told me that we were seeing either crab pots or long lines, and either way the gear was not on the surface and therefore don't be worried about running into any lines. There miles and miles and miles of pot floats! We only actually deviated course for two of them, which was not so bad.

And the Columbia River is a pretty busy port, lots of traffic in and out, including big full size container ships. We went by to the west of the pilot area, and watched on the AIS, and then later just by looking over the bow, a giant bulk carrier that didn't seem to be doing much - circles, perhaps? - at speeds reported via AIS to be 0.2 knots. I called up the Zambesi and they told me they were drifting, I told them I would avoid them, and they were pleased I was not asking them to turn on their engine and move out of the way. So we got to motor right by their bow and got some fun pictures of their ship.

It's now around 6pm and we're organizing our gear after a decadent day of lounging in the sun, in preparation for running tonight. Fred's bag has been put away, food bags are stowed, shoes have been put in their places so we don't trip on them, and foulies and tethers and hats are being arranged so they can be found in the dark. Tonight should be our last night-run on this trip, and it would be good to go through the night uneventfully; at the rate we're traveling we should be around Cape Flattery in the daylight tomorrow (Tuesday) morning, and then carry on to Port Angeles by early evening.

- rob

May 12


Big Brass Balls
05-15-2014, 09:25 PM
That boy does get around.................

06-01-2015, 10:07 AM
The Further Adventures of Tiger Beetle continues as Rob and Kristen embark on their great Alaskan voyage of 2015!


It's a fine Saturday evening, Beetle is happily riding at anchor in 45 feet of water, and the US Customs and Border Patrol let Kristen and I back in to the country. They also took away half of our dinner (the uncooked chicken), but we perservered what with smoked BarS sausages and salad. Seems that avian flu is to blame for us having our chicken taken away.

The day started with a walk ashore to check out the insect population along the road-side at Montague Harbor (some particularly nice yellow furry syrphid fly bee-mimics were present), Kristen took a harbor tour in the dinghy and discovered where the Canadian Geesers and Goslings hang out (to the north side of the Montague Provincial Park, on a rock ledge that created a pool of water for them), and the wind filled. It filled rather a lot, up to 22 knots through the anchorage which is heaps more than we've had all week.

We upped and outed, narrowly avoiding the Queen of Nanaimo BC Ferry boat - these boats are huge, fast, white, and sneaky - they like to appear abruptly from around the rocky point/corner and are traveling way quicker than anybody else - so you have to be on your toes when BC Ferries are about. A couple of hours later we rounded North Pender Island the wind died away, leaving behind funky current-driven chop for the hop over to Roche. Whereupon we discovered an unexpected side-current traveling under the US Customs Pier, which kept pushing Beetle away from the dock - took three tries to get tied up! But they let us in anyway.


The interior as it looks at the moment. All our gear is stacked port and starboard behind the lee cloths, the floor boards are in temporarily, and the forward floorboard isn't even the correct floor board - but we're out having fun on the water anyway. Note that the fold-down table is no longer baltek balsa core color, and the overhead is a nice shade of new white paint.

We are now at anchor and have had a chance to push two of Kristen's videos to the zenfolio account, should people be interested in short clips of Tommy Transit's bus (from the inside), and the sea plane taking off as it roared past us...


Tommy Transit. We are driving back from the Hummingbird Pub, and the chef is the one in the back seat wearing the superman shirt and the hula hoop. He has been practising hula-hooping whilst Tommy drives folks around, and he's pretty good at it - he can stand up, no hands on the ceiling, and keep the hula hoop going for a while without falling down as the bus spins and turns around the country lanes.


this is what a De Havilland Beaver looks like when, on departure from Montague Harbor, it lines up aimed at you, revvs up the motor and then accelerates through the boats on its way into the air. There are big hi-tension transmission power lines on each side of the entry/exit to Montague, so the planes get airborne and then stay real close to the water until they fly *under* the power lines on their way out.

So we are back in the land of AT&T connectivity, and the little Sierra Wireless aircard has done the trick of getting the videos up and out.

Enjoy the evening!

by rob macfarlane

Read on (https://tbeetle.wordpress.com/2015/05/30/saturday-night-at-roche-harbor/)