Under Spinnaker off Cedros

Under Spinnaker off Cedros
Under Spinnaker off Cedros

Monday, August 1, 2011

Really--that bad.

Have you ever said something along the lines of "How bad could that be--really?"  Sailors know that there are things that you just never say that about.   Hurricanes.  North Atlantic fog.  Cape Hatteras.  Beating against both wind and current.  If you've been to Pacific Mexico, the Gulf of Tehuantepec (for the uninitiated, that is place that gets routine gale force winds across the skinny part of Mexico.  Winds here AVERAGE 25 knots.  Half the time it is calm.  Think about the other half).  I have a new nominee for the "it is that bad" list.  We knew we would be spending the rainy season in Central America.  We had to get south of the hurricane zone, and now we have to wait it out.  As Anne put it, imagine living outdoors in Washington DC in the summer.  Only here it is a little less hot, and a lot more wet.  Everyting gets moldy.  I think I'm getting moldy.  OK, just a lethal case of Swimmer's ear, and a bit of heat rash, but I've never been bothered by those things, and I've lived in some places generally recognized as warm.  I was telling someone about the lightning storm we witnessed off Nicaragua.  They said "maybe you've just seen real lightning".  When I told them that I lived in Panama City Florida for two years, they conceded. 

I'm sweating buckets.  As I understand it, ladies don't sweat--they "glow".  I think Anne is radiating into the ultra-violet.  Nearly every day, it rains so hard that  water bounces up and into open ports and hatches, even though we have awnings to keep that from happening.  So we dash about and close everything up, incubating the spores inhabiting us and everything we own.  The experience gives me a new respect for those who explored this part of the world.  Balboa walked across the bit of marsh that we just crossed under power--from one ocean to the other.   Just 40 miles or so.  Having seen it, I'm surprised anyone survived.  I think that most people today could not walk the railroad tracks from Colon to Panama city.  We do not have Malaria, Yellow Fever, or even the general snakes, crocs, and lethal bugs to deal with, but I can tell you, the rainy season in Central America really is that bad.  We'll be running away to the US for a bit next month. 

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Resting in Golfito

We have taken a bungalow in Gulfito in order to rest in more spacious digs. I told Mitch I needed a little less bush and a little more boulevard but the boulevards all seem to be hours of driving from here.

We spent a couple of days huddled below decks trying to decide on a hotel to move to and finally agreed that small town Golfito and a Land & Sea Bungalow were going to make me happy. I don't have to get dressed if I don't want to. I don't have to cook if I don't want to. I don't have to go outside if I don't want to. I wonder if I really have to get out of bed? It looks like a/c and long hot showers were all I needed.

For the past couple of days we have been busy working on an addition to the blog. Please note the map at the upper right, it shows the route we have taken to reach Golfito and there are pictures!! Our intention (can you say 'Road to Hell') is to chronicle our travels on this map but cruiser plans are written in the sand at low tide. Since organizing 9 months of photos has been taxing I think I will try to do this a little more regularly - but no promises.

When we arrived in Golfito it was raining. When we radioed ahead to our destination the guy who answered described it as 'a bit hazy.' It was raining so hard that the water was running so fiercely into my eyes that I could not see the pendant on the mooring. I could not see or hear Mitch who was only 4 feet away. All I needed was to find a bar of soap and strip down to have an unlimited cold shower.

The rain has let up for the past 2 days, only and hour long down pour in the late afternoon. The sun is out and we are making plans to move on. We will be off to Panama early next week. A couple of weeks in Las Perlas Islands in the Gulf of Panama and then a transit of the canal. More excitement ahead.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Observations--about me and the wildlife

It is amazing how sitting cooped up in a boat for only a short time can make one "half empty".  In saying that Muertos had "nothing much to recommend it", I completely overlooked the evening show on he day we pulled in.  We got to watch a half-dozen small manta rays (maybe 18-24 inches across) cavorting in the cove.  They would repeatedly come well out of the water (maybe 4 feet clear of the surface). While "flying", they continue to flap those great sea wings--though without feathers, they don't do much.  Then they do a colossal belly-flop, and get up speed to go again.  I'd read about this behavior, and seen an individual ray jump once a way off, but never seen a show like this. 

On the subject of wildlife, I'd commented on bird behavior in La Paz (elsewhere in an e-mail):
"Add another previously respectable and admired bird to the list.

Background:  The cormorants here are not shy like at Klamath.  They will give you stink-eye if you walk by within 5 feet or so, but otherwise don't stop fishing on account of humans.  So, I've been able to watch.  Yesterday,  I saw a cormorant come up with a fish of the wide flat variety(likely a Seargent-Major http://www.4loge.net/Phuket%20vacation/Underwater/Seargent%20Major.jpg )--maybe 6" long, but too broad for a cormorant to swallow.  That hooked beak had the fish well secured, but every time the cormorant tried to adjust it to get it "down the hatch", the fish would wiggle away.  Three times the cormorant went under after it, and came up with apparently the same fish.  Eventually it just abandoned the fish, which was injured and picked up by gulls in due course.
Cut to breakfast this morning.  Same story (for all I know, same cormorant-slow learner).  After a couple of unsuccessful tries to swallow its fish, a brown pelican dive-bombed the cormorant!.  Landed right on his back.  The cormorant dove, and after 15 or 20 seconds, came up 75 feet away, with fish.  The pelican came off the water, and with 4 wing-beats, bombed the cormorant again.  This time, although it dove, it must have lost the fish.  The pelican put it's head under, came up and swallowed something wiggly. 
Never mind that the cormorant probably needs to learn what it can swallow.  That was rude--and very (bald) eagle-like.  Brown pelicans are very nearly perfect fishermen, and hardly need to steal. 
I do have to note that my sympathies are a bit subjective and limited.  I've not lost any sleep over how the fish felt about this whole thing." 
 I am now happy to report that it is apparently only the "town birds" that behave this way.  I've observed them hanging out with gulls, even begging for scraps from fishermen with the gulls.  Hanging with a bad crowd.  They probably smoke too much and stay out till the bars close, and lack the energy to fish.  At Balandra, just a few miles out of La Paz, we observed proper pelican behavior, circling along the face of a cliff, then hitting the water like a brick, and coming up with a fish.  I did not see one miss.  All's right with the world.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

More than 6 bits, but barely.

Well, I said we'd be in Puerto Vallarta on Saturday or so.  More like leaving then.  We left La Paz Monday, as planned, and all went fine--it is just that at 6 MPH, 400 miles is a long way.  We are sitting in Ensenada de Los Muertos--a tiny cove with nothing much to recommend it other than good anchorage and shelter from the north, 70 miles from La Paz (probably about 30 as the crow flies--but out of the big bay and headed south).  We'd planned to stop here Tuesday evening, and did.  We woke yesterday to wind getting stronger fast.  The winds have been moving between 15 and 25-30 knots--gusts to 35 a few times, and are expected to do so until Saturday AM.  We're in the middle of what they call a "Norther" here.  Their winter storms here are winter storms that got out of the US by accident, and so always come from that direction. 
We can sail in that kind of weather--we did a time or two on the way down the Oregon and CA coast, but it is bumpy and no fun.  On top of that, Anne found a virus to bring with us from La Paz--just a minor flu bug, but who wants to sit up all night in a bumpy sea with anything that resembles the flu?   Oh, yes--the Sea of Cortez is noted for "square waves", meaning very short period waves that seems to be as far apart as they are tall. I think they over-play them some, but it is a real phenomenon, common to Southeast Alaska, as well as to shallow water everywhere.  Wind opposing current in shallow water does make different waves, and 25 knots of wind can make for some very uncomfortable conditions.  Thankfully, we'll be going downwind when we go!
The engine is working fine.  No shakes or shudders--which is new to us, and makes hot water in the water heater without overheating--something we have been without for a while.   After our sea trials, I wondered why the math was not working.  Knowing how fast the old engine was spinning the prop, and spinning the same prop a the same speed ought to make the boat go the same speed.  So, why were we coming up a half-knot short?  We could run the engine up to get the same speed, but it was working harder.  Oh, yes--we have been sitting for 2 1/2 months in a tropical sea--boat not moving, and aggressive marine crud attaching.  I hired a local diver for a "shave and haircut" consisting of a scrape with a very dull trowel (dull is good, as it won't skin off the paint) followed by a thorough scrubbing with a green pad, and replacing the prop zinc, which was going away very fast.  1.5 hours work underwater--$30.  I could not resist the urge to tip a bit. 
So we sit in jeans and sweaters, wishing we hadn't put so many warm clothes in storage.  It may be in the mid-60s, and mid-50's at night, but that much wind makes it seem distinctly un-tropical.   Our major source of entertainment has been a Mexican Shrimper that pulled in here late Tuesday night--and dragged anchor away by morning--to steam back up the bay and anchor--three more times today.  They have a huge and ancient looking "classic" anchor--the kind that they always use in cartoons--with two big hooks, and a stock on the other end to make it lie flat.  Probably enough anchor for that boat, but they have no chain, and seem to put out about 50 feet or so of rope in 25 feet of water.  I don't think they anchor a lot, but they are learning.  The last time, they dropped that big hook about 100 feet behind us, and let out anchor rope until they stopped about 1/4 mile away.  They seemed to stick this time!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


So we bought a new engine.  Diesel engines cost an obscene mount of money.  We waited and waited for it to arrive, and stuffed it into the engine room.

It is an optical illusion--it really fits fine
  There is this little voice gnawing at the back of your mind.  What if you get it all ready, and it won't start/doesn't work out/blows up.  What if you put it in forward and it goes backward because you misunderstood something.  Etc. Etc.  Worry, Worry.  Today, no worries.  Varuna will be joining our sailing buddies again next week.  We did our sea trials today.  The boat is quieter, smoother, and better behaved than it has ever been.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Terms and conditions

Blog (v) to imagine that one's life and thoughts are interesting enough to warrant sharing them with the world (see Narcissus).   (n)  the place on the Internet that plays the role of pool (see Narcissus).

We are starting this blog by popular demand.  If it is found to be self-absorbed--well--you asked for it. 

Varuna (Vedic God)  Varuna was one of the earliest of the Vedic Gods, lately displaced by Shiva as top dog, but still God of the Sea and protector of the West (isn't that just too double-entendre).   (Boat)  Varuna is a Pearson 36 Cutter (367 to some), built in Rhode Island in 1982. Our Varuna is 36 feet long, Cutter rigged (that means two sails on the pointy end, for non-sailors, 11.5 feet wide, and currently our permanent home.  Varuna carries 150 gallons of water, 50 of fuel, and just enough stuff to fill every available space.  Think 18 foot travel trailer with a much improved social status. 

We have begun an adventure that is expected to take us from Portland Oregon to "Greece"--or somewhere beyond.  We really don't plan to sail all the way around, but we'll have to see what happens.  We do hope to see the Med.  For now. we're just getting stated.  This blog is being created as we sit in La Paz, Mexico, awaiting deliver of a new engine.  Future posts here will delve into the past--mostly because we took 4 months too long to get this going (or maybe we finally ruined a good record--you decide).  We left Portland on August 18, 2010.  We sailed to San Deigo and participated in the Baja Haha-a rally of about 200 boats all headed to Mexico.  Just after we arrived in Cabo, our engine expired, and we got to learn first hand that "cruising" really is just boat maintenance in exotic places.  While we wait, we'll have to share slome stories of the trip so far.  If you've already read about htem in e-mail, sorry-we only have so much material. 

Anne and I will both be posting here.  We will generally appear to have been of a different boat in a different place.  This is not the case. 

Here is Anne, putting portland behind her.  Since we both hate cameras, she'll have to post the pictures of me.