Thursday, June 29, 2006

But I thought you said....

Our second extended cruise is over.  Let’s take a look back and make some general observations.


Before we left, friends frequently asked, “How long will you be gone this time?”  Our standard answer was two weeks to seven years.  (The two weeks was to cover the real possibility that we would get out off the Washington coast again and say, “This is nuts, let’s go home!”).  Well we were gone a lot longer than two weeks but a lot less than seven years (which was about what we figured a globe circumnavigation would take).


Well, we were fortunate that the initial weather off the Washington coast was actually quite nice, so that scotched the two-week cruise.  So what happened to the seven year circumnavigation?


Well, we never really planned a circumnavigation although we allowed that it was a distinct possibility.  Steve had a desire to visit the Seychelles and Kenya, and we wanted to visit a few of the places in the South Pacific that we missed on our 1991-1993 cruise like the Cook Islands, Niue, and New Caledonia.  We had also talked seriously about looking for a summer home in New Zealand, because when it is summer down there it is winter here.  The idea of and “Endless Summer” was very appealing.  But we really had no serious plans beyond Mexico, the Galapagos and Chile.


We think the change to our plans began in Barra de Navidad on the Mexican Riviera.  We had recently completed our long trek from the Straits of Juan de Fuca to the tip of Baja, Cabo San Lucas.  We opted for the longer passage down to the Riviera rather than the shorter, more common route across the Sea of Cortez to Mazatlan.  We were eager to see some new anchorages and get further south where it’s warmer in the winter.  Barra de Navidad met both of those goals.  When we arrived there it was so pleasant in terms of the climate, the people, the beaches and the scenery in general that we found ourselves saying, “Gee, we could live here.”


We had the same feeling a few weeks later when we reached Zihuatenejo.  What a cool little town!  Touristy, but not over the top, nor was it too expensive.  We talked to ex-pats, both Americans and Canadians who were living there and they all seemed to be having the times of their lives.  We looked at a couple of condos there just for something to do and to get a feel for the costs.  The views and the ambiance were hedonistic.  Zihua (for short) had a lot of what we were looking for: movie theaters, American-style supermarkets, fantastic restaurants, and scenic surroundings.


It began to dawn on us that we had unconsciously expanded our summer home search area from New Zealand to include Mexico.  Gradually, for a multitude of vaguely perceived reasons, the attraction of making long ocean passages to remote tropical islands was diminishing.  Part of it was the pleasantness and beauty of Mexico (if you have only ever been in to one of the border towns like Tijuana, Mexicali or Nogales, you haven’t seen Mexico).  And another part of it was the feeling that, concerning the South Pacific and tropical islands in general, we had “Been there, done that.”  It’s true that each island or country has its own unique attractions, but it can’t compare to experiencing coral atolls and volcanic islands for the first time.  There is only one first time.  We knew we could never replicate that experience.


We were also finding that we REALLY like warm, sunny weather.  Our original plans called for going to Chile by way of the Galapagos.  It’s not always sunny and warm in Chile.  Some people call ChileAlaska without bears.”  It is certainly beautiful there but we started to question whether we were up for the cold, the wind, and the rain.


Then we left Zihua and started heading north to Puerto Vallarta.  Heading north was part of the original plan.  Kavenga’s hull needed a blister job and an epoxy barrier coat.  Mexico seemed like the best place to get that done both from the standpoint of weather (hot and dry) and labor (cheap but good quality).  So we had a few more months to mull over our options before a Chile-go-no-go decision would be required.


When we returned to Puerto Vallarta (we were there in 1991 and 1994) we were quickly reminded why we like the city and region so much.  It has more of everything we like about Zihuatenejo and a few things that Zihua doesn’t have (e.g. four modern hospitals).  We still weren’t thinking seriously about shopping for a home in Mexico until we encountered some other like-minded people.


Two slips over from us on E Dock in Marina Vallarta in 2005 were Hugh and Vickey on Snow White.  They were seriously talking about and looking at condos in the Marina area.  Almost at the same time, perhaps even earlier, we received a visit from Mark Learned, one of our marina neighbors from back home in Gig Harbor.  Mark and his wife Gail have a condo on the south shore of Banderas Bay and live aboard their boat, Gail Winds during the northern summer.  Having a second home in Mexico started sounding less crazy and more plausible.  Well the rest is history, duly recorded in our earlier blog “A New Home.”


So that, in a coco-nutshell, is how our potential seven year cruise got cut back to two years.


For our fellow sailors, or those readers with an interest in the technical aspects, here’s a summary of how the boat and its components performed.


Kavenga, a Lord Nelson 41, has always been a great blue water boat.  We were often in conditions where the newer style boats with their straight sheer lines and low bows would be taking solid water over their bows and spray in their cockpits.  Kavenga’s curving sheer and high bow keep her decks and the cockpit dry until things start getting really nasty.


The new 75HP Yanmar diesel engine that Steve installed in 2002 performed flawlessly and was Kay’s candidate for Most Valuable Player.  We motored at least twice as much on this Mexico cruise as the last one.  This not only meant faster passages but also better weather as we were able to time our passages to coincide with generally fair weather windows.  Being 50% more powerful than the BMW that it replaced, meant that we could run the Yanmar at only 2/3 of full power and still maintain cruising speed.  This translated to less wear and tear on the engine, and less stress for us.


The handheld and fixed GPS units took a lot of the work and uncertainty out of the navigation duties.  We spent less time navigating but at the same time had a more accurate view of our position and progress towards our destination.  My only regret is that people who have just started cruising in the last ten years are often doing so with only a superficial knowledge of blue-water navigation.  If something were to happen to their GPS units or the satellite system itself, they would literally be lost.


We had two alternative energy systems on board: solar and wind.  Neither of them gave us any problems.  If we had to choose one over the other it would be solar.  Solar panels are simple, reliable, silent and contribute something to the battery bank every day.  The wind generator only contributes when there is enough wind, and only puts out significant quantities of power when the wind gets up to 15 knots or more.  Beyond that it can put out large quantities of power, but it can also be a tad noisy, at least compared to a solar panel!  But it was nice to have both systems.


We had a SSB radio (Icom 700 Pro) this time instead of a Ham radio.  This was a definite improvement in our estimation—at least for users like us.  The SSB is a simpler yet more rugged and more powerful (150 vs. 100 watts) radio.  Unless you are a fairly hard core techy, the SSB gives you all the control and flexibility you need to talk on all the voice cruising nets and to send email via the internet gateways (Winlink and Sailmail).  The Icom 700 Pro is set up so that it is easy to switch into Ham mode.  Thus we were able to check into the various Ham nets (Sonrisa, Baja-Cal, etc.) as well as the SSB nets (Amigo, Southbound, etc.)  When we cruised Mexico in 1990-1991 the SSB nets did not exist.  Now it seems as if they handle the majority of the net traffic—at least in Mexico.


We had a complete suit of brand new Neil Pryde sails.  We only wish they had gotten more use.  We were so impressed with our first suit of Neil Pryde sails that we put over 30,000 miles of hard sailing on, and we are even more impressed with this suit with all of its special features for bluewater sailors.  Unfortunately the winds in Mexico were such that we found ourselves motoring or motor-sailing much of the time.  Our last set of sails really started earning their keep after we left Mexico and entered the tradewinds.


The new Adler-Barbour Super ColdMachine refrigerator also worked well.  In addition to the standard air cooling system, it is also equipped with a water-based heat exchange option.  We installed it in a slightly unconventional manner.  Instead of using seawater we plumbed the water intake to one of Kavenga’s three fresh water tanks.  We always use the other two tanks first so that the fridge almost always has access to cooling water.  The reason for this is that using seawater adds new problems: having to strain out impurities, introducing the possibility of corrosion, etc.  The cooling water option is engaged with the simple flip of a switch that brings the circulation pump online.  The advice from the A-B tech reps was that water cooling is only needed if the ambient temperature in the refrigerator installation compartment reaches 90 degrees.  This does happen in Mexico, but not as often as you might think, at least in our case.  Our fridge is installed beneath the sink in Kavenga’s galley, a relatively cool spot.  If it were installed in the engine compartment, the water option would probably be needed all the time.  In either case, the system worked great.


In summary, this cruise was almost devoid of mechanical difficulties.  Yes, we had some failures, but they were minor and easily and readily fixed.  We had spares on board for 7 years, so if anything did break, chances were that we had whatever we needed to get it back on line quickly.


Thus far our website has over 6,000 hits.  We suspect that is largely due to a very small nucleus of friends who check on us frequently.  However, that view was somewhat challenged during our recent stop in Port Townsend when a couple from an Oregon boat headed north came by to tell us they had been following our travels on our website.


Well, whoever you all are, we thank you for caring enough to take the time to read our drivel and look at our photos (definitely more interesting).  We’ll probably give the web log a rest for a while (the website will have more updates).  Maybe we’ll have something worthwhile to say after we have returned to Mexico.  So if you feel like it, check in once and a while to see if anything is new.  Who knows maybe we’ll go “Political” or “Equine” or “Malacology”. 


Thanks for coming along.  We have refrained from publishing our email address for fear of it falling into the hands of web crawlers.  But just in case you don’t know how to get in touch with us, you can probably figure this out.  Kavenga at-sign ATT dot net


Fair seas and following winds,

Steve & Kay







Monday, June 26, 2006

British Columbia and Home Again

The first leg of our voyage home from Nanaimo was about as short as they come.  We motored out of the marina and across the bay to the anchorage between Newcastle and Protection Island.  This took barely half an hour.


Once the anchor was down and set we hopped in the dinghy and motored to the park dock on Newcastle Island.  It has several “super-highway” trails and we took a route that just stopped short of circling the island.  We took a cross-island trail that goes past the beautiful Mallard Lake with all its snags and lilypads.


For lunch we took the dinghy over to the famous Dinghy Dock Pub on Protection Island.  The restaurant is surrounded by several mooring slips and docks capable of handling much larger vessels than dinghies.  We sat outdoors in sunshine and had the special of the day a Chicken Melt sandwich on garlic bread.  Yum!


After a calm night at anchor it was time to start heading south.  We timed our departure from the anchorage so as to arrive at Dodd Narrows at the end of the morning ebb tide.  Mudge Island comes extremely close to being connected to the much larger Vancouver Island, just leaving a tiny slot, Dodd Narrows, through which gazillions of gallons of water must pass.  Currents can reach 12 knots.  Kavenga’s top-top speed is 8 knots.  Do the math.  Even in currents of 4 knots it can be difficult to maintain steerage of a small vessel due to the eddies and whirlpools caused by the mixing currents.


We could tell we must be approaching at about the right time because we found ourselves in a column of about nine boats proceeding toward the narrows including two of our Dockwise companions, the sailing vessels Chaitanya and Alaya.  Sure enough, when we arrived at the narrows, the ebb current was down to about 1 knot and we passed through without incident.  Fortunately there was only one boat coming in the opposite direction.  Dodd Narrows IS narrow and not a good place for a lot of boats to be passing each other going in opposite directions.


Our destination for the day was Pirate’s Cove on DeCourcy Island.  We arrived there in less than two hours after passing through Dodd Narrows.  It was still near low tide at the time of our entrance through the very constricted pass leading into the sheltered anchorage.  At one point our depthsounder read something like 2.7 feet.  Our depthsounder, because of its position below the waterline will normally read 3.2 feet if we are sitting on the bottom.  We were seeing a lot of seaweed rising up from the bottom and so we surmise that was causing the impossibly shallow readings.  We were however, very close to going aground.


We anchored in the middle of the small cove in about 13 feet of water on short scope (minimal amount of chain let out).  The cove is a very pretty place.  Unfortunately, a private marina was built a few years back that cuts down on the amount of scarce anchoring space.  Still, there is a very pretty marine park that surrounds most of the cove.  One of the other Dockwise boats, Chaitanya, a Tayana 37, followed us in and anchored at the far end of the cove with a stern line taken to shore.  Our friends Vince and Jan on Alaya were in a hurry to get down to Bainbridge Island and so continued on to Roche Harbor in the San Juan Islands on the US side of the border.  We had plenty of time for a leisurely hike around the cove.


We got underway early the next morning so that we had a 5-foot higher tide going out of the shallow channel.  Our destination about three hours distant was Ladysmith Harbor.  Along the way we spotted a sailboat high aground on the aptly named and well-marked Danger Reef.  You would think people would give such a place a wide berth.  Fortunately for them the water was flat calm so little danger of being bounced on the rocks as they waited for the tide to finish going out and come back in.


The government wharf in Ladysmith Harbor was nearly full when we arrived but luckily there was one spot just big enough for us at the outer end of the middle dock.  This would also make it easy for us to get out in the morning as the many fishing boats rafted together made maneuvering further in somewhat difficult.


We were kind of interested in Ladysmith because the man who built Kavenga supposedly lives there.  We asked around about a Chinese man with a boatyard that built the Lord Nelson sailboats and tugs, but no one seemed to be aware of him, even when we asked at the local maritime society boatworks.  Despite advice to the contrary we did in fact find a small movie theater.  They only had one screen so by default we watched the latest X-Men movie.  Not too bad, actually.


We had had contact via Ham radio the day before with our old friends Randy and Sharon on Blue Heron.  They were also cruising in British Columbia but way up north of Vancouver Island.  They had suggested that we should visit the nearby town of Chemainus.  It has a very small marina that is often full to the brim so we opted to catch a Greyhound bus for the 10-mile drive.


Chemainus is a town that re-invented itself after its major employer, a sawmill, closed.  They decided to take a stab at the tourism industry and hit upon the idea of having huge murals painted on the sides of the town’s buildings to depict the region’s history.  It has worked.  There are now all kinds of shops, cafés, restaurants, etc. catering to the many people that come to take the tour of the numbered murals.  You can walk the route, take a tractor-drawn trolley, or ride in a horse carriage.  We did both the walk and the trolley.  We did the trolley because it comes with a guide that explains more about what you are seeing.  It’s a delightful little town, one that we would recommend to anyone visiting Vancouver Island.  Now we can say “Been there, done that, got the T-shirt.”


Enroute to Montague Harbor on Galliano Island the next morning we saw a familiar boat converging with us as we approached Houston Passage.  A call on the VHF radio confirmed that it was our new friends Ian and Heidi on Chaitanya.  They were headed for Ganges Harbor, our planned destination for the next day.


Montague Harbor is the second most popular anchorage in British Columbia behind Prideaux Haven in Desolation Sound.  It is a huge anchorage and could easily accommodate over 100 boats at anchor.  We anchored at the southeast end and went ashore for a brief visit to the local marina store.


Not having any of our northwest cruising guides aboard left us at a bit of a disadvantage at times, like when we first arrived at Ganges Harbor the next day.  We passed by the first marina, rather a long way out of town and clearly a private marina, and entered the first government marina near Grace Point.  Due to the rock breakwater we couldn’t see anything from the outside but once we got inside we could see that it was chock full and there was very little maneuvering room in deep water.  The wind played havoc with our steering for a bit, but we managed to back and fill with the engine and rudder until we got Kavenga headed back out into the harbor.


We rounded Grace Point and headed for a large marina dead ahead that appeared to have lots of empty slips.  As we pulled into one of them we were greeted by Ian of Chaitanya.  He informed us he had been there for a day but was thinking of moving due to the expense--$1.45 per foot per day.  Yikes.  Hadn’t seen prices like that since Cabo San Lucas.  We took Ian’s advice and moved to another government dock just across the way for the half the price.  However, our moving around wasn’t quite over yet.  When we went to the harbormaster’s office we learned that there was to be a Classic Workboat Show the next day and if we wanted to stay more than one night we would have to move to a different dock.  So it was back down to the boat and one last quick move to another dock within the same marina.  Chaitanya had moved over while we were at the office and we pulled into the space right behind them.


Ganges Harbor is another quaint island tourist town, with the obligatory gift shops, cafés and restaurants and this case bookstores—at least four of them.  We checked out all of them.


We had lunch both days at the same place, the Treehouse Café near the head of the dock—a unique setting and good food.  It must get interesting when it rains though because all but two of the tables are outside under a spreading tree.  They had lots of table umbrellas and awnings but there must still be a lot of dripping in between when the inevitable rains come.


Before we left Ganges the next morning we took the time to check out the Saturday Farmer’s Market, which is really more of an arts and crafts market.  We used this opportunity to dispose of the remainder of our Canadian currency, buying some Tiger Lillies and some great, huge cookies.


Irish Bay on Samuel Island was to be our last stop in Canadian waters.  Chaitanya followed us out as we departed the Kanaka government wharf but they were bound for Bedwell Harbor on Pender Island.  As we had had every day thus far, we encountered cool southeasterly winds right in our face.  We could have tacked our way under sail to Irish Bay but the 60-degree air was not enticing to people who had just recently come from 95-degree weather in Mexico.  So we motored to Irish Bay, arriving there a little after noon and found that we had it all to ourselves.  That doesn’t happen very often these days in the more popular cruising locales.


The most memorable thing about Irish Bay, apart from being the only boat at anchor, was the eagles.  It must have been a family, because at one point we saw at least seven Bald Eagles soaring together above the trees on rocky Samuel Island.  They were all screeching back and forth to each other as they slowly wheeled around in the sky, hardly ever flapping their huge wings.


From Irish Bay it is a very short distance to Boundary Pass and the dividing line between US and Canadian waters.  According to our GPS,  Kavenga returned to the US at 9:42AM on Sunday, June 18.  This day we had virtually no wind and a perfectly smooth sea as we motored toward Friday Harbor on San Juan Island.


Once again we were welcomed into port by the crew of Chaitanya.  They had arrived at the US Customs dock about an hour ahead of us.  We had forgotten some of the cruiser rules about going back and forth to Canada and had neglected to consume certain types of food.  Consequently we had to give up some great Canadian beef and eggs.  But other than that, our official clearance back into US waters went smoothly.


We found the movie theater up the hill in Friday Harbor still in operation, now with TWO screens.  We opted to see The Lake House rather than the animated film, Cars.  Sandra Bulloch and Keanu Reeves were good together and the movie was enjoyable as long as you resisted the temptation of thinking about the logic of it.


Our departure the next morning was once again dictated by the currents through a narrow pass, this time it was Middle Passage in San Juan channel off Cattle Point.  We didn’t time this one quite as well and had to fight a 3-4 knot current for about a half an hour.


Once again we were treated to the sight of a large group of Bald Eagles, this time sitting on the beach and structures of Minor Island at the east end of the Straits of Juan de Fuca.  Obviously, the Bald Eagle population has rebounded quite nicely over the last 20 or so years.  They are now a common sight in Puget Sound.  Keep your Chihuahuas on a short leash!


Our last two stops before our home port of Gig Harbor were two of the same ones we had stopped at on our way to California and Mexico in 2004.  We again spent a night at Boathaven Marina in Port Townsend and one night at the park marina on Blake Island.  Steve stocked up on used books about early US Presidents at one of the local used bookstores in Port Townsend.  We enjoyed a snooze on the beach and a short hike around the island at Blake.  And of course we had raccoon tracks on the boat when we got up the next morning.


At 11:40 AM Wednesday June 21, Kavenga entered her home port of Gig Harbor after the 14-mile run from Blake Island through Colvos Passage.  Out on their waterfront lawn to greet us at the entrance were our friends Chris and Nancy Burnard.  As usual this time of year, there were lots of boats coming and going that we had to watch out for as we went through the steps required to raise the bowsprit before entering the marina.


At 11:55 AM Kavenga was moored starboard side to slip C-8, Murphy’s Landing Marina.


Home, safe and sound.


There will be at least one more episode/epilogue about the voyage.  Stay tuned.


Thanks for coming along



Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Dockwise Experience - Part 2

It continued to be hard to sleep in—or conversely it was easy to get going early—due to the knowledge that Kavenga was headed north 24 hours a day.  Although the van appeared ready to start the 1500-mile drive to Gig Harbor, its registration had expired and we would need to take care of that in Arizona.  Consequently, we weren’t all that confident that we would beat the Dockwise Express to Nanaimo.  We acknowledged that we might have to store the van somewhere and fly to Nanaimo if we fell behind and needed to jump ahead.


We left the Adlai Motel well before sunrise.  We were pleased to find the highway construction for the bypass around Hermosillo was virtually complete.  That cut a half an hour or more off the time to Tucson.  Our first stop in Tucson was J J Tam’s, the RV lot where we bought Qualie.  We had them check the tires and install a new “house” battery.  Patrick, the manager, took care of our expired registration for us.  He gave us a temporary that was good until June 6th—enough time for us to get to Gig Harbor.  That saved us from having to go to an Arizona emissions test facility and then ADOT to get the registration reinstated.  That saved us another 2-3 hours.


During the drive up we discovered that the dash air conditioning wasn’t working.  Patrick recommended a place up the street near Famous Sam’s where we always seem to have lunch whenever we’re in Tucson (if you’re ever there, don’t miss it).  When we went back to the garage after lunch we discovered: 1) the A/C was not yet fixed, 2) they had scratched and gouged the fiberglass running boards on the van when they ran into an engine block while moving the van.  The lady who own’s the garage with her husband was very apologetic and was ready to have it fixed and repainted.  We told them we were in too much of a hurry for that.  So instead they gave us the A/C repair for free.  It remains to be seen how we will make out on this one.  They managed to get it fixed in another hour and we were on our way to the Tra-Tel RV park that we had stayed in twice before near the north end of Tucson.  We got in a little after 3PM and were soon doing laps in their pool.


Once again we were on the road before sunrise.  We had no desire to experience morning rush hour traffic in Phoenix so we took the 8-85-10 bypass through Gila Bend and Buckeye.  It was well on the way to hitting 113F in Phoenix by the time we crossed the border into California.  We were glad the A/C was back in commission.


Our next challenge was to drive by LA without getting stuck in its traffic.  We managed very well by staying north of town via San Bernadino and Pasadena.  Once we were clear of LA we found the Pyramid Lake RV Resort just a mile or two south of Gorman, California—very pretty spot in a box canyon.


Our next day was probably our easiest as it was practically a straight shot north on I-5.  Our only concern was Sacramento traffic, but that turned out to be minimal as we passed through at mid-day.  Once again, we re-visited an RV park we had stayed at before, the Friendly RV Park in Weed, California.  This place has a spectacular view of both Mt. Shasta and Black Butte.  The only good restaurant nearby was the Dos Amigos.  We weren’t all that excited about having Mexican food in the US but the lady at the RV park assured us that it was very authentic Mexican.  She was right, it was very good.


By now, we felt we were well ahead of the Dockwise ship.  It was June 4th and the ship was scheduled to arrive on the 7th and unload on the 8th.  Consequently we felt we had time for a couple of stops.  The first was in Salem to visit Steve’s Aunt Jean and his cousins Denise and Kim and their daughter Katie.  We arrived in Salem about 11AM and stayed for an hour.  Earlier in the day, while we were driving through Roseburg, Kay had called her friend Laurie Singer to see what they were up to.  Coincidentally, they were in their RV on their way south, planning to spend the night in Oregon City.  We rendezvoused with them at the Clackamette State Park and went to MacDonalds for lunch.


Then it was on to Gig Harbor.  Fortunately it was Sunday and so we didn’t have to worry about rush hour traffic on the Narrows Bridge.  By mid afternoon we rolled into town and made a quick stop at our storage unit to pick up some warm clothes.  Then it was on to our home base, Murphy’s Landing Marina.  In the parking lot we ran into many friends: Don Conaway, Marc Skea, Pete Bare and others.  We spent two nights “camped out” in the van in the marina parking lot.  It actually works out quite well since we have the clubhouse there with its showers, laundry, TV and kitchen.


After one day of rest from traveling it was time to head on up to Nanaimo, BC.  Our friends Mark and Gail Learned from the marina (and also Puerto Vallarta) gave us a lift to the Greyhound Bus station in Tacoma.  Three buses later we were on a ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo.  It was a beautiful evening for crossing the Straits of Georgia—almost flat calm and a pretty sunset.  The ferry cafeteria also makes an excellent cheeseburger.


A little before 9PM we were checked into the Castaway Motel near the Greyhound Terminal.  It was clean and inexpensive, and had the Mariners playing baseball on cable so we couldn’t really complain.  But the nicer TraveLodge was only a block a way and so we moved there the following morning.  Since we were in Nanaimo a day ahead of the unload date it gave us a chance to get oriented.  We found out where the ship was going to dock—unlike in La Paz, it ties to a wharf when it unloads here in Nanaimo.  We also found out where the good grocery store was and the location of some good restaurants (and a bakery with Nanaimo bars, of course).


The next morning we shared a taxi with friend Vince Moore of the sailing vessel Alaya, also staying at the TraveLodge.  When we arrived at the wharf we could see the DE12 there and Kavenga’s distinct gold mast rising up in her stern.  However, the gate guard at the wharf told us there was a delay having to do with Canadian Customs.  Well this was only a few days after several terrorists had been arrested in Toronto so a bunch of yachts arriving on a ship from Mexico seemed to warrant a little extra scrutiny.  We had our cab driver take us back into town where we could get a cup of coffee.


It wasn’t that far, so after killing an hour and a half over coffee we walked back to the wharf.  Customs was still not finished and so we cooled our heels for another hour and more.  Finally we got the word that we could go aboard the DE12.  We all signed a release form and received our keys and vessel documentation papers in return.  We were then told we could go down into the well deck of the DE12 to inspect the hulls of our vessels before they flooded the deck.  Kavenga looked fine.


About an hour later, the well deck was flooded and we were allowed to make our way back to the cockpits and cabins of our respective vessels.  We got a surprise when we opened up Kavenga’s companionway doors.  The bilge pump warning light was on and you could hear the pump sucking air.  Somehow the float switch that turns it on when the bilge water gets high enough had gotten stuck in the UP position causing the pump to run continuously.  Steve quickly got the pump turned off but one look at the battery monitor display told us that we had two banks of very low batteries.  Fortunately we had caught this right away and there was still time to do something.  The DE12 crew lowered a heavy duty battery charger that was then man-handled across the decks of two other boats to get to Kavenga in the center (of course).  We had time to put a 30-minute quick charge on one bank and to put a starting charge on it as we cranked the engine over when the DE12’s captain gave us all the word that the divers had removed all of our supports and it was safe to start our engines.  Thankfully, our Yanmar diesel started immediately.


No sooner had we gotten the battery charger off the boats than it was time for us to go.  Alaya and all the boats in the last row had backed out.  Instead of being first out in our row (we had been last in), we followed Amistad who had backed in in La Paz and was therefore the easiest to get out.  Kavenga doesn’t back up with any great degree of accuracy but we managed to clear the sides of the DE12.  Just to welcome us back to the Northwest it had begun to rain.  Along with several other of the boats that unloaded ahead of us we called the Nanaimo Marina with requests for berthing assignments.  Very shortly we were assigned to the south side of J Dock.  Less than 20 minutes after leaving the DE12 we were tied up starboard side to J Dock.  We got things more or less secure and then headed ashore with Vince to find a place to have a late lunch.  Our Dockwise experience was nearly over.


The only tasks left were taken care of the next day.  We reinstalled the bobstay and lowered the bowsprit.  We put the spray dodger back together and hoisted the staysail and yankee and roller-furled them.  By early afternoon all of the tasks on our To-Do List were accomplished and Kavenga was ready to resume cruising.


All in all, our Dockwise experience was very pleasant.  We certainly had a lot less work to do at both ends to prepare Kavenga for being shipped than we would have had if we had had her trucked instead of shipped—no unstepping and stepping of the mast, and all of the rigging work that goes along with that.  And while Kavenga and the DE12 were bashing to windward up the West Coast, we were having a relatively pleasant drive.


Now we have just one leg left to complete of our two-year cruise to MexicoNanaimo to Gig Harbor.  Thanks for coming along.



Friday, June 02, 2006

The Dockwise Experience - Part 1

We didn’t get much sleep the night before we were to put Kavenga aboard the Dockwise Express 12, thinking about all the last minute things to do that could only be done just prior to departure.  We got up around 4 AM.


A little after 7 AM our extra crew, Bob Edmonds of the sailboat Jemaya arrived.  Everyone we’ve talked to says that three is the minimum crew needed to handle all the lines and maneuvering required.  At 0720 we took in our lines and departed Costa Baja Marina.  We had mixed feelings about leaving—we always seem to get a little attached to every place we stay for any length of time.  Especially when you make new friends, as we had.


Once we cleared the marina and headed north toward Pichelengue and Bahia Falsa we found ourselves near the head of a column of about 10 boats also headed for the rendezvous with the DE12.  Half an hour later we were abeam to her.  Her hull is orange and her superstructure is white.  Along the hull in large letters it reads WWW.YACHT-TRANSPORT.COM. Half of her hull was submerged.  Better explain that.


The DE12 has borrowed an idea from the Navy’s amphibious assault ships.  The rear of the ship is a huge “tailgate”.  When the ship arrives at the loading area she anchors and lowers this gate.  She then begins to flood ballast tanks that allow her to partially sink.  The superstructure and bridge deck are all the way forward in the bow.  This all stays well above water.  Aft of the superstructure is huge well deck or cargo area.  After the tailgate is lowered and the ship begins ballasting, this well fills with water to a depth that will permit all of the yachts to motor in, probably 9 to 10 feet.


In total there were 23 boats milling around the DE12 to be loaded.  There was only one boat to offload and it was well on its way to La Paz as we were all arriving.  22 minutes ahead of schedule at 8:08 AM the Dutch captain of the DE12 called on the VHF radio for the first boat to enter the well deck, the 100-foot motor yacht, Kelly Ann.  As soon as she had cleared the tailgate the captain called, Tango, another large motor yacht to position herself at the stern of the DE12.  By the time Tango was in position, the Kelly Ann was already secured with dock lines to the forward, starboard (right) side of the DE12’s well deck.


And so on it went, with mostly the large vessels entering first.  We had managed earlier to make a copy of the loading diagram shown to us by the local Mexican ship’s agent, Seňor Francisco Cota.  Consequently, we knew we were in the second to last row, directly on the centerline with two other sailboats to starboard and two others to port.


It went amazingly fast.  Part of our sleepless night was due to our concern that we probably would miss our 2:20 flight out of La Paz.  But the DE12’s skipper kept calling the boats in one right after the other, some of whom had to back in (fortunately not us).  At about 9:25 the captain called for Kavenga to take position astern of the DE12.  And shortly thereafter he instructed us to enter the well deck.  There was only one place for us to go.  Kay handled the port dock lines and Bob took care of the starboard side while Steve steered Kavenga to the space between Pegasus to starboard and Amistad to port.


Very quickly we had our four dock lines to the other boats and their lines to us.  By the time we were secured most of the last row of boats were in as well.  We had Wanderlust V nearly dead astern and her bow pulpit was trying to knock our outboard motor off its stern pulpit mount.  That turned out to be our fault.  All we needed to do was attach a short spring line to Kavenga from Pegasus and we were safely separated.


Soon the DE12 captain was calling for all the yacht captains to report to the bridge to fill out the final paper work and to hand over keys and vessel registration papers.  Steve climbed across two other boats to get to a ladder to the top of the well deck.  Then it was a four-deck stair climb (Steve and his Navy buddies call these ladders rather than stairs, but they’re the same thing) up to the DE12’s bridge.  While standing in line with the other captains, Steve met the Dutch captain and even greeted him in the limited bit of Dutch language he knows.  He also got a look at the huge bridge area (compared to his ship in the Navy).  It also served as an office as well as a bridge.


Very quickly Steve was on his way back down to the well deck to tell Kay and Bob that they could secure Kavenga and join him on the port side of the well deck.  We had previously left most of our luggage in a van belonging to John Hards of the sailboat Pelican.  We met John at Costa Baja soon after we arrived there from Mazatlan (forgot to mention in the last blog that we went from PV to La Paz via Mazatlan, just like last time).  John was acting as crew on Amistad.  As soon as we were all on the well deck and ready to take the first shuttle boat back to La Paz, Steve grabbed his camera and ran back up to the bridge for some pictures.  That important task out of the way, we caught the shuttle, just barely getting on it due to the 25-passenger limit.  We all sat on the bow deck of the shuttle and enjoyed the breeze over the otherwise calm sea. 


Incredibly, by 11 AM we were back ashore at Marina Palmira (closer to downtown).  John had graciously offered to give us a ride to the La Paz airport.  Our trusty crew, Bob, came along for the ride out and back to his boat at Costa Baja.  So, by 11:30 AM we were at the airport with almost three hours to kill—so much for our concerns about missing our flight.  We thanked John and Bob and waved good-bye as they headed on back to Marina Palmira to pick up others coming back on the second shuttle.


Now the second phase of our busy day was getting underway.  We had decent tortilla soup in the airport café.  It’s a nice little airport and they are going to get their first major airline coming in this Fall, Alaska.  We slept and read at the gate until our flight arrived.  We boarded our Saab turboprop only 5 minutes late at 2:25 PM, bound for Ciudad Obregon on the other side of the Sea of Cortez.  This would be our sixth crossing of this body of water.  However, an hour and 5 minutes was definitely going to be a new speed record.  The coolest thing about the flight however, was that we flew over all three of the La Paz marinas, AND the DE12.  Yes, we were actually able to look down and see Kavenga’s gold mast sticking up near the DE12’s stern.  Way cool!


We were also treated to spectacular views of a half dozen or so of the many beautiful anchorages we had enjoyed in the islands north of La Paz.  But almost as soon as it began, the flight was ending as we made the approach on Ciudad Obregon’s airport.  Think Kansas.  As we looked down all we could see was an endless array of square fields of grain and corn.  Obregon’s airport is only slightly bigger than La Paz’, however it sports two Jetway’s and revolving baggage pick-up belt.


Grabbing our two bags, we were out the door and into a taxi-van almost before we knew we were there.  It was a good 15 to 20 minute drive to the main bus terminal in downtown Cd. Obregon.  We had a great driver, Federico who told us about wheat, corn, soy and cotton that is grown around Obregon.  We arrived at the bus terminal and he carried our bags while we donned our backpacks and headed into the terminal.  We had already planned to try to catch one of the TUFESA primera class buses north to Guaymas (nope, no flights there).  Incredibly, the next TUFESA bus to Guaymas was on time and scheduled to leave in 10 minutes.  We bought our tickets, thanked Federico, and with Cd. Obregon hardly a vague memory in our heads, we found ourselves on Mexico Highway 15 headed for Guaymas.  The Mexican primera class buses are very nice, all have TV’s and some even have bars and attendants.  This one didn’t have the latter but it did have TV and the movie for today was “Mean Girls” (in English with Spanish subtitles).  We had already seen it but it helped to pass the time as the scenery was pretty boring by Mexico standards.


The Guaymas TUFESA terminal is just a tiny compound about four blocks off the main drag.  Once we got our bags we started walking that way hoping to catch a local bus to San Carlos where our Chevy camper van was waiting for us.  We’d only gone about a block when a taxi driver hailed us, asking if we wanted his services.  One of the bus attendants had told us it was a 500 peso ($45) cab ride to San Carlos so we politely declined but he said “Mui barato” (very cheap) so we asked how much?  He said 150 pesos.  We got in.  This would also save us time because if we’d taken a bus we would have had to call Ed and Dorothy at the storage yard to come out and pick us up on the highway.  This way the taxi would take us all the way.


It was mentally difficult to process that by 6 PM we were back at our van in San Carlos on the same day that we had earlier been sailing on Kavenga in La Paz.  We were just not used to traveling this fast.


The next surprise came after we took the cover off the van and turned the ignition key.  It started immediately after sitting in the desert for six months!  We settled up with Ed and Dorothy and drove “Quailie” the short distance to Departamentos Adlai, the small motel we stayed in a year ago while Kavenga was being worked on in the boat yard.  After stowing our luggage in #8, we went out for dinner and managed to fulfill a desire that we had somehow failed to satisfy during our previous time in San Carlos—we had dinner at Rosa’s Cantina.


We got back to the Adlai and into bed by about 10:30 PM.  Our very long day and the first half of our Dockwise Experience were at an end.  The next episode will cover our trip north to meet Kavenga in Nanaimo, B.C.  The race is on.  The DE12 takes only 7 days to get there.  So we have almost no time to spare.


Thanks for coming along.