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








At September 6, 2006 at 11:24 AM, Blogger Efraim said...

Hello Steve and Key,

I read your whole trip notes and reviewed the photos. Great trip!!!

Just wanted to hear from you about your Interphase Dual Scan Color Sonar. how much use did you get from it, did it deliver what you expected. (was it safer at night sailing and did it alert you to "things" in front of you?

Please drop me a line at

SV Aliza


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