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.






At December 8, 2006 at 7:21 AM, Blogger Over 40 Adventure Traveler said...


thanks for all the information sharing, i really enjoyed reading your story. May i ask what the rough cost was for shipping your boat? the dockwise web site does not have this info, the only have a specific quote tool
Steve Ammann
Portland Oregon


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