Hurricane Prep: Sea of Cortez

It’s hard to believe we knew virtually nothing about this just a few months ago, and now I feel like we’ve sucked up every bit of knowledge from so many sources. There are a lot of resources out there, and a wide swath of passionate opinions that can make your head spin. Everyone has their own “must do’s”, and there is a wide range of prep taking place in the marina here in San Carlos.

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Susan & Dennis Ross at Marina Palmira in La Paz

First, thanks for Susan & Dennis Ross aboard s/v Two Can Play – they really made our brains swirl with information (and some panic) when they generously offered their time to teach a seminar in La Paz about Hurricane Planning back in April. One guy in their class said, “heck, I’m so freaked out, I think I’ll just go back to San Diego now!” <hahaha>

All joking aside, this is serious business. I’m sure we won’t do everything right, and in the event of a really bad storm, it might not even matter, but we’ll leave Lodos knowing we did all we could to ensure she is safe and secure.

 

We talked to dozens of people, read dozens of blog posts, looked at how people were prepping their boats around us, and have made multiple revisions to our list of “to do’s” before we head out in less than two weeks. We started a running list of everything we had to do to get the boat ready to haul out of the water next week, we got a storage unit for the season from the great team at Bahia Storage (Thanks again to Miguel for the truck and extra set of hands!), and we bought an inordinate amount of aluminum foil and car windshield reflective shields to cover the windows and portholes. The inside temp of the boat can easily be over 150 degrees here in summer! I use this digital laser thermometer to measure temps inside the boat – it’s a super cool and useful tool!

I even asked my mom what they do to prep their RV/mobile home prior to leaving the hot summers of Arizona, all of which is now incorporated into our list below.

The first hurricane of the season (ALETTA) has gone out to die in the Pacific, and it looks like there is one right behind it, which will be called BUD. It’s not likely to reach us here, but it may make landfall in Cabo San Lucas. We’ve been obsessively watching the weather and learned some new geeky weather jargon such as: “this system is now an invest 92E which has turned into a td3e”.  I’ve upped my weather game substantially and added the following sites to my obsession: two_pac_0d0

 

 

 

 

 

Passage Weather  https://www.passageweather.com/

Tropical Tidbits  https://www.tropicaltidbits.com/

National Hurricane Center (NOAA)  https://www.nhc.noaa.gov/

AreaTask
RIGGING:
Remove all sails (wash, dry, take down, fold)
store all running rigging
Use T-9 or Marlube on all tracks and roller furlers
secure mast boot from high winds
pull all halyards up into mast with leaders to base of mast
store excess halyards in bag at base of mast
center boom and lock down with line currently on stern ladder
cover furling and tracks w/ foil/towels
fold up/secure davits
EXTERIOR:
Remove dodger and bimini canvas
drain water tanks and add a little bleach
remove and store bbq - take to storage
remove and store life ring
prep scuba equipment - take tanks to storage
deflate dink and store w/ lines in storage
remove outboard and store (change oil?)
close all thru hulls after hauling (except bilge)
wash bottom (no pressure washer) and inspect bottom, paint
plug all thru hulls with cbronze or vinyl wool to disuade bugs
fill diesel tanks and add biocide
extra lines on solar panels
cockpit cleared of everything
winch handles stored below
empty cockpit bags
cover instruments w/ blanket/tie down
remove wind generator blades
inspect hull, paint/repair as needed
Tighten/adjust bimini rails to readjust location
cover all tracks & pulleys and winches
move all sails, canvas, etc to offsite storage
wash boat/clean outside of boat
cover flat surfaces with sunbrella fabric, weight down with chain
Mark with grease pencil fiberglass spots
INTERIOR:
pack for Turkey, organize clothes we are taking off the boat
cover all windows and hatches with reflective material
roll up and store all carpets in sheets, storage
store all cushions in master cabin
deploy roach traps
remove all perishables/donate
remove med kit with any perishable items (incl contact lenses)
Organize and clean out food storage, cover bags, double bag/box foods, remove cardboard/paper
leave buckets of water for humidity
lubricate hatch gaskets with silicone grease or other rubber safe lube
remove batteries from all handhelds/clocks
put mineral oil in heads to lube gaskets
put dryer sheets in all cabinets/drawyers
put essential oil on sponges for freshness
store bedding/vacuum pack
close/block seat cushion holes
cover woodwork with relfective material
donate canned food, etc
remove/store electronics/computers
remove $$ & take copy of vital paperwork
final clean of boat and launder all sheets & clothes to be left on the boat
fold up bed/store
move clothes from closet, vacuum pack clothes as necessary
wrap companion way door in reflective material
final run to storage, drop off key
clean out fridge/freezer
MECHANICAL:
prep air conditioner
pickle water maker
flush and fog outboard for storage
flush engine with fresh water and vinegar / check with yard on recco
disconnect propane/prep propane tanks
check propane tank guages
ELECTRICAL:
Unplug all network connections from devices on network
Remove power to devices
disconnect antenna leads
remove electronics where possible
ensure bilge pumps work with solar power
store electronics in oven?
put handhelds/smaller items into safe
MANAGEMENT:
give letter of approval for Alberto, Garth, Arturo to be on boat
develop quick checklist for Alberto to do weekly or monthly w/ pics
laminate note for back of boat of who to reach/how to reach
UPON RETURNING:
Change oil in all engines
clean boat
provision
replace zincs
reconnect/refill propane
change oil in engine & outboard
change oil in genny
remove all impellers, place in zip lock with silicone coating
Replace gaskets in toilets
Adjust bimini rails
Replace propane gauges in aft locker

Santa Rosalia: A French town in a Mexican Village

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IMG_2819 2Santa Rosalia was copper mining city for many years, and today, it’s also a jumping off point to cross the Sea of Cortez. With the shortest distance between two points (74nm), we will leave this town Thursday for San Carlos, on the mainland of Mexico – ending our Baja sailing season for 2018 and getting ready for hurricane season. The copper mining has left its mark with trains and mining equipment which was used to bring timber here from the Pacific NW – nearly all of the town and houses here are made from wood, which is highly unusual for the Baja.

 

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Leaving north for Santa Rosalia

 

This is our first marina since La Paz, over 3 weeks ago. We love being “on the hook” (at anchor), but it’s nice to pop into a marina every now and then to have a proper shower, do laundry, have endless supplies of electricity and explore a town.

 

 

There is a large French influence here, and it’s reflected in the architecture, the church and the bakery. The church was designed and built by Gustave Eiffel (yes, that Eiffel) for the Paris world fair in the late 1800s, then disassembled and shipped across the ocean to land here in this little town. It’s hard to see in the pictures, but it’s 100% steel and the internal ceiling looks like a boat with its trusses and support structures.

The bakery has delicious breads and baguettes – Mexican sweet bread cooked in 100+ year old wood ovens in a French style. Outstanding and delicious. (I had a churro here that was divine, too).

 

The bird life in the marina is outstanding – herons, pelicans, osprey, cormorants, terns and egrets are everywhere. I saw my first yellow-crowned night heron here – a lovely little heron with amber eyes and plumey feathers.

Next stop: San Carlos/Nuevo Guaymas 

Puerto Ballandra, Caleta San Juanico, Bahia Concepcion & Mulege

Sailing further north, we made a few stops and enjoyed seeing friends we have made along the way.

Puerto Ballandra is just 9 miles east from Loreto, so it’s an easy stop closest to a “big” town. We stopped here and found a great protected anchorage on Isla Carmen known for the repopulation of Big Horn Sheep (which we didn’t see, unfortunately). It’s part of the protected marine parks around Loreto, so the wildlife is abundant, and there is room in this anchorage for more than 10 boats. When the tide is low, the water table changes pretty dramatically (more than 4 feet); we were anchored in about 20 feet of water, and we woke up one morning to find ourselves in about 9 feet (the draft of our boat is 7!). We heard that there is wifi here from Loreto, but our booster didn’t pick it up. While there were no bees here, the mosquitoes here were fierce! This was the first and only place so far where we have seen mosquitoes (other than a few here or there in town). We were thinking of staying here longer, but we just couldn’t deal with these guys, so we left.

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Broad reach headed north

 

On our way to Caleta San Juanico, we had one of our best sails since being down here; a broad reach with ~15 knot winds, and we were doing about 6 knots in a comfortable heel. Quiet and peaceful. San Juanico is a wide bay that was supposed to be well protected from north winds, but our anchorage here was a bit rough and rolly. We held very well, but we decided to keep moving north (also, no wifi or cell signals). The bonus was no bees and no mosquitoes!

 

 

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The turquoise waters of Playa Santispac

The long 45 miles from San Juanico to Conception Bay takes all day, but it was a pleasant trip, mostly motor sailing as the wind was coming directly at us for most of the day. Getting into the bay is tricky as it’s very shallow on both sides of the bay; even 1/2 mile from the shore, we were still in only 10 feet of water, surrounding by submerged rocks and islands; it’s not a place you want to enter at night. The navigation markers on land are good but not plentiful, and being able to see the color of the water was one of the few ways we could tell if we were safely traveling or not. The charts were very inaccurate on the water depth. Places that were supposed to be 30 feet and deeper were less than 10 feet. We found a lovely little bay to tuck into called Santispac Beach with wifi at a couple of restaurants but no cell service.

Bahia Concepcion (or Conception Bay) is a long narrow bay that is supposed to be home to whale sharks, although we didn’t see any, we heard that they had just left a couple of weeks prior – next year, we definitely want to come back during this season! The anchorage and water here is exceptional and clean. We swam each day, snorkeled and enjoyed the lovely northwest wind that kept us cool and comfortable; with water temps in the low 80s, there was no shock when diving into the water. We were here during a very quiet period near the end of the season, but we have heard that during the busy season, the beaches are loaded with RVs and campers. With the proximity of Highway 1 just next to the bay, you do get some big rig noise pollution when they brake, coming down the hills, so although beautiful, it’s not the quietest of anchorages. No pesky mosquitoes or bees here, but we did encounter some nasty sand fleas which chewed up our ankles and shins one night at a local beach restaurant – best to stay on the boat!

It’s only 13 miles from a small town called, Mulege. You can’t really safely anchor in Mulege as it’s open to the sea and there is a river that winds up 2+ miles into town, so one day, we got up early and were going to hitchhike into town along Mexico Highway 1. We landed the dingy on the beach* and started walking to the highway, when a woman stopped us and asked us if we were headed into town. She was there to pick up someone who hadn’t shown up, so we were the fortunate recipients of a ride! She had errands to run, so we met her back in the main plaza several hours later where she gave us a ride back to the beach and our boat. Wonderful!

As it turns out, she was in Mexico (living) writing a biography on her late husband, Tap Tapley, who we learned was quite a character. They were married over 30 years, and she was a treasure and delight to talk to – after doing a little research, we understand her husband was the real deal – founded Outward Bound and lived quite a rich life. His wife, Anita, was pretty modest about it all – we hope to keep in touch with her! Characters abound in Mexico – you never know who you will meet by just saying “yes” to whatever comes your way.

Mulege is a lovely town (with 4G Telcel service!). Anita dropped us off at the top of the hill where the mission was built and has survived several hundred years of hurricanes and storms. The caretaker there opened the bell tower for us, and we climbed to the roof along narrow and steep stairs where we were afforded lovely views of the valley below. After visiting the mission, we had breakfast at a beautiful old hotel in town once inhabited by beloved Mexican poet, Alán Gorosave. The interesting thing about Mulege is how lush the landscape is; it’s an oasis in the desert, mainly due to the river running through the middle, with migrating birds and forests of date palms, coconut palms, mango and avocado trees.

As we left the bay in glassy conditions, a small pod of dolphins escorted us back out into the Sea  🙂

Next stop: Punto Chivato & Santa Rosalia

*We’ve never had any problems or heard of problems of theft here (other than in Cabo San Lucas), but we always take our key and lock the engine on the dinghy, so if someone were to be tempted, they would have to procure some very large boltcutters to get the lock off the engine to make the dinghy usable. 

LIFE ABOARD LODOS: “a day in the life”

While we have been reporting on our whereabouts, I thought it would be good to post a “day in the life” of the Lodos crew (aka Jodi & Kirby).

Generally, our day starts when the sun rises. It’s hard to stay in bed when the sun comes streaming through a porthole window or overhead hatch; you only have to turn over in our bed to look outside to see the bright blue sky mirrored in the turquoise waters that surround us everyday.

In several towns or marinas, they also have a cruiser’s net, which is usually broadcast on VHF channel 22 around 8am. It’s a helpful and hilarious summary of the goings on of the area and almost always includes: emergencies and urgent issues, weather, wind, tides, a peso report, advice, swaps & trades, local news, and the occasional joke. I found a great endodontist and a (free) aluminum pole for my chamois mop on such a broadcast. It’s a fascinating peak inside the cruiser lifestyle.

working

 

We have been trying to stay in/near places that have wifi or Telcel service, so that I can do some work part-time. Kirby has another project in the works as well, so he spends a few hours a week on this, too. I have a few perches where I like to work – out in the cockpit under the bimini where it’s shady, or inside at our salon table. In a marina, I may use a conference room in a marina or sit in a common space where the wifi signals are stronger.

 

Breakfast consists of cereal, fruit, smoothies in the Vitamix or oatmeal. There are always boat projects to complete, some more urgent than others, but it’s likely we’ll complete something everyday to ensure the boat is working properly.

We have been cooking on the boat a lot, and with the heat, we eat less and usually vegan/plant-based meals. Kirby has mastered the art of breadmaking in this Japanese machine (Zojirushi) that makes a small loaf perfect for two people over a few days. We need to ensure our boat batteries are charged up because it takes a lot of energy to run this thing – usually the solar and wind power can keep up, or we will make bread when we have the engine running or are making water. My favorite piece of kitchen equipment is my small Lodge cast iron pan, which we use almost everyday! This is honestly the best $15 I have ever spent.

For making water, we have a reverse osmosis water maker onboard that makes about 36 gallons of water/hour. So, we try to run this every few days to keep our tanks topped off.  Do you know how much water you use a day? We do! 🙂 I challenge you to track it for a few days and figure out how you could shave off a couple of gallons. It’s pretty interesting, and there is nothing like limited resources to make you acutely aware of how much you use, so you don’t run out!

Afternoons are usually spent cleaning, cooking, reading, working, writing, swimming or napping. If we are in a harbor or bay where we know people, we might also spend time having an afternoon cocktail or catching up on sailing news and weather. We have a bathtub and two showers on board the boat, but usually, we shower off the back of the boat, after a swim. One of my favorite things on the boat is our outdoor shower nozzle which gives us hot and cold water. Showering outside is a luxury that few people get to experience, but it’s oh so much better than showering inside – give it a try sometime!

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WindyTY screengrab

 

We check the weather multiple times a day. Actually, we are kind of obsessive about it as it changes frequently (well, not in terms of rain or sun but in terms of wind and direction). If we don’t have access to internet, we can download a quick weather file using our satellite phone (we have an Iridium Go) or our SSB Radio. I like to triangulate the sources by checking WindyTY, PredictWind, Windfinder and tide charts.

 

 

 

playinggames

As the evening rolls forward, we might play a game, shower, do some laundry or prep for dinner. If we are staying in a marina, we might go out or take a stroll after dinner. While on anchor, we almost always cook, and we can go for days without touching our feet on land, which gives us a bouncy, rolling feeling when we finally do step on land.

And, for years, Kirby has been after me to watch Game of Thrones, but I have resisted,…until now! We have all 7 seasons on a hard drive, and we’ve been watching in the evenings. We are just starting Season 5, and I’m finally hooked. Spoiler Alert: everyone dies! 

 

 

DOLPHINS! at Honeymoon Cove

Less than 5 miles from Puerto Escondido, on Isla Danzante (Dancer Island), is a sweet little anchorage called Honeymoon Cove. It has three small bights for just a handful of boats. We got lucky and were the only ones around for a couple of days.

The cove is quiet and well protected from all winds except from the south, but it’s a fairly deep anchorage, so you have to watch your depth and swing – giving plenty of room for the beachy shoals on one side and the sharp rock cliffs on the other.

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Relaxing in Honeymoon Cove

The wildlife was incredible here – all hours of the day and night – the mobula rays were jumping, flying fish were flying, and our last day, we had a large pod of dolphins enter the cove and swim around and around our boat for more than 3 hours. It was one of the most beautiful things to witness: they created circles and bait balls to catch their prey, slapped their tails to stun the fish they were chasing, showed the babies how to do it, and then jumped for joy after they had their fill, occasionally swimming so close to the boat that all we had to do was walk laps on the deck for our front row seat. I came close to grabbing my snorkel and mask to jump in with them, but I had some trepidation for several reasons:

  1. I didn’t want to disturb their feeding frenzy
  2. Okay, the water is still pretty cold, and I’m now a super cold wimp
  3. They had babies with them, and I wasn’t sure how they would view my presence
  4. I was quite enjoying watching them from the comfort and dryness of the boat
  5. And, maybe I chickened out – not knowing what they would do with a human in the water in the middle of their bait ball – no regrets, though!

We had friends from the Catamaran Sea Rose join us for the show – they were anchored south a ways and took their dinghy in when they saw the huge pod approaching like an underwater army marching north!*

One night, we heard a ton of splashing and went out with our flashlight to see the mobula rays swimming under our boat, jumping out of the water, and wrestling their prey. Three of them (about 3-4 feet wide) came so close to the boat that they splashed us on the deck!

The only wildlife we didn’t like here were BEES. They weren’t aggressive, though, and they were mostly honeybees in search of fresh water. They literally swarmed our boat in the morning when the dew gathered on our lines and decks in the shade, and they swarmed us in the evening before the sun went down. We had to go to our “happy place”, shut up the boat (after the first night about 100 bees were trapped inside!), and play cribbage!

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Playing Cribbage in Honeymoon Cove

*We met Brian and Sue in Agua Verde; they have been sailing around the world since 2000, and in talking to them, we realized that I actually met them when I was in the Panama Canal aboard the Sea Shepherd, and they are also friends with one of my Sea Shepherd crewmates, Henri! What a strange, small world this is….