Sailing Vessel Warrior

[Its now December and Robin has still not made it back to making a contribution to the website logs. When we returned to Mexico we were somewhat weary but had to re-prepare Warrior for sailing then hurriedly leave to cross the Sea of Cortez to avoid the worst effects of a hurricane, then do urgent motor repairs, then go south to Puerto Vallarta avoiding the possible effects of two more hurricanes. We had to be in a marina before they filled up with this years Baja Ha Ha fleet. We are now in the midst of a list of 57 maintenace jobs that must be completed before we leave the dock again and head south to Central America. Until about 2 months ago when we got to PV we never seemed to catch up on sailing preparedness that had been necessarily impaired by our trip to Oz. It was great to go home, but next time we must try to have a few weeks spare to fix the boat without having to rush off in an unsatisfactory state. That was tough to do in Mexico as we had been unable to get a marina reservation in a hurricane safe area. Needless to say, writing logs did not have a high priority during the last couple of months. Michelle of course had her part of the logs written months ago. You can believe that can't you! - Robin]

San Carlos, Mexico

Sunday September 2, 2007

Michelle was feeling partly human this morning when she woke up so it was time to get stuck into some chores. We got the boltrope on the mainsail resewn, the reinforcement ring redone on the headboard and the mainsail rehoused back on the boom where it belongs. The bimini received some extra reinforment from the sewing machine and we had shade over the aft end of the boat again. Then having almost killed ourselves getting various chores done in the heat we checked the weather forecast and saw that it would be more propitious to leave at 3am in the morning for San Carlos as the weather is starting to deteriorate due to Tropical Storm Henriette heading up this way. So there won't be much rest tonight.

Monday September 3, 2007

Neither of us could sleep last night due to the stiffling heat and the endless pangas that kept coming and going bringing in their enormous loads of squid. We eventually decided around midnight to untie the dock lines and head on out a few hours earlier than intended figuring it would be cooler out on the water. We got underway and found it really wasn't that much cooler after all. At least we were preoccupied with sailing rather than laying semi-comatozed in the stifling heat with no relief.

By the time we got to Isla Tortuga, roughly 20nm offshore the wind had picked up but instead of the steady 14knots or so they had predicted it was 20knots and gusting with horridly confused seas. Welcome back to sailing. We alternated between staysail and jib watching a squall head on over from the mainland (a possible Chubasco) with some significant lightening and thunder so we reefed down well to be prepared. After that went over us we unfurled the jib again and made pretty good time arriving in San Carlos in the early afternoon. Listening to the weather report that night we heard that Henriette was heading to Cabo and would likely be a direct hit, popping out on the Sea of Cortez side around La Paz and would head straight north to.. you guessed it, San Carlos. Sigh! Looks like we'll be finding a place to hole up in tomorrow and stripping the boat of all the canvas and sails yet again.

Tuesday September 4, 2007

Satellite Image of Hurricane Henriette
Satellite Image of Hurricane Henriette as it crosses Cabo San Lucas

Henriette thumping Cabo San Lucas, the tip of the Baja Penisula.

We went into the marina early this morning to ask if we could dock at the fuel dock tonight as we didn't want to ride out Hurricane Henriette at anchor. The entrance to the anchorage lies due South East, the exact path of the hurricane and not an ideal place to be. We wouldn't be able to dock at the regular docks as our draft is too deep but there was enough water at the fuel dock for us to tie up. As it turns out, they directed us to Guaymas, 10miles to the south of San Carlos. Singlar has built a new marina there and it wasn't open for business yet due to bureaucratic bungling. They were however willing to take boats there for the duration of the hurricane. So we returned to Warrior, upanchored and headed on out. It was a very pretty sail down the coast, with towering mountain ranges overlooking pretty bays and coves. We arrived in Guaymas port to find that the water depth at the marina docks was only 7 feet, way too shallow for us. We figured we'd just anchor out in the bay here as there was an amazing amount of room, no boats to drag into you and extremely sticky mud which would be good holding. Then Robin got a brainwave and asked them how deep the water was at their fuel dock. There was more than enough water and they finally gave us permission to tie up there. This was a major boon as the fuel dock was tucked away in a side estuary, very well sheltered between buildings on one side and 100 prawn trawlers on the other side, packed in so tightly together they were like a floating city all on their own. This little spot was almost totally sheltered from waves, the one thing your try to avoid in any big blow. The new marina was very welcoming and five guys arrived to help us dock. Then the security guard came by, introduced himself and said he'd be watching out for us while we were there. The next few hours saw us stripping the boat, tying almost everything down and getting prepared for Henriette. Two other boats came into the marina and we all helped each other prepare.

Wednesday September 5, 2007

Hurricane Henriette Makes History

Tropical Storm Henriette grew to a hurricane and hit Cabo San Lucas, Tuesday Sept. 4, 2007. In the process it made history. Yesterday, Hurricane Henriette hit the southern tip of Baja California at San Jose del Cabo. Only nine hours before Hurricane Felix hit Nicaragua's remote Miskito Coast. The LA Times reported that it was the first time that two hurricanes made landfall on the same day since the U.S National Hurricane Center began to keep records in 1949. Just thought you'd appreciate that wee bit of gratuitious information.

Rain, rain and more rain

We woke up this morning to wind and very heavy overcast skies. Due to the atmospheric interference, our SSB radio wasn't up to the task of monitoring the hurricane in these conditions as it barely worked at all on a good day so Robin began the task of recording barometric pressure readings, wind direction and speed. I think he was rather enjoying himself watching the storm's progress. We added another couple of docklines in the pouring rain as Henriette worked her way closer, and lashed the dinghy down onto the deck. Every time we went up on deck the fishermen would wave and smile from their very dry, completely sheltered cabins. As one of our Canadian friends would say.. Bastards! It was reassuring to know they were there.

Watching the barometric readings we knew roughly where the storm was and surmised it was going to be a direct hit. The readings went as follows:

1:15pm 1006.0 mb
2:00pm 1004.5 mb
2:30pm 1003.0 mb
3:00pm 1001.8 mb
3:15pm 1001.0 mb
3:30pm 1000.5 mb
3:45pm 999.8 mb
4:00pm 999.0 mb
4:15pm 998.0 mb
4:30pm 997.2 mb

Everything went deathly quiet... ah we know what this is!

5:00pm 997.0 mb
5:15pm 996.0 mb
5:30pm 996.5 mb
5:45pm 997.5 mb
6:00pm 999.0 mb

The wind intensified significantly around noon and Robin began seriously tracking it from then. Winds were blowing at about 45 to 50 knots from the east, gusting 60 to 65knots which wasn't too bad. ABC News was reporting sustained winds of 75mph but we're pretty sure we never experienced anything that strong. Our guess is when it crossed the Baja Penisula it weakened enough to drop the winds to 50knots and though it remained a hurricane it was definitely weakened. By 4:30pm we knew the eye had to be close as the mb were nearing 996, and we knew the eye was close to that figure. Around 5pm everything went deathly quiet. It's eerie when suddenly wind and rain stops. We figured the eye was over us and were expecting wind again from the oppopsite direction, but that never happened and everything slowly calmed down. Henriette weakened quickly over the land and dissipated over the mountains of Northwestern Mexico early on 6th September. The mountains had effectively shielded us from the usual 2nd half of a hurricane storm. There was of course enormous amounts of rain; our dinghy was almost full of rain water.

Thursday September 6, 2007

Headed into town this morning and were totally unprepared for the mess Henriette had caused to the town. Many shops are not far above street level and in some areas they'd been flooded with a good four feet of mud and water. The streets were oozing thick mud and were quite challenging to walk around. We needed to get to an internet cafe so we braved the mess and worked our way slowly up the street towards the internet cafe. The weather was stormy and felt like a turkish bath. We trudged through the mud and finally made 14 blocks north to the VN supermarket, the internet store and stopped for a quick bite to eat. In the time it took to complete those few chores the shops were beginning to win the fight and were back to looking a little more normal. The sun had emerged and the heat was fast drying the fine layer of mud in the streets left over after the street cleaners had shoveled the major part away and trucks and cars were beginning to send up plumes of dust into the air. In half a day we'd gone from dodging running rivers of mud to dust plumes. We arrived back at the boat and began restoring all the sails for the 2nd time since we'd been back. About 4pm we knocked off work and cracked open some coldies with our fellow hurricane buddies. Rick off Inshalar and Brad off Genesis were our other companions who rode the hurricane out in the singlar marina. They were out in the bay though and got the brunt of the wind. Singlar docks are also a bit scary in that they seem fragile and bounce around far more than normal docks. We were actually relieved that it was too shallow for us to be there. We spent the evening swapping tales, Brad sharing his adventures of parachute accidents which layed him up in a hospital for 18 months after he'd broken almost every bone in his body. Ouch.

During the course of the conversation we'd heard that five people were killed during the Hurricane. We were to find out that the people killed were all stupid acts. One went fishing in a car-top-used-as-a-boat, one was hit by a pole wihle doing something daft, the others were equally unique.

Friday September 7, 2007

We left the fuel dock this afternoon, having thanked the marina staff profusely, and dropped anchor a few hundred yards out into the bay. We will be heading back to San Carlos in the morning.

Nelson and Sandy and the Scotty dogs, Doogie and Maggie arrived back tonight from their summer vacation in Canada. They brought with them all our gear minus the solar panels. The UPS pickup in Tucson weren't the most helpful apparently and after sending them back 4 times for more items they still missed one shipment. You just can't get good service these days. So this will mean a trip back to the States for us no doubt. They tried to raise us on the VHF radio without success. Then none of the hotels would take them because of the two Scotties. They were tired and finally decided to just go back and open up Stormcat and stay on board. Their boat had been stored in dry storage for the summer while they were back in Canada. Seca Marine is set up, like a lot of boatyards, so you can stay on your boat while working on it on the hard. They cracked the doors open expecting the worst. It was apparently hotter than a firecracker. Three hours later though they were sitting in their stateroom with the air conditioner going (yes they have an airconditioner aboard the spoilt brats), music playing, comfortable and content.

Saturday September 8, 2007

We thought we'd get an early start this morning but of course we'd forgotten what it's like to anchor in thick gluey mud. It took us 45 minutes of washing the anchor chain off as we slowly raised it inch by inch so that it didn't create a stinking cess pool in our anchor locker. Then thinking we would make a quick trip of it back to San Carlos, blow me down our engine decided to pack it in again. So here we are with no wind, some wind, no wind, a puff of wind, sailing forward, floating backward in the current, gaining some ground, losing ground for the next hour and a half while Robin yet again fixed the engine. Michelle has no faith in this Perkins 4108 engine whatsoever and wants to get rid of it, but Robin's determined to get it back to working order. He has more patience than Job! Big Sigh!

We finally made it into the anchorage around 2:30pm, dropped the hook, went ashore, took a much needed shower and managed to locate Stormcat. Robin loaded up the dinghy with our mountain of purchases and took it all back to the boat and then we headed for dinner and a couple of refreshing margueritas. We chatted about the hurricane, caught up with the news from Canada and gossip about mutual friends and finally got to bed around 11pm. We're getting old. 11pm seems so late these days.

Sunday September 9, 2007

2 pieces of 8 arrived this morning. We heard them contacting Marina Real for a slip but they were rejected on account of their two liveaboard cats, so we called and told them to come on down to the anchorage at San Carlos as there was plenty of room here. It was good to see them again. We have a fun time keeping up with the cruising community. People keep coming and going from our lives.

The heat and humidity in San Carlos are still high and though still harsh to work in, it's not anywhere near as brutal as what we experienced in Santa Rosalia. The environs however are spectacular. This has to be one of the nicest bays we've anchored in and you find yourself gazing around at the towering mountains which surround the anchorage. It truly is food for the soul. A breeze picks up most afternoons which helps alleviate, somewhatly, the hot sticky conditions. There are enormous mansions lining one side of the bay which virtually noone lives in. More winter residences for Americans and Canadians. We are always astounded at the size of the houses down here which are only used for a few months or sometimes weeks a year.

Saturday September 22, 2007

We've had quite an eventful couple of weeks. Stormcat made it back in the water on Tuesday. Robin began work on the heat exchanger which has been plaguing us since we upanchored in Keno. He fixed the heat exchanger. Broke the new boot which is on the back end of the heat exchanger. Fixed heat exchanger take 2. He found yet more barnacles shoved up orifaces. This time he decided to dip the water intake hose in bottom paint to see if that helps curb the blarney critters. Short of that we are eventually going to relocate the water intake for the fridge off the engine intake to limit the turnover of water. Barnacles need fresh sea water to survive. He then repaired a few gaskets. Basically he has spent the best part of the last 5 days covered in filth. We spent the late afternoons in the swimming pool with a view. Spent the evenings with Stormcat and other cruisers. We discovered they'd sent back the solar panels and not held them at UPS like they said they'd do so that has been an event in itself getting the shipment turned around. We had an interesting dinner at a Greek restaurant which was offered Greek food with a very Mexican twist. We got the sail ordered today from North Sails. Hopefull it will be ready for when the Baja Ha Ha crew come down the coast and it can hitch a ride down to Purto Vallarta.

<i>Stormcat</i> being put back in the water Swimming Pool San Carlos Marina Cruising Friends
Stormcat ready for relaunch Swimming Pool with a view The crews of Warrior, Stormcat and 2 Pieces of 8

Friday we hoofed it up to Nogales only to arrive and be told the solar panels hadn't arrived. @#$%^!!! We immediately jumped on the computer and walked around till we could steal a connection and discovered they hadn't even been sent. Like WHAT THE HELL! They'd promised to have them overnighted. Sigh. A huge 12 hour round trip up to the States for nothing. Some days you just feel like crying. So now we get to do this all over again on Monday no doubt!

Today Michelle spent doing the laundry and writing logs for the internet. The logs of our trip to Aus are finished. Now just to get Robin to add his two cents worth and we can get them posted on the website.

Monday September 24, 2007

YES!! SUCCESS!! Forgive us for being a little excited but we finally have our hands on those bloody solar panels! The trip up to Nogales today went very smoothly. We had organized a rental car which they delivered to us at the Marina last night and returned to collect it today. Great service. Brad off Genesis cadged a lift off us as he was heading back to the States to attend a geology conference and helped out with the driving. We got underway around 4:30am and were in Nogales by 10:30am.

The border checkpoint on the USofA side was comical. The guy just couldn't follow our story and finally gave up saying usually the more complicated the story the more likely it's true. We couldn't work out what was so complicated about two greencard bearing Aussies, travelling with one Yank,wanting to drop said Yank off in Nogales, in order to snaffle two solar panels and get the hell out of USofA back into Mexico. He finally waved us through.

We dropped Brad off at a rent-a-car office, collected the solar panels, stopped off for a quick bite to eat and were heading back into Mexico by 11:30am. We drove over the border, a little trepidous as we really didn't want to get the red light and have to argue our way through customs with two brand new solar panels but luck was with us and green lights all the way. The trip back was uneventful and we were back in San Carlos by 3:30pm. A perfect round trip. We took the solar panels back to the boat and tied them into one of the bunks in the saloon. We're not running the risk of the little blighters escaping us again!

Tuesday September 25, 2007

We got up early this morning, headed into Baracuda Bob's for a ham, cheese and croissant breakfast. While sitting there sipping on our second cup of coffee the guy from the marina office wanders in and informs us Budget Renta-A-Car just called and said we'd left our passports in the car. Sheesh. Michelle already had about half a dozen things on her list of must-get-done-today chores so she dutifully added go-pick-up-passports to the list. We need a minder - any voluteers ?

Wednesday September 26, 2007

Heading on out! Got underway by 9am this morning. Slipped ashore early to dump the rubbish and have a quick shower, stopped back past Stormcat for a fast cup of coffee, said our goodbyes, got the dinghy and a few other odds and ends stowed and we were on the way. Our plan is to head to Topolobampo. After we visit Topolobampo this will be the end of our Sea of Cortez cruising. The rest of the year's itinerary is to spend a week in Mazatlan and then the next two months or so in Puerto Vallarta getting the boat ready for the next leg of our journey in Central America. There are so many jobs on the todo list we need to hole up somewhere and get them done.

Bahia San Ignacio, Mexico

Thursday September 27, 2007

erm... Robin... I think that's the sound of breaking surf!

By 6:45pm we were 9 miles outside Bahia San Ignacio and decided to pull in there for the night and drop anchor. We didn't want to navigate the Topolobampo channel in the dark as we've heard all kinds of rumors that it's difficult to negotiate. The bay came up nicely on the radar as the 11 miles of sand dunes rise to around 50feet. The cruising guide said you can anchor anywhere along this stretch of beach but we wanted to get out of the swell so we inched in towards what we figured was a slight headland in the middle of the bay. It turned out to be a prawn trawler anchored off the beach and not a headland after all so we adjusted our course and headed just north of him, making our way towards shore. We were still a good half mile off the beach when Michelle suddenly says Robin cut the engine I can hear breaking waves. Sure enough the swell was rough enough that we could hear the tumult half a mile out. We were already in 30feet of water so decided to call it quits and anchor where we were not knowning if the sea was going to get any rougher overnight. At least there's no risk of Chubasco's tonight as all the convection activity is being sucked off to the east, well out of harms way.

Topolobampo, Mexico

Friday September 28, 2007

We weighed anchor bright and early this morning as we needed to be heading into the Topolobampo channel at the beginning of slack tide. The estuary runs 12 miles through Topo Bay before reaching the main port facility and we didn't want to have to work against any significant current if we could help it. Stormcat had warned us they ran aground in here so we were a little wary of what we were going to find but we were worrying for nothing. We found the channel to be extremely well marked, even the secondary channels were clearly marked, making for a very smooth entrance. We had a couple of huge container ships pass us in the channel otherwise it was very straight forward to enter this busy commercial port. We took one of the secondary channels which bore to the north side of town and found a spot deep enough for us to drop the hook out of everybody's way. There were a couple of marinas here, a fuel dock, and a shrimper darsena with roughly 50 boats tied up.

The town of Topolobampo is a commercial port and not a tourist destination in the slightest which made it interesting for us. The streets are barely paved, and what has been paved in the past is almost beyond recognition. We walked around looking for somewhere to have lunch and found a wonderful restaurant perched up on the side of a hill overlooking vast Ohuira Bay which is roughly seven miles wide, contains six islands, 12 coves and is surrounded by mangrove and greenery. We wish we had time to stay and enjoy the area as it looked well worth exploring. Sadly hurricane season is dictating that we don't dally. After lunch we hiked back through the town, found a marine ferreteria which actually sold some boat parts, stopped and bought a couple of kilo of the freshest, largest prawns we've yet seen in Mexico and a bucket of beer and staggered back to the dinghy with the supplies. We were going to collapse by the pool and wait out the heat of the afternoon but decided to head back out to Santa Maria Hook anchorage near the entrance to the estuary. On our way out we noticed the current and decided it was a good call not to have to fight against this in the moring. This afternoon it was with us.

As we were heading to the anchorage we noticed how windy it was and instead of heading to our intended anchorage, we decided to pull off out of the main shipping channel to the south side near Punta Copas as it seemed more sheltered there. It would have been fine except the wind died completely allowing us to becoming inundated with jejenes. By midnight Robin had had enough and we decided to up anchor and get the hell out of there since it was slack tide. Bobbing around on the ocean seemed infinitely better to being eaten alive. We upanchored, pulled back into the well lit shipping channel and waved goodbye to Topolobampo. We think more yachts should visit this area as it's a very different part of Mexico and the shipping channel isn't at all difficult to negotiate. Next stop Mazatlan, 250nm South.

La Paz, Mexico

Sunday September 30, 2007

Yes you read that right. We are in La Paz not Mazatlan. We got 40 miles south of Topolobampo when it was time to listen in to Summer Passage's weather report on the SSB Radio. We were anxious to check on the status of Hurricane Juliette and were dismayed to learn that the low pressure system had become better organized and was now moving Northwestward, and expected to reach the southern tip of Baja California in a day or so with winds peaking at 50knots. This was a little too much for our liking and by the sound of it the southern crossing and Mazatlan would be hit with some huge swell which would make the Marina entrance rather difficult if not impossible to negotiate. So we hooked a right and headed for La Paz where we knew we could hole up in some safety while waiting to see what Juliette would get up to next.

This seemed to be a good decision as we were more or less heading that way anyway, the wind being right on the nose (what a surprise) for our course down to Mazatlan. We had a few good hours sailing and made good time only to hit the middle of the Sea and a zone of no wind. We flopped around for about an hour then decided it would be prudent under the present conditions to turn on the engine and make some progress. Sitting in the middle of the Sea of Cortez with a cyclone doing its thing didn't seem a wise thing to do. Half an hour later Robin goes down to check on his new boot only to find water pouring out of the heat exchanger yet again. In amongst much yelling and screaming complete with a few expletives thrown in, he managed to convey to Michelle to switch the engine off IMMEDIATELY. So now we are becalmed in the middle of the Sea of Cortez, with a cyclone threatening to come say hi and we have no engine again. Robin proceeds to hole up downstairs for another few hours trying to rig up an emergency fix so that we can at least dock when we arrive in La Paz. Michelle tries to find the smallest breath of air and keep the boat moving forwards although we did coast backwards for almost an hour with the current.

There was one bright spot to the predicament. An enormous Marlin came by to check us out as we were becalmed. He was stunningly beautiful and it was amazing to see such a beautiful wild creature so close and not on the end of a fishing line. The water was so clear you could easily see every marking he possessed. We finally found some wind and started making forward progress and were only 15miles from the dreaded San Lorenzo channel when the wind died yet again. It was just on dusk now however, so we were going to have to navigate this entire area in the dark. Fortunately we have been through here twice before and know our waypoints are rock solid.. well ermm maybe that's the wrong pun.

We tacked back and forth in whatever light air we could find, slowly gaining on the channel. In the distance we could see considerable convection with lightening and rain and it seemed to be approaching us. Michelle says well at least it should bring some wind with it and she was right. We had two squalls pass over the top of us and both times it brought us enough wind to make some significant progress. The second squall hit us at just the right time and sent us hurtling through the channel at 8 knots. By now it was 11pm at night and we were getting tired. Michelle sat downstairs, eyes glued to the GPS and radar making sure we didn't stray too far off course. Running aground through here would truly be nasty. The second squall left us just as we cleared the other side of the channel but the land breeze kicked in and was sufficient to allow us to sail into port. We sailed right in to Marina Costabaja entrance, dropped the sails, turned on the engine, prayed that Robin's fix would hold and inched our way into the first available slip we found. 2am - it was definitely time for bed.