April 2021End of the sea-road for us…. DOMINO has new owners….Our delivery trip from Zihuatanejo to Guaymas was amazing, averaging almost 15 kts against winds and currents up rhe treacherous Sea of Cortez in winter…. BigD wanted to shine fo…
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DOMINO 20 2020-12-10 14:29:00
December 4, 2020 –
Sea of Cortez, Somewhere between La Paz and Puerto Vallarta
22*28’N , 108*25’W, Heading SE @12 Kts, Wind 12KT from NW, 3-5’ following seas,
Air Temp 23*C, Sea Temp 27*C
I try to look for a silver lining: opportunities for on-line commerce, people cooking at home, perhaps trying to do more with less, the development of vaccines and treatments, the realization that personal responsibility goes a long way towards one’s physical and financial well-being… or am I a dreamer? What would John Lennon say?
For DOMINO, it’s been a dry year. After cruising Mexico all of last winter, she spent the summer on the hard in Guaymas/San Carlos. We had priced her under $500K to make her more atractive to potential buyers… and she was. Our broker was lining them up to come down and see the boat in San Carlos. Half-a-dozen were even ready to buy her sight-unseen, from Australia to Singapore to Canada and California, she was the hottest yacht on the market. We rushed from our home in The Villages (FL) back down to San Carlos to meet and greet a dozen of apparently committed buyers, but when it came down to booking their flights, all twelve but one got cold feet… COVID Scare! Needless to say, DOMINO is still ours. There again, we are looking for a silver lining.
Nobody wants this extraordinary beast of travel? Well, fine! We’ll keep her. Needless to say, JP is extatic. So, with the greatest thanks to our United Yachts broker Marisa Velasco who has answered hundreds of emails and phone calls over the last 2 years, we are yanking DOMINO off the market, and taking her home to FLORIDA.
Did I mention this is a 4,000 NM trip that includes the crossing of the dreaded Gulf of Tehuantepec, transiting the Panama Canal, and cruising off the less-than-hospitable coasts of Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Belize? A tall order, but this is 2020, and in light of everything else going on in this mad world, being at sea may be the safest way to survive it all.
As usual, JP got meticulous with maintenance.
- Replacing the shaft seal on port (and threading 2 more for future use) completes the work started last year on starboard. Shaft seals are good for another 10 years;
- HRO watermaker membranes: after 11 years of heavy use (we delivered 5,000 liters/day in post-Winston Fiji), they are now replaced with new ones, and making 60 gal/hr is pretty cool;
- Big Bertha’s windlass seviced and running smooth;
- Oil change, of course, and new oil filters and impellers, clean air filters;
- Fridge and freezer inspected and re-loaded;
- And the John Deere 6081 AFM engines tested, re-tested, inspected…. JP is soooo compulsive about his engines (understandably so, they are our lifelines) that the thought of anything that could go wrong keeps him awake at night. Fortunately, he has kept in contact through the years with Reuben, the Panama John Deere technical chief who saved us in the San Blas all those years ago. Now in charge of technical training for JD Latin America’s dealers, Reuben is still just an email away from JP, advising him on assessing his engines and assuaging his fears. We do love our John Deere team, world-wide.
And here we are, on the first part of our long journey home. But not without a shout-out to the San Carlos Pickleball Association. We played every morning, made new friends, and JP even played his first tournament while I made a quick run to Tucson to winterize the Acura in her long-term storage place.
Leg 1- San Carlos to San Juanico (Baja Peninsula) –
The trip from San Carlos to San Juanico involves crossing the Gulf of California (AKA Sea of Cortez) on a 98 NM, WSW line. In any northerly condition, a train of short, steep, sloppy beam seas can rock your boat with an uncomfortable to downright dangerous sway. But JP had picked a calm day, left before sunrise —when the wind is down and seas are calmest— and we only encountered a small, short chop as the wind picked up in the afternoon. Eight hours later, we had dropped anchor in this idyllic spot (average speed 12.2 Kts.)
San Juanico (Punta San Basilio) is one of our favorite anchorage for the massive rock and pinnacles, a dream at sunset and when the moon shines on the rocks!
Leg 2 – San Juanico to Timbabiche – Little by little, the wind is ramping up, now in the 15-20 range. The anchorage in Timbabiche is wide but shallow, with little protection from the North… and a rolly night it was; we hightailed it out of there at dawn, expecting yet higher winds for the next 3 days, looking for one of the few shelters: Isla Espiritu Santo, 25 NM East of La Paz.
|The crater-anchorage of Caleta Partida|
Leg 3 – Timbabiche to Caleta Partida – Oh yes, the wind is up, in the high 20’s an we made it to the ancient crater of Caleta Partida (Split Bay.) It is a gorgeous site, a crescent-shaped sand beach fringed by turquoise waters, a circular bay broken only by the deep entrance to the west and the shallow isthmus to the east. The holding can be variable. On our first try, the soft sand did not offer much hold: up-anchor and find another spot. There, after JP pulled hard on the anchor in several directions, I wasnt satisfied until I actually dove the anchor and made sure that Big Bertha was up to her neck in sand. Warmer waters (26*C) lured us for a quick swim but the wind chilled us too quickly to want to repeat… we must be getting soft!
Leg 4 – Caleta Partida to La Paz
Monday morning, we must make it to our our appointment with the HRO guys in La Paz, 25 NM away. The Port Captain has closed the port due to high seas, except for boats coming from Isla Espiritu Santo, lucky us!
Marina de La Paz is a favorite of ours: conveniently located downtown, with all sevices available and a very helpful staff. Fortunately, we scored a dock for 2 days and made fast work of getting 2 new membranes for the watermaker.
COVID Safety! As we had noticed in Guaymas and San Carlos, everyone here wears a mask. It’s mandatory everywhere, even on the boardwalk. The stores limit the number of clients inside, one person per family; every shopper gets a temperature check before entering and goes through a decontamination process: shoes are sanitized, hands are sprayed, carts are bleached, no drinking allowed into the stores (leave your cup of Joe outisde!) Everybody complies, nobody complains. The radio airs public safety messages on an hourly basis. Kudos to the Mexicans for their restraint and responsible behaviors!
For the last 3 days, all ports have been closed due to bad seas, from La Paz to Cabo to Mazatlan: No crossing. We know the window to cross the Gulf back to the mainland side is going to be short and we’ll have to jump as quickly as possibel; which means, no slowing down to fish underway. JP, always planning ahead, took matter into his own hands this morning. At sunrise, he grabbed a Hawaiian sling and an old towel and walked to the end of the dock, laid the towel to the edge and laid in wait, sling in hand. What was my man up to? A few minutes later, he re-appeared, a Jurel (Crevalle Jack) dangling from the end of his spear. My little Tarzan!
The Port Captain has re-opened the ports. Looks like the ferries continually plying the waters from Mazatlan to Cabo are deeming the oft-wretched crossing safe for small boats. At slack tide (oh, you don’t want to get out of that marina with any kind of current!) we rallied the masked troops on the dock to help us push off in 15-17Kts cross winds. Easy-peasy for JP and DOMINO’s 600 HP. In two shakes of a lamb’s tail JP had backed us out of the marina, turned around, and headed down the La Paz channel to sea.
Easy, down the coast run, in 20-25 kts, following seas, and we dropped anchor in the sandy bottom of Bahia de los Muertos. For the first time, we caught phone signal and internet in the bay: progress. Yes, there is a bar on the beach, just next to the boat ramp… if you like that kind of things…
Leg 6 – Los Muertos to Bahia Los Frailes – Yet another breezy day, cruising at our usual 12 knots, downwind and following seas… watching sailboats slogging it out in choppy conditions.
Los Frailes has grown. What used to be a deserted beach is now a full-grown fishermans camp, with lean-to’s and cabanas paired with a panga each. We expected a calm afternoon, but the wind decided to funnell through the anchorage and ramp-up in the 25-30 range. Gosh, we’re getting lazy. Instead of launching the dinghy and going snorkeling, I just sat there and huddled with a good book (Caffeine and Nicotine by Eric Weule, on Kindle and paperback: oh, so good!) and watched JP double-check and triple-check his engines and systems.
This said, I had the worst scare dropping anchor. Folks! Never, never call a skipper on VHF while he is dropping anchor.
My viewpoint: standing on deck in 25kts of wind, the anchor has dropped, bitten, I have 55 meters of chain out, JP signals to attach the bridle. I have the soft shackle almost looped around the chain, my fingers ready to clip on the bridle’s shackle when suddenly the chain tenses up to the horizontal, pulls on the windlass (which JP always keeps soft enough to not seize up) and the chains unrolls, taking with it the soft shackle and within half-a-second of crushing my fingers into the bow roller. WTF????
|Looping te soft shackle|
JP’s view point;
* Where to drop? Pick a spot: astern of this sloop, I can drop 60 meters back and still be abreast of that ketch on port, at least 3 boat lengths away: good.
* How much chain? Check the depth under the boat, add 7 meters, multiply by 2: minimum scope to attach the bridle. But add 15-20 meter depending on wind, tide, and other conditions. OK, 55 meters should do it here.
* The anchor chain counter confirms Marie’s hand signal that the anchor just touched bottom. I start backing up slowly, double-tap the TZT to record MOB anchor position, while Marie lets the chain unroll. At 55 meters, I stop the boat, and signal to hook the bridle.
|Clipping the bridle shackle|
Teamwork: JP eases up the boat upwind, runs downstarboard to his workshop to grab a spare soft shackle (he knew where it was!) which Marie grabs through the port sliding door. She runs to the bow and quickly loops the soft shackle around the chain, deftly clips the bridle’s hard shackle into the loop, lets go of another 10 meters of chain, and they finish the anchoring maneuver. Crisis averted, Marie still have all her fingers!
1) Skippers, never call a boat while the crew is dropping or retreiveing anchor, especially in high winds.
2) Skippers, if somebody calls you on the VHF in the middle of a maneuver, ignore them! Your crew’s safety depends on your ability to focus on the task.
|The bridle rig|
By 4AM, we were awaken by the calm. Time do download the latest OFFSHORE weather GRIB using our IRIDIUM-GO (Satphone Store, thanks for setting us up so quickly!) – OH< looks like we can make the crossing if we hurry up! 0408 – We are off!
|The Pinnacles at San Juanico|
Leg 7 – Los Frailes to Bahia Chamela (Mainland Mexico) –
338NM in 30.5 hrs, average 11 Kts.
And so we jumped, expecting 15-20 Kts on our port quarter and 4-6’ following seas, and that’s exactly what we got in the first 2 hours, with gusts up to 22 Kts. Then, as we got away from the Baja Peninsula and the seas opened up, the wind decreased to 12-15 and the following seas to 2-4’: a beautiful day and moonlit night at sea! At dawn, closing in on Cabo Corrientes (just south of Puerto Vallarta), the wind picked up again and the seas became sloppy, as it often is around a cape, but this was short-lived and soon we were on the lee of the mainland, cruising on flat seas, fair winds, and sunny morning: Perfect! Air temperature of 26.7C, sea temperature of 28.3C, what else can you ask for? Well, a fish would have been nice, but fish we didn’t.
Bahia Chamela is one of those wide sandy bays and dropping the hook is a breeze. On shore, many palapa restaurants dot the beach and we are treated to Mexican folkloric music every afternoon, tuba and all!
The bay is home to many rocky islands that we might snorkel or not, weary of the dozens of tourists shuttled back and forth by the local snorkeling operators… a bit too touristy for us. Besides, with 100% cloud cover for the next 2 days, it is unlikely that the underwater realm will show any of its colors.
So, what do we do? We prepare for our fishing trip, tomorrow or as soon as the sun re-appears. Sailfish is running 20 miles out and JP is determined to give it a shot! In preparation, he is setting up his live-bait fishing hooks and lines. Very studious! What about live bait? While we toiled with the “Mitraillette” all morning trying to snag bait running under the boat (without success), we hailed a local panga passing by and asked for bait. Within seconds, the 3 guys were tossing their “mitrailletes” overboard and pulling bait by the dozen! And hop! Into our bait tank! Got that covered!
What is there to do? Finish to rinse off the windows and railings and decks of all salt accumulated during the crossing, going for a quick swim around the boat, and reading and cooking, watching the clouds do their thing while the waves rhythmically crash on the beach (Oh, not very many places to land on this surf beach, but they are building a boardwalk and landing dock!) Farniente at its best today!!!
DOMINO 20 2019-12-12 10:52:00
|Fooling around with grandchildren in Vanuatu|
|Grandaughter Zoe and her best friend Q: thank you. parents, for trusting us and giving your kids this amazing time!|
|In Fiji: These girls will never forget that Grandpa can actually provide coconut milk!|
|Celebrating our 47th anniversary, all alone, in Rongelap, Marshall Islands|
|Walking the rim of a live volcano in Vanuatu… unforgettable!|
|Boat was sold… we thought… and off we were to our new home, The Villages..
oops… shouldn’t have counted our chickens!
|Kiribati (AKA Gilbert Islands)… so remote!|
|Family in Tucson helped us load the MDX with a full load!|
|King JP in the Marshall Islands….|
|Marshall Islands, Rongelap Atoll – JP confiscated my paddle and is towing me back to the boat…
our 47th anniversary celebration
|47th anniversary celebration… all by ourselves|
|Our adventurous grandkids in Vanuatu –|
|We never had a wedding cake-cutting … on our 47th anniversary, it was a must!|
|So many sunsets!|
|All 45 flags out… feeling the joy in Majuro, Marshall Islands|
POWERCATS vs/ MONOHULLS
- at 10 kts (1050 rpm), less than 5 gph (better than 2 miles/gallon)
- at 7.5 kts , 1.8 gph
- at 20 kts (2100 rpm), 24 gph
- Galapagos to Marquesas and beyond (3,000 NM)
- Marshall Islands to Midway to Hawaii (2800 NM)
- Hawaii to La Paz (2800 NM)
DODGING HURRICANES in HAWAII
|If anything else, we ate healthy foods! Say, ‘Poke?”|
It took me a while to recover from our season in Hawaii, possibly the most difficult in the last 9 years of cruising. As I mentioned in my first Hawaiian blog, protected anchorages and few and far between and marinas are full, unable to accommodate large transient yachts like ours (except for a few very expensive private marinas, some of them not even allowing stay-aboard.) So we kept a weary eye on the weather and kept hopping around.
|Checked that on my bucket list: Learned traditional Hawaiian quilting!|
|yep, one of the 7 Hawaiian quilts I had time to finish… bad weather has some good aspects!|
|The Lanai coast|
|Kalama Bay… rocky spot!|
|Our favorite eatery: Mala Tavern|
|LANE is headed for us|
|Our nephew looked out for us, keeping us appraised of all the hurricanes’ tracks.|
|Reuniting with Judie, such a sweet moment!|
|After LANE, it was OLIVIA!|
|Smiles at last, as Miles, our Hawaiian son, joins us for a sleepover . Nothing like breakfast!|
|What could be sweeter than time with your grandchildren… Luau at the Marriott|
|LANE killed our flag and our port side navigation light.|
|More family fun, our nephew and niece and their spouses….|
|Kona harbor… not as big as it seems|
This said, Kona is a lovely town and of course we tasted the coffee and visited the quilt shops and the beautiful Hawaiian quilt museum. Yep, I was happy!
|My happy place!|
|The very protected anchorage at Cook Bay|
|Coasting along Molokai|
|More MOLOKAI raw beauty|
|Hanalei Bay, on a misty afternoon|
|The best Poke in town!|
What we missed, though, was a bike ride up the coast, since the road was still closed after last springs’ torrential rains. We just delighted in the views from the anchorage, short-lived as it turned out to be, since Hurricane WILLA was coming our way!
|Smack-dab in the middle!|
|Saying goodbye to Kim, our sweet friend on BLAZE II|
|Heather Brown Art… the essence of Hawaii|
|Leaving Hawaii behind, sunrise to the east|
|The fuel dock in Ala Wai no longer sells fuel to the public. It is now privately owned.
BUT.. for a fee ($200) the owner will let you dock and fuel up from a truck.
We used the Fuel Man
Going upwind, 13-18Kts of wind, 10.5 Kts boat speed
|Five-day outlook: we knew it was going to be close|
|Arriving Cabo: we need to keep on going!|
|Our daily recon: WP14, we clocked 283 NM that day|
By the numbers:
- Distance: 2,661 NM
- Time: 10 days, 18 hours
- Average speed: 10.3 kts
- Fuel used: 2,000 Gal.
- Reserve: 600 Gal.
|Arriving Cabo ahead of WILLA|
|The beautiful white rocks at Cabo San Lucas. We arrived with drizzle and flat seas, no wind|
|Would you know there is a hurricane coming?|
|Rounding Cabo San Lucas, the cave.
Nobody on the beaches, the Port Captain has shut down the beaches,
restricted navigation to wharf-to-wharf only.
|Bahia de los Muertos (rebaptized Bahia de los Sueños)|
|WILLA to the South… we are just at the edge of the weather system|
|Marina de La Paz: Great docks, spa time for DOMINO|
CRUISING HAWAII – Oahu
|Hawaii in Summer… Dodging Hurricanes… HECTOR|
|Kewalo Basin and Ala Wai Boat Harbor, Honolulu. No transient docking available|
|The sad state of Ala Wai Boat Harbor|
- Few protected anchorages. The Eastern coasts are, obviously, exposed to the trade winds and unsuitable. The Western and Northern coasts are made of steep cliffs and rocky shores, steep drops, and count very few natural anchorages.
|The work dock… we nudged Domino next to the SWATH|
- Decrepit harbors. I hate to say it, but it is true. The yachting population is not a State priority and the State-controlled harbors are in dire state of disrepair. Take Oahu, for example. It took us 4 days to find a berth at the Ala Wai in Waikiki, and only after we got denied by all of the other State-harbors, private harbors and yacht clubs.
|Riding HECTOR on the lagoon|
Keehi Harbor (State-owned), by the airport, is another enormous harbor, with fair protection. We called, and there is NO berth or mooring for a 65’ boat, and there is NO anchoring in the enormous Keehi lagoon. Yet, when we took a peek at the harbor, a good 30% of the docks were destroyed, and of the boats present, I’d say a good 20% were derelict. Some weird traffic goes on at night too, making you wonder what’s going on under the nose of the harbormaster! However, when hurricane HECTOR reared its head, we anchored in the lagoon anyways, and beseeched permission as soon as the harbormaster’s office opened. After some back-and-forth, we were allowed to stay until it was safe to cruise again.
|Friday Night in Waikiki’s Ala Wai Boat Harbor|
|The perk: Fabric shopping!|
|The Ala Wai Boat Harbor – So many derelict boats that should not be there!|
|Learning the Hawaaian quilting with the pros… the real deal!|
|Ukulele and Hawaiian Quilting!|
|Thank you, my Captain!|
|How can we not love these amazing creatures? Spinner Dolphins|
|Zebra Moray (Photo Graham’s Island.com)|
|Fourth of July at the Ala Wai… we have 40 flags out!|
|Ahi Poke, anyone?|
Transpac 2 – Part II
|This is definitely NOT Alaska! Aloha Waikiki!|
|June 11 GRIB – We are at the green marker… 31* North – planning on going SE|
|Plan A: Run south and double back to the west
Plan B: Run south, wait, and run back north
A&B impossible, of course!
Plan C: Stick to the northern border of the reserve
|When in doubt, cook!|
- 2 leeks, steamed, sliced thinly, sautéed with onions and ginger (see Wahoo recipe in Week 1)
- 6 slices of turkey or ham (sliced or cubes)
- 6 eggs
- 1/4 Cup milk or light cream
- 1 Cup grated Swiss or Cheddar cheese
- Salt, pepper.
- Herbed Pie crust for 9” pie (250g flour, 120g margarine, pinch of salt, 1 Tbsp thyme or Herbes de Provence, 1/4c water)
|June 12 GRIB|
|June 13 – We gotta get out!|
By mid-morning, we are zooming at 15 kts toward Kauai. I’m amazed to see how squeezed we are, the wind at times from the SSW, at other times out of the SSE, trying to make up its mind, sometimes in the teens, sometimes in the 20s, the seas small but incredibly confused.
|Our final course|
|June 14 GRIB forecast… need to be as far as possible|
|Glad to be safe in Honolulu and not on our way to Alaska!|
|Four days later: should we go now?|
|Nah… let’s play!|
Transpac 2, Part I
June 4-11, 2018
- 2 heads of cauliflower, steamed
- 2 cups Bèchamel Sauce
- 1 cup grated Swiss cheese
- 3 hard boiled eggs, halved lengthwise
|The beefy commercial bunkering dock in Majuro.|
- 2 1/4c water
- 2 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp brown sugar
- 4 cups unbleached bread flour
- 1 cup organic whole wheat flour
- 3 Tbsp powdered milk
- 1/2 Tbsp organic gluten flour (gives added structure to the bread)
- 1 1/4 Tbsp yeast
- 1/4 cup oats
- 1 Tbsp sesame seeds (white or black)
- 2 Tbsp sunflower seeds
- 1 Tbsp Chia seeds
Day 3 – June 6 – 0100 UTC – Engine check: OOPS! Coolant, a lot of coolant is leaking under the Starboard (STB) engine, something like a gallon in the bilge… not good! What possibly could be leaking? JP’s brain revs up, now in high gear. On thorough inspection, he finds out that one of the four bolts holding the turbo is missing, the stud broken, the bolt shorn off. This has to be fixed immediately. We are at risk of the turbo completely breaking off, hot, dry exhaust gas coming out and setting the boat on fire. “Not good,” says JP, biting his lower lip. “Gonna be a bitch to fix! Dunno if I can do it. Gonna need to help me. Gonna be hard to do!”
|The culprit: shorn-off bolt #1|
|Always a good idea to have an extractor set on board. Got the broken bolt!|
From here on, it’s all back-tracking, taking advantage of the situation to replace the exhaust manifold-to-turbo gasket. All done? Check for extra parts left on deck? None? That’s good. Fill up with coolant, settle it, top it off… restart the engine, check for leaks, shift into forward, check for leaks, throttle up, check for leaks, all good.
- 4 Cups cooked macaroni, still hot, salt and pepper
- 2 Cups grated Swiss Cheese
- 1 1/2 Cup chopped ham
- 1 1/2 Cup sautéed mushrooms
|A perfect day… (we are the white dot)|
Day 4 – June 7 – What a perfect day! Yesterday’s repair of the turbo is holding, no leak, and the weather is as calm as one could wish for — gentle seas and 5 to 10 Kt. wind, and even if it’s on the nose, it remains quite pleasant. Domino unleashes her long stride, running an easy 10 Kts. at 1180 rpm, burning 6 GPH, a bit hungrier than normal, but expected in head seas, contrary currents, and a full belly. We lucked out on the weather window, really, since the area we just covered in the last 48 hours is now buffeted by 20-25 Kt. trade winds. At last, in the afternoon, the winds shift to the SE, giving us a push, and we are now running at 10.8 Kts. at 1100 rpm, 5 GPH… yes, that’s more like it.
|On quiet crossings, JP loves to tinker with boat design.|
|2 nice fillets!|
|Uh-oh… We are the bottom-left white dot, on our way to the green marker…
Let’s keep an eye on this baby
Two large storms are forming NW of us. If we can dodge the first storm, there is serious doubt as how to dodge the second storm which looks very powerful already. So, we remain on the straight course, a bit south of the rhumb line, waiting for the next weather report. From our current position, the rhumb line affords a distance saving of 121 NM, not worth committing to it if we need to turn away from it later, so we remain on a straight course. In the morning, the weather report is daunting. This large storm is headed straight into our intended path and our NE route is now unthinkable. There is nothing better for us to do but alter course to the ESE, remain below the 31st parallel, and keep an eye on the weather. The storm is supposed to dip very low, possibly south of the 30th parallel. This means also that we must drop out speed, not only to let the storm pass us, but also to save fuel. This new course means an extra 500 NM, or about 250 gallons of fuel, which is well within our 500-gallon security margin.
|We are at the green spot… this storm is picking up steam.
Plan is to duck southeast till the storm passes.
There is nothing wrong with steaming at 7.5 knots on one engine, 900 rpm, burning barely 2 GPH. We are in no rush to get to Alaska. In fact, I thoroughly enjoy these warm, tropical days, traveling on flat seas and preparing meals for a stormy day!
|Quick easy lunch! Marinated wahoo.|
- Origin (Dan Brown) 5 stars
- The Black Book (James Patterson) 4 stars
- The Fallen (David Baldacci) 4 stars
- Red Sparrow (Jason Matthews) 5 stars
- Palace of Treason (Jason Matthews) 4 stars
- The Kremlin Candidate (Jason Matthews) 3 stars
- At the Edge of the Orchard (Tracy Chevalier) 5 stars