Let’s Go Sailing!

We have been living onboard for three weeks now… can we please go sailing? Thanks. Jasna and Rick to the rescue! Rick has been feeling really under the weather, so we were waiting for him to feel up to a day out on the water. We spent a few days in the slip getting The Luckiest ready, as we could, to go. Then everything aligned and out we went. Tim went to pick up our teachers for the day in the dinghy as I readied the boat to leave the slip. I unhooked our precious ethernet cord and the power cord from the dock, filled up with a bit of fresh water and welcomed Jasna and Rick aboard. They showed us how to properly leave the dock with just the two of us and Tim drove us out of the marina safely. Jasna was telling us she knows many people who still won’t brave pulling into a slip. It is really difficult and the chances of hitting something – another boat, a dock, etc. – are so high, you really have to be skilled to get in and out. Well, glad we dodged that bullet.

We motored down the channel out into more open ocean to start hoisting the sails and pulling some ropes. Well, almost. once we got out there we had a bit of a challenge locating the main halyard – the rope that raises the main sail. hum… is this the topping lift or the main halyard? So we sent Tim to the top of the mast once again to take a closer look.

Tim looking down from the top

As it turned out, we do not have a topping lift, which holds the boom up. But at least we learned a thing or two. So Tim scooted down with the help of the bosun’s chair and we raised the sails. Jasna and Rick were great teachers and showed us the proper way to regularly handle communication aboard. Communication is one of the most important parts of sailing. We practiced tacking – turning the boat left or right while heading into the wind – and jibing – turning the boat left or right while heading downwind. We tacked back and forth several times with me at the helm and then Tim at the helm. It was really quite tiring. Jibing is a bit trickier because there is an element of danger if you do not handle it properly. The mail sail can come crashing across the boat, especially in high winds. This could hurt someone or break the boom if you are not careful. When getting ready to tack or jibe you should say,”Stand by to tack/jibe.” The crew prepare the lines and makes sure they are paying attention. Then the helmsman says “Ready to tack/jibe.” Crew says, “Ready,” and then you turn the wheel. As I turn Tim hurries to let out one side of the jib and then pulls the other side until it is trimmed up for our new course. It sounds more complicated than it really is. It is important to get right, but not really complicated.

We discovered a few things we need to fix before we take off too far. The boom doesn’t really have an effective system to be held up properly. Right now, the mail sail was holding it up. This isn’t a great idea because it will wear out the main sail, so we need to add a topping lift or fix our boom vang. We also found out the hard way that our pulleys need stoppers on the slide rails they are on. One popped off the end and hit Tim in the hand. Not good.

We have heard from several people that the work on a boat is never done, so planning to finish everything before you go anywhere means that you will never go. Therefore, we are going to categorize high priority to low and complete those based on safety and efficiency of the vessel. The rest, we will do along the way.

What way is that, you say? Well we are still not exactly sure. We would like to feel confident in our skills, and we would like to see as much of the Baja as we can. We have begun to try to plot a direction for the next couple months. Based on the winds and the weather we should head south before we head north, but just how far in each direction, we don’t know. I think we will start with the islands nearby. We can sail for the day out to them spend a couple of nights and sail back. We will figure it out eventually. For now we are still learning every day. Except for the day after we went sailing. We did nothing. We watched movies all day long and didn’t leave the boat once.

Learning from Jasna and Rick

The boat heeling over to the side as we glide along.

 

We put the downwind sail up.

Lets eat and sit in front of the "TV" all day

 

 

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Day by Day

A typical day aboard The Luckiest: We wake up as the sun makes its way up around 6:30 a.m. and are out of bed by 7 a.m. We make coffee and eat something for breakfast while we give ourselves time to realize we are still on a boat in Mexico. At 8 a.m. the local Net comes on the VHS radio. There is a format followed every day, except Sunday, that the net controller handles. It is a great forum for announcements, trades, news, weather, tides and other useful information. I volunteered to help organize an order for Mexican Navy Charts (navigational paper maps), so I have been announcing it every day on the Net. After listening to the Net, we get ready and load up our dinghy with any trash or maybe a water or gas jug to fill. We strap on a backpack (always take a backpack into town) and head in for morning coffee. It takes about 5 – 7 minutes to ride in from our boat to the dinghy dock at Marina de La Paz. We chit-chat at coffee with lots of cruisers who have found themselves here in La Paz for now. It’s a great time to get advice on projects we might be considering or already doing. Then we usually run whatever errands we have planned for the day including dropping off trash, getting drinking water or gasoline, grocery shopping and looking at the 4 marine stores for parts that we need to work on the boat. Whatever we buy ideally fits in the backpack. We then head back to the boat and work. Currently on the anchor chain and chain locker.

Luckily, we had a friend allow us to use his slip in the marina while his boat is being repainted, so we are able to accomplish a lot of projects that would otherwise be very challenging at anchor. Tim and I removed all the 300+ feet of chain from our boat, measured it out and marked every 20 feet. We had to cut some bad chain off and splice the good stuff together. We are planning to put it all back where it goes today so we can get back out on our anchor. We also have to replace our “spreader boots.” This is not very expensive, but it does require Tim to go high up on the mast. The spreader is the cross-bar on the mast that holds the rigging wires away from the mast. These have to have bumper pads on the ends so they do not rip the sails. Ours were kind of a mess (see below). We are being very productive because we have such a short time here in the marina to get stuff done. Also, so we can get our boat ready to sail! Jasna and Rick are getting ready to leave La Paz for a while, so we want to get a sailing lesson in with them next week before they go. We are so looking forward to a day or two out with the wind.

Our back porch at anchor

Dinner with Jasna and Rick on their boat

Cooking Enchiladas Verdes at home

Moving the boat into the slip for repairs

 

Working on the anchor chain

Measuring chain on the dock

 

Tim hoisted on the mast to replace the spreader boots

Some things I have been taking for granted in the U.S.:

Unlimited internet access, Long warm showers, air conditioning, watching TV at night before bed, a microwave, knowing the language, dishwasher, pizza delivery

In La Paz

As we walked around town trying to find the Dia de los Muertos celebration the day after we arrived, Tim kept saying, “We live in Mexico.“

It is certainly a weird feeling that requires us to stop and think about it. We still don’t know quite what to think, though. It can be a bit overwhelming at times, especially since Gary left. Yet other times as we watch the sun set over palms and reflecting off the water, it seems just fine.

We have begun working on projects for the boat and exploring the town a bit more. Every morning the cruisers get together for coffee and chatting near the marina. We have joined a few times and made a couple of friends already. Everyone is so willing to help us with everything. If we have a question (which we have many), there is an answer or two floating around for us. One in particular – how do we actually sail? Funny to think we have come all the way here and even lived on are boat for 2 weeks now, but we had to borrow the Sailing for Dummies book from our broker!

We have reconnected with a wonderful couple we had met when we were here in September looking at boats. Yazna (sp?) and Rick are experienced sailors with a great sense of humor and a willingness to share. They have offered to teach us on our boat. Yanza being a sailing instructor and Rick has lived aboard for three years; they could show us a thing or two. Rick, unfortunately, has been rather ill since we arrived, so we are waiting until he feels up to getting out. I made some chicken soup from scratch and took it over to them in our dinghy yesterday. Nothing wrong with a little southern hospitality in the Sea of Cortez.

A couple of days ago we went exploring with a new friend, John on the motor yacht Storm Bay, to find the local farmers’ market. It was really a different experience. We sat at a vendor’s stool and had lunch before we dove into eggs, produce and tortillas. I was happy the selection was fresher than the super markets. We have discovered about eating in Mexico: You have to soak your fruits and vegetables in a special solution before eating them because of their less sanitary handling processes, and that there is an amoeba that you can get if you don’t drink a preventative. It takes a little getting used to, but we have heeded the warnings just in case.

Today was another reminder why we are here. John picked us up and we all went around the corner of the beach to go see the whale sharks. They come to this area this time of year. We were motoring around on a 9-foot dinghy just hoping to come across some when we decided to follow the crowd of tourist boats, and there they were! They were two young whale sharks. Tim and John took turns snorkeling with them. I was a bit of a chicken to get in the water, but I was really close on the boat. They were just babies, but much bigger than our little boat.

We played a bit of Frisbee on the beach and everything seemed simple once again.

Last day with Gary

A katrina at the Celebration

At the Dia Celebration

Tim swimming with the whale shark

Whale Shark!

Not Exactly Sailing

Well we are working our way slowly but surely down the Baja. We have had ZERO wind, so we are motoring the whole way. This is much less fun than actually sailing, but it is real world. Gary said we will spend like 50% of the time motoring and 50% sailing. We have learned a lot of other things about life aboard, though. Really, the sailing part is the easy part. It is re-learning how to use the bathroom, how to cook, how to monitor your engine, etc. There is SO much to learn.

We are also learning how to explore these anchorages we are stopping at. Those are really the best part. When we arrive we anchor, which has been a real pain so far. It shouldn’t be, but our anchor chain is very rusty and the locker seems too small for the chain, so it has proved a bit challenging. We have plans to change it so that it will be more efficient. Right now we would have a very hard time anchoring without Gary onboard, but unfortunately we can’t keep him.

 

In our "new car" aka the dinghy

 

The anchorages have been pretty amazing. We just tuck in somewhere you wouldn’t even know existed, and go exploring. The water has been clear down a good 30 – 40 feet. We did a bit of snorkeling in San Everisto and Calita Partida on a little island across from La Paz. We decided to swim across to the shore today… turned out to be a little longer than re really wanted to swim back. We made it all the way to shore and walked about a mile around the anchorage just looking at crabs and birds and all the critters that the ocean has to offer. It was really nice to get a little alone time with Tim, too. We have been so busy learning and soaking up all the things Gary has to tell us, we really haven’t just enjoyed each other too much. Until today, which was very nice.

 

Exploring Calida Partida

 

We finally got so thirsty we decided to turn around because we knew we still had quite a swim ahead of us. We walked all the way back to our point of entry and began walking into the water. Right as we got to where we had to start swimming I noticed a young guy in his nice motor dinghy heading our direction. I was secretly hoping he was coming to get us so I didn’t have to swim all that way again, only this time against the wind. Low and behold, he did! He was heading to us thinking we wouldn’t want to swim that, and he was so right. Raul was a crewmember on the boat next store and we were so grateful for him sweeping in to get us. He dropped us off and said he would be right back with some more fish. Turns out he had caught a bunch of fish he had cooked and they had to much, so he brought over three delicious grilled fish and a wonderful prepared salad. It was one of those perfectly timed gifts of a dinghy ride and dinner. Two things we needed right then. Thank you Raul.

Tomorrow we will arrive in La Paz. That means the real work begins: paperwork for our vessel, connect online and pay some bills, get back to work designing and, of course, all the repairs on the boat. Looks like we will be camping in La Paz a little while until we can get our act together.