Last Island Trip and Renaming our Boat

Cloudy sailing day

Sailing out to the islands on a cloudy day was nice.

After squashing what we thought were all of our obstacles to getting out to the islands near La Paz for a more relaxing “vacation” part of our trip, we set sail on a cloudy day. It was a nice sail slightly upwind, so we planned to sail out on one tack and motor back into anchor, as we were feeling lazy and didn’t want to sail upwind the whole way.

Sailing to the islands

Sails up and heading out to Isla Espiritu Santo.

After motoring for maybe 30 minutes, our engine began overheating and spewing coolant. We immediately killed the engine and began sailing toward the nearest anchorage, unsure what the issue was. We sailed upwind in light winds all the way to anchor in Bahia San Gabriel. The engine had finally cooled enough for Tim to get in and take a look. It turned out to be an easy fix of installing a new alternator belt, allowing us to motor up to a safer anchorage with more wind protection just before one of the more beautiful sunsets.

Fixing the engine

Our alternator belt broke and our engine overheated on our way to the islands. Tim had to dive into the cockpit locker to fix it.

Island sunset near La Paz

We arrived to anchor just before sunset at Isla Espiritu Santo.

Anchoring at sunset

It was a stunning sunset as we anchored for the night.

The next day offered winds from the west/southwest, allowing for us to have a wonderful sail up to one of my favorite islands — Isla San Francisco. This is one of the more picturesque places we have visited in the Sea of Cortez. The same night, our friends on s/v Calypso, Rick and Jasna, arrived just before sunset. We had planned to meet them there, but weren’t sure if the would make it. We enjoyed swimming, kayaking, spear fishing (Tim, Rick and Jasna) and hiking at the island for six days. Rick and Jasna had to deliver some school supplies to the small fishing village just to the north, San Evaristo, and we were looking to get away from the tons of mosquitos at Isla San Francisco, so we followed them upwind.

Sailing in Mexico

Our nice sail up to Isla San Francisco.

sunny sail

We were keeping the sun off our backs as we sailed north.

Swimming the the Sea

The water was crazy clear and the perfect temp for swimming.

Picture perfect Island

Swimming, fishing, kayaking and hiking at Isla San Francisco.

Fish for Dinner

Tim shot three trigger fish for dinner with Calypso.

Hiking Isla San Francisco

Beautiful Isla San Francisco from the hike along the ridge line.

Hiking is fun

Me and Tim hiking with Jasna along the Isla San Francisco ridge line.

Jasna Tuta hiking

Jasna gazing off into the Sea of Cortez on our hike at Isla San Francisco.

Isla San Francisco

The view from the top – Isla San Francisco.

Jasna and Rick on Calypso are expert sailors, I would say. Jasna used to teach sailing in Italy, and Rick took a Yatchmaster course in Austrailia. Knowing we could learn a thing or two from these pros, we set out to follow them on our next sail upwind to San Evaristo. This proved a bit unsuccessful as we tried to tack our way to the little fishing village, we got frustrated and decided to turn the motor on (cheaters, I know). Much to our dismay, the alternator belt was slipping and our engine was struggling with overheating again. Tim rigged up a temporary solution by tying a line to the alternator and putting upward pressure on it so we could motor sail our way in. We stayed for a couple nights in San Evaristo, restocking our chocolate stash and a few other fresh foods that were running low.

With north winds predicted for the next several days, we all decided it was a good time to head back to La Paz. We were a bit nervous, considering our motor troubles, but left early for what we thought would be a nice downwind sail. Unfortunately, just as we pulled out of the anchorage, our engine was overheating again and the belt had broken once more. Frustrated, we opened our jib only and headed downwind, thinking we could repair it along the 6 hour trip. The sea was pretty rough and choppy, and without our main sail up, we were rocking and rolling the entire trip. This didn’t give Tim a chance to crawl around the engine compartment and sort out our issue.

The wind was getting pretty strong as we and Calypso — both with only headsails out — headed down to Isla Partida. As we finally approached our intended anchorage, we attempted turning into the wind with hopes of getting close enough to safely to drop anchor. This was a big mistake. The wind had picked up over 20 knots and we didn’t have any power without our main sail up. So we raised the main with the boat pointing downwind — a little dangerous maneuver because the chances for a accidental jibe are high. That is exactly what happened. We accidentally jibed hard, popping the boom right off the mast.

I had already reached my maximum stress load and freaked out about 10 minutes before we lost the boom. So, I stayed strangely calm, sailing the boat into the mouth of a different, calmer  anchorage where Tim was able to replace the alternator belt before we got too close to land. This allowed us to motor (hobble) the rest of the way to anchor. After a day like that, there was no way we could come on the VHF radio and hail with the name “Luckiest.” We decided at that moment we must rename our boat. We called Calypso, who had already anchored in our intended spot. They came down right away to help us lick our wounds.  We were happy to have their help, and we all stayed a couple of days to relax.

The second night we had our renaming ceremony (sailor’s tradition) for our boat, asking Neptune to take care of her under the new name — Lucí.

Motoring back to La Paz

It was a calm, wind-free day as we motored back to La Paz after reattaching the boom and repairing the engine a final time.

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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

 

 

Our New Home

Tim, Me, Shelly and Mike just after the sea trial on our new boat

So, we did it. We bought our dream boat! We took her out for a sea trial today and we sailed for the first time in the Sea of Cortez. It was awesome! I can already tell I will be one of those types who continuously tweak the sails for more speed. Keep in mind, we are talking about the speed of a 35 foot liveaboard boat, so we are looking at like 2-6 knots. It is perfectly slow, however, because you have AMAZING views to take in while you are doing it. The water is clear about 100 feet down. Can you imagine? I didn’t really believe that —having been on lakes often — but Shelly dropped a green grape overboard just to see how long we could see it in the water. We sailed away, slowly, remember, before we couldn’t see the grape. It was stunning. Tim took a dive because it was blisteringly hot. We have found ourselves on a sailboat in the sun in Baja Mexico in the hottest part of the year and the hottest part of the month for this area. Just step outside and sweat a gallon a minute. And I thought Texas was hot! Well, it is actually about the same temp, but the humidity here takes the cake. We drank more water and Gatorade in 2 hours than I have in most days.

It was all worth it, though. We have a wonderful new home and we can float around anywhere we want. It hasn’t quite all sunk in yet. We had the boat surveyed by a pro boat builder who has been living in Mexico for the part 22 years — Cecil. He is an 86-year-old Austrian who kept up with the rest of us in that heat. I was so surprised at how good he was at moving around the boat while withstanding the heat.

Our Captain for the day was Ray. He maintains several boats in Puerto Escandito while the owners are out for the summer season. He is so nice, and a friend already. He has the exact same boat make and model as us, so he highly recommended it. We are so excited and can’t wait to head back down for the good cruising months. We have been told by every sailor we have met that the weather switches on October 15. Like clockwork, there is less humidity and a nice breeze every year. Can’t wait for that.

While we have been here we have been greeted with the friendliest people on earth. It seems everyone is incredibly supportive and helpful in whatever way possible. It is really refreshing to slow down and appreciate others. The cruisers (people living on a boat and cruising up and down the coastline) have a code of conduct to help out other cruisers and then pay it forward. They don’t help expecting anything in return, they just help because they are nice and know it will come back around one day. And it does.

Sunrise on the Baja

Shelly teaching me how to raise the head sail and tie a cleat knot.

Me at the helm, while Shelly guides me

Tim at the Helm

Our new kitchen a.k.a galley

Cecil working hard surveying the boat while in the dinette

Our new bedroom a.k.a. V Berth

There she is. Until we meet again.

On the Water

We went sailing yesterday! We met James and Debbie at their boat slip at 4:15 p.m. for a sailing race across Joe Pool Lake and back. As it turns out, there was about ZERO wind, but we still went out and learned a whole lot. It is amazing how far you can go even when it seems like the wind isn’t blowing at all. James and Debbie are the sweetest people, and super helpful. They are great teachers – even without wind in the sails. I was so pleased because I could tell all my hard work studying has really paid off already. I knew what James was talking about the whole time!

Tim while we motor out of the slip

Debbie moving the boom

Main sail and head sail are up

James teaching TIm

I'm checking out the Boat

Spent the day on the Wind Shadow ll

Beautiful!

Vocab Quiz

You might remember those from high school or college, right? Well, I’m back in school, except this time it is for survival. I learn more when I write things down, so I am making flash cards with all the boating terms in alphabetical order. Seems like quite the undertaking, except that I found an awesome site — www.flashcardmachine.com. I actually took a break from transcribing terms to blog, and I am only in the Bs. Long night ahead. I will take some joy, however, in quizzing my husband with these terms when I am done writing them down because I am a nerd at heart.

In other news, we booked a one-way flight to Cabo San Lucas next Saturday! I’m so ready to just get rolling with everything. We, or maybe just I, have been stressing about all the possible ways to get down there and the best way to see boats in both marinas — La Paz and San Carlos — which are on opposite sides of the Sea of Cortez (aka the Gulf of California) where our journey will begin. We have been talking through all the possibilities, but here is what we have decided:

Fly from DFW to Cabo landing at 11:35 a.m. and rent a car. Drive 3 hours to the La Paz marina where our broker, Mike, has set up reservations for us at a lovely B&B. Although, I’m wondering about that because he said it does not serve breakfast, so really it is just a house we will be sharing with other people – oh well. We will look at a handful of boats we have preselected from mazmarine.com and hopefully enjoy the beach a little. Then, we will hop on a puddle-jumper airplane that will take us to San Carlos. We are told it is easy to make reservations on this flight and the prices are always the same. Once in San Carlos, we will see what boats they have there. I am really thinking our boat will be in San Carlos based on what we have looked at and our budget. Hopefully we will make a decision at that point on which one to buy, then we can catch a bus back to Tucson (really cheap) and fly home from there. We are planning to return being sail boat owners, and then all we have to do is learn how to sail it! haha!

We are making strides in that department as well, though. Remember Steve and Sherie? Well, they have had some family emergencies this summer and have not been able to take us out sailing since that day. Sherie, being very thoughtful, set us up with her boat slip neighbors James and Debbie. They race their boat regularly and were pleased to invite us aboard! So, we get to help them race across Joe Pool Lake and back. Hence, the vocabulary! I don’t want to be on the lake racing and have no clue what James is telling me to do.

The Basics

When we initially thought, “Yeah, sailing would be a good idea…” we had no idea what that really meant. After doing a bit of research online and seeing some other people’s blogs, a picture starts to become clearer, but the questions begin to mount. So, we set up dinner with our dear friends who had suggested the idea in the first place. They lived on and off their sail boat for about 10 years, and we figured they would be full of good insight.

They were full of useful information and LOTS of it. Unfortunately, I didn’t really know what they were talking about. They suggested that we get a boat with a “full keel and self-tailing wenches,” among other things. I realized this would be a bigger deal than I originally thought when he was explaining what a keel is by using a tortilla chip and the bottom of his hand. Hum… how committed do we want to be? This was more than just off we go on an adventure — this was learning the ins and outs of traveling on international waters and how to completely maintain and sail a 35 foot boat. Ok, let’s get into overdrive on learning everything we can without spending too much money.

Based on suggestions from two couples we now see as sailing mentors; we ordered books online, subscribed to Cruising World Magazine, follow other sailing blogs, read “How to Sail” on about.com and most importantly – make friends with sailors in our area lakes.

The last item is key because we met new people and got our first hands-on experience with sailing (pictured here). We met Steve and Sherie on Joe Pool Lake while trolling in our motor boat looking for sailor friends. They are such a friendly couple who invited us out for the day. Steve, the Redneck sailor according to the other boat slip owners, was thrilled to teach a couple of young people about his passion. Although, I would recommend learning all the terms you can before setting foot on a sail boat, because nothing is as it seems. No rope is just a “rope” and no sail is just a “sail,” which can be very overwhelming in conversation. Nonetheless, we are determined to follow this through. Each step involves learning something new and meeting new people, and that is the best part!

Tim tries his hand at sailing for the first time.

Q&A with Sailor Steve