Sailboats Belong in the Sea

As it turns out, we had to take care of a few more pressing items before getting in the water. Sailboats are funny like that, as soon as you think you have repaired everything, something else breaks.

After hooking up the new batteries, we noticed our started battery was overcharging. We quickly disconnected it and decided to have someone else look at our wiring and electrical system. Tim and I don’t trust ourselves with electrical problems and boat electrical systems.

Victor is a highly recommended Mexican marine electrician and was able to work on our boat the next day. He spent all day analyzing our system. It was too late for our starter battery, so he installed a new one and our battery switch, which will keep the starter battery separate from our house batteries. It’s often we learn important lessons about our boat when something breaks and we have to figure it out, or in this case hire someone to help us figure it out. We paid close attention to Victor’s work, so we would have a better understanding of how our boat should be wired.

Boat Electrician

Victor, the boat electrician, re-wiring our system.

 

Another issue we had to fix before launching was a broken sea cock — part of the plumbing that goes through the boat to the water. This is key to function properly. We replaced it, did a test start on the engine and declared ourselves ready to splash!

Sea Cock replacement

Tim working on replacing the head sea cock (plumbing).

We were very anxious to get into the water where the boat belongs. It was really a quick process, Tim took the helm and drove about one hour to the La Paz anchorage, while I took the car down into town where we could access it after moving the boat.

It went pretty smoothly until we needed to anchor. Our friend Jasna picked me up in her dinghy and dropped me on our boat to help Tim anchor. We hit a little snag here, as our chain did not want to come out of our Windless anchor wench. With a little more help from Rick and Jasna, we were finally able to drop anchor in La Paz.

Finished anti-fouling paint

We finished a new layer of anti-fouling paint on the boat bottom.

Boat back in the water

Capitan Tim manning the boat as she gets back in the water.

Sailboat splash into the water.

Luckiest back in the water. the Splash went smoothly and Tim motored down the La Paz Channel to anchor.

Life on the water is sooo superior to the boat yard. It’s cooler, less bugs, more beautiful sunsets.

La Paz Baja sunsets

Life on the water is so much better. The Baja sunsets are some of the best we have ever seen.

Sunrise in La Paz, Mexico

Sunrise this morning through our v-berth porthole aka “bedroom window.”

 

We still have a bit of work ahead of us before we head out for a couple of weeks at the islands. Tim discovered a leaky sea water impeller, so we are trying to repair this today. That, plus attaching the sails will be key before heading out. We have never reattached sails, and it has been 1.5 years since we removed them, so it could be interesting.  We think we can do most other items out at the islands.

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Life in a Boat Yard

One week into round two of our Baja adventure, and we are happy it hasn’t been all work.

We left our Denver home and dog with my aunt and drove out Tuesday, Oct. 15, as planned. We got an early start – about 5:30 a.m. – so we could make it to Newport Beach by the end of the day. We crossed through the Eisenhower tunnel as the first snow rolled into the Denver area, making our mountain driving a bit icy, but beautiful as daylight broke.

Colorado roads

Driving through the Rocky Mountains on our way to La Paz, Mexico.

I felt like we were driving through winter into fall as we drove down the Rockies’ western slope. It was really a beautiful scene, and a pretty drive all the way from I-70 to I-15. We drove through mountain and canyons the whole way, periodically stopping to enjoy the view in Utah and Arizona.

Fall and winter mountains

We drove from winter into fall. You can see the snow at the higher altitude fade away.

Utah mountains

We so enjoyed the drive through so many types of mountains from Colorado to California.

Utah Canyon

This beautiful Canyon in Utah made us stop to admire it.

We had to drive through the Las Vegas strip, even though it was the middle of the day because I had never seen it. This put us at our day one destination about 8 p.m. to visit with our (pretty-much professional) sailing friends, David and Katie, who we met at Thanksgiving in La Paz almost 2 years ago.

They are always so welcoming when we crash coming or going from Baja. We delayed our morning start just a bit so we could meet their one-year-old daughter, Emily, putting us on our way about 7:30 a.m.

We crossed the border in Tijuana with no issues and booked it for our typical mid-way stopping point in Guerro Negro.

The mountains in Baja were more beautiful than we remembered because they were so green. the Baja had been getting a lot a rain and very wet season, actually washing out a lot of roads on the only highway that runs the length of the peninsula.

Luckily, in Mexico, they will happily divert traffic off-road.

Sunset in Guerro Negro

We arrived in Guerro Negro just at sunset.

Guerro Negro Hotel

This is the hotel we like to stay at in Guerro Negro. It is on the edge of town, always clean and the people are nice.

Broken Baja Road

The roads washed out just 2 days before we drove through here. Baja has had a very rainy season.

Green Baja Mountains

We really enjoyed how green the mountains were because of all the rain on the lower Baja.

We arrived in La Paz around 6 p.m. Our boat broker, La Paz Yachts was our first stop because we needed to get the key to our boat being stored at a local boat yard – Bercovich. Our second stop was Bercovich to check on the condition on the boat, and our third was dinner with our dear friend, Jasna, from the boat Calypso.

The boat was not in bad shape. She was a little dusty and in need of batteries and bottom paint, but mostly just how we left her. We got to work pretty much right away.

Day 1) Wash down outside and clean inside thoroughly. Remove old batteries, buy new batteries – about $450usd

Day 2) Install new batteries, unpack bags and ready v-berth for sleeping

Day 3) Power wash the boat bottom (we were able to borrow one from our boat neighbor, Pete, who came down from San Francisco to work on his boat too.)

Day 4) Had the boat bottom inspected by a local boat surveyor, Cecil – who did our boat inspection before we bought 2 years ago. He was a boat builder most of his life and will be 89 soon. We bought one gallon of ablative anti-fouling paint nearby for about $180 usd and supplies for painting. We got advice to just do a light sanding on the existing paint, power wash again and paint. So we did.

Day 5) Find cayenne pepper and put inside paint – old sailor trick to keep barnacles away. Had paint shaken again to mix all biocide and cayenne pepper inside. Now, we paint the bottom.

We are hoping to get into the water in a couple of days, in which case we would head straight to the islands to finish up the work on the boat. The boat yard has not been as bad as I thought it would be. I just had to accept that I would be dirty, sweaty and eaten by mosquitos every day. But there is unlimited fresh water and electricity, and we have the best spot in the yard with an ocean sunset view.

La Paz Sunset with boat

We enjoyed the sunset walking the ocean boardwalk in La Paz.

In the boat yard

Our boat “on the hard” in the boat yard.

Dirty boat bottom

Our boat bottom before any cleaning.

Clean the boat

Tim power washing our boat bottom.

Painting boat bottom

TIm painting the boat bottom. We went with a darker blue, and I really like it.

 

 

 

 

Renovation Wrap Up

Our before and after kitchen renovation photos and my aunt is awesome:

With our trip hovering just around the corner (we plan to leave Oct. 15), we have been trying to wrap up projects around the house and with our clients. Tim is finishing up some contracts in Greeley, and I am completing some website content and blog posts for clients.

My aunt has graciously decided to help us while we are traveling by staying at our house and taking care of our dog Daphne while we are gone. This means the looming projects like the kitchen island needed to finally be completed, so she didn’t have to work around them like we have been. Plus, it’s nice to come home to a mostly finished home renovation.

A quick run through on the kitchen island: We had a very in-the-way pantry column in the center of the kitchen. We cut it in half with plans to make an island early on in the renovation, but lost steam before we completed it. We have been living with a cut-in-half-pantry for 6+ months, until recently when we fully completed the entire island.

in the way pantry

Way before: In-the-way pantry when bought the property.

Kitchen Island before

Way Before: The center column pantry right in the middle of the kitchen.

island before

Island before: with the drawer insert and Daphne dog

Island Before

The walls we used to make the island

Kitchen Island After

The completed kitchen island

Here are a few full kitchen before and after shots.

Kitchen Cabinets before

Kitchen before renovation

Kitchen after renovation

Kitchen after renovation

Kitchen before renovation

Kitchen before renovation

Kitchen after renovations

Kitchen after renovations

Kitchen after renovation

Our Kitchen with complete renovation. Notice we added some window trim and shelving.

 

Big News — Back to Mexico

Big news – we are heading back down to La Paz, Mexico!

We knew we needed to get back down and take care of our boat, but we were not sure about when we might be able to actually break away from the life we have been building in the Denver area. Money was also a big factor; as in, will we make enough in a short time to get our boat back in the water?

It turns out, Tim was able to work a hail storm in Greeley, CO, selling new roofs to replace damaged ones. For those of you who didn’t know, Tim grew up in the roofing industry repairing and selling roofs for his parent’s roofing company in DFW. This work has afforded us the possibility of getting back to our boat for some TLC.

Our lovely Cal 35 sailboat has been stored on-the-hard in a boat yard in La Paz for more than a year. We did the typical seasonal shut down checklist, per advice from our sailing friends. This included removing all sails, draining fluids from the engine, tying down everything and protecting what we could from the damaging sun and bugs. This took us about four days to really secure her to be stored. We are anticipated about two weeks to put her back together.

One reason we decided to go back now was to get our beautiful boat looking beautiful again. As I said in a previous post, we have decided to sell our boat. She has been on the market for a few months with a few showings under her belt. But when we left her, we hadn’t intended to put her up for sale, so we know she is not looking up to her potential. Hence, our trip down is two-fold: to have a last hoorah at the islands and to put a bit more work into The Luckiest to get her sale-ready.

We plan to probably pay someone to sand down the previous layers of paint and barnacles and applying a fresh coat of barnacle-resisant paint to her underside – the anti fouling process. This also increases sailing speed, which is important when every knot counts. We will clean her up and get her sails back on, etc. Her house batteries are also ready to be replaced, so we are adding that in, too. All this, we do in hopes of selling her as this years sailing season approaches.

It saddens me to think about selling her, because she is a perfect cruising boat. But the truth is, we have to find a better balance of a traditional American lifestyle and one of travelers. It is a very hard balance to strike, and we thought we could do it by living on our boat for six months and in our small townhome for six months (sailors call it “six on, six off”). This plan isn’t really working for us because we have to work more throughout the year than say a retired person to keep ourselves afloat. We have tried to keep a minimalist lifestyle in the states with a small monthly budget to keep ourselves free of as many strings as possible.

Because travel is a high priority for us, we still plan to set ourselves up for lots of it. More realistically than six months out of the year, we will have two to three months for travel yearly. This will take time and financial legwork, but we will get there. We love the sailing lifestyle and community – having made some dear friends in the Sea of Cortez. It’s likely that we will come back for more, just not on our own boat. Crewing on other’s boats is a big part of the sailing community, and we certainly would like to see more of the world via sailboat.

For those of you who are interested, or might know of someone in the market for a Cal 35 with added sugar scoop, please share this listing info and blog post.

Current Price: US$ 35,000

Yacht World Number: 2614835
Located in La Paz, BCS, Mexico
Year: 1974
Hull Material: Fiberglass
As stated in the brochure, the ingenious and unique touches that Bill Lapworth has designed into the Cal 35 set her apart from other world cruisers, coming close to a perfect cruising yacht. Whether you’re anchored off La Paz in the Sea of Cortez or running downhill across the Pacific to Tahiti, you’ll live in style and comfort aboard the Cal 35. The interior finish is as practical as it is luxurious, beautifully designed with rich Burmese teak. With a full 6 foot 6 inch head room and a 7 foot long double berth, this is a great boat for tall people! The raised dinette allows you to view the scenery while dining below. The long water line, sleek hull lines and large 546 square feet of sail area give her great speed. And she’s easy to handle. The big modern spade rudder offers greater maneuverability and easier wheel steering control. The comfortable cockpit has benches long enough for sleeping outside as well. All mechanical and electrical equipment is easy to get at. Making repair and engine maintenance a cinch on the Perkins diesel and its fuel supply give you an 800-mile cruising range on power alone at 7 1/2 knots. This is an excellent cruising yacht!

Cal 35 cruising boat under sail

Sailing from Isla Danzante to Puerto Ballendra at Isla Carmen. We sailed all the way there with fairly steady wind and good speed.

Cal 35 Salon

Our main living space with Galley to the right and dining area to the left.

Cal 35 V berth and head

A peek into the v berth and head.

Sailing sunsets in Sea of Cortez

The amazing sunset from the south beach at Agua Verde. We saw some of the greatest sunsets ever.

A view of our boat at the beginning of our long hike across Isla Carmen.

A view of our boat at the beginning of our long hike across Isla Carmen.

Farewell For Now

We had a very busy past couple weeks, getting out of the Marina and then participating in BayFest – an annual party the cruisers in La Paz put on – and now we are finally ready to go.

The stress was really building for us while we were in the marina and we really considered putting the boat on the hard and heading back to the states early. Then we backed off and realized we really just need to be having fun. So we decided that we would wrap up everything that completely had to happen and get out of the marina and then La Paz, but put no stipulations on ourselves. We are going to go as far north as we can or want to and then come back to La Paz to pull the boat out of the water.

During the BayFest we entered a raffle to get 50% off our haul out ($350 usd) and a new bottom painting at a boat yard here – and we won! We really are the Luckiest. To take advantage of that, we are coming back to La Paz in Mid-May and driving out the Baja to California.

I’m not sure if I have mentioned this, but we made a friend and fellow cruiser here who owns a restaurant and small marina on Shaver Lake in California. He has offered us a couple of summer jobs from June through August. Tim will be working on the dock with boats and wake board lessons while I tough it out serving at the dinner house. Except for during the month of July, which I will be spending with my sister who is due to have her third baby on July 14. We are very close and I fully intend to be there before during and after her new baby arrives. We are excited to get up to the mountains and lake setting, and to make some money!

We have been spending a lot lately working on the boat and really readying ourselves to go. It will be nice (and necessary) to replenish the “cruising kitty” as they call it. I have no idea why. We have also been enjoying our friends more, especially at BayFest. We played in sand volleyball tournament, blindfolded dingy race (2nd place) and costume contest (also 2nd place). It was all really fun. We said goodbye on Sunday to some friends who are crossing the Pacific. We might meet up with them again on their side of the world.

As the cruising season begins to close everyone is talking about their summer plans and when they might come back next year. It is a joy to say we are not quite sure where w will be come September.

It’s just a quick update this time, and I will try to keep it up as we head north and internet will become harder to find.

Happy Anniversary, I think

One of the questions I get most often about life on a boat is, “How can you stand each other that often in such a small space?” The answer is, we don’t.

We get fed up with one another and argue over stupid things. We even storm off and go outside to the cockpit. I think this behavior, although not preferred, is common among the first year of marriage as you both find your places in the relationship and your roles as husband and wife. I also think that our situation of spending nearly 24-hours a day together and overcoming new and constant challenges compounds this process a little bit. I like to think we are learning so much about each other that we are like a couple who has been married more than one year… maybe three. We have amazing days often, but I wanted to point out that we are still learning so much about sailing, living aboard and each other, that we often find ourselves stressed.

It is hard to believe one year has gone by since our wedding, but then I sit back and look at all the things that we have done and what has changed since then, and I am amazed. It makes me think that Tim and I can accomplish anything we set out to do. We will be able to take on the whole world, and fully intend to. Not necessarily in our boat, but certainly in some fashion.

Right now we have found ourselves in Marina de La Paz working on what we thought would be a few quick projects before we headed north into the sea. We have made good progress over the last few days polishing the stainless steel, replacing a faulty fuel injector, repairing our dinghy outboard motor and giving everything a good wash down. We also discovered a leak in our starboard fresh water tank and bought a new dinghy. Trade the good with the bad.

We don’t know how much longer this will keep us here in La Paz, so I am beginning to wonder if we will ever go north this year. Perhaps traveling north will have to wait until next season. This is so common among sailors here. Many people come to La Paz with intentions to only stay one or two months and soon they have spent a year here.

I am not really complaining about being in La Paz; it is comfortable and easy and beautiful, but it was not the intention to move to La Paz. The weather has warmed up quite a bit here in the past couple weeks to hit 90. It is nice to wear vacation clothes, but it does get hot working on the boat in the marina. I have tried to set a deadline for leaving La Paz – April 8 – my birthday and Easter this year. I have no idea if this will actually happen, but a girl can dream.

In the mean time we have been really enjoying our friends here while we can. Our friends from Texas came to visit – Torie and Andrew. We took them to the islands and showed them everything we could. We had one pretty bad rolling night, but otherwise it was very enjoyable. We have been soaking up our La Paz friends, too. Everyone has their plans and deadlines to leave, but we all still find ourselves here in sunny La Paz.

For our first anniversary Tim and I celebrated by having a delicious breakfast out in town where we discovered the best jam ever. It is papaya and pineapple and we bought a large amount to-go. We had an argument in the afternoon over something silly and made up in the evening. We took our dessert wine from Napa Valley that we have been saving for more than a year to the beach and had a glass while we looked at the stars. It was perfect – not story book perfect, but real life perfect.

Jasna selling goods at the swap meet in La Paz. The boaters organize a swap meet once a month.

Torie and Andrew checking out the view from the bow.

Torie and Me doing a little sunbathing in Caleta Partida.

One of the best sunsets yet.

Out with Rick and Jasna.

We had an anniversary breakfast where we discover the best jam ever.

Tim opening our wine with the help of his trusty headlamp.

Delicious wine on the beach

Happy Anniversary ; )

Me polishing all the stainless steel.

 

Setting Sail Tomorrow

And not today because you never leave on a trip on a Friday in the sailing community. Today we learned a lot, some good things, some bad things. But I suppose learning is always good.

Tim and I went into town to get a few more items before we take off including some gasoline and oil to use our Honda generator, a few more food items, drinking water and some money.

Gary stayed behind on the boat to run the engine to repower up our batteries, which unfortunately took longer than we expected. Gary was able to track the progress on the charging cycle, so when we got back we had an amp hours lesson. We have to be very careful not to overuse our batteries. We will likely be a couple of power hogs onboard, but as long as we balance our usage out, it should be OK.

We also talked about maintaining the bottom of the boat. We will likely need to get some sort of diving gear, something simple and cheap if we can. That way Tim can go down and scrape the barnacles off the bottom of the boat and clean the rotor and propeller. It’s quite a job that will take several days once a month. Gary also said if Tim doesn’t mind that work, he could easily charge other cruisers a dollar a foot (our boat would be $35) for the service on their boat. It could give us a few more “cruising chips” here and there.

Some other things we learned were not so fun. Since we have been sitting here on a mooring at this little marina in Puerto Escandido we have been using up water and power, etc. We decided to fill up our water tanks and our “jerry cans” with diesel before we take off. We sat at the dock filling our water tanks. We notice it seems to be taking a long time to fill up our port side tank. We begin to wonder how big it really is and joke about it filling our boat. Tim gets down inside the boat and starts looking and listening for leaks inside. And there it was. Filling up our bilge, the lower belly of the boat. That is what the bilge is for – catching leaks, but we were just pouring water into it. So we found out two VERY important things from this: our water tank has a pretty big leak, and our automatic bilge pump to remove the water, doesn’t work. Interesting. Well the pump does work if you turn it on, but not automatically if there is a leak. This will have to be fixed immediately when we get to La Paz, and based on the amount of water we were using on board, I would say we will want to fix our water tank too. What is that saying… BOAT stands for Break Out Another Thousand. Yup, we are experiencing a bit of that. But we are very happy to have figured these problems out right away, especially while Gary is on board to tell us what to do.

I can’t imagine ever trying to start this life at sea with no help or guidance. You would have to have a captain Ron or ease into the whole idea for years, which I suppose is the more practical way of going about this.

To Do Lists

I often start my day or my week with a very detailed to do list to keep myself organized and focused on my tasks and goals at hand. With this new adventure, I don’t even know where to begin. I will make a list and then add to it and then re-categorize the items on it, all the while it seems like very little of the items are getting done and new items are being added. Talk about overwhelmed. We just stop, take a deep breath and remind ourselves why we are enduring this bit of stress now. For the chance of escaping the stress of a lifetime. For slowing down our internal clock. For learning new skills that can take us wherever we want to go.

My lists include how to wrap up our lives here, what gear to buy for safety, lifestyle gear like clothing and snorkels and stuff just for fun. We are packing up enough of our stuff to live in an apartment or small house when we get back — putting it all in a climate controlled storage unit. The rest of the stuff we are selling. Then there is all the services we have to cut off, too: phones, tv, Internet etc. Takes up a lot of time waiting on hold.

From there we will be more free, but we certainly have a growing list of items to pick up before we go back to Mexico. This becomes increasingly difficult when you still have to research what it is you are adding to the list, the best type and the best price for each item. So we have our work cut out for us!

Just to give you an idea, here is some of the items:
small metric voltage meter
Honda 2000 generator
Oil change pump
Charts for Mexico
Cruising guide
Bosuns chair – to climb the mast
Battery switch
Watertight toolbox
Waterproof camera
EPIRB locator

I realize you may not care about the items listed here, but I just wanted to show you a snapshot of my brain. Haha! Either way, we are getting into cram time and are really have to begin to chip away at this stuff.

We went to West Marine today and looked at all the items they carry and the prices, specifically on things that we know we already have on our boat and things we need long term. It really brought in perspective how much money we saved by buying a very equipped boat.

We bought a few things and left feeling a little better for now.

We are Back

So after three days of traveling back from the Baja, we are happy to be home, but a bit overwhelmed. We got in on Sunday afternoon and have been busy since then. We have so much to do before we can head back down to live on our boat! There are certain things that are easier to get in the states than elsewhere, like charts of the areas we will discover and plastic baggies (yes, they do not sell baggies in Mexico, weird, huh?*) and a generator and all this other miscellaneous stuff. Thankfully, we have several experienced sailors and livaboards that we now know who are sending us lots of information that will be helpful along the way.

In the mean time, we are speeding up right now, so we can slow down in the long run. We have so much to sell and box up and still work to do and gear to get. We are also trying to see as much of our friends and family while we are still here, so we have to factor in time for entertaining and eating out. We haven’t decided our exact plan of action when we return to the boat because we will have to drive down a lot of items in the car. We want to leave our car on the mainland side of Mexico because it will be easier to get back and forth from the States over there, but our boat rests in a tiny port on the Baja side. Decisions, decisions… We do know, however, that we will be heading down to live in the Sea of Cortez before October 27, 2011. Yup! All of this has just worked out magically. The previous owner of the boat wants to meet us and tell us everything about the tricks and quirks to running her properly and he is leaving the country on October 28.

I also wanted to note that traveling to and from and all around the Baja peninsula was not scary. The biggest question we got about this trip was “Is it safe?” We were told not to drive at night for safety. I thought that was because of the Cartel, but as it turns out, it was really because there are a lot of cows and horses on the roads. Haha! I realize the drug Cartel down there is getting a lot of media in the U.S., but there is a lot more going on than drugs in Mexico. It is a beautiful country with nice people and wonderful family traditions. People still live and love and dream and grow up and succeed in Mexico just like they do here. I’m not saying there isn’t a problem that needs resolving, but I am saying that there is a lot more than that.  There are scary parts of the U.S., too — places others wouldn’t venture to go on vacation or at night. It is the same for Mexico… it’s not the whole country.

Below are some pictures from the days we spent traveling back home. We took a tiny plane from Loreto to Guaymas. Stayed a night there, then took a bus for 11 hours (including stops) to Tucson, AZ. When we arrived to our hotel, the power was out because of a violent storm that had just passed through. We walked 2 blocks away and found one with power. We stayed there and caught our flight at 5:15 am to Houston, the home to DFW!

*Correction – they have baggies in Mexico, but not the common-up-here medium size.

Waiting to board our tiny plane in Loreto Airport

Now that's a puddle jumper!

Me and the Pilot

Stunning views from the plane

The bus was roomy and you could lay down - not a chicken bus ; )

In line to cross the border

We arrived to a crazy storm in Arizona. Can you see the leaning power lines in the background?