We are in Puerto Vallarta at the new La Cruz marina.
Yesterday morning I discovered something which caught me by surprise. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t already known about these, but I listened for the first time to a “Cruiser Net”. I have noticed several people ending their VHF radio transmissions by saying “Standing by on Channel 22.” I’ve never heard of any special significance to Channel 22, so I decided to start monitoring it to see what the attraction was. At first, all I heard was various boaters calling each other. Until…. Yesterday morning at 7:30am, when Channel 22 suddenly became something more akin to a radio show than a calling channel. There was a moderator “Don” who was firmly in control. He described it as the Bandera Bay Cruiser Net, and starting taking roll call. Over 50 boats responded! He then asked for new boats, and another 10 or so boats, stated their names, followed by his asking about boats that were departing. I still had no idea what this was, so I kept silent. He then asked who had “reports” to give, and a long series started of various boaters pitching in stories that would be of interest to the boating community. There were discussions of immigration issues, announcements of boating-oriented meetings being held around town, invites to social events, comments on boating stores in the community. This was followed by a weather update, a question/answer session, a “swap meet”, and more. I’m sometimes a slow learner, but it eventually occurred to me that this was something that was open to all cruising boats in the area, and a very valuable resource. Apparently most heavy boating regions have something similar, and it is just a matter of asking around to find what local “net” there is (what time, what channel). Very cool! How did I not know about these?
During the broadcast I overheard David Schramm from the Nordhavn Jenny asking where there was a good boat store in the area. I found it amusing. Did he not know we were in Mexico? However to my complete surprise someone responded saying there was a huge marine store (Zaragoza) on the highway near Marina Vallarta. Thus, after the “net” ended I hiked over to David’s boat, and said “I have a rental car. If you are going to a marine store, I can drive.” Few people are more popular in a marina than someone with a car, or someone with a dive compressor, so to no surprise we attracted a full carload of boaters within minutes. And, as claimed, it was a great store! We shopped for an hour, and returned with smiles and full shopping bags.
Back at the boat, we had a full crew working on cleaning. “Jose” was recommended to me by Nordhavn owner Richard Maybin as “possibly the best boat cleaner in the world.” With a recommendation like that, I had to give him a try. He and his two helpers worked on my boat for two full days. I couldn’t believe how hard they worked. The tab: $100.
For lunch, I decided to hike into town with Roberta’s parents to try out a little restaurant, Philo’s, which I had heard recommended. I have to describe what I saw when I entered the restaurant, as it struck me funny. The restaurant, like most here in Mexico, is semi-outdoors – minimal walls and tables under a big palapa. The tables are long picnic benches aligned evenly with bright colored table cloths. Sitting at the tables were perhaps a dozen persons, most of whom could easily be identified as “boaters.” I had to grin, because they weren’t sitting in “groups, ” nor were they sitting facing each other. In fact, they all were facing the same direction (the bar). Each of these persons had a laptop in front of them, and was wearing a headset. Most were talking loudly to an invisible friend. At first I thought I had stumbled into the call center for some South American telemarketing firm. But the “weathered” appearance of the salespeople, told me there was something I was missing. Then I put it together. This was a restaurant with good internet, and a welcoming attitude to boaters! Most of the boats in the marina do not have access to wifi, so these folk were gathering at the restaurant to “surf and skype”. I hadn’t realized Skype had become quite so popular amongst boaters. It allows you to make phone calls virtually anywhere for almost no cost. Calls in mexico to the US can easily be a $1 a minute, or much more. Thus, using the computer as a fancy telephone is a very good idea. We had a very nice lunch, and when a new arrival to the restaurant couldn’t get his wireless working, I participated, along with a team of other boaters, in resolving his problem. A very nice way to spend the afternoon….
In my last update, I mentioned a mystery, that has now been resolved. There had been a Nordhavn 76 next to us “Spirit of Ulysses” which left the marina headed south several days ago. However, he (Richard) left behind his tender! I had been expecting a call from him saying “Have you seen my tender?” But, instead when I spoke with him he gave me “the rest of the story.” He took delivery of his boat this summer and configured it with two inflatable tenders; both are high quality expensive tenders. After having used the boat for a while, he has discovered that what he really needs is a tender that can be easily “beached”. I’ve had this same problem. The tenders I have aren’t really designed to be beached. They are too heavy to be dragged across the sand. Richard had made the decision to “swap” his tender for something simpler and lighter. I may consider doing the same….
I’ve started doing the trip planning for our next run south. Our next major destination is the resort known as “Barra”. Everyone has told me this will be our favorite stop on the trip, and we’re excited about getting there. Barra is approximately 150 miles south of here, which means a 15 to 20 hour run. For safety reasons, it is critical to arrive in the daylight, so I’m thinking about how to break up the trip. There is an anchorage 50 miles south of here, Ipala, but the word is that it is very borderline (a skinny bay, open to swell, and with lots of fishing nets). There is another at 100 miles, Chamela, which is alleged to be great (wide, good holding, sheltered). Our working plan is to go to anchor just in front of our existing marina, on Sunday night, and then leave in the dark (at 2am) for a 2pm arrival at Chamela. This has us departing in the dark, but a night-time departure from anchorage is much less challenging than a night arrival.
That said, I received this email from weather router Bob Jones earlier today:
“Good Day Ken, right now the pattern looks good, but there is some concern for the 29th-31st that could give you a bumpy ride “at best”. We have some time, so I’ll look at the new data set that comes in here around midday. I should have the update to you by around 1500EST (2000GMT). B/Rgds, Bob/OMNI”
It will be sad to leave here. There’s a lot we haven’t done. For instance, we still haven’t visited the city of Puerto Vallarta. We consider Puerto Vallarta itself “optional.” This is off the subject, and has nothing to do with boating, but when I was with the other boats on the Fubar rally (San Diego to Cabo), I would occasionally encourage people to visit Cabo, and not just skip by it on their way to La Paz. Several Fubar boaters, who don’t realize we live in Cabo, would turn turn up their nose, and say “No way – it’s a horrible place!” I do understand what they mean, but there is more to the story. The downtown area in many popular tourist destinations have been taken over by tee-shirt shops, loud bars, annoying timeshare sales people, discos, and even strip clubs. Trust me, Cabo is a wonderful place, but sometimes the charm isn’t immediately obvious. Thousands (over 5,000) Americans and Canadians live in the cabo area. There are beautiful homes, spectacular golf courses, white sand beaches and world-class restaurants. The weather is perfect, and health care is surprisingly inexpensive and good. I would argue that an arriving boater who spends an evening at the “Giggling Marlin” and then thinks he or she has seen Cabo, is missing the true story. I don’t know that I would argue that the ex-pat (gringo) communities surrounding Cabo represent “real mexico”, but they do represent wonderful places to visit. Any visit to Cabo should include Todos Santos and San Jose Del Cabo. Puerto Vallarta is also a popular retirement community. There are thousands of gringos living here, and most aren’t found downtown. Many are here in La Cruz and neighboring Bucerias. Visitors will notice that the restaurants are generally better and less touristy.
My other project has been trying to form a strategy for running the coast of Guatemala and Nicaragua. I have spoken with boaters who say these are wonderful “not to miss” places, and those who say “stay 60 miles off shore to avoid drug runners and pirates.” I have a month to make the decision, so I’m just reading, talking and thinking.
I should correct something I said in my last update. I mentioned speaking with another boater who, like us, was headed towards the Panama Canal. I misspoke. We are headed towards the canal, but NOT through the canal. We will come very close but stop our trip south at Golfito in Costa Rica. Because of hurricane season, most of the boats around us are at a decision point. They will either start working their way back north, head south through the panama canal, put their boat into some hurricane hole (a VERY well protected marina), or “on the hard” (dry dock). We are quite unusual in that we are heading almost to the canal, but not going through. Instead we will put the boat onto a freighter, for shipment back to Alaska, where we are cruising with a group of other Nordhavn owners this coming summer.
Lastly, following are some pictures I took, followed by some excerpts from some of the emails I’ve received the past few days. As always, please note: I welcome email, but DO NOT send me big files. Email here is slow and often expensive. Receiving 2 megabyte files is a real problem.
Sans Souci Nordhavn68.com
Excerpts from my EMAIL (my comments, if any, preceded by ***) [NOTE – if you email me, and don’t want me to share your comments with others, make sure you say so! Also, I replaced the boat names with ***** in the messages that follow, to provide some privacy to those who emailed]
What a thrill to get this note, the first of your journey! Your tale of dealing with the temperature problems with the shafts was great, and certainly something I can relate to. As in . . . I “know” what has to be done, but “then what???” Hans and I talked this evening after sharing this (I “subscribe” and then forward your updates to him). We have a couple of things that we’ve done, or will do as necessary, to “broadcast” communication around the boat. The most primitive is that we have these ancient (three years old) walkie-talkie radios, and we NEVER go up to the upper helm, or down to the lower helm without having a unit in both places. It’s the first thing we do after turning on the engines . . . get a unit at both stations. We could have a third unit in the engine room except our engine room is so small, where would you put it . . . .?:-D When we move from one steering station to the other we “call in” . . . “I’m down,” or “I’m up.” And we can talk with each other in a very awkward way (“Press to Talk”) but at least there’s a link. The other thing we have is the headset, which I think some people have actually gotten from Toys ‘R Us, believe it or not, where we can talk without pushing buttons, and it’s hands free, noise cancelling, and you feel like the other person is standing at your shoulder muttering in your ear. I’m thinking that this experience proves that there’s got to be a way of keeping communication alive throughout the boat, real time. With all the technology available to you, we’ll be VERY interested to hear what happens next!
*** Roberta and I use the TD 900 “walkie talkies” by Eartec. They are full-duplex, meaning that we can always talk to each other, and hear each other, without having to push buttons. They don’t work for engine room checks (too much background noise), but are great otherwise. We mostly use them for docking.
I read your blog and thanks for that. I wanted to give you a heads up on your stuffing box. When they build the boat they put a black sealer everywhere. Even places they should not such as the stuffing box. On my boat the stuffing box was getting hot and I loosened the plate. Then after about four months the black sealer wore away and I was getting lots of water coming in. The rule of thumb is it should drip once every three seconds when your are just sitting and once a second when you are running. You will never get this exact but it is a good rule of thumb. Temperture is a better guide anyway. Just take note that you may have that black sealer like I did. Take notice.
just read your last BLOG and found your comments about the use of the IR temperature gun interesting. Just before leaving on the FUBAR rally I purchased one from Sears and used it during each and every engine check. I created a check sheet for items that I wanted to gather temperature information for. By writing them down I was able to see trends between engine checks and thus give me early warnings. I checked things like the exhaust manifold, the stuffing boxes, the alternators (that’s another story that you might find interesting), the stabilizer units, etc. If nothing else it forced me to do a more thorough engine check than just a visual for leaky fluids, changes in hydraulic pressure, voltages or unfamiliar smells or orders.
Yesterday (Friday) my wife and I took a bus from Marina Vallarta (where we have had our boat for the last 4 weeks.) to La Cruz and found it to be very charming as you said but really secluded. Oh, about checking in the various Port Captains. Judy and I have made it a practice to check in and out of each Marina. In most cases the marina harbor master handled the necessary paper work for us. Here in Marina Vallarta we checked in with the Port Captain by VHF Radio, however, because our crew list will be changing we have to go through the formal process of redoing our papers. We do it at the Marina office with the help of a man known as “the paper man”. We are leaving next Thursday and heading down to Bara de Navidad and hope to be there by Feb 5th.
When you talk about you and Roberta being down in the engine room I somehow get an image of Humphrey Bogart and Kathrine Hepburn working on the engine of the African Queen. Please tell me that you didn’t have grease all over your face. I am glad to hear that all is going well.
Your infrared thermometer gun is quite creative. For your consideration, I have used PSS dripless shaft seals on my last two boats. We also have them on ****** with some 11,000 trouble free miles.
We carry AAA Auto Club tour guides and maps when cruising. Even to British Columbia. Makes shore life much more friendly.
My wife and I will return to ******* in Barra on Feb 12. Schedules willing, we look forward to the opportunity to at least say hello.
Okay, so here we are, freezing our buns off, and there you are sunning, and mooning your way down the coast. Thanks for the time you put into the reports, they brighten up the frigid Washington mornings.
*** Mooning? Well .. .kind of. We have cameras in the engine room, so that Roberta can watch me do engine room checks while she is driving the boat. I’ve heard that the view has been somewhat “interesting” from time to time as I crawl around the engine room…. Got to remember those cameras!
We have used the ”*******” Defense…
Remove all railing from the swim platform before you leave. (We leave them in the Cockpit)
When a foreign (strike that) when anyone wants to board Tell everyone to hold on!
Place all drinks in the sink.
Have everyone go to the cockpit.
Turn broadside to the waves.
Throttle back to zero
Place the engines in neutral…
When they tell you to stop making the boat roll tell them you are not god you cannot!
Do not power up until they leave…
It worked for us…
Also there is *******’s fake radio call trick…
Or the sail boater next to us in Panama that shot 3 boarders (however only 2 bodies we found) in Jamaica They said the Jamaican Police were very nice, not problems!
Or the ******** a Nordhavn 46 approach that ignored the bullets that were shot in front of it buy the local police in Nicaragua….
When you get good wifi call me on Skype to discuss more about protection…