Wednesday, May 12, 2010

On the hard

The time came to pull Southern Cross out of the water and move her to dry storage. Of course, the wind was blowing like stink, so it was a bit nerve-wracking getting the boat out of the slip and maneuvering her to the launch ramp. But that turned out to be the easy part!

To move boats out of the water, Marina Seca uses huge trailers with hydraulic braces positioned via radio control. Something in the trailer malfunctioned as they were attempting to load our boat, and for a time, it looked as if we would be stuck at the ramp. But they were able to fix it, and we soon found ourselves rolling down the road from the harbor to the dry storage area.

We spent another 2 days in the work yard, finishing our de-commissioning projects, which included removal of a couple of thru-hull fittings. We had planned to remove just a single valve fitting, to serve as a drain in case torrential rains filled the boat with water (as happened to a number of boats last season). But our thru-hulls are plastic, and so we decided to pull those too and replace them with more durable bronze ones.

The final move was from the work yard to the storage yard, where Southern Cross was placed between "hurricane posts" (big pipes sunk deeply in the ground) to keep her from being blown over by hurricane-force winds, should they come. We're in the middle of a long line of boats, so we feel like the boat is in a pretty safe place. But with all of the weird weather we've seen this year, we're taking nothing for granted.

We do feel a lot of trust in this facility, and we've really enjoyed our interactions with the people working here.

So that's the end of the voyage for now. We're spending our first night on the hard in a little posada near the marina. Tomorrow we'll head for Guaymas, spend one more night in a motel, and catch an early morning bus for Phoenix.

Monday, May 10, 2010

San Carlos, Sonora

We had been dreading our last stop of the trip, knowing how much work it would be to decommission Southern Cross and put her in dry storage. We allowed ourselves 4 full days to prepare the boat for haulout, so we could think through every step and wouldn't feel rushed.
We have been surprised at how nice San Carlos is! The marina is situated in a beautiful bay, surrounded by colorful mountains. The area reminds us a bit of Sedona, AZ. The marina and dry storage staff have been helpful, and we have met a lot of friendly boaters. Local vendors have come by every day offering lobster, scallops, fresh orange juice and produce, so we are really eating well!
The work has gone smoothly: stripping sails, lines, canvas and other items from above decks, rinsing it, and stowing it below; cleaning every locker and sprinkling in boric acid to discourage insects; flushing tanks, changing engine oil, topping off battery water, the list is pretty long. The marina staff have helpfully posted a checklist.
Later today we haul the boat out, and move ashore for the first time since last October. You might think we would be eager to move into more spacious quarters, but actually we are kinda sad at the prospect. Our boat has been a comfortable home, and we will really miss her!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Looking back, looking forward

(thanks to David Simone for this professional-quality photo)

Sitting here in the marina in Santa Rosalía for the past few days, we have been busily preparing our boat to be hauled out for hurricane season. We've cleaned and repaired things we won't be using until next fall, and separated out things we want to take home, and things we don't want to keep. Some we'll give to locals, some we'll try to sell to other cruisers (and then give to locals if we don't sell them).


We've also had time to reflect on the past 9 months of cruising. What a great ride it's been! The biggest success is being able to live together 24/7 in such a small space. That would be a non-starter for many! While we don't always get along, we have done great overall.

Southern Cross has also done well, with very few breakages or failures. It has been a comfortable home, and fun to sail. We often see other boats that we think we would like better, but every boat has its trade-offs. For us, the biggest consideration is the high cost of changing boats, in terms of selling this one, seeking a new one, outfitting it, and learning how to operate and maintain it properly. Unless we decide to cruise full-time (or someone offers us a lot of money), we will probably keep this boat for the foreseeable future.

Although the destination was Mexico, we enjoyed the voyage down the OR and CA coasts just as much, and sometimes more. We are very glad we got to explore so many places along the way, and wish it wasn't so hard to get the boat back to Oregon, because we would love to start over and visit them all again.

Mexico has been a much, much better destination than we had thought. We never believed any of the sensational negative press in the US (my mother keeps asking if we have seen any pirates), because we have traveled here before. Still, we have been blown away by the generosity and warmth of the Mexican people. Talk about "family values": in Mexico people spend most of their time and energy on the other people in their lives, not on accumulating an endless string of possessions. And gringos are welcomed into the fold to whatever degree you want to participate. You don't need to speak fluent Spanish; most Mexicans are delighted by any effort you make.

Several things have improved here dramatically in the past few years: hygiene, telecommunications, and availability of consumer goods. Neither of us has been sick this year (knock wood); we can easily get email, manage finances, and telephone loved ones; and there are very few things that we can't find in stores down here.

We have made a lot of new friends among the cruising community. We have met people who are very different from us, who we probably never would have met on land. We have learned a lot from them, and we have enjoyed sharing experiences in the water and on the shore. We have tried to help others when we can, and we have received a lot of help ourselves. As with many activities, there is a strong sense of community among cruisers.


We are very much looking forward to seeing friends, family, and home. We both feel that, so far at least, we don't want to be full-time cruisers. We still have too many roots connecting us to Oregon.

We want to resume sailing life sometime next fall. Since we are leaving the boat in Mexico, we will be spending at least part of next season here. There is plenty more to see, and many cruisers never get beyond Mexico. We have discussed at length the advantages of retiring here, including excellent and inexpensive medical care. But (most of the time) we think we want to move on and explore other places. After all, that's what drew us to sailing in the first place: seeing new places, having new experiences. And unlike many cruisers, we are already familiar with Mexico from earlier travels here.

The more difficult decision is where to go. For my part, I have always been most drawn to the South Pacific, and to a lesser extent, Southeast Asia. We met many cruisers this past year who have already crossed to the Marquesas. But we both have questions about that route: is the boat good enough? Are we good enough? Will we enjoy being on the boat for long passages? How much will it cost? How long will we be gone? How will we get the boat back? In many ways, a Pacific crossing requires much more preparation and commitment than the coastal cruising we have done so far.

Vicki is more interested in going through the Panama Canal and entering the Caribbean. We know, from dive trips, sea kayak voyages, and sailing trips on our friends' boat, that the snorkeling and diving is better than here, and tradewinds make for more reliable sailing. Also, there are places to leave the boat, and we can return home almost as cheaply as from Mexico. But the Caribbean is way more crowded, and way more expensive. Plus, we have been there a lot, so it will not seem like a new experience. But we do like the idea of eventually heading up the eastern coast of the US and Canada, which would be mostly new to us.

So we still don't really know where we'll go from here. But we do hope to continue the voyage!

Now is all the time we own
For no one has the power
To know when their clock of life will stop
At late or early hour
The future is just a dream of hope
The past a distant link
Go cruising now, my brother
It's later than you think
(found at the San Juanico "Cruiser's Shrine")

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Santa Rosalía

We had a nice sail north from Bahia Concepcíon, and stopped for the night at Punta Chivato. There is a nice shell beach, and a beautiful hotel where we stopped for a beer after our beach walk. Unfortunately, we didn't get any pictures. There was a lot of wraparound swell from the easterly wind, and it was a pretty rough anchorage until bedtime.

We are now buddy-boating with two boats: Windward, a Norseman 447, and Ithaki, an Island Packet 50.
Winds were favorable as we left the next morning; in fact, this was the only time on the whole trip where I sailed onto the anchor, and off again, without starting the engine.

We flew the spinnaker for awhile, but unfortunately the wind died and we were soon motoring into the Craig Channel, between the Baja peninsula and Isla San Marcos far behind our two larger buddy boats. Anastasia (on Ithaki) radioed that wind had jumped from 5 to 20 knots as soon as they cleared the island. Assuming it might build even higher, we dropped the main, and fell even further behind the larger boats, both of whom continued to motorsail under reefed mains. The wind never got above 30, and soon we were tied up at the Singlar (government-run) marina in the small harbor at Santa Rosalía. We were surprised to find ourselves moored next to Cetus, whom we had not seen since last August in Fort Bragg.

Santa Rosalía will be our last stop before crossing the Sea to the mainland and putting the boat in dry storage at San Carlos over the summer hurricane season.

Its an interesting place to spend a few days. There is an old, disused copper mine and smelter,

a unique, prefabricated metal church reputedly designed by Gustave Eiffel,

and a number of other reminders of the French mining company that built much of the town.

This last picture has nothing to do with Santa Rosalía; you can find it just about anywhere down here. This is a typical Mexican speed bump, or "tope." Very effective at slowing down cars and making it easier for us pedestrians to cross the street!