Friday, March 21, 2014

Let the Saga of Mexico Begin

 The "Red Eye Express" Lands in Guadalajara at Sunrise!
Loading for La Paz!
Flying High over the Sea!

   With plenty of time to spare we arrived at the airport and flew off on the "Red Eye Express" carrying more than 180 pounds of boat parts and "necessities" for Mexico.   Landing in Guadalajara, we were blessed with the green light and our bags were not searched going through customs, thus dodging a time consuming fiasco. Rechecking our luggage, an agent asked if we would like to check MY carry on for the short flight to La Paz.   We Agreed, as we had so much to manage inside the small plane.  After landing in La Paz, we watched with amusement a customs dog walking along the conveyor belt sniffing the luggage piece by piece until there were no more bags.   Wait ... MY bag is not here!   It literally contains every piece of clothing that I brought for our 4 month trip!   Immediately, we inform an agent of the missing bag and are ushered right past customs, again getting a pass on search and also dodging the possibility of duties owed on our boat parts.   We leave sadly minus one very important bag...MY BAG!   Later that day, we learned the bag had taken a trip to Tijuana and would arrive the next day.  

   We arrived in La Paz in perfect timing for the Carnival, Mexico's version of the Mardi Gras celebration.    Tired as we where, we walked from our hotel to the Malecon two times, once to eat and again to take in the Carnival while we waited for news regarding my missing luggage.  It truly was the biggest Carnival I've ever seen.   We had hoped for a cab ride back, but there was not a working cab to be found .  Still suffering from lack of sleep, we walked like zombies all the way back to our room again!   We figured we had walked between 10 and 15 miles after flying all night with no sleep. Thankfully, the bag with ALL  my clothes arrived the following day as promised and my happiness and sanity was salvaged!

Carnival at La Paz Malecon

Poke-a-Dot Tree
World's Biggest Cotton Candy

Step Right Up and Play the Game

   After visiting Valhalla we realize the amount of work she needs.  Seeing her again was a sight for sore eyes, but with enthusiasm, we are elated to take on the tasks at hand.  We found Hotel Alcatraz less than a block from our boat and moved our things from one apartment to another.  We call the innkeeper Maru, as we can't seem to pronounce her name in Spanish.  She will fix us breakfast or I am allowed to cook in her outdoor cocina when I wish.  It has all the luxuries of home except WE'RE in MEXICO!

Hotel Alcatraz has Everything we Need, including 2 Labrodoodles and a Tienda
View From the Outdoor Cocina Where I Cook
If Only These Chairs Could Talk

House Dogs - Oso and Sandy (Mother and Son)
    Staying here is a HUGE asset for us as it saves an enormous amount of time not having to travel by bus everyday to get to our job....Working on Valhalla!

   We worked a regular shift from 8 to 5 removing shade cloth, washing 10 months of sand and dirt from her deck and cleaning inside.  Though exhausted, we were gratified by the results at the end of the day.  She was a very dirty girl, indeed!

    Ahh at last, 10 days later the grande barco azul moves out and Valhalla moves in and takes her place.  Work begins almost immediately.   The rudder was removed while on the lift for new bushings and fiberglass repair.   The propeller shaft is getting new bearings and Don put dripless packing in the stuffing box for a DRY bilge!  The waterline is being raised 3 inches with 4 inches of new paint detail, top and bottom and all around adding the finishing touch.  Then her bottom will be painted black.  All that and we’ll be right on schedule to put Valhalla back in the water.  While the boatyard does their work, Don is disassembling, cleaning and greasing his winches while I continue to polish stainless and massage and wax Valhalla’s deck.

69'  Grande Barco Azul Moves Out of the Way!
The Captain Watches as Valhalla Moves in for Her Attention!

Marina Singlar Fonatur
They ALL look alike...REALLY!
Just sayin'
Don Greasing His Winches.
ALL Six of Them!

  Caesar, Rafael, Javier and Daniel all work so hard.   They have come to know us and know how much we appreciate the quality of their work and all they do for us and Valhalla.  Juan is the foreman and oversees their work and makes sure the customer is happy and that the work is done in a timely fashion as well.  Every day we are closer to returning her to the water as their work is nearing completion.  I will be sure that our crew of hard working men is rewarded in the end with lots of cold cerveza!

Pretty Paint - Not as Important as That Rudder or Propeller!
But looks really nice!          


   However, all plans are subject to change and we are flying home again to the States on April 1st.  Don’s father has taken a turn for the worse in his health.  Sadly, his condition at his age of 94 is not treatable and he will be called home to Valhalla soon.  My father-in-law, James Wight, is a very respectable and intelligent man who has maintained his intelligence and calm sweet nature through these final days.   He will be missed greatly here on earth by all who know and love him. Soon after his Celebration of Life, Don and I plan to return to our boat to finish our voyage and then return Valhalla to California by the end of June.

 To be continued.  Sincere thanks for reading and following our blog.

                                        Scenes from La Paz

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Heading Back to Valhalla!

Naked of Her Sails and Canvas
  Hasta luego amigos and amigas.  Tonight we fly on the "Red Eye Express" to Guadalajara and then on to La Paz.
 Valhalla has been waiting for us on the hard and when we get there, we're having the water line raised, new bottom paint and waxing her hull and deck.  Inside she's going to look pretty as a shiny penny with new interior varnish!  While the boatyard does their work,  Don will be doing more (never ending) maintenance on her engine.  Even though it is a sailboat, it will be vital to have her engine running smooth.  After enjoying the Sea of Cortez, we plan to bring Valhalla back to California, which means motoring about 777 nautical miles from Cabo San Lucas up the Baja  Peninsula before we arrive in San Diego.  We're both very excited to get back to Valhalla!
   Thanks for reading our blog!  We'll keep you posted.

Covered in Shade Cloth Sitting on the Hard

The Beautiful La Paz Malecon

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Crossing and Seeing the Sea of Cortez

   With a little more than a month left before we fly home, Valhalla left Mazatlan on Friday, March 22, 2013 to cross the Sea of Cortez.  We had an exciting beginning leaving the skinny channel which was, as usual, about half occupied by the huge ever working dredge.  A south-west swell was going to be a nice asset to the sea state to help push us across the Sea to La Paz.

   As we made the blind dog-leg turn and approached the Mazatlan channel exit/entrance, with no turning back, we saw breaking waves traveling across the length of the channel.  FULL THROTLE ahead for Valhalla against the strong surge was only 4 knots…YIKES!  The Captain, held the helm tight and kept Valhalla as square to the waves as possible, but with the force of the surge we slipped just a bit sideways.   Katie held the dodger tight and ducked for cover.   The 8-10 foot wave was curling toward our bow and, in an instant, engulfed the entire bow pulpit slamming us just slightly on the starboard  with full force.  The boat rolled sideways as mass quantities of water came through the (always open) head window. It was quite a rush and after those 30 seconds of sheer terror, we were out of the channel and heading across the Sea of Cortez looking forward to the next 54 hours of boredom!  
Blind Dog Leg Curve Ahead - Exit at Your Own Risk!

  We counted our blessings (of us and Valhalla being spared), mopped up the inside of the boat and cracked a beer to steady our nerves.  Things to be considered…dog those hatches (ALL OF THEM) and never leave Port on a Friday (if you’re superstitious).

 During the crossing, we had moderate seas with a south-west swell and winds between 5 and 15 knots.  We sailed whenever we could (or had to), trying all the possible sail combinations for the conditions.  We got a lot of good use out of our spinnaker during the crossing as well.  We even did some motor sailing with it during the lighter wind and calmer seas.

   Of course, we had to use and listen to the purr of the iron Jenny a lot too.  We learned that even though it is a SAILBOAT, it is important to carry extra fuel on deck since Valhalla only has less than a 30 gallon capacity.  In the middle of the night during my watch, all of the sudden, Valhalla began to throttle down and her engine just died.  I woke up the Captain, we popped out some sails and he went down below to check the fuel level.  Sure enough…she was bone dry!  Thank goodness…it’s a SAILBOAT! We sailed along slowly a couple of hours before the sun came up.  Fuel  from the deck reserve was loaded in and we were up and running (at will) again.

Another Gorgeous Sunrise

   On our second night out away from the mainland while enjoying the billions of stars overhead, we were treated to seeing the Hubble Space Telescope fly over.   At the time, we were not sure what we were seeing.  It was too fast and too colorful for an airplane.  It seems like all the colors of the rainbow were flashing and twinkling as it traveled across the dark sky.  Trying to focus on it with the binoculars (while bobbing in the sea) with delirium setting in, I convinced myself it was a UFO.    It wasn't until we heard discussion on the VHF radio when we reached La Paz that we realized what it was that we had seen.  The “unidentified” flying object had now been identified. 

   All things considered, after our rough start, the passage went well for us with a good sea state and comfortable temperatures day and night.  We did great sharing night watches with each of us going below to sleep in bed.  Adequate rest time away from the helm paid off because we both felt great after making 248 nautical miles in 54 hours and were happy we were able to sail almost 40% of that time!

Sailing is Good
Sailin' Hard on Valhalla sporting her new Bimini, Solor Panels and Party Lights

After sunrise on day #3, we passed by La Paz and headed to the island of Espiritu Santo.  We landed on Playa Bonanza, a desert island paradise.  Two miles of white sand beach with crystal clear, aqua blue water.  Valhalla was the only boat as we set anchor in only 15 feet of water.  We spent two days here catching up on rest and exploring Playa Bonanza.   We walked the long white sand beach looking in amazement at the beauty of where on this earth we are.  It is, as it seems, that the whole island is covered in sea shells because it was once a volcano that rose up from the bottom of the sea eons ago.

A Desert Island Paradise - Playa Bonanza

Island of Ancient Sea Shells

That's One Tough....Cactus!

 Valhalla was covered in salt and running on fumes (and what wind we could find) so it was time to head into La Paz.  We fueled up and spent 6 days at Marina Palmira cleaning up the boat, provisioning, preparing for our last HOORAH and figuring out a plan on where to leave Valhalla for the hurricane season and getting back home to GRASS VALLEY!

Fuel for the Iron Jenny - La Paz

We're both so excited to be here and are amazed at how different it is compared to the untamed jungle on the mainland.  The color and clarity of the water is unbelievable and along with the aired climate is a welcome change from the tropical mainland.  This is the desert, but with no marine layer you can see for miles!  The cactus, the white sand beaches, along with the majestic Sierra de la Giganta mountains with so many colorful layers and crazy rock formations, give you a constant sense of being in awe.

The View is ALWAYS Changing

Sea Caves

   We were prepared for 15 days at anchor and had a lot to see in a short amount of time.  There are 3 islands not far from La Paz that have been designated as a part of the National Park system; Espiritu Santo, Partida and Isle San Francisco.  Jaque Cousteau explored, studied and filmed these islands and played a major part in assisting the Mexican government, making a point of the importance of preservation.   He also labeled a large part of the Sea Of Cortez as “The World’s Aquarium”.  Anyway…

On April 1, 2013, we on Valhalla, set sail to see the Sea of Cortez.  Our first stop was San Gabriel on Espiritu Santo, only 18 nautical miles from La Paz.  After setting anchor in the huge inlet, we launched t/t Valhalla and went to check out the nesting Frigates.  It’s quite a sight and pangas bring out tourists to view their huge nesting area with thousands of frigates.  

Frickin' Frigates
Tour to See Nesting Frigates

   That night was our first experience with the coromuel winds common to the La Paz area and the surrounding islands.  After sunset, all is calm and then all at once, the wind starts blowing steady between 15 and 30 knots.  The comfort level of the chosen anchorage depends on the wind and wave direction.  When big gusts would come through, Valhalla would pull and tug at the anchor rode preventing us from a good night’s sleep.  First light, anchor’s aweigh and we headed off to find more protection for the next night.   

Anchorage at Ensenada Grande on the island of Espirtu Santo

On Top of the World at Espiritu Santo!

Valhalla at Anchor Between Two Islands
Next, we went to the island of Partida.  The island is separated from Espiritu Santo by only a narrow spit of land.  Eons ago, the two islands WERE one until the volcano erupted. Over time, both the east and west sides  eroded away forming the anchorage  that is actually the crater of the ancient volcano.  The sand is whitish-grey and has a creamy consistency, much like volcanic ash.  The coromuels blew again, but we were protected from the wind waves and our anchor held tight stuck in volcanic mud.

Inside an Ancient Volcano Crater

Valhalla at anchor between Espirtu Santo and Partida.  One island formed into two islands when the volcano blew eons ago.

We visited San Evaristo and Auga Verde two villages on the Baja Peninsula.  Though a bit primitive, these stops offered great protection from the coromuel winds.  Fishing being their main source of income and the only “services” offered were small tiendas (stores) being operated right out of the proprietor’s house.  The people who live in both of these towns,  have a 20 mile ride down a dusty dirt road just to get to the highway.  The setting with the Sierra de la Giganta mountain range as backdrop is spectacular.

 Agua Verde, which is almost 100 nautical miles from La Paz, was as far north as we sailed up into the Sea of Cortez.  In 15 days, cruising the Sea of Cortez we logged 225 nautical miles.  We wanted to keep going but time was running out to get Valhalla back to La Paz.

San Evaristo and the Road Out of Town over the Sierra de la Giganta Mountains
Salt Ponds at San Evaristo

Valhalla at Anchor - Agua Verde

Life's a Beach in Agua Verde!

Delivered Fresh

Billy Goats - Agua Verde Makes Goat Cheese

The Road Out of Town Over the Sierra de la Giganta Mountains - Agua Verde

Our last island destination would be Isle San Francisco!  Valhalla made it from San Francisco, California to Isle San Francisco, Baja California, Mexico.  The shallow crescent shaped bay with crystal clear, aqua blue water and white sand beach is so beautiful it’s almost unreal.  We took t/t Valhalla and walked the shell covered beach and hiked up to the top of the ridge overlooking the bay to see the amazing view with Valhalla at anchor in San Francisco!  The other side of the island is a rock beach known as Agate Beach where, if you know what you’re looking for (or at) a person can find agates. 

The Perfect Crescent Shaped Bay

A Nice Hike Along the Ridge - Valhalla at Anchor

Bahia de San Francisco and Agate Beach on Isle San Francisco

The View Across our Anchorage at San Francisco Bay

Valhalla - San Francisco Bay, Baja California, Mexico!

Colorful Rocks on Agate Beach - Isle San Francisco

After 15 days at anchor, it was time to get back to La Paz to finalize arrangements for Valhalla’s extended stay in Mexico.  We hauled her out on April 24, 2013 and checked into the Hotel Perla on the beautiful Malecon in La Paz.   La Paz is the nicest city we have visited in Mexico thus far.   We intended to do more sightseeing, but getting Valhalla cleaned up and hurricane safe and ready took several days.

***   Since Don and I left San Francisco, after a blue moon on September 1, 2012, Valhalla has logged 2,745 total nautical miles in 8 months, adding only 388 engine hours.

In two days, we fly home to Grass Valley.  Our journey has been remarkable and memorable; however, we are looking forward to seeing all of our family and friends soon!

Thanks so much for reading our blog and we hope you enjoy the picture show.

Scenes from the Sea of Cortez 

Partida Fish Hut

 Wants to Keep Me Around, I Think!

Captain Wighty on t/t Valhalla 

Okay - No Trash

Now That's BULL!

My Music Man...Plays While Sailing

Playa Bonanza - No Photoshop!

Enjoying a Nice Winter Day

So Thirsty!

Solar Panels on Full Power

The Beautiful Malecon at La Paz

An Outstanding Singer and Guitar Player (and Catrina)
La Paz Malecon

Agate Beach on Isle San Francisco

Palmira Marina, La Paz