Category Archives: North Pacific

Banana Split!

As Bernice goes on her 9-12 watch the boys look at getting the engines started. We are still 57 miles from Cabo San Lucas (44 miles to nearest landfall) and even if we succeed it’s likely we’ll only just make it in before dark….

0925 starboard engine jump started successfully from household battery. 0940 port engine starts as starboard engine is running. 1000 reefline in and mainsail successfully raised again. Then Richard turns engines back off??!! Porque?

Huw suggests leaving the an engine running as the household battery voltage is low, (although not generally used for starting engines, they are charged by the engines running) having had engines off since 1200 yesterday. Last thing we need is this to lose nav instruments and steerage!! . Thankfully there’s no messing and they go on. The starboard one he leaves on (to charge the household batteries) but not in gear, as he doesn’t want us banging through the waves any more than we are doing already.

Bernice finishes her watch, Huw sorts us all out with brekkie and Richard goes for a sleep! There’s not much time left till Huw’s watch, so he just sits and reads. Richard had him up after a short nap to sort the engines, the access to the starboard engine is under our bed, similarly access to the port engine is under Richards bed.

We put our bunk down having removed all the tools and household battery, so Bernice can have a snooze. Huw spots land while on his watch. Are we pleased to see you! The engine also gets turned off again around 1300.

When Bernice surfaces again (didn’t sleep very well in the night with the lumpy seas) it’s just after shift change and Richard puts the engine back on successfully around 1545. The boys had leftovers for lunch so Bernice grabs a wrap and a coke and sits it out in the cockpit seating area… we are 6nm from nearest landfall, 14 or so from our destination, so with a bit of luck we might be in before Bernice’s next watch begins, even if not Richard will most likely retain command.

With very little trouble we get a berth in a marina in Cabo. It’s a pretty big full on resort from what we can see from our arrival. Lots of loudhailers, lots of jet-skis, party boats etc…. We berth up alongside another large cat and in front of us is a huge gin palace (large motor cruiser) from the Cayman Islands that’s probably about 100ft long with it’s own helicopter on the deck.

As part of our welcome we are brought margarita’s, nice touch, and it’s not even half the price Richard paid in Acapulco!!!

We chill over a beer, compulsory arrival cheer, and our freebie too. Then it’s shower time – never managed one yesterday with all the ‘excitement’ – and dinner.

Then it’s time for a chat with Richard, no point in putting it off. In theory if he was a smart guy he’d see that us not wanting to continue (yep, decision made) is to his advantage and gracefully accept that the boat has let us down and he can easily explain this to Patrick the owner. He can then return home to St Martin and move his boat to Trinidad away from hurricane territory while he sources and waits on replacement crew….

But then his pride gets in the way and he can’t help himself but blow his top even though we can see a sly smile he’s trying to hide, this is a good outcome for him but he has to push it back. Has to end things on bad terms give us grief for letting him down. It’s not like we have financially although he keeps going on that we have. The only way we have is that any replacement crew will cost him more. All we have cost him are our flights from Peru to Panama. If he was paying us – though he claims we’re not Yachtmaster qualified so don’t deserve it – he’d owe us over $3000 each for the trip so far. So no we don’t owe him anything other than the commitment to get to Vancouver. But the reciprocal of that is he estimated 4 weeks (we’re now nearly 5 weeks in and approx only halfway) and the boat was in good order. A fact he still claims. Hhmm…

Well the upshot of the downward spiralling conversation is that he asks us to leave now. Within half an hour. Not sure if he thinks he’s getting one over on us by throwing us off the boat so late in the evening (it’s now around 2200) but if so he forgets that we’ve been backpacking for 6 months now and finding accommodation at this time of night in such a huge resort is not up there with traumatic events!

So that’s that then, that’s how it ends. We pack, we leave. We find a hostel. We relax.

A comedy/catastrophe of mishaps

We’ve finally tacked and are heading back to land, which means the moon (and the sun later) is rising over the starboard side of the boat.

Just after midday we are able to turn the engines off and continue to make good progress averaging over 7kn, even breaking our record of sailing more than an hour!!

In fact it’s over 6 hours and even though the sea is a bit choppy, it’s actually v nice. A different motion on the cat to get used to mind.

So what changed? Well a huge bang pretty much did for it as the mainsail ripped itself from it’s clew!!! Just after shift change from Bernice to Huw. Richard had just started dinner, too.

Well then it was fun and games for the next two hours, as we initially put a reef in, Huw got soaked as soon as he went up to the mast. The engines, or one even would have been useful to steer the boat head to wind to assist here but neither would start. We got the reef in with quite a bit of difficulty, the headsail continually backing and hindering our progress. Richard trying hard to keep her stable, then the reefing line breaks! We’ve lost count, four, five times maybe this has happened….

The boys try to put the 2nd reef in but without steerage it’s not happening. They decide to bring the main down and concentrate on trying to get an engine going with what daylight is left – it’s now after 7. Neither battery is particularly happy. Richard brings in a house battery (batteries are separate for starting the engine and all other power needs onboard) and try that. It makes no difference (portside) and in fact he thinks the starter motor is had it, we don’t have a spare.

It’s now after nine and darkness is almost upon us so we decide to have dinner and mull over the problems. Bernice carried in preparing it while the boys looked at the engines.

Hhmm…. The sail repair could take a week or more when we get into port. How we get into port is another matter altogether. We were on course and about 120nm away when things went pear shaped, with an eta of ~0600 at the entrance to Cabo. We are now sailing on headsail alone and thankfully there is enough wind to pull us along. But we’re now a bit off course and without the engines we’ll struggle to get there as the wind will be on our nose if/when we need to turn in.

So it looks like daylight is now required and a fresh head to fix one or more of the engines to see us in. Meanwhile we’ll sail through the night as we are.

The wind dies off a bit, not that it was that strong anyway, maybe 15-18kts giving us a sailing average of 7-8kts. The sea was a bit lumpy as we said but nothing major. Which gets you thinking. The next leg, always going to be the long one, is some way offshore too. There’s no plan to go into port over the next 3-4 weeks after thus next stop, in fact that far off shore there’s no option. So having not met much bad weather yet, by that we mean strong winds, and having had so many major issues with the boat:
– Starboard engine – repeatedly not wanting to start
– Port engine – issue with air which turned out to be fuel line to filter blockage
– Port engine not starting – as yet unknown
– Mainsail – sail coming away from clew at mast needing repair
– Reefing lines breaking – one and two al least twice each
– Cat 1 headsail – track sheering and coming away from the deck, resulting in it and car flying across the deck, then sheet coming lose and also flying across deck
– Mainsail – sail ripping right off of clew at end of sail (apparently only 2 years old)
– Shrouds – both needed tightening

Other things to note:
– Hydraulic pump for the steering squeals – is it the next thing to go?
– Autopilot has a habit of turning itself off at inconvenient times irritating under engine, potentially a disaster when sailing
– Wind instruments not working while on starboard tack
– Forestay is very lose
– Bed leak – our bed although not crucial was leaking in water from an engine vent

Doesn’t leave us with much confidence that a three/four week passage with no stops (or chance of stops) is a good idea. We have done a week at most in one go so far, but have always been able to make land within 24 hours if required). Especially as the further north we go the colder and more miserable the weather will get and the thought of what happened today or similar happening in the middle of a wet, windy night are not pleasant.

So regardless of whether there are any more money issues or how long the sail might take to get repaired this time, we really have to think about how safe it is to continue…. But best not to discuss openly just yet, let’s get safely into harbour first, just in case we jinks our chances.

It would be nice to say the rest of the night went without a hitch but… The cat 1 headsail unfurled itself on it’s roller reefing and the boys had to go up forward to get it back in, the furling lead lives right forward on the starboard bow.

All´s well at sea

The rest of the night is pretty uneventful, the engine even seemed to behave itself for Huw. The fishing line of course went out at first light, which is now later as we travel north, at 0730 and by 1000 we have a fish, another yellow fin around 80cm. By the time it’s prepared it’s way past brekkie time which incidentally was being seen to as the fish came in, but had to go on hold.

It’s ok we have been able to have dinner that bit later now too as it stays light longer so we can just shuffle the meal times back a little if need to. Looks like it will be sushi for lunch anyway so that’s quite light. Soup is on the way as well but not likely to be ready for lunch.

Lunch ended up really late (1430-1500) much later than we anticipated but the boys were asleep and didn’t wake up till then. Just as well it was sushi or it would have been even later.

The afternoon, what was left of it, consisted of some maintenance on the port main shrouds and some reading in the sun.

It’s getting decidedly cooler now at night but thankfully the days are still really warm and even better, a little less humid.

Dinner of tuna arebeiata with what’s left of the old stock and a little soup from the new and we’re all happy.

We all snap and put long sleeves on for our night watches, well Bernice toughs out the 2100-0000 without but snaps for her 0600 watch. At least till the sun comes up.

The saga continues…

So with no consideration for how much hanging around we´re doing, unnecessary hanging around at that, we hang around some more, but agree only till we know the situation with the card… then we make a plan, which may be to ditch, but at the very least have a conversation with Richard about our time and our needs.

0830 having been up an hour and its time for Richard visit reception see what can be done about his card. He returns about 0920 and miraculously has his card, when talking to reception the engineer just happened to walk in.

Happy as Larry, Richard calls Bob and makes a plan yo collect the sail. They have to leave right away as Bob’s only around for another hour or so. So off the boys go in the dinghy, Richard getting off in town to go to the ATM – hoping yesterdays fiasco was a 24hour limit issue and that they’ve not put a stop on his card….

Meanwhile Bernice has brekkie and writes some blog. They return triumphant with the sail, everything all dandy now. After a late, very late brekkie Richard goes back to town to the Port Captain’s office – he forgot to take the paperwork earlier – to clear out, while we put the sail back up and generally get the boat ready for departure.

Marina fees paid and lunch had we set off around 1330. It’s a lovely hot day made all the nicer by now being able to enjoy it with a breeze coming through the boat.

We decide to mix things up a bit and swap watches, so that Huw follows Bernice instead of following Richard. Let him be grumpy to someone else, plus Huw can make coffee.

One that’s all decided Bernice goes off for a quick snooze while Richard kicks off the watches with 3-6 and Huw loses himself in a book he found on board.

Whilst in town yesterday Bernice picked up some more eye drops that she hopes are antibiotic and sets her alarm do she can get into the habit of taking them. It will be interesting as the watches change every 3 hours and the drops have to be taken every 4 hours…

Huw cooks dinner, a chinesey prawn stirfry thingy which goes down well and then we settle down to our watch routines.

There’s some great shapes in the sky, even a giant loveheart 🙂

When Bernice comes on at 0300 the engine suddenly starts losing power again. Richard says it did it halfway through his watch too. We thought we’d solved this problem. Well at least we know where to start looking – check the pipe to and from the fuel filter isn’t blocked. Guess if there is that much gunk in the tank it will just keep making it’s way to the filter….

It all goes Pete T

Towards the end of yesterday Richard decided the best thing for us to do looking at the weather now – its flat calm out there for 5-700nm to the west and north – is to motor on up to “Cabo San Lucas” which is right on the tip of Bahia California (for you guys out there who´s geography isn´t that great, that’s still Mexico, there´s a finger hanging down on the western edge of Mexico, it’s the very bottom bit of that). That would mean continuing to bash into windward for another 3-400nm and/or motoring through doldrums. It puts us a bit further north, it’s a different place to see and hopefully better for provisioning e.g. the guys ferried all the jerry cans around the road to town yesterday afternoon to fill up with diesel as the fuel station just outside the marina has no fuel (it´s out of season so they only have petrol for the water taxis but no diesel).

What it does mean is inevitably further delay on actually getting to Canada, we´re not even half way yet, if we are it´s only just!!!

So the plan for today is for Huw and Richard to go and pick the sail up and Bernice to go and buy provisioning for a few days. Easy, right? You´d have thought so… Except as Bernice is shopping the guys are traipsing from ATM to ATM as Richards card won´t allow him to withdraw any money. After 4 attempts reasonably locally, the sailman – Bob, agrees to run Richard to a neighbouring town, well a good hours round trip by car, to see if that works, leaving Huw in town looking for Bernice.

Bernice meanwhile has finished shopping and returned to the boat. Huw works this out and heads back there too. Which is kinda where we are for the rest of the day. We do some internet, Huw looks at the engine – oh yeh, forgot to say, it decided not to work this morning, some oil issue, Port side – and we wait. And wait. And wait. When Richard finally returns he has still no money, there´s no apology for the delay/situation, no plan. He gets on to the bank via skype; they have no clue and just suggest trying different cash machines and different amounts. Oh look isn´t that what he´s been doing all day?!

We leave him having a stout conversation while we go for a walk and an ice cream. When we get back there is still no plan. It´s now 1630 in the afternoon, it´s unlikely we´ll be going anywhere today. Sound familiar? We resort to Cabeza de Mierda and try and stay calm. Richard goes back out to find his glasses he thinks he´s left them in Bob´s car. He comes back about 30 mins or so later, he´d only got as far as the hotel – tried their cash machine, it ate his card!

Hhmm… Banks don´t you just love them?! We carry on playing cards while he calls the bank a 2nd time. By the time he´s finished it’s after 1900. He then decides to go track down his glasses and let Bob know what’s happened. We carry on playing cards, till it´s cool enough that a shower makes sense. We´re just out of the shower when he returns, he offers up a tuna curry for dinner, we were toying with some kind of stir fry but if he´s offering to cook well great. We continue with cards – can we just say it’s quite one sided when there´s only two playing!!! – while he showers and then cooks. It´s after 10pm by the time we´ve had dinner.

What´s the plan? There must be a plan now? The plan is, there is no plan! Other than Richard is on a mission to get his card back, he learnt from the last call to the bank that there is a branch (HSBC) in Manzanillo, back down the coast, not sure how long it would take on land, probably an hour or more each way in a car. Then there´s the bank whose ATM ate his card, that’s in another town even further away… tomorrows mission then.

But what does that mean in terms of us, of leaving, of free time. Can we make a plan to do some sort of excursion tomorrow at the very least while he sorts this out? You´d think so wouldn´t you? Should we even hang around?

When he came back from Bob´s he´d revised his plan, to go up to reception first thing in the morning and get them to call the bank, see what can be done to get his card back, when the machine might be emptied next. Then if no joy, go to Manzanillo and take out a whole load of cash… So at the very least we have to wait till he´s been up to the hotel to know what kind of delay we are to expect….

You´d think he´d have another source of cash. Ok so this is his business account and that’s the one that he wants to use, but at the expense of further delays here, is it really worth it, couldn’t he just transfer money to another one and use that temporarily?

Thinking of you always :-/

We anticipated today would be a tough day, made more demanding by the fact that we also have the task of putting the boat back together again. We agree to an early start and are well under way by 0800, and by 1145 we are nearly finished, which is just as well as it´s at this point that Bernice has a wobble.

She thinks of her mum all the time and today is the anniversary of her passing, but it´s only another day, right? Why be more upset today than any other day? But she does. She has to take herself off, go see if she can find some family to talk to, that’s what she needs…

It takes sometime but eventually she manages (Wi-Fi allowing almost) to speak to Kenny and Liz. She wants to talk but not really directly about feeling sad, just talk and let them all know she´s safe. Not that they probably knew in the first place. Thanks guys for being there it was really good to talk.

Funny thing is this hurricane that was due to hit, looked pretty severe, then it was named, and named Beatriz, which spookily enough was what Bernice would end up being called as a kid among other things, as no one had ever heard of Bernice and struggled with it as a concept. Huw even thought it was Bernice when it first came through from the weather site. Which brings us on to her theory…

If mum is watching out for us and if she wanted to let us know all would be well and we´d be safe she might want to send us a message to let us know that. In fact Bernice asked her for some kind of signal the other night, when we had some scary lightening, so who knows. Just think of this scenario, mum somehow sends a message to call the hurricane Bernice, and Chinese Whispers cause it to end up as Beatriz! Sound wacky? Think we´ve been too long at sea? Maybe 🙂 Well either way believe what you like and what gets you through, there´s no harm in it.

The hurricane came to nothing; there was no wind, hardly any rain and certainly nothing to harm us. It´s mum´s time of year, all within two weeks it’s the anniversary of her passing, her funeral and her birthday, she´s there watching over us for sure.

Which is what made today even sadder, feeling her so close and yet so far away…

A days shore leave

So we weren´t woken in the night as Beatriz did her stuff, we wake of our own accord around 0830 and even Richard isn’t up yet. Puzzled we check the hurricane weather site and find we should be in the eye of the storm right now….but there´s not a breath of wind! Nothing! Nada!


Coming to terms with the no show of Beatriz we have breakfast and attempt at a plan for the day. Having expected to be fending off the storm we had no plans. Richard suggests some boat jobs but actually we just want some down time, the events leading up to this moment have been pretty nervvy. We negotiate this along with getting the laundry done and we all head ashore to the village across the lagoon. Richard has to visit the port captain to clear in and so we leave him on the dock side and make our way to the laundrette to offload the big bag we’re carrying. Then we have a mooch about town.

The laundry is going to take 3 or 4 hours so more than enough time to take in the town. We find an ATM even though our map says there isn’t one and Bernice buys some new flip flops as her handmade sandals have broken at one of the toe pieces 🙁

We also lunch in a nice cafe and get a meat fix, a beer and some wifi.
Returning to the marina by water taxi we are still astounded at the lack of any storm considering the forecasts and at the total blasé attitude of the locals like they never expected anything anyway and have all opened up shop today just as they expected to. Richard has gained an update on Beatriz and now the national hurricane centre has totally changed it’s tack and moved the path of the storm way off the coast as if it had never been predicted to come here in the first place. Dumbfounded!!!

We head back out, up to the hotel to buy more WiFi access, see who’s on skype, get some admin done and upload some blog entries. Can we just say at this point, WiFi here is no better than anywhere else!! In fact it´s pretty sketchy!

We struggle for chat and for bandwidth to upload blog entries, so much so they give us a free days worth of internet. Just don´t charge if you haven´t got a stable service!

Dinner back on board and a plan for another movie but it doesn´t materialise as Richard dissappears off to bed and by the time we realise we´re a bit past it!

Peeling the Banana

A little apprehensive we start the day, wondering what the next few days will bring and hoping we have decided wisely to stay here in the lagoon to weather out the storm. First job is to more the boat, Richard has already been along the pontoons and chosen an alternative berth where there are four pillars we can tie our lines to and not have to rely on the cleats.

To make the boat ready for the imminent storm we have to strip her bare, that means anything outside that can move needs to come inside or go into an outside locker. This is so that it doesn´t get destroyed by the high winds when they arrive or blown off the boat and potentially damage another boat. Talking of which looking around the marina which has over 30 boats in it, though only a fraction of sailboats, nobody seems the least bit bothered that there is weather on its way. Then again a lot of them look like they are packed for winter and no one has been on them for a very long time, then there´s another load of motor launchers that are being polished …. Nothing seems tied down, lines used don´t look secure enough to withstand high winds… it´s very perplexing. Whose responsibility is it? The boat owner who should have left someone in charge or the marina who should contact the owner when there is a hurricane due… maybe that’s why the berth Richard chooses in the end is well away from any other boats.

So jobs to do:

  • Remove cushions, window shade covers
  • Drop sails
  • Stow jerry cans
  • Put out lots more lines than before
  • Secure dinghy and solar panels
  • Lower and secure boom
  • …etc

It all takes us most of the morning. If a storm does hit there is likely to be lots of wreckage to the other boats as it stands and as it´s due in the early hours of tomorrow morning time is running short! How bizarre!

After lunch we go to do a skype call to family back home that are online, let them know how things are and that we´re safe. Aren´t we? Then we go ashore for some provisions to tide us over the next few days, while Richard waits on the sail man. While in town (which reminds us a lot of Bocca del Torre, Panama and Soufriere, St Lucia) there is a lot of wind (from a different direction than expected) and then rain as we´re waiting on the water taxi back to the boat.

Hours later, back at the boat, all prepared and battened down, its deathly calm outside. We have dinner and watch a movie and even by 2300 there´s still no sign of the weather system reaching us. We call it a night crossing everything as we go to bed and fully expect it will be busy one when the wind does show up.

Christmas Bay … any port in a storm!!

As Bernice comes on watch at 0600 we are about 12nm from our way point so we are likely to arrive in the bay of Manzanillo sometime after 8am, it seems to take forever that last wee bit, with the coastline never seeming to get much closer… when we eventually arrive we start on the right hand side of the bay and look for a marina and/or a fuel dock we can pull up at, but there doesn´t seem to be any. There is a small marina in the middle of the bay at Las Hadas – a resort apparenly built for the very fashionable elite but now it´s not so exclusive – but there are very few berths and what there are are small and all stern too (you have to back the boat in rather than alongside) which Richard isn´t wanting. We have no choice anchor outside it, have brekkie and come up with another plan. There is no way we can stay here if there is no secure mooring on which to safely ride out the storm, which is now forecast as a hurricane named Beatriz. We thought this was going to be a big town and that Richard had been here before and so new exactly what facilities there might be here… oh well.

Brekkie and a swim for the boys clears their heads, Bernice just wants to go to sleep! We have two choices – hack up the coast four hours to “Bahia de Navidad” where there is a new marina and knowledge of the sail reparer we are trying to track down, or spend another day going even farther north to Puerto Vallarta which is a big place and certain to be sheltered.

As the sail repair is necessary and the new marina in Bahia de Navidad is in a lagoon, which should be sheltered we decide four more hours is worth a try. We are running low on provisions too.Luck was on our side, on the way we catch our biggest fish so far, a lovely plump yellow fin tuna about 80cm. Typically Richard brings it in jus after Huw has prepared us a luch of tinned tuna and sweetcorn! We decide on a little sushi from the fresh fish and also to eat the prepared food as we´ll not want to eat it otherwise all the time there is fresh fish on board.

Arriving in Bahia de Navidad we are a bit nervous about the entrance to the lagoon as its a bit lumpy and in the only guide we have to the area (20 plus years old) it says it´s only passable for dinghies!! A call to the marina office to be sure it will be deep enough and then slowly we go for it with our fingers crossed. When we find the marina it isn´t quite as sheltered as we thought it might be, all that is between the moorings and the ocean in the direction the hurricane is due is a sand dune, a strip of mangrove, the lagoon and a small breakwater. None of the hills we past on the way in. Richard hovers at the entrance trying to decide where in any suitable berth might be. We decide there is just about enough room for us to go right into the back and moor up in front of a huge motor launch. Lots of lines are used as we tie up if only for tonight (the cleats on the pontoon are very loose!) and Richard goes ashore to the office to book in and see if he can find ot anymore about the elusive sail repairer… We only stopped in Manzanillo because someone said he lived there but did most of his work from here….

Mixed news on Richards return. Good – the marina is half the price of Acapulco, we can move into another berth to be more secure if we want, we can use the hotel pool. Bad – they know of the sailman but we have to wait till tomorrow for detals from someone else, there is WiFi but we have to pay $10 a day for it… it better be good!!!

All quiet on the western front

A very hot reasonably flat day. Mismo – what wind there is, is on our nose, no surprise there then.

Huw gets on with sorting out photo’s for the blog and other than engine checks and cat naps there’s nothing more doing. We pass about five ships all day and more or less the same in the night. Our eta in Manzanillo is approx 0740 but that could be different local time.

We have the line out but are unlucky with a catch. It seems pretty big but it gets away as we reel him in.