Travels from Feb. 4 - Feb. 8
The sail to Punta Mita had been nice but way too short. The anchorage is just 8 miles west of La Cruz. However, it was enjoyable to play in the wind. Steve stayed asleep, as we had worked our way by hand. Surfers, due to the swell and breakers on the beach, frequent this anchorage. This breaking surf keep anchored boats well offshore, but still behind the shelter of the bluffs, with a golf course visible on top.
The morning of the 4th saw us up before sunrise. Our course around Punta Mita required us to first head out toward the islands before going east for a mile and then making the final turn to the north. Many submerged rocks hide in the waters off the point. They are identified as breaking swells grow near them. The prudent navigator leaves them well off to starboard (in our, northerly direction).
I was pretty tired after raising the anchor but still went below and brought up the fishing pole and the spray bottle of liquor. The early morning is the best time to catch fish, I had heard. We checked into the PV Net just before we went behind the point and were able to pass in the "current sea conditions" to the broadcast. Then I took my morning blood/sugar reading and found it to be over 500! I double-checked the reading, using a strip from another batch, but the reading was consistent. Now I knew why I was feeling so very tired: I was having a sick-day insulin reaction. During these times insulin is not used by the cells in the usual way but is expended by the antibodies fighting the "bug" the body is struggling with. I felt very sleepy and didn't eat very much breakfast. Nancy had to take the watch while I slept in the cockpit. Fishing was forgotten.
Some of you may have the feeling that life on Nanjo is without work, chores or complications. I am partly to blame. But those who have or have had boats know - some days you're the pigeon, some days you're the statue. There are those times when events conspire. That morning was one of those days. The starter battery had lost its charge, so I had to use the parallel switch to allow the house-bank to start the engine before raising the anchor. A "low-voltage" alarm alerted me to the problem in the first place. The starter battery charge circuitry was not working. However, the parallel switch isn't supposed to be left on for great lengths of time. The alternator produces large quantities of current (amps) and the "parallel" combination puts incompatible battery sizes together. Therefore, with the parallel switch off, the start battery continued to be drawn down by the fuel pump, cooling fan and engine gauges. Regardless of how weak I felt, I had to fix the problem. This required removal of everything from the lazarette. My troubleshooting was finally successful, finding a fuse holder that must have had some corrosion or dirt. Only after returning everything to its original location, was I able to "go down" for some rest.
By lunchtime, I felt better and ate a good meal. However, I was running a temperature. So the routine of sleep and lots of water was observed.
Previous to this, there had been an option as to where our next anchorage would be. But now we knew we would need at least one lay-day for me to recuperate. So we headed for the anchorage of Chacala, half way between Punta Mita and San Blas. On the way Nancy dodged floating nets and whales. The nets were of greatest concern. First, they could foul the prop and create a big job of diving and clearing them, if they didn't cause damage to the shaft, seals and bearings. Second, if a boat causes damage to a net, the boat (Nanjo) is financially responsible. The trick in avoiding snagging one is to find the "other" float (a one-gallon milk container) marking the opposite end of the net, a mile or two away, and steer clear. If you can't see the other end, you stop your prop, put the transmission into neutral until you drift by the visible float. We had to do this latter tecnique most of the time. On the other hand, the whales were mostly entertaining but when you see a pair cruising toward a collision with you, you change course even though they probably can hear your engine sounds and will avoid you.
At one time I awoke to the sound of slashing at the stern. Nancy and I looked back to see a dolphin beating its tail just behind the transom, with its head underwater, near the rudder. We became worried that he had become stuck. But we saw no blood and he soon swam away. He or others continued to swim around the stern and under the transom. So they must have found something down there that interested them.
Since I was still pretty weak and Nancy wanted me to retain what little strength I had, she decided that she was going to drop the anchor and work the bow. She interviewed me and went forward to ponder the task, returning for additional clarification and pointers. Finally we arrived in the Chacala anchorage and proceeded to a drop point. As we wound through the half dozen boats, we saw one we hadn't seen for two years, not since Emery Cove. Nancy took her time since she was working with weight 50% of her own, jerking as the anchor dropped over the bow roller. Then she had to keep the chain from binding as it came out of the anchor locker and finally she had to attach the snubber. She did great. Now she has done it once. The strength she had expended was a gift of non-expended strength to me.
Once anchored, I took out the handheld radio and called, "Gemini, Gemini, this is the sailing vessel behind you." After repeating the call, Diane answered.
She was worried we didn't like their anchored position, not realizing we had just pulled in. "This is Gemini. What is the vessel's name hailing Gemini?"
"Gemini - please go to channel 23." I had to drag this out!
On channel 23, "Gemini?"
"This is Gemini. Again, what is your name?"
"Gemini, this is . . . Nanjo!"
"Oh, my God!"
Gemini, for the non-Emery Cove readers, is a sailboat from G-dock, the companion finger to our F-dock slip at Emery Cove Marina. Les and Diane had left The Bay last summer, missing us in Oxnard by hours. They hadn't departed for Mexican waters until December. They spent their end-of-year holidays in La Paz . . . and now we had linked up! We planned to meet the next day.
Unfortunately the next morning my fever was still between 100 (in the am) and low 90's, so I stayed aboard and rested while Nancy went ashore with Gemini. That evening they invited us aboard Gemini for dinner of Diane's special spaghetti and Les' fresh-caught fish. My temperature was normal and my blood/sugar was in the low 200's - "We'll be right over!"
While sitting in their cockpit, one boat after another entered the anchorage. Les accurately guessed their boat names at first sighting since they had been in San Blas together. The second, Wings, he reported had British crew. As Wings passed close to Gemini's stern, to get advice on everyone's anchoring (1 or 2 anchors, length of rode), I recognized the person at the helm. "That's no Brit," I exclaimed. "That's Larry!" I had known Larry, a friend and high school chum of Bill Gundred's. Bill was a customer/friend of mine, who I had reintroduced to sailing before he bought his Islander, which he had kept in my boat slip in Emery Cove until I brought Nanjo over from Sausalito. I would see Larry at all the crab-feeds, birthday parties and Bill's son's wedding reception Bill invited me to. Larry had tried to leave for Mexico for 8 years . . . finally he had made it!
Hey, two linkups in one stop! But it didn't stop. Gemini picked up Loup De Mer on the radio. They were out at Isla Isabela, 40 miles west of San Blas. They were planning to arrive there about the same time as we. "Lou" is owned by Harry Burkholder (he goes by Burk now) and his new wife, Marsha. Lou was another G-dock boat, having left for Mexico a year before us. What a reunion this had become!
The visit with Les and Diane and the wonderful dinner both combined to bring all my measurements back to "normal". See what good friends and good food can do!
The next morning, Gemini prepared to continue south, making a quick run to shop before raising anchor. We quickly dinked over to Wings after breakfast, before we weighed anchor and headed north. We left one of the most beautiful little anchorages we have seen yet, Chacala.
After sailing out out of the anchorage on a southwesterly breeze, we turned away from the wind on our course to San Blas. Gemini was able to tack the short distance to their next anchorage. But we turned on the motor since we needed to fill the water tanks. While making water, I had to return to the starter-battery problem. The fuse holder was not a "fix". So everything came out of the lazarette again. An hour later, I had done everything I could, short of taking the electronics apart, with no luck. I preferred to do that disassembly while at anchor. Just as I was beginning to put the stuff back in the locker, Nancy asked if the battery being low would make the instruments inaccurate. I said yes, but only the engine instruments, not the console instruments. A few seconds later she said, "I'm switching to feet. The depth is 25 feet!" A second later, "18 feet!" Then, "12 feet!"
I broke my paralysis, pondering how was the battery causing this. This was too shallow to think about causes. "Come left (out to sea)", I said.
"EIGHT FEET," she yelled!
"REVERSE COURSE', I commanded! "Full left rudder. Reduce speed to idle."
She spun the wheel and Nanjo quickly spun around. Actually it went more than 180 degrees, but when she got back to the reciprocal, we probably were right over the area we had passed moments before. [This is good because we hadn't hit anything on the way in, so that's where we wanted to go.]
Nancy kept calling out depths as they increased. She increased the speed and we moved out, away from shore about a mile. The chart showed that we had come upon a reef about ¾ mile from a point of land. While I had a go-to in the GPS, I had told Nancy to steer toward a point of land that I thought was our destination. An hour later, recognizing my error, I had her return to the original course. The effect was bringing Nanjo closer to shore than we should have been. If it hadn't been for Nancy's vigilance, there's no telling what might have happened. This is one of those times I was happy we didn't have an autopilot.
We continued north, and 22 miles from Chacala we entered Mantanchen Bay. This is a large but shallow bay requiring anchoring well away from shore, a mile or so. Since the entrance to San Blas is so filled with muddy shoals, boats first come here and wait for high tide before attempting to enter the channel. In addition, the channel markers are out of position and useless as channel guides. Gemini had advised me that the deep water was left of the Green channel marker #5. This is the Wrong Side, according to the rules of the road! I had a real problem intentionally going "outside" the channel. However, there is a local, resident American, Norm Goldie, who guides boats through at high tide via radio. That evening, on the 5pm San Blas Net, he mentioned that he would have the group of entering boats use the right side of #5 the next morning. I was feeling much better about trying the entrance after that news.
Since Loup De Mer hadn't left the island that day, we had a day to rest. What that translates to is - make water, wash clothes and clean the boat.
That afternoon, Lou appeared and anchored nearby. Since it had been a long day for them, Nancy had cooked a pressure cooker feast for 4 and they came over for dinner. They still didn't get much rest, leaving Nanjo at 2300! We had a great time.
Crew of Nanjo