Archive for November, 2009

Nov 22 2009

Beach Party

Perhaps it was the way the we had prepared for the trip. Perhaps it was the delivery down to San Diego. Regardless, I had all sorts of expectations about this trip and none of them included the “party” functions from the official Baja Ha-ha calendar.

Our first full day of rest included this 1pm blip on the radar of a potluck party with all of the other boats and crew. It barely registered anything at all.

That morning, at 7:30am, during the morning roll-call of ships and ship positions, we spent an extraordinary amount of time on the “potluck” rules for cruisers. Time-tested favorites like, “bring more than you intend to eat,” and “no silverware, cups or utensils will be provided, so unless you intend to eat with your hands, you will need to bring some,” gave me a peek into the “cruiser” world . . . .

I had drempt about a way to cook lasagna on-board that wouldn’t be too painful and would be our contribution. But, somewhere along the way, the grocery list actualized in a way that deviated from how it was potentialized. In short, I sent it too late and some of the items got omitted from the list: namely, all the lasagna ingredients.

So, we punted. Where there was one loaf of bread on the shopping list, we ended up with three loaves on-board. We had eggs, some ham, bell peppers and onions–as well as milk and cheese. All the ingredients for quiche lorraine. Real men may not eat quiche, but I discovered that sailors at a potluck will (in fact, it was gone quickly enough to where I didn’t get to sample it myself–I’ll have to make it again so I can be sure of the success or failure of the recipe).

We hailed one of Enrique’s water taxi drivers and motored over to the East side of the harbor to a HUGE party on the beach. To explain the enormity of the event let’s talk some numbers. This year, there were approximately 200 boats. One boat hit a whale and sunk (everyone and the whale was fine–it wasn’t a whale ramming like the news reported, but rather it was most likely a sleeping whale in a wave and two giant things in the same place at the same time that caused damage to the boat’s rudder, which caused it to fill up with water fast–AND, they got into their life raft and were picked up by coast gaurd immediately), but other than that–the fleet had mostly arrived. And, roughly 1000 sailors were lined up on the beach to participate in this potluck. The locals provided beer for sale, a portable toilet, and some REALLY loud music . . . and voila–we had a party! It was great.

We drank, talked, danced, and ate until roughly sun-down when the water taxis ferried us back to our boats. Well done, Baja Ha-ha organizers. THAT was a great party!

We waited a few hours, regrouped, and . . . then organized a “scouting” party into town to see about the Dia de los Muertos celebration in the town zocalo and to see if there was any more dancing at the Hotel Veracruz . . . .

One response so far

Nov 18 2009

Hotel Veracruz

Published by under Mexico,The Adventure

Lunch lasted about 4 hours. We kept ordering more beef and cheese tacos and ice cold beers–even though we were all obviously envious of Nathan’s lobster. The patio was filled with other sailors also on the Baja Ha-ha.

The length of lunch was a combination of things–the most obvious of which was that we kept ordering food and beers. The other part was that two food servers were serving a patio filled with roughly 100 sailors, and the food was being prepared by a kitchen who perhaps serves this many meals in a week (I think–it could be less), not in a few hours. In the restaurant business, we lovingly referred to this time in our serving lives as being “in-the-weeds.”

There are some tell tale signs of a food server being “in-the-weeds.” Here are a few of them:

  • Big, deer-in-the-headlights eyes mixed with momentary washes of visible guilt. It is the natural effect of not having enough capacity to remember every single detail of all of your TWELVE tables (each with 4 to 10 people who have their own needs to be met).
  • A frantic walking pace . . . even for short distances . . . of say four feet. This is a psychological reaction to KNOWING that everyone is getting poor service. It sends a signal to all of your customers that says, “Hey look, I am really busy right now. Would I walk this fast if I was taking it easy in the back station?”
  • Nodding frequently during actual conversations with a customer. This is a food server’s stalling trick. At this point, they are skimming what YOU are saying because they are processing the backlog of todo items and unprocessed data. If you were to heat up the conversation and really turn the screws down on them, they would immediately stop nodding and look at you directly. Note: I recommend NOT doing this. If you can go easy on them, and they can get caught up, you will be remembered as the gracious one and treated really well for the rest of the meal.
  • Avoidance of eye contact, tempered with big smiles. When fighting fires, you have to put the ones out that are going to do the most damage (I am no expert firefighter, but speaking metaphorically, this is the only way to work). If your server walks past you and is clearly avoiding eye contact with you, it means that some fire is burning pretty big right now–and, it has to be extinguished.
  • Sometimes, there is visible sweating. Well, being in-the-weeds sucks. Many servers take their job seriously–it is their business to give good service and when you can’t do it, it sucks. Mix that with guilt, hurried walking, mental processing overload . . . well, it is a giant anxiety sandwich and you just gotta take a few bites.

Well, our server was exhibiting all of the signs . . . and, we were gracious about it. No worries. Later, we would learn a phrase that describes it perfectly. We were already on “Mexico time.”

After our meal, we walked the dirt roads of town a bit, looked through some of the neighborhoods, found a market or two, and made our way up to the Hotel Veracruz¬†where there was supposedly a “get together” planned for the Baja Ha-haers that evening.

When we got there, we found the place was packed with bunches of sailors who had arrived (there were still plenty of boats still at sea), and again, we found ourselves consuming more beer (no food this time) and telling sea-stories with some of the other sailors. Fortunately, we had NOT consumed enough beer to start singing sea shanties . . . (it takes a LOT of beer to hit that level).

But, as the evening progressed, we noticed this little dark room off to the side that oddly enough had a bar in it, and chairs and tables surrounding this open area. I wondered why it was so dark in there . . . until the lights came on, and music started to play.

As it turns out . . . the owner of the Hotel Veracruz (before he passed a few years ago) loved the Baja Ha-ha sailors so much that he built a dance floor for them. I kid you not! A DJ stepped into the booth, the lights came on, the Baja Ha-ha veterans were already wearing their dancing shoes–and, we’re back to “Play that funky music, white boy!”

At this point, Hendrik turned to us, pointed to the dance floor and said, “THAT must be the Ha-ha of the Baja Ha-ha.”

2 responses so far

Nov 18 2009

Map of Bahia de Tortugas

Here’s a map of the Bahia de Tortugas . . . .

No responses yet

Nov 15 2009

A Quick Intermission

The story line may be a bit confusing . . . because it sounds like I am still sailing around the world. But, currently, I am not. I am anchored in 17 feet of crystal blue water about 250 yards off the resorts in Cabo San Lucas. The tiki-torch-lit beaches, live music and swaying palm trees of the resorts add a nice bit of ambiance to my view, and hopefully, the somewhat cliche vision of a sailboat bobbing at anchor in the bay is adding just a little bit of ambiance for the resorts guests.

Each morning, as I arise, I start my daily writing, which has largely consisted of re-living the immediate memories from the recent sail down to Cabo San Lucas. As much as I had hoped to post these stories in real-time, it was simply not possible, but for a very good reason.

Sailing a boat consumes a tremendous amount of time and energy. As you become more proficient in the sailing and managing parts of a sailboat, it takes less time to do. This is not a luxury that I have had on this trip–because I am new to so much of this.

Typically, as I race or cruise around the bay or even off-shore for a day or two, the space of sailing occupies roughly, a day or a weekend. It has never really had a tangible impact in my life. I mean, we can all turn our cell phones off for a day and it is fine, right?

But, this trip has been different for a couple of reasons. There was the harrowing delivery from San Francisco to San Diego, and then the mad-scramble final boat preparations prior to leaving for Mexico, and roughly two weeks of the Baja Ha-ha sailing, and then 5 days of Mexican paperwork, Baja Ha-ha activites, sight-seeing, decompression (and warm showers), getting the crew members to the airport, and finally, getting the boat on the anchor (by myself). And, then there was this other little thing . . . .

Over the course of the last month, it has been necessary for me to go from dipping my toes in the waters of sailing to swimming proficiently–an enormous, and consuming task. I am certainly NOT saying that I am an expert sailor, but rather that what I am doing right now, today, requires me to know a lot more about sailing than I did two months ago. It is the same immediate and tangible requirement I had when I was hired to manage an Engine Rebuilding shop my first summer home from college.

I applied for the job, idealistically, thinking that I could do it easily with the proper guidance. I could change an alternator, a starter, and spark plugs. I knew all the parts of the motor. What more did I need to know? I guess I believed that there would be some exiting manager who would be there to answer my questions for a few weeks, and show me how it has always been done. I would memorize the in-place systems, and be fine with it.

What I did not recognize at the tender age of 18 was that I suddenly needed to have answers for both the other employees and customers. I needed to be able to explain why blue smoke is coming out of the tailpipe, or black smoke, or white smoke. Or, why a 3-angle valve grind is better for racing and a single angle grind is appropriate for every-day driving. Or, why one crack in the engine block warranted a new engine block and why another crack could be repaired.

To give credit to my boss at the engine shop, he taught me everything that I needed to know and in short order–about a month. But, it consumed me. I arrived early to work, left late, and worked through my lunch hours–because it took me longer to accomplish tasks of an experienced manager.

After leaving our shop, I went next door and asked nosey questions to the shop owners who removed and re-installed the motors into our clients’ cars (we were only the machine shop/engine builders). How can you tell that water pump needs to be replaced? How do you keep track of where all those vacuum tubes belong? Why does it matter that the rubber on the motor mounts has worn away?

And, when I got home after the 400 questions game, the owner sent me with a stack of required reading of various trade publicatons, manuals and diagrams. Much to the credit of both the owner’s “fast-track plan” and the guys who owned the shop next door, in the space of about a month, I went from knowing what a piston is to having opinions about piston ring brands . . . .

This sailing adventure has largely taken the same course. In the last month, or so, I have weather-sealed windows, filled holes, installed dodgers, installed solar panels, re-wired electrical things, diagnosed engine problems (overheating and simply stopped running), cleaned, sorted, practiced heavy-weather sailing, chosen anchorages, set anchors, removed kelp from the keel (or attempted to–it had already worked itself free), navigated by chart for hundreds of miles, sailed off-shore for days at a time, called on-shore friends for assistance, diagnosed and reconfigured auto-pilots, planned and provisioned boats, avoided collisions of any kind, negotiated foreign harbors at night, managed battery charging schedules, repaired dinghys, landed and launched dinghys in surf, communicated through VHF and Single-sideband radios, cooked, cleaned dishes, refilled diesel at sea (in the dark, and off-shore), sailed under spinnaker at night, and a whole list of other things either by myself or with my Captain and fellow sailors–some that I cannot remember, but will return suddenly if I were to need that information.

This process has consumed ALL of my time during the sail–the time that I expected to be updating the story. And, to give credit to my Captain and fellow sailors . . . thank you.

Future posts will continue to be me re-living my sailing memories before they become too remote and slip away entirely. Meanwhile, the background noise consists of Cabo San Lucas tourists on rented jet-skis using anchored sailboats as obstacle courses, clinking anchors or cruiseships stopping for the 5-hour guest excursions, glass-bottom panga boats ferrying visitors to and from their various destinations, and floating disco lounges puttering around the bay filled with hollaring dancers as lyrics, such “play that funky music, white boy,” thump along to multi-colored lights. And, a nice sunset or two . . . .

And, now, back to our regularly-schedule programming. ūüėČ

3 responses so far

Nov 13 2009

Patios and Beers, Bahia de Tortugas

Around 1pm, the crew started to rumble and awake. We hadn’t slept a considerably long time – basically one watch-worth of time – but we were all hungry and eager to get ashore after 4 days on the boat.

Every morning, at 7:30am, the Grand Poobah (his choice of names, not ours) runs a check-in process over the Single-Sideband Radio (SSB). Each boat in the fleet reports their position and anything special (ie., we had a medical emergency on-board, or our motor stopped working and we are under sail only, or we caught a huge Dorado yesterday). After the check-in parts, we share information with the other cruisers. One of the important bits that we learned one morning was that in Bahia de Tortugas, call Enrique on channel 16 for a water taxi from your boat to town.

We have a dinghy that our captain went to great pain to patch and repair (apparently mice had decided to try the rubber in a few places) and an outboard motor, but we were all hungry. So, we called Enrique on VHF Channel 16 and he fetched us. Within moments we were speeding towards shore.

Bahia de Tortugas is a really small fishing town. One time each year (for the past 16 years), a group of sailing boats in a fleet known as the Baja Ha-ha comes to town–each year growing in size up to the 200 boats that were in our fleet this year. The town prepares for our arrival, stocks up on food and booze for the cruisers, and lays out the hospitality–and, we spend our money like crazy. And, it works. Our two or three day stop has become a huge cash infusion into an otherwise poor fishing town.

Enrique is really a fisherman–as are all of the other “water taxi” drivers. We know about him most likely because he has the most panga boats in his fleet. The locals fish for camarones (shrimp), langusta (lobster), dorado (mahi mahi) and tuna. When the Baja Ha-ha fleet arrives, they put their other profession aside and ferry American and Canadian cruisers from their sailboats to shore for $4/person per trip. They also take trash from your boat and dispose of it for $1/bag. They will also bring you jerry cans of diesel and water at reasonable prices–right to your boat. They will also sell you their fresh fish and shrimp–no market necessary.

Our water taxi delivered us to the large dock and we could see the restaurant where we were going to eat already. Salivating from hunger, there was a patio restaurant where we could see other cruisers already imbibing–and, we walked down the beach towards the cold beer and warm food (that someone else was preparing). Over the next four hours, we would eat and drink our fill of beef and cheese tacos, a gespacio-type shrimp cocktail and Nathan won the day by ordering the lobster plate–a HUGE lobster served ceremoniously on a plate with beans, rice and salad.

No responses yet

Nov 12 2009

Bahia de Tortugas

We arrived at Bahia de Tortugas around 4am. It took us about 2 hours to motor from the official finish line of this first leg to the anchorage. There were already about 60 boats who had arrived–mostly those who had not stopped at Bahia San Quintan.

Turtle Bay is a small-sized fishing port with a little city behind it. There are some basic amenities there: petrol, water (that must be purified), a few grocery stores varying in size from tiny to small, two hotels where you could order “ducha solamente” (shower only), and a handful of restaurants and taco stands.

There were also general town services, a small hospital, pharmacies, internet cafes, a zocalo, and complete neighborhoods, as well. The trappings of significant industry lay rotting and unused in the corrosive marine air–we thought the signs on the wall of the big rusted warehouse on the waterfront read “Sardines.”

Towards the end of this leg, our watches got a bit crazy. At some point, too many of us had gone too long without a proper amount of sleep. This is important because when you are on-watch, you are working.  

During the daytime, you catch up on maintenance for the boat mostly because you can see what you are doing (maintenance IS a non-stop battle on every boat). But, at night you do a different kind of work. Your job is to watch for ships (and, if you see do anything in your power to ensure that they see you) and keep your own ship out of danger.  Honestly, I feel that keeping the ship out of trouble at night is more strenuous than doing the chores of the daytime shifts.  Fortunately, everyone gets to do both.

We slowly rounded the tip of the bay and eeked our way into the anchorage. When we found a suitable spot for our boat, we dropped anchor, meeted out enough rode, shut down the boat systems, did a quick once-over of the entire ship, and everyone was alseep within minutes.

4 responses so far

Nov 07 2009

Pacific Ocean Sunset

There are still a lot of details to sort out in the next few days and writing time has been pretty sparse. The Baja Ha-ha activities are still happening, and we are sorting through customs and various paperwork. Right now, we have a slip in the marina in the middle of it all. The restrooms and showers are wonderful, we are in the middle of the night-life and close to everything. In another few days, that is going to change . . . .

I will be moving the boat to an anchorage right outside of the resorts and using the dinghy to get back and forth to town. There are currently roughly 100 boats anchored out in the bay, although in a few days, they will start to peel out for their various destinations. Some will sail towards La Paz, Mazatlan, or Puerto Vallarta, and others will begin sailing against the winds on the delivery back to colder climates (we call it the Baja Bash). Still others will sail down closer to the equator in preparation for their “Puddle Jump” to the Marquesas.¬† I will stay here in Cabo San Lucas on my 40-foot floating city.

While still sorting and officiating all of the things that need to be officiated, I tempt you with this–another stunning sunset on the Pacific Ocean.

2 responses so far

Nov 06 2009

Terra Firma

Back on land and safe in Cabo San Lucas! I have a whole slug of posts and pictures to upload. Will be uploading them as I write them.

3 responses so far