Archive for January, 2010

Jan 24 2010

Warning: The Death Star has Arrived

Tourism is the blood supply of Cabo San Lucas. It brings money, people, mega yachts, fishermen, and a huge supply of Nationals from all over Mexico to work. Without it, Cabo San Lucas would be the simple fishing town it was 30 years ago. There are two sources of tourism: the time shares and resorts, and cruise ships. On my previous two trips to Cabo San Lucas, I stayed once in a Beach resort, and the second trip, we stayed in a private condo. So, I had already been familiar with the former, and apparently, the largest producer of tourists. Now that I am anchored out in the bay, I have become intimately connected with the latter–the cruise-ships.

If you haven’t seen them before, these vessels are enormous. They are entire floating cities, complete with off-shore Casinos, medical facilities, shopping malls, exercise gymnasiums, your choice of restaurants, bars, discos, and vast neighborhoods of rooms. They hold some in the range of 5000 – 6000 people, and provide services for all of them. They arrive in the bay between 5:45am and 10am, and typically depart between 5pm and no later than 9pm. They never stay–Cabo’s fluky winds would spin them around their anchor dangerously considering that each one is hundreds of feet long. When they arrive at pre-dawn hours, they remind me of the first time the Death Star came into full view in the Star Wars movies–ominous, a giant object filled with people and things.

Once they arrive, the Port Captain sends out a representative to collect the necessary fees and complete paperwork and inspections, and then these huge cities start off-loading their precious tourist cargo. Entire portions of the Cabo San Lucas come alive in anticipation of the wandering groups of week-old friends who have arrived and seek a place to eat, a good margarita, and to purchase some silver or a cuban cigar–all the while engaging in the small-talk of new, but tightly-bound friendships.

In town, everyone knows about the cruise-ships. Everyone knows how many will be in-port today: two, four, just one . . . This is their business–to sell goods and services to tourists. The tourists staying at the resorts will still be sleeping. They invariably took advantage of the nightlife–something the cruise-ship guests miss because of the early departure times. So, the wandering hoards are coming from one source. Others aboard the cruise-ships go directly to the activities they have planned: snorkeling, jet ski rentals, a hi-speed water tour, para-sailing, sailing, and right now, whale watching.

My relationship with the cruise-ships is different, and I think, much more intimate than most. I can literally feel them arrive. Marishanna is a race-boat with no insulation, and so I often hear smaller boats motoring past, but the cavitation of the huge propellors of the cruise ships is unmistakable. Something I can hear from a few miles away. Once they are in port, the clanking of the giant chain links of their anchor is amplified and echoes through the water and into the metal parts of my boat.

It is both eerie and unmistakable . . . and a daily component of my morning routine since I arrived. 6am, clank, clank, clank, clank, clank, clank, clank, start the coffee, go above decks, survey the boat, check the anchor, and, well, you get the idea.

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Jan 22 2010

Marishanna has a clean bottom . . . .

Published by under Boat Maintenance,Wylie 39

You may not be able to tell, but Marishanna has a clean bottom.  I have been keeping fairly current with it–scrubbing the waterline, and softly sponging the underwater paint, but the other day, I noticed that there was only one zinc left on the prop shaft, and that it was nearly gone.  So, I hired a diver to come out and professionally clean the bottom of Marishanna, replace the zincs, and even coughed up a bit extra to have him scrub the bottom of the dinghy.

Zincs are metal attached to the boat that is lower on the chart of elements that all the other metals on-board.  If you have an electrical system, you have magnetic fields, and when you mix a magnetic field with sea water, it needs some place to go.  On boats, you put zincs and give this process something “to eat”–so, that the process will leave your brass, stainless steel, and other metals alone.  It is sort of a boat owner’s offering, if you will.

Once they are gone, your boat vitals are eroding (like the thru-hulls can be made of metal).  So, it is important to keep them replaced and current.  And, Marishanna’s zincs have been renewed–a fresh offering to the god of electrolysis.

Note: They really call them “Sacrificial Anodes

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Jan 20 2010

Head Case: Emergency Rebuild of a Marine Toilette

Quick Update: Today required an emergency rebuild of the head–the toilet on board.  The problem wasn’t terrible–the plunger pulled free from the internal parts that do the plunging.  So, the repair looked like this:

Take everything apart, clean everything with vinegar as you go, retrieve the internal plunging parts and lost nut, lubricate insides of plunging tube with waterproof grease (should be good for the season, now), put everything back together, and test that it works and doesn’t leak . . . . Simple, but time consuming.

Everything went along smoothly.  You will have to take my word for it, however, it’s just not appropriate to be posting pictures of this one . . . .  😉

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Jan 20 2010

To Repair a Dinghy

Not everything about sailing is fun, although even the not-so-fun parts can be fun with the right mindset. That is what I kept telling myself through the whole process of repairing the dinghy. The poor little guy had been ferrying us sailors, first the four of us, and now myself, to and from the marina, onto beaches, through crashing surf for weeks and finally, one of his seams let loose.

It came as sort of an emergency. I awoke and was taking my morning survey of what happened while I was sleeping, and heard a loud hiss coming from the dinghy tied to the stern. Even in my groggy state, warning signals blared the full “A-OOOOOGH-A” and raised a general alarm. A 65-pound motor sits on the back of that dinghy, and that hissing noise meant that if I did not do something right away, there might be the opportunity to recover both the dinghy and that motor from the ocean floor . . . .

So, first things first: a quick moment of thought and planning. A big hole would make a “whoosh”–this was a “hiss” and a relatively small hole and most likely only on one side (the two tubes are separate). I would have at least 30 – 45 minutes to resolve this. The biggest problem is getting the 65-pound motor onto the boat–up to my chest when I stand in the dinghy. Was there some mechanical advantage I could use? For example, could I rig a sling and use the end of the boom or a masthead halyard to hoist it up?

I could do all of those things, if I had planned for it. Right now, I would simply have to lift it up and plop the motor on its side on the deck. The longer this process takes, the less air that would be in the dinghy, and the harder this whole thing is going to be. And, with that, the planning phase officially ended.

Cut away the tape that keeps the lifeline gates closed, and open the gate on the port side. Unhook the gas can and put all of the miscellaneous dinghy stuff onto the sailboat. Start the motor without the gas can attached–to burn all of the remaining gas in the engine. (It will be a few days, and gasoline sitting inside the motor will rot out the internals of a motor.) Unscrew the motor clamps, heave, and . . . before I knew it, the motor was already sitting on the deck. Another heave, and the dinghy was sitting on the foredeck, too–already folding awkwardly like a partially-deflated beach toy.

The repair process was not so bad. It took a day for the dinghy to dry out (and for me to scrape the creepy-crawlies off the bottom). It took another day or so for me to select the right dinghy repair kit from the local chandleries. It seems that there is really no in-between when it comes to these kits. There are the cheap “patches” that should actually be used for your partially-deflated beach toy, and then full-blown, serious dinghy repair kits with two-part glues, etc. I opted for the latter because I do not want to spend my time down here repairing dinghies. Do it once, do it right, and get on with your trip . . . .

I cleaned the surface of the dinghy to be repaired with acetone, cut the patch to the correct size, and mixed a portion of the two-part glue. Taped around the area for the patch, painted the surface, let dry for 5 minutes, applied the patch, press really hard for a few minutes, and then clean up the excess glue–while it is still wet. And, then wait . . . for 24 whole hours. All of the remaining glue got used to lovingly coat the seams that had started to pull open in places from the years of use.

I waited the full day, reversed the get-the-dinghy-out-of-the-water process, and was free, once again, to dinghy away from the sailboat–unfettered by the cares of the world (with the exception of that big wave threatening to splash you).

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Jan 09 2010

Sailing Video: Sailboat Delivery from San Francisco to San Diego

Published by under The Adventure,Wylie 39

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Jan 08 2010

Christmas Humpback Whale Watching in Cabo San Lucas

While I certainly missing all of you at Christmas this year, I had an interesting opportunity for a unique way to celebrate the holiday this year.

On Christmas Eve, I recognized another Baja Ha-ha participant–Captain Bob. He sailed down on his 52-foot Beneteau sailboat, named L’Atitude 32. He is a licensed Captain, has chosen to winter down here in Mexico, and has gone through all of the hoops to run his charter business out of Cabo San Lucas. Both down here without our respective families, we decided that we would go fishing on Christmas and do what sailors do–sail.

The boat is luxurious, to say the least. The interior is huge, has an entertainer’s kitchen, a horseshoe-shaped dining table that seats 8 people, two aft cabins (each with their own bathroom and shower), and a gigantic master suite amidship–which corresponds nicely to the most comfortable, least rolling, and most quiet place on the ship. The dark blue hull and ultra-white topsides are recognizable even from a distance.

We met a little after 10am, packed up the gear, and motored out of the harbor. Not far past the famous rocks of Land’s End, we rigged our fishing gear, tossed the lures overboard, and spooled out some line to get them popping at just the right distance behinds us–the irresistible siren’s song singing to the fish swimming below. And, we settled into the important tasks in Mexico: selecting the right music, and what will I be drinking today.

It was, in fact, our original intent to fish all day. The seas were flat, and there was a mild breeze. Neither of us has a schedule–so, if we fished all day, that would be fine. On our two fishing poles, we dragged a cedar plug, a painted cedar plug, a couple of jigs, and later a spoon. Captain Bob got a nice hit on one of his lures. We slowed and waited and the fish took another nibble. And, then, nothing. So, we returned to our conversation and kept fishing.

We made a nice, arcing loop outside of the Bahia Cabo San Lucas. We headed west for a almost an hour, then due south off-shore, and finally circled around back towards Cabo. Just as we had turned back towards Cabo San Lucas, a humpback whale surfaced about 20 feet off the starboard side of the boat. A nice, benign visitor wondering what two sailors were doing in his or her territory on Christmas Day. We quickly decided to reel in the fishing gear and spend the rest of the day whale watching.

That magnificent humpback whale proceeded to put on a show for the next three hours that was absolutely spectacular. Full, out of the water, breeches. Giant splashes. The picturesque tail before the deep dive. It was phenomenal–and, a superb way to spend Christmas. If we had only figured out how to transport the entire family and an apple pie, or two down here–it would have been complete!

Captain Bob charters his boat, and it is a classy, full-service experience. You can go whale watching (they will be here through March), snorkeling, or enjoy a sunset, cocktail cruise–the food, drinks and gear are provided. You can reach him through his website at, by email:, by phone (US): 858-442-2233, or phone (local, Cabo San Lucas): 624-18-24-924

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Jan 05 2010

Cabo San Lucas

I am a few posts behind . . . so, first of all, Happy New Years to all of you!!! 2009 seemed to be a big year for just about everyone I knew (myself included). I hope that when you look backwards, the good memories outweigh the bad ones, and if the converse is true, you learned a lot from the experiences.

I also hope that your 2010 is filled with hopes and goals, health, happiness and family. Form your idea, put it out into the universe, work like hell, and then be ready for it to happen. 2010 is going to be a good year for you–I can tell, already. 😉

Currently, I am still in Cabo San Lucas. When we arrived, the rest of the crew stayed for roughly a week, and then returned to their families, their jobs, and the United States–leaving me responsible for all aspects of the boat until we sail it back–at a date later to be determined.

After a week of being in the marina, tied to a dock, I was ready for a little quiet away from the 24-hour activity of the city. There is a dinghy aboard, and a dinghy dock at the marina, so I can go into town whenever I please, but a little privacy and separation would be great. Also, the prices at the IGY Cabo San Luis marina are exorbitant. The facilities are nice, but clearly MegaYachts pay the bills (and, yes, there was even one here with its own helicopter) and us little boats are an afterthought.

There was also a bit of excitement, on my part, for moving out into the harbor because I am excited to get a bigger taste of the cruising life. This is something I have tinkered with doing partially every year, and full-time when I retire . . . so, I might as well learn as much as I can while I am here.

The harbor itself is beautiful–especially at night. The lights of the resorts twinkle and reflect off the water. You can hear the music from the bars and resort clubs wafting through the night air. The first night at anchor, I made my dinner and marched up to the foredeck and took a seat. The air temperature was in the 80s, I was eating dinner and sipping a beer while watching the lights and listening to the free concerts. It was quite idyllic . . . .

The town of Cabo San Lucas is quite small, packed with American, Canadian and Australian ex-patriots, and very friendly. Although things are more expensive here than in some of the other, more rural Mexican towns (American prices for most things in tourist areas), the streets are clean, potable water can be found everywhere, comfort food, if desired, is easily obtained (although I never did find the slice of apple pie that I was craving around Christmas time), and every service imaginable is readily available.

From a boating perspective, two of the three chandleries that I have visited have been quite limited in their selection, and quite American in their prices. I am going to visit the third one this week . . . hopefully to be disproved with my generalizations.

Overall, Cabo San Lucas is an extremely safe, overly friendly, and quite fun town–with warm air temperatures, and warm water temperatures.

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