It’s been a second week here in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, and I’ve been in need of running in the replacement outboard motor. The motor itself has a specific run-in schedule that calls for 10 hours of operation at varying-but-not-full speed, and it seems fairly silly to be simply running circles round the anchored fleet just outside the marina. To that end I’ve been engaging in my own private Turtle Spotting Expeditions, as we have turtles here in Banderas Bay, they like to float on the surface of the water and sleep (or rest, not sure if sea turtles truly sleep while at sea), I have a dinghy that is useful for transport to said turtles, so my job: Spot Them. First day I found two, Sunday I found one plus two small rays just below the surface, and yesterday I spotted one but he spotted me first and quickly dived down. Score so far: Turtles 1, Me 3.
The awning is up, that’s 20 feet of sunbrella that reaches from the shrouds to the H-frame, and it works a treat for shading the deck in the hottest part of the afternoon when the sun is directly overhead. The awning is supported vertically by three lines lead up to the main halyard, and horizontally by three collapsible aluminum poles, with rope ties at the front end back. I like that it doesn’t bear on the mainsail cover, and is high enough that I can walk under it for doing things on the foredeck – no crouching to crawl along beneath the cover.
The amount of chop on the water makes a significant difference in how pleasant it is to run the dinghy, and 8″ of chop is all it takes to make one not want to be on plane. When I hit 10 hours of dinghy run time I could operate the outboard at full speed; that’s when I brought out the handheld GPS to see what kind of speeds the dinghy was running at. At idle we’re doing 2.5 knots, on step the boat is running 5.5 knots, and when on plane the speed jump ups to 10 (and that’s around quarter throttle with just me in the dinghy). At 10 knots it’s super fun to be zipping along in flat water and getting places; at 10 knots it’s no fun to hit a small wave is now a speed bump!
The small chop is generated by the wind, we don’t have a larger pressure-driven system driving the breeze and instead we have the afternoon thermal as the land heats up faster than the water, air over the land rises, that creates a vacuum to draw in air from the ocean, and Voila! – instant wind. Before the thermal kicks in Banderas Bay is quite nice and flat – that’s when I zip out in the dinghy, up and out early to put another 90 minutes on the motor. And that’s when I started my Turtle Expeditions. Unfortunately on my first Turtle Expedition I did not bring my camera (and this is NOT the new camera, but rather the Olympus with an underwater housing); this morning I brought along the Olympus but the turtle I found was not in the mood for appearing in pictures as he dove when I approached (clearly this turtle had not read instructions as regards how to appear in pictures).
Somehow I doubt that putting on Carlo Marioni sunglasses will instantly make one look like this – got to love advertising!
Today I should be picking up my new dark glasses from Optica Cristal and Dra. Alama Martinez Figueroa over in Bucerias. There are some things here in Mexico that make life here much less expensive than in the States; one of them turns out to be prescription dark glasses. To obtain new glasses usually means having the Optometrist do an eye exam and prescription determination ($60-100), the frames can be $250, and the lenses can be another $250 – I get the lenses super-dark (95% light block), UV A-B filters, anti-scratch, anti-glare coatings in high-refraction plastic. I visited Dra Figueora, she spent 20 minutes with me going through several interesting machines to determine what my prescription might want to be. First machine is a computer into which one looks, and the small camera is measuring the shape of the inside of the eyeball, the computer thinks a bit, then adjusts some lenses and suddenly the image you’re staring at intently goes in to focus – darn neat. Then Alma brings out a pair of aluminum frames with lots of verniered measurements and controls on them and starts to fit in various lenses from a big wood case containing several hundred lenses; these can be combined to achieve various results, along with smaller paddles for astigmatism control (the right eye is slightly astigmatic). After lots of ‘First, or Second’ as she swaps in lenses, we arrived at the best prescription for me. Lastly, she takes my existing glasses and mounts them on another small optical device that enables her to determine the prescription built into those lenses. All quite interesting – and she didn’t charge me for the work.
Though General MacArthur liked his Ray Bans – he’s on the right, wearing… the Aviators. I suspect that wearing Ray Bans will not make one an instant General, either.
Armed with the new prescription, she and I go out to front of her store to look at frames; she runs a fairly high end designer oriented eyeglass shop, so lots of elegant fancy frames to choose from if you like interesting colors and strikingly-shaped lenses. This is a bit tough when what I’m going after is Aviator tear-drop frames that maximize light blockage from the side; we settled on Carlo Marioni Solares metal frame, and Alma pointed out these were fairly expensive frames. I asked her what the cost would be and she said $150 for frames and lenses combined; at that point I aid, “In that case, I want two!” She was surprised, and then we learned that she didn’t have a second matching frame and couldn’t get one fast enough, but she did have Ray Ban Aviator frames (but not in Grande size). The frames she had in hand were a little small, but she could get Grande frames quickly – so that became the second pair of sunglasses. All up? $300 US for two pair excellent prescription sun glasses. Pretty amazing. I visit her on Tuesday to test-fit.
Yesterday was a major holiday here in Mexico: it’s the celebration of Benito Juarez’s birthday. This is a big big deal here, much along the lines of the USA idea of George Washington’s birthday. Mike at PV Sailing mentioned that we’re going to see a lot of big power boats that go out once or twice a year – they will be running around Bandears Bay on Monday. They also like to run into things, such as rocks, as they don’t go out very often and the skippers don’t always know the bay that well and the charts don’t show all the rocks. We already have three big boats (30 meters and up) out in the anchorage, lots of aquatic toys on leashes from the stern – jet skis, 20 foot runabouts, paddle boards, it sort of looks like a slightly smallified version of Boats International in the Med.
Double-braid eye splices are kind of like magic, cover goes into core and core goes into cover, which looks like it not ought to work. But when you pull slide the cover back up onto the splice everything slides away and becomes hidden inside the line, leaving behind a loop that can carry 90% of the line’s breaking load.
On board Beetle I’ve been doing a couple of preparatory things for heading over the Marquesas, one of which was to ask Mike at PV Sailing/North Sails to renew the spreader weawr patches on the no. 2 genoa, he did that plus repaired a bit of chafed foot tape where the sail lays across the bow pulpit and wrapped a bit of sticky-back around a wear spot on the luff tape. The no. 2 is back on board. Other thing I’ve done is add leather chafe-guards to the running rigging that gets put through the spinnaker pole jaw. Normally the only thing that gets there are the afterguys, and I sometimes will run the jib sheet through the pole when poling out the headsail, and the same is true for the spinnaker sheets if I want to get the sheet outboard of the lifelines. I called up Todo Vela Marine and while they didn’t have pre-punched leather guards, they did have sheet leather available that they will cut to size, so I bought 2 square feet cut to 10″ width. I end-for-ended the spinnaker sheets, which involves cutting the old eye splice to free the snap shackle, and using lots of soap made a new double braid eye splice on the sheet tail – worked great! The after guys are more complicated than the sheets, so I can’t end-for-end the guys; instead I trimmed back the worn guy 12″ and then spent four hours muscling 14″ of spectra singlebraid back into itself to make up the new eye splice. That was a lot of work, as that section of line has been extremely highly loaded for a long time – not easy to do as the spectra had stretched and set – it did not want to unset. Glad I have a bench vise on board as I used it for pulling against when fiddling the core back into itself. Also helps to soak the line in soapy water with a bit of hair conditioner added – anything to help free up the strands and make them semi-slippery again is a good thing.
Following instructions is critical, as the finished splice has about one line-diameter of error available (1/2″, in this case). Samson Cordage has a special eye splice to be used on ‘old’ rope (e.g., line that has set), that one can find online. Lots of intently studying instructions on the computer then going back to work on the splice.
Beetle turns into a rig shop for the afternoon. On the table is the leather material being turned into hole-punched chafe guards, calculator to work out width (diameter) of flat leather to fit around the line, and the block of wood is a hunk of end-grain 4×6 I use as a soft base for setting metal eyes and (in this case) punching holes in the leather with the awl.
The vise is perfect to pull against as it is strongly fixed to the work bench, especially for the spectra singlebraid eye splice happening here. Lots of soap and string and bits of wire fed through the cover to pull the core back in. Later on I soak the finished splice to remove the soap.
Finished product. Three new eye splices! That’s spinnaker sheets on the left, chafe gear on the jib sheets with their J-locks in the center, and the after guys to the right. That ought to hold up to the spinnaker pole jaws.
So now it is Tuesday morning, I have 16.5 hours on the motor, a cleaned up interior what with all the splicing and chafe-guarding tools put away, the snap shackles have all been polished and lubricated and work a treat now.
We had a bit of excitement out in the anchorage during the week – one of the boats broke free of their anchor during the afternoon thermal breeze and 2-3′ chop and started through the anchorage headed for the beach. Almost immediately the call came in over the VHF from an adjacent boat: ‘Attention the fleet. Attention the fleet. A boat is loose, headed for the beach. Anyone have a dinghy ready to go that can assist?’ Six dinghies launched and people shot over to the boat. Recovery was complicated because the boat was just dragging anchor, it had in fact lost the anchor entirely when the nylon rode cut through on something sharp in the water. I had met the owner when he was up the dock from Beetle while visiting his friend on Iwa, he’s younger German named Manuel, he has just bought the boat in Mexico (currently named Stay Gold – he wasn’t sure what that name was all about) , he’s renaming the boat to Farra only he pronounces that Fadda over the radio, he wasn’t aboard when the anchor line cut and nobody knew where he was.
This is what happened to the cold-moulded Rage when it dragged through the anchorage and spent two days pounding on the rocky beach/reef to the lee of the anchorage. Nobody wants this to happen to anyone’s boat.
Mike of PV Sailing immediately got on the VHF and started to sort things out with the Port Captain and Marina La Cruz, working on getting permission from the Port Captain to go aboard and tow the boat in (plus he had to find a panga with a big enough motor to make the tow as the dinghies weren’t powerful enough to tow Stay Gold/Farra against the chop and wind), and getting permission from the marina to put the boat into a slip.
Out in the anchorage one cruiser arrived with their spare 45 pound CQR anchor, another brought over a spare anchor line (though no chain), and the group proceeded to re-anchor the errant boat. Mike got things worked out and appeared with a panga running a 60 HP outboard, got some help from the folks now clambering over Stay Gold, retrieved the loaned anchor and into the marina the procession went. About this time Manuel comes down the dock and says, “What are you doing with my boat?!?” All is well that ends well, in this case Manuel was offered the loan of the big CQR anchor for the night, a second cruiser gave him 150′ of older slightly-rusty chain, and it was strongly suggested that he not anchor in close to the beach even though the row ashore is short, as there are lots of dead cars, sunk boats, old engine blocks and rusty pots and traps down there – better off to be out in 30 feet of water away from all that even if it is a longer trip to shore. And the next morning the folks onboard Scuba Ninjas ran transects on the bottom and recovered Manuel’s lost anchor for him.
The commercial side of the marina, all the fisherman Pangas are tied up in front of the fish market. These boats go out most days with 3-5 people on board and run all over the place, picking up lobster trap contents, checking or setting nets, and some will run out 30 or more miles to see what was caught last night. They go really fast with the 60-90 horse motors.
Last night the restaurants were in top form, one had even blocked off a street to set up tables out in the roadway and had a temporary stage in place for the band. Lots of rock and roll here – almost all are cover bands.
Most of the streets in La Cruz are real cobblestone, which is not at all as smooth as one might think. The bouncy ride means that the entire street is one large speed bump, which definitely keeps the traffic speed down. Lining the roadway with stone is a huge improvement over dirt or gravel, as the cars don’t throw lots of dust in the air as they go by.
The fancy houses are down near the beach (note no cobblestone, these are simple dirt roads over here), the houses are set behind big solid walls and have lawns and lots of landscaping, flowers, and green plants. The leaf cutter ants particularly like this road.
The band is starting up at the restaurant’s tables set up in the street. This is one of the fancier eateries in town, though I haven’t been in this one as I tend to go for simpler tacos on the smaller places that abound here.
So last night we had the dulcet tones of the various cover bands at the various clubs in town were wafting out over the marina (currently it’s Rolling Stones seguing into Johnny Cash).
Today it is nice and calm – perfect for Turtle Expedition No. 4!