We are back! In La Cruz de Huanacaxtle that is. After a few weeks of boat chores, including a week at the boatyard, we were finally ready to start this season’s long delayed Mexican Adventure. One where we are determined to spend more than a month or two at a time doing our favourite thing – cruising where it’s warm.
The La Marina del Palmar boatyard in La Paz took care of the big jobs – bottom paint, replacing the keel cooler, redoing the bellows on the dripless shaft seal on the wing engine and prop speed on the main, wing and bow thruster props. And Lawrence took care of the other jobs that needed doing after our prolonged absence.
Of course our days weren’t all about work, and almost every afternoon we found ourselves at the hotel pool, which was very handy the week we were on the hard and living at the Costa Baja resort. And of course choosing from one of the four main restaurants in Costa Baja isn’t a hardship either. We met new cruisers, holidayers, and old acquaintances. It was a lot of fun – and we even celebrated Christmas with two boat families… but finally it was time to bite the bullet and make the passage south.
There is definitely an issue when you have left the boat for nineteen months. We had cleaners and watchers but we didn’t have someone coming on board except a few friends who popped in when they passed by, to conduct the sniff test. (Boat smells good… I’m happy)
The chores related to bringing NRII up to speed and ready for a 46 hour transit were finally mostly done, to the best of our ability. You can try to predict what could go wrong but eventually you have to trust in the boat and get out on the water. We ran her to and from the boatyard, several hours worth of shakedown…and when a great weather window appeared we grabbed it.
Being on the water again was wonderful, and my first job was to put the fishing lines out.
December cruising means short days and I only had a few hours of sunlight left. Off Jacques Cousteau Island I had a massive hit, taking most of my line with it. Dreams of a huge tuna or dorado were dashed when we brought up a large skipjack. Well that’s not what I wanted! We released it, and I brought the lines in. Sun was going down anyway and if there’s one skipjack there, there are probably more. I figured I could fish all day the next day, and anticipated bringing in something worth keeping.
Not to be…without going into too many details, that night proved to be one of those “if it can go wrong it will”… starting with the stabilizer alarm going off in a frenzied appeal for attention. It always takes a bit of time to figure out where the alarm is coming from, especially if you haven’t heard that one before…but it was mere seconds before Lawrence realized what was happening, and raced to the engine room. The port fin actuator had blown its seal, and the entire reservoir of hydraulic fluid had thereby released itself into the bilge and the bilge pump was valiantly trying to expel it overboard. What a smell and what a mess!
(Turns out no one else seems to think the smell of hot hydraulic fluid is really disgusting… )
And thus began several hours of trying to figure out what to do…with Lawrence working in the engine room. Time off for sleep didn’t happen but I had had a nap as soon as I pulled in the lines so I was good for half the night.
Why do these things happen when it’s dark? And it’s not that it was really rough (we had done a great job of picking a weather window) but it was the kind of sea that takes you broadside and rolls you…if you aren’t stabilized. I hadn’t done a stellar job of locking things down so there were a lot of those annoying noises as things found their lowest point, which ramps up your stress level a few notches.
Also we were almost as far from one end of the trip as we were from the other, with Mazatlan as a third alternative for refuge but it was no closer. Lawrence persevered in the engine room, coming up with a way to bypass the blown actuator cylinder (involving repurposing the fittings from the blown cylinder and Rescue Tape – that stuff is fantastic!) and save the hydraulic pump from burning itself out which included having to shut down the engine not once but twice. A very nerve wracking proposition but that Lugger easily started up both times and calmed my beating heart. We also had sufficient hydraulic fluid aboard to refill the reservoir once the leak was bypassed.
(Wing engine not an option as we never got the impeller or transmission cooler we needed delivered before we left and so we didn’t want to start her up and risk having impeller bits coursing through the engine or a potential major sea water leak – in a true emergency we would have resorted to that, but this was not.)
good to have extra hydraulic fluid aboard…
And so the night and the next day progressed. There were more minor occurrences (such as a broken bilge pump fitting) in the series of unfortunate events but all they did was make me realize that between Lawrence magyvering what needed fixing and me not having an all out curl up in a ball melt down, we actually were a good team. We only had to deal with three or four ships passing close by (in the night of course) and the promised calm weather manifested itself as time went on.
Second night passed relatively smoothly with Lawrence in and out of the engine room when he wasn’t sleeping or on watch. My job was to feed the crew and stand my watches and sleep when I could. I think I did a great job of all three! Especially sleeping!
Things are always much better in daylight and there is nothing as sweet as the sunrise when you know you are mere hours from your destination. Unfortunately when I woke up for my shift things were not as they should be. First of all as I lay there I had the distinct feeling that we weren’t moving, it was so flat. Hallelujah! I thought, it’s a calm calm sea… or are we already tied at the dock and he did it without me?!
When I stood up I realized it wasn’t so much that we were in a flat calm sea but we were heeled so far over it was like we were pinned in place. What the holy h….? Lawrence was coming down as I was going up and he confirmed my concerns – the fuel which was supposed to have returned to the starboard tank had actually all gone to the port side. And wow is that freaky! We were lucky there was just a little swell but each roller pushed us further over and it’s just wrong to be on a boat that isn’t powered by a sail, heeled over as if it were. I prudently ( I thought ) shut all the doors just in case, while my Magyver worked his way through what had gone wrong. I had the temerity to ask him if maybe he had made a mistake which, to my credit, is something a cruising couple should be able to do without pushback. He assured me he had checked doubled checked and then triple checked the fuel lines and valves. And then he brought out the big guns – the original manual. Eventually he worked his way through what may have happened and started transferring fuel again – and this time it went where it was supposed to go, and we leveled out just fine.
Actual cause of misdirection of fuel is still up for discussion but most likely seems to involve an open vent valve on the fuel manifold that should not have been, rather than any of fuel in/fuel out valve settings on the manifold, which were all correct.
So we approached Banderas Bay and Marina Riviera Nayarit (La Cruz de Huanacaxtle), found out our slip assignment, watched as the local whales frolicked around the party boats, and made our way into the Marina and our new home for the next month or so. Our sister ship and full time La Cruz resident is on the same dock (Noeta) so that was a welcome surprise!
Holiday season has made this place quite crazy busy.
Mexican holidayers mingled with the American and Canadian holidayers… the party boats were doing double duty, dropping off loads of well-lubricated partiers and picking up the next load and more “lubricant” for the afternoon run – meaning lots and lots and lots of unmasked humans wandering around.
Very disconcerting… we masked up and ventured out for a few dinners at our favourite restaurants and met up with old friends and fellow boaters, but mostly hung out on the boat.
We arrived just in time for New Year’s Eve…. We celebrated alone on our top deck with good food, some nice wine, and actually made it to midnight and had a chance to watch the fireworks exploding all around us up and down Banderas Bay! The Mexicans LOVE their fireworks. After that we fell into bed to catch up on our sleep. We must have been tired because our neighbours told us about the boat right in front of us coming in at 04:30 and partying loudly just a feet away from our bow – we didn’t hear a thing. I put it down to Nordhavns being so well built! And maybe a little lack of sleep.
I got back into my early morning power walk with old Richmond buddy Fiona and even started going to aqua fit with her. She took me along to the community garden, to tend to the veggies, which takes us through a very poor part of the town but has introduced me to some very wonderful locals. The disparity between how the people live here compared to the relative wealth you see in the marina is very jarring. I’m still working on processing how I feel about it all. During covid the local ex-pats banded together to create a La Cruz pantry where donations of money and food were dispersed as food hampers to the local families who needed it most. Sometimes this was over 100 families. The garden was started as a way to provide these same residents with a means to grow their own food, and the locals and the expats have been working together to make it work.
My contribution is veggie bags made from pillow cases and painted by moi, so when veggies are harvested they have something pretty to carry them home with. Win win for me – I haven’t picked up a brush to actually paint something for a long time and this is just fun and creative and gives me something to do when it’s too hot outside!
So the fourth N50, Duet, will be coming over here in a few days and we are going to have a Nifty 50 Noodle in Banderas Bay! We are all pretty excited about it – Sam and Anna on Akeeva, Pat and Alexa on Noeta, Northern Ranger II, and Ron and Nancy on Duet… looking forward to the photos! And the party after!
January 14.. where does the time go…
We had the Nifty Fifty Photo Shoot and I have to say Patrick on Noeta did an amazing job with the drone … pretty special to have four older beauties out there looking sooo good!
There are few days go by that someone doesn’t stop and compliment us on having such a beautiful boat. We are all very proud of these amazing vessels – yes it would be great to go bigger but when you crunch the numbers these boats do it all and give us spare change for things like food and wine.
Fellow Nifty Fifty owners…. Noodling….
So we are still in La Cruz – the gang has scattered to do some travelling or errands. We had a fun evening on the top deck of Northern Ranger II before everyone left, celebrating a good day on the water.. and the next night we all went for dinner at the Tree House where we ate well (Lawrence would put his ribs in the category of Best Ever) and enjoyed fabulous music. Absolutely loved the band. Felt comfortable covid-wise…sort of.
Numbers here are rising, as they are everywhere. Masking seems not so consistent here as it was in La Paz or at Costa Baja, so it’s up to us to wear our masks and make decisions about where we are going to spend our time and with whom. I still walk every morning with Fiona but as more people showed up for aquacize and the local Covid numbers rose I have gotten cold feet. We need to pick and choose our “posse”.. and enlarging it with people I don’t know, no matter how fun they are, seems a bit dicey right now.
Our time is otherwise spent with boat chores, a not uncommon pastime for cruisers! We were lucky to have our friends help us out by ferrying parts down but as we have been gathering everything together we are finding things missing… the downside of not being there when the deliveries arrived means we aren’t even sure they DID arrive! So now Lawrence is having to source the MIA parts and have them delivered to us here In La Cruz… which means we are probably hanging around here longer than originally planned, before heading south to Barra.
None of the boat chores involves something I can actually do anything about – I’m more of a plan and execute meals kind of person. And I do love washing the boat – I get to be outside, cool down and make the boat sparkle- what’s not to love about that?
However the two pieces of teak on NRII have been driving me crazy as long as she’s been ours, so I have made it my personal goal to make them shine. Sanding is done – next round, varnish! Stay tuned!