Thursday, May 9, 2013

Blueberries in the Sea of Cortez

One of the things that I have always found to be facinating about the Baja California Peninsula, in general, and the Sea of Cortez, in particular, is the abundance and variety of wildlife one can observe and enjoy. Lacking a working camera has made some of our experiences nearly impossible to capture. We were particularly surprised the other afternoon, we saw two specimens of a jellyfish I'd never seen before.

Once back aboard, we googled blue jellyfish in the Sea of Cortez and were surprised to find that what we had observed is a newly identified species of jellyfish, with the common name of blueberries. Specimens of this species were observed  the Sea of Cortez in 2012 and a live jelly was sent to the Monterey Bay Aquarium for identification. It was determined that this was a newly identified species of Stomolophus.
While decomposed specimens were discovered in 2010, it wasn't until last year (2012) that live specimens were examined by experts around the world and they were determined to be a newly identified species. Such is one of the many lures of cruising in the pristine waters of the Sea of Cortez. It truely is the aquarium of the world.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Short Post - Anchorage Video

This will necessarily be a short post. Our digital camera has decided to finally give into age and abuse and stop working. We were able to spend time out at Isla Espiritu Santo and take a couple of low resolution videos. We did enjoy wonderful weather, clear water and isolated anchorages. While we managed to run out of propane (my oversight) and have problems with our outboard motor, we did see more sea turtles in one of the anchorages (Ensenada la Gallina) than we had ever seen before. It was difficult to determine the total number of individuals, as they would break the surface for only a few seconds to gulp a breath before diving, but at one point we saw five heads simultaneously above the surface.

These are poor quality videos, but do give an indication of generally what to expect at some of the anchorages in the Sea of Cortez. The first part of the video shows the open roadstead at Playa Bonanza, on the south east side of the island. It has a beach over a mile long, bounded by two rocky reefs at either end. The second video was taken around sunset on the western side of the island from the middle cove of a three fingered anchorage. We were anchored in 16 feet of water in Ensenada el Gallo (Rooster Cove). To the north there is Ensenada de la Raza (Race or Humankind Cove) and the turtle filled cove to the south, Ensenada de la Gallina (Hen Cove).

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Fabrication of New Boat Covers in La Paz

The canvas boat covers on Citla are the same as when we purchased the boat. They weren't new then and have been professionally restitched
twice since we've had the boat and undergone hand repair on a few occassions, as well. This is the year we decided we needed to do some major replacement. The plan is to replace the dodger, bimini, the shade piece between these two elements, and the mainsail cover. We're also hoping to fabricate two hatch covers, and sunscreens for the sides of the cockpit. The latter contributes to the comfort at anchor in the unrelenting sun.

During our frequent stays in La Paz, we've become familiar with many of the canvas services here and have had the opportunity to observe the professionals work and see their finished products. There are several good canvas fabricators in town and we decided to go with Danny Gonzalez at Pacific Threads, who is both a sailmaker and canvas fabricator. The process began by contacting Danny and making arrangements for him to visit the boat and see what we wanted. He came by one morning, while working on the catamaran Sun Babies and gave us an estimate for the work.

Our previous experience with buying Sunbrella fabric in La Paz found that selection and availability of colors was limited. To insure that we were able to get the color we wanted, we ordered directly from Sailrite, purchasing Sunbrella, Tenara Lifetime thread (Gore-Tex), a roll of Strataglass 40 gauge vinyl window material, and all the stainless steel snaps and nylon zippers the project would require. We transported all of this to the boat on our trip down with the new rudder. One of the things we learned during our initial meeting with Danny was that now Sunbrella is widely available in Mexico in all colors and widths. While we haven't done a price comparison, we suspect material costs would likely be similar had we purchased the fabric here.

I'd like to pass along a couple of pieces of information shared with us by the professionals which we found useful and may be of interest for others considering replacing their canvas. Durability of the Sunbrella is a function of fabric color. Apparently, due to the dying process, the darker colors are more resilient and wear better than the lighter colors. Also, experienced fabricators will never use the old covers to serve as patterns for construction of new canvas, but will insist on taking measurements directly from the boat. If someone suggests they can construct new covers using the old as a pattern, it's probably a good idea to look for another, more experienced professional to do your job.

Danny began the process by taking measurements of the mainsail cover, followed by removing all the canvas from the stainless steel frames and setting the visual symmetry of the framework. We indicated to Danny we weren't in a huge hurry and he could take his time. At the three month mark, we're finally winding the work down. We now have all new cockpit canvas, side shades for the cockpit, hatch covers and a new mainsail cover. We also had hand rails attached to the sides of the dodger, fabricated by Sergio Galindo (he did much of the welding on the stainless steel bean sculpture in Chicago). While we didn't manage to get much sailing time in during the canvas work, we did take several weeks off to celebrate our grandson's first birthday in San Francisco and to pay our yearly homage to the IRS. There were a few glitches along the way, but Danny remained patient and in good humor; always the professional and perfectionist when it comes to his projects.

One further benefit we received came when Danny found out we had been contemplating fabricating a new custom mattress for our forepeak. He took us to Macias Upholstery out at the end of General Manuel Marquez de Leon. Sr. Macias has been in business for the past forty years and manages a busy upholstery warehouse on the outskirts of La Paz. He has a full stock of foam quality and firmness to choose from and routinely does custom boat work. We selected our foam choice for the underment along with the sunbrella cover fabric with the promise of bringing 2" of memory foam on our return from San Diego to finish the project. We ended up with a perfectly fitted, well constructed custom mattress at a fraction of the cost it would have been in the U.S. We're sleeping on it and are very pleased with the finished project.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Headliner Upgrade

When we first purchased our boat it was functionally sound with regard to all the systems. We had a complete survey, top to bottom, and verified that the sails, rigging, engine, electrical, plumbing and hull were all in good to excellent condition. However with a boat of this vintage, there were cosmetic upgrades which begged to be made.

One of the most obvious asthetic improvements to be made was replacing the original headiner. While not terribly shabby, there were areas of mildew staining around two of the salon ports and parts of the headliner had lost contact with the hull in the quater berth area, behind the nav station and in the liquor cabinet. Because of the way the original headliner had been installed, it was virtually impossible to replace it using the old upholstery system. Further research led us to Randy Spicer at the Yacht Docktor, who specializes in woodwork, as well as headliner replacement. He suggested going with a panelized headliner. The advantages to this approach is the headliner is designed in several removable panels, making access to wiring and coach-roof hardware simple and allowing for piece-meal panel replacement, should it ever be needed.

Installation of a panelized headliner involves installing furring strips to which each of the individual panels will be attached. These furring strips are glued and screwed into the underside of the coach roof.
The individual panels are made from quarter inch marine plywood, cut into panels to match the coach roof pattern for the cabin. These panels are then padded and upholstered. Industrial grade velcro strips are mechanically attached to both the furring strips with the matching hook side attached along the borders of the upholstered panels.
Wiring holes and dorade vents are marked and cut out of the appropriate panels. After the panels are attached to the furring strips, all lights and trim hardware are installed to the panels. In the case of dorade vents, the screened teak trim covers were installed. The same was true for the mast and hatch trim pieces.
The individual headliner covers for each of the book shelf cubbies were fabricated using the same technique.

Headliner that was used behind the nav station and liquor cabinet was replaced with teak plywood and teak strips.

The following are some photos of the finished headliner and some of the details.


Starboard salon---

Cabin hatch---

Mast detail---

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Heart of Marina de La Paz

One of the special places in the sea of Cortez is the city of La Paz. First visited by Hernan Cortez in 1535, it is now the capital city of Baja California Sur. For cruisers, the hub of activity in La Paz is located in its oldest floating marina, Marina de La Paz, the second oldest floating marina in Mexico. Founded by the Shroyer family in 1983, its day to day management is handled by Mac and Mary's oldest son, Neil.

The marina is a well designed and well maintained facility that caters to the cruising community. It is the most centrally located of all the marinas to the downtown area of La Paz, close to many businesses and services that cater to visiting cruisers. The majority of the floating docks are planked either using Ipe or Trex. Each slip has its own power tower, allowing for either 30 or 50amp service, potable water and a weatherized plug-in for Internet service (there is also WiFi service available). Within the secure compound of the marina are a full service restaurant, a small tienda, a service that offers help with documents (visitor visas; park passes; TIP's; etc.), a yacht brokerage, a dive shop and a general yacht maintenance service. The marina also provides and maintains clean shower rooms with a second story multipurpose room for meetings, classes and special events. In addition to being supportive of the larger community of La Paz, the Shroyer family also sponsers Club Cruceros de La Paz providing a club house, lending library of both books and DVD's, and an outdoor meeting place for cruisers who are visiting La Paz. The club provides information and support to the cruising community, as well as, outreach events held by the club to benefit the needy communities in the larger La Paz urban area.

While the heart and soul of Marina de La Paz are the Shroyer's, the individuals who provide the day to day service and support of the marina and keep it running also deserve special attention. There is a dedicated team of employees, without whom, Marina de La Paz wouldn't be the special place it is today. The following are photo's of some of the dedicated, professional and friendly support staff. I apologize for not including all the staff, including Mac Shroyer, but those who have been included are the people you most often see.

Mary Shroyer, matriarch of the family business, and angel to both the cruising and La Paz communities.

Neil Shroyer is the day to day operations manager and overseer of the marina. In addition to his marina duties, he maintains an active role in local marine and harbor business. If anyone has a problem to solve, Neil is a valuable resource to consult.

Cyntia is one of the bubbly, cheerful office managers, who keeps track of the residents of the marina, assigning slips and parking places.

Adriana, the other happy co-manager of the marina office, shares duties with Cyntia.

Yolanda rounds out the cheerful and helpful office staff at Marina de La Paz. Three more helpful, cheerful woman are hard to find and they're all here at Marina de La Paz.

Javier is the head watchman in charge of security at the marina. He's there day and night.

Marco is also part of the security team at Marina de La Paz. He generally works evenings and weekends, along with Javier.

Maria keeps the showers and rest rooms spotless and is always cheerful.

Joel is a great boat mechanic. In 2008, he managed to change our raw water pump, which is not located in a great spot for maintenance.

Antonio (Tono) is a work boat pilot and all around jack of all trades.

Abel is another jack-of-all trades when it comes to boats and also manages the fuel dock.

Martin primary responsibility is maintaining the desalination operation at the marina.

Omar is one of the more recent employees at Marina de La Paz. As with the rest of the staff, he's cheerful and helpful to anyone who needs or asks for assistance. His current duties include dock maintenance, including woodworking, electrical and painting.

Ernesto is part of the security team, working the graveyard shift.

Lupe, while not an employee of the marina, provides propane pick-up service for the cruisers three mornings a week.

One of the regular dock visitors who looks for maintenance work is Jacob. He enjoys talking and can be a hard worker, if hired. All the people walking the docks looking for work have to be approved by the marina before being allowed to solicit work.

Friday, January 11, 2013

The Holidays with Our Newest Family Member

We left La Paz in December and drove back to San Diego for the holidays. Having a new grandchild has become an irrestible draw, capable of pulling us from our cruising grounds. From San Diego, we drove north to Santa Rosa to celebrate Christmas with family. We spent the better part of a week enjoying ourselves at Archer's great-grandmothers house in the Valley of the Moon. It was cool, wet and beautiful. Christmas found the family converging on Gigi's house to celebrate Christmas morning and enjoy Christmas dinner. Sean, Chantal and Archer arrived a day earlier and had settled into the office. I'm taking the grandparents preogative to share a few of the photos taken during our stay.

Great-Grandpa Don and Grandma Cheryl.

Great-Grandma Gigi and Great-Grandpa Don.

Two of Santa's helpers. Great-Grandpa Don and Grandpa Peter.

Grandma Kathie and Great-Grandma Gigi with Archer.

Grandma Kathie and Archer.

Sean and Archer reading.

Good morning from Archer.

Archer trying out his tiger scooter on Christmas morning.

Archer and his uncle Andrew.

Chantal, Archer and Sean on Christmas morning.

Archer in his bumble-bee sweat shirt.

A visit to the Charles Schultz Museum the day after Christmas. Chantal, Archer and Sean (and, of course, Charlie Brown).

Following our return to San Diego, we enjoyed a belated Christmas dinner with the rest of our family and their significant others.

Our daughter, Nicole, dressed for the cold.

Nicole's beau, Mike.

Danica our favorite foodie, followed by her Aunt Mari.

Danica's husband and our son-in-law, Paul, ready for post-Christmas dinner.

The gracious hostess and my beautiful wife, Kathie.