Feb 26, 2008

All aboard 19/02/08
We cycled the 13km from El-Centenario to Marina De La-Paz. We were supposed to be there at 08:00, so by 12:00 we can leave, after shopping, loading the bikes and gear and doing the 'boat stuff' that is needed to be done. We caught captain Kip at 08:01, on his way to the shower. And then we waited for sometime that looked like forever. It wasn't the first 'forever' we waited for him (we had a few of these 'forever'-s on the previous day) and certainly not the last. We got up at 05:30 to arrive at 08:00. He came back to the boat at around 09:30. During that time we sprayed our bikes with oil, which we got from Tim, the friendly captain of the multi-million-dollar yacht, to protect them from the salt in the water & air at the sea.
Kip arrived, quickly chit-chatted with Tim for another 20 minutes, and we started loading our stuff. The actual size of our bikes and gear startled him for a second. There still was the 3'rd passenger, who was late, but, he bravely took us. We tied the bikes on the deck, feeling uncomfortable, just like anytime we load our bikes on a vehicle. The trailers were gently carried through the living-room/kitchen to the front of the boat – the main bedroom; will all sleep in the living-room.
It was late, 11:00, so we went to the big, modern, American-style supermarket, to buy food for 4 people for 4 days, while Kip was arranging last arrangements.
12:30 – we were ready to move. Chuck, our 4'th wheel (which could have been our 5'th) didn't show up, nor call. The 3 of us drank a shot of rum, toasting to Neptune, and we were off.
We were cruising out of La-Paz harbor, with our drinks in our hands, enjoying the weather, but fighting the headwind (a factor, not only in cycling). Just as Gal was about to pour another drink to our captain, the small sail-boat got stuck on a sand dune.
How embarrassing!
Kip didn't know where to bury himself. He was somewhere between laughing and crying (about the paint job and the humiliation). We were just waiting for instructions, enjoying our first adventure in the sea, 200m off shore. A speedboat came to help, catching a rope and dragging the Folie-Douce, while Gal and Rami were moving from one side of the boat to the other, on command, rocking the boat so it will loosen from the sand. In 3 minutes we were back sailing with more rum in our plastic wine glasses and a lesson to think about.

Loading the gear.

Toasting for Neptune - Salud!

First anchorage
After 2 quick hours we reached Puerto Balandra, a small bay/beach. Ecco-Bella, another sailboat who was co-sailing with us to Mazatlan, was already anchored there, waiting. We found a spot, lowered the anchor, toasted with rum, put the dinghy (tiny rowing-boat) in the water and hopped for a quick hello, hoping there will be time to go to the beautiful deserted beach, but, fearing the "quick" hello will be not so quick.
We got on board the Ecco-Bella, a fancier boat, probably, but with less character (in our opinion). We all enjoyed a remarkable sunset, while an almost full moon was rising. We rowed back 'home', had barbecue chicken (a small gas barbecue, connected to the back of the boat – and you thought cyclists take a lot!) and slept our first night on board.

Looking at the Folie-Douce from the Ecco-Bella.
Smoking area.
Sunset on the Ecco-Bella.

Just as the sun was rising, the moon disappeared behind the cliff. We used the engine most of the day due to southern winds; not fun for a sailor, but we didn't give a damn.

The sea was angry that day, a bit, and the boat was swinging. We reached our second anchorage, Punta Ventana. We took the opportunity, while it's still warm, to bath in the sea. Due to the salt water, we learned it's wiser to use soap for dishes.
This time Madi & Mike (from the Ecco-Bella) came to the Folie-Douce. Rami made fried calamari with rum, garlic & lemon.

The Dinghy!

The sea was angry that day!

Washing with dishes soap.
Kip bringing Madi & Mike from the Ecco-Bella.

Calamari dinner.
Rami washing the dishes.

The crossing 21/02/08
We set out early. According to the plan, we had almost 24 hours of sailing, to reach Mazatlan before sunset – its never wise to anchor after dark (as camping with the bikes), especially a new anchorage.
There was no wind, so we engined. The Ecco-Bella, having a stronger engine, slowly disappeared ahead of us. Soon (2 hours later, that's a "soon" in sailing time) the wind built up and our "Alberg 37", a classic Swedish design, was flying, much faster from the Ecco-Bella and captain Kip, regaining his lost pride, joked about it.

Morning - goodbye to the moon.
The toilets.

Technical problems part I
The Ecco-Bella radioed us that their battery is not charging. We stopped near them and the men started working on it. After about an hour they managed to replace the alternator (which alternates, obviously), using a connector that Kip found deep within the boat, finding his old glasses, the flashlight he lost yesterday (turned on and the batteries dead), his cell phone that was lost for months, among other things on the way. And we continued.
15 minutes later the Ecco-Bell stopped again. They still had electrical problems. They turned back to La-Paz and we continued, or, we continued and they turned back to La-Paz. We were not so delighted of leaving them) isn’t that why they co-sailed?), but we were on a schedule, as Kip apologized; he was supposed to meet his girlfriend at Mazatlan on our arrival.

Technical problems.

“The wind clocked” – a phrase frequently used in the world of sailing. We opened our sails and turned off the engine, sailing most of the day. But, it’s not like a cruise! There was always something happening, or something to do: correcting the course according to the GPS, playing with the new autopilot, playing with the sails, connecting the barbecue, washing dishes with the salt water pump catching some sleep after the graveyard shift of last night. We hoped to do some catching up on the blog, but didn’t have time to read or write. We learned that sailing by yourself is exhausting. The sunset and the full moon was climbing. We set the night shifts, 2 hours each, of staying awake, every now & then checking the sonar (that didn’t BEEP), checking the course on the GPS and looking around for huge ferries, cargo boats and shrimp boats, that might be headed our way.
The boat was rocking a bit, enough to make Gal feel nauseous and miss out on the pasta.

Dolphins 22/02/08
We woke up in the middle of the Sea of Cortes. Nothing around but water. The sea calmed down. Rami was washing the dishes and Gal was resting. Kip called us out: “We have dolphins!”. We quickly jumped outside and saw about 10 dolphins swimming around the boat, playing with it. We were all excited, watching them play, taking pictures of them. After about 20 minutes, they dispersed and Gal and Rami were back inside the boat, washing the dishes. A minute later Kip called us out: “We have dolphins!”. Again, we jumped out and saw all around us, as far as the eye can see, hundreds of dolphins, easily over 500!
They were showing off, jumping and swimming around the boat. Kip turned off the engine and we sailed with them for about an hour. How can one describe one of the most incredible experiences in his life? The dolphins – so beautiful and full of grace!


We said goodbye to the dolphins and corrected our course; we wanted to reach Mazatlan before dark. Kip told Rami to raise the rear sail (it has a name). Rami was pulling a rope, and pulling, and pulling. After too much pulling, he called Kip to check it. Dow! (Homer Simpson) Rami was pulling the wrong rope (of the 20 ropes colored white-red-blue)! A connector on the mast of the rear small sail has broken. Rami felt really bad about doing more damage to the boat. The previous day, while the boat was rocking, he was thrown on a small shelf and it fell of. The problem was that we have no experience, but we want to help. We don’t know the English terms and when we ask Kip: ”Is this the rope?” he says: “yes” without looking, sometimes too busy in other things. Operating the boat single-handed would seem to be very difficult. When we approached Kip in La-Paz, he was looking for a crew (which we were not). We just wanted a ride and it only seemed natural to help. Kip surprised us, again, in his calm reaction to us wrecking his home. Fixing it will be a time-consuming nuisance, but, a few minutes later he already joked about it, a very noble characteristic of his.

The ‘sail’ incident, among others, and the lack of interaction with people / ’Mexico’ / speaking Spanish / moving around / local food / toilets / shade – we had enough of the sailing experience. It’s not like leaving your marina for 3-4 hours on the weekend, drinking cold beers. We’ve been ‘stuck’ on this tiny boat, beautiful and well designed, but claustrophobic for 3 people + bicycles, and we were glad to get off at Mazatlan.

Land a-hoy! 22/02/08
Around noon time we started seeing land in the ‘smogged’ horizon. In the late afternoon we entered Marina Mazatlan, the main harbor in Mazatlan where the ferry and huge cargo ships dock. The water surrounding the area was dirty and stinky. An experienced sailor would have known not to pre-wash the dishes in sea-water in the marina. Gal was not that experienced! We anchored among a few other sailboats in a beautiful anchorage (though stinky). We quickly took the dinghy to shore, to get to town for dinner, search for Kips’ girlfriend (internet) and just to be on land.
Mazatlan has a population of over a 1,000,000 people, the biggest Mexican port on the Pacific. The old town was nearby. Since we went off the boat, we had a feeling of the ground moving. We were walking like drunks towards it. This movement of the ground continued on the following day.
Kips’ dream of his girlfriend waiting at the port faded away. He wanted to go eat first, even though Rami tried convincing him to check his email first. So, we were walking around the beautiful, restored old town. Kip took us to a rather expensive pizza restaurant, even though we preferred Mexican food: cheaper, quicker and tasty. After dinner Kip was too tiered for internet, so we went back to the boat.

The next morning we “attacked” the town. We finally reached the internet and Kip was disappointed to discover that his girlfriend changed her plans and will land at Puerta Villarta (4 sailing days south) in 2 days with a friend. The news took him by surprise and totally changed his plans (and ours). He asked us to continue with him a bit more. We tried gently explaining that we had enough of the sailing experience. We told him that Gal is nauseous and will not want to sail tomorrow if the weather is bad (obviously, he missed the weather report on the radio on the following morning) and that we feel uncomfortable by doing more damage to the boat. We don’t have the money to start fixing a boat.
After wasting too much time and buying not enough food we were back on the boat. We quickly engined to the other marina, 10km north, for refueling, where we spent the night. We reached a boring, upscale marina with no views except for hundreds of sail boats and bored owners. After endless boring chit-chats with all the neighbors (what Kip calls ‘getting information’, but as Israelis, which pass around information quickly, without all the boring small-talk, we just call it chit-chat).
We still didn’t have a clue about the weather for the following day, in our area. We had a lot of opinions about weather in different locations and different times of the year, but nothing about Mazatlan tomorrow. Gal reminded Kip she doesn’t want to sail in bad weather and suddenly he lost his temper. He blamed us on quitting on him “in the middle” and didn’t listen when we reminded him we just wanted to hitch a ride to the mainland; we’re not that excited about sailing and we’re not planning on throwing our bikes and buying a sail boat. He still tried to convince us that we want to hitch to Puerta Villarta (we knew that the last place we want to be is at Puerta Villarta – the second largest resort area in Mexico) and that he is doing us a favor.
We finished the conversation with an understanding that we’ll sail with him the over night sail to San-Blas, via Isla Isabela, and he’ll continue on his own the remaining easy 2 days (of 4 hours each) to Puerta Villarta.
Exhausted, we were ready to go to eat, now that there was no time for shopping. We took a public bus to the town center, passing through 8km of resorts / characterless hotels / McDonalds / restaurants with pictures on the menu / 1,000,000 gringos / another Gringo-land.

Kip apologized for loosing his temper. He said that the change of plans with his new girlfriend (which he was excited about) took him out of balance. The gesture calmed us all down and we were ready to enjoy our dinner. Gal insisted on choosing dinner, after the previous pizza dinner. We reached a big junction in the town center, with loads of food stalls & tables, with many Mexicans eating. Gal shouted “stop” and we were off the bus. We first went to a shop, to buy 2 huge beer bottles (one litre each) and sat at a table of a nearby food stall and ordered everything they had. The food was fantastic, just the way street food in the big city should be. The barbecue potato with cheese & beef, covered with salads and sauces was Gals´ favorite dish in Mexico so far.
Full, a bit drunk and happy, we ran quickly to catch the last bus. We really didn't want to spend the money on a 10km taxi ride. The bus surprised us. It was totally normal, full, but there were no locals on it, only Canadians & Americans, at their 60's, on their way back to Gringo-land. Never in Ramis' life has he seen so many North-American Caucasians in one public bus before.

Gringo bus!

The following morning Kip missed the weather report, while chatting. Kip planned on leaving around 16:00, so we'll reach our next anchorage in day light. Gal & Rami checked the weather on the marina internet and when they came back around 11:00, Kip was nervous, in a hurry to leave: "The tide will be coming soon". So, surprise-surprise, we were on a tight schedule again. We needed to refuel and buy food. It was Sunday, so the marina petrol-station was closed, so Kip went to get diesel from the petrol-station across the main road, about 40 litres in 2 big containers, while we went to do shopping. He told us to take a taxi, but, it irritated us that he never did his homework, even with us nagging him about it - what about our time and money? And one thing Gal hates is unnecessary pressure!
We managed to leave the marina at 13:00, just as the tide was coming.

It was night. Gal took the first shift. It was pitch dark, still a few hours till the moon will rise. Kip & Rami were asleep. It was totally quiet. The sea collided with the sky, imposible to distinguish between them. Only the million stars and the phosphorescence, breaking on the boat, were seen. We were totally alone. Gal was listening to the CD Yael prepared for us, enjoying the tranquility.
Later, on Ramis' shift, the moon rose and the sea turned into black velvet, a bit shiny and smooth.
With first light we saw a small island - Isla Isabela. The plan was to anchor there, spend the day relaxing after a long night. But, after half an hour of struggling the rock beach we all agreed to continue directly to San-Blas.

Isla Isabela.

Technical problems II
We heard the engine choke. A few minutes later it died. there was no wind at all, we were late and we were already in plan B. kips' first hunch was one on the gasoline filters. He build a plan, running through the 3 filters, but, first, a cold beer (our last of the 6-pack). After an hour & a half of work, he saw that no gasoline was coming out of one of the pump. He searched a bit more and found, among other things, the manual for the engine. He read a bit and then calculated calculations and then he disconnected the pump. We turned on the engine, a few coughs and it started working just fine. We didn't how the engine worked without a pump, but Kip new what he was doing. With a history of Formula-1 racing, engines around him all his life (he taught us the difference between "engine" and "motor"; in Hebrew it's the same word) and a good sense of improvisation, we were in good hands. A few days a go, when Ecco-Bella had problems, he commented about these too-complicated*to-repair parts: "I can fix on my boat anything needed for sailing".

Kip fixing the engine.

Just before sunset we reached San-Blas and quickly anchored. It was the most beautiful and relaxed anchorage we had. Groups of Manta-Rays were swimming around us and the sun set behind coconuts - finally coconuts!
Unfortunately, we had no fish for dinner; the Dorados we caught were not tasty enough to kill, so we threw them back. So, we had barbecue chicken, tostadas with green salsa and lots of rum.
We had a fantastic farewell evening.

San-Blas anchorage.
Finally - coconuts.

Departure 26/02/08
After a lazy breakfast we sailed into the small harbor. We stopped at the fuel-dock and unloaded our stuff. While we reassembled the bikes and trailers, Kip anchored and swam to shore.
We quickly found a room in a beautiful old hotel with a pleasant inner-courtyard and enjoyed spending the day on land, in beautiful San-Blas. We finally had people around us - Mexicans! We had music, street food, and, of coarse, a bit of privacy.
It is not easy staying in someones house for a week. This was a very small house, with nowhere to go to. Thanks to Kips' character, hospitality and sense of humor, what started as a hitch to the mainland became a wonderful experience.

Leaving the boat.