April 30, 2005

Ensenada Grande

Greetings from Ensenada Grande at Isla Partida.

I was sad to leave the beautiful Partida Cove but this is even more beautiful. The water is crystal clear, ranging from the beautiful light turquoise blue near the beach, then several shades of deeper blue, all the way to deep sapphire blue. I love this!

The water is warming up but still a little to cool to go without a wet suit for very long. It's 74 degrees, 2 degrees warmer than the last cove.

The main sea life we've seen is puffer fish, that seem to be nesting in groups on the sand bottom. There are a few other small species (sergeant majors, coronet fish, stingrays) but nothing we'd call lunch.

Our main excursion for today was to follow the trail to the top of this rocky island for a view to the east and all the way to Baja to the west…and to see our boat in these setting in these waters. It was an interesting trek among a variety of cactus and lizards. Not many people would call this a path past the first 50 feet. For today we had to call it quits when our "trail" turned in a mass of rocks and boulders to climb over.

Since everything is working well now, and nothing is broken, we have ample time for diversions lie backgammon, reading, visiting with the other boaters and just plain kicking back. Needless to say, we are enjoying this immensely.

We'll probably stay here for another day or two before moving on to Isla San Francisco.

Warmest Regards,
Mary and Bill

April 28, 2005

Isla Partida

Hello everyone!

We finally left La Paz yesterday morning and, after fueling up, motored the 23 miles up to (no wind again) and anchored at Caleta Partida at Isla Partida.

This is a nice anchorage with plenty of room for dozens of boats. During one La Paz race week a reported 200 were anchored in here. The only downside is that La Paz is the center of "The Moorings" bareboat charter operation in the area and there are quite a few charterers out for their one week vacations.

Needless to say, they vary in personalities and skills. One boat dropped anchor uncomfortably close to us.

We will move today or tomorrow up two bays North of here to Ensenada Grande, still on Isla Partida, to join Larry and Susan on the Valiant 42, Moira. They anchored there in the middle bay... with no Moorings boats (we think that Mike has them all using the middle bay of Ensenada Grande)!

Mike on Amazing Grace runs the local Moorings operation in La Paz and he's a very nice fellow. We checked out their provisioning store and they had a good selection, but the prices were a bit high. So, we provisioned in town.

The Mexican Super Mercados are very well stocked with a wide range of staples and local meats, produce and baked goods. The biggest thing we miss is the great California wines ;-{

We'll be out cruising this area North of La Paz for the next few weeks - until we need to return to La Paz on May 10th to get ready for the Dockwise pickup on May 18th +/-

Bill and Mary

April 23, 2005

Change of Plans

We changed our plans slightly and are now in Marina Palmyra in La Paz.
see: http://www.marinapalmira.com/Home.html

Listening to the weather forecast by Don on Summer Passage - it sounded like the cold front working it's way down Baja would likely cause 30+ knot winds in the Southern Sea of Cortez (where we are!).

So, instead of being stuck at anchor, not being able to go ashore (too choppy) and fretting if the anchor would hold (it will, but that doesn't stop me from worrying about it!) - we diverted from Isla Partida and headed to La Paz.

La Paz looks like one of the best destinations we've been to so far and we'll report back on the details later.

Our updated plans are to leave here Tuesday or Wednesday - when the winds die down - and head to Partida and the Islands North of here. Partida is only about 15 NM away, so it's only a 2 to 3 hour trip.

We're planning to continue cruising North of here and be back on May 10th to get set up for the Dockwise Yacht Transport trip to Vancouver around the 18th.

That's the update for now from Raptor Dance!

Warmest Regards,
Bill and Mary

April 21, 2005

Bahia los Muertos

We've been anchored in Bahia los Muertos since Sunday. Having some fun, but mainly diagnosing and fixing boat stuff.

We're going to head out tomorrow and head over to Caleta Partida on Isla Partida, in the Islands North of La Paz. It's about 55 miles from here. Should take us 7 or 8 hours to make the trip.

This is a lovely anchorage with clear water, though it's only 72 degrees F. We have been snorkeling, but mainly to check the anchor and clean the bottom of the boat.

When we got here, we noticed the large palapa on the beach along with a whole fleet of over 40 pangas. The pangas are used for fishing and we've seen only a dozen or so gone at a time. As this bay is just over 30 road miles from La Paz, the pangas are used mainly for day trip fishing expeditions for folks coming over from La Paz.

The palapa, it turns out, is the "Bay of Dreams" branch of the Giggling Marlin, a famous/infamous bar in Cabo San Lucas. We did eat there, but the food was mediocre and the prices were high for Mexico. It is a modern facility, however, with showers, a laundry, etc. To get to it, you need to land your dingy on the beach - something we've gotten a lot of experience doing.

What's funny is that when we asked the staff at the Palapa whose dreams and why the place is called the Bay of Dreams (figuring it was due to the fact that that's a better marketing name than "Bay of the Dead" (Bahia los Muertos), he said it was the dreams of the developer ;-}

At the other end of this little bay, is a resort that appears very modern and well lit at night. But if anyone is staying there, we haven't seen them... It appears very empty.

Lots are for sale here and there appears to be some construction (a bulldozer has been cutting a road on the nearby hill for the last few days), so it looks like this place is due for more development.

We're here with the 2 boats that we came across the Sea of Cortez with, Capella and Cherokee Eagle and another sailboat that arrived last night: Bahia Daydreams with Keith and Jeanette on board.

The first two nights were a bit exciting as katabatic winds arose from the South West at 3 AM the first night and 4:30 AM the second night we were here. Katabatic winds occur near mountains when the day has been calm - the higher elevation air in the mountains cools and becomes heavier than the hot air over the water - the air then comes pouring down the mountain and across the water. These are also called "down slope winds". They blew 25 knots sustained with gusts past 30 knots, but died totally at sun up. The last two nights these winds did not recur.

2 days ago Fortuitous arrived towing Semonship - friends of ours since the Baja Haha. Semonship's engine quit on the way over from Mazatlán. As they were buddy boating with Fortuitous, when the wind died and they couldn't make way sailing, they got a tow.

We all helped Semonship set their anchor. When Semonship got into position, they dropped their tow line and then their anchor. Mary and I were in our dingy and jointly with Craig and Roger in Cherokee Eagle's dingy we helped Semonship back down and begin to get their anchor set. Mary and I then took a long line from Semonship's stern over to Fortuitous's stern and they used their big engine to set Semonship's anchor firmly before casting off and going to anchor themselves. We took great care to anchor them properly in case the katabatic winds reoccurred. Much to everyone's delight, they didn't.

After a fruitless day, yesterday, trying to fix their engine, they left this morning - again being towed by Fortuitous towards La Paz and a diesel mechanic.

Ok, in case you can't make it through the following story, just wanted to let you know that when we were in the water - It was crystal clear with lot's of fish… Especially cute puffer fish that look and act like little fat puppy dogs. One night we grilled some steaks, we discarded some little fat chunks overboard. The fish went nuts! It was great to watch. Also, when we were cleaning the bottom, the fish would come up and gulp down the barnacles. Very entertaining.

Now begins some of the gory details of the cruising life…

When we got here last Sunday, I fired up the generator and then the fridge (We have a holding plate system in the fridge that needs to be run around once a day to chill down the plates). Within a few minutes, the fridge quit due to a lack of cooling water. On Raptor Dance, the Engine, Genset, Fridge and A/C all share the same through hull and raw water filter.

So it was diagnosis time. First I cleaned the raw water filter. There was some stuff in it (grass, sediment, a few barnacles). So I was suspicious that that cause the problem, so I got out our "Blast-it-Out" kit (from http://www.blastitout.com) and hooked it up to our deck wash down pump with our hose. I then back flushed the system from the engine raw water hose (the easiest to access). To reset the breaker for the refer, we had to take out the starboard propane locker and crawl through the transom to get to the reset button on the fridge compressor (not the best location for access!). Firing everything up, the fridge compressor ran and didn't reset (hooray!), but the water flow was pathetic. That was Sunday.

On Monday we caught up on our sleep (we were up from 3 to 7 doing an anchor watch with the winds), then went to the palapa for Lunch. Monday night, though, I tried running the A/C when we had our friends over playing dominoes (Mexican Train, Mary won) and it complained that it didn't have enough cooling water... Oh, boy, more work for Tuesday.

On Tuesday I back flushed the refer and A/C from their output through hulls back to the raw water unit and that seemed to help. I could run the refer fine (after one more crawl through the transom to hit that darned reset button).

On Wednesday, the fridge breaker tripped again. We then took most of the raw water system apart. After trying, unsuccessfully to get the big honkin 1 1/2 inch hose off either the through hull or the raw water filter, we resorted to running a probe from the filter down to the through hull. It seemed pretty clear. We then removed and disassembled the raw water manifold, it was clean. Next, we used the Blast-it-Out to back flush from the manifold hose through the raw water filter and out the through hull.

When we did this back flush, I held the Blast-it-Out and Mary worked the through hull. I would let the pressure build in the system and then Mary would open the through hull to let the water out. The objective here was to provide more force going through the system. I was a little tardy at first giving Mary the signal to open the through hull and got a face full of seawater as the water pressure blew back in my face… Just call me old face full!

Once we cleaned up the water that sprayed around the boat, I opened the raw water filter and found a cute little 1 inch long mussel that had grown up in our raw water system (as an embryo, it must have passed through our raw water filter before anchoring itself somewhere in the hose or manifold. Since most of the plumbing from the manifold on is 3/4 inch, this was probably the source of our troubles.

Then we reassembled and reinstalled the raw water manifold and put the strainer basket back in the raw water filter.

Just to be sure, I put on my tanks and dove on the through hull to clean it out from the outside and make sure the probe could work it's way in from the outside. And just to be sure I back flushed the refer and A/C output through hulls one more time.

One more journey through the transom to hit the reset button and low and behold everything was working with very good water flow from all the systems!!! Hurray!!!!

Today, everything fired up like a charm ;-}

There is a little water in the bilge though, it looks like the water heater may be leaking…. Ah the joys of cruising!

Warmest Regards,
Bill and Mary

April 16, 2005

Leaving Mazatlán

Hi Everyone!

We've had a wonderful week in Mazatlán.

We left the dock this morning at 830AM MDT for a passage across the Sea of Cortez to the Baja side.

We are heading to Ensenada de los Muertos, a nice anchorage just south of La Paz on the Baja peninsula. We'll be going from the Marina El Cid entrance at 23 16.142 N - 106 28.118 W to the anchorage at 23 59.360 N - 109 49.730 W. The trip is 189.7 nm at a course of 273 Magnetic. We're about 14 miles into the trip right now. We should arrive around noon tomorrow.

We only have around 5 knots of wind with flat seas, no swells to speak of and haze. Visibility is around 5 miles. We're motoring again, but could possibly sail later as what wind there is coming from 50 degrees to port of our course (i.e. it's mild southerly).


Mazatlán is a great place to visit. It's real easy to get around by bus, taxi or pulmonías (Open air golf carts built on VW Chassis that are unique to Mazatlán).

The Marinas are 7 miles up the coast from the main part of town, but it's only an inexpensive bus ride. Interestingly, each bus line here has two classes of bus. The older style (basically like a School Bus) charge 4 pesos ($0.36 US). The newer tour bus style busses, with air conditioning charge 8 pesos ($0.73 US) per person per trip. We've ridden both.

Between the Marinas and town is the Zona Dorado (Golden Zone), i.e. the tourist area. Downtown itself is less touristy than PV, except when a cruise ship is in. Even then, the turistas generally head to the Zona Dorado.

We're mystified at how all the Senior Frogs Official Stores stay in business. In the tourist areas there seems to be on every few blocks - all selling the same T-shirts, etc. Maybe we're just getting old, but the stuff is pretty tacky.

The historic section of town has a interesting renovated area, with many good restaurants, a great market and many interesting architectural features.

The weather in Mazatlán is much more humid than Puerto Vallarta. The days are the same temperature but the nights are 10 degrees colder. Most mornings the boat is totally covered in dew, with some large puddles. I know it seems strange, but we still haven't seen any rain since a brief shower in Turtle Bay (not counting our visit back to the US for 3 weeks in Feb/Mar.).

More news later.

Bill and Mary

April 6, 2005

At Anchor in Punta de Mita

We finally left the dock at Noon after the usual last minute chores:

1. Checking out from the Marina (We checked out with the port captain yesterday)

2. Coiling and stowing the power cables and hose

3. Having our last breakfast at the Vallarta Yacht club.

4. Saying good-bye to all our friends who weren't leaving today.

5. We then motored over to the main harbor in Puerto Vallarta, about 5 miles down
the coast, to fuel up.

6. Then we were off to Punta de Mita. The anchorage here is by the north entrance to
Banderas Bay.

We anchored and are now getting ready for dinner.

We're here with 3 other boats, all headed up to Mazatlán. We're planning to
depart at 8AM tomorrow morning (CDT).

The way points for tomorrows journey (if your plotting our voyage on a map) are:

20 42.100 N - 105 33.700 W
20 44.010 N - 105 35.670 W
20 47.160 N - 105 37.020 W
21 53.500 N - 105 48.000 W
23 16.000 N - 106 30.000 W
23 16.142 N - 106 28.118 W

This is a total of about 170 NM. At 6.5 Knots planned, it should take us 26
hours. So we'll have 1 overnight and get into Mazatlán Friday morning.

That's the evening update from Raptor Dance

Warmest Regards,
Bill and Mary

April 2, 2005

Getting Ready to Head Up to Mazatlán

We’re getting ready to head up to Mazatlán, targeting a Monday, April 4th, departure.

We'll be reachable at this email until early Monday morning. After that, the winlink.org email is best as we won't be able to check the raptordance.com emails until we arrive in Mazatlán

Let me know by reply email if you like hearing about this level of detail. Also drop me a note if you have any questions or want more info about some of the systems we've been working on.

We had a few more items to work on than we thought and they (as always) took longer than anticipated. That’s it’s the nature of cruising.

We’ve also managed to get in pool and social time, so it’s not all work ;-}

In the last week we:

1. Changed the oil and filters in our engine, transmission and genset. This took half a day, we hired “Teapot” Tony a local British ex-pat, mechanic to do this for us and give the engine and genset a thorough check out.

2. Debugged and fixed a low flow raw water problem, this took a full day which required:

a. Cleaning the raw water filters

b. Changing the raw water impeller in the engine

c. Getting Guillermo the Diver (the best local guy) to clean the through hull from the outside and check for any plastic bags in the inlet or other blockages.

d. Using a great kit that we bought right before we left to back-flush the plumbing from the through hull to the engine. I recommend this kit to all cruisers. It’s called “Blast It Out” – basically a series of different sized rubber stoppers with a hose fitting and valve. You can check it out at http://www.blastitout.com

3. Ran a cleaning cycle on the water Maker (2 hours).

4. Reconnected our Sonic Speed Knot meter – Our original unit failed back in November, we got a replacement under warranty, but had not hooked the new unit up until yesterday. We were running with the old paddle wheel sensor, which gets dirty and requires cleaning every few days. This took half a day.

5. Cleaned the outside and polished the stainless (2 days – hired a great local team of 2 guys to do this), they should finish up today (Saturday).

6. Cleaning the bottom of the boat and checking the Zincs (they didn’t need replacing yet), again by Guillermo the Diver. Note the water here in the Marina is not something I want to get in! Mary and I did clean the bottom and replace the Zincs in Tenacatita.

7. Run new cables for the new Laptop computer.

I had to return my work computer to Cisco at the end of March, so we bought a new IBM T42. The existing boat computer is a Shuttle XPC, It works great and we have a 17 inch Plasma display on a RAM mount at the Nav station.

The only problem is that it to run it under sail, we need to run the inverter as it’s a 115V unit. If we’re going to be sailing for many days in a row, the battery drain means that we need to run the genset a long time to recharge them. If we’re motoring, it’s not problem as the alternator generates more than enough electricity.

So the new laptop has a travel power supply so we can run it off 12 Volts. With it’s very low current draw, it will work great under sail for days at a time with little additional drain on the

We still have a few things to do:

Today we’re going to head into town and do some provisioning. We most certainly are going to pick up some rotisserie chickens at Plaza Commercial along with the great roasted potatoes that are cooked below the chickens getting the drippings of garlic and chicken fat (yum!). These are the best roasted chickens we’ve ever had!

On Monday we also need to checkout with the port captain (done for us by the local “Paper Man”, Juan Pablo for a small fee), then we’ll head over to the main marina to fuel up and head out to Punta de Mita for the night. We could get delayed if the weather turns unfavorable. We’ll be listening carefully to the weather the next few days.

April 1, 2005

Mary and Bill's Paella

One of our favorite dishes to prepare either for entertaining or just for us, is our version of the Basque dish, Paella. This has proven to be extremely popular with our guests, both on board or at home.

Some of our friends have asked for the recipe, so we thought we’d share it with all of you.

If you try it, let us know how it turned out.

Mary and Bill’s Paella…

This is very variable recipe, depending on what seafood looks best that day, so go shopping and buy what looks good.

The pan that you make the Paella in is important. It should be a large diameter shallow skillet. The recipe below works best in a skillet of at least 12 inches or a larger paella pan. We have a 15 inch Paella pan at home. If you don’t have skillets that size, spit the recipe between two pans.

  • 2 very spicy sausage (e.g. Hot Italian)
  • 1 to 2 Tbsp chopped garlic (use more if you wish)
  • 1 cup Arborio rice (use more as you wish)
  • 2 1/2 cup chicken broth or stock for each cup rice
  • Good pinch Saffron (Heat some broth and steep the saffron ahead of time)
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
  • Crushed red pepper as desired
  • 1 to 2 cup peas (frozen are OK)
  • Shrimp (best with shells on) – about a dozen large
  • Mussels (They work better than the clams.) – about a dozen large
  • Fish such as salmon, and /or scallops, squid, octopus or ? (We like salmon or scallops) – about a pound cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 sliced roasted red pepper for topping
Crumble the sausage and sauté until brown. It should not be cooked until done at this point. Remove the sausage and reserve.

Add olive oil to the pan if the sausage did not render out much fat. Add the rice and cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned.

Add the garlic and return the sausage to the pan. Careful not to burn the garlic. After the garlic is lightly browned add the stock, saffron and tomatoes.

After this simmers a short time taste the broth to see how much more red pepper you want to add. Then add it.

The peas go in next but wait until just before you add the seafood (at around the 10 minute mark).

The total cooking time for the rice is about 20 minutes. You’ll need to taste the rice to determine if it needs more liquid but remember that the mussels will add some. Also you will need to determine how long the seafood will take depending on size. Have the seafood room temp before putting it in.

When adding the seafood, push the pieces into the rice. All the seafood won’t necessarily go in at the same time, it depends on the size of the pieces.

When everything is in, add the roasted red pepper decoratively across the top.
At the 20 minute mark the rice should be done but still al dente.

Generally the peas and fish go in at around 15 minutes, the shrimp and mussels at 17 minutes and everything is done at 20 minutes (plus resting time).

Turn off the heat and cover with a lid or a towel and let the rest off the flame for at least 7 minutes. Then serve and enjoy!

Enjoy, We’ve tried a lot of different seafood ingredients but this combo is our favorite. It has infinite possibilities. You can also use chicken, pork, clams, etc. Meats such as chicken or pork should be cut into bite sized pieces and browned before hand, as we did with the sausage.