Thursday, November 26, 2015

Crewing on a different sailboat

As it turned out my last post November 8th about meeting a boat in Long Beach California fell through.  I'd not yet booked my flight yet as I was waiting to hear when I should arrive based on the results of a haul out and boat inspection.  I took this to be an inspection of a boat already owned to make sure all was shipshape for the beginning of his planned sail around planet earth.  I found out after I contacted him for an update that the deal fell through.. Turns out he was yet to own the boat and was lining up crew before he even owned it?  Hmmmm?  

Anyway after sending out a few more inquiries I heard back from 2 different boats also heading south down the west coast.  One was planning to depart San Diego December 1st and sail to La Paz and hang out in the Sea of Cortez for the winter.  The other was further north in Astoria on the Columbia River bound for Panama by spring.  The first boat was a 41 year old captain and his dog on a 40 foot boat.  He stopped replying after our first phone call that I thought sounded promising...  For a brief day or so it seemed I might have to choose between the 2 boats but suddenly I didn't have to and was exchanging phone calls with the boat in Astoria.  This was all happening on the 23rd and I was not able to get to Astoria or the second port Newton and I won't make Coos Bay or Brookings either but I have booked my flight to Oakland, California for 7 am November 28th...the day after tomorrow!!  The flight cost me the most off all the one way flights of the previous 3 winters crewing, including the return flight from Guatemala City last March.   And the price went up for Sunday the 29th and didn't come down until December 3rd.  Oh well, I was able to use PayPal Credit so I get zero interest for 6 months to pay it off.    

I've been visiting my mom so I have to head back after breakfast tomorrow...then pack and winterize my attic apartment before getting taken to the Duluth Airport by 6 am Saturday morning.  I arrive in Oakland about 3:50 pm Saturday.   2 friends from my past live in the Bay area, neither of which I've seen for too long.  One is my cousin and my best friend up until he graduated college and moved to LA.  The other worked as a kayak guide 2 seasons in 1999 and 2000 I believe?  I'll see my cousin for sure but my former employee might be away.  It will depend on how things go.  I might rent a car and drive to Eureka to join the boat or I might wait to join the boat in San Francisco if there is good weather and he arrives to San Francisco too soon?  

Oddly...I've never been to Northern California or seen the Redwoods etc.. This visit certainly won't satisfy my desire to check it all out.  I'll be back soon enough on a road trip at a better time of the year for some camping/hiking/backpacking.  

The boat is a 40' Choy Lee that sounds very well equipped.  The owner/captain is not so experienced sailingwise but was an Alaskan bush pilot now retired.  It sounds like it will be just the 2 of us.  

It's been hectic this year as I'm trying to join a boat that's already underway.  Other years I had more time to book my flight enough in advance to get a better price.  
This Pacific Northwest coast has a reputation of being quite treacherous at times where seas building can make crossing the bars to enter rivers along the way to wait out stormy conditions...impassable forcing you to push on in very challenging conditions.  Spring and Fall seem to be best times of year for this stretch with winter a definite no go season.  Or so I've read...  So far he has had pretty mild conditions, mostly motoring in small 3' swell at 14 seconds.  

How far down the west coast I get remains a mystery.  I need to return at the end of March roughly.  I think we will be beyond Mexico by then but it all depends.  

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Smoke Rings

Sunday, November 8, 2015

My 4th winter of volunteer crewing

Usually I wait to post until I'm 100% certain if there is such a thing...based on the fact I've not yet purchased my one way airfare to Long Beach California, where the boat is.  The previous 3 winters, on 3 different sailboats, I've been sailing in the western Caribbean.  Two of those 3 times the planned destination was the eastern Caribbean but boat engine problems caused a change of plans.  The second winter I was helping sail from Florida to Rio Dulce Guatemala but ended up jumping ship in Punta Allen Mexico.  I learned last winter that boat never made it to Rio Dulce and ran aground and sank trying to negotiate the channel through the reef into Xcalak Mexico.  Last year due to engine problems the captain decided Rio Dulce would be a better place for major engine repairs or replacement than the eastern Caribbean.  We ran into the boat I'd met last winter at a marina in Isla Mujeres and got the story.   After picking up replacement crew for me..sounded like someone he knew..they set out for Xcalak ... Read more.

Anyway...about this upcoming 4th winter volunteer crewing.  I'm joining a 41 foot sailboat that is embarking on a circumnavigation.  I believe it's the very beginning but I'm not certain yet.  The captain/owner is 41 and described himself as retired though he owns a business that functions with only occasion input from him.  He wants a crew of 3 to 4, himself included.  Once I leave the boat they will be making the jump to the Marquesas Islands in French Polynesia.  He hoped I could help with that and so did I but return airfare was $2,200 and that was from Tahiti so I'd also have additional travel costs.  I really can't be away past tax time and my lease with my tenants is May 1st.  Kind of makes me wish I had already sold my house but still I don't really want to be away from my 94 year old mom!  3 or 4 months is arguably too long.  This crewing gig is likely to be for around 3 months.  I'm joining the boat in Long Beach California and will leave the boat in La Cruz Mexico..just south of Mazatlan.  
That is unless something happens ?  I think if he found a crew to replace me who was also up for the jump to French Polynesia I'd be out... I'm waiting to hear of our estimated departure based on a haul out and pre-circumnavigation boat survey Tuesday.. He's hoping for a mid November departure if all checks out.. I'll buy my airfare once departure is more closely estimared.  

I'm looking forward to some sailing in the Pacific Ocean.  It was much more difficult to find a boat this year.  I sent out over 15 inquires while previous years I'd only inquired 2 or 3 times before finding a boat.  It appears there are many more crew seeking boats than boats seeking crew online.
I'll blog as best I can...

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Porpoises following Asperida

In the morning of the 5th day on the passage a large pod of porpoises came and swam along with Asperida about a half hour.  I was 4 am to 8 am shift and Walter briefly panicked when he didn't see me in the cockpit.  We were sailing along at a pretty slow speed on auto pilot.

It's always fun when a pod of porpoises come swim along with the boat while sailing. This was the most I've ever seen perhaps almost 50 but it's just an estimate.

Looking back

This was taken after clearing into Guatemala in Livingston just before heading out to the boat.  I thought it was a nice photo of Asperida.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Guatemala City

I've really only been within walking distance of the Hostel I chose to stay at.  Anyway it's a big city with plenty of familiar franchise presence.  The hostel recommended a couple places with good and inexpensive food.  I only tried the one but it's only a breakfast and lunch place and on my first day I arrived 10 minutes after 3 and they stop serving lunch at 3.  I walked further to a big fancy modern mall and mistakenly chose to eat at a restaurant called Skillets.  It was a total of Q 104 which is about $13.65.  A typical lunch or dinner price back home.  The next day I had lunch at the recommended place and it was Q 25 or $3.35 US.  After that good inexpensive lunch I decided to walk over to the grocery store to get a few things for later rather than going out somewhere.  I stopped at that same mall and was going to get a coffee but since just a cup of coffee small was over half the cost of my lunch I changed my was a Starbucks.  The mall had many familiar brand stores and a few unknown to me.  Quite the display of consumerism out of control.  I then proceeded to the grocery store and was thinkng just some bread and peanut butter and snack bars.. The bread and snack bars were a good value but the tiny size peanut butter like not even a cup..more like a 6 oz jar was Q 57... which is about $7.58??? I opted for a little 6 oz tub of cream cheese for Q 4.45 or 60 cents.   The only other guests here that were staying more than a night before a flight home or having just arrived about to head off to the various tourist destinations were a couple woman applying for work visas at a hostel in Mexico.. They met there and have been working there under the radar but now both want to make it official and eventually obtain a Mexican residency.  One was from Argentina and the other from Sweden.  You can not apply for a work visa within the country you seek to work at hence they have been doing a bit of traveling here finishing off with a few days in 'The City' with visits to the Mexican Embassy.
My excuse for not doing some sight seeing like visiting La Antigua is I've been traveling in a sailboat since December 2 and am focused on getting to Bryson City to visit a good friend from highschool I've not seen in a very long time and looking forward to spending 5 days with he and his wife.  Perhaps someday I'll be back to Rio Dulce with a sailboat of my own and have plenty of time to check things out.

$3.35 US

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

The bus ride

The cruising guide books on Asperida covering Rio Dilce were from 2009 and another from 2013.  Even the more recent guide made reference to taking the chicken bus from Fronteras (Rio Dulce) to Guatemala City concerning a flight to where ever.  Well I'm not sure if they still had chicken buses for the route to 'The City' from Rio Dulce back in 2013 but the don't anymore.  Old repainted school buses from the U.S. are still used on various rural routes possibly even with the occasional customer bringing a chicken?  I suppose the success of tourism has the 2 main bus lines in the country using big comfy air conditioned Mercedes or other buses.  I took Litegua and the almost 6 hour bus ride only cost $10 U.S.  You start out heading up over the bridge spanning where the Rio Dulce becomes Lago Izabel.  Then you travel around 40 to 80 kph with occasion short stops.  Just short of half way there is a longer break at a hotel, cafeteria with restrooms.  About an hour past that stop you finally begin climbing into the mountains on the same paved but narrow road just like what passes through Fronteras.  There are plenty of places for a bus to roll off the mountain with little in the way of guardrails.  At some point this secondary paved road changes to a modern 4 lane divided highway the rest of the way to The City.  I had chosen a seat in the very front but the very high windshield that would have allowed good viewing was covered by curtain on the upper part to shade the sun for the driver allowing only a veiw ahead of the road a 100 feet ahead at the most.  While it's quite tropical in the Rio Dulce area once underway the terrain became much more arid as you can see in the photos.

The high bridge over the Rio Dulce