West Coast and Beyond

N 32° 37' W 117° 06'

About Town in Puerto Vallarta/Lessons Learned

December 18, 2010



December 18, 2010

Lessons learned in Puerto Vallarta-not necessarily in order!

·         Just because the vendor store offers you a GREAT buy — two bottles get one free offer—doesn’t mean that the third bottle won’t add a significant weight to your backback—3 bottles of tequila WILL strain your back walking around town!

·         When a store proprietor offers you a free taxi ride to his brother’s restaurant-walk away—even if he does throw in a first margarita free coupon!

·         (subsidiary of the above)—if you walk into any restaurant where three woman are sitting at a table with 16 kids eating Burger King fast food—walk out (even if you feel obligated for the cost of a taxi ride)

·         When the bus you are riding on bears a posted sign showing 35 people sitting and 31 people standing believe it, even if it is NOT currently rush hour when you enter the bus

·         (subsidiary of the above)—always sit yourself in close proximity to one of the two exits upon entering a bus even if it is TOTALLY empty.  31 standing passengers will NOT even attempt to move out of your way when your stop is reached and you MUST get off the bus before the driver continues his route!

·         When marching around town with a cane and an aching foot—even a $20 cab ride can reflect a bargain…

·         No matter how friendly or low key the salesperson in a store or activity tour center is upon first approach, time share opportunities will ALWAYS find their way into any conversation or sales transaction.

·         No matter how scenic relaxed or idyllic a spot you have found to lay by the ocean and tan in the sand (beer in hand)-some enterprising determined artist will always find a way to show you his/her wares.

·         In spite of their size—pelicans do roost in trees!


·         DITTO  Iguanas!




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N 32° 37' W 117° 06'

Relaxing in at the Vallarta Yacht Club

December 13, 2010

From La Paz we retraced our route.  La Paz to Muertos, Muertos to Frailles.  It was very different to see those two anchoragges so empty of boats.  Fewer than a half dozen in either location including power boats. Totally opposite traveling with the baja boats when it was difficult to find a good spot to anchor.  We had our choice of spots which somehow made anchoring appear more difficult. The little cantina in Muertos only had 3 customers all evening.

We had a great trip from Ensenada de Los Muertos to Puerto  Vallarta. We left on the tail end of a norther and flew across for the first  day, sailing at 6-8 knots in 10-20 knots of wind. Full main and 140 furling head sail. Seas were about a meter, pushing us along, surfing above hull  speed. Otto has began to fail us—so we spent a couple of hours hand steering till Michael could finish installing the lines to the monitor.  Monitor  loved the beam reach after I figured out a few adjustments.  Later when the wind died, Michael managed to rig up a bungie cord which made Otto happy….

The watches were pretty easy. Michael took 8-10 p.m. Jan 10 to midnight.  Then the night was split between w/Michael midnight to 4 a.m, Jan and Jordy-4:00 a.m. to 7:30 a.m.  For some reason Jordy was intent on the morning watch, althought she could have stayed in bed-must have been the lure of those wonderfully colorful sunrises!  We didn’t see any other boats. Second day, Winds fell, seas calmed and it was motoring time. First we motor sailed and then, for the last 18 hours or so, used the motor alone as the wind shifted south and lightened to about 2-6 knots.

During the trip, we saw rays jump out of the water as if trying to fly, putting on a show that lasted for a while. We were also treated to playtime by a huge group of porpoises, jumping and moving  across the bow. There seemed to be dozens.  Everytime it looked like they were gone another group arrived-amazing how large they are and how fast they swim.

It was a red letter trip in a couple ways.  First, Jan was able to stand watches despite her recovering foot injury. That was great! Especially for the aging captain. Second, Jordy learned to do her business on the foredeck. Michael took her forward on the leash they always use for walks, waved a green poop bag at her a few times, and that was it. Such a smart dog!

In all a most marvelous trip—we had estimated 60 hours at sea and arrived in a little over 50.  Conditions were calm enough Jan got two loafs of bread baked-one sandwich loaf—one cinammon raisin bread.  Love the Mexican Chips and Guacamole—their sandwich bread not so much!

Staying at Paradise Village—all the privilages of a 5 star resort-including a swimming beach and several restaurants and pools—all for under $25 per day!

We are now sitting at the pool…

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N 32° 37' W 117° 06'

Life in La Paz

December 07, 2010

Tomorrow we leave La Paz for a brief stop in Ensenada de Los Muertos, before heading across the sea to Puerto Vallarta.

Life here has been more work on the boat than playing tennis, but it was fun to play a bit after a 20-year layoff. You’ve heard the cliche, “cruising is fixing your boat in exotic places!”

Our arrival in La Paz November 14 was on a beam reach at 8 knots, what fun. Since that time, we’ve only left the dock to go fishing (zilch) and empty the holding tank and take on fuel. So the old gal — Touch Rain — is raring to go.

La Paz is the kind of town you have to be wary of. Many people come her for a week and never leave, although that seems just fine, too. Food is best off the streets, although there are a few good restaurants. Our favorite is the original Rancho Viejo. Yummy.

Pretty good place for marine parts, too. Believe me, I’ve been to them all. The chandlery near marina La Paz and Lopez Marine were my most frequented.

Jordy is doing well and has made good friends with a poodle pup down the way named Tucker. She is still addicted to ball playing. She is pretty much the dock greeter and I think half the town knows her by name. Even with the language barrier, the locals still ask her name and little kids all want to pet her.


Well, we need to get ready to head out. Next news will be from PV, where Jan will fly out December 19 for Olympia and Ellie, my daughter, and Alex will fly in December 20.





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N 32° 37' W 117° 06'

Meanwhile Down on the Farm (Thanksgiving 2010)

November 13, 2010

At 5:00 p.m. on November 18 I stepped aboard a plane in La Paz heading back to Olympia to start my first two week rotation.  Temperatures in La Paz hovered in the early 80’s. Arriving in Seattle at 11:40 p.m. I was greeted by temperatures in the 30’s and the drive home with son Kirk was accompanied by rain and slush so heavy visibility was severely reduced.

When scheduling my rotations between Touchrain in Mexico and my job in Olympia I hadn’t really contemplated the reality of stepping from summer to winter, winter to summer for the rest of the year.  What a shock to the system—a change of clothes for the plane will be required travelling in both directions.  And what weather!  Temperatures my first week back starting with HIGHS in the low 30s—by the 23rd turned into highs of 26 with a LOW of 12!!!  Thanksgiving was snowed out! Kirk, Amy and I were forced to eat an 18 pound turkey on our own—when family cancelled at the last minute, due to poor driving conditions.


 Meantime, life for Michael and Jordy continued in LaPaz.  Michael, in addition to working on the boat, played tennis.  Jordy found her favorite places to lounge in the shade along the dock and managed to make friends with most of the marina!

For obvious reasons, I can’t wait to return to La Paz on December 4th.


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N 32° 37' W 117° 06'

Cabo to Los Muertos

November 12, 2010

Cabo Interlude – November 4-8

Jan’s highlights from Cabo were soaking her feet in the very private marina pool and finding a bar with six beers for ten bucks. She also noted how dog friendly the bars and restaurants are. Here, here! I concur. Generally this place could be any arid, seaside city. Not a lot of Mexico in it. On the other hand, if you have enough money, I’m sure it could be fun. 

Biggest negative—loud music blasting until 4:00 a.m.—guess bars don’t close in Mexico.  This would have been easier to handle if you had visions of people actually dancing to the music—but sadly most places were virtually empty—and many restaurants and bars were clearly fully staffed and not receiving enough customers.

Los Frailes November 8-10

Pretty bay, pretty desolate. Surf landings are very wet. I (Michael) rolled out during my first landing (Jan was not in the dinghy and the dinghy did not overturn). I thought I had it perfect on the second landing. I hit the gas after the last of a series of swells, and jumped out as the bow was about to touch the beautiful sandy beach.

Unfortunately, I jumped out into six feet of water. That is how quickly it drops off. Future note to self, jump off the bow, not the stern. Jan says her high points on this visit was watching me get wet. Very amusing, apparently. Jordy concurs. There was a beautiful sunrise the day we left.  After watching my endeavors, Jan decided to remain on the boat for the two days we stayed.

Ensenada de Los Muertes – November 10…

Much easier landings away from the Pacific. This meant Jan could go to shore. The bay is quite pretty. It has one large, very luxurious resort with swimming pools, a golf course, tennis courts and apparently no guests at this time of year. The resort looks like something from Architectural Digest—beautiful salons and couch areas, beautiful paintings—all staged outside by the blue-tiled pool overlooking the ocean. 

There is also a bar/restaurant at the other end of the bay called Bahia des Suenos, or 1535. I surmise the latter name is affiliated with the year Cortes sailed in to create his havoc. The bar is affiliated with the Giggling Marlin in Cabo, a famous bar there. Despite being quite isolated, it managed to have a great blues band last night (Thursday).

The band was made up of both Americans and Mexicans. I believe they are a La Paz band and we are looking forward to what must be great live music in that burg. Meanwhile, we are waiting out a norther while at anchor, sipping our Pacificos and deciding what to eat next.  (Jan’s vote is for another huge plate of guacamole—$5.00 for enough to feed 20)

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N 32° 37' W 117° 06'

Baja Ha Ha

November 04, 2010

Baja Ha Ha Leg 1: San Diego to Turtle Bay (October 25-28)


The Baja Ha Ha consists of three legs, each successively shorter. The first leg was 340 miles from San Diego to Turtle Bay (Bahia San Bartolome). The second leg was 223 miles to Bahia Santa Maria. The third leg to Cabo was 172 miles. All distances are point to point, so sailing was a bit longer, of course.


The first leg started off more than four hours late for us, as the captain managed to forget to open the engine intake to motor up from Chula Vista to the starting line. First time for everything, I guess. I got a bit too excited. We anchored just outside the CV marina to replace the obliterated raw water pump impeller. Of course the two spares I had – purchased on ebay – showed the right number on the package but contained the wrong impellers. A fellow from the marina zipped into San Diego and delivered us two new impellers. Strangely enough the biggest delay for our racing start turned out to be San Diego traffic-since our good Samaritan had to drive to the parts dealer located downtown!  Looking at the seawall a mere 20 yards in front of us while we waited was rather dismaying.


The seas on this leg were very lumpy and the wind too light and variable to really provide a comfortable ride. In fact the seas arriving from varying angles combined with high swells resulted in a very noisy ride.  The boom clanged from side to side—until we got preventers in place.  The first night at sea, Jordy hunkered down on the v-berth with Jan-anxiously looking around trying to determine where all the noise was coming from.  Galley duties were very light the first day and a half—due to the nature of the seas no one was particularly hungry.  Jan (in particular) regretted the decision to pick up burgers and fries as we headed out of Chula Vista Marina.


We did have a few nice reaches during the leg, sailing at 5-6 knots, but they were short lived. On the second day, we ran with the headsail poled out and reached speeds of 5-7 knots, surfing up to 8 knots in the 6-7 foot seas and northerly winds. Dinner was great, having Jan’s special chicken curry. Due to the limitations of wearing an aircast on her left leg, it took some adjustment to learn how to cook while in rough seas.  Thank goodness for gimbaled stoves.  She finally settled on a technique of sitting on the companion way stairs while waiting for the food to cook—jumping up to stir between waves.  The stove top quickly becomes the only truly usable surface while in rough seas-used to serve food—or drinks.  Each crew member had to firmly grasp their plate as quickly as it gets dished up to avoid spills.


Our crewmates, Kris and Randy Sparks, were a great help. Very good and diligent sailors. Their years of sailing experience quickly became evident as well as their ability to plan actions a good step or two ahead at a time.  Watches were split up into four hour sessions, with Kris and Randy generally taking the 10:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. and Michael 2:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. Jan generally served as chief cook and bottle washer—and was relieved from night watches due to her non ability to function outside of the cockpit and her level of fatigue from adjusting to balancing on one leg under rocky conditions.


Jordy was experiencing a fairly high level of stress during the first leg of the trip, so having two other folks catering to her needs and comforting here served to settle her into the routine of day and night sailing.  By the end of the Ha Ha—she clearly considered all four of us a board to be “her crew” and clearly missed Kris and Randy when they flew home from Cabos.  After our first 24 hours we drifted into some semblance of order and it was actually amazing how quickly the days passed (though sadly not the nights for those standing watch).  There was some bioluminescence, which made the overnights a bit less boring, but nothing as exciting as off the pacific coast in August.  The stars, on the other hand, were truly amazing—and the first few nights watch enjoyed the light of a full moon.


For Jan, the evenings reminded her of the first months with twin infants—you knew the night was approaching, you had to prepare as best you could and just hope that night passed as smoothly as possible.  This was followed by a sense of amazement when dawn followed night and everything was going fine.


This is a good time to relate some of Kris’s log entry several days into the race:


“Bluewater cruising/racing is very different than doing so in the protected waters. Calculation and sail trim relate to miles and days rather than feet and seconds. The more you do, the easier it gets. That does not relate to hygiene, however, which seems to be on another schedule. When the ocean swells are 10’ plus and the wind is up, the nature of the ride has you thinking in a lower part of Maslow’s hierarchy. That too passes.”


That said, we reached the leg 1 finish line near Turtle Bay at 0002 hours on October 28.  We entered the bay – it was pretty simple and the Navionics charts appeared accurate so I violated the rule against nighttime entries to new harbors – about four hours later.  (*note from Jan—as incautious as this might sound—we did have all four crew members on deck assisting with navigation—including Kris holding a very large spotlight!)


Turtle Bay Interlude

A town that has seen better times. People seemed friendly, both Mexicans and Americans. Hard to see how the residents have survived here since the cannery business closed a few decades ago. But they are still here and are still fielding a baseball team or two. Nice potluck. Kris and Jan spent a “domestic Goddess” day preparing two dishes; chicken curry and potatoes with smoked salmon while Michael and Randy (hunter-gathers) spent the day scoping out how to get to shore; walking the dog and drinking local beer.  Getting to the potluck was a bit of a challenge-due to the fact that we had anchored at night we appeared to be the furthermost boat from shore.  This was our first experience with a surf landing together and another sailor helped us from dumping as Michael tried to get the engine up for the landing. Thank you, kind stranger.

Baja Ha Ha Leg 2: Turtle Bay to Bahia Santa Maria (October 30 to November 1)


Leg two turned out to be our best sailing leg of the trip.  Much of the time we sailed with head sail only—achieving speeds of 6-7 knots.  At one point we sailed with a whisker pole and approximately half the genoa and still achieved 6 knots.  Jordy was much happier when the engine was silent—and none of us missed that ole diesel smell.  We sailed the entire way and for this we concluded the Baja Ha Ha with a respectable finish in our Desperado division. Food highlights included beef stew. Kris and Randy had the toughest watch of the trip. We screamed along a 6.5-7.5 knots in the early morning hours of Halloween day, but also had some pretty messy seas. 6 a.m. position was 26.10 N, 113.32 W. November 1 brought great sailing as we hit the leg’s finish line at 0131 – we just keep finishing early in the morning. We had the best bioluminescence in a long while. Alone on watch as we hit the line, I knew how Bernard Moitessier (sp?) felt – sometimes you just want to keep sailing. He was the French guy who would have won the first around alone race by a bunch but decided to just keep sailing around again. In our case, about 5-10 boats converged as we hit the line. We were not alone. Several did not actually bother to cross the actual finish line. Oh well, this is the Ha Ha.

Bahia Santa Maria – From Kris’s log entry.

“Today we anchored in Bahia Santa Maria. Arrived 0530. Waited until 0600 with first light to anchor. Michael and Randy went in with a shore party to salvage as much as possible from a boat that grounded the night before. It was not part of the Ha Ha. The singlehanded skipper even with the Mexican Coast Guard’s assistance was not in a position to get it off the beach.”


(Kris) “Sitting with the fleet is like a floating shopping mall – no money, but barter. A six-pack of beer for a tuna. A roll of paper towels for beer. Also, people with expertise willing to help with motors – giving spare parts, too – or water makers or Raymarine issues.”

The Ship Wreck

Traveling to the site was quite a trip. The wrecked boat was high and dry on the shore just north of Cabo San Lazaro. To actually get there required a five-mile ride by dinghy and then an equal distance walking. But the trip really was worth it. We took the dinghy through a lengthy mangrove wetland with abundant birds, some of which I hadn’t seen. We would have thought the island a very arid and less interesting place without the ride.

Fortunately, we caught rides in pick up trucks – flying about 50 mph down the beach to help truck away the salvage. We did have to walk back. If you had to shipwreck, I guess doing it during the Ha Ha was good timing. The site was filled with volunteer helpers from the fleet and we were a bit superfluous. After a half hour as voyeurs of a personal tragedy, we headed back to Touch Rain.


Baja Ha Ha Leg 3: Bahia Santa Maria to Cabo San Lucas (November 3-4)

Final leg of Ha Ha was characterized by variable winds from 0-30 knots, and bucking seas at the finish. We had a great start, which later turned into what is called a rolling start with boats allowed to use engines with no penalty. Since we had sailed from the start and failed to hear the new instructions, we actually hurt our time by sailing so long—Oh, well. We sailed wing-on-wing and used the monitor vane self-steering system for the first time. This is a good thing. The sailing prior to the wind gusts was truly beautiful we all four sat in the cockpit enjoying the ride, the sun, and our books, and let machines drive the boat.

The Monitor is mechanical and a bit more robust than our electronic self steering. Plus, it does not use electricity. It worked great until we moved to a reach. The boat wanted to round up. I guess it takes a bit of time to learn to use this gadget. The leg was also characterized by the first equipment damage of the trip. I (Michael) put up our light weight whisker pole to wing-on-wing in under five knots of wind. I swore to take it down if the boat hit 4 knots of boat speed. As I reached the mast, flying along at 6.5 knots, I looked down the pole just in time to see it bend. I’ll try to remove the bent part and salvage the pole when we get to La Paz.

Jan and I did the 2000-2200 watch together. Nice to be on the helm at the same time. She also sent her first sailmail email today.  We finished the race under motor, beating into 4-5 foot seas for four hours on a trip that would normally take about one and a half hours.  Finished at 1250, rafted at Cabo Marina at 1620. (third from the inside in a group of 4 boats) @ $108 a night with the Ha Ha’s 25% discount.

Most expensive marina I’ve ever stayed at. Ouch!  Moving to anchorage was not an option since the winds were still blowing too hard.  Folks who spent the night “on the hook” reported—no sleep and one boat dragged anchor and was only saved from grounding on rocks when an attentive sailor on another boat rode a dingy over to warn them.



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N 32° 37' W 117° 06' Show on Map

Neah Bay to Crescent City

September 01, 2010


The crew assembled August 8, 2010 in Port Angeles to begin the first leg of the journey. This included my son, Angus Angermeyer, Alex Jones, Brendan Fahey and Larry Hightower. Alex and Brendan are accomplished dinghy racers having sailed for the University of Washington. Angus was at the helm almost before he was speaking in complete sentences and has blue water experience. Larry is an old friend from Missouri who was crazy enough to join this venture.

The following day, we left Port Angeles nose into the wind and motored to Neah Bay. That was not pleasing to the sailors in us, but not unexpected. What was unexpected was that we would find Neah Bay to be a dry town. We had neglected to get any beer before casting off. Oh, well.

With a good forecast and high spirits, full tanks and five frozen dinners from Jan, we left Neah Bay early on August 10 and had not gone far before it was “sails up.” Full Main and poled out #1 headsail (the biggest), we sailed wing and wing down the coast about 20 miles off shore. At the request of the young punks on the boat, we brought the never-used spinnaker and its sock. With all new rigging, we repacked it. With racers on board, you can imagine how long it was before the discussion turned to a hoist. It went something like this:

“Wind’s below 10 knots, let’s raise the chute.”

Boy, if I’d have known how easy it is with that sock, which kind of resembles a sausage casing, Jan and I would have gotten it out years ago.

So the next day was spent alternating between wing and wing and the chute, the miles piling up behind us.

Somewhere off the coast in mid Oregon — sorry, I left the log on the boat — everything went up about two notches. The four-foot seas and 8-15 knot winds rose to 7-9 foot seas with 20-30 knot winds. Mind you, the seas were about 9 seconds apart, which is pretty tight. As the seas and winds got bigger our sails got smaller. The main disappeared entirely and we sailed with just the headsail, furled a bit.

Shortly after midnight off Oregon, Alex and I had quite the show. The bioluminescence had been wild all the way down, but at this moment, the porpoises or dolphins really came out to play. They swam towards us singly and in groups, the streaks visible hundreds of yards astern as they torpedoed towards us, leaving glowing white trails. Side by side, they sped toward our bow and either crossed or spun around to retrace the trails.

By the time Brendan joined us, still in the dark, we had hardly noticed that we were speeding along at 7.0 knots, and surfing at over 10, all with half the headsail out. We prudently furled it down to just a scrap, maybe 120 square feet, but still did more than 6.0 k. Brendan exclaimed, and not for the last time, “This is ocean sailing.”

We saw whales all along the coast, gray whales as far as we could tell. And yes, they do get close. With Brendan at the helm, racing along at god knows what speed, he yelped something unpronouncable by anyone that has not yet seen a whale cross only a few feet in front of you. That was indeed a close call.

The wind and seas continued to grow. For more than a day, we sped along at 5-8 knots, surfing above 11 at times. Our mainsail was basically irrelevant for most of this. With the seas building, and sets of much larger waves coming from the northwest on our quarter every few minutes, our trusty autopilot was no longer trusty. To be honest, he/she seemed ready to go off watch at any moment, so we began hand steering all of the time.

Shortly thereafter, we discovered at least part of auto’s problem. Both Angus and Brendan said very firmly to me that the helm was sloppy. Reluctantly, I went below to view the steering. Oh My God! One of the sheaves (pulley) that directs the steering cable was at a very queer angle. A bolt had fallen out, the cable was loose and disaster seemed right beyond the next set of waves.

Angus and I emptied out the cockpit locker — all while traveling at 6-7 knots — and crawled below. Vice grips, what a wonderful invention. Angus shoved the sheave back into place and clamped it. He found the bolt, I found a nut, we tightened it up and were back in business. And just in time, too, the seas grew further, the wind built a bit more, and we were in a light gale. I don’t really think that cable would have stayed in place much longer.

Suffice it to say we flew the remaining miles into California. We had just a small corner of the furled jib out, tightly held in place with our hefty whisker pole and associated lines. Angus, Alex and Brendan did the lion’s share of work at the helm. Each time the quartering seas hit, the wheel had to be flung over to keep the seas behind us. Speeds were commonly 7-8 knots and surfing it approached 14 at one point. In one 24-hour period, we covered more than 150 miles.

Its a good thing we were well fed. Jan’s frozen, homemade dinners were gourmet, and add to it all Larry’s mashed potatoes, humor, and generally fun companionship among us all, we enjoyed some blue water cruising that was very much new to each of us. Still, that kind of sailing does take its toll. So, after five days of sailing, we collectively decided to head in shore to Crescent City, the first port that I had confidence we could safely enter.



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