Mazatlan to La Cruz

The forecast for our passage to La Cruz from Mazatlan called for it to be a wind-filled sailing adventure but aside from a brief moment outside of Mazatlan, it turned out to be one long motor slog through dead calm waters. Not ideal, but it ended up working out because whatever hesitation Scott and I had about running the motor for extended periods of time vanished after 30 hours of motor sailing.

As we left Mazatlan, we were behind SV Full and By and followed by SV Shannon’s Spirit. They were buddy-boating and we were right in between them. We all ended up sticking together the entire passage with Full and By taking the lead at times and Shannon’s Spirit a good distance behind us. It was our first time being close to other boats for a passage, and it was helpful as Full and By repeatedly hailed us to warn of fishing lines they’ve spotted.

The only hitch in all of this was a strong diesel smell a few miles outside of La Cruz. Upon our arrival we found a cracked fuel line spraying a light mist. We had a spare on board so it was easy to replace.

We’ve been here at the La Cruz anchorage since December 12th. We went to the Festival of Guadalupe and spent Christmas with Paul and Judy (former cruisers who’ve settled in Puerto Vallarta), SV Due West, and SV Windcharmer. New Year’s Eve we spent with SV Ingenium and their family and SV Tigress II.

There’s plenty of marine life here in the anchorage. At night, we often hear whale songs (and sometimes, it’s loud enough to wake us up!), and we have a beautiful Dorado fish (aka Mahi Mahi) who likes to swim around Juniper.

For Heidi’s birthday, we went whale watching and hiked up to a waterfall. We had the most incredible whale watching experience when two humpback whales came over to our panga, and just dove all around, watching us and seeming to want the boat to play with them. It was awe inspiring to be so close to these creatures, and such an adrenaline rush when the whales burst out of the water!

We initially planned to leave La Cruz for points south after the new year, but we’re upgrading our solar panels instead. This is our first experience cruising during the winter (we were at the marina all winter last year) and our combined 160 watt solar can’t meet our energy demands, small as it is. So we’re sticking around and upgrading solar vs going south to Tenecatitia and Barra de Navidad. While we’d like to check those anchorages out, better solar would really help us out with our longer term plans.

Sunrise in La Cruz

Delays in Mazatlan

We’re suffering a bit of a delay here in Mazatlan, some of it is the boat yard and some of it us. We were anticipating being out of here by Thanksgiving but it looks like we’ll be lucky if we’re out of here by Christmas.

In kitty news, when we were in Miami we found out that Sam  has hyperthyroidism and needs to take medication for the rest of his kitty life. Unbeknownst to us, his initial dosage was pretty high and he became lethargic and uninterested in eating which gave us quite a scare! We took him to a local vet here in Mazatlan and we’ve adjusted his dosage and he seems to be doing better. Hopefully Sam will be sailing with us for years to come.

Sam at the vet

In the meantime, we’ve:

  • Gone up the mast a few times to inspect the rigging,  wash and grease the mainsail track, repair some deteriorated leather on the rigging, and replace our spreader lights. Unfortunately the screws for the lights are frozen to the spreaders so we’re going to wait to fix that when we have the mast pulled next year.
  • Rigged jib back onto the roller furler (we’re leaving staysail off for repairs when we reach La Cruz)
  • Removed the sunshades from the porthole windows and screwed in the screens
  • Inflated and tested the dinghy for leaks. 3 years in and it’s still good!
  • Ran the outboard (it had been sitting idle for six months)
  • Multiple dingy trips to the fuel dock to top off our tanks and filled our jerry cans with diesel and gasoline.
  • Ran the engine at the dock to further test the prop shaft work we had done over the summer. So far, no leaks!

Active Marine came by last week to ground the prop (there was some electricity discharging from the boat and as a symptom, our zincs were wearing out way faster than they should) and in doing so discovered they made an error in rewiring that resulted in our starter battery being tapped the entire summer and is now completely drained and dead. That sucks.

We still need to:

  • Buy and replace our starter battery
  • Finish re-varnishing the cap rail where the varnish lifted at the scarf joints (Active Marine is doing this but we’ll probably finish up ourselves as it’s taking too long)
  • Replace a broken mainsail car
  • Wash and put away our hurricane lines (oversized docklines we use for storing the boat over the summer)
  • Remove and store the AC
  • Re-install our dodger windows
  • Fill our tanks with drinking water
  • Provision
  • Wash the boat

This time last year: Cruising without refrigeration.

Back in Mazatlan and back on Juniper

After three months away from Mazatlan and Juniper, we returned to find the boat in pretty good shape here at Marina Mazatlan. No mildew, thanks to a small dehumidifier we set up prior to leaving (to which Scott attached a hose to auto-drain into the sink). We discovered some minor issues that we’ll need to take care of such as:

  • Our battery monitor died and needs replacing.
  • The varnish has begun to peel at the joints on both toe rails so we’ll need to have that area sanded down and revarnished (covered under warranty).
  • The head needs to be rebuilt. We did this a couple of years ago and it’s about as unpleasant as you might expect.
  • Replacing a slide on our mainsail.  We won’t be able to raise the sail otherwise.
  • Go up the mast and replace our spreader lights. One went out last year during Hurricane Newton and rather than fix it we’re replacing both of them with LED lights.

Once that’s all sorted we’ll be heading south to some of the places we’ve already been (Matanchen, Chacala, Banderas Bay) and to some we haven’t (Barra de Navidad, Tenacatita).

But first we’re going to test out the major work that we had done by motoring over to Stone Island here in Mazatlan. If everything works well, we’ll anchor out and head south. If not, we’ll head back into the marina for more work.

We’re both a little hesitant about our first passage and want to test out the engine to make sure that it’s working properly. Last thing we want is another issue in the middle of nowhere. We’re chomping at the bit to get out of Mazatlan and we’re really excited to begin cruising again!

Killing time in Mazatlan

It’s been eight weeks since we were towed into Mazatlan and put Juniper on the hard. We have lots of work being done to the boat at Active Marine, including:

  • Replacing the stern tube, cutlass bearing, prop shaft, shaft seal, engine mounts and both aft mounting feet (the main reason we’re here)
  • Replace the engine stop solenoid
  • Servicing our Lighthouse 1501 windlass
  • Replacing the engine room insulation
  • Revarnishing all exterior wood (we’ve neglected this badly since leaving SF)
  • New bottom paint

While Scott did a parts run to San Diego at the end of April, we’re still waiting on one crucial part that should be here later this week (the stern tube). In the meantime, Juniper is getting eight coats of varnish and her bottom painted.

It’s off-season here in Mazatlan and the local net stopped meeting every day and shifted to a Monday, Wednesday, Saturday schedule. Looking out over the balcony towards the marina, traffic in and out of slips has come to a stop and the boats are all prepped for summer storage. Scott and I haven’t met anyone while here, so we’ve been hanging out by ourselves.

I spent most of May going to physical therapy three days a week due to a shoulder impingement. I’ve also spent time reading all of the hard copy books I packed on Juniper so that I can donate them to the marina library and gain precious boat space back. Scott’s been enjoying uninterrupted and fast wifi and working on software projects (more on that in another post down the road). We both have been enjoying regular hot showers, a washer/dryer, regular access to fresh produce, plenty of home cooked meals, and popcorn and a movie either on the sofa or at the “platinum” movie theatre nearby.

We’ve checked out a few restaurants here in Mazatlan and explored Old Town, which we really like. We’ve done most of the touristy things except for visiting El Faro and the aquarium, which we need to get around to doing before it gets exceptionally hot and humid. We’re making the best out of being here. Mazatlan isn’t a bad place, but it’s hard when you’re stuck in a city that you didn’t intend on spending so much time in. We’re really looking forward to Juniper getting back in the water and moving on.

One year ago: La Paz.

Juniper on the hard

When David and Ernesto from Active Marine came by Juniper to see what was going on, they told us we were pretty lucky. With the bellows of our PSS shaft seal melted and seemingly hanging on by a thread, it appeared that melted rubber and a damaged cutlass bearing was keeping water from steadily streaming into the boat. Then David, who was in our engine room, yells out to us, “your motor mount’s broken, man! Your motor mount’s broken!”

With David in the engine room looking at the engine from the rear and me, Scott, and Ernesto in the cabin looking at the engine from the front, he points it out to us. We couldn’t see it at first, and we were both looking at David skeptically. Then we see it, a piece of metal just snapped in two, looking completely rusted out. For the past two days Scott and I have been staring at prop shaft seal, where all the smoke had been coming from. We didn’t bother to look anywhere else.

Our engine sits on four motor mounts: two in the front and two in the back. The two in the back have “feet” that attach to the motor mount and one of those feet is what actually snapped in two.  A little bit about motor mounts. In a car or in a boat, a motor, or engine mount, is the part that holds the engine to the body, in our case to the body of the boat. Our engine and transmission are bolted together and held in place by four mounts. When they’re good, they also help keep noise and vibrations to a minimum. The rumblings we’ve been hearing on our last passage, the vibrations and the increase in engine noise were all signs that we were having issues with our motor mounts but we didn’t know to check them.

There’s some hustling as David and Ernesto start moving around, pointing their phone flashlights at the engine. “And the bolt on this motor mount has sheared off. ” They are both clearly surprised. A rush of words in Spanish, followed by Ernesto on his hands and knees taking pictures. “Wait, the bolts have sheared off on all the other motor mounts too! Your engine isn’t attached to anything on the boat! Your engine could have just walked right on out and into your cabin!”

We look and see that except for the mount with the broken “foot”, the other bolts on the other three mounts are positioned next to each other. That’s now how it’s supposed to be. The bolts should be just one piece but they sheared off and our engine has moved forward towards the cabin. It’s also the reason why Juniper wasn’t flooded with water. As the engine moved forward it pulled the propeller forward into the boat thus blocking any significant water from getting in.  We all just silently take that in for a moment and Scott and I have our “holy shit” moment. “You guys are lucky, man,” David breaks the silence. We nervously laugh.

Why did one of them break? David thinks it was exposure to salt water, directly and indirectly. Indirectly? Yes, indirectly by having salt water in our bilge. The salt water heats up and releases salt into the bilge, finding its way to weak points such as our motor mounts, which are made out of iron and thus vulnerable to rust. When one broke, the engine began to move, putting stress on the other three motor mounts shearing off the bolts. As the engine started to move, the alignment of our shaft changed, which created friction on our shaft, shaft seal, and cutlass bearing. The reason that our engine room didn’t go up in flames is because salt water was putting out the fire.

How long did this whole thing take? How quickly did it go from the mount breaking , engine shifting, and damage-causing friction? We don’t know exactly when the motor mount broke and when the other mounts sheared off. We can guess that each time we heard deeper rumblings, a breakdown was happening.

The following day, David coordinates to have Juniper lifted out of the water. Over the next two weeks, we come to learn that our cutlass bearing was ground down to dust, the fiberglass tubing that the shaft goes through was burned and needs replacement, and our propeller shaft was ground down a bit, but not enough to warrant a complete replacement. Scott coordinates with the yard on which parts can be shipped and which ones to pick up in San Diego, and we take advantage of us being on the hard to get our varnish done and our bottom painted. We’ll likely be here for a few more weeks as our fiberglass tubing is a custom order, and there’s a lot of work to do.

In the meantime, we’ve got ourselves an AirBnB around the corner from the boatyard and we’re making the best out of this situation. At the very least, Sam is pleased that he’s no longer on the water!

Sam enjoying the AirBnB

One year ago: La Paz

Matanchen to Mazatlan – Emergency at Sea

Our last night in Matanchen Bay was really nice. We grilled pizza and enjoyed a mostly still night in the anchorage followed by an early morning rise to prep for the overnight sail to Mazatlan and the Stone Island anchorage.

We raised anchor and as we motored past the entrance to San Blas we heard and felt a slight shift in engine sound. I brought it up to Scott but we didn’t know what it was and it eventually went away.

Sam just loves going upwind.

We found some wind and sailed, mostly close-hauled, which kept us a little heeled over and making for a not so fun sail, but better to sail than to motor! But, like it does sometimes, the wind died in the evening and we motored through the night and early morning. Throughout both of our watches, we had moments were we heard rumbling and knocking, and we both questioned whether the engine seemed louder than normal, but we kept on going as the engine seemed to be alright.

Piedra Blanca del Mar

Sunset as we approached Isla Isabel. We’d tack towards Mazatlan a few minutes later.

At 6:00am I took over. We were only a several hours away from Mazatlan. While Scott slept down below, I kept a watch for boats and buoys. We passed several buoys out about 25 miles out from Mazatlan, sets of three buoys tied together, sometimes with palm fronds and coke bottles to help keep them afloat. The engine was running at 2800 RPM, as it had been for several hours now. I began to hear subtle shifts in sound from the engine, deep rumblings. We heard some rumblings earlier too, but the engine seemed fine. I checked the temperatures and they were normal so I didn’t wake Scott up to point out yet more rumbling.

Early Saturday morning, before things went awry.

A little before 9am, I made myself some tea. Twenty or so minutes later I smelled something burning and ran down the stairs, thinking I left a burner on. I did not. As I walked back to the companionway to go upstairs, the smell got stronger, which meant it was coming from the engine so I woke Scott up.

We couldn’t easily turn off the engine because our stop button, which is in the cockpit, was broken. Instead, we have to go into our quarter berth, open up a side door and, with a long flat-head screwdriver, stick our hand in the engine compartment and push down engine stop solenoid arm to turn it off (Note: we thought the stop button was a convenience not a safety issue. We were wrong!) This time though when Scott opened up that compartment, a bunch of smoke poured out. We stopped the engine and when enough smoke cleared and we saw that our PSS shaft seal had melted. The shaft seal is what keeps water from coming into the boat through the hole that the propeller goes through. Kind of important! Did one of those buoys get caught in our prop and cause this? Did all that rumbling lead to this? We’d have to wait until we were safely at a marina to investigate. In the meantime, the amount of water coming into the boat was easily managed by our bilge pump, so we were not in immediate danger of sinking.

We were 23 miles out from Mazatlan. We had no way of using the engine and we had no wind to sail, and no way to maneuver into a marina slip. We had no cell phone service and we were too far out to use our vhf radio. We used our satellite phone to email our friends Kirk and Heidi on SV Due West for help and they stepped up big time. They called the marinas in Mazatlan for help, hounded the port captain to line up a tow, got us a slip at a marina, and coordinated these efforts and checked in with us repeatedly during the ten hours we were stuck out at sea in this condition. We cannot begin to express our gratitude and sincere thanks to Heidi and Kirk for all their help!

Getting towed to Mazatlan

It was unclear to us exactly how the tow boat was going to get us into the slip at Marina El Cid. For the past hour I had visions of Juniper getting slingshotted into the slip and guess what? That’s exactly what happened! The tow boat pulled up on the tow lines, passed the slip, and swung us towards the slip and we were going pretty fast. Thankfully the slip we were aimed at was 1) large and 2) at a diagonal so we were able to get alongside the dock where I jumped off and quickly tied us up with zero damage. It was a ballsy move, one bordering on insanity, and while I was laughing at the execution and their resourcefulness, Scott was annoyed by the risk.

It was 7pm. We now wait for Monday to start the process of getting Juniper out of the water and fixed up.

Juniper made it to Mazatlan. Crew is exhausted.

One year ago: Bahia de los Muertos.

Chacala and Matanchen

We left La Cruz in the morning and motored all the way to Chacala. Scott was really nervous about this anchorage as this would be the first time we’d have to use our stern anchor to keep the boat pointing into the swell. After hemming and hawing and at one point diverting away from Chacala, I convinced him to just give a a try. There were three other sailboats when we arrived and, due to the tricky current, it took us four tries to just get our bow anchor down between two boats without being rudely right next to either of them. When we finally anchored we backed up (not directly backwards since Juniper isn’t really controllable in reverse) and successfully dropped our stern anchor overboard. Scott did it! High fives all around!

Those high fives were given out prematurely. As day turned to night we learned that we didn’t give our stern anchor enough scope and Juniper ended up broadside to the swell resulting in us having a lousy night of fitful sleep.

At anchor in Chacala. At this point our stern anchor was working nicely and we were pointed into the swell. Overnight we’d be pointed in the same direction as the boat in front of us, beam to the swell.

At dawn, we tried to quietly correct our problem but Scott didn’t feel confident about fixing it so we upped anchor and headed towards or next destination, Matanchen Bay. Well Chacala, you were pretty! Wish we could have explored a bit!

We motored our way to Matanchen when we saw a whale breach four times! Horray! A first for us! And later on, we were joined at the bow by our dolphin friends. What a great day!

There were five other boats in Matanchen Bay, but this place is so big that we’re all so far away from one another. I finally get back to my Net Control duties on Amigo Net the next morning and am super excited to once again facilitate check-ins and read the weather report.  That said, we’re not too excited about being here. We woke up early to find a bunch dead bugs and bug wings on deck. Come to learn from Dan on SV Karvi that they could be termites. Whaaat? We have a lot of wood on deck so this isn’t what we want to hear. The good news is that the deck was covered in dew so I wiped down all the wood looking for damage and found none. We looked the next morning and found no damage but it was time to get out of here and head to Mazatlan.

One year ago: Ensenada to Cabo

Banderas Bay in Pictures

We spent quite a bit of time in Nuevo Vallarta, three months to be exact. There was a trip to the states for the holidays followed by another one for some medical issues. Here are the highlights of our time in Banderas Bay.

Festival of Guadalupe

Mmmm… Sopes

Coconuts in Yelapa. After drinking the water, they cut up the meat for you.


A cat in Yelapa

We both got our general HAM licenses!

Spending time with friends. Clockwise SV Due West, Juniper, Ingenium, Jabaroo, and Slow Flight in Puerto Vallarta

Goofing with Kimi and Trevor


La Paz to La Cruz

We had a great time in La Paz. First, we got our refrigeration issues sorted and we now have cold beverages and a working freezer! We hung out with our pals Kirk and Heidi on SV Due West,  took care of their gatos, Tikka and Tosh, and made plans to buddy boat across the sea to Banderas Bay.

Tosh and Tikka

We’re guessing he could smell that we were with other cats.

Before meeting up with Due West, we decided to get out of Marina Costa Baja and anchor out in Bahia Falsa where we could prep for the passage to Banderas Bay.  On our way there, our auto pilot completely gave out. We’ve been having intermittent problems, but this time it was done. As soon as we anchored Scott was trying to figure out what was happening. He changed a fuse and then our wind instruments died.

Without the auto pilot, our passage to Banderas Bay would involve hand-steering, and it was estimated to be a three-day passage. Not something we were looking to take on. Scott dove into the port lazarette and found frayed and corroded wires.

Climbing into the laz

After spending hours doing boat yoga in a lazarette Scott finally found the cause of the intermittent electronics issues we’ve been having for the past two years.

After changing the wires the auto pilot worked! No more “low battery” or “heading not found” messages like we were getting whenever the auto pilot decided to reset. We were ready to go tomorrow morning.

Not so fast.

This is what was in the glass bowl of our Racor filter.

In the morning Scott did his routine engine checks and found the fuel filter half full and mostly full of gunk. Algae in the fuel, we guess. It can happen with the heat and condensation that builds up in the fuel tank if sits around for a bit and not completely full. Scott wasn’t feeling too good about starting a passage like this so we radioed Due West who came by and circled our boat while Kirk assisted via radio.

Finally we were all set and ready to go! Due West gained a huge lead on us, primarily because we were cautious and going slow, and then their lead on us increased even more as we decided to sail with the little wind we were getting. We sailed most of the day into the night, with Due West just a small light on the horizon until we couldn’t see them anymore.

On our passage to Banderas Bay

I admit that these passages are my favorite part of cruising. I love the journey and watching the skies the the water.

A beautiful end to our passage.

We arrived early morning to La Cruz and spent a day exchanging passage stories with Due West (who saw the same bank of clouds and took almost an identical pictures) before heading off to Nuevo Vallarta and Paradise Village Marina, where we’d keep the boat for a couple months while we head back to the state for the holidays.

One year ago: Santa Barbara

Cruising without refrigeration

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you know we’ve been having refrigeration issues for a long time.  It completely stopped working in October 2016 when Scott and I attempted to replace a valve and tore a hole in the copper tubing, resulting in the need for a full replacement of the holding plate. It would take a few weeks for the new holding plate to arrive in Mexico and we had the option to stick around San Carlos or have the holding plate delivered to La Paz instead. The decision was easy. We would mosey on down to La Paz, stopping at various locations along the way, and pickup and install the holding plate there. The catch? We would only be able to re-provision once we reached La Paz, as the places we’d be stopping would be, for the most part, uninhabited.

We would have no cold beverages, nothing, nada. So what’s it like to go without a refrigeration?


Provisioning when you don’t have a refrigerator was a little challenging. We eat vegetarian on the boat, so we didn’t have to change our way of eating. However, produce doesn’t last too long in the heat. Any greens had to be eaten right away or risk wilting. Carrots really do need to be refrigerated or they turn rubbery. Bell peppers were fine for a few days but otherwise had to be eaten quickly, but halves would survive a day or two cut if left in a well-ventilated area. Onions, garlic, potatoes, cabbages, coconuts, tomatoes (when bought green) were our saviors as they lasted until the end. Fruits also had to be eaten fairly quickly, as they ripened immediately in the heat. Eggs are sold unrefrigerated here in Mexico and can last for weeks if you turn them over regularly.

We have a lot of grains and dry legumes on board: chickpeas, lentils, chana dal, oats, quinoa, brown and white rice, black beans and peruano beans, couscous. We also had two boxes of whole wheat pasta and whole wheat, masa, and white flour.

As for packaged goods, we had two big bags of Japanese Peanuts, one bag of tostadas, several pouches of Isadora refried beans, dozens of cans of vegetables and Amy’s chili, peanut butter, and a dozen pouches of Tasty Bite Madras Lentils. The chili, canned veggies, and Madras pouches were meant for emergencies since it was heat and serve, but it made sense to use these now.

We didn’t have any dairy on board, but we had some powdered milk. (Not to drink straight, but to use in baking, scrambled eggs, and when making cafe con leche.)

Getting Creative

Breakfast was the most challenging meal. Once the eggs ran out we switched to oatmeal. Oatmeal every single day. We had some piloncillo on board (amazing, btw) that I would chop and add to the oatmeal, but we didn’t have any dried fruits or pecans or walnuts to add more variety. Breakfast was the one meal that made us really unhappy.

That said, opening up the bilge and trying to figure out what to make every day for lunch and dinner became a fun game. Without produce, I turned to my expansive spice collection. What spices could I use to make a tasty meal? Smoked paprika elevated beans. Remembering that I had brought berbere spice made for excellent Ethiopian-inspired lentils. Relying on my Indian recipe collection transformed cabbage and fresh coconut into a ridiculously addictive and filling meal.

What did we eat? We ate what we normally ate, really.  Here’s a small list of what we ate while we had no refrigeration:

  • Banana bread (using up our overripe bananas)
  • Black bean soup
  • Bean dip with tostadas
  • White rice with fried egg
  • Rice and cabbage with turmeric, cumin, and freshly grated coconut (Cabbage Thoran)
  • Rice with red lentil stew (Yemisir Kik Wot)
  • Chickpeas with canned spinach, tomatoes, onions, garlic and spices (Smitten Kitchen)
  • Potato salad
  • Amy’s vegetarian black bean chili
  • Simple chana dal
  • Uncle Paulo’s rice and brown lentils (based on Mujadara)
  • Quinoa with canned mushrooms in a ginger mirin sauce
  • Couscous with tomato and onion (Jerusalem)
  • Corn cakes for breakfast
  • Oatmeal for breakfast
  • Pasta with garlic, red pepper flakes, capers, and olive oil
  • Rice with Madras Lentils (this was what we ate after a long day of sailing because it was really easy to make)
  • “Deconstructed” bean dip – When the refried bean pouches ran out, I made peruano beans cooked down with cinnamon, cumin, chipotle peppers, and “refried” it with garlic and onions
  • Raw almonds and raisins with salt and spices
  • Peanut butter and saltines when on passages

No Leftovers

Normally when I cook I have leftovers. Or, I intentionally make a bunch of food and freeze it for passages. I had to make every meal from scratch, and only beans or lentils could safely hang out for a few hours between lunch and dinner. This probably was the most challenging aspect of this experience. Nothing could be saved overnight, and I cooked every meal.

Update: BrrRRRR

By the time we pulled into La Paz in mid-November, a month and 370 miles had passed. All the vegetables were gone; the last clove of garlic used the night before. While we were in a major city with plenty of markets, we still had our fridge situation to deal with before we could get back to normal. We picked up the holding plate, booked a slip, and had Juan from Hector’s Refrigeration over the very same day. Two days later, we were back up and running! The refrigerator is running better than ever. Having lettuce, avocados, and cilantro back on board is a wonderful thing! Oh, and cold water to drink!