The Mexican Navy is No Longer Searching For Me!

Air temp: 63 degrees
Humidity: 80% Barometer: 1008 mb
Speed: 3-4 knots Course: 240 degrees magnetic
Distance Left to Hawaii: 2526 miles
Point of Sail: Close Hauled Stbd tack pointed south of Hawaii
Wind speed: West 20-25 knots
Swells: From the west 8-12 ft

Finally enroute to Hawaii. For the last time! Just cleared out of Cabo San Lucas. Cruising along with a double-reefed main and a storm sail. No doubt, the winds will calm down significantly once I get past the cape a few miles.

I have no doubt everybody reading this blog was confused as to my last post. Some of you were thinking “WTF – you left for Hawaii five days ago, what do you mean you’re going to get a Zarpe (Mexico Clearance Papers) in Cabo?” Well, the truth is, the Port Captain in Nuevo Vallarta was a stickler for paperwork. After a brief visit with him and Velma (who did not resemble my lifelong friend from my favorite show at all), the lady at the Nuevo Vallarta book store who does all the gringo boat paperwork, visa’s, TIPs, etc… made it clear I was going to have a problem clearing out due to my lack of a TIP. A T.I.P. – Temporary Import Permit – is a 10 year permit for your imported boat or vehicle in Mexico. No one could tell us upon checking into Mexico if this was something we actually, really needed. We were told by some we should obtain one if we were going to be there for more then six months. We were also told no one really cares. Those who have them said they have never been asked for it. A few cruisers who were asked for it when checking out of the country said they had to buy one on the spot for $300 pesos ($25 American. No big deal). None of this was the case in Nuevo Vallarta. At least not with the Port Captain I was working with. Of course, that’s Mexico. Every situation is different with every person.

It was made clear to me the lack of having a TIP was going to be a problem in Nuevo Vallarta, as they won’t issue me one on the spot and then I would be on Customs’ and Immigrations’ Radar for not having one. Thus, I might have to stay there and go through the process of obtaining one, which can take a while in Nuevo Vallarta. Velma and the Port Captain made it clear; it would be best to go north to Mazatlan 160 miles and east 100 miles (wrong direction for Hawaii) and check out there. Apparently, Mazatlan will give you a TIP on the spot. This advice took me by surprise. So, of course, I thanked the Port Captain, checked out of Nuevo Vallarta with the Port Captain with exit papers to go to Mazatlan. The Port Captain made a point to stress the importance of checking out of the country and obtaining a TIP. I was now on his radar. Darn. I had every intention of blowing off Mexico and their clearance papers and going straight to Hawaii. What are they going to do in Hawaii? I’m a citizen; they won’t kick me out. I assumed they would search the boat extra thoroughly for contraband because I avoided customs and immigration in Mexico. All I had to do was sail into international waters and what could Mexico do? Unfortunately, Mexico’s international waters extend pretty far west at this latitude thanks to a group of islands 300 miles due west of Nuevo Vallarta, mainly Isla Revillagigedo and Isla Socorro. These islands, unfortunately for me, have a Mexican Navy Base and are known for confiscating vessels who fish in their waters illegally. No matter, I would sail north of them by 50-100 miles and be clear. 200 miles west of Nuevo Vallarta and 75 miles north of these islands I heard what I had been keeping an ear out for on the VHF. It was around 3 am. My Spanish is adequate, but my understanding of it is fairly good. Loosely translated, I heard a radio call informing the Mexican Navy to keep an eye out, if not perform a light search for, a ” Yachtista sail nombre Camanoe ” (Sailboat named Camanoe). I was assumed to be heading for the general vicinity of San Benedicto, which is one of the islands between Hawaii and the mainland. With 36 mile wide radar, I don’t think the Mexican Navy would have had a difficult time finding me. Damn, the Port Captain must have contacted the Mazatlan Port Captain checking up on me. At that point, Camanoe and I tacked over onto the other tack straight for Cabo San Lucas 150 miles north. A little out of my way, but better than a huge fine. As it was made clear to me by Velma, that’s what would happen. It would have been a great sail, except there was a tropical cyclone which was dying out above Cabo. Which meant I had some very strong wind and large seas. In the end, nothing broke, Camanoe did excellent, all the way down to a double reefed main and tiny storm staysail. However, sadly, I lost my spinnaker. I will say it again. I lost my spinnaker. I was in disbelief for a good five minutes.

The spinnaker was securely tied on deck where I always keep it. Thinking back, Camanoe was hit by one particular wave which completely engulfed the boat and even put a fair amount of water in cockpit. Which really means something as Camanoe has a center cockpit. In hindsight, that might have been the wave which freed the spinnaker from the deck. All that was left of it were a few pieces of the bag and the lines I had tied over the top of the bag as an extra precaution. This will be at least a $3500 replacement. Especially, when you include an ATN spinnaker sock, spinnaker sheets, bag, and an ATN tacker. New rule: If I’m not using it, it goes down below! Unfortunately, this is really going to slow down my trip to Hawaii. Especially in light winds. But, If I don’t go now, I will never go. I loaded up extra fuel in Cabo and will have to motor in the light stuff in search of wind. There is a lot of food on board and unlimited water thanks to a watermaker and backup hand-pump watermaker.

Cabo; what a trip. I pulled in, grabbed a slip, which only cost me $62 for two nights, hired an agent to clear me out and obtain a Zarpe for me. The agent assured me Cabo wouldn’t care if I had a T.I.P. or not. All he needed from me was a passport, visa and crew list. Later that day my paperwork was in hand. I washed the boat, topped off fuel and obtained a few supplies. The agent cost me $80, but saved me a day of marina fees and riding buses. The next morning I would be off to Hawaii.

In total, I had 93 pesos ($7 USD) in change I had to get rid of that night before I left. Deep into the local part of town, about a one mile walk inland, I found a local taco restaurant where I gorged on tacos and beer for 86 pesos. Not as cheap as ‘Tacos in the Backyard’ in La Cruz, but in Cabo that’s pretty good. So what do you do with 9 pesos? Less then a buck. In the Tienda (little corner store) across the street from the taco joint I placed my 9 pesos on the counter in front of the lady and said, “Mas cerveza por favor, yo tengo nuevo pesos” (“More beer please, I have nine pesos”). This didn’t phase her for a second. She pointed to the cooler with the cheapest beer and said, “Uno” (one). It was a brand I’d never heard of before or care to give recognition to. It was crap. But it was 9 pesos, so I departed quickly with my prize and cruised around Cabo for awhile walking through the markets and tourist shops. All in all, a good farewell to Cabo.

-CAPT

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Cabo

Cabo is hot. Stifling. That, plus our exhaustion after a twelve day trip did not make me want to jump up and wander around the town. We needed to deal with customs and get Nick and Michele to the airport Saturday morning.  There was another Ha-Ha party plus the awards ceremony Saturday night (Nov 5th).

We gave in and got a marina slip in Cabo for $65 USD for Friday night so we could charge up the boat batteries as well as our own body batteries with showers, laundry and a calm, non-rolling home for one night.  We cleaned up the boat and then eventually made ourselves head out into the town to shop, site-see and eat a little authentic food.  Nick and Michele treated us to a good-bye dinner at a nice place called “Mi Casa.” 

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Next morning we got more cleaning done, got the crew packed (and sadly said goodbye 😦 )and then went and got our filed paperwork from customs.  Dave and I decided to go to more flea markets in the area just to see what was around. Dave’s much better at bartering than I am. I tend to just keep walking when we’re approached by people with items to sell or timeshares to discuss. Sometimes I give a polite, yet, curt “No, gracias,” but then I keep walking. Dave doesn’t want to appear rude, so we got stopped a lot. Or I’ll keep walking and have to come back for him.  People here are very nice, but they’ll talk your ear off about what they have to sell you until they wear you down. I’m not so easily swayed.  I don’t care if they think I’m a bitchy tourist.  I’ll know what I want when I see it.  This is a pretty big tourist area, so I’m looking forward to heading up into the Sea of Cortez and finding smaller, more authentic Mexican towns.  Cabo has become Vegas, complete with huge resorts and strip malls boasting Cartier and Hermes neon signs.  Kind a a turn off for me.

Awards ceremony Saturday night was hosted by the Cabo Marina with free beer and soft drinks and some DJ-ed music.  Everyone in each division “wins” a hand-painted wooden fish and a free Latitude 38 magazine (they’re always free, but beside the point).  Each division has a first place and a second place winner and then everyone else in the division comes in third.  There are lots of thirds.

Although we sailed the entire trip, I figured, due to how slow we were on each leg, that we’d get a third place finish with a mention of our sailing all three legs.  And even when they announced that our friends (and direct competition) on s/v Charisma came in second place in our division, I assumed that they’d just skipped our names for third place, but then they announced Camanoe for FIRST PLACE.  Crazy, crazy! So excited!  Charisma gave us big hugs and congrats.  We won the painted fish with a first-place blue ribbon attached PLUS a winner’s green t-shirt.  But the bragging rights are really quite priceless.

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Baja Ha-Ha Survivor certificate (L) and Capt Dave with our 1st place, blue-ribbon fishy. (R)

We haven’t been able to call our crew or email them yet that we got first place, so if you guys are reading it here, CONGRATS! and THANK YOU!!! There’s absolutely no way we could have done it without you.  No other crew was as awesome as you and we can’t wait to hang out again when we’re back to normal life.

So….now what?  Well, Dave and I have rested, we’ve cleaned the boat, we’ve worked on small projects and we’re ready to hit the sea.  The high prices of Cabo are getting old fast, so we’re looking to head up to La Paz in the next couple of days.  We plan to be up there for Thanksgiving, but after that…we’ll just have to wait and see which way the winds blow.

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Ha-Ha: Leg 3

We were pretty anxious to get to Cabo by the time leg three started on Wednesday, November 2nd. Well, I’m speaking for myself.  The legs were getting shorter and I was still having a good time, but I was also just ready to get to civilization and rest.  We really needed one more day for each leg since we were so much slower than the rest of the fleet.  Slow and steady is great, until you just want to be there all ready.

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Another beautiful sunrise start.

Pretty uneventful leg for us. We had power, so we got Robbie the auto pilot back and the XM radio. 

The winds were much lighter this leg; sometimes not even able to keep the spinnaker full.  We wanted to stay as close to our course as possible (basically, trying to do the shortest line between points A and B as we could), but sometimes the wind would take us more east than south or more south than east. Figured we’d make it all up when the winds came back…if they came back.

We talked with fellow, back of the pack boat, s/v Panache late in the afternoon to see how they were doing just a couple miles in front of us. They said they were hoping to sail the whole leg just like us but that they were losing their resolve.  We promised each other that we’d keep trying to sail until midnight and then if the winds didn’t pick up that we’d all motor. OR, if one boat decided to motor before the other that the motoring boat would tow the sailing boat. 😉

We made up some dinner and decided to deal with the lack of wind by moving the TV into the cockpit and watching “Friends with Benefits.”  Halfway through the movie Dave realized that the winds had picked back up and that the spinnaker was filling up. Whoo!  We sailed until morning, passing the leg three and final finish line of the Baja Ha-Ha around 4am.  By 9am we’d pulled into the Cabo marina and tied up just in time to announce to the morning fleet report that Camanoe had sailed the entire trip!

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Camanoe rounding Cabo Falso and heading into the Cabo Marina near the famous Lover’s Arc

More to come about Cabo and the end of the Ha-Ha festivities in the next post!