Friday, March 16, 2012

Onward to Mazatlan

When traveling by sailboat, the last thing one wants is a schedule.  Trying to arrive at a certain destination by a certain time will almost certainly lead to trouble with the weather.  The weather tells us when we can sail.  Unfortunately, with a plane to catch in mid-April, we find ourselves on a bit of a schedule.  The good news is that we have about six weeks to find weather windows for two overnight passages: the first from La Cruz to Mazatlan, the second from Mazatlan across the Sea of Cortez to Baja.
The weather forecast looked good for starting the trip to Mazatlan on Monday, March 5.  We were excited to be getting back on the road, and looked forward to enjoying the rustic charm of Mazatlan’s old harbor.  The easy access to old town, the Malecon (waterfront walkway), and the hike to the light house makes it one of our favorite destinations.  We met with Kevan on Sunday and agreed to start the twenty-eight hour passage at six o’clock the following morning.

By a quarter to six we had raised the anchor, lashed down the dinghy, and were drifting in the darkness outside the marina channel.  Right on time, Alex II’s navigation lights appeared from behind the jetty and we were on our way.  The dawn twilight found us motoring past Punta Mita.  Once clear of the point, we set a course for Isla Isabella and spent most of the day motor-sailing.  With a moderate breeze fifteen or more degrees off the bow, our boat speed held at six to seven knots.  Unfortunately, in the late afternoon the wind clocked around to our nose and picked up to a steady fifteen knots.  Our forward progress dropped precipitously as the wind and waves worked together to push us away from Mazatlan.  It was frustrating to have the engine burning fuel while we were creeping ahead at a miserably slow pace.  This torture continued until about three o’clock the following morning when the winds died and the seas flattened.  Even motoring is better than being stalled in rough seas.  Mazatlan here we come.

The morning brought a thick fog that limited visibility to about a mile.  The diffuse light reflecting off the calm water provided a crisp view of anything breaking the surface.  We saw several sea turtles and a few rays swim by.  Suddenly, there was a huge splash to starboard about a half mile away.  It was a whale.  We soon saw three whales launch themselves from the water simultaneously.  The triple breach was just the beginning of the show.  As we go within a quarter mile of the whales, the show intensified with repeated breaches and fins slapping the water.  It was the most spectacular show we have ever seen.

Alex II arrived at the Stone Island anchorage about eleven a.m. and we joined him there two hours later.  It was nice to have the first of two overnight passages behind us.  It was also great to be in Mazatlan again.

Mazatlan with the world's highest manned lighthouse
Ready for a dinghy ride?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Leaving La Cruz

The plan had been to spend a couple of weeks in La Cruz followed by several weeks of anchor hopping south to Manzanillo.  Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate.  Day after day the forecast told of southerly winds and seas.  These would be blowing and rolling into the anchorages along the way making for sleepless nights and dangerous dinghy landings.  Conversations with northbound boats passing through La Cruz confirmed the rough conditions we feared.  We thought it best to stay put in the protection of Banderas Bay and go farther south next year.  Next thing you know, two months slipped by.

We made the most of our time in La Cruz.  For 540 pesos ($42/USD), we signed up at Casa Maru’s Cruiser Comfort Inn.  The fee provided us with a nice place to relax and seven showers each (towels, soap and shampoo included).  In addition, we enjoyed unlimited access to a clean restroom, bottled drinking water, the internet and the company of fellow cruisers, many of whom became our friends.  Casa Maru allows continued use of the facility so long as at least one untaken shower remains on your membership.  We made our showers last two months.  Having unlimited internet access was the most valuable of the benefits.  We ordered boat parts from the US, did our income taxes, and booked a return trip home to California/New York in April.

Another La Cruz highlight was meeting and getting to know Kevan on Alex II.  Kevan is a Kiwi single-hander who has been in Mexico a year longer than we have.  He has shared countless tips on Mexico, including guiding us through the FM3 process, and providing us with a greater understanding of New Zealand and Australia.  When we make the passage north to Mazatlan, we will be buddy boating with Alex II.
Kevan of Alex II and Trisha

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Making yogurt on a sailboat (or anywhere else)

For the past several weeks we have been enjoying the yogurt I make on Interabang.  The homemade yogurt is so good that I wanted to pass it on.   A big thank you goes to Lori on Camelot for sharing the recipe with me.   Homemade yogurt will be nice to have this summer when we are in the Sea of Cortez and won’t always have access to fresh dairy products. 

The supplies needed:  powered milk (NIDO is recommended for Mexico but elsewhere make sure it is full fat and not low or nonfat), water, yogurt starter, a thermos (or insulated container with a secure lid), measuring cup and a thermometer (optional). 
1 cup water (temperature from the tap, not chilled from the fridge)
1 cup powdered milk
1 cup hot water (I use approx. 125 degrees fahrenheit) but not boiling
3 tablespoons yogurt starter*
*Use yogurt starter (plain yogurt, not sweetened or flavored) for the first batch.  After the first batch, save yogurt from the previous batch to use for starter.  As you get down the line of batches, less yogurt starter is needed as the yogurt cultures become more concentrated. 
Add the tap water and the powdered milk to your container and mix well (all lumps removed).   Add the hot water and mix well.  Add the yogurt starter and mix well.  

Close the container and place it where the temperature will remain constant (i.e. not the direct sunlight).   Let it sit between 6 to 12 hours.  How long you let it sit determines how thick and sour the yogurt will be (longer for thicker and sourer). 

When you open the container, it should be appear thick and set with yellowish whey floating around the sides.  Give it a stir to see if it’s the consistency you like.  When it’s done, place in the fridge to chill and stop the cultures from cultivating.  If using a “hot” thermos, you will need to trasfer it to a different container to chill it.  It will keep 7 to 10 days in the fridge.

NOTES:  The key to success is keeping the temperature constant while it sits, so the cultures have a chance to grow.  The container is important and I use a wide mouth thermos (made by Coleman) meant for keeping things cold, rather than hot (it is all plastic, the hot thermos has a glass or metal lining).  I wrap a small fleece blanket around the thermos to aid in keeping the temperature constant.  I don’t have a thermometer to measure the water temperature but we have Paloma on-demand water heater on the boat and it is set to the highest temperature and that’s what I use for my hot water so I know it is always approximately the same temp.  Thanks to Mizzy on Alegria for loaning me her thermometer, I was able to determine the temperature of the water I use as 125 degrees.  Another important step is take be sure you clean the container well and allow it to air dry between batches.

Yogurt with mango, strawberry and granola

Happy yogurting!