Monday, March 10, 2008


Ahhh...Chacala & Wool Socks

We left Barra de Navidad Sunday, March 2nd waving good-bye to our friends and hearing "farewells" on the VHF radio as we maneuvered out the narrow channel. It was one of those chamber of commerce weather days - sunshine, mild temperatures and a light sea breeze.

I settled into my favorite seat in the cockpit and picked up my knitting - pair #3 of the crazy heavy worsted weight socks for the Akkol orphanage in Kazakhstan. Jonesy manned the helm and with fair winds, calm seas and a few large swells, we had an easy 7-hour motor-sail north up the coast to Chamela Bay.

Along the way we saw streaks of "red tide" in the water - large algae overgrowths which changes the sea color from saphire blue to yucky red-brown. Maybe you can see the color difference in the photo above. Of course we also saw plenty of turtles and a few whales. The cruising life is heavenly - why isn't everyone else doing it?(hmmm, keep reading...) Our plan was to spend one night in Chamela and then continue our voyage north the following afternoon.

Upon arrival in Chamela, we noticed that some coolant had escaped the engine somehow. How? Where? The hoses looked fine. Crap. There's a HOLE in the engine's heat exchanger. Yep, a hole in the metal. Not all that surprising given that this place had been repaired earlier by some previous owner. It just decided to give up again now. Now, in this isolated stretch of coastline.

So early the next morning after the engine had cooled, Jonesy dug out his 2-part expoxy, and made a quick fix. Then we had some drama. I got stung by a bee for the 1st time since I was 4-years-old. That last time I went into a coma. Medical Emergency! We got out the bee-sting-kit and I took various drugs. We laid out the Epi-pen just in case I went into shock and needed a shot of epinephrin. Then we waited. No problems! I could breath just fine! What next? Geez!

So in the mid-afternoon, we headed out to sea again. As we sailed out of the bay, we noticed that there was a tear in the main sail. Not bad - just a split seam, but that's never a good thing. Then, about an hour and a half into the trip Jonesy discovered that the engine was still spitting out coolant. So we turned around and went back south to Chamela, limping back into the bay with our tail between our legs. This is why cruising isn't for everyone - we spend a lot of time and effort on repairs and the conditions can be uncomfortable at times. But is sure beats working at a job!!

Thank goodness for good-hearted, knowledgeable cruisers. By the next day, we had a different type of epoxy on board, the advice from 2 engineers, and a helping hand from Roy on the sailing vessel Saucy Lady. Roy and Jonesy isolated the new location of the leak, patched it, and even looked like they were having a good time doing it.

I sat on the bow and tackled the split seam in the main sail. As I was working, Roy (with many cruising miles and years under his belt) came and took a look. Why aren't you using a "sewing awl" he asked. A what? So, he jumped into his dinghy and blasted over to his boat to retrieve this special tool. What a cool tool!!! It makes sewing through thick sails so much easier and creates a secure stitch.

Because of the really big swells which produced really big waves on the beach, we couldn't go ashore in Chamela Bay. It's dangerous to try and land a dinghy with it's outboard engine through the big surf. So we stayed on the boat...watching the beach vacationers, smelling the seafood cooking at the little thatched roof beach restaurants (palapas), and listening to their music. It was like driving all the way to Disneyland only to have to sit in the car all day staring out the window at everyone else having a good time. So, I knit pair #4 of heavy wool socks.

We had to let the new epoxy cure for 24 hours. So exactly 24 hours later, Jonesy refilled the coolant and started the engine. So far - so good - no leaks. Sail fixed and engine fixed, we again left Chamela Bay for long passage up to Chacala.

We completely by-passed Banderas Bay and Puerto Vallarta and sailed for 26 hours to the tiny beach village of Chacala. This passage was rough - around the notorious Cabo Currientes. So far, we're 3 for 4 on this bad stretch of coast...3 smooth passages and now, 1 rough ride. The winds blew steadily at at least 18 knots and gusted up to 25 - right off our nose! The swells, combined with the wind waves made the Niki Wiki rise up on the swells, then crash straight into another, stopping our forward motion. We were making only a little over 3 knots of true speed. Heck, we could have WALKED faster. So much for weather forcasts...nature has it's own way every time. If we had been able to leave just one day earlier (on schedule) we would have had a smoother trip. As it was, we tethered ourselves to our life jackets and the boat at all times and rode it out. At least the stars were magnificent!

Along the way we encountered a group/pod/herd/flock/whatever of GIANT black Manta Rays! They were frolicking on the surface, flapping their "wings"! They must have been 6-feet across in size at least! Reminded me that just before we left Barra de Navidad we were riding in the dinghy at high speed in the lagoon when a ray jumped right up out of the water in front of us. He was black with bright white spots!

Slightly before dawn, I went down for a nap after my "watch" and Jonesy zig-zag sailed through the islands of Banderas Bay, chatting with some of our cruising buddies on the radio who are in the Puerto Vallarta area. He even got to talk with our really good cruising friends on the sailing vessle Baraka who are in PV making repairs and picking up crew for the big trip out to the South Pacific later this month.

I pulled the overnight watch as usual and knit another pair of heavy wool socks (pair #5). These socks work up so fast! I tried the "afterthought" heel on the first pair, but then switched to the "Turkish Heel" for the last 3 pairs. I love it! This old dog has learned a new knitting trick. All this knitting of firm stitches created a sore spot - then a peeling callus on my left index finger! A knitting injury! I had to wear a leather finger guard to keep on knitting. My stash of leftover wool yarns & sock yarns is slowly shrinking as I knit up these socks. It's challenging to find colors to coordinate with each other and with the leftover sock yarns. The stripes on this last pair were the result of some hand-dyeing I tried a few years back where I made a giant skein to get larger stripes.

We arrived the following afternoon in Chacala. Ah...Chacala. Small, serene, beautiful beach village of Chacala. There were only 2 other sailboats anchored here, probably because this anchorage has a bad reputation for being "rolly". The swells come in off the sea, bounce off of the sides of the small cove, and create a washing machine effect of bumpy swells. Sure enough, the first night after the breezes stopped, we rocked and rolled all night. A stern anchor that Jonesy set the next day solved most of the rocking (but not all). Oh well, it just makes walking around the boat and cooking a little difficult but it doesn't bother my knitting so it's no problem.

So...finally! The following day, after 6 days on the boat either at sea or at anchor, we got to put our feet on firm ground in Chacala! Another sailboat, Hooligan had come into the bay with a burnt-out altenator. No altenator, no power. No power = no refrigeration. Of course, you couldn't possibly buy a marine part of any kind out here in the boonies. Now it was our turn to help. Jonesy suggested that they go into the nearby town of Las Varas and just buy a regular automotive altenator, modify it, and use it as a temporary fix until they could get the right one (marine) later. So - all four of us picked up the "taxi" (really just a van, see the photo of my view from the makeshift bench seat along the rear doors) and rode the 6 miles into town.

While Jonesy and Tom from Hooligan visited various auto electric shops, used gestures, broken Spanish, and held up the old altenator, Barbara and I toured the town and the local market shopping for essentials (shhhh...and other stuff). Jonesy had Tom buy an altenator, then they took it over to a repair garage (more like a lean-to shack). There they instructed the mechanic to take parts off of the old marine altenator, attach them to the new altenator and thus, created a temporary fix.
On the trip back to the boat, we had a private taxi so we were able to stop at the large fruit stands along the highway. These giant fruits are jack-fruit or locally known as jaca. The flesh tastes like banana flavored peach! We just got a pineapple, a mexican papaya, a couple of homemade banana muffins, and some peanut candy.

Back on the boat, I continued knitting, now to finish up Jonesy's Land & Sea sweater. As I've been reading the book "Knitting the Old Way" by Pricilla A. Gibson-Roberts, I decided to try a new-to-me technique for securing the crew neck. I used her half-graft to graft the live stitches of the neck ribbing to the inside edge rather than binding off and sewing down the folded over edge. The result is a much more elastic neckline! There's always more knitting tricks to learn even after 30+ years of knitting. I'm so thankful that I have the time, materials, physical and mental capacities to indulge in my passion for this craft.

You surely are accomplishing a lot on the knitting front! Will sorely miss you at camp this July.
Oh, my my my!!! I so understand the ups and downs of cruising! What an adventure, eh? Love all those socks. I just learned the continental style of knitting and am limping along in my practice. It's so hard to change after knitting the american way for so long. Keep posting these great updates; I love your blog! Deborah
WOW, what an adventure. Please tell me those socks are for a child! so many so fast. No wonder your finger gave up. What a scare with the bee sting. This post was as good as a adventure series. Hope you don't run out of stash.
YOu have had a busy week :-)
You just keep proving cruising isn't all fun and games. And I think about a "rolly" anchorage and just get green. Not with envy though. Ugh!

I'll really, really miss you at camp.
Fascinating to read about your sailing and knitting adventures.
You certainly have made lemonade out of all those lemons you have been dealt.

I love the socks and the story is faboo!

You give a whole new meaning to the word rolling! thanks for sharing.
Glad to see your up and running again. Just to let you know, the reason the rest of don't sell our homes and do what your doing is we have no money. We might could buy the boat after selling the house, but then what would we do for money to eat and put gas in the boat, etc. Darn it all, why wasn't I born rich????? LOL But s you know I love living my life through you!!!!!!!
Thanks for the half-graft reference to P G-R! I'm just ready to finish off a Lopi cardigan (just in time for warmer weather, natch), and have been hunting for a reference!

Diane in Oregon
Yhao private label knitwear manufacturer develops new production techniques and only use the best materials. Our laboratories are continually looking for new solutions to create excellent, cheap, and durable products. In the commonly used cotton and nylon, we continue to achieve innovative applications of some new fibers and blending applications. The company has a touchscreen, Bluetooth, anti-cutting and other aspects of more than ten kinds of new product patent certificates. Our products are the best on the market. custom merino wool socks

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