Captain Woody Cruising Adventure

Friday, December 17, 2010

Home for Christmas

We haven't gotten far but this one's wrapped up. We left Guatemala and had a prop shaft problem. We had to haul to fix it. We spent a week in the La Ceiba Ship Yard. It wasn't all bad.

We just put the boat away at Isla Mujeres, Mexico. Gonna get some sleep before I fly home.

Isla Mujeres - Woody Tracker

Woody Tracker
Latitude:21.2527
Longitude:-86.74765
GPS location Date/Time:12/17/2010 09:06:15 PST
Message:Just checking in.
Click the link below to see where I am located.

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=21.2527,-86.74765&ll=21.2527,-86.74765&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Off the Yucatan - Woody Tracker

Woody Tracker
Latitude:19.52066
Longitude:-86.61356
GPS location Date/Time:12/16/2010 19:24:22 PST
Message:Just checking in.

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=19.52066,-86.61356&ll=19.52066,-86.61356&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

48' Tayana, La Ceiba Honduras, (136)


We were holed up on Honduras's Roatan Island, side-tied by the dive boats at Fantasy Island Resort . The boat was a real nice 48' Tayana cutter called Island Time. Onboard was first mate Phil and deck crew Chris. We were supposed to be headed east but were sidetracked by a serious prop shaft wobble and some other issues. A mainland boatyard visit was our immediate future.

When I arrive on the weekend, sometimes I'll wait to do the official country check-in on Monday. It's always faster and usually cheaper. It's not good advice, it's just what I do when I think I can get away with it. I called the port captain and arranged to meet him at his office. I cabbed to town and waited for him. He was only 40 minutes late, pretty good for third world. He was a frowner, which had me regretting I hadn't dressed up more. Dress shorts were all I had clean. Always wear a collared shirt and clean full pants (I prefer those thin khaki pants that zip into shorts - REI.com). For that or some other reason, he sent me to the airport for immigration. Two more cabs. On the bright-side, the women who helped me there were beautiful and cheery. The PC had left by the time I got back, contrary to his word. And I noticed the immigration office had opened up across from his. Probably best for him that he had left. I decided to complete our check in when we got to the mainland boatyard. Again, not sound advice ... unless you have a plan.

The good news was while I checking out downtown Coxen Hole, aptly named, I bumped into some cruisers and one of my 7 fans. Wayne, Elda, James and Carol had just sailed down from the states on sv Big Fun. They were staying at the best dive resort on the island, Coco View. After a group shot for posterity (what does that mean?), they dragged me off on a Roatan inland tour - love the cruising community. We ended up at a jungle lunch place for cocktails and burgers. Later I got a tour of Coco View, the perfect low key dive resort.

We wanted to arrive at the entrance to La Ceiba before sundown so we left Fantasy Island at 0430 ... with no moon. Still without a chart, we took it slow and followed our path out. The sea opened up to us and we set sail and shot off to the south. As we closed with the high mainland we lost our wind and fired up the chopper. With the shaft wobble, the spinning prop made a thump-thump. I had dove on it back at Fantasy. The movement was slight, the shaft was heavy 2”, damage at low RPMs was unlikely.

We were getting clouds and rain off an on which obscured the already tricky entrance. I thought back to a few days before when I misplaced an entire peninsula in my navigating. What I've learned to do is to get up close to a confusing obstruction in order to properly decipher the situation. But not so close where there is not an easy, sure-thing, way out. We pulled up, just outside the breakers, watched a set go through and cruised in. It got shallow but we made it. Inside were some more obstructions: a dredge, an oil drum, fishing boats (why are they whistling at us?) stacked out across the channel.

We did make it to the boatyard dock. I miscalculated the current and had to use the training wheels (bow thruster) to keep it clean - don't tell anyone. We were greeted by the security guy. He had to set down his shotgun to tie us off. Hal was parked in front of us on a very kewl ancient Colin Archer. The kind with the low house and long bow sprit. Hal was good about giving us the low down on how the yard operated and where to get parts. Look him up if you get there, he intends to stay forever.

Onelly was the very sweet office manager. She got us checked in. The owner Giovanni met with me and we figured out our plan. I know how these places work. They are blackholes for the unsuspecting. You need a solid plan and the ability to second guess your obstacles. We met many cruisers there who had fallen into the yard and couldn't get out. I got more funny looks everytime I explained my in and out plan to the afflicted.
I quickly got to know the main yard guys, the guys responsible for getting the work done. George ran the travelift and was good entertainment. David was the labor organizer. They all spoke enough English to make things easy. The yard had an outside 'mechanic' that had the tools to pull the shaft and the old bearing. I got him right to work. I got the yard to do an estimate for bottom paint and checked with the owner. That was a go. It's a good thing to do whenever you haul. I could tell where the first hold up was going to come from. The yard wasn't sure how long it would take to get the new bearing. I asked around and found the part in town that same day from Raul at Kawa Motors. Cut off the delays before they happen.

We spent the evenings with the yardies (yachties living in the yard). Carl was the crazy happy German dude with burns all over his head - I didn't get a chance to ask. There were a pair of catamarans and their owner's, Mark in one and Jim and Marley in the other. And you may have heard of Steven Ladd and his book “Three years in a 12' boat”. This guy still hadn't had enough. Now he's in his new, big 18' boat which of course invites the question, why not have crew join the adventure. He was sailing with some young hot treehugger.

The town of La Ceiba was adventure in itself. You could take a cab for 20 Lempira if you secured the deal upfront. Or you could walk out and catch the bus for 6L - don't ask the price, just hand the money. I always take the bus to get 'in touch' with the locals. On the way to wave down the bus, we dropped off laundry and picked up some fresh hot tortillas from the corner shack.

Once in town, we followed our new friend Hal to the wood place. It was someone's backyard filled with amazing jungle hardwoods of the stateside unobtainium variety. Between the piles of the nearly free priceless wood were some of those old-school belt driven saws. After that we split up. I walked into town while Hal tempted the boys into his favorite bar - Expatriates. An adventure from which they would not soon emerge, I reckoned.

I walked through the mini city of La Cieba ending my trek on the misty, wave pounded beach by the entrance jetty. It seemed like a violent place in contrast to the tranquil draws of the happy town. It never seems that way at sea, just at the transition from sea to land. Sort of a heads-up to the contrasting perils as you switch sides.

Day 2 in the yard got the bottom sanded and paint started, we changed a batten in the main, cleaned the decks, got the coupling off the motor (after suggesting heat) and pulled the shaft. I started narrowing down a marina for our next destination. We got cleaned up and had dinner with some yardies and watched a movie back on the boat. It was a nice balance, enjoying the crazy other-world machinations and challenges of La Ceiba and then retiring in the evening, showered, to the beautiful relative luxury of a modern boat interior. Screens on the ports and hatches, we could still enjoy the breeze, sounds and scents from the jungle around us.

Day 3 was a Friday and the day I had imagined, with some luck, we could have possibly splashed. The paint got done including some nice two-part barrier coat work where the boss had found some reef in Belize. I was checking on Louis, our shaft mechanic, as I did often. He said he was building a tool to pull the bearing. This sent me back to the yard guys who had told me that they had a puller. They couldn't find it. Monday splash? The bearing did come out right around quitting tme, coincidence? I checked the weather (wx) for Monday, it looked a little bumpy.

Isla Mujeres and our continuing adventure, next month. Quality, Balance and a Clean Wake.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Update from a boatyard in Honduras

I left the big cat to come down to Guatemala to move a Tayana 48 from the Rio Dulce to St. Thomas.  The cat has arrived at her destination in Ensenada with my crew and a skipper we flew in from San Diego. 

On the Tayana, we made it to beautiful Roatan before developing a shaft wobble.  We redirected to the mainland to haul out and replace the thru hull cutlass bearing. 

We're at La Ceiba Ship Yard.  It's going good so far. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

La Ceiba Honduras - Woody Tracker

Woody Tracker
Latitude:15.78827
Longitude:-86.76007
GPS location Date/Time:12/07/2010 17:24:17 PST
Message:Just checking in.
Click the link below to see where I am located.

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=15.78827,-86.76007&ll=15.78827,-86.76007&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

La Ceiba Honduras

Quick update: the big new cat made it to ensenada

Sunday, December 5, 2010

48' Tayana, Roatan (135)


Last month we started moving a 48' Tayana cutter called Island Time out of Guatemala.  Onboard was first mate Phil and deck crew Chris.  The boat was supposed to go to the Virgin Islands but ... sea happens.  We had made it out of the jungles of Guatemala, down the amazing Rio Dulce and over the shallow bar at her entrance.  Finally, we were at sea.

The boat had mainsail furling so we had to head into the wind to hoist.  We brought in the headsail, fired up the engine and turned into the wind and waves.  Once some main was up we fell off the wind, shut down the engine (peace), re-launched the headsail, and Island Time charged off across the low swell.

We had a great morning sail.  It was sunny and we had that perfect, warm, el Carib breeze.  The wind slowly moved forward and we sheeted in the sails until we were beating.  As the wind get's stronger you want to flatten sails a bit to depower them.  This worked good on the headsail but we couldn't flatten the in-boom main.  We fired up and motor-sailed for the rest of the afternoon.

Then the helicopter arrived.  We could hear a quick thump, thump, thump, thump.  It was coming from the boat.  Changing engine rpm did change the speed of the thumping which meant that it was drive line related.  It wasn't louder in the engine room - good news.  I could hear it best in the aft stateroom.  Something wrong with the prop or shaft probably.  If it was kelp, you would want to back down.  We slowed slightly, pointed to Roatan and listened for change.

We were briefly distracted from the chopper landing on the aft deck by smoke rising into the dodger.  There is nothing worse than a fire on a boat.  Where do you go if you can't put it out??  And the autopilot wasn't autopiloting.  We quickly determined that the whiff of smoke did not come from the cabin but from the gauges above the companionway.

We later figured out that the Raymarine Seatalk system had fried.  There was nothing wrong with the autopilot.  It stopped working because it stopped getting signals from the rest of the system.  And then the GPS went down.  Lame.  Buy the TV and DVD player separate.  You want modular.

Out came my trusty portable Garmin gpsmap unit which got me around the world and then some.  The only important 'gauges' on a traveling sailboat are the depth sounder, working gps and the masthead windex.  The depth sounder was fortunately, a separate unit here.  We were back in action.
With the faint smell of burnt electronics and a growing helicopter sound, we hoisted our colors and made landfall at the beautiful island of Roatan, Honduras.  We had considered stopping there anyway to top up fuel.  Did I mention the mainsail furling line had removed it's own cover?  I can't check everything pre-departure.  I should point out that the charts on my old gps were not entirely accurate.  I sailed us up to the wrong side of a peninsula.  I had to consult my pc charts for the in close navigation.

The sun falls fast in the tropics.  By the time we arrived at the entrance to the reef it was night.  I had a good cruising guide and my charts.  They didn't agree so we pulled up close to decipher what buoys were what.  We got lucky when a big fishing trawler made it's way out.  We followed it's path and parked on the back side of Fantasy Island.  “Zee Chopper, Zee Chopper!”

In Tatus place, we got Jerry, and he was kewl.  He welcomed us and gave us the lowdown about the restaurant, pool, diving, internet, and cruiser happy hour.  Full use of the island was $20 a day for the whole boat, love it.  We'd make the most of it.

We cleaned up the inside and gave the outside a quick rinse to get the salt off.  The boys headed in for a meal.  For me it was an outdoor shower at the dive center and dinner onboard.   Mmm better, and ready for tomorrow's assault on our boat issues, third world style.  Bring your sense of humor.
I meet other delivery skippers in ports like these.  Some have been poolside for days.  They broke something on the boat and they tell me, “I don't work on them, I just move 'em”.  It doesn't seem right and besides, there's no challenge in it.

In the morning we left Chris to oversee fueling while Phil and I caught a ride to town with the marina cruisers.  We hit the bank, got a local sim for my cell, and some food to keep us out of the restaurant.  We were waiting on a couple still in the store.  We were 8 people in a minivan and it was tropical.  The consensus was to close up the van, rev it up and run the air conditioner.  On the downside there were gas cans onboard and the fumes were strong.  They persevered.  Old habits chosen above health, interesting human experiment.

We got back and moved the boat around to the front of the resort and I hopped in the water to see where the helicopter was hiding.  The strut cutlass bearing was good but there was some play at the shaft log/stern tube where the prop entered the boat.  I pulled a piece of shredded plastic out.  While I was there I cleaned the dirty prop, it's the best way to raise motoring speed and save fuel.  I couldn't get the techs at Raymarine to help me isolate the other gauges.  They just wanted us to send everything in for some hi-budget service.  Not very convenient for most cruisers.

And then there were monkeys!  Between projects I would whip into the lobby to wifi the owner, do part searches, find boatyards, and send poolside pix home.  On my route there were monkeys leaping between palapa beach shades.  Are you kidding me?  Monkeys??  They never got tired of playing the same games and I never got tired of watching them.  Everyone loves monkeys.  Right?

That night we got to chill with the cruisers at the dock BBQ.  It was great to hang out with my fellow adventurers. They were all very nice, in various stages of their adventure and all from crazy different walks of life.  The food was awesome.  We brought hot dogs while others brought real food.  There was quesa dias, flan, brownies and on.  Jerry had the old school rap mixed with easy listnin', cranking out the back of his vessel.  It was awesome.

I had to break the news to the guys.  We were going to have to haul out to change the stern tube bearing.  We weren't going to make it to the Virgin Islands on this trip.  The blow was softened when I explained that there were hardly any virgins left anyway (I'd been there 6 times).

The cruisers in Paradise were mostly Texan.  It made sense, we were close.  I'm a big fan of characters.  An old timer waldled up and gave us the lowdown on “the best boatyard in these parts”.  He explained about the entrance to the harbor and the town of  La Ceiba and “the 1$ beers and 2$ women”.  Chris perked up, “Where's that?”  Chris likes beer.

La Ceiba and the Island of Women, next month.   -Quality, Balance and a Clean Wake-

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Paradise island

On a particularly brutal upwind delivery, a quick fuel and repairs stop. 

Friday, December 3, 2010

Roatan - Woody Tracker

Woody Tracker
Latitude:16.35856
Longitude:-86.43872
GPS location Date/Time:12/03/2010 18:24:41 PST
Message:Just checking in.
Click the link below to see where I am located.

http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&geocode=&q=16.35856,-86.43872&ll=16.35856,-86.43872&ie=UTF8&z=12&om=1

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

48' Tayana, Rio Dulce Guatamala (134)

I had moved the 48' Tayana cutter called Island Time once before. Professional cowboy Phil and I, sailed her downwind from Curacao to Honduras across the southern Caribbean. It was a beautiful trip. The boat's very cool owners, Paul and Maggie then did some extensive cruising of that part of Latin America. After getting their fill of paradise, they called us back in to move her again. This time we would be driving her upwind, upcurrent, upswell. Paul kept a tight ship so I figured the cruise would be a breeze ... if a little on the nose.


For this adventure I re-enlisted my old friend Phil. Originally from TX, Phil and Vicki now run a ranch in CO. Our third was an easy going young Floridian named Chris. Phil, Chris and I all met up at a hotel in Guatemala City. We had some early morning grub and then made our way to the bus station. The ticket lady didn't like the looks of my older US dollars. I produced a couple fresh ones and we were on our way.

We were treated to a long bus ride through the green mountainous interior of Guatemala. We even got a restaurante stop along the way. The bus is a good way to get to know a place. I had to change money and buy some stuff. The locals always offered me the good rate and when I overpaid, they corrected me. That says a lot to me about the people.

The boat was at Marios Marina (a Lats Harbor Hangout), way the hell up the Rio Dulce. We arrived at Fronteras and called Marco for a boat ride to Mario's. He said 15 minutes. That means an hour and a half in local time, by the way. It was tough waiting at the pick up point; an overwater bar where we sat in the shade while a beautiful local girl served us dollar coldies. Phil bought trinkets from the Indians. This place was warm and jungly, the way I like it. There was no rush now as we eased into third-world time.

At Mario's there was a fun cruising group hangin' out at the bar but I headed up to the office. I thought I'd get things rolling with the checkout. Young Myrna faxed our paperwork to port captain Raoul in Livingston. With that done I had a look around. The mini pool was empty for repairs. There was a kewl overwater bar/restaurant that was connected to the docks. I met the owner Jim and gave him a fresh Lats burgee. He said Mario's was for sale but I wasn't ready to settle down. Cruisers Trish and Bob introduced themselves and gave me the full low down on check out, the river, provisioning, etc.. It's what cruisers do, and it's much appreciated.

I met up with the boys. Chris stayed to represent us at the bar while Phil and I went down to check out the boat. It didn't look bad considering it had been sitting for two months. We did some quick cleaning and got some electronics fired up. I downloaded satellite weather off the efficient Skymate system. I still had the software on my netbook from last trip.

We spent the next morning, prepping the boat for sea. Trish and Bob dragged us out on a harbor cruise and we saw the old fort, and then they helped us provision in town. It set us back a couple hours but it was a nice thing to do. We got off the dock in the early afternoon, just in time for the afternoon rain. We parked at the fuel dock and waited for a break in the wx so we could fill up.

And finally, we were underway. I'm not a huge fan of inland cruising, there's always a bunch of stuff that you're about to run over or into. I prefer the serenity of the open ocean. Cruising the Dulce in the evening provides a unique challenge as fishermen lay their nets right across the navigable part of the lakes. We survived with some focused maneuvering and interesting hand gestures between us and the fishermen. Not those ones. So you know, random arm waving means come this way.

And finally, we made it to Texan Bay. Well, I thought we were in Texan Bay. We anchored up and enjoyed a perfect night on the hook. We had a light breeze and no moon and the stars were spectacular. The next morning we found the real Texan Bay and parked in front of the marina. It was recommended to us that we don't try to anchor off Livingston because it was not safe. Sherrie, owner and manager of Texan Bay Marina, could shoot me down to Livingston to check out. That sounded fun.

She rolled up in a big center-consul panga with a boy driving. Paperwork in hand, we took off and headed down the river. While it's open and wide up river, as it winds down to the sea the Dulce turns into a gorge. They must have had this gorge in mind when they came up with the word gorgeous? Crazy beautiful and understated in the guide. We sped through towering jungle walls and past the occasional reed roof shack with a dock out front. Back home you know you've made it when you have a dock in front of your house.
Sherrie and I walked up through Livingston, got some bread and hit the bank. The town didn't seem so bad. I'll probably do the anchor check out next time without the pre-faxing. I suspect those are what singled us out for the high fees. Roaul charged us 630q ($81). And there was a fee for the launcha. I saved a couple of bucks by putting a temporary fix on the outboard, (filter had clogged, bypassed it).

Back at Island Time we hauled the hook and headed down the gorge again at a more civilized pace. We ambled by dugout canoes hand fishing, the jungle huts, and a riverside bar/restaurant with a dock ... tempting. We got a good look at the vertical limestone walls, large white birds contrasting against the dark green of the gorge face. With a sailboat, the shoals are suddenly relevant. We followed the cruising guide track and kept to the deeper water.

The Dulce has a serious river bar at it's entrance. It is 6 feet deep at high tide and we drew ... six feet. We arrived an hour and a half before high tide which gave us some time to get off if we found a shoal. We had waypoints from other cruisers, the advice of the cruising guide and the previous track from when the boat came in. I played it by ear. We saw 5.7 at one point but never felt the bottom. Our patience had paid off and we were back in the safety of the sea. - - -

More next month on our cruise to Fantasy Island and our boatyard visit. Now an update on our cruising environment. There are people that believe that the world is flat (it's not, I checked), that the earth was created a few thousand years ago, or that man's doubling of CO2 won't affect our Climate. Most don't agree. But everyone agrees that high CO2 is wrecking our oceans. The ocean sucks up most of our CO2 which is causing the destruction of the food chain base and our coral reefs. See: nrdc.org/oceans/acidification . The good news? The switch to renewables has begun. To help, we must maintain our firm stance against pro-pollution companies and their reps in congress that profit by injuring our friends, family and our living planet . It is a time for heroes. Step up.