Monday, May 27, 2013

Sausalito B Dock Party- We are there in Spirit

Here's a great photo from the B Dock Party that our Sausalito friends had this weekend.  
Thanks for bringing us along via the "party paddle".  -  Miss you all!!  - Nancy and Rob

The Slow Road towards Loreto...a stop in Los Gatos

We've been in the Sea of Cortez islands for 7 days.  These photos are from just one of the stops, in an anchorage called Los Gatos (the Cats).  While it is 76 miles from La Paz, it was the 3rd or 4th stop along our slow way. One of the wonders of this area for sailors is the close proximity to a new location.  Generally we wait for the winds to build, and then venture out for 2-4 hours of sailing, before reaching the next spot. There have been many many dolphins, jumping rays, turtles, and one very big whale surfacing just beside our boat. 
Los Gatos gave us more hiking opportunities on the red windswept sandstone hills, snorkeling along the reef, another pretty horseshoe bay to admire, and offers for lobsters by a local fisherman.  Our dinner that night was spectacular.

Rob on morning hike

Beach and Sandstone formations

Shrimp on the BBQ
4 Lobster Tails
Buen Provecho!

Panoramic View of Los Gatos

Nancy on the cliffs above Los Gatos
Little fish on the reef
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Friday, May 24, 2013

Shindig Communications

This blog post is for the boat geeks out there.  Nancy says this is boring but  I think some of you may be interested in how we keep in touch.  I think we have a good mix of communications that work well for us in Mexico.

In fact, we have everything needed to be a remote hi-tech office or a communications hub during an emergency.

Here is a run down of the gear we have onboard and how we use it.

VHF Radio - Standard Horizon GX2150.  This radio is used every day.  It has a range of 20 miles (25 watts) or so and is used by all the other boaters and some land based restaurants, stores and marinas.  Here in LaPaz there is a morning "net" where boaters can get local information, find long lost boating friends and buy or sell stuff. 

Here is an example of the morning VHF net in LaPaz:   La Paz Cruiser Net

We also have two handheld VHF radios that we use when we are away from the boat.   I have also gotten into the habit of leaving he handheld radio on channel 22A at night.  If there is an emergency in the anchorage we'll hear it and because the handheld has limited range we won't be awakened by far away transimissions.
WiFi - most marinas, restaurants and hotels have WiFi available.  We are still junkies for our internet and use it to keep up with the news, email family and friends, read friends sailing blogs, write our blog, skype calls, share photos and download movies.

I have become an expert in tapping into wifi signals and the social engineering of wifi passwords.
Shindig has a Bitstorm wifi extender and hotspot onboard.   The extender is mounted on the masthead and allows us to pull in signals that your laptop or iPad can't.  The hotspot then allows any device onboard to tap in and have internet access.   The WiFi extender can pull in a signal from over a mile away if there is a high powered hotspot.  In my experience I can usually get a usable signal when anchored out 1/4 mile.
    Cellular Data - Banda Ancha.  When traditional WiFi is not available we use cellular phone technology to keep connected.  After we arrived in Cabo last year we picked up our Banda Ancha at the Telcel store.  You can buy chunks of data and depending what plan you have, they last 30, 60 or 90 days before you need to "reload" it with more pesos.

    We only use this when we don't have WiFi and it only works with one computer at a time. (the one you plug it into).  Honestly we haven't needed used it too much but it only cost $40 and then you pay as you go.

    Cellular Voice - Our Mexican cell phone is a cheapo from Telcel. We use it infrequently to call home to the States and contact local services.  It is not something we carry with us all the time like we would back home but it is usually turned on and ready for action.  We think of it as an emergency contact phone too.  We have a "pay as you go" plan for the phone and load  on about 400 pesos ($33USD) every couple of months.
    Most of our calls are outgoing - no one except Bryan has figured out how to call us down here.  If anyone wants to try, send us an email, and we'll give you our phone number.  :0

    International dialing on the cell phone is easy and straight forward.  Dialing local numbers Mexico is a little funky.  For example, in Banderas Bay you have to know if you are calling a cell number or a landline and put the appropriate prefix in front of the number.  It seems like these rules vary from one area to another.

    Ham Radio/ Single Side Band (SSB) -  Shindig has an ICOM IC-M710 SSB radio onboard that has been modified for use on amateur radio (HAM) bands as well.  It is an old radio that many regard highly for its simplicity and high power (150 watts).  It is a little clunky to use for ham radio but I have some software that helps make it easier to use.

    We can talk anywhere in the world with this radio.   The radio's practical range depends on what frequency you use and propogation quality which is impacted by solar radiation in the atmosphere.  That sounds confusing, and it is a little but once you get some experience with it you get a feel for when you can make a long distance contact and when you can't.

    In Mexico there are several SSB/HAM nets that are usually in the morning.    Each one has a different "personality" but usually give regional Mexican weather and allow boaters to keep in contact from a long distance.

    This year we also listened in on the Pacific Puddle Jumpers net.  Here is an outtake of our friends on Wizard checking in:  Pacific Puddle Jump Net - Wizard Check-in
    Wizard was about 1500 miles from our location when this was recorded.

    Pactor Modem and Winlink -  We are able to use our ICOM radio with a Pactor modem to get email and weather.   I use the amateur radio's network of stations(winlink) to connect and get email.  This method is only used for text email and small weather model files.  The connection speeds I experience are from 100 baud to 2400 baud.   For those non-techies out there = That is really, really, really, slow.   For example, at 100 baud, a full page text email would take 2 minutes to download.  On your average internet connection this same download would take about 2 or 3 seconds.

    Slow Pactor connections are what we use when we are on passage.
    Here is what it sounds like to make a pactor modem connection over the ham radio: Pactor Modem Connection .
    In addition to email we use it to get weather reports and maps and there is a crude interface to pull down the text from a web page.  We use this to get blog updates from friends.

    Saturday, May 18, 2013

    A Mother's Day visit home

    Thumper, a very spoiled kitty
    Bryan and his mom  
    I miss my cello!
    Dane and Elaine
    I had a quick but fun trip back to the States immediately after the wedding last week.  Bryan was home from college, and has just turned 20!  My mom is in her upper 80's, and always eager for visits in person, as well as my sister Elaine and husband Dane.
    This visit was focused on family time with some good friend catch ups, a piano lesson, and some financial appts squeezed in.  Thanks for Julie and Corey for letting me stay at their home in the Bay Area as I caught up with friends and Bryan.  Just a few trips to Trader Joes, Target and Costco, as most room in my return luggage was reserved for the many boat related packages Rob had shipped to my sister's house. Bryan and I managed to squeeze in some good eating together; Thai food in Redwood City, Vietnamese lunch in Berkeley, Japanese bento and sushi in Folsom, and an extra yummy bowl of ramen in downtown Sacramento the night before I flew back to Mexico.  A Great visit and nice to know both Rob and I will be back in the States in July.
    Nancy and Elaine, and their mom, Margaret - Mother's Day 

    Bryan and Grandma Maxfield

    Wednesday, May 15, 2013

    Ben and Michelle's Cabo Wedding Festivities

    View from our balcony
    Rob is "trapped" at the pool, wishing he were on the ocean. 
    Enjoying a walk on  the beach
    Pretty  palm trees

    Nancy and her buddy Ben 

    We had an indulgent stay in the outskirts of Cabo at Pueblo Bonita's Pacifica Resort a few weekends ago.  Ben and Michelle, our San Francisco based friends, conveniently picked Cabo as their destination wedding location, which was a good reason for us to head back towards the Sea of Cortez this month.  The resort is beautiful and we loved experiencing our first time at an all-inclusive resort.  It was almost unimaginable to be able to get an afternoon snack at the sushi restaurant, show up for a delicious dinner at their finest restaurant, and then, yes, order room service later that night. Fortunately, there was a big and empty fitness center that I enjoyed each day, as well as fun fitness classes, such as pilates boot camp, under a palapa near the beach.  I also signed up for the "towel folding" class, and had personal instruction on how to make those cute swans, and other figurines that you may have had in your hotel rooms.  One morning Rob and I took a Spanish class.  Most of the other guests at the resort were sleeping off their festivities at one of two swimming pools.
    The wedding was the third and final night of our stay.  By then we were well acquianted with many of Ben and Michelle's friends and family.  It was a beautiful ceremony and very spirited reception and dinner party that followed.  The wedding guests impressed us with their revelry, as they maximized their time in Mexico with many other late hours of festivities that we only heard about.

    Congratulations Ben and Michelle!
    Felicidades y que tengan una linda vida juntos.

    Here are some photos from this fabulous event and resort.
    The beautiful bride and her father 

    Mr. and Mrs. Ben Bhargava!!
    Barefoot in the sand reception

    Monday, May 13, 2013

    How does that go together?

    Shindig's primary winches are in pieces and getting cleaned and service.  These Harken 56 electric winches are the most complex I've rebuilt.

    They come apart into 50 or so pieces and there is only one "right" way to put them back together.

    The good news is that when I'm stuck during the reassembly I can cheat and peek under the drum of the other winch.

    I'm happy to report that there were not extra parts left over and both winches are spinning freely with fresh oil and grease.

    Starboard primary winch in pieces

    Nancy is back in the states for a quick visit and I've taken the opportunity to get some boat projects done.

    Shindig is looking good and ready for action.
    • Primary winches serviced
    • Windlass serviced and corrosion below deck addressed
    • Bow Roller serviced
    • Anchor chain stripes repainted at 50 foot intervals
    • Anchor locker prepped and painted - Thank you Chava
    • Hull, topsides and stainless cleaned and waxed - thank you Chava
    • Watermaker serviced
    • Bitstorm Wifi firmware upgrade complete
    • Re-programed station memory on ham/SSB radio
    • Shindig Volt Meter - fixed Generator sensing, added State Of Charge (SOC) indication, misc. bug fixes
    • Fixed fresh water system hammering sound
    • Serviced main furler and tack lashing
    • Defrosted refrigerator

    Friday, May 10, 2013

    Happy Mother's Day

    In Mexico, May 10th is the day to celebrate all the moms!

    Happy Mother's Day to Nancy, Margaret and Mom (Alice).

    Margaret and Nancy

    Alice with new earrings!

    Saturday, May 4, 2013

    Pausing in La Paz

    We’re enjoying our new home-base, La Paz, which is perched on the southeast corner of the Bay of La Paz, about 140 nautical miles from Cabo.  We’d heard so much about La Paz, but this is our first visit via Shindig.   La Paz means “The Peace” in Spanish, and was named this by the Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino, to reflect the peaceful nature of the indigenous people.  This was after the previous explorer, Hernan Cortez, explored the Sea of Cortez/La Paz area, and had a violent introduction to the area as the local tribes rebelled against the Spanish colonializing attempts. 
    La Paz also has the nickname of “the Pause”, indicating that many cruising sailors get to La Paz, and don’t leave.  There are three good sized marinas here and a large protected anchorage.  Tourism is not the primary economic driver here, as it is in Cabo and Banderas Bay.  It is the capital of Southern Baja and feels like a more traditional Mexican town, with a population of over 200,000. 

    La Paz is a picturesque town, with a very long promenade along the bay, called the malecon, with Mexican sculptures and other art work.  The city is in front of a very pretty mountain range, which reminds Nancy of her favorite California city, Santa Barbara. 

    "Sirena con Delfin" sculpture by Octavio Gonzalez. 
    The base is a pearl, representing La Paz being the Pearl of the Sea of Cortez 

    La Paz Cathedral (1861), main fa├žade in pink quarry stone
    Rob with a wall of books at the Cruisers Club Cruceros
    "Take a book, leave a book"
    Jonathan from S/V Fluenta, with his burger from the Shack

    Still standing after group lunch and afternoon at the Shack
    "Baja Tranquility", a Wyland mural painted in 2005. 
    One of more than 80 murals around the world known as "Whaling Walls"

    Thursday, May 2, 2013

    Adios Autumn Wind!!

    The time has come for a sailing goodbye with our good friends, Brian and Elizabeth, from Autumn Wind. Autumn Wind left La Paz yesterday to go north towards San Diego. 

    We've had many fun adventures with them.  Sad, but excited about their new horizons.
    You can link to their blog from the front page of ours.

    You can spy on their progress here.