Hurricane Odile and Dengue
November 11, 2014
Mid August, after getting the dinghy back in water after cleaning the bottom, and finally getting the dinghy engine started with some help from Sea Otter Jimmy(the carburetor was full of water) we were mobile again from the mooring out in the bay of the Bay of La Paz. Wasn’t many days until the only way I could get the engine started was to start it by pulling the rope. Then figuring out pretty quick that the battery was shot, the only way was with a new one, $1300 later I had push button starting again, the joys of boating eh!
Before I had left for the States, I had a friend ask me if I would fill in for him for a week at the house where he was sitting as he needed to go back to Canada for some medical tests. I said I would love to but as it turned he wasn’t sure that I would be back from the US so got someone else. However when he heard that someone was looking for a full time house sitter he asked me if I was interested, but of course was my response, Caesar and I went for the interview, me worrying whether they would allow dogs, but thought it best to be upfront. When we arrived it turns out they were dog friendly and when Caesar jumped up on her lap and gave her one of his looks it was pretty much settled, we were to start early October, so were excited, we could get the boat cleaned and delayed maintenance done and then sell it in order to purchase the sailboat we had been wanting.
Then the Harley wouldn’t start, you guessed it $1300 will put you in a new battery, the trickle charger had now died. Heat and salt air are sometimes less than friendly to electronics. Then we start getting reports of another hurricane heading our direction, there had been several before but some had turned out to sea, the rest had headed to mainland Mexico. This one was taking dead aim at us, but before arriving it turned westerly just catching the west coast of the Baja. These things are getting bigger and closer, not a comfortable feeling, but most in the last seven years or so have been pretty much uneventful. People were saying they hit every seventh year and of course this is year seven. Nothing to be alarmed about, we’ve had 50 knot winds in the bay and outside of some rockin and rollin, things getting a bit blown around, all has been good. Have even dinghied to boat in 35 knots so nothing to be alarmed about. Then we started to get reports of Odile, she was promising higher winds and moving unpredictably(we get daily updates on the morning cruisers radio nets). As days went by some models of the hurricanes direction were starting to head at us, some west, some east. Time to start getting ready for a blow, clear the decks of loose articles, check mooring lines, debate whether to take a slip, or will we be safer here? After much soul searching it seemed we would be just fine, even if we did get hit and the winds were up to 80 knots it seemed like all would be well. As it started getting closer it looked like it was going to head westerly and we would be fine. But no then it is heading straight for Cabo San Lucas and expected to give them a direct hit, we were next in line, we had about 5 hours. Now lash the dinghy safe make sure we have food and water on board, all shipshape and in order, she is five hours away and Cabo starts to get pounded, it’s now about five in the evening, some boats have moved to marina’s some have left marina’s to come out and anchor, some even leaving one marina to go to another, all very confusing for this sailor and Caesar. We hang in waiting it’s now around 5 and in an hour the sun will be going down, we monitor the radio for updates continuously check the computer models for her latest position, but still headed our way. Now the winds start noticeably picking up, over the course of the next few hours this would continue until around 10, now the wind is blowing in earnest. By 11 one of the huge channel markers breaks loose and takes off down the channel, then I see a boat similar to mine, unattended, loose from her mooring go by broadside at a high rate of speed, down the bay, then I hear reports of more loose. Then my friend anchored near me gets hit by a loose boat, but he sustains little damage from that one, the wind is now howling outside, exceeding the 80 knots. We stay on the computer and monitor the radio, winds still picking up, then about 1 am I hear what sounds like two near simultaneous gunshots from the bow! We have broken both new bowlines, I immediately fire up the engine(120 horse power diesel)and start to power into the waves and wind, we are instantly turned broadside like somebody was only rowing, and then we go aground broadside, we are thrown over, the computer and Caesar are both thrown to the opposite wall, I realize we are in great danger of being rolled, we settle for a moment, Caesar has stopped squealing from the pain, I grab my mask and snorkel and manage to get the door open and crawl on hands and knees to the bow. The anchor is chained tight so I must return to the cabin to get a wrench to free it, I get back and forward again and manage to free the anchor, the rain is hitting my body like someone shooting a machine gun full of bb’s at me, but I get the anchor loose. It takes 200 feet of chain before coming to the end, I am unable to get the windlass to slow it, then it snaps off the bowsprit like a toothpick, but we are level into the swells and wind again. I get a rope as the only thing holding us now is the power cables to the windlass, I manage to get the rope around both sides of the windlass and lash it back to the Sampson post which is undamaged, now we are stable again for the time being. When I try to get back into the cabin again, the door has jammed, me outside, Caesar in, fortunately I still had the wrench in my hand and was able to pry open the door. You can bet I was greeted by one happy dog. Now the computer no longer works, I hear on the radio someone looking for help, first to get another anchor down, and then they are sinking. Nothing can be done, not even a naval rescue boat can go out in this. I hear a report that wind gusts to 180 knots have been recorded a few miles ahead of me, we are getting around 125 knots. At least we are afloat, taking water in the bilge now, but the pump is keeping up, it’s coming in the hole where the anchor chain comes out that is now open. I check batteries to make sure we still ok there and realize that is not a problem, should the bilge pump quit we still have another, so no worries. The night is now dragging, less radio traffic, Caesar now rests, I stay on watch, there will be no sleep tonight. It is not hard to stay awake, it doesn’t start to get much light before 0700, because of the heavy cloud cover. I start hearing reports of boats that have gone ashore some with crew aboard, some not. I have started my chart plotter, because I realize we are not where were earlier, it takes awhile to come up because of the heavy overcast, I get out the binoculars but recognize nothing on shore, except for a sailboat aground in front of us and one sinking to our starboard side, nothing I can do. Soon we would realize that before we could get the anchor down we had travelled 6-7 miles, a few more and we would have been ashore. When it becomes safe to go outside, I see our dinghy has broken loose of its 3 lines that were holding it, so it’s gone. I then discover the mast down, and a lost rail off the port side near the stern. At first I don’t find my Honda generator, but then find it has been moved from the bow to mid ship on the port side and knocked over. We have 5 feet of water under the keel, solidly anchored so no more immediate danger. This is now Monday morning September 15 and the radio net will start at 0800, where we will hear many horror stories. The one boat that had been sending out a distress signal had sunk, and he had not been found, many boats were unaccounted for as well as quite a few people. By the end of the day, boats & people were being found, most on shore along with their boats in the mangroves. It would be the next day before the first person was found inside his sailboat on the bottom of the bay, the autopsy revealed he had died of a heart attack. It would be several days later before the second couple would be found, they had been anchored near me in a 50-60’ concrete boat. It was found on the bottom as well, thier bodies were found ashore in the mangroves, a young couple from England, very sad indeed. Rescue efforts are ongoing for some boats that still are aground, hoping and trying to get afloat. Pictures of the rescue effort and the havoc in La Paz are found on websites and most are all posted on Facebook, so I won’t try and duplicate. It had been the worst storm to hit La Paz since the forties and was devastating. We managed to get our dinghy back but the engine had been stolen along with the new battery, so with a borrowed an engine, dragged a grappling hook and were able to find our mooring(the mooring ball gone), and get new larger lines attached, then reattach our boat, now we really needed repairs, we had been scheduled to go to slip October 1, to accomplish that. We would keep that appointment.
Due to there being limited or no electric, telephones, internet access, or gasoline it was days before I was able to return to the house we were supposed to sit. They also had a lot of damage, to their home, outbuildings and grounds, they were to be without electricity or phone for weeks, so communication was limited, but if I still wanted, they wanted us to take over the house and keep an eye on the repair progress, due to airport closures, they were unable to get flights out until mid October, but then did finally get away back to Vancouver Canada.
It was very hectic after the hurricane with services limited, lots of standing water, great breeding grounds for mosquitos, and they did. The city was constantly spraying with a Cessna Agwagon, but it wasn’t enough, there were still many around. We were now getting many reports of dengue fever, and what the symptoms were, it had filled the hospitals with affected people, almost everyone knew someone who had it. Near the end of September, I started feeling poorly, high fever, achy bones etc., but I delivered the boat into a slip the first of October and then slept. I really didn’t think I had been infected, because I didn’t have all the symptoms, but after a week a fellow cruiser drove me to emergency, where my blood count was at 70, it should have been 140-400, but as they had no beds left, I needed to return twice per day for a blood sample, then the results later in the day. At least I had someone to drive me, as I was too weak to drive myself. Since there is no cure, they gave me painkillers, and an electrolyte mix which I needed to drink, (tasted like seawater). Caesar was a trouper, he didn’t leave my side for the 2 weeks I was down, he had been staying close anyhow after the hurricane, but this was above and beyond I think. It would take me several more weeks to get back to normal, and get all my strength back. Our friends on Gael Force took us out to a champagne brunch on my birthday, fortunately I was at least mobile by then, and able to enjoy!
This brings us to mid October, will update more on the next blog. Pop me a note if you have any questions, until next time.
Five Months June- August 18
November 10, 2014
Well I get frustrated, I am finally trying to update and went back to my last posts, not only the last one I did didn’t show up but the one I only had on Word is gone, so bear with me as I try to update for the last 5 months, but who’s counting? It will be full of events and try to bring you up to date.
After we got set up in the mountains, my friends in Kingman, Susan and Janet asked if Caesar and I would baby sit there two chihuahua’s, Natasha and Natalie, after one look from Caesar I knew we had best do it. It would involve staying in their home and enjoying their hospitality. They had several trips planned to California while Janet was job hunting so we would spend a lot of time there over the summer, was tough, home with a garage a nice kitchen, real bed, hot tub and two playmates for Caesar. The dogs got to go to the doggy park on a frequent basis and they all became best buds. Sometimes at night I would find one sleeping on my face while the other two cuddled at my feet. Was awesome, we also borrowed the quad which in the times when we weren’t there we got to go riding in the mountains, and Caesar loves to ride. Alas too soon the summer would be nearing the end and we needed to get back to La Paz, hurricane season starts in earnest mid to late August, so by the middle part of August we were heading toward San Diego to pick up some needed boat parts, visit friends Mike and Geri Sue with their dog Charlotte for a few days and then to Mexico.
We left San Diego mid August heading south, was stopped at the border for a cursory inspection by a friendly Mexican customs lady, who after saying hi to Caesar decided we were ok to go. We were bound for San Quintin, some 200 kms south of Ensenada. You may remember some of the toll road to Ensenada collapsed last year after a minor earthquake and construction is ongoing so we needed to detour inland to catch the free road which is a little longer, but very scenic. We didn’t stop in Ensenada this time even though we love that city, but pushed on grabbing a little fuel first. Arriving in San Quintin we found a little inexpensive motel with secure parking, albeit no air conditioning there were good fans and we were quite comfortable. We found a little roadside restaurant for a seafood dinner and just managed to be the last customers before they closed. A little dog there tried to befriend Caesar but he wasn’t real excited about it so we didn’t push, eating and letting them close the restaurant.
In the morning we fueled and headed for Santa Rosalia. We arrived in good time, so fueled up again,(I like to keep the tank fuller than emptier in Mexico, because sometimes Pemex may be closed or out of fuel), and then pushed on. I knew of a little bar and restaurant where we had stayed with the Californios on a bike ride, and thought we would camp on the beach there as I had done before. We arrived around 5, went in for a cocktail, they have a big friendly dog there and an unfriendly parrot so Caesar was fine with the dog. They asked where we would spend the night, and when I commented that I thought we would just camp on the beach, they offered a house which they normally rent for $75 US, to us for only $400 mx, with a/c and it was now very hot now. Didn’t take long to make that decision, so they made me a big fresh fish sandwich on a bun with all the fixings for almost free, and some wine, love Mexico. After a good nights sleep we had breakfast and headed to La Paz. Of course there was ongoing road construction just past Loreto where there had been an avalanche starting when we were there with our motorcycles, so we were stopped while they got the road passable for us. Then to La Paz, after a lunch stop in Constitution for bierria (Mexican consomme/beef soup), it is delicious and filling, also very cheap. But more construction before La Paz, the worst, and it was about the last 20 kms or so. We still arrived in La Paz in good time, getting a chance to catch up with our friends Jim and Lynda on Gael Force, (Caesar spends a lot of time with them) and the latest gossip. Then it was time to get back to Toloache and start cleaning and organizing. We needed to get the lines down that we had put up for Pelicans etc. etc. Will end this here, continuing to the hurricane in the next post.
Catch up time
June 13, 2014
And it’s Friday the 13th. I’m not the superstitious type so will carry on.
Happy to report for all that don’t already know, Caesar has fully recovered, hair still growing out but he’s completely back to his old self.
When I left you last we were getting engine running, so will try & update for the last 2 months. We were planning on heading north for the summer and taking the bike, but after the last ride that direction decided the construction on the roads was too bad to pull the trailer with the bike on it, so scrapped that idea. As I will tell you later, was glad we made that decision. Our next project was to try & secure the boat from the pelicans, Caesar won’t be around to patrol it. Went to a grocery store to find the cheapest fishing line, 80 pound test, 60 yards, stored in the locked cabinet with the air rifles, cost 75 pesos, not bad, then to Home Depot for pvc pipe. Back to the boat, did one cut first on the 8, 8 foot long pvc to make it more manageable to transport in the dinghy, but now we have 16 pieces in the dinghy with Caesar & I. Then cut them all into 2’ pieces & start fastening each individual piece to the upright stanchions on the boat, first had to drill 3 little holes in each one to accommodate the fishing line. It was to be fastened about 6” above the rail, the idea was that the pelicans wouldn’t land on the fishing line, therefore doing their dirty business on someone else’s boat. This was a time consuming project as many of the holes had to be custom drilled to fit the stanchion where they were to be placed. Oh well lots of time! After all the fastening we were running out of fishing line, back to the grocery store, but they only had the one that I bought earlier, oh well off to a marine store, will need to spend the big bucks! Upon arrival there, discovered the same fishing line, not locked up, & only 13 pesos, oh well so much for the grocery store cheap stuff. Then finish the project, seems to be working good, except they can still land on the anchor bowsprit, lots of salt water needed on return, but mostly one spot. A couple of good friends nearby will keep an eye on the boat.
Then get the rest of the stuff ready, load the truck, plan departure date, Robin that rides with us in the Californios will travel with us to Las Vegas. She will fly out of there to her home in Port Alberni on Victoria Island. We plan on a short cut a friend has told us about to save going through Tijuana, and to save a lot of miles. He says there is only about 80 miles of good gravel road, we stop for breakfast near the turn off of BCS highway 1, someone there says it’s really only 30 miles, we are happy. At 8 am we turn on the shortcut, it’s a real bad road, much of the time we drive in the ditch as it was better. We were barely moving, much of the time under 10 mph, mostly 5. Long story short we blew the first tire about 10 miles in, of course the spare is almost flat, so we turned around to the only residence on the way, the guy was a double amputee below the knees, so he moved on knee pads. His son lived beside him, they came out, found a battery, fired up the generator then an air compressor to get us going again in fairly short order, but now we are travelling without a spare & still around 20 miles to go. We ended on pavement by 1 pm, five hours for the shortcut! We stopped for lunch, getting out of the truck I heard the other back tire leaking, it was about half down now, and no more spare. Fortunately there was a little tire repair shop, that could patch it(he had no new tires & not a used in my size)he had to patch next to another patch & that bothered me, but we had no choice but to forge on. Long story short we made it to Las Vegas the next day, and I was back in Bullhead City the following day,but by then the repaired tire was going flat again & the front tires were shot. Wore those tires out in a hurry! Now I have 4 new tires & I won’t try that “short cut” again. Love the Mexican short cuts, glad we had lots of water & a 6 pack on ice.
So now I am back in Bullhead, temperatures 100 plus, hook up the trailer & head to the mountains. My friend Tom (that does the best real estate magazine) has pulled the trailer out for me. We tow to the Hualapai’s where we have a spot reserved in the cool pines, elevation about 7500 feet, temps in the 80’s during the day & 50-60 at nights and only about 50 miles from Bullhead. We are located next to the bar and restaurant which is real handy if we don’t feel like cooking or want to watch a hockey game. We drive to Kingman about 12 miles away for provisioning, and Caesar has a blast at the doggy park there. He gets to play with dogs his own size on grass with lots of shade & water.
Yesterday we took the truck back into a remote campground (Wild Cow Springs) over a 4wd only road, seemed like a paved highway compared to our short cut! I think we will go back in and camp a couple of days there sometime later this summer, it is very quiet, have to watch Caesar though as it is cougar country.
I must watch the weather in Mexico it looks like Cristina took a turn west & is dying, but we know more will be coming. Should one take aim at La Paz we would need to make a decision whether to leave the boat on the mooring or have it hauled to a boat yard. Oh the joys of cruising.
Will try & do a sooner update on this and maybe try again to post some pictures.
Time and Boat Maintenance/Caesar
April 13 2014
What do you do with your time? I get asked that occasionally, and will try and give you some insight into it. The last time I tried to start the engine on my boat, it wouldn’t start, not turning over. Well let’s first check batteries, this takes some time as of course they are buried, but indicate after checking specific gravity & voltages, it seems they are fine. Had already been checking prices figuring I would need to replace them, $5000-$7000 pesos, yikes better check further to make sure that isn’t the problem. Then it’s time to get some boat friends that have more knowledge than I do to also do some checking. By now we are checking the starter and solenoid. After some work we determine that it is the solenoid on the starter that seems to be the problem. In order to replace that though the starter must come out, and out it comes. It’s easy, down in the engine room, working on hands & knees removing bolts you can only feel for; tomorrow will take it to the starter shop andhave them work on it. After finding the place I carry it in, weighs a bunch, Caesar tags along to make sure everything goes smooth. They check and in less than 10 minutes tell me that it is the solenoid, but the starter also should have new brushes and bushings, makes sense as I prefer to r and r this less than more. They order parts, come back in two hours they say and it will be ready, the bill will be $1400 pesos, must leave a deposit, $500 pesos. Two hours, but it’s not quite ready, come back in the morning, no problem, manana. Well lo and behold, its ready in the morning, pay the balance, have lunch and head back to replace it. Scrape more knuckles vent a few unrepeatable words and it’s back in, let’s give it a try. Nada, nothing, just a click, that’s it. Call up my mechanic friend, I must have hooked something up wrong. He checks everything is right, he thinks it is a bad ground on the starter motor itself, so we remove that and wire it to the engine block itself. Lo and behold Houston we have ignition, engine fires up runs, batteries are charging, all is well except we know we still have a problem starter. After several more tries and it still works, he leaves me to remove the f’en starter again. That will happen in the morning as upon checking I realize it’s five o’clock somewhere, so must be cocktail hour. Of course you must realize to deliver or pick up the starter you take it to shore with the dinghy before driving to the shop, and then the reverse back. So in the morning the starter comes out, it’s getting easier, and off to the shop. The discussion goes like this, (understand the repair man is Spanish, and I only know spanglish) ah senior as he rests it on his grounded bench, she works fine. No no, don’t ground on the bench, ground to the starter, oh senior it is no working, si si, it doesn’t work. Ah he says, I think it is a bad ground, si, si bad ground, es malo. Ah I fix. You wait. And so he proceeds to quickly repair the bad ground, no charge and we are on our way, back to the dinghy and boat. Have lunch and reinstall the f’en starter. This time all is well, everything works, engine starts and the world levels. Understand this is over the course of several days, much discussion, trouble shooting over cocktails but finally! It all takes time.
The next project albeit a little smaller was to change the oil on the Honda generator and adjust the valves. First you need to find oil, then gasket goo to make a gasket for the valve cover, this is something I haven’t done before, although I did assist in adjusting the valves on my main engine last summer, so I had a idea of what was involved. I had initialy planned on hiring this done, but after googling it I decided I could handle it. Turned out the biggest job was splitting the case to get at the engine. The valve adjustment only took about 10 minutes, there are only two and they are little tiny ones. Then to put the case back on, that was a bit of a testy project. I managed and it is back up and running like a top.
Then Bay Fest which is a five day event starting on Wednesday, then sailboat race Thursday, followed by all kinds of games and entertainment. I got terrible cards in the cribbage tournament and lost half my games. Last year’s winner came in last, go figure, but we only play each player once, so it’s pretty much what you’re dealt.
Then I ride the Harley, with the Californios, a local motorcycle club, I am one of four gringos, we are called the f’en foreeners, a fun group.
Today on a sadder note, Caesar got into a scrap with a large cross breed dog, half coyote, and came in second. He got away out of the dinghy off his leash, he was coming back, howling when I caught up. He seemed ok, just scared, so I went on my ride but called back an hour and a half later to check on him. They said he was not doing well so I came back, and they had contacted the vet for me and we took him in when I got back. He was in a lot of pain, turns out he had a puncture wound in the back of his skull, and one in his throat, not as deep, plus some other bad bruises on his neck. The pain was from being shaken, it was a wonder he didn’t have a broken neck. The vet shaved his spots where the bites were and the poor little guy just took it without a peep. Then she started checking the rest of his body, then we discovered the pain in his neck, throat and mouth. Long story short, he can’t use a leash at least for a week and he is on soft foods because his jaws are too sore. She prescribed pain killers and antibiotics, plus I clean his wounds with iodine a couple of times a day. He’s finally getting some rest now, I soaked some dog food in water and mixed some mashed potatoes in to make it a little more appetizing, so he ate a little and has drank some water. I felt so bad as we couldn’t find anything wrong with him when I left, wished I hadn’t gone, but really couldn’t have done more anyhow. Thank the Lord he is going to be ok. Well that’s all the latest, catch you later.