Dear F&F,
December 4-11, 2008

Wrenching, because we had to use wrenches.
Wrenching, because it took us 3 attempts to finally get out of Dodge.

Attempt #1 Dec 4
In preparation for departure we hired a local diver to clean the bottom of the boat. The water in the marina is gross, so it was worth the price to have it done by someone else. Oscar who has worked steadily on Beach House for 3 months did his final \”spit & polish\” cleaning of the fiberglass & metal. We took down our extra awning that shades the house. We got our propane tanks filled. We had checked the weather & it looked favorable for the next 2 days. We fueled up at the El Cid marina & waited until the dredge stopped working for the day to head out. The entrance to this harbor gets shallow with silt. Too shallow for safe passage in negative tides. We waited with another sailboat for the dredging equipment to move to the side of the harbor so we could get out. By 5 pm we had motored the 20 minutes to Isla Pajero (Deer Island). The plan was to anchor out for the night to help me get my sea legs; then make an early departure.

Scott was at the helm & I was at the remote anchor control. It is a simple up/down switch. Scott picked his spot a safe distance from the 3 other boats out at the island & told me to drop the anchor. I push the down button. Nothing happens. I push it again, a tiny noise from the windlass motor. I switch places with Scott. We check the breaker. We had used this anchor windlass all summer without a glitch. Sitting at the dock the past 3 months we did not use it once. It was clear that something was broken, so we zoomed back into the marina & tied up to the dock before it got pitch dark.

We hailed Bob & Rafael on the radio. They are the mechanics who did so much work for us the past 3 months. Bob said he cringed when he heard us call, knowing something was broken. He said he was relieved to hear us say that it was something new & not work he had done previously gone wrong. We were so discouraged. They came quickly to our aid & after much effort, they removed the windlass to take it to their shop for diagnosis & hopefully repair the next day. This is a critical piece of equipment for safety & ease of anchoring. If we had not tested it, we would have been very stressed to discover the malfunction out at San Benedicto, 300 miles from the nearest boat repair center in Puerto Vallarta.

Parts Needed Dec 5
Scott made several phone calls to the windlass manufacturer. We got the word from Bob that the seals were bad & this failure caused corrosion of all the internal bearings. Parts needed to be sent. DHL is the only reliable delivery method for Mexico. The folks in Riverside, CA were quick responders and got the parts out that afternoon. We anticipated arrival Monday or Tuesday.

Friends John & Sharon whom we had met in Ensenada a year ago arrived on catamaran \”Sunbow\” to Marina Mazatlan on Friday. We enjoyed having them over for dinner & catching up. We would have missed them completely if our departure had gone as planned. We asked marina manager Elvira to call Cabo for us, to see if we could get our permit to visit the Revillagegedos Islands extended. She got a verbal ok & they said they would send an email Monday confirming this.

One project we were glad to have a chance to get to was taking measurements for a new trampoline. About a month ago Scott stepped on it & his foot went right through. Not good. We found a company, Sunrise Products, in Florida that has already replaced the trampoline on other Switch 51 cats like ours. Richard Leng told us that our builder used the cheapest quality of net, so for it to show sun damage at 4 years was not a surprise.

We took Larry of s/v \”Viking Son\” to dinner Saturday night. He was the first friendly face we saw in Mazatlan & had given us rides many times. It is very helpful to know someone with a car. We had been out at night only a couple of times. The pizza was decent and we enjoyed the camaraderie very much. Scott had managed to decline Larry\’s request for Scott to teach a winlink & sailmail seminar to the cruisers in the marina. Knowing we were laid up he asked one more time. Scott conceded & spent the entire day Sunday preparing.

Monday Dec 8
We were so impressed that DHL got the parts here so fast. Scott & Larry intercepted the driver at one of his stops at 10 am to fetch our package. Bob got on the job right away & was back onboard with the finished product that evening. But it didn\’t sound right. The motor was loud & working too hard. So now the windlass was left in place & the motor was taken to the shop. Diagnosis: new bearings & bushings needed. Oy veh.

Scott\’s ham radio email seminar was a big success. Twenty boaters attended, most with laptops following along the steps that Scott taught them. Over half hung in there the full 3 � hours, with about 6 diehards asking more questions as we were trying to pack up & go home.

Tues Dec 9
Larry helped us once again by taking me to town to pay the bank for our fishing license. We have no intention of fishing, but do have a hook & some gear onboard. If we are boarded & searched we must show a license to go with our equipment. Last year\’s permit was due to expire in January, so we decided it was best to renew it while we had the opportunity.

The office in charge of the Revillagedos Island permits did not emailed our extension yesterday. It took several phone calls by Elvira to produce results. Thankfully they gave us until the end of January, so the pressure to leave here quickly is reduced. We want to leave ASAP, but there is no pressure to be somewhere on a certain date.

Bob showed up to reinstall the motor late in the day. As the shadows lengthened & the installation was not going easily, we saw our departure opportunity escaping us. Wrong bolts. Mallet banging. Cursing. Wrenching.

Weds Dec 10 – Attempt #2
The windlass installation was not elegant, but successful. It seems to be working better than ever. We are ready to go, but now the weather is not right. Big swell predicted that would make for an uncomfortable passage. We are restless to leave, but decide to delay 24 hrs. I cook some dinners up ahead: chicken mole & shrimp pasta. We get the mattress pad washed at the commercial laundry here & change the sheets. We meet Sunbow for happy hour.

Thurs Dec 11 – Attempt #3
Weather looks good to go. We are told the dredge is clear of the harbor entry from 10-1040 am. Oscar comes for one more wash down. We have many friendly sparrows that have decorated the boat. We put away the hose, stow the power cord, put away lines & fenders – on our way. I see the dredge is across the exit. We hail El Cid on channel 16. They tell us the window of opportunity to leave was 9-940 am (not 10-1040 as we were told). UGH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Nothing to do but return to the dock. There is a full moon & extreme tides. The dredge is open again 2-230 pm, but that is exactly the time when the tide is the lowest. We now have to wait until after 5 pm to leave. Departing at that hour would time us to arrive at Cabo at night. We go back to our December 4 plan: we will anchor at Deer Island & leave early Friday morning. It is a 25-30 hour trip depending on the wind sea conditions & what speed we are able to maintain. We usually calculate 6.5 knots to be conservative.

We are pretty depressed & don\’t do much all day. We have done all the doing we can. It is time to be gone. We just wait for the day to pass so we can make our exit. It is pretty dark by 5:30 pm, but Scott could still see to get out safely. The swell was 4-5 feet & the shallowest spot we saw was 7 feet deep. Piece of taco. We are free�

So here we are folks. It is 7:15 pm & we have after 102 days made our escape from Mazatlan. The spot we are anchored is protected but rolly. I put on my scopalomine patch yesterday hoping we\’d leave then. It seems to still be working. Tomorrow, we set sail & our adventures begin again.

Our experience at the end of our Mazatlan stay reminded us of the song \”Hotel California\”. The lyric is, \”You can check out, but you can never leave\”��.:)

Scott and Cindy