Isla Isabel – what an insane experience! MOVIE AT END!
We arrived at around 3:30pm after our 2 day and night sail. Anchoring was a bit sketchy, but we had some good recommendations from other cruisers and also our guide book gave some good insights.
When we set up the dinghy, we wanted to have a quick look on shore before dark.
What we experienced was pretty insane, birds everywhere, they showed no fear to us humans. There were some Mexicans who watch over everything and living in simple housing right by the beach. We made a little clip to show our first impressions! Wait for Part 2, it’s much better!!!
Crazy how one day can be so much different than the other. I am glad though, that these things all happened on a mellow sail day.
I had my shift from 10pm – 1am and except our voltage running low a few times, it was an easy night and the moon shining bright made it so much more comfortable. Half an hour before the shift of the Captain ended, the Autopilot failed. The cause might have been Kruiser bumping into it by accident. The autopilot is attached to the side wall by his bed and with his size of 6’8 he doesn’t have much room.
So my second shift started at the wheel and Kruiser had to get up as well, so the Captain could try to fix it again. Thankfully he was able too by checking all wires and probably one had become detached.
Later in the day Kruiser saw a whale flashing his tale up and down right in front of our sailboat. So cool.
The second rather disturbing thing happened, when we suddenly saw buoys across Sea de Cortez. We could see them a few hundred feet apart from each other in a line and we tried to steer around them, but they were already so close, that this was not possible. Kruiser tried to reach nearby fishing boats on the Radio, but no response. You can see more about this in our clip.
Kruiser also spotted a fin in front of the sailing vessel and it looked like a shark fin. We had our fishing lines out and all off a sudden the fin started chasing the lures. We quickly started wheeling in our fishing line, because we did not want to have a shark on the line. Later Kruiser wasn’t so sure anymore, if it also could have been the fin of a Marlin.
When we got pretty close to our destination for the night “Isla Isabel”, a huge Mahi Mahi was caught and dinner was going to be yummy. 🙂
We had moved from La Ventana to Island Cerralvo on January 1st, to get a good start crossing Sea de Cortez the next day. I was feeling pretty shitty that day, someone had left a bottle of Champagne in our dinghy and of course we could not help ourselves but to open it on our way back to the sailboat after the New Years Eve Party. 🙂 But the Event was really fun with some great dance tunes, I had a blast.
The 3 men on board let me be in my misery and had a nice sail to the island. Later in the day after I jumped in the water, I felt better and we enjoyed another bonfire, fresh grouper which Kruiser had caught Spearfishing and rice on the beach.
The Captain went to shore one last time with the dog in the morning, than we packed up the dinghy and left Cerralvo at 8:30 am. We had plenty of wind to sail and what kept us busy all day and night was the SWELL. I tried to capture it in the clip you find below.
Great seeing so much support lately from more and more people, thank you all for pushing us forward! 🙂
On a cloudy day in the Muertos anchorage, we prepared for the crossing of Sea de Cortez. Some things up the mast needed attention, a lightbulb replaced and chafe protection reattached. I decided to give it a try, I had never climbed up a mast or anything that high before. I guess I felt brave that day. 🙂 See for yourself!
It was certainly not easy to sit in that chair and let your hands go! I tried to clamp my legs around the mast for a little piece of mind. I did need both hands to pull tight those zip ties, believe me, I tried with one hand first, LOL. But I did it! Fixed the issues and was let down, proud of myself and I think the Captain was even more.
During that time, Kruiser was cleaning the bottom of the boat. Due to warmer temperatures of the waters in Mexico, it does not take long for Kraut to grow on the bottom. Algae and barnacles etc. He had to work quite hard, to get everything off, a big job.
The next clip includes our little Christmas celebration at the resort in Muertos, for our little man. It was a cute time for us and I wanted to keep it especially for our personal memories. We are always missing our Families back in Germany and Canada, on holidays even more!
Last but not least, I think this was the prettiest boat we have seen so far!
We’re three months into our adventure, and I’d like to share some thoughts and observations regarding our boat and the lifestyle that comes along with it.
First, some background. Alsager is in her 50th year, but we trust her entirely. She is Dutch built in Corten steel, and co-designed by the late Frans Maas and Dick Carter. She is one of two sister ships to Rabbit II, which took second in class in the ’67 Fastnet. She has tens of thousands of sea miles under her belt. Her systems are very basic and just what is necessary – more on her later.
We are what I like to call ” upper class pikeys “. We own a couple of great old boats and vehicles and a small apartment in Canada, and beyond the small mortgage remaining on that, we have no debts. We currently have no income, and are using our savings to fund our cruise. We live aboard our 1972 motor yacht in Sausalito. I work as an independent contractor in the marine industry doing some boat work, but primarily as a captain on various yachts. I jump on deliveries when I get the chance, and up until the Kiwis won the AC in Bermuda last summer, I worked intermittently for ACRM as a mark layer since 2011. By industry standards I do well, but the income fluctuates with the work and we live in a very expensive place. Tanja quit working when Mats was born (who is three and a half now) and raises him full time. I wanted him shaped by his Mom, rather than a stranger. Whether by nature or nurture, he is an amazing little human who is a joy to have around – at least 95% of the time anyway! He spends days at sea without serious complainant, and has a very calm demeanor. Something necessary for what we do, both from enjoyment and safety perspectives. By SF Bay area standards we are poor – something I find quite amusing. How many raise a child there on one inconsistent income, and are free to take off on a great adventure of indeterminate length? By global standards I consider us to be very well off. Perhaps it’s because neither of care about acquiring shiny new things. I made a choice long ago to spend my days doing what I love while being responsible, rather than beat to someone else’s drum.
Why is this relevant? Because it speaks to our way of life, how we cruise, and how Alsager is equipped.
Back to Alsager and how she shapes our days. Being old, and made from steel and wood, she requires a fair share of maintenance, and I try to do whatever I can. Since we want our cruise to be about enjoying sailing, and the places we go and the things we do there, I have chosen to keep her very basic. This minimizes not only the time I spend fixing things, but also the costs.
Water usage – we have no watermaker, since they are expensive and require a lot of energy and maintenance. Instead, we carry 90 gallons of fresh water. This lasts four people and one large dog about two months. How do we do it? We use our salt water sink pump for washing dishes, and bathe on deck with buckets or in the ocean. We use a little fresh water for a quick rinse sometimes. The water in most places we are going is warm, crystal clear and teeming with sea life, so it is a great experience. Granted, if we were somewhere cooler with less inviting water, we’d use our portable propane shower.
Coming from life in a marina and working in the sailing industry, I’m used to rinsing a boat down with fresh water immediately after each use, so it was a bit hard to get used to the idea of washing Alsager in salt water. Yet after three months and 1800 miles, she doesn’t look any different than the day we left the dock. With all of the time we spend on beaches, it’s an effort to keep the sand out, but it’s quite simple and the boat looks great inside and out. I like to say that “ a little effort up front saves a lot of work on the back end “. It really makes me think about all of the freshwater I’ve used endlessly rinsing down the boats I work on back home, not to mention the harsh chemicals that are used to keep them looking shiny.
Refrigeration – we have none, plain and simple. We rely on a great icebox/cold storage, and while 40lbs of block ice tends to have us pulling ice cold beers out for ten days back in SF Bay, down south that doesn’t fly. Blocks are non existent, and with the warm air and water we aren’t so lucky. It works, but if we’re away from civilization for more than a few days, we usually live without it. It’s no big sacrifice as we catch fresh fish almost daily (typically Mahi Mahi and Yellowfin Tuna), and it just makes that ice cold beer or margherita when we get to a town that much more rewarding.
Cooking – we have a great propane stove, and Tanja does an awesome job of making fresh bread almost daily on the stove top with an ingenious device called an “ Omnia Oven “. Kruiser is an awesome cook, making things like seared Ahi and Ceviche. It helps that the fish has just come out of the sea only minutes prior!
Navigation – we have no built in plotter, and instead prefer Navionics and OpenCPN on an old notebook. We also have paper charts, and rely heavily on old school cruising guides for details on anchorages. That being said, we have ventured out of the typical cruising haunts in search of surf, fish, kiteboarding and plain old off the beaten path experiences and some time alone – really alone. The anchorages aren’t typically ideal, but most often beat a rough night spent at sea, and the rewards are great. Amazing starry nights, fires on the beach, wildlife, wavelets lapping on the hull – you name it and we have found it. Also contrary to most others, we do not have AIS. Instead, I rely heavily on radar and good watch keeping skills. Having spent many a night offshore onboard large motor yachts, I can tell you that you should always assume that you have not been seen until you confirm that you have been. We do this by radio, and most often larger vessels see us on their radar long before seeing our navigation lights. I installed a large flood light (like those by commercial fisherman) that we can turn on to really make us visible in times of doubt….it lights up our entire rig. Don’t get me wrong, as I see AIS as a useful tool, but it is certainly not necessary and it is my feeling that some mistakenly rely on it. This is a big deal as there are all sorts of boats and other things to hit out there that won’t show up on AIS…rule number one on Alsager when it comes to watchkeeping is “ keep your head out of the boat “ .
Other essential systems include our depth sounder for uncharted anchorages, backed up by a handheld unit and then lead line. We also rely heavily on our old Simrad autopilot (and spare parts!), as while I love sailing, I don’t like hand steering on long hauls and it makes shorthanded sail handling etc much easier. We have plenty of ground tackle on board, as we spend 99% of our nights at anchor. We back our primary anchor up with a large secondary Danforth, and if doubt, we set both off the bow. We also use our stern anchor frequently to keep us bow into the swell in what can often be rolly anchorages otherwise. Since our safety is at stake and the boat is not insured for loss, I take anchoring very seriously. That being said, done well I am not afraid to leave Alsager unattended for a night or two so we can go have fun elsewhere. Our foldling tender “ Gooey “ also plays a vital role, carrying all of us safely through many surf landings (except one!). Gooey stores easily on deck, and powers well with only a 6HP outboard. Unless we are making a passage, Gooey is used daily to get to shore and to go surfing, where we anchor her just outside the break.
Power usage – here we do extremely well, as our needs are minimal. At anchor we last several days without charging, as we use solar and kerosene lanterns for anchor lights and candles for cabin lighting. Away from city lights, the nights here are amazing and the sky and sea are phenomenal after dark, so we want to minimize artificial lighting anyway. We run the inverter to charge cell phones and computers, but try to do that on shore when possible. While sailing, our autopilot draws the most, followed by radar (on standby mode to minimize draw and checked periodically) and nav lights. Down below we use red headlamps. Typically we have to run the engine for about one hour total in twenty four hours of sailing to keep our batteries topped up (we have a high AMP alternator which is awesome!) and often the breeze dies late at night so we end up motoring for a few hours anyway. In the event that the diesel fails, we carry a cheap portable generator so we can charge our batteries via that, or run electric tools if necessary for a repair.
Auxiliary propulsion – our ancient and weepy but reliable Westerbeke 4-107, known as “ the British Tank “ does the job. She overheats in warm water if we run her beyond 1600 RPM or push into headwinds, so we don’t do either. In calm water we do about 5 knots, which conserves fuel, and if there is more than 6 or 7 knots of breeze we sail. Alsager was built for that, and goes very well to windward, and in fact in 1800 miles we have yet to see another cruising boat actually sail to weather. In fact, we come across some actually powering downwind…weird. At some point we’ll swap to a larger capacity heat exchanger, but then it will be tempting to motor faster. In total we have used about 90 gallons of diesel (1800 NM’s), and that includes meeting our charging needs.
Sails – we carry a storm trysail and 150% genoa, but so far have not used them. Instead, under working sails alone (main and 90% jib) Alsager sails well. This is on account of her tall rig, efficient hull design and deep fin. We typically sail wing on wing using her spinnaker pole, and in this fashion she is very balanced and we find that rolling is minimized. We have done passages along with newer boats using asymmetrical cruising chutes, and find that we get there just as fast (at least in 10 knots of breeze or more) as they do with much less effort since we don’t have to gybe. In a cruising monohull the goal is to get to as close to hull speed as possible on the rhumb line, and the additional speed gained flying the kite doesn’t offset the significant extra distance covered broad reaching. At least not from what we have observed to date. We understand that some modern cruisers are scared of spinnaker poles and crash gybes, but setting the pole is no big deal, and a simple preventer on the boom resolves the latter concern.
Toys – include kiteboarding gear, SUP, surfboards, fishing gear, spearfishing gear, bike for Mats, and toys for Mats (little cars and stuffed animals!). Alsager does not have a v berth, but instead has a great storage area upfront. We also have a little library on board, and since I’m such a sappy, sentimental type, albums of family and where we come from, along with many things I’ve had since I was a boy, including Gooey’s anchor, flags, sleeping bags, knives and all kinds of tools. I also have a small rock from the shores of a lake from my Dad’s home city in Germany, and some dried leaves from the tree we scattered his ashes under in Canada.
Is there anything I would change? Not really, though the old lady would look a little nicer with new topside paint (next haulout!) and I’ll be happier when we get the overheating issue sorted. Of course I’d love to repower, but when it came to deciding whether to use our funds for that or going cruising, it was an easy choice. The freedom is unbeatable, and ultimately, that’s why I’m out here doing it instead of reading and dreaming about like I have for years.
How long will we carry on? Perhaps another month or two, perhaps another year..time will tell. It’s great but we also really enjoy long camping trips in our old van and want to go to Germany again, so maybe we’ll put Alsager to bed for a while somewhere and come back to her next fall. And at some point, I’ll need to earn a few bucks again too. 🙂
It saddened us to see this sailboat on the reef at Punta Mita, where we are anchored right now. We don’t know what happened yet, but will update the post as soon as we know more. See below
From some fellow cruisers who checked out the scene from shore we learned, that they ran into the owner who had single handed the boat and seemed to be fine except a black eye. However, he did go to a hospital to get treated for face injury. Hope he recovers quickly.
It appears salvage is unlikely, we wish him the best of luck, unfortunately building swell won’t make it easier.
A source says that the vessels name is Maluhia of Ventura, California. She is a 1992 Pacific Seacraft Crealock 37, designed by William Crealock.
The owner supposingly was sailing from La Cruz and misjudged when he approached a rather unusual anchorage west of Punta Mita. Insurance is on site and will do an assessment.
We checked on the sailboat again Thursday morning. High tide and big swell. People on scene, probably from insurance company. Also heard, that the boat was under new ownership for only a week. 😦 His little cruise out to sea to check on some new installed updates, not far from it getting dark, ended in lots of trouble.
Sailboat is now totally stripped but still on the reef. We heard, that the resort did not want any vehicles on the property to access and help. This was confirmed today, February 8th.
ACCESS… That has been our biggest issue and a reliable Tractor. I was out again today and it didn’t go well. All sed we will re-float her next week… Repairs are under way.
Great getting this Info. Being owners of a sailboat ourselves, it is not easy to look at.
When we were already sailing away towards Mexico, we received an invitation of a kiting family we know from the bay area, who had built a little paradise in Los Barrilles also. Since it isn’t a secure anchor spot, we did not know, if we could make it happen. But when Evan’s friend Billy was so nice to lent us his van, we were happy that we could spend some time with them and go kiting together.
We met them at the beach and kited for a while, when suddenly the wind stopped. Unfortunately I seemed to have missed the little window to get back to shore and with the small kite I was flying, I had to go swimming. I lost my board while taking care of the kite and bringing it to shore. I nice gentlemen helped me spot it again and I went through some waves swimming for it and than do the walk of shame up the beach. That hadn’t happened in a while to me and now more so I was ready for a Margarita. 🙂
^Legend Johnny Heineken chilling after some kiting and the other legend Chip on his way out on his foil. 🙂
I think the last time we all hung out was 4th of July in Sherman Island, when Charlotte took care of little Mats, who was just over a year. She grew up to a little superstar and I had no worry feelings, when she left with Mats to explore the beach. They got along super!
When we arrived at Chips and Marcella’s home, we could not believe it. Just so thoughtful and private, for every single one. Being right at the beach, priceless! The pics speak for themselves and they made us feel right at home.
This was our cute little hut, which I almost enjoyed by myself, as Mats and his Dad fell asleep on the coach after dinner. 🙂
One of Marcella’s handsome sons. I wish Marcella would be on our boat sometimes, when I am overruled by the men on board. She has a very strong voice, good way of explaining it and we carry the same opinions. I love it! 🙂
They cooked us a fabulous dinner and the Margarita’s were flowing until midnight, when conversations came to a level, that Marcella and I decided, time for bed. Well, except Captain and Mats, who were already sleeping on the couch. Kruiser and Chip continued.
My heartbeat went up, when we finally started to see La Ventana. A place I have visited before, first time in 2004 with a great group of friends and where I had my first kite lesson at Baja Joes in 2009. A place I call my happy place, kinda like Sherman Island close to Stockton by the Delta river. When it was foggy in San Francisco, I would usually pack up my car with tent/food/kite gear and spend the entire weekend at a warm, sunny and windy place, versus in San Francisco, where the wind felt cold. In La Ventana you run into the same crowd. The crowd which makes the whole kitesurfing experience so special. People are COOL! Laid back and helpful. 🙂
La Ventana is not really a place to anchor. But the Captain checked the wind forecast and felt pretty confident that we should be fine with two anchors and not so heavy winds.
The waters are not deep, so we had to anchor a bit further out. We anchored close to Playa Central the first time and stayed for 2 nights
and moved than close to Palapas Ventana; tucked in a bit more to prevent some of the rolling at night.
Spending time with friends and being able to kite was just great. My friends Peter and Bettina surprised me by just walking into Playa Central the first day. There were some long hugs happening. 😀
Billy, a friend of the Captain from Canada, also stopped by to say ‘Hi’ and he offered us his second car. What a great gesture! Our Kruiser took kite surf lessons on two days and rented some Windsurfing gear. Due to his size of 6’8, it felt though, that nobody had appropriate measured equipment. It was fun to watch him try and to almost get on the board after only a short period of time.
Since the anchorage was only safe in lighter winds, we decided to take advantage of the offered van from Billy and his wife and sail to the protected anchorage in Muertos after 4 nights. The men sailed SV Alsager and myself and Mats drove the van to Muertos. In the afternoon we all drove back to La Ventana, for the 60th Birthday party of my good friend Peter, who celebrated with 70 people at Malin Azul. Great evening with awesome food and nice people! Thank you, Peter and to 60 more!
We ended up having the van for 10 days and were able to also see La Paz, do some stockup/Christmas presents shopping, fill up our propane tank after some trouble actually finding a place who does it, getting laundry done and drive to see our friends in Los Barrilles. Let’s not forget being able to leave all the kite gear in the van and drive to meet up with my friends to go kiting together. Lucky, lucky, lucky! J
I managed to convince the guys, who were long ready to continue the journey, besides staying Christmas to also stay for New Years Eve. I wanted to celebrate into 2018 with people we knew and not be solely on the water. Can’t be blamed for wanting that, right? I am also never ready to leave La Ventana, another valid reason, LOL 😀
The restaurant by the resort at Muertos was always super friendly and accommodating and they had a Christmas tree. On the 24th I wrapped up the presents and decorated them under the Christmas tree. We watched the magical moment when Mats unwrapped his presents with joy and were able to talk to our families back in Germany and Canada. A wonderful day, even being so far away from them. So great to be able to talk to them!
After Christmas we went to check out the Island Cerralvo, which you can check out HERE and also visited our friends in Los Barrilles.
We had to return the van that morning and decided to sail back to La Ventana for New Years. It was a nice sail and took about 5 hours.
New Years Eve turned out to be a great party. First we started off at Palapas Ventana, Tim, the owner and his wife had reached out to us and wanted to do a firewerk. Great start of the night and awesome company! Then off to Delaneys, where most of La Ventana got together and grooved upstairs to a life band and enjoyed beats from some cool DJ’s downstairs. I suffered the next day and we postponed our crossing of Sea de Cortez and just went for another night to Island Cerralvo. Kruiser did some more spearfishing and hunted us dinner and we enjoyed the 1st evenening of the new year at another bonfire at our favourite Cactus. Great times!