SHIPTREK - THE VOYAGE HOME
With the condo purchase completed it was time to start thinking about getting Kavenga back to Gig Harbor. Back in December we made arrangements to have her shipped from La Paz, Mexico to Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada.
The first step was to sail from Puerto Vallarta back across the Sea of Cortez to La Paz, with a brief stop in Mazatlan for fuel and a little R&R.
Of our five crossings, this was the smoothest. Unfortunately that also meant little or no sailing due to light winds.
Here's Kay throwing the last of the bottle messages over the side. We were given 18 messages to cast into the sea during our voyages. We launched 6 on each of three crossings, near the middle of the southern Sea.
Costa Baja Marina, the newest marina on the west coast of Mexico was to be our temporary home for the last half of May.
This is only the inner basin, with Docks F through M, all 40- and 45-foot slips. The outer basin, Docks A through E are the big-boat slips, 50 feet and up. Condos and restaurants line the far end of the basin.
Kavenga is in G-12, dead center of the photo, between the palms just inshore of a big power yacht on a 90-foot end-tie.
If the photo gives the impression that the marina is not right downtown, that would be correct. It's a 15-minute shuttle bus ride to downtown La Paz, but the shuttle is free.
The developers are hoping the marina and the adjacent Fiesta Inn are a magnet for further development that will grow around the marina similar to that which occurred around Marina Vallarta in PV.
Here's Kavenga in her slip with the Fiesta Inn in the background. The Fiesta was a daily destination for us as marina guests enjoy pool and spa privileges at the hotel.
In preparation for shipping, Kavenga's hinged bowsprit is in its full upright position. This unique feature never fails to generate conversations whenever we put it up.
Here's the main pool at the Fiesta. The air temperatures were reaching the mid 90's on most afternoons. By about 4PM it felt like a good time to spend an hour or two in the infinity-style pool.
The water temperature varied from comfortably warm to hot!
It was a great place to meet other cruisers. You can see a group of them hiding in the shady corner of the pool on the right side of the photo.
High season was over, so it was rarely crowded
And here's the other pool at the Fiesta, a lap pool, with Kay in the midst of doing her daily laps. We typically came here to do our laps first, especially if the infinity pool was the tiniest bit crowded.
The amenities at the Fiesta and the half dozen restaurants around the marina made the two week wait for Kavenga's ship less of a hardship.
On the morning of May 31, Kavenga's ship the Dockwise Express 12 was waiting at anchor three miles north of the entrance to La Paz Harbor.
Departing Costa Baja Marina we found ourselves about fourth in a column of boats headed for the rendezvous with the DE12.
We had spent a few hours every day for the last two weeks preparing Kavenga for the voyage. Aside from raising her bowsprit, we removed her two headsails, brought her anchors on deck, took the canvas off the frame of her spray dodger and generally made sure that every thing inside and out was secure for the long passage north.
Here's a view of the stern of the DE12. She's anchored and partially submerged. She's one of a handful of yacht transport ships owned by the Dockwise shipping company.
The unique concept of the Dockwise ships is that they can partially submerge in order to pick up their cargo.
In the case of yachts it is incredibly simple. A large tailgate, similar to that on a pickup, lowers to a position level with the cargo deck and the vessel submerges about 10 feet. The yachts then motor into their pre-assigned positions in the well deck.
The white superstructure is all the way forward, virtually in the bow of the ship.
Kay watches as the light blue sailboat, Amistad, backs in to her assigned position. The Captain of the DE12 has informed us via VHF radio that we are the next to enter.
Kay is also ready to pass mooring lines to Amistad on our port side while our temporary crewman, Baja Bob, is ready to do the same with Pegasus on starboard.
Kavenga is to be the middle boat of a row of five sailboats. All we have to do is squeeze into the slot. Fortunately we are instructed to moor bow-in and therefore do not have to back in as did Amistad. Going in reverse in a full-keeled sailboat is always a bit of an adventure.
Once we were in and secured to the other boats, we turned around in time to get a photo of our friend Vince and crew on his Westsail 32, Alaya coming in to form part of the last row of boats.
We first met Vince and his partner Jan in Zihuatenejo a year and a half earlier. It's one of those symmetries and serendipities of cruising that you never know who you are going to be encountering and traveling with again in the future. Once we learned (several months earlier) that we were both going north on the same ship, we continually shared information about the voyage via email, Skype and radio between PV and La Paz.
All in all, 23 yachts loaded on to the DE12. Local La Paz cruisers said this was the first time they could remember that many yachts loading together on one of the Dockwise ships. The ship came in with only one yacht (from Nanaimo) and unloaded it shortly before we all arrived.
The boats were a mixture of power yachts, sailing yachts and two catamarans.
The largest was the motoryacht Kelly Ann (partially visible, lower left) at 100 feet, and the smallest was Bruja (invisible in the far right corner), a 27-foot sailboat, with a lady single-hander as skipper.
For details of the loading process, check this blog.
The photo above was taken by Steve from the bridge deck.
All yacht captains were asked to come to the bridge of the DE12 for final paperwork.
The photo on the right gives one an idea of the size of the DE12's commodius pilothouse and bridge.
Steve checks out the EOT (Engine Order Telegraph) on the port wing of the DE12.
Once the paperwork was taken care of we caught this shuttle boat back to La Paz.
The gentleman on the right is Baja Bob of the sailing yacht, Jemaya. Bob kindly volunteered to crew for us during the loading, as Dockwise recommends a minimum crew of three.
On the left is John of the sailing yacht, Pelican. John is a longtime Mexico cruiser now based out of La Paz. He was one of our daily companions at the Fiesta Inn's pool. He had volunteered as crew aboard Amistad. He was also kind enough to give us a ride from La Paz to the airport in his van.
Once we finished the paperwork on the DE12 it was as if the starting gun had fired on a race similar to Around the World in 80 Days. We only had a week to get back to our van in San Carlos and drive north to meet the DE12 again in Nanaimo.
From La Paz we caught a 1-hour turbo-prop "commuter" flight to Ciudad Obregon on the mainland (our sixth crossing of the Sea?). We flew right over the DE12 and could even see Kavenga in the well deck. We also had gorgeous views of many of our favorite anchorages in the islands north of La Paz.
A 15-minute cab ride from the airport took us to the main bus terminal in downtown Obregon, arriving at 3:10PM. Incredibly, the TUFESA bus that was scheduled (according to our internet research) to depart for Guaymas at 3:20 PM was there and did in fact leave right on time. It was a deluxe bus with "in-flight" movie (Mean Girls).
Two hours later we were in Guaymas. We were going to take the local bus to San Carlos but a cab driver saw us headed for the bus stop and made us an offer we couldn't refuse--door-to-door service for a reasonable price for the 12-mile trip.
Amazingly, we found ourselves here, back at our covered van in San Carlos at 6PM of the same day we loaded Kavenga.
We stayed at our favorite motel, Departamentos Adlai, the first night, but got on the road well before sunrise the following morning. The border crossing at Nogales went smoothly although we drew the lucky number with US Customs and the van got a thorough going over. After getting the dashboard air conditioning fixed in Tucson, and spending the night at the Tra-Tel RV park again, we sprinted west hoping to get through LA before the afternoon rush hour.
We made it and pulled in here, the Pyramid Lake RV Resort just south of Gorman, California.
We hiked up on the ridge of the small canyon that surrounds the park to take this photo of the park with our van parked in the middle.
With another very early start we easily made it to Weed, California the next afternoon, and then on to Gig Harbor the next day.
After one day of rest in Gig Harbor, we caught a Greyhound Bus to Vancouver. The bus in turn caught a ferry from Vancouver to Nanaimo.
We arrived a day ahead of the DE12, giving us time to do a little sightseeing.
This is a view of downtown Nanaimo from Newcastle Island.
The DE12 arrived on schedule and was ready to start the unloading process at 8AM. However Canadian Customs officials had other ideas.
Due to the recent terrorist arrests in Toronto, they were on high alert and took their time going through the DE12 and her cargo.
But as far as we could tell they did not board Kavenga.
Rather than anchor, the DE12 moored here to the wharf at the Nanaimo Port Authority.
As you can see from the sky, we were quickly having to re-adapt to cool, overcast weather.
About 11AM we were finally allowed to board the DE12.
Our first task was to go down into the well deck to inspect Kavenga's hull to make sure that it had not incurred any damage during the voyage.
Here you can see all of the cribbing and jackstands that the divers have to clear away once the well deck is flooded, but before the yachts are allowed to start their engines and motor out.
Here's Kay with Vince of Alaya.
Our inspection of Kavenga's hull revealed no damage, just a few pesky barnacles here and there.
After we were loaded in La Paz and left the ship, the divers placed the yellow jackstands to support the hull. The water was then pumped out. Next, welders went in and welded the jackstands to the deck, making it impossible for them to slip in rolling seas.
They also placed straps over the boat and secured them to cleats on the deck.
As a final precaution against tipping over, two straps were tied to each sailboat mast and secured to cleats on the sides of the well deck.
Here you see Kavenga nestled between her neigbors, Amistad and Pegasus.
The inspections are now complete; time for us to sign the final paperwork, get back our keys and documentation and await the flooding of the well deck.
With the well deck flooded things started happening quickly. For details of the unloading, see this blog.
In hardly more than 15 minutes, Kavenga was away from the DE12 and around the point into the Nanaimo Marina.
Here she is moored to J Dock, with the sun coming out.
Without a doubt we felt the money spent shipping Kavenga home via Dockwise was well worth it. Not only did it save wear and tear on Kavenga's engine and sails, and us, it was kinda fun.
All that was left to complete our voyage home was to sail south from Nanaimo to Gig Harbor. We were in no particular rush, so we decided to make short daily runs and visit some places we had never been along the eastern shore of Vancouver Island.
This is Mallard Lake on Newcastle Island, just across the harbor from downtown Nanaimo, which by the way, is indeed the home of the devily delicious Nanaimo Bars.
Most of the islands in the inland waters of British Columbia and Washington State have at least a few deer on them and Newcastle is no exception.
This fat doe was grazing without any concern in this mowed meadow not far from lodge and boat dock.
From Newcastle Island, just across a shallow straight that virtually dries out at low tide is Protection Island.
On Protection is the Dinghy Dock Pub. Like Gig Harbor's own Tides Tavern, it is one of the best known and popular restaurants in the Northwest boating community.
Excellent food and ambiance.
After one night at anchor off Newcastle Island it was time to start south. The first leg required a little bit of timing as we would pass through Dodd Narrows, a very narrow pass between huge Vancouver Island and tiny Mudge Island. Maximum currents can reach 12 knots and Kavenga's maximum motoring speed is just barely 8 knots.
But here we are, safely through.
Thanks to our new friends Ian and Heidi on Chaitanya for this photo.
Here's Chaitanya off our port beam.They were also on the DE12, but we had never encountered them in Mexico.
Just barely visible between Ian and Heidi is there young son, Jonah.
They plan to sell Chaitanya in Seattle and return home to Florence, Oregon.
After passing through the Dodd Narrows, we are all headed for the same destination, Pirate's Cove. (No, it's not on Isla de Muerta).
Pirate's Cove is part of DeCourcy Island.
It was at or near low tide when we entered the narrow channel between an offlying reef and the island. According to our depthsounder, we should have been aground, but chances are we were getting false echos from seaweed growing up from the bottom.
We anchored in the center of the small cove. Chaitanya followed us and is just barely visible on the far left, anchored with a stern line taken ashore.
After Pirate's Cove we visited the ports of Ladysmith, Chemainus, Montague, Ganges, and Irish Bay in British Columbia, followed by Friday Harbor, Port Townsend and Blake Island in Puget Sound. For more about these stops, our arrival back in Gig Harbor and some overall assessments of our cruise, check out our web log.
This photo captures our impression of many parts of this segment of our travels: Cold!! But that is relative to what we had become accustomed to in Mexico. Anything less than 70F seemed cool and anything under 60F felt really cold.
However, once we arrived back in our slip at Murphy's Landing in Gig Harbor, it felt 10 degrees warmer and soon we were back in T-shirts and shorts.
It was a great, trouble-free 2-year cruise to Mexico.
Many thanks to all of you who followed along.