Sunday, December 19, 2010


The Honcho has relocated from the anchorage off La Cruz to the famous Marina Vallarta, just outside of downtown PV. The reason for the move is that it is much more convenient to take care of business matters and to reprovision here than it was in romantic La Cruz. The banks, UPS, Walmart and Telcel distributor are all within an eight or ten Peso bus ride from the Honcho's slip on gangway E in the Marina. These days a Peso is roughly equal to 8 cents USD. We are absolutely committed to getting out of here by Tuesday morning, and moving on to more interesting places.

In the meantime, I've taken care of a lot of maintenance and repair items. First on the list was the squeak in the steering system. I took the steering pedestal partially apart in Cabo San Lucas and thought I had solved the problem. but on the passage from there to Banderas Bay the squeak came back. This time I tore the whole system down. It's made by Whitlock, a British company, so naturally it is quirky and complicated in ways that only the Brits can devise. In typically British fashion, the bevel gears and shafts that connect the steering wheel to the rudder are elegantly designed and beautifully machined. But the upper bushing is a cheap plastic affair in which the stainless steel steering shaft rides. Since the system was installed 12 years ago, the grease that lubricated this stainless steel-plastic interface has turned to black clay and squeaks to high heaven. It's all gooped up now with Lewmar winch grease and is smooth as silk.

Other items on the list:
1. Replace the main halyard. It was at least 5 years old and was starting to show some signs of wear before we left Long Beach. It wasn't bad enough to warrant replacement then, so I decided to use it on the trip south, but brought a spare along. After a thousand miles of sailing, it was looking a pretty tired.
2. Change the fuel filters. Diesel engines are hardy and reliable machines, but they absolutely need clean fuel. The Honcho is equipped with a 10 micron primary and a 5 micron secondary. It's a fun job if you like the smell of diesel fuel.
3. Change the oil in the engine and transmission. Second to clean fuel, diesels demand clean oil.
4. Clean the primary filter in the watermaker. the Honcho has a Katadyne 80e unit. It's very efficient and reliable, but here in Banderas Bay, where the water is just this side of putrid, the filter needs to be cleaned regularly.
5. Scrubbed the waterline of the hull which was beginning to look a bit skanky. Also gave the entire boat a long needed complete fresh water washdown. It looks like new. Now that the boat is all shiny, the engine purrs like a 30 horsepower kitty and the bloody squeak is history, the Honcho is ready for the high seas again.

We always keep a sharp lookout for whales wherever we go, be it on land or sea. But we never got a good up close and personal look at one until we made the short trip from La Cruz to PV.  We left La Cruz around 1000 and as we motored away from the anchorage we spotted some boats all clustered in one spot about half a mile south of us. It looked to me like they were stalking some whales so we wandered on over for a look. Sure enough, as we got close we saw a pod of humpbacks breach and blow. We followed them for a while and shot some photos then bore away for PV, thinking that was a cool experience. Ten minutes later we spotted another pod 10 degrees off our starboard bow and headed straight at us. I altered course to avoid them and we sailed on for another ten for fifteen minutes then encountered a third pod on our port bow, maybe fifty yards away. We're now old hands at whale watching and hardly jump around and shout when we see them anymore.

Banderas Bay is an interesting place. It's large, well protected, very deep and is apparently the perfect place for humpback whales to spend the winter. Humpbacks are baleen whales that feed on krill and small fish. They are migratory and travel from arctic seas to the tropics annually. They feed and fatten in the high latitudes then come south to mate and calve in the warm waters of the tropics. Here they fast and focus on other, more important things such as finding a mate and stuff like that. Humpbacks are frisky and playful, and quite active considering that they can be 50 feet long and weigh more than 50,000 pounds. They are among the most famous of whales, appearing in television ads for big insurance companies and recording hit whale songs that are especially popular with the Greenpeace types. Like all whales, they have enormous brains. I sometimes wonder what they think of us humans.

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