Thursday, April 30, 2009

Made It!

(Photos courtesy of Richard and Virginia on Mandy: more accurately, stolen off their blog)

We arrived in Puerto Madero just before sunset with enough time to put Worm in the water and make sense of our messy Sidewinder cockpit. It was a wonderful day of motorsailing with good wind yesterday, and quite relaxing for us after our first electric lightning and thunder storm at sea just at sunset the day before (Monday, I think). At the time, we were enjoying a wonderful sail off of the coast, admiring a beautiful beach town, as we clipped along. Finally, after getting as close as we could, we tacked out to sea, looking for a glimpse of Mandy on the horizon, lit up with a crimson backdrop; it was our last Mandy sighting until this morning.

Behind us, the skies grew very dark, and the wind changed direction. Suddenly we were propelled the direction that we would need to go by a major gust, and off to the races we went. It was exhilarating and exciting. We heard thunder in the distant mountains and lightning began; the storm became more and more intense, and the lightning bolts filled the sky above us. The sun set, wind came gusting around from behind, David furled in the headsail with great difficulty, and the wind gauge quit. The wind seemed to be coming from all directions and, fortunately, Perkins came to the rescue after the second try! Out to sea we motored with rain coming down, thunder resounding and horizontal lightning bolts all around. After what seemed forever, we found ourselves with calm following seas moving again toward our destination; David fell into a deep sleep, the stars twinkled, and the dolphins visited for about 30 minutes to reassure us that we were safe.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Tehuantepec

From Wikipedia: The Isthmus of Tehuantepec is an isthmus in Mexico. It represents the shortest distance between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean, and prior to the opening of the Panama Canal was a major shipping route known simply as the Tehuantepec Route. The name is taken from the town of Santo Domingo Tehuantepec in the state of Oaxaca, which in turn comes from the Nahuatl "tecuani-tepec" ("jaguar hill").

The narrowness of the isthmus and the gap in the Sierra Madre allow the trade winds from the Gulf of Mexico to blow through to the Pacific. Normally, these winds are not particularly strong, but periodically a surge of denser air originating from the North American continent will send strong winds through the Chivela Pass and out over the Gulf of Tehuantepec on the Pacific coast. This wind is known as the Tehuano.

Good morning! We left early yesterday morning after a wonderful, full day of Huatulco peace and craziness. We took the dinghy around the north corner to Bahia Organo, and it was gorgeous. The water was clear and calm, so the snorkeling was wonderful, and the sand was superb. The bays north and south of Bahia Santa Cruz are very beautiful, and, depending on the general weather off of the Tehuantepec, these bays offer some of the best we have seen in Mexico. Unfortunately there were gale winds just last week, so the clarity and calm had just begun by the weekend. We will return to Huatulco to spend some more quality time soaking in the beauty.

On our sail down the coast there were so many awesome deserted beaches and rock formations reminding us of what the Laguna coast must have looked like before the development. Surprisingly, the sailing has been great with gentle wind, and we hope this trend continues across the infamous Tehuantepec; often times you have no wind or gale force winds. Mandy is with us; hooray for good friends. We will let you know when we arrive in Puerto Madero (at the end of the Tehuantepec run, which usually takes about three days, depending on the conditions). Love to all, Suzi

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Reflections from Huatulco

Hi there. It’s a quiet, peaceful evening on Sidewinder in Bahia de Santa Cruz, and as I crawled into my quite toasty bunk to read Shantaram, I was inspired to write to you instead. Before I forget about the adventures on the high seas, I wanted to reflect on them.

As David and I pulled out of Z Bay, we were rested and anxious to move on to our next set of challenges and excitement which come from exploring the unknown. There was a strong sense of strength and appreciation between us, largely due to our delightful and fulfilling time with you two. I had missed our time together which I must have taken for granted, and I am convinced that your active presence in my life helps to keep me in touch with who I am. Thank you for reminding me. Our week was definitely a gift from heaven for me and I owe you big time, buddy. David, too, was reminded by you to be loving. As he read that, he quietly smiled and noted, "That was for me, wasn't it ?" So, as David and I set out with renewed life and love, the dolphins blessed our first evening, along with the gentle warm wind. It is so soothing to feel the breeze on our cheeks, feel the waves pushing us along, and see the stars twinkling all the way down to the horizon.

Visiting Acapulco was very fun because we knew we were not looking for somewhere to stay; it was just a curious visit. Another day of sailing and David even caught a fish for dinner; we motored most of that night and caught some great easy wind early in the morning to send us sailing into Puerto Escondido Bay, with the deep blue crystal clear water to soothe one's heated body and notorious world class serious surf to survey. Unfortunately, or fortunately for the Mexican fishermen, all of the secure anchoring area was taken by the pangas inside the quiet bight, and, although we did drop our anchor, swam in the soothing salty warm water, and checked out the waves down at the point and beach, we decided we needed to move on.

The next sailing adventure began, and David and I gained a whole new respect for Sidewinder's engine and the wind. When the anchor was up and we began to leave, the engine died. Hurriedly, with me on the helm and tailing the main sheet, David pulled up the main; together we put up the headsail and, luckily, the little wind that we had safely allowed us to depart without getting closer to the precarious rocks and huge surf down the line. Suddenly, it is the wind who begins to be the most important factor in our lives and our precious engine takes on a whole new role. I have always resented the noise and the additional heat down below when motoring just to get somewhere faster, but when anchoring, the engine has always been our best friend and security, especially after having had no engine for so long in Las Hadas. Once again, the importance of our engine and its main function, security, is profound and, with no option any longer, the wind became our companion and lifeline. We appreciated every puff and after a few hours of good wind, we slowly slithered with the light air, onward to our next destination, Puerto Angel.

When we first set out, we imagined that we would be in the bay, secure by sundown. As the sun set, we knew we would have to wait until dawn to go in. It was heave-to time and I was quite ready to learn. Of course, the wind began to increase at a steady pace, and if we had it to do over, we would have just continued sailing down to Huatulco. But we didn’t. We were exhausted from two nights of watches with little sleep, and stopping in the middle of the ocean to wait until sunrise seemed like the thing to do. Unfortunately, the wind completely died in a few hours and the waves increased considerably, coming from every direction. The sails flapped and flopped and the boom clanked with chaotic clamor. I took the helm and tried to steer us into the waves, keeping the lights off of Puerto Angel to my starboard side so we would be in the same place when morning arrived. After a couple of exhausting hours with banging, I woke David up and we dropped all sails, leaving us to bounce, bob, and roll radically from side to side. Plates flew out of the cupboards, bottles inside the shelves clanged, rigging groaned, and we slept, woke up, nodded off, woke up………for.what seemed like hours. I think it was about four or five hours of crazy shit.

Some soothing calm came up with the sun, along with a new gentle breeze and we reassessed the situation. We had bobbed our way out to sea about 20 miles and we were now south of Puerto Angel. Instead of back tracking, we decided to go for it and head down to Huatulco, where we thought we might find Mandy and some security. We started out with good wind, but the waves were still big and they pushed us sideways, again making the journey slow but not so steady. With exhaustion and time, I think we finally just decided that any progress even at a snail pace was just fine. Patience actually was our friend, and you know just how David loves patience! We finally did arrive after many jibes and being becalmed for awhile, and as we entered Bahia de Santa Cruz, we called Mandy and heard from Pedro on another boat, Jade. He said Virginia and Richard were gone, but he advised us of where to go and met us in his dinghy to help. It is quite unnerving to come into a new anchorage under sail with no engine. We dropped the headsail first and came in with the main up; luckily it was very quiet and calm inside and Sidewinder slowed way down, giving me a chance to breathe deeply. We even had to raise the headsail once again to gain some steering power, but we were able to drop anchor and stop. Phew! Last night we were both exhausted and I slept like a baby. I was still pretty wiped out today and am ready to go to bed right now. We were actually very fortunate we did not have gale winds and so, wind is now, more than ever before, one of the most significant factors in our cruising life. And then there is the amazing importance of our precious Perkins (the engine). Amazingly, I am the one who found a major part of the problem, and, of course, it was just an intuitive feeling I had. I took off the side panel to the engine with the electric screwdriver, and there was the mechanical fuel pump leaking like a sieve. Of course, I didn‘t know what it was. David to the rescue again! David proceeded to replace it with the new one he had and then had to bleed the system. It took many hours and today, while anchored next to the huge cruise ships, was the end of the bleeding process and it was successful. Yippee! She fired right up with a smile on her bow and Captain David grabbed a beer, yelped "EEHAA!", and grinned with renewed energy. We love Perkins, our precious smelly, hot, sweet purring engine. My my……….. What an adventure we are on.

I think we will be here until Monday and perhaps we will then head south with Mandy across the infamous Tehuantepec. More on that later. We plan on some relaxation time with snorkeling and snoozing on some of these pretty Huatulco beaches in the next few days. Good night. Love, Suzi

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Suzi Smiling in Huatulco

David promises he will write the details tomorrow and send a few pictures from our newest adventure, including yesterday's realization that two huge cruise ships were in the bay next to us when we left the marina and dinghied home to Sidewinder. It was pretty hilarious with jet skies, banana boats, excursion boats, hundreds on the beach, and many excited cruisers looking down on us from high above. I did notice, though, that all the people seemed to be having fun and that certainly is what life is all about. When the closest ship left, a lot of people were on their balconies, including a gentle soul, naked, waving us good-bye. One man shouted, "Life is tough!" Little did he know about the real cruiser life!

We (David, with a little help from nurse Suzi) finally accomplished the last of the fuel bleeding and Sidewinder fired up! She is now purring like a kitten!!! We need to go back and meet with Virginia and Richard with cocktails in the cockpit, to plan our next weeks' crossing. David is know how that goes! Bye for now. I will send what I wrote last to you tomorrow and, again, David will also send you his perspective on our new saga. Love you lots, Suzi

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

More Engine Woes

Hi there buddy! This is just a short email to let you know we have safely arrived in Hualtuco after another crazy adventure with the engine quitting after we pulled the anchor in Puerto Escondido. It's a good thing we did have a swim in that incredibly blue, crystal clear water, 'cause the next two days were spent without our engine, totally relying upon the wind to take us farther south. We had good wind for most of the time pushing us slowly toward our next destination, but when we did not reach Puerto Angel by the end of the day, we heaved to until the wind completely died. The waves were huge and coming from all directions and finally, to save our sails, we dropped them and bobbed. You can imagine that night!

Yesterday dawn placed us south of Puerto Angel and 20 miles offshore, so we decided to sail to Huatulco instead. We arrived late afternoon and sailed into Bahia Santa Cruz where Mandy and Jade happened to be. Pedro from Jade met us with his dinghy for moral support, and we were able to successfully drop anchor. There are so many more details even about that experience, but it is time to go back out to Sidewinder and do more fuel-bleeding on the engine, and I imagine she will fire right up! David will write the details tomorrow, and by then I can give you more energetic thoughts. Virginia invited us over for dinner last night and it was soooo wonderful to be with them again. What good friends they are! Love you! The adventure continues!!!!! Suzi (and David)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Puerto Escondido

We just arrived and anchored in the quite precarious, rocky bay and are wondering whether or not we can securely leave Sidewinder in order to explore. David is checking out the famous surf break with the binocs, and there are many guys out. It is exceptionally beautiful, with crystal clear water, but we are quite close to the waves and some moored jet skis, and it is still very deep for anchoring. The guide books say it can be sketchy, so we might just dive in, swim, and be on our way to the next suitable harbor, just 37 miles away: Puerto Angel has great anchoring and clear water as well, so they say, and Mandy might still be there.

Yesterday we sailed slowly over the course of the day, interrupting the peace with our iron jenny when necessary. Unfortunately, we had to motor most of the evening until around 3 A.M., and we sailed the rest of the early morning. We just might venture by bus back up to this lovely spot to really check it out. Onward we go......we are loving life once again.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Heading South

We did leave yesterday around noon and headed South. It was totally David's decision; the night before I even tried to once again tell him about all the cool things about going North into the Sea and how it would help him heal his knee. His knee is feeling better and better, and he just decided he wanted to continue on with the adventure. So, here we go!

Late afternoon and evening we had wonderful, soothing, gentle sailing with the waves and warm wind coming from behind. At 0130 this morning we were visited by florescent flying dolphins, at least 15 of them, escorting us on our way. You know me.....very special starlit night entertainment and a gift from the universe. I sang to them and they squeaked and blew. :)

Early this morning the wind died, and we motored into Acapulco just to check it out. Great bay, interesting condo resorts, colorful boats, huge high rises, and gorgeous rocks all mixed up. We anchored off of a little island and cooked breakfast, watching the craziness of banana boaters, sight seers, beach goers, jet skiers, and more. Don't they know Easter Week is over?!! We are getting ready to put the spinnaker up and continue our sail down the coast 175 miles to Puerto Escondido. Onward we go with new energy. Love you mucho. Suzi

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Spring Break

On Tuesday night Marc and I returned from an idyllic week with Suzi and David in which we all ate tons of wonderful seafood, drank enough beer and tequila to float Sidewinder, surfed on some pretty serious waves (see Dave's epic wave above), strolled on the sand, and talked to our hearts' content. Suzi procured the most luxurious accommodations imaginable at Troncones Beach, a testament to the Kindness of Strangers: Suzi's cousin Billy met a guy named Jim who told Billy that he could stay at Jim's house if he ever needed lodging in the future. Billy tranferred the invitation to Suzi and David, who added us to the package, so we spent five nights in a villa on a nearly deserted stretch of beach where the only sound was the surf pounding the sand. (See photos 3 & 4.)

The opportunity to sleep long hours in a real bed and take daily showers had a notable rejuvenating effect on both of the Sobolewskis. David's knee grew stronger each day despite the fact that he surfed like a madman and played a drunken game of volleyball on our last night. A highlight of our trip was meeting delightful Richard and Virginia, whose boat Mandy has accompanied Sidewinder on much of the journey thus far. We had dinner and drank home-brewed mescal at the Santa Prisca Pozoleria (photos 5, 6, & 7), frequented by locals and featuring exquisite pozole and fabulous musicians; Richard and Virgina departed for Huatulco the following day, to everyone's dismay.

What next for the Sobos? That remains to be seen. David is deciding whether to turn north or south when they exit Zihuatanejo Bay, probably tomorrow. Primary factors that will influence his decision include his knee and the weather in the months to come; each direction poses its own set of challenges. I don't envy him the burden of that choice, but I know they will make the best of the situation, no matter which direction they choose. I will let you know that decision in my next post. Meanwhile, enjoy a handful of the 260 pictures I took last week; if you click on them, they will get huge. -Kris

P.S. Here's a bit of info. from Suzi today:

We caught the little bus back into town (from the airport) for 7 pesos each and went back to Sidewinder to unwind. We put lots of stuff away and made her feel like home once again. Finally, as the sun went down, we settled into the cockpit pillows and enjoyed each other and the tranquil peace of alone time. It had been a very long time since we had no one around. Since Tenacatita we have been with people nonstop. Our vacation with you started the process of unwinding from everything that has happened this month, and our down time gave us a chance to look at the big picture and to get away and relax. I smile now and that is good.

We spent the morning cleaning the hull, quite a major task, and now David is at the Sunset Internet cafe eating a hamburger, and I am in the internet place just down from Hotel Susy. We will spend one more day here, check out tomorrow, and go up to Ixtapa to deisel up, perhaps anchoring off of Isla Grande. I will go to the mercado this afternoon and get fresh stuff for whichever way we decide to go. I kind of think that David´s knee is still not right and that limping around from now on might send us north for some eventual help. It is all good, and I am ready to enjoy whatever comes next. The positive of coming your way is that I know you will come visit again sooner than later, and I look forward to another good hug. I have many more reflective thoughts but will stop for now. Give my love to all and let them know you were able to shake me up enough so I, again, can practice Being. How good it feels again. YIPPEE!
Love you, Suzi

Saturday, April 4, 2009


Hi there. We had a great passage down to Z-town on Thursday and Friday motorsailing, especially yesterday morning, averaging 7-8 knots. On Thursday late afternoon David caught another fish, a Jackcravel (sp?), and miraculously bled it before bringing him on board and filleted him so cleanly it was amazing. He learned from a cruiser in Tenacatita how to do it correctly, and it really made a difference in how quickly the process was accomplished and how the fish tasted when we had it for dinner.

David's knee is feeling a little better each day but he is still wearing the brace. The wind came up Thursday evening, and I had a lovely, peaceful watch sailing with a beautiful half moon on the water trailing behind me while we rode small waves continually. It felt so wonderful to be back on the beautiful ocean sailing. When Tim came on watch, the wind began to die and by 2 P.M. we had to furl up the headsail and turn on the engine once again. We do appreciate our engine more than ever now! The east wind began blowing around 0700, and we again unfurled the headsail; we scooted along at 8knts for quite a while and thus made great time getting to Ixtapa and Zihuatanejo. The dolphins welcomed us all morning long, along with many turtles who appeared to be heading north for some kind of convention; they were everywhere! It was a great day yesterday.

We found Richard and Virginia on Mandy in Z-town Bay and all took the dinghy in for a delightful evening last night. Zihuat is a great town, and we look forward to exploring the land and sea today and tomorrow. I'm so glad we are here! We will have it all scoped out by the time you two arrive on Tuesday. Virginia and Richard are quite disappointed we are not continuing south with them (Suzi too:( ) but they definitely understand. Love to you and everyone.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Good News

I just spoke to David and Suzi via Skype in Manzanillo: David's knee is feeling better with each passing hour, so they are leaving tomorrow and sailing with Tim to Zihuatanejo. Marc and I will meet them there next Tuesday. David talked to Dr. Tom last night (I think he referred to him as his personal savior or something along those lines); Tom said that lots of people walk around on a torn meniscus for years, so David is hoping to get at least a couple of months out of his.

This turn of events has been the catalyst for a major change in the overall cruising plan, however; after our week in Z-town, the Sobolewskis plan to sail north to the Sea of Cortez, where they will spend the rest of spring and summer. Their boat bottom has blisters that need to be attended to, so they may pull the boat out and spend some time back in Laguna. Stay tuned for further developments: it's all rather hazy at this point. -Kris

Never a Dull Moment

Much has transpired since the last post. I will put it down as succinctly as possible: italics = Kris, normal font = Suzi.

David is on crutches right now with his right knee in a light weight brace keeping it immobile. On Saturday, after we brought the boat into the marina, med tied from the stern, washed Sidewinder and our dinghy, Worm, down with fresh water and soap, we motored out into the bay, tested her engine/transmission out and dumped the holding tank. We brought her back in, anchored, Tim (MacKay from Jackson Hole) arrived successfully, we walked with Sharon and John to a little restaurant where we had a great dinner, and on the way back, David was in so much pain, Tim and John had to almost carry him back to the dinghy.

Sunday Stacy and I drove David to a small emergency clinic where we were met by an orthopedic surgeon on call; he took xrays, and we heard the possible bad news. Very possibly this pain was from the degenerated calcification of his knee padding and a torn meniscus. Juan drove us all the way to Guadalajara (a 3 hr. drive) to get an MRI and yes, indeed, David has a degeneration of his knee with bone spurs, 3 small cysts, missing liquid, and a tear in his meniscus. Poor guy, his knee seems to have fallen apart. There still is a good possibility that with Celebrex and staying off of it, his pain will subside and he will be able to function fine.

Suzi was able to send the info. and scans from the doctor in Guadalajara to Tom Myer, who rebuilt both of David's hips last summer. The following day Suzi said: I received an email from Tom this morning which said that David definitely has a medial meniscus tear but the rest of the mess inside his knee is normal degeneration at this age. Tom really believes that the inflammation will subside in about 5 days with Celebrex and keeping the knee immobile without weight. He thinks that David will be back to normal aches and that life does not have to radically change. He doesn't recommend surgery now, unless the pain does not go away. David is much better each day, but is still in pain.

I have spoken to Suzi since then, and they are considering two options: 1) continuing south to Zihuatanejo to meet us next week (fortunately Tim is a capable sailor whose knees work) or 2) heading north and either leaving the boat somewhere safe and flying back to fix the knee problem or, more likely, sailing back into the Sea of Cortez to spend the summer there. It is all very much up in the air at the moment; I won't post again until decisions have been made.
P.S. This is not an April Fools joke.