Mexico Cruising – Cabo San Lucas and Eastbound

The winds generally came from the North/Northeast, and the swell from the West/Northwest – opposing conditions to say the least – and is what we experienced as we came down the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula. Since both the winds and swell were down it was a decent ride. Certainly, we were aware of the conditions, but it didn’t cause us much distress. I have always been spoiled, not my asking but Bruce’s insistence, and never carried my weight on the night watch standing. I watched, during the day, as much as he could/would sleep – which helped. I have always offered to stand longer but he never let me. That all changed as we went into this stage of our voyage. In fact, I did more than I have ever done. And, I was no worse for the wear – which is a good sign of my basic health and stamina – or possibly the adrenalin charged situation.

We knew we were getting close to Cabo San Lucas when we started seeing houses – palatial ones at that – along the coast. Next came large condos, and then what seemed to be endless hotel rooms, stacked as high as they could build them along the ridge of the west coast. I can’t imagine staying in one of the hotel rooms without getting vertigo. They seemed to be poised vicariously, at any moment ready to jump into the sea! !No Gracias!

You always know – well I always know when I see the “Hole in the Rock” that I’m getting close to Cabo – you know – this rock!  And look at the gorgeous blue water!

We did, indeed, make it into Cabo San Lucas in time to refuel before the big sport fishing boats returned for the day. We weren’t certain if we beat them in because there were more sport fishermen out on the water than we could count. They were scattered as far west and south as we could see. Bruce estimated a hundred or more – I wondered at dozens, as I don’t think the marina in Cabo San Lucas is that big. Regardless, there were a lot of boats out there and they were all looking for fish!

We had problems refueling in Turtle Bay and Cabo San Lucas. Our fuel tender wasn’t reading full, and yet the fuel would roll out of the top of the tank. I am the one on the end of the nozzle, and it makes me very nervous, but I would rather be on this end, than the one reading the tank tender. Normally, Bruce calls it right on. But, in both of these refueling instances, we almost had a problem. Fuel in the water is a big fat NO!!! I do not want to be hauled off to a Mexican jail for dumping fuel in the ocean. In fact, I have pressed my captain to promise to go in my stead! It turns out there is foam/bubbles/air/whatever in the fuel. So, the fuel goes into the tank along with bubbles which the tender doesn’t read, and the fuel overflows due to the foam taking up air space in the tank. Boaters beware when refueling in Mexico.

After refueling we went out to the bay to anchor for the night. By now you know Bruce was having breathing problems at this point. We did talk about going into Cabo for a medical checkup, but Bruce thought he was feeling better, and we were promised a boring flat cruise to Puerto Vallarta. We were up at first light and downloaded weather forecasts from three different services. They all agreed and reported flat seas, calm winds, until late the next afternoon. That was just how much time we needed to get across the Sea of Cortez and into Banderas Bay.

In spite of the very appealing and agreeable forecasts our actual conditions never reflected the forecasts. Not even at wake up, though not that bad – yet. We assumed we were experiencing weather refracting around Cabo Falso, which is not unusual. By the time we realized the conditions were what they were, not refracting and not forecasted, they built even more and we had no choice but to keep going. As, I reported earlier we had to change course in order to ride comfortably. It meant changing from a South Easterly course to a North Easterly course. We expected within every four hour period, or so, that the weather would flatten and we would adjust our course likewise – it never happened. And ultimately our course was set for a bull’s eye on Mazatlan. It did calm down some after sunset, but by then we knew we had to make straight for Mazatlan.

It sounds like a miserable set of circumstances doesn’t it. Actually, it wasn’t that bad – except for the fact there were wind and waves. The temps were warm, and with the winds right behind us, we were comfortable. We had at least one pilot house door open all day. The seas were a beautiful blue (like you see in the Cabo picture) with gorgeous lace on top. Lace – right – white waves! But, really if we hadn’t been stressed by Bruce’s health issues and the fact we weren’t headed in the direction we planned, it would have been an awesome cruise. We made excellent time, with the wind and waves on our stern. Though frustrating times at best – it was a case of the good and the bad and hanging in there – which was our only option.

We arrived outside Mazatlan before 0700. Bruce called El Cid Marina and got a person! I hadn’t expected anyone to be about that early. Bruce requested a slip and medical assistance. We were told to come to the fuel dock. I don’t know if Bruce remembers this, but he actually considered refueling first. Ha! I think it might have been my “you want to do what?” look that ended that conversation. Men took our dock lines, a doctor came within a few minutes, examined Bruce and took him off to the hospital. And you know how all that turned out.

But, wait. There goes Bruce up the dock, and here we are, DESERT VENTURE and me, with no space available. I recall Geronimo saying they could move the boat. Really? “You have twin engines, yes?” Yes. “Then it’s a piece of cake!” Really?  No one has moved D/V, but Bruce, in all the time we have had D/V. My son has on a few occasions, but he had Bruce by his side. Other than those two, no one, nada, none!

Being a savvy boat lady, knowing that they don’t have a slip and I am sitting on a fuel pier with no power, I have issues. I didn’t think of them as problems, because I knew I could figure it out – but I was in a panic. I couldn’t remember how to start the generator. I had a general idea but haven’t done it in years. There was a time, a few years back, when Bruce went off to work for three months at a time, that I had a firm understanding. He always left me and D/V in a safe slip. We tied up the boat, and he put D/V “to bed” for the time being. I knew the basic steps to waking her up, and changing to generator power if the shore power should fail. I think I may have had to start the generator once – but most likely I was prepared but the power came back. Right about now I call my son. “Bruce is in the hospital and I don’t know how to start the generator”. I suppose I should have worded that first sentence differently, but I needed hard information and fast! His advice, “Don’t do anything! I’m coming. It will be okay. Just stay where you are.”

Right then the men from El Cid showed up on the dock to tell me I needed to contact Marina Mazatlan, further up the channel, for a slip. I had no luck reaching them on the VHF or the phone. El Cid took matters into their own hands, called, arranged moorage, and then told me they were moving me and my boat to Marina Mazatlan.

They may be the movers, but at that point it was My Boat. So, I went into standard underway preparations. I don’t think they were prepared for me. I think they were going to start the engines and move the boat. Ha! I am the only one on board who knew how to start the engines. Seriously. And, we don’t dock the boat without communication. I handed the headset to the man who was to drive the boat. He looked at it sort of like a bug – and why would HE need a headset? (I was assured he is a good captain.) He didn’t need a headset. He was also preparing to drive the boat and dock it from the pilot house. I happen to have the best Captain in the world, and he says the best visibility is from the fly bridge – and from the fly bridge they drove the boat. And since you can’t see what is behind you, you will need me. I will tell you distance from the dock. He really didn’t want to use the headset, but was urged by another gentleman to use it. Actually, it may have been that man who managed the headset.

I started the engines. They went topside, and I went out to help grab lines from the dock and prepare them for docking at the other marina. It wasn’t far; the entire move was less than a half hour. I urged the Captain to take it slow and easy. And he did, and it all worked out perfectly. I suppose they didn’t need my input. However, I was in a foreign country, my husband was in the hospital, and D/V is my home. I had much to gain and to lose if anything went wrong. The boat was tied up, and just as the El Cid gentlemen were about to walk away, I realized that I needed one last favor. Senor! Could you please help me plug in my shore power cord? For those of you who don’t know about shore power cords, ours is a 100 amp cord, about an inch in diameter, seventy-five feet long, and weighs a ton. In addition, we had to back the boat into the dock in order to reach the power box, and it meant I had to get the plug from the boat across a four foot span of water. I didn’t have a lot of time to figure if I could do it, and I knew with some serious manpower, they could do it with ease. One of the gentlemen graciously came back and between us he got the cord plugged into the boat and the dockside shore power outlet.  (My biggest fear was that I wouldn’t get the connections in right.  It takes some wrist power to manage the cord and mine isn’t that great.) What a relief!

At this point power was provided through the inverters via the battery bank. How do I switch from inverters to shore power? By now, I am only shaking a little. But I am thinking the tears are not far behind and I lost my connection to the doctor and Bruce by leaving El Cid. I decided it was a good time to breathe. Just. Breathe. Breathing is good. Then (breathing really helps) I realized that I could call Bruce on his cell phone! He could tell me how to get the power onto the boat. And for the most part he did a great job. I wrote it all down – correctly – and it didn’t work. I went from down in the engine room and up to the power box on the dock, and back and forth and back and forth and I am thinking about breathing again. I call Bruce back. Did I do everything he said? Breathe, breathe…yes, dear.

Okay, let’s walk through it together. Step one, good. Step two – good, etc.

No power.

Okay. Let’s do it again. Same result.

Okay, look at this monitor, and that monitor, what do they say. They say that?

Breathe, breathe….yes, they say that.

Okay, let’s start again. (All this conversation is happening while he is on oxygen and just trying to – breathe.) He’s already settled in his hospital room by then. And, so, we did it again. By now I know he’s thinking I didn’t really do something…and then he says,

Did you turn on the transformer?


Which step is that?

Oh – do that second.

You never told me to do that.

Okay, do it now.

And it was – well, it was magic. It was power humming through the boat. It was success. This time – it was a huge sigh.

And then I wanted to cry – in relief.

Now, all that was left to do was go check into the marina. Checking into marinas in Mexico is serious. Captains do the check-in. I gathered all the information I could find – which isn’t supposed to be hard as we keep it all together in a binder. Only Bruce kept it at the back of the binder and had his own method of filing. There was one document I knew I needed but didn’t find – or didn’t recognize until later. But, I gathered what I could and went to the office.

Everything went easy. Elvira, the marina office manager, was kindness itself. She knew we had come in under medical duress and was very understanding and helpful. In fact, without Elvira life would have been much more complicated. She helped me with transportation calling a taxi for me, giving directions and information for getting around the town, and heartwarming encouragement. Enrique became my friend and is the best taxi driver in Mazatlan. He is friendly,conscientious, and went an extra mile for me – one I am eternally grateful for. It was a kick to read our checkout papers as we left Mazatlan – she listed me as a Co-Captain!

Bruce and I still talk about how quick to act and efficient the people at El Cid were at getting him medical care and admitted to Hospital Sharp, and getting the boat and me to a safe slip. The caring and generous staff at both El Cid Marina and Marina Mazatlan are to be commended in helping us in our time of need. Thank You – to the men that moved the boat and set up the shore power cord for me. Thank you – to the people in the office that arranged moorage and arranged the move for me.

Dr. Magallon was a great. He took good care of Bruce, bringing in a specialist who helped in the management of Bruce’s care. We were very happy (and surprised) to hear a doctor would be coming to the boat within minutes. It was the last thing we expected, and I think it left us startled for a moment. A doctor is coming to the boat? What a relief. He took one look, knew Bruce was seriously ill, and immediately marched him off to the hospital. He walked Bruce through the lab, x-rays, and into his room. After Bruce was settled, he came back to the hotel, where I still was, and gave me an update, hospital location and room number.

So, I called my son back. It will be okay (trying to sound strong and brave). You don’t have to come.

I’m coming. I will be there at 1530 tomorrow.

And he was – and, what a relief. Though the boat was tied up and the power was running there were still things that needed to be done. Between the two of us, we got it done. And he took care of me, escorting me all the places we had to go, speaking Spanish, and paving the way to a much less painful and stressful time. It made Bruce’s recovery less stressful knowing that I was in good hands, and so, too was D/V. Thank goodness he came. His main duty, once we felt Bruce was onto recovery, was to help us move the boat to our winter destination – over 180 miles to the south. And that he did.

This entire episode is pretty remarkable in itself, but when you realize it all happened in a foreign country – albeit a neighboring country with some language challenges- it becomes even more astounding.  However, we aren’t the first boaters to arrive like this, and we won’t be the last.   From one end of the docks here in Mexico to the other are people with stories of  local medical assistance, local folks helping when they can, and boaters helping boaters.   One super reason – Why We Go!

6 thoughts on “Mexico Cruising – Cabo San Lucas and Eastbound

  1. Angie,
    You are amazing. Boating and health emergencies call for a level head. You passed both tests!!!! I am glad to know that Bruce is on the mend.
    Love to you both,

  2. Angie you are something else. I am sure this was just meant for you living on a ship. I hope Bruce will stay well.Happy New Years to the both of you


  3. Angie,
    Even though I knew the rest of the story, I too was holding my breath, heart racing, and tears in my eyes too. It just makes me realize how little I know of our boat because in between our uses I forget how to do things. I must try harder. Hugs to you all.

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