Monday, July 19, 2021

Done!

Intermezzo is all put away and resting on the hard at Marina Puerto Escondido and I'm back in California. We're done sailing for a while.

We hauled out last Thursday afternoon. The TraveLift slip is a tight squeeze for Intermezzo, only a few inches on either side, but with some help from the marina guys, we backed into it without any problems. A diver pulled the slings under the boat abd Intermezzo was lifted out of the water. We blocked the boat perfectly and I spent the next couple of days putting things away and cleaning things up for long term storage.

It was really hot in the afternoons, so I would get up early to get my work done in the cooler morning hours, then head back to the hotel to cool off in my air conditioned room. By the time I left to fly home on Sunday afternoon, I had had enough of hot, humid, tropical climates. Arriving in San Francisco, the cool evening air was a very welcome change.

I always feel a bit melancholy when I leave Intermezzo behind. I gave the boat an affectionate pat as I walked away. I'm going to enjoy land life until November, when Intermezzo will be launched again to cruise the Pacific coast of Mexico and the Sea of Cortez this coming winter and spring.



Wednesday, July 14, 2021

La Paz to Puerto Escondido With Johan

My friend Johan and I sailed Intermezzo from La Paz to Puerto Escondido over the past few days. We left La Paz on Sunday morning making overnight stops at Isla San Francisco and Punta San Tolemo along the way, arriving here yesterday evening.

I met Johan when I was in La Paz back in 2017-18.  He's a young 75 year old, a very capable sailor, knows his way around boats and has a great sense of humor. We enjoyed each other's company, good conversation and just being out on the beautiful Sea of Cortez for a few days.

The weather was great, light blue skies, some puffy white clouds, dark blue seas with gentle swells. It was hot during the day, but with a breeze blowing most of the time, it was comfortable in the shade of the hardtop.

I had removed the sails for transporting Intermezzo on the ship and didn't want to wrestle the heavy mainsail onto the boom, only to have to remove it again for hauling out in Puerto Escondido for hurricane season. Johan and I hoisted the jib in La Paz so we might get a little help from the wind.

We motored the 40 nautical miles (nm) to Isla San Francisco on Sunday, dropping anchor their around 4 pm. There were quite a few boats crowded into the southern end of the big crescent shaped anchorage, where we found some protection from the southerly swells. We took a swim to cool off, enjoyed cocktails followed by a nice dinner.

The next morning, we weighed anchor at a gentlman-ly 10:30 am and set sail for Los Gatos, another 36 nm north. The wind piped up enough in the afternoon for us to shut down the engines and let the jib pull us along at a nice 4-5 knots. The wind caused a southeasterly swell to build which was unfortunate, as the Los Gatos anchorage is exposed to the south and east. Rather than risk an uncomfortable rolly night there, we pushed on a few more miles to Punta San Tolemo where we anchored on the north side of the point. It was more comfortable than Los Gatos would have been, but the swell bent around the point and rocked us a bit when the boat swung beam to the seas. More swimming, more cocktails, another dinner.

The highlight of our trip was during the passage from Punta San Tolemo to Puerto Escondido yesterday. We spotted a giant pod of spinner dolphins hunting as a pack, roiling the water white with their jumps and splashes, some dolphins herding fish into a dense school while others ripped through the school, chomping away. We turned of the motor and drifted, the dolphins moving around us like whitewater on a river. I took a video and posted it to YouTube (click here to watch it).

I forgot how much I love the scenery in this part of the Sea of Cortez. The steep mountains along the coast are striated with colors shades of tans, browns, gold, reds, purples, maroons. The taller mountains further inland are in the background, hazy purple-blue, often with clouds brushing their tops. It feels really good to be back here.

Intermezzo is in a slip at Marina Puerto Escondido, near the town of Loreto, about a third of the way up the inside of the Baja peninsula. Construction of the marina had just started when I was last here in 2017. Now it's finished and it's one of the nicest marinas I have ever been in. Everything is well designed with quality materials, well executed and well maintained. I was so glad to say hello again to my friend Javier, the harbormaster. He is a really great guy, very friendly, very professional. The entire staff is customer-focused and clearly oriented to creating a premium image. 

Tomorrow we haul Intermezzo out of the water, again, to sit on land for a few months to wait out the hurricane season. I'll spend a couple days buttoning up the boat and then head back to California. I've been living on the boat for over a year now, with time on land only over the Christmas holidays and a brief break from waiting for the ship in Florida. 

Coastline of the Sea of Cortez, San Toleme anchorage

Johan at the helm of Intermezzo


Thursday, July 8, 2021

Intermezzo Is Back In La Paz

 Intermezzo has returned to La Paz, exactly two years and six months after we set sail on The Voyage on January 8, 2019. My long ordeal of waiting to load onto a ship is finally over. I am feeling a strong sense of relief and one of celebration, for having closed the loop, returning from where we started.

The unloading went smoothly, although 12 minutes delayed. After waiting three months to load onto the ship, I can deal with that sort of delay!

My friend Johan served as crew to receive Intermezzo as the boat was lowered from the deck of the Chipolbrok Star. We met a panga a the end of Muelle (Dock) 4 at Marina Palmira, which coincidentally was once Intermezzo's home in La Paz. We boarded the boat just as the slings of the crane were being lifted away.  Intermezzo's decks are covered with spots of some powdery substance, I suspect the same as whatever the ship is carrying in its bulk cargo holds. I didn't have time to do a thorough inspection, but didn't see any obvious damage. It looks like Intermezzo made the journey unscathed, but a bit road weary.

When we started the port engine, no cooling water came out with the exhaust like it is supposed to. I poked around a bit but couldn't remedy the situation. I resigned myself to running both engines briefly only for maneuvering, relying on only the starboard engine to get us to the marina. Fortunately, when I revved up the port engine to back away from the ship, the raw water pump finally had enough suction to get things flowing and all was well.

We motored to Marina Cortez as the sun was setting. It felt so good to have Intermezzo back, so good to have the boat back in La Paz and the Sea of Cortez. We docked the boat, snugged up the docklines and fenders and then went to Johan's place to have a celebratory beer and shot of tequila. Johan's wife, Barbara, had taken pictures of the whole event from their rooftop terrace including the one for this post. I'm very grateful to both of them for their friendship and support.

Tomorrow I will wash down the boat and give it a good look over. Saturday we will provision for the passage to Puerto Escondido. Sunday we depart. Johan has volunteered as crew for the trip, so I'll have good, capable company for the three day trip.

When I finished The Voyage in New York in September 2019, I wrote, "It feels like a lot, sometimes too much. I can hardly distinguish individual memories of all that passed, it's more like kaleidoscope of experiences that are now a part of who I am, experiences that will influence who I will be." It felt like that again today, the feelings not as big this time, but of a similar nature.

It's not a wrap yet, but we're getting close. In just over a week, I'll be walking away from Intermezzo for a few months to live on land for a while. Life for me is shifting again.

Look closely and you can see Intermezzo being lifted off the deck of ship in this picture Barbara took from her rooftop


Tuesday, July 6, 2021

I'm Back In La Paz, Intermezzo Is On the Way


I arrived in La Paz, Baja California Sur (Mexico) on Saturday afternoon and have been enjoying getting reacquainted with this lovely small city as I wait for the ship transporting Intermezzo to arrive. The Chipolbrok Star is scheduled to arrive tomorrow night and unloading operations to begin the next morning.

La Paz is just as beautiful as I remember it, but Covid is a big concern. The case load is pretty high (two-week average daily cases >5 per 100,000), the hospitals are reportedly full, and vaccination rates are relatively low compared to the US. People are wearing face masks everywhere and practicing social distancing,  restrictions are in place for businesses and restaurants, the malecón (public seafront) is closed, and the streets seem more empty and quiet than I remember them. Nonetheless, life goes on and I am enjoying walking around the city, eating at my favorite restaurants and trying some new ones.

In a blog post during my first visit to La Paz, I wrote that "I really like this town...If I were thinking of a place to live in Mexico, La Paz would definitely be on my list." Well, this is my third visit and I'm planning on making this Intermezzo's home base for the foreseeable future.

I'm converting my blog posts for The Voyage from San Francisco to New York (2015-2019) into a book, mostly as a gift to my Mom, also for limited publication and distribution to family, friends and fans. Coincidentally, I started working on the chapter "La Paz and The Sea of Cortez" right when I arrived here. It feels a bit surreal to be reading my blog posts from late 2015 when Renee and I arrived in La Paz in November 2015, near the beginning of my first attempt at The Voyage and now to be back, almost six years and over 23,000 nautical miles of sailing later. So much has changed outside of me, inside me.

I'm so grateful to have this blog as a memoir of all that I experienced sailing Intermezzo. I think the book is going to be a good one, as it will arrange all the blog posts into chapters, each with a preface of highlights, retrospectives and adding a little about what was going on for me personally over all those years. Looking back, I think my sailing adventure and writing about it kept me on a steady course as my "land life" experienced a good deal of turmoil.

Once I unload Intermezzo off the ship, I'll fill up the diesel tanks and head to a marina for a couple of days to clean up the boat, provision and prepared for the three-day passage to Puerto Escondido. I plan on departing La Paz Sunday morning, making stops at Isla San Francisco and Bahia Los Gatos along the way and arriving in Puerto Escondido next Tuesday.

Once in Puerto Escondido, we'll haul out Intermezzo and prepare for long-term lay up on the hard for the hurricane season. If all goes as planned, I'll be flying out of Loreto next Sunday bringing an end to the long ordeal of getting Intermezzo back to the Sea of Cortez.


 

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

We're Through the Panama Canal and In the Pacific

Intermezzo passed through the Panama Canal today, piggy-backed on the Chipolbrok Star and is now on the Pacific Ocean. The picture above is as the ship left the Miraflores locks, the last ones heading towards the Pacific.

It is Intermezzo's third transit of the canal, the first when the boat was delivered to me from the builder in South Africa, the second time in April 2016 with me at the helm and now, relaxing on the deck of a ship.

The ship is lying in the Pacific Anchorage of the canal. I expect it will depart tomorrow if it is to make it's ETA in La Paz the morning of July 7.

I will be there to meet the boat.

The Chipolbrok Star entering the Pedro Miguel locks

The ship being lowered in the Pedro Miguel lock chamber


Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Finally!

Intermezzo is sitting on the deck of the Chipolbrok Star towards the ship's bow, blocked, chocked and strapped down. Finally!

We loaded at around 2 pm this afternoon. The whole process of getting Intermezzo to the ship and then making sure the boat was properly secured on the deck was quite an intense process.

My day started at the dock along a canal in the Harbor Beach neighborhood of Fort Lauderdale. I had buttoned up the boat the day before and stayed the night at a motel, about 15 minutes by bike from the boat. My loading time was 3 pm, so I left the motel around 11 am and grabbed breakfast on the way.

When I got to the dock, I folded up the bike and stowed it below, packed a few last items into my bag and then set to work figuring out how I was going to leave the dock singlehanded. I had attached my fenders to the fixed dock's pilings to protect Intermezzo and now had to remove them. This would normally be a non-issue but today's low tide was really low and Intermezzo's hull was right next to pilings that were covered with exposed, razor-sharp oysters. The wind was blowing us slightly onto the dock, so I had to figure out how to rig fenders on the boat that would stop the hull from being scratched by the oysters.


Tying a couple of fenders horizontally along Intermezzo's gunwale did the trick, but then I wondered, "How am I going to get off the dock by myself?"

Usually in circumstances like this, I would motor against an after bow spring line (a line tied to the bow and extending aft to an attachment on the dock) to bring the stern out, then reverse away from the dock. However, I didn't have crew to handle that line or fend the bow off the pilings.

Hmmm....I began studying this tricky situation and coming up with options. Right in the middle of my problem-solving, my phone rang. It was Oliver, the loadmaster from the shipping company, asking if I could bring the boat earlier, like at 1:30 instead of 3:00. To make that schedule, I had to get through the nearby 17th Street Bridge during its 1:00 opening and it was already 12:45. No, I couldn't make it by 1:30, but I could make it by 2:00 if I got through the bridge at its 1:30 opening. But I didn't have much time.

I decided I would put a whole bunch of fenders on Intermezzo's bow, untie the boat from the dock and try to crab the boat out sideways using the engines. I moved quickly in the blazing hot sun and humid air, moving fenders, getting more out of the locker, untying dock lines, preparing the boat to get underway and starting the engines. I cast of the last line, jumped to the helm station and gradually worked my way off the dock, enough so that I could reverse away from the dock. I didn't come close to touching a piling. Nice job, but now it was 1:15 and I had only 15 minutes to catch the bridge.

I motored out of the canal towards the main channel and then realized that this really low tide might be more of a problem. What if I couldn't get from the canal to the channel? There is a big shoal between the end of the canal and the channel and I remembered having to be really careful deep enough water to get into the canal on my way to the dock. I followed my old track on the chartplotter, which roughly shows the route I took to get in the canal, the emphasis on roughly. I was particularly concerned about a hazard I remembered plotted on my iPad's Navionic charts warning of a rock in the vicinity. I motored slowly, trying to stay in deeper water but the depth sounder started rapidly going from 10-feet, to 6-feet, to 5-feet and then, kadunk, I found the rock. I was going really slowly and it just lifted the port hull a little as the keel slid off and along the shoal, but the sandy, raspy, grinding noise was, shall we say, unsettling.

I immediately reversed the engines and got off the shoal and started nosing around to try and find route out. What if the tide was so low that I couldn't get out and I couldn't get to the ship, and I'd miss loading, and it would leave without me, and I would have to wait months for another one? I quickly interrupted all those negative thoughts and focused on driving the boat. I figured that there would be deeper water fight up close to the dock of a nice waterfront home and I was right. Six feet, seven, 10, 11-feet. We were free!

I turned into the main channel and increased speed as I now only had a few minutes to make the bridge opening. I engaged the autopilot and ducked down below to inspect the bilge and make sure I hadn't put a hole in the boat. Thankfully I hadn't.

We made it to the bridge in time and passed through it. Now I had to get all my fenders and dock lines arranged to come alongside the ship, while navigating the boat through pretty busy waters. I had requested a starboard tie, as I have more visibility of that side of the boat from the helm. Oliver agreed, so I engaged the autopilot and worked quickly to get all the fenders and lines properly set up on starboard.

That done, I caught my breath and then radioed the Port Everglades Harbormaster to get permission to enter the restricted area of the port where the ship was docked. Permission granted, I motored ahead to the ship, about a half mile from the bridge. As I drew nearer to the ship, my phone rang. Oliver again.

"Would you mind coming alongside on your port side?"

I told him I had just got all my lines and fenders set on starboard and I was singlehanded.

"No problem if it takes you five minutes" replied Oliver.

So, I slowed the boat down to just make steerage, engaged the autopilot, and moved all the fenders and lines over to the port side. It was just one little adrenaline rush after the other today, but at least that gives me focus and speed.

I drew alongside the ship, the loading crew looking down on me from the deck about 15 feet above. I asked them what they wanted me to do.

"Throw us your lines," replied the loading crew chief.

The wind was blowing 15 knots from behind, a 2 knot current was pushing me a along and there was a nice motor yacht less than 150 feet alongside the ship ahead of me. If I left the helm to handle lines, I risked drifting into the other boat.

"Ummmmm, no. I'm not doing that," I told them, "Can't you send someone down the ship's ladder onto the boat to help me?"

They sent one of their crew down the ladder and we quickly had Intermezzo secured. The rest of the loading crew and diver immediately set to work getting Intermezzo into the lifting slings.

The written directions from the shipping company said that I would be climbing up the ship's ladder to assist the loading crew in securing the boat and to turn over the keys to a "ship's officer". So much for that. The loading crew chief told me I wasn't allowed to get on the ship from its water side for security reasons and to "just leave the key in the door."  A tender would come to take me back to a dock near my hotel.

I really wasn't comfortable with this. I asked the crew chief, "Can I come onto the ship from the land side?" Because I am a USCG-licensed mariner, I have a Transportation Worker Identity Card (TWIC) that allows me to get into secure areas of ports. The chief told me that, yes, with a TWIC I could come onto the ship, but had to get a pass from security at the port's entrance gate.

I hopped on the tender which brought me to the 15th Street Boat Ramp, coincidentally also known as "Cox's Landing". Cox made his landing and called an Uber, which slogged through heavy Fort Lauderdale traffic back to the port.  I got the pass I needed at the main entrance to the port and the Uber driver dropped me at the gate to the secure area for the ship. A security guard was dozing in his kiosk at the gate. I though about just walking in, but decided that might cause a problem, so I woke him.

"Do I need to check in with you, or anything?" I asked.

The security blinked his bleary eyes a couple of times and sleepily replied, "No, just go on in."

A member of the ship's Chinese crew was at the top of the gangplank leading up to the ship's deck. I was prepared to show him my ID, explain who I was, why I was getting on his ship, but he just smiled, waved me on board and helped my find my way onto the upper deck, no questions asked. He even helped me with the rather heavy travel bag I was carrying, having taken it with me in when I got into the tender in case I couldn't get onto the ship. I don't think he cared what I was doing and I'm pretty sure I could have stowed away on Intermezzo and stayed on the ship all the way to La Paz.

Let's just say the security was somewhat lax.

I clambered around on the ship's deck with my bag, found Oliver and said hello. He showed me how to get to Intermezzo. The boat was supported by wood block cribbing fore and aft on each hull, some blocking had been laid under the keels, steel stands welded to the ship's deck between the hulls and heavy tie-down straps were in place to prevent lateral movement. It looked okay, but not like it should be.

I had sent drawings to the shipping company that show how the boat is supposed to be supported on land. The fore and aft supports are supposed to be in specific locations and their are specific requirements for the keel blocking. The aft supports are about four feet out of position and the keel blocking is not tight and extends too far aft. Apparently no one on the loading crew looked at the drawings. I was not happy, but the loading crew had moved on to loading and securing more boats and it was clear that they were not going to re-do mine. I texted Oliver to complain, but he didn't respond.  Oh well. It's probably okay and Leopard catamarans are known to be strongly built boats. It it's not, I took photos to document the improper job and I'll deal with it.

On a positive note, I inspected Intermezzo's hull to make sure I hadn't done any damage when I hit the rock and was grateful to find no evidence at all of the grounding.

I hung around on the ship for a while, watching the loading of one boat after another. I have to say the loading crew is really skilled and hard working, very impressive to watch. From what I could tell from the position of stands and blocking, the ship's deck looks like it will be filled with boats. I'd guess at least a couple dozen, a mix of motor yachts, sport fisherman, and catamarans.

I caught an Uber back to the motel, took a shower and walked to a pub to get a cold beer. It was a busy, intense, somewhat nerve-wracking day, but Intermezzo is on a ship. Finally! Cause to celebrate.

Intermezzo in the slings, getting ready to load onto the ship

Intermezzo dangling in the air from the ship's crane

All blocked, braced and strapped to the ship's deck, ready for the trip back to Mexico

 

 

 

 






Monday, June 21, 2021

The Ship Is Here

The Chipolbrok Star arrived in Port Everglades sometime while I was sleeping last night. If all goes as presently scheduled, Intermezzo will be loaded onto the ship's deck around 3:00 pm tomorrow. At last.

I was tracking the ship's voyage from Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania via MarineTraffic and when the ship got close to the inlet to Port Everglades I decided to get on my bike and watch enter the inlet.

It's only about a five minute ride from where Intermezzo is docked to where there is access to a beach near the mouth of the inlet. It was a blazing hot and super humid afternoon with thunderstorms brewing off in the distance to the west. I rode along peaceful high-end residential streets to the beach and then set out on foot across the burning sand of the beach to where I could scan the horizon for ships. 

Guided my the MarinTraffic display on my phone, I located the Chipolbrok Star off the the northeast, about five nautical miles away. The ship was making just over 6 knots, so I figured in a little less than an hour I could snap of photo of the ship entering the inlet.  I found some shade and sat down to wait.

The ship drew nearer, but it seemed to have slowed down. Sure enough, the ship's speed shown on my phone had decreased to four knots. Then three. Then two. Then the ship stopped.

I thought, "Are you kidding me?" Then then the ship started moving again, picking up speed. I thought, "Okay, probably just picking up a harbor pilot." The ship traveled a short distance, then slowed down and stopped, again. And then it dropped its anchor. I could see the ship clearly, just a mile off the beach sitting low on its waterline. They must have loaded a lot of heavy bulk cargo in Fairless Hills.

My Waiting For the Ship drama was clearly not over. Obviously the ship wasn't going to enter the inlet anytime soon, so I head off to get a cold beer and call it a day.

The drama has also continued in terms of the scheduled loading time tomorrow. First it was 11 am, then it was 1:30 pm, now it's 3 pm. Par for the course. But I'll be happy as long as I load sometime tomorrow.

I've buttoned up the boat, we're ready to load. The cabins are secured, the sails and canvas stowed, the freezer defrosted and perishables disposed of, hatches secured and covered, seacocks closed. All that's left to do is shut down power and cover up the instruments once Intermezzo is loaded.

It's finally happening.