When we last left off, we had been off the boat during the initial Covid outbreak, and returned to her in July of 2020, just after Ron retired. We then spent the rest of 2020 working on various projects, detailed below, before finally setting off for Mexico in March of 2021. We returned from Mexico in June of 2021, and Duet is now dozing at Paradise Village Marina, in Puerto Vallarta. We fly down to visit her every couple of months, and she is well taken care of by a team of locals, not to mention that Patrick and Alexa of the Nordhavn 50 Noeta, who live aboard at Paradise Village, wander by to check on her frequently.
But, back in July, there was still work to be done. Lots of work, too much work actually, so the first thing we did was take a serious look at the list and pare it down, a bit. The idea was that, when we could get vaccinated and safely visit Mexico, we didn’t want to be in the middle of some huge rebuild that would prevent us from getting off the dock. Since Duet hadn’t been off the dock in two years, things were sure to break, especially things we didn’t anticipate, but we anticipated that and figured we wouldn’t be far from help.
So where to start? It didn’t really matter much, but projects already underway, like the cockpit awning, got priority. Also, the salon table. And, since it was broken and we needed it, replacing the pilothouse freezer moved up the queue. Then there were the usual things, like updating registrations for the Gprib and the PLBs, and Duet’s USCG registration, and the other endless paperwork that goes with running a cruising boat in several countries. Then we needed provisions, parts, etc., plus we wanted to be able to keep in touch with home, so the Iridium Go had to come out and be tested.
First, came the new salon table. It showed up one day, and was installed in about an hour. It took nearly a year to get it, but it was worth the wait!
The next item to be finished was the cockpit awning. This too had taken over a year to get done, but was also worth the wait.
But first, naturally, Ron had to do a few things. The stainless steel frame for the canvas was installed, but it needed to be drilled for the fasteners for the sunscreens. Drilling stainless isn’t an easy task, but Ron managed to get it done.
The cockpit awning was one of the most expensive upgrades we’ve made to the boat. You can do it more inexpensively using standard bimini parts, but we didn’t like the look. It has turned out even better than we expected, in hot weather it keeps the salon cooler, and in rain it provides another room. We leave the sunscreens up almost all the time, as they also help keep the heat out.
The next big project was the pilothouse freezer. It had died some months before, and getting a new one during the pandemic took some doing. But, first, we had to get the old one out.
Over time, while waiting for a vaccine to be developed, we got a lot done. More, in fact, than we thought we would. This was despite the failure of the master head Y valve, which, in its defense, has seen a lot of use over the years. Head projects are ones that Ron really wants to avoid, and, normally, we would have outsourced this, but with Covid we decided not to have workers inside the boat for any period of time, so Ron did this one himself.
Nancy also figured out that it had been 5 years since Duet’s last insurance survey. Our insurance was expiring in March of ’21 and we didn’t want to be somewhere in Mexico trying to find a surveyor and a yard to haul the boat. So Duet got surveyed.
She passed with flying colors, as usual, and we had all our paperwork ready to get our policy sorted out. The insurance turned out to be quite a long story, as the boat insurance market is in a tailspin at the moment, but more on that later.
So we chugged along, traveling back and forth between San Diego and Tahoe frequently, and rapidly, in the new family hauler. This time around Nancy managed to get her own Porsche, instead of just being allowed to occasionally drive Ron’s 911. So she was a happy camper.
We managed to start swimming again, and we both walked and Ron did some running, so we did our best to stay healthy while also staying away from people. We did see some folks, at a distance, outside, in masks and we did eat take out food, although we stayed away from restaurants, during the brief times that they managed to open.
We also upgraded our fire safety systems some more.
We spent some time at home, where winter had definitely arrived.
We did some local visiting in San Diego.
We had visitors, in the form of our Pacific crew, Sean, and his family, over Christmas. Naturally, Sean got pressed into service the day he arrived.
In January, we signed up, both in San Diego and in Reno, to give vaccinations. No one wanted Nancy, but they all wanted Ron, since he can actually give a shot. But, if you want Ron, you have to take Nancy too. That worked out pretty well, and she can at least direct traffic. We ended up working mainly at PetCo Park, home of the San Diego Padres, at a huge drive through vaccination center run by University of California San Diego Health System. We also worked in Reno at the Livestock Center, which is where they hold the rodeos.
The differences between how the two vaccine centers were run were interesting, but they both got the job done. As part of volunteering, we were both vaccinated in February. It was actually quite moving, as patient volume died down around 7PM, they called on the hand radios for all volunteers needing a vaccine to come to a particular tent. As we all walked across the huge PetCo parking lot, the rest of the volunteers cheered us. We continued to volunteer at both sites until we departed for Mexico in mid March. Now we have returned, while the PetCo Park center is closed, we still volunteer for Washoe County, where we live. It was a rewarding experience and one we would recommend.
After we got our second shot, Ron was comfortable that we could travel safely in Mexico, provided we followed masking and social isolation protocols. So, weather charts were studied, marinas were contacted and, finally, two years almost to the day she arrived back in Ensenada on the ship from Australia, Duet returned there, as her first port of call.
On this trip Nancy caught fish, lots of fish. Unfortunately, they were all bonito, which we don’t eat. The fishing in the Sea of Cortez this year was poor, even the locals were complaining. So, after several weeks of hauling in and releasing bonito after bonito Nancy stopped fishing and will try again next year.
The weather immediately tanked and we were stuck, but at least we were cruising. Of course the first thing that happened was something broke, but in this case it was a self inflicted injury in the form of a foreign object getting swallowed by the master head. Yes, the same head that Ron had just rebuilt. The first rebuild had taken a lot out of his back and neck, which after years of bending over operating tables, are not as strong as they should be. But, after much thought, we figured out a way to lever the head off its mount, without doing any heavy lifting, and the offending item was extracted. All was well! Not only that, but the weather decided to behave, and off we went.
Our trip down the Cabo Peninsula was relatively uneventful. We left Ensenada bound for as far south as we could get, which turned out to be Magdalena Bay, about 500 miles south of Ensenada. For once our stop was not due to weather but to circumstances along the way. We hit heavy fog the night we were approaching the Bay and there were a lot of pangas fishing offshore. Nancy was forced to wake Ron almost immediately and both of us stayed up all night conning Duet along the coast without running over anything important. So we found ourselves exhausted at dawn and we figured stopping was the safe move. We pulled out a couple days later, well rested and whipped around the corner to the marina at Puerto Los Cabos, which is where we normally stop to wait for a window to turn north again to the Sea of Cortez.
During the trip Duet ran perfectly. We were however, set up on by a flock of seagulls, who absolutely refused to move. They shit all over the boat, and it took both of us hours to clean her. We then hired a team to really clean her up when we arrived at Puerto Los Cabos. After this episode, we decided to add a power washer to Duet’s inventory of tools.
Our trip to the Sea of Cortez was bumpy. This route is, at least every time we’ve traveled it, bumpy.
So we bumped along and, after two days, arrived back at one of the first anchorages we ever visited in the Sea of Cortez in 2015, which seems like a long time ago. Many miles have passed under Duet’s keel since then and we have greyed a bit, but to us it seemed like just yesterday that we had last visited.
Our time in the Sea was spent pretty much the way our last two seasons were spent there, finding a nice anchorage, staying there for a bit and then moving on. The weather was a little cranky, despite the fact it was nearly April the northers were still howling along, so we avoided those as best we could. By mid April, the weather had switched mainly to the south, which provides its own set of problems in this area. The biggest issue is that there are few anchorages which provide protection from all directions, or even from 3 directions. So, you either pick a place you like and roll all over, or you pick a place with shelter from whatever you think is coming that day, and hope for the best.
The Sea of Cortez has some truly beautiful sights…
During the spring and into the summer in the Sea there is a phenomenon known as the Corumuel. It is a strong westerly wind, that builds up in the early evening and can blow all night. Most of the anchorages are not sheltered from the south and the west at the same time. So you find yourself guessing at the chance of a Corumuel, while also trying to anchor for the prevailing southerlies. This anchorage dance is something we are quite accustomed to, having spent years doing in the Bahamas. So Ron got it mostly right, and wrong once or twice, which is a pretty good performance actually. We were using some new weather products, some of which worked and some of which didn’t. Ron also discovered a bug in the widely popular PredictWind product, and spent some time working with their tech support to fix it. We aren’t sure it’s fixed yet, but we will find out this fall when we start planning journeys again.
While we were cruising we did a few projects, naturally.
In contrast to our previous visits, this time we cruised in company, on and off, for several weeks with Nordhavn 50 Miss Miranda.
Gwen and Larry had been in the Sea most of the winter, and had found several neat anchorages which we took close note on. We also visited Puerto Escondido, where a new marina has been established since we were last here. A number of Nordhavns were there already, including the well known N55 Red Rover, and N76 Secret, whose owners we had met in San Diego. We rented a car and toured Loreto, which is small tourist town suffering hard times due to the pandemic.
Around the end of April Miss Miranda returned to Costa Baja Marina in La Paz for some yard work and we chugged off north to visit Bahia Conception, one of our favorite places. After several weeks there, we kicked back in Agua Verde for about 10 days and finally worked our way south to Costa Baja to link up with Miss Miranda for the bash back to San Diego. The idea was to hang out at Puerto Los Cabos and then whip around the corner northbound when our weather router, the esteemed OMNI Bob, gave us the go ahead.
Unfortunately, the go ahead was not forthcoming. The weather continued to howl down out of the north, and, while there were windows, they would only get us as far as Magdalena Bay, where we would be stuck for the foreseeable future. We decided being stuck in Puerto Los Cabos, with it’s restaurants and beaches, was preferable, so we stayed put.
At this point, our boat insurance reared its ugly head. We had insurance which covered us in Mexico until June 1, at which point we were supposed to be north of 27N, or around Ensenada. The weather wasn’t cooperating, however, so we called our agent and asked for a navigation exception, until we could get north. This hasn’t been a problem in the past, but this time it was a nonstarter.
Apparently, the insurance company would prefer that we head out into weather that we, with a short handed crew, and 30,000 miles of ocean experience, were not comfortable with, rather than wait. We even offered to increase our deductible for named storms, on the off chance that an early season tropical storm or hurricane hit while we were waiting. No dice.
Captain Ron wasn’t willing to get us beat up, and possibly have a problem if one of us became sick or injured, or we had a mechanical issue, just to meet the insurance company’s requirements. So we shopped for new insurance. This was not a fun process. The quotes we got were truly ridiculous, not only were the rates triple to quadruple what we had been paying, but the deductibles were in the 10% range, which is unheard of, or at least we hadn’t heard of it. Further, the conditions of coverage included things like hauling the boat out of the water every time there was a named storm. This is not possibly in many places in Mexico, and can actually be worse than leaving her in the water, as, with high winds boats often fall over when they are on land.
Finally, after much phoning and quite a bit of stress over whether to go anyway or let the insurance lapse (including our liability coverage, which we weren’t willing to go without) we found another agent, who got us OK, not perfect, but OK, coverage to stay in Mexico. Our premiums went up by a factor of 3, and we had a 10% named storm damage deductible, which was a new high for us, but it was a US based company, which would adjudicate in the US, unlike a number of other choices, like the one in South America, which would adjudicate in Costa Rica…so we signed on.
During this process, we rethought our cruising agenda a bit. We do this quite often, as Duet is capable of taking us pretty much anywhere we want to go. By this time it was early June, and we had planned to return to Mexico in November. So we were going to bash 1,000 miles north and then, in four months, turn around and travel 1,000 miles south. We’re slow, but even we figured out that this wasn’t the most efficient way to spend our time. So we asked around and found that Paradise Village Marina, in Puerto Vallarta, had a nice sheltered 60 foot slip for us. Paradise Village is a well known hurricane hole, and, to seal the deal, our friends Alexa and Patrick live there aboard their Nordhavn 50, Noeta. So off to Puerto Vallarta we went.
It was a pretty easy journey, if bit bumpy out of the gate. OMNI Bob provided his usual good advice, which included encouraging us to go as a tropical storm/hurricane was forming south of PV. This was not something we would normally have done, but he was confident it would turn out to be nothing and we would be better off getting going than waiting, in case a real storm threat appeared. He was right, and we rumbled south, arriving at dawn, after an easy 36 hour run, at the Nuevo Vallarta breakwater just north of the Puerto Vallarta harbor. We had great directions and tidal info from Alexa and Patrick, so we negotiated the shallow entrance with aplomb and carefully docked Duet in her new home.
The next week was a blur of finding boat watchers and divers, sorting our double lines, writing a hurricane plan for our new insurance company and getting to know the neighbors. Like many of our Nordhavn friends, we’d never actually met Alexa and Patrick in the flesh before, so it was fun getting to know them in person. We sorted out a flight home, ordered some new canvas for Duet’s windows, and, about a month after we originally planned, we flew out of Mexico, arriving back at Lake Tahoe in mid June.
The house was still standing, and our little town, which had been discovered by the Covid relocation crowd, was still jammed. We took the cars off their blocks, got some fresh food, and rejoined the land bound. Duet dozed peacefully, we had installed 3 wifi motion activated cameras aboard, which gave Ron lots of info on what was going on. Unfortunately, the salon camera appears to be afraid of lightening, and sends us a message every time a bolt strikes anywhere nearby. This usually happens in the middle of the night, but it’s a small price to pay for being able to keep an eye on the boat remotely.
Our boat watcher has been opening the boat twice a week to air her out (it’s very hot and humid there), and provides a verbal report via the pilothouse camera. She is washed every two weeks and her bottom is cleaned at the same time. Both Alexa and Patrick and Richard and Olive on the N55 Chinatsu (which is three slips down from Duet) send us updates every now and again. So all is well. We will be flying down to see her for a week in mid August, and again for several months starting in mid October. She does need a brief yard visit, and we hope to get in some cruising of the Pacific coast of Mexico, which is not a place we have previously visited.
We wish all our readers a happy and safe summer.