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Spiritus has lost her Quartermaster!

Live Long and Prosper

My wife, who has been my best friend and love for more then 45 years passed away March 26, 2017 at Hospital General Civil in Manzanillo, Mexico.

She is survived by me, her husband, by her daughter Bryanne Arnot who lives in Australia, by her grandchild Evan Arnot, by her brother Jim Burns and her sister Debbie Helms both of whom live in Arkansas.

She was the daughter of Francis and Sue Burns of Fort Smith, Arkansas.  Born Mary Carolyn Francis Burns, she became Carolyn Harper, marrying me in 1972.

She was a gifted teacher and mentor to hundreds of theater and drama students through her teaching career.

She held a Masters Degree from University of Arkansas Fayetteville and a Phd from University of Colorado Boulder.

She was the author of three works and several scholarly articles and conference presentations in her specialty which was William Shakespeare.  She wrote Measure for Measure, Twix’t Will and Will Not.  It is a work on the influences of the Jesuits on the writing of Shakespeare and the English culture of his times.  She adapted a version of A Mid Summer Night’s Dream for performance by children.  It is a highly popular script published by Dramatists Plays.  And, finally, she translated and co edited a Spanish Language Version of ‘A Mid Summer Night’s Dream’ for performance by school children in Mexico or other Spanish speaking countries.

At the time of her death she had finished the draft of her next book, ‘The Passion Dancers’, yet to be published.

In a teaching and directing career that spanned four decades, she taught at Saint Mary of the Plains College in Dodge City Kansas in the 1980s.  Then served as an Assistant Professor of Theater for five years at University of California Chico before returning to Graduate School at University of Colorado Boulder where she ran the Box Office for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival for several seasons.

Receiving her Phd in Literary Criticism and Theater, she took a position at Adams State College, now Adams State University as Chairman of the Theater Department.  For the next twenty years, she taught Theater and English there until her retirement in 2007.  She also served as the Costumer and one of it’s Technical Directors for many of those years.

Her passion was directing and teaching acting.  In that capacity, she was without peer.

I speak with some authority on this as she was my Freshman Speech Teacher at University of Arkansas 45 years ago.  I married her as soon as I completed her class.  That is right, she married one of her students.

When she retired, we bought Spiritus, which is an Atkins-Archer Ingrid 38 ketch,  and began learning to sail her.  After three years of learning her habits, we began cruising Mexico’s West Coast where we have spent the last five years.

At the Helm

I am still too raw to say more than I love her and miss her.  She was my heart.

Her body was cremated and her ashes were scattered in the sea near Barra de Navidad, Mexico.


Consumatum Est

The Wind is not your friend!

All of those of us cruising who own sailboats treat the wind as both a treasured ally and the enemy.  It is a wonderful source of free energy.  It is also fickle and can tear at your boat like a great beast.

The trick is judging the wind.  Which is based on a weather sense.  Which is kind of like a black magic!

But, as sure as God made little green apples, he made the wind fickle!

While we were working on the bowsprit, we set the boat up for up to 50 mph or so of wind.  This includes a set of boom tents we use which we have experience of in winds up to 40-45 mph without problems.

We had a forecast of rain (should have read squalls) with only 15-20 mph winds.  When the little bruhahah arrived it was in the form of a south to south south westerly squall.  No problem, our boom tent doubles as a rain cloak for the boat.

We don’t even usually have to close the upper hatches.

The first clue that they forecast may be questionable is when we hear wind in the rigging.  Not the halyard banging, although the frequency of the banging will give you approximate wind speed.  No this was that moaning howl.  That does not happen under about 35 mph.

Not a problem!

Go to hatch, listen to other boats.  Their masts are singing or moaning too.  Not good!

What about gusts. Go look at the Airport just South of us by 12 miles.  Weather Underground reads its automated instruments.  Hmmm … 30 minutes ago a gust of 45 knots sustained. uh-oh!

45 knots x 30 minutes …. equals.  Equals time to take in the boom tent.  Scramble for the stairs.  Open the dodger flaps … raining cats and dogs (not kittens and puppies).  Release one side of the tent.  Gust of wind tears tent from rear boom stiffeners.  RIP!  Then boom tent whips up out of my hands and tear shoots across the boat.  Second circus tent underneath the boom tens has stiffeners too.


Sun bleaching has weakened the threads.  As I watch, Circus tens rips away at the stiffener pole.  Threads only, so no material is ruined.

Grab a blue plastic tarp and cover air-conditioner.  Because it is now raining too hard and blowing too hard to try to move it back and close hatch to galley.


Cost of the inattention to the wind change (and a truly mediocre weather forecast)  $200 in repairs to the three boom tents.  Differed maintenance was also an issue.  We had all the stitching in the Circus Tent restitched as part of the repairs.  Now, it is back to snuff.

Inattention can be costly!

Fixing your boat in strange and wonderful places!

Dry rot is not so dry.

One of the benefits/problems of cruising is that sometimes when you boat has a problem, it has to be fixed in a place where you lack parts, skilled workers with experience on sailing vessels, and the tools to make or modify a part.

We discovered on a routine boat inspection which I perform when ever we are taking the boat to sea, that the wood at the base of the bowsprit was on the verge of failure.

Spiritus is a ketch.  It had a 4 meter piece of wood that forms the bowsprit.  This is the piece of wood that sticks out of the front of the boat for those of you who do not know older sailing vessels.  In the case of Spiritus, it adds 7-8 feet to the length of the boat.

Bowsprit OriginalWhite

It is a critical piece of the sailboats standing rigging.  It provides the attachment points for the whisker stays, the Bob stay, and the front stay to the main mast.  In simple language, it is the thing that keeps the main mast from falling backwards onto the boat.

It does this by acting as a compression post for all of the forces generated by the genoa, the furled sail in front of the main mast.  It also bears the forces of the main and foresail when sailing into the wind.  That is a lot of force.

The dry rot was not evident on a visual inspection.  The original piece of wood that formed the bowsprit was 8 layers of 1×8 glued together.  I am guessing from the age of the boat that the wood was probably Sitka spruce.  The piece was then spun on a lathe to shape the end and a stainless steel cap was added to the end for attaching the rigging attachment points.

I noticed a crack in the epoxy paint that covered the wood.  Seemed a minor problem until I stuck a pocket knife into the crack and it simply disappeared.  When I then pushed it into the wood near the crack, the results repeated themselves.  Then I took my fingertip and pushed and uh-oh  I could dent the wood.

Can we spell problem.

Bowsprit Damage

From where we are in Barra de Navidad, the nearest ship yard with knowledgeable workers is La Crux or Puerto Vallarta.  Both are two or three days sailing.  The sailing involves rounding Cabo Corrientes, which can be very interesting even with a strong boat.  It is not a trip one would take with a crippled boat.

But, I also remembered that this is the harbor from which the expeditions from Mexico to discover the Philippines were made in 1545.  If I can’t get a boat fixed in one of the oldest ports in on the West Coast of the Americas, then I deserved to be stuck for being unimaginative.

Corrective actions.  We work with what we have.

First, the problem with all this is that the main mast structure is compromised.  Fix that first.  Two years ago, we had the boat totally re-rigged.  Part of that process was the removal of the stay sail rigging.  I kept for parts.

Using what I have, I climbed the mast and reattached the stay sail stay.  It can support the main by itself if it has to. But the boat is still weakened.

Second, we arranged to have the bowsprit removed.  We did this by hand because no one her owns a tool more powerful than a hammer, sledge, wedge, pry bar, and various screw drivers.

In other words, it has to be doable with hand tools only.

Three, before removing the bowsprit, we have to secure the main mast for an estimated 40-50 mile an hour winds.  This involved taking the jib/genoa halyard and bringing it down to the cleats and tying off the mast on one side ob the bow.  Then we took the main-sheet, reversed it thru the rollers at the top of the mast and secured it to the cleat on the other side of the bow.  We left the bowsprit stainless pulpit attached to the bow and used it to tie the furler to so it would not bang around in the wind (if we had any).

Bowsprit removed

Forth, satisfied that the mast is secure, we arranged to have the original bowsprit wood taken to a local furniture builder carpenter shop.  The qualifier here was he had to be able to get good wood and he had to have a lathe capable of spinning the 12 foot piece for shaping the end of it.

Fifth, find the wood!

This was actually the most time consuming part of the process.  We settled on using a single piece of primivera, which is also called Mexican White Mahogany.  The piece had to be a piece of heart wood meaning the core of the tree.

The first piece we tried looked perfect until the very last planing when a center crack was revealed and it had to be discarded.   Back to the drawing boards. Second piece was kiln dried, housed out of weather, dried again in his shop for two weeks as he worked it in his spare time.

Using the old piece, he made a duplicate.  The original was painted but we decided to varnish the new one because it is a beautiful piece of wood on a beautiful old boat.  Nuf said!


About four weeks total from the original start date, we finished and remounted the new nose.  Spiritus now has a new beak!

Bowsprit New

Total cost other than our time.  4,000 pesos times two for the wood.  2,000 pesos for the wood working. 2,000 pesos for the unmounting, remounting, and refinishing with Epiphines varnish.  This involved a skilled carpenter, and three and sometime four boat workers.

Oh, and two really long days in the sun taking out the old one and putting in the new one.



Shipping to Mexico: Another Entry for the Journal of Irreproducible Results

Gotta Have It and Instant-Gratification

In our high-tech world of rapid communication, complete with smartphones and Internet, we’ve come to expect almost immediate gratification when it comes to locating and receiving the goods and services which we need or want. Today, it’s inconceivable to imagine a United States when waiting weeks—sometimes months—for goodies to arrive at our homes or businesses was a common occurrence; but, at one point in history, it happened all the time. In the early 1900s, folks living in rural America had to depend on receiving huge catalogs in the mail (such as the Sears & Roebuck Co, Inc.’s Consumer’s Guide (1909)), then sending their return orders and prepayments also by “snail” mail, and waiting for weeks for their goods to be shipped by railroads and finally delivered locally by wagons owned by companies like the Wells Fargo General Express. Indeed, the types of products delivered to the rural areas were amazing: Smoked salmon from Seattle, dishware, furniture, and even prefabricated 2-story houses (Average Price: $1,500).

Aren’t we lucky that we don’t have to endure that anymore! Well, some of us still do…

Needful Things on a Boat in Mexico

We have now been in Mexico for four years, more or less continuously.  Our goal is to return to the US only when absolutely necessary.  So far that had been for two-three days each year for financial activities that the bank requires us be physically present for.

With that in mind, we have gotten familiar with the cities near the marinas we routinely use.  So, when we say some products are simply not available in Mexico, we mean just that.  Or, it means not available in our part of Mexico.  There are lots of things available in Mexico City that are not available in the rest of the country.  I will not list the items because the list is not short … it is long and touches many needs that a cruiser out of the US for an extended time will have to address.

Many ,otherwise very savvy cruisers, simply resort to having someone who is visiting the US bring them back when they return to Mexico.  This is very time-consuming and  only works if you are in one of the larger marinas where Americans are coming and going to and from the US weekly.

Let’s face it: Living or boating in Mexico is tremendous fun; but, there are times when you just can’t find some things you need or want. In any place but t few very large cities, Mexico is not a first world country.  In its villages, and small towns, it is much more like a third world country.  This becomes even more true if you are poor or living on a budget. Adding to the frustration is the fact that, even when you find a product online, getting it shipped here can be a major obstacle. Many companies do not ship internationally. Also, successfully calculating and paying Customs Fees (Aduana) can be a dicey proposition.

Don’t despair. The good news, regarding some of the items on your wish list, just may be possible to get here without Customs hassles or delivery headaches via And with shipments totaling $65 USD or more, your order may also qualify for Free Global Shipping!

BUT NOT SO FAST! Before you shout for joy, one disclaimer: The most important word in this article is MAYBE. It may be possible…Maybe.

And  a caveat:  We are talking about US and not  The listings of the site for Mexico are extremely limited in areas of computers, electronics, tools, and entertainment like DVDs and games.


Global Shipping from to Mexico

A couple of cautions: 1) Ordering from will not locate  highly technical boat gear, motor parts, or paint. So don’t waste your time. 2) This article needs to be read carefully (as does the Amazon website regarding ordering and Global Shipping). There are just some things that don’t ship internationally because of trade agreements, Customs regulations, HAZMAT (dangerous stuff) restrictions, and (perhaps sometimes) the phases of the moon. There’s been things I’ve tried to order (such as a certain brand of rafting sandals) that just cannot be sent to Mexico.

How To Order from Amazon

  1. Go to . Hit link for General Information regarding Amazon’s Global Shipping Service:

  1. Go to the next link: Simplified Steps for putting together an Amazon Global Shipping Order.

  1. The Customer Help link for international shipping also proved very helpful, especially regarding trying to put a package together that was eligible for Free Global Shipping…..For Mexico, your order Needs to be Total $65 USD or more… Even though they shipped my packages on two separate dates–(the other package came a week later)– the shipping was still free for both.

About FREE Amazon Global Shipping (very helpful link)

Setting up your ‘Default Shipping Address’ or ‘Default Address’

(1) Although your payment address and information will remain the same, you need to set up a default address to get your stuff to your marina or home in Mexico. Be sure to be very careful and thorough with you Spanish spellings in the addresses.

(2) Additionally, by shopping your items using your default address the item will inform you in the when you look at its description, in small print,  if it can or cannot shop to Mexico and specifically to the address you are using as your default. (It saves a lot of time when you go to place the order).  If your particular item cannot ship, you can just pull a list if identical or similar and find a company and item that does ship internationally.


Your Default Shipping Address (example)

  • sv Eagle/ John Doe (Your boat name and your name)

  • Marina de El Fantastico—(Marina Name)

  • 5555 Whatever Calle ( Marina’s Correct Street Address)

  • Isla Fantastico, Independencia, 55555 ( Mexican City, Mexican State, and Postal Code)

  • Mexico (Country)

  • Phone: 5555555555 ( A telephone number (cell or land line) that you can be reached in Mexico)

Now, go back and read the above again.  What is critical and makes this so useful is the [art about playing with your default address.  Once you figure this part out and get it right, it will save you hours of online shopping.  AFTER you change the default shipping address,  AFTER you change it, each item you add to your shopping cart will inform you whether or not if can ship to that specific address.  So, when you check out, you items will say shipping instead of ‘does not ship to ‘Isla Fantastico’.

Anecdotal Information

1) Aduana: Aduana is the Spanish word for Customs/ Import Duty. This includes the money owed for import fees. If you shop with, you may get free shipping (depending on your purchases), but this will not include what you owe to Mexico in Import Fees. Amazon does a remarkable job of charging you the right amount for your purchases automatically and this amount is added into your total purchase price. Upon several occasions, Amazon has actually credited back to me some pesos (a few cents); but, more importantly, I have never had a package fail to deliver because the company didn’t figure it correctly.

One caution !!!!!! It is possible to set off the “Bell and Whistle Alarms” with Mexico’s Customs folks. If your total purchase totals to over a $1,000 USD, you may get an email or phone call from the Mexican Customs Office, asking you to fill out some official forms proving that you are not an Import Business. This can be a great hassle and headache……

Last winter, while we were in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, one cruiser (s/v Cat-2-Fold) ordered a marine refrigerator. He wanted it fast, so he added expedited shipping to his order. The expedited shipping bumped his total purchase to $1,000 USD. Once it arrived in Mexico, he received an email asking for information—-totally in Spanish. This necessitated his seeking the help of a Mexican National to convince the Customs Office that he definitely was not an Import Business.

Second example, Carolyn, quartermaster and gourmet cook, ordered a bottle of mustard powder.  It got stopped at Customs in Guadalajara because the commercially produced and clearly labeled bottle had an unidentifiable indistinguishable yellowish powder inside.  We got a call from a very nice agent who spoke excellent English and was a cook.  She said it was a no-go on passing it thru Customs because the powder could not be ‘identified’.

That one left us scratching our heads for a while. But, the good news is that for some reason, the company had sent that part of the order in a separate package.  So the rest of the order sailed thru.

2) Methods of Shipping: Amazon uses several different carriers for its shipping, such as DHL and UPS. You cannot choose the carrier. And it never seems to come by the same carrier twice. It always depends on what you ordered and which marina the order is being shipped to.


Generally, if you are located in or near a highly populated city like Puerto Vallarta, your packages will come in time and sometimes even earlier than the expected date. However, if you are moored at a marina far from a densely populated area, it can take longer.

So, lets say, you expect three-day delivery cause you paid for it or because it was free, the experience may be quite different.  Our example, we tracked the package, three days after order it arrived 35 miles from us in Manzanillo.  We are thinking “score”. Not so fast!  What we did not know the first time we ordered was that Manzanillo office for this service only delivered to our part of the State of Colima on Fridays.   So the actual wait was till the following Friday for a delivery time of 10  days.  No amount of calling will get the phone answered locally, even if you have a number.

3) The Good News: It generally works and you get your stuff—your needful things. But, when it doesn’t (and that has only happened to us twice), Amazon is an excellent company regarding returns and refunds. Indeed it has a good reputation, and rightly so. I include this Amazon News Release from March 2016:

The results are in, and Amazon has the best corporate reputation among the 100 most visible companies in America, according to the just-released 23,000 person Harris Poll. We’ve been fortunate to have consistently been in the top 10, but this year claimed the top spot, just ahead of Apple and Google.
Amazon was rated “excellent” across all the Harris Poll’s corporate reputation dimensions including Social Responsibility, Workplace Environment, Emotional Appeal, and Products and Services.”

A final note.  This is not a recommendation for It is just an online outfit we are familiar with.  And, your results may vary.  It is Mexico.

But, if you do everything right,  you can use Amazon’s online store to get hard to get items to Mexico in a very reasonable time frame and ‘free.’


Note:  Lest you think all we do is order movies.  We have ordered a PS4 Gaming system after unsuccessfully trying to buy one locally in three different cities and on  Half a dozen video games for the console.

We have ordered three medical texts for the library.  I am a retired Paramedic but I decided as the brain cells gradually fade out I might need references to some of the procedures and info I had performed for years.

Filters for PUR water system that we cannot find filters for in Mexico.  For boat stuff, you can usually count on finding a chandlary near the larger marinas that uses WEST Marine as a supplier.  Prices are usually US price plus about 16% aduana.

FINAL NOTE:  The quarter master and co-owner of Spiritus, Carolyn, did the research on this.  It is the result of a year of painstaking ordering and waiting trial and error to see what works dependably. the article is none the less anecdotal.  Your results may vary.  Good luck!


Sailing isn’t always what you expect. As a matter of fact, no sail usually turns out to be exactly as predicted.  There is a randomness about sail-powered travel that approaches ‘chaos theory’ at times.  When you stare hard enough and long enough at what happened, it all starts to make sense.  A pattern emerges.  This pattern recognition  is also sometimes called ‘rationalization’.

This is a story of two Christmas season sails into Banderas Bay from the south around Cabo Correntes.

It is important to the story that you understand that ‘Cabo Corrientes’, in Spanish, means Cape of Currents.  Like most headland capes, there is a clash of ocean swell patterns, currents from Banderas Bay, and wind and weather patterns.

It is also the southern most  cape that feels the effects of weather patterns from the Sea of Cortex to the north.

Back to the story of two sailing days.

One story is of a quiet day sail and moonlight cruise with fair winds and following seas.  The other is of adventure, adversity, making do and working the problems as they arise.  The events for both are the same.

We were south, about 90 miles or a bit more, in a bay called Chamela.  We planned on staying there for a day and a night then sailing north to La Cruz, which is in the NE corner of Banderas Bay.  It is, for Spiritus, an 18- hour day.

Watching the weather patterns, we saw that two days ahead of us were forecast20 knot winds in the face and, on the third day, something not common for the cape.  On the third day, we saw a south wind no higher than 10 knots with a SSW swell of only 4-6 feet and an interval of 19 seconds.

For you non-sailors  or for those who need refreshing, this is the very definition of ‘fair winds and a following sea’ which sailors often hope for others when they’re leaving on journeys.

We sat out from Chamela at daybreak which was about 7:30 am. It was sunny with an offshore breeze, which meant we had winds abeam for the morning.  After motoring out of the anchorage, we could sail.

Around noon, the winds shifted to the South (meaning from the south, as predicted by the weather forecast). We had used every weather trick at our disposal to guess this weather window.  Still, you cross fingers. We had waited two extra days for this weather.  Still, you cross your fingers.

So far, so good.

We had not really tested Ripley, the auto pilot, since she had been repaired and this seemed the perfect conditions to see if she was still working right.  She did.  So far, so good.  We let her steer while we had lunch.

Seas were maybe 7-8 feet from our stern, but Spiritus is a double-ender so it loves this kind of following sea.

Before leaving Barra de Navidad, I had completely rebuilt the Racor fuel filter.   We had tested it.  No problems.  After leaving Chamela, it had by late afternoon maybe 18 hours of use with no signs of the niggling air leak that has plagued us for a year or more.

We were making good time, so we decided to motor-sail and let Ripley steer the boat.  I wanted to stress her a bit and the larger waves were just perfect for about as much wave action as I would use her in.   She did great.

With the engine comfortable at 14-15– RPMs, we were doing 7 knots.  We did so well that we arrived off Cabo Corrientes about two hours early.  We had decided to stay five miles offshore for the Cape turn into the bay.  With the south wind, this seemed safe enough and a good distance from the cape’s  north shore past the light house.

Just as a precaution, I checked the Racor one more time.  Hmmm … air, not much but it was there after almost 24 hours since the rebuild.  Good news, I have quadrupled the time it takes for the air to become a problem.  Bad news, as always, we are on Cabo Corrientes when the problem rears its head.

Hey, work the problem.  Slow the boat.  Switch back to sailing.  Pop top on filter and add some fuel till the air is gone.  Done.  Restart.  Off we go.  45 minutes pass and no problems.  We are gold.

The sun was gently setting, when we made the course correction to enter the bay and head for La Cruz.  Once we turned, the swell was such that the boat had a period of hobby horsing and lazy, short internal rolls that was not unexpected.  It was not as harsh as we have dealt with before.

Wind is now down to 4 knots in our face from the bay ahead of us.  Water has calmed.  We have the sails furled and down.  Moon is up.  Half-moon so we will have good visibility.  Big smiles.

This may be the best passage around Cabo Corrientes ever.  Big smiles.  Sighs of relief.

Engine chug-a-lugs. Hmmmm.   Maybe 30 seconds later it does it again.  Awww…crap!

I fling myself down the stairs to check Racor, fuel’s clear, no air.  I switch tanks.  Engine evens out.  Then chug-a-lugs again.  Awww….Double Crap!

That both tanks have a problem at the same time is unlikely.  One tank is full ,so it can’t be agitation of fuel.  Racor is good.  No fuel leaking.  Work the problem.

But first make sure we can steer and move since we are off the north shore.   Up sails.  Engine still running.

We are unable to make headway as the wind is maybe 4 knots.  We may have to turn for Punta Mita on the north shore of Banderas Bay just to make headway.

With the half-moon we can at least see things to gauge how far off the north shore we are.

Hey, we always wanted to have a moonlight sail on Banderas Bay.  We had even talked about that when we left Chamela.

My mind is racing.  What is the problem??  I am gradually beginning to think it is not the Racor and not the fuel supply.  What?

I asked Carolyn to switch on a fuel pump we have that  powers the Dickenson Diesel stove in the main salon for heat.  We have used it, on occasion, to clear air from the fuel lines when working on the engine at the docks.

To do this you simply turn the petcock off to the stove and turn on the pump.  It pushed fuel towards the engine instead in this configuration.  Everything on your boat should serve at least two purposes!

I have never known if this is by design or accidental.


A few months ago, I had discovered that I have the wrong pump installed.  It should be a 3 psi fuel pump and I had installed a 6-11 psi.  We had talked about replacing it, because I cannot run the heater with this pump.  But, as you can figure, with 90 degree days in December, replacing it was not high on the priority list of repairs necessary to sail safely to La Cruz.

When Carolyn flicked the switch for the fuel pump, I was hoping if we had air or something stuck in fuel line, we would literally blow it past what ever was making the engine stall and race.

Instead, the engine firmed up and ran at 1500 RPM again without a stutter.

We’re both holding our breath.  I turn us away from the north shore, now only 3 1/2 miles distant to put some distance between us and it.  So reviewing our situation, we have a mizzen sail up unreefed and the furler is out on the jib to 3/4.  We are making 7 knots again. We are moving away from the only danger near us.

I may have installed the wrong pump, but the mistake is saving our butts now.  Dumb. We love re-dumb-dancy!

The Hero of the story!

The Hero

The Villain of the story!

This also becomes our final diagnostic tool.  Since, when you switch off the electric pump, the boat starts to sputter, we now know it is the old manual fuel pump that is the problem.

The Villain

We are replacing it and rebuilding the current one.  This will give us a fully functional spare.

Moonlight Sailing on the Bay of Banderas!

Could anything be more romantic than a Christmas season moonlight sail in the tropics?

I mention to Carolyn what a beautiful moon. She is having none of it.

We are about three hours from the anchorage at La Cruz or two hours from Punta Mita anchorage.  After 45 minutes without a stutter, we start to relax.  Still, I will not change RPM or cut the engine until we are in the anchorage.  We agree.  We are still nervous that when we alter something, it will stop while we are anchoring. So, we talk about how to anchor it it stops.  It is a really calm nigh,t so I am not terribly worried but we still need to know what each of us will do it the engine quits during the anchor setting.

Because our GARMIN chart plotter is useless in the La Cruz area( as it does not even show a marina), we simply navigate back to a GPS way-point from last year when we were at anchor.  About 10 PM we can pick out a few anchor lights and the marina entrance red and green lighted buoys.

We decide to brave it and cut RPM as we enter the anchorage.  We are having trouble with some boats not having anchor lights on.  The moonlight saves us.  And, them.

We find a spot in 26 feet of water (four fathoms) and drop the anchor.  God bless this boat.  She backs up well and sets the anchor.  We kill the engine and turn off the fuel pump.

We are in La Cruz anchorage five days before Christmas.  It took us just 15 hours so we averaged 5.1 knots or 6 miles per hour.  Best passage to La Cruz ever.

Or more scary sailing.

Of course, a lot depends on how you look at it!







The Ghost of Christmas Present or the Father of all Dolphins

Spent the night in Tenecatita anchorage.  Beautiful calm anchorage. We are headed to La Cruz for Christmas, so for us this is the start of the Christmas Season.


The story, I am about to relate, is true.  I swear it.  At least, the facts are as stated.

The stars of the Milky Way are still grand in rural Mexico.  The sky is vast and no light mars your vision as you look upward in wonder.  Pitch black space, obvious and easy identifiable constellations, the milky soft white of the Galaxy’s plane of the ecliptic.

Add the slow swaying of a sailboat deck in a gentle well-protected anchorage.  Life is never better than this.

We had done some work on the engine and it had been eight months or so since we had Spiritus away from her dock’s electrical umbilical.  So, like good mariners, we made an offering to the ancient gods.  For Aeolus, god of the winds and for Neptune, God of the Deep Seas, we made a libation of two ounces of tequila- after a small sip in their honor–and poured the rest over the bowsprit to fall into the waiting sea.

Calm winds gentle, following seas!  A mariner’s prayer.

We were sitting above  a sandy bottom at 4 fathoms (24 feet) with 125 feet of chain out on a plow anchor.  Gentle conditions, so no snubber was attached to the anchor chain.  It was so calm that the boat was more or less directly above the hanging chain so no loud creaking rub on the bob-stay to break our sleep.

At 4:30 a.m.  exactly, the oddities began.  The chain started sporadically rubbing against the stay at waterline.  Grind … grind … pop!  Silence.  Eerie silence.  Wait a few minutes. Repeat.

Carolyn asked me to check the anchor to see if we were drifting. Modern electronic GPS based anchor-alarm says no.  But, like most sailors, I have set landmarks.  I check against the precision of the computerized alarm.  Pop my head up.  No wind,  no waves.   All the boats, that are near Spiritus are essentially in the same places.  Hmmmm….?

I walk forward.  I hear the rattling of chains.  Very dark.  Somewhere behind me, I swear to God I could hear heavy breathing.  I turn.  Nothing.  Hairs on back of neck stand on full alert.

Senses, the ones God gave me, are now on-full.  Since we have gentle solar anchor lights in both forward dorades, that cast yellow cat’s-eye shadows when we are at anchor, I can see the deck without a flash light to move about safely.

More rattling chains and a hushed breath, almost like someone took a breath and is holding it. Someone other than me, that is.

OK, this is creepifying and not Halloween!  It is Christmas!

I reach down in the near darkness and grab the chain to see if I can feel it dragging.  Odd.  It’s moving in my hand.  Dancing.  Not dragging. Never have I felt anything like that sense of movement on the chain.  Another freaking deep breath to my right.  I spun to look.  Okay, I am now hypersensitive, I admit it.  Nothing.  Pitch  black.  Moon is down.  Anchor lights only.

I slowly feel my way to the cap rail where I can see the chain enter the water or, at least, try to see it.  I peer over.  Holy shit, the chain is bioluminescent.  Cool.  It is also dancing in wide six foot circles.  Definitely not cool.

Then, I see him.

I see the ghostly outline of a giant dolphin.  He shoots out from the darkness near the boat appearing, as if by magic, below me.  He takes his snout and nuzzles the chain in circles.  I hear the rattling chains.  The air chills immediately to 88 degrees.  I break out in goosebumps.

As if my Christmas story isn’t good enough, reality is even better.  We had an 8-10 foot dolphin, maybe a fathom down, under the hull, in the dark clear waters.  He/she was aglow in green phosphor.  The chain was aglow as well.  All of this danced before my eyes in quiet stillness, except for the occasional surface break and deep breath he needed to continue jerking my chain.

This anchorage has a history of boat visitations by a local dolphin named by the boaters ‘Chippy’ .  One well-known cruisers’ guide states “his favorite past time is to use the boat’s anchor rode or chain as a backscratcher.” Shawn and Heather’s guide to Pacific Mexico for cruisers.

Our boat has never been visited before.

Was it ‘Chippy’ or was is the Father of all Dolphins?


Merry Christmas from Spiritus with a nod to Charles Dickens, Scrooge, Jacob Marley!



A Tropical Christmas

Merry Christmas from Barra de Navidad, Mexico.

We are getting ready to sail up to Banderas Bay and La Cruz for the winter months. It lets us get away from the docks and actually sail everyday or so.  But before we left Barra, we thought we would wish everyone a Merry Christmas tropical style. The tree in the picture is in the town square, not exactly Macy’s but no one here knows that.

It is made from palm fronds.  This is the same material used to make roofs on the palapas. Cool stuff.


It is lighted with twinkle lights and you can see the ocean in the background if you look closely.  From the town of Barra de Navidad,  Merry Christmas!  Or as we say in Mexico,  FELIZ NAVIDAD !