Daily updates describing the voyage of the yacht Aldebaran

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Daily updates describing the voyage of the yacht Aldebaran
26 March 2011
Just had a long chat with Andy and Don on Skype.  They are in the marina at Puerto Vallarta and have a wedding to attend tomorrow.  They did have two extra friends on board from Cabo which we weren’t aware of so I have emphasised that the family group really does need to know who is on board in case of any emergencies, so hopefully they will remember to inform us in future.  Both guys just wanted to talk non stop about their experiences and the really rough trip they had from Ensenada to Cabo.  The link eventually dropped out before the story got to Cabo but we will hopefully catch up with them again tomorrow morning.


They had some issues at Ensenada as they mucked around when they first arrived and left it too late to get their paperwork completed for immigration so had to stay the weekend until the port master’s office opened again.  The trip down to Cabo was obviously very rough with big seas and strong winds that had them all terrified but probably a good learning experience as now they now what the boat will handle, and Lisa is learning to cook on a near vertical stove as well!!!  They motored a lot of the way as they were too scared to put the sails up but they did eventually sail for a couple of days.


I’ll add to the story tomorrow assuming we hook up with them ok and find out how the leg from Cabo went and why they spent a day and a half in the little bay yesterday.

27 March
Had another long chat with Andy on Skype today. where he filled us in on the trip from Cabo till now.  We missed that yesterday as their notebook batteries ran down.

Cabo was really nice but very touristy and the marina was expensive (~$85/day).  Friends, Josh and Christine, joined them at Cabo for the next leg or two – up till early April.


Cabo to Puerta Vallarta, across the Sea of Cortez (also called the Gulf of California), was choppy and a bit windy, but under those conditions the boat apparently rolls a lot.  They all have their sea legs now except Josh and Christine of course who weren’t very happy for the first 2 days.  They planned on stopping in the bay at Punta de Mita but were going to arrive at night which had them a bit concerned as there are a number of rocks and little islands in the area.  Apparently everyone fell asleep leaving Don and Andy to bring the boat in.  The radar made it relatively simple but when they got up in the morning they realised that the bay was full of anchored boats (20-30).  They had anchored about a mile off shore and Andy paddled over to the point break and really enjoyed having a surf.  They eventually moved the yacht inshore a bit when some other boats left, so that Andy’s paddling distance to the surf was a lot less. 


They then sailed to the marina at Puerta Vallarta.  The marina is really nice and only $30/day.  It also is attached to a resort so they have free use of showers etc and the internet.  They are likely to stay here for a number of days as their refrigerator is not working and they need to get it fixed, but may do a number of day trips if they have to wait for the fridge parts.  They have to wait till Monday anyway to get anyone to come and look at it.  This afternoon they are going to the wedding of 2 of Carl’s friends.


Andy says that after getting some experience with the type of conditions they are likely to get in the future they will have a good talk about future plans and may modify the planned course.  He wonders whether going to Easter Island is worth it, as it adds a month to their trip and takes them the furthest south into possibly winter conditions.  Added to that there are no facilities at Easter Island and nowhere to berth.  No doubt we will hear in due course, but good to see that they are flexible and forward looking.


Andy would like them to be added to the Family email list, so when in port they can get up to date with all our news.  I’ll add them to the list before I send this out.


I think that’s all I can remember from Andy and hope that I’ve got all the facts correct (or at least close!).


Incidentally Don and Andy both appear to be sporting more facial hair now.  I haven’t sited Carl or the women yet!

2 April
The crew have turned SPOT on earlier today, the first time for 3 days, and are in the bay of a little fishing village called Yalapa.
4 April
I see that they have moved back to Punta de Mita.  Andrew did say that they were planning on returning there to surf again.  Must be a good surf beach!  I note that they are anchored quite close in to the beach, so I dare say the others are probably lying in the sun on the beach.  They are due back in Puerto Vallarta this week to have another go at the refrigeration.
7 April
Hello all,
Just shared a nice, long skype video conversation with Don and Leslie!  They both look well, are happy and, as we spoke, were in a mall in Puerto Vallarta.  They are awaiting a part for their refrigerator to be supplied and they will then be on their way south.  Don said they will soon have a planning session to plot out  their next stops but want to be south of the Mexican coast by the end of May for weather reasons.  The group has been surfing, sightseeing and generally enjoying their excursions and adventures.  We will try to re-connect with Les and Don when they are in ports but it is often a hit and miss proposition...we, of course, need to both be on our computers at the same time.  We set time parameters and hope that works again.  Don and Les said to say hello to all.
All be well,
12 April
Had a long talk with Andrew today on Skype today.  They are still waiting on the water pump for the refrigeration but I get the feeling they are all getting a bit frustrated with the waiting.  They are in a tourist resort area which is not really what they planned or preferred to do so they could well give up in a few days and go anyway.  Andrew says the refrigeration is not a necessity, more a luxury and they can do without it if necessary.  The radio is finally working.  In talking to them it was obvious that their top of the range automatic antenna tuner was not working, so they could receive but not transmit.  They checked that out and found that in their tidy up after the mast was reinstalled the power supply lead from the tuner had been neatly cut off and insulated and left unconnected.  Giving the poor old tuner some power again has solved the problem.

They spent a lot of time over the past few days auditioning for parts in a British advertisement that was being filmed locally.  They kept being asked to come back the next day to no avail each time, so eventually pulled the plug as it was a complete waste of time.  There goes our opportunity to have rich film star children to support us in our old age!!

They love the local Mexican food but have had difficulty finding good coffee.

They are all well but a bit frustrated with the delays as they may well have to forgo some of the planned island visits across the Pacific – time will tell and they can effectively do what they like for the next 6 or 7 months.

16 April
Hello all,
Just finished a skype call with Leslie.  The group is still in Puerto Vallarta struggling with the refrigeration issues.  Seems their part arrived, was installed and did not work.  Fortunately they were not charged for it but they have now decided to replace their whole refrigeration system.  The parts for that will take a couple weeks to acquire so they have decided to head north (probably tomorrow) into the Sea of Cortez and explore around, anchor here and there and visit friends for the next couple weeks.  They will thereafter return to P.V. to have the refrigerator installed, a job which should take about half a day.  Plans after that are being re-evaluated and we will be apprised of their intentions as soon as they firm them up. 
I noticed yesterday, during a check of the spot locater, that no current location was available.  I assume that if the "button" is not pushed after a certain number of days, no reading is available.  Les assured me they will start it up again.
17 April
We had a good skype conversation with Andrew and Don yesterday and got much the same info as Lary passed on yesterday.  They have left port and SPOT is on again.  It is transmitting every 10 minutes so either they have left it on for a while for our benefit or forgotten to turn it off.  I much prefer it on all the time but it uses batteries much faster in that mode.  They are heading up into the Sea of Cortez for up to 3 weeks and then go back to Puerto Vallarta for the new dc refrigeration unit as Lary said.  The radio is now up and working and they have logged in with the daily Pacific Seafarers net which makes me feel a lot happier.  I was getting concerned that they might set out across the Pacific without any real communications, but fortunately it is all up and running.  They all seem in good spirits except for the frustrating delays and will probably have to forgo some of the island visits across the Pacific to get back on time.  We’ll no doubt find out in due course.
18 April
The yacht has just anchored at Guayabitos Beach at Compostela – at least that’s the best name I can find for the location.
19 April
They’ve now moved to Playa Chacala, noted on the web as being the least developed vacation spot on the Mexican coast, so that should suit the crew.

Andrew and I had our first planned radio contact today and it worked really well.  The signals were not very strong but we could both understand each other and transfer information relatively easily.  A big relief on my part that it is all working and we can contact each other directly.  They have moved up the coast a bit to a much less populated beach bay and Andrew doesn’t think it likely that will hear from them via phone or the internet again for 3 or 4 days.  They don’t know when they will get access again but it will be soon.


We have another scheduled contact for tomorrow evening

20 April
Talked to Andrew a short time ago.  They have had a lazy day and not done much at all he reports, but they are going to up anchor and move north tomorrow.  I downloaded a weather report for them as they say they can’t get anything sensible locally.  Amazing forecast, fine every day max temp 33 deg C and min 14 deg C,  The wind is a bit variable but fairly light most days – should be good sailing, except the wind is from the north which is where they want to head.

Grant also talked to them this morning so Donny and Lee had a chat with their Uncle.

21 April
It appears from today's Spot Locater that the merry crew has settled in Mantachen Bay, an inlet a bit north of yesterday's location.  From a check of Goggle Earth it looks like the bay is sparsley populated which, as Graham has pointed out, suits the crew well as they tend away from the touristy spots.  No direct communication from them today and they have mentioned that they will probably be out of email and facebook type communications for a few days. Lary
Just looked up Mantanchen Bay (slightly different to Lary’s spelling) and find it is a well known surfing beach, so that will be why they are there.  If you can’t find it on a map, it’s just south of San Blas. I don’t have a scheduled radio contact with Andy today, but do for tomorrow

22 April
I’ve just noticed that the yacht is on the move again and they must going out into a head wind as they appear to be tacking a lot, I’ve not seen them having do that before.

I just talked to the yacht and gave them an up to date weather report.  They are heading some distance up the coast to Mazatlan, which is apparently a city with a population of nearly half a million.  It is the second-largest city in the state (after Culiacán) and Mexico's largest commercial port. It is also a popular tourist destination,with its beaches lined with resort hotels.

23 April
They obviously made good time overnight and reached Mazatlan today.  It does appear on the Spot map that they have sailed up on land.  For anyone who hasn’t discovered the ‘satellite’ tab on the top right of the picture, then clicking that shows they are in a large harbour.

Just to let you all know I have just received a message saying: ‘Greetings from Mazatlan. We have anchored safely and are in town so Andy is going to miss his radio date w Graham’


They will let me know tomorrow when our next scheduled contact will be.

24 April
Hi, Just heard from Andy that they are still in town and probably stay there till late tonight.  Will leave Mazatlan tomorrow and head for la Paz. That should take them 2-3 days and he will be on the radio tomorrow, not today.

I don’t want to preach to the converted but comments from 2 or 3 members of “The Family” of recent times make it clear that some are not sure how to view all the location info from ‘SPOT’.  So, if it helps, here’s a bit more info of what I’ve found.  When the yacht reaches a destination, the crew often send out an email message from Spot to some of us (I’m not sure who gets these).  If you click on the links in that email it only shows the current location and nothing else really.  I never look at them.  I just use the email as information that a location has been sent out and immediately go to this address http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=033Wbd4kBMQjbh0AMyCqScqSzYo5qV6eL (put it in your ‘Favorites’ tab if it’s not there already) where all the recent and current info is available including the times Spot was activated.  It can be viewed in a Google map as well by clicking on ‘satellite’ and/or ‘hybrid’ in the top of the map.  Terrain can give a good indication of the surrounding landform as well.  The only thing missing is photos of the area and one needs to transfer the location to Google Earth to get that info.  I have explained how to transfer the location to Google Earth in an earlier email. 


If anyone has found out how to get more from the info provided then I’d be interested please.


I apologise if you know all the above, but hopefully it may help some get more info than they are currently getting.


27 April
Talked to Andrew & Lisa a short time ago.  They arrived today in La Paz after a smooth crossing of the Sea of Cortez – not much wind so they used the motor for some of the crossing.  They will leave on Thursday and spend 10 days or so going north into the Sea of Cortez (or the Gulf of California if you prefer).  They will probably only go about 120 to 130 nmiles and be back about Sunday week to La Paz where they hope to fit the new refrigeration unit that Leslie’s sister Lauren will deliver.  That’s the current plan anyway.  They then plan to leave from Cabo (at the bottom of the Peninsula) and head west to the Maquesas Islands


They enjoyed Mazatlan, particularly the food market there with its amazing array of foods available.

29 April
Just had a long chat on the radio with Andrew, conditions were good today and we could hear each other well.  They have sailed up the coast for about 5 hours today and anchored in a little bay on an island for the night.  Andrew says he will turn Spot on to show us all where they are.  Their weather is calm with little wind (they’d like more) and very calm seas.  They are all well.


Despite the concern expressed to them about the drug wars going on in Mexico, they feel quite safe and have seen no trouble, but are keeping a wary eye out just in case.  They also feel that they are most unlikely to be a target on the boat as a bunch of young people on an older yacht are pretty safe when there are a lot of older couples around on multi-million dollar boats that would be much more lucrative pickings.


Annette and Lisa had a few words on the radio today also.  We also set up another scheduled contact with Grant for 4 May, and I will remind them again closer to that date


We talked for quite some time but I can’t remember anything else important to pass on.


2 May
Hi all,  fun and games today!!


Hopefully Lary will tell his side of the story as well, but we were out until early afternoon and got home to find that Lary had been informed by the Coast Guard that an emergency beacon had sent out a distress call from the yacht.  We had had no contact with them for a couple of days so it was a bit concerning.  I tried calling Andrew on the radio but didn’t expect to hear from him as it wasn’t time for a sked anyway.  I went onto the Pacific Seafarers Net at 3pm (our time, 0300UTC) and asked if anyone had heard from the boat and a woman (Jane in Hawaii) came back to me saying she had heard Andrew on the Amateur Mobile Services Net about 2pm (our time) this afternoon and they were all fine.  Anyway Andrew came up on schedule at 4pm and they were somewhat amazed and oblivious to the fact that the world had been searching for them.  I don’t know what actually was done but the US Coast Guard had been working with the Mexican authorities and reporting through Lary who may well have more info than I have.  Andrew’s signal was not very good so I went down to the Pacific Seafarers Net and commandeered help from there.  Lovely Jane came up to our frequency and relayed the parts of Andrew’s questions that I couldn’t get.  The Coast Guard have told them to turn the EPIRB off and leave it off as they have been getting multiple distress calls from it all day.  The crew don’t know how to turn it off but they are working on the problem.


Anyway they are all fine and have turned SPOT on again in the last hour to show they haven’t moved.  They will probably stay another day in the little bay they are in and move on the next day.


An interesting and somewhat worrying few hours this afternoon (twice that amount of time for Lary)

3 May
With respect to the time change between my location (Sacramento, Calif.) and Graham's (Wellington, NZ), Graham was still in late afternoon or early evening when he sent his email out yesterday which quite efficiently summarized the events of yesterday afternoon and evening.  Since this episode wrapped up around 9:30pm in Sacramento, I decided to toss it in for the day. 
About 4:35pm yesterday, I received a call from Coast Guard Boston where the boat is still registered, that they had received a distress signal from Aldebaran.  The C.G. rep asked if we had any recent contact, or knew the boat's position and were we able to reach anyone on the boat.  Also, the matter of trying to make sense of the distress call, determine its validity and the safety of the crew, was being transferred to C.G. Alameda, Calif., in whose territory this effort would be handled.  I provided the latest coordinates for the boat to both C.G. Boston and Alameda and, after contacting Graham and searching through past emails, also furnished radio frequencies used in the past to communicate with the crew.  Graham then provided a comprehensive list of equipment on board the boat which was forwarded to C.G. Alameda.  Assurances were mentioned to me that the vast majority of these distress signals are false; i.e. someone bumps the unit, water is spilled on it, batteries run low, etc., causing the thing to send its signal.  C.G. and Mexican authorities were conducting their efforts to locate the boat and its crew (I am not sure of all the specific measures they take) which included radio operators attempting contact but without success.  At about the same time, C.G. Alameda and Graham contacted me to advise they had received information through one of the ham radio nets that Andy had checked in earlier and all were fine.  C.G. Alameda said they felt somewhat relieved by this but were continuing their efforts to make direct contact with the boat to insure its and the crew's safety.  At the usual appointed time for contact, Graham was able to reach Andy and all was determined to be an error and the crew was safe.  As Graham mentioned, no one on board Aldebaran was aware that this effort was launched to determine their safety.  The C.G. Lieutenant in Alameda with whom I spoke, offered that the boat should acquire a satellite radio which would greatly assist search and rescue efforts, particularly in the open ocean, in the event of an emergency and the power on board had failed.  This was passed to the crew through Graham.
Every story....well, most every story...has a funny side.  In the middle of all this skyping with Graham (we shared eleven calls) and all the calls to the Coast Guard (I lost track) I looked out my front window to notice a huge cloud of smoke in front of my neighbor's house across the street.  It appeared they were  home but there was no obvious activity.  I called them and they were oblivious to the smoke but said they would investigate.  Turns out, an idiot neighbor behind them was (apparently) illegally burning trash in his yard and the smoke carried over their house making it look like it was on fire.  As Leslie would say...Sheesh!!!
My compliments to Graham for his abilities to contact the appropriate folks to resolve this as soon as it was possible.  I also was greatly impressed with the professionalism and confidence of the U.S. Coast Guard in their assistance.  What part the Mexican authorities played is a bit distant from our efforts but I was assured by the Coast Guard that they are equally as professional and cooperative.
Nice ending but several hours of anxiety!  Glad it was resolved favorably!!

3 May

Not much to report today.  I had a very brief conversation with Andrew on the radio, but conditions were very poor today so we didn’t persevere.  I notice that SPOT has been sending out location fixes for quite some time and they are still in the little bay of San Evaristo, a very sparsely populated little bay.  I note that there is a large salt production facility in the next bay north of there, where they evaporate sea water in large ponds to reclaim the salt.
4 May
Just had a long talk with Andrew for about 40 minutes.  Conditions were much better today so we achieved quite a lot.


They have sailed up the coast today and are now anchored in a little bay for the night – I got them to turn spot on to show us where they are.


They had some rough seas today, the tail end of a storm, so some of them were a bit seasick.  I gave them a weather forecast for the next two days and it says virtually no waves at all and very light winds, so it will be comfortable sailing again.  They are on a fairly remote part of the coast with no sign of habitation.  They plan on being back at La Paz on Sunday.


They were called yesterday on VHF channel 16 (that is the emergency channel) by a Mexican Navy Patrol Boat that had been sent to look for them.  The patrol boat came alongside just to check that they were all ok – so that shows the system works and is very comforting.


They got me to check Donny’s email and there was an email saying their refrigeration unit is on its way by Fedex, so Larry can you please pass on to Lauren with thanks that she doesn’t need to worry about the refrigeration, its all organised.


Grant flies over the Pacific tomorrow and they will be listening for you Grant – we hope you get good conditions like last time


I think that covers most of our conversation today.


5 May
They have obviously sailed further north today and have just turned SPOT on showing they are in a lovely little harbour at Perto Escondido, which I note is a famous surfing location which could hold some attraction!!


It was obvious that they had moved today as Leslie has been on email and Lisa on Facebook, but no radio contact this afternoon.

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