Welcome to our mid-life crisis! These are the chronicles of Laura and Patrick, their young son Jack, and their goofball Labrador Retriever named Evinrude (Rudy), as they travelled the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific coast of mainland Mexico in their catamaran. We went cruising in search of a change of pace, a closer knit family, and peace of mind. We found all three and more. The fun all started in October, 2008 and nearly four years later the Mexican adventure came to an end August 3rd, 2012. With our mid-life crisis cured in Mexico, we are excited to start a new adventure - life back in America.

Patrick has since joined the Sales Team of Marine Servicenter as a boat broker. Whether you are looking to make your dream of sailing away come true, or ready to sell your boat he can help. He can be reached at http://marinesc.com/about/crew/patrick-harrigan

Candeleros Chico

Candeleros Chico
Just another beautiful day at anchor on the Baja. 2010

Dolphins at play in the bow wake 2011

Dolphins at play in the bow wake  2011

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Third Day to the Rescue!

As mentioned in a previous post, some of our recent adventures included nearly hitting a reef and saving a panga full of sub-machine-gun-toting Mexican military men. They both happened at the same island! A very interesting 24 hours. Also the first place we saw a shark (though not while swimming).

When it came time to leave Willard Bay, Windfall decided to head straight to Refugio. Third Day decided to head north to San Felipe and then cross to Puerto Penasco. We decided to head north five miles to check out a group of islands nearby called Las Encantadas - The Enchanted Islands. They are volcanic formed and full of amazing geological features. One of the islands is mostly pumice and the rocks float off in the tide! We talked Third Day into stopping with us.

Unfortunately, the guide book we had that talked about it did not have any GPS way points and only written and hand drawn descriptions of where to anchor. While approaching an island at the place we thought we were supposed to be, Jack and I got up on the bows just to make sure we didn't see any rocks. Good thing we did! The water visibility was terrible, the wind was on our nose at 20 knots, and just about 20 feet from our starboard bow I saw the submerged but close to the surface jagged edge of a pillar rock. Barely able to do more than jump, scream and point, Patrick interpreted my actions correctly and slammed us in reverse. Thankfully our boat quickly responded and we veered off and approached at another cove, this time successfully.

Our first action once anchored was for Lori and her kids, and Jack and I to go exploring on the island called Isla San Luis. It has a obsidian core left in the volcano crater, and chunks of obsidian litter the hills, among the ash and rocks and pumice. It is a very barren place. While on shore, Jack sees a shark fin slice the water. Okay, interesting.

The next morning, Jack, Patrick and I decide to go snorkeling. The water visibility was horrible, but we wanted to spear fish. We had only been in the water a little while when Patrick notices three men dressed in camo waving their guns to get out attention. It did. We loaded up and went toward the shore to see what they wanted. Through the language barrier we understood that their boat was broken down in the cove around the corner, that they had walked over to get our help, and that their battery was bad. Nothing motivates you to help like men with big guns asking for help. (Just a joke, we would have helped anyone. The island was very isolated)

Patrick drove Jack and I back to our boat, called Rich for assistance, loaded up a jumper cable and then picked Rich and his battery up. They drove back to the beach, picked up one of the men (all they had room for) and then drove off around the corner and out of sight. I was a little nervous. But they returned soon enough and said they had given them a jump, shook hands and left them. Patrick told us that the man in the dinghy had asked if we had seen sharks. It turns there are known to be a lot of sharks around this island, and he was surprised to see us swimming there! Okay, that ended our need to be on this island and we decided to pull anchor and leave shortly later.

As we motored around the corner we saw the panga full of men, floating around a dangerous reef. They saw us and started waving a red flag frantically. Oh Boy! In our boat, we couldn't get close enough to them to help without endangering ourselves, but we started calling out a Pon-Pon (a distress call one step below Mayday. Mayday is used if someone's life is in danger. Pon-pon is used if there is someone in distress, but not imminent loss of life.). While we coordinated radio contact with those on the Baja peninsula who might be able to help, we also contacted Rich who decided to dinghy out from his anchored boat and see if he could help.

Rich is just the nicest guy. He brought them his starter battery and left it with them! The men in the panga were stationed out of San Felipe and Rich just asked that he could pick up his battery when he got up there. A big gamble, but one Rich was willing to take. Once they had Rich's battery hooked up, they powered off north. It turns out that Rich's gamble was no gamble at all. When he arrived at the military station in San Felipe there was a new battery there, waiting for him. International goodwill thrives.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Back in Bahia Los Angeles

Well, we are back in cruiser's civilization - BofLA is the biggest town in the north sea that cruiser's congregate around for provisioning, fuel, restaurants and internet. Unfortunately the internet available on the boat is weak and spotty, so I haven't been able to post all the great pictures and tell all our stories. So much has happened in the last three weeks! So stay tuned, I'll post pictures and stories as I can over the next day or two. But to cut to the chase - we are all fantastic, happy and having the time of our lives.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

We survived!

Well, that sounds very dramatic, considering that we never saw more than clouds in the sky, about 20 minutes of some rain, and very little wind. The highest winds we saw in Bahia Willard were only in the 20 knots range and that was days after the storm formally known as Hurricane Jimena had past and was well on its way to Texas. But there were days of worry as we heard about the gathering storm. As the storm gathered strength and its path became clear to hit the Baja, are fears grew. Each new weather report sounded worse and worse. There are about 30 cruiser boats floating around the LA Bay area, with a hurricane hole nearby. We were a little worried about so many boats anchoring in the same area for a hurricane. Besides worrying about your own anchor staying put, you also have to worry about the anchor systems of the boats around you. Plus, we had just arrived in the area and had no time to scout out good anchorages and learn the lay of the land. It seemed like our best choice was to get as far away as we could and the next hurricane hole the guide books showed was a hundred miles further north. No problem in our fast little boat.

Imagine our consternation on the next morning when, as we were leaving, our port engine died before we had even pulled the anchor. And it wouldn't restart. The hurricane was supposed to be showing up in our area in three days. We didn't have time to fix it. There was nothing to do but continue on with one engine. Unfortunately that meant we were too slow to reach Willard Bay in one day. The feeling of anxiety, tension and worry had Patrick's and my stomach in knots. Our boat is designed to work on two engines, you can't solidly set an anchor with just one engine. Definitely not good with a hurricane coming. As we motored along, watching the sterns of Windfall and Third Day pull farther and farther ahead of us, Patrick was working on the engine. Finally after several hours, he had it running again, but we only had enough daylight to make it safely to Refugio at that time. Our friends on Windfall and Third Day weren't going to leave us, so all three boats pulled in and dropped anchor

Pulling into Refugio, we were blown away by its beauty and that night at our potluck, we were all throwing around the idea of weathering out the storm in Refugio. Then in the morning we learned that Hurricane Jimena was expected to go over the top of Refugio. So the pressure was back on and worse. We were all pulling our anchors at the crack of dawn in a race to Willard Bay. And of course, again the port engine did not work. I was beside myself. Once again we watched our friends leave us behind as we putted along, with Patrick pulling apart the malfunctioning engine underway. Thankfully there was wind behind us and our sails kept us from falling too far behind. Again after several hours, he got it running and we caught up with our friends just as we approached Willard Bay.

Willard Bay was everything we could have hoped for. We were so worried to see it and find out if it was already full with other boats hiding out, or if its description was not accurate in the guide books. Instead we found a great anchorage, nearly surrounded by land, with plenty of room for us to spread out, good holding sand bottom and a fairly uniform depth at a perfect 25 feet throughout the anchoring area. It was the home run, slam dunk we were hoping for. Once we had set anchor, so much of our worry abated, but still we were faced with the big unknown - where was Jimena going to end up?

Lucky for us, it came no where near us. As you probably know, she went right over the top of Santa Rosalia and caused much destruction there. We were so lucky that we got out of there when we did. We were only five days out of Santa Rosalia when the first reports of the gathering storm came through. Jimena plowed though the Escondido hurricane hole and five boats ended up on the rocks (only one was lost). Conception Bay was also hit pretty hard and I am anxious to see how Isla Coyote looks. Worst hit was San Carlos on the mainland side of the Sea. Jimena parked herself on top of them for many hours and we heard reports that fifteen boats were on the beach, some parked on land were tipped over, or flooded out by the rain. LA Bay got off pretty well with some wind gusts maybe to 40 and a brief torrent of rain. But as you can see from the pictures, Jimena was blessedly a non-event in Willard Bay. Sometimes they can get that far up, but not this time.

Since then, JaM has had more adventures. Third Day and JaM saved a panga full of paramilitaries with sub machine guns when their boat broke down (I got to watch my husband ride off in our dinghy with one gun pointed at his knee - not intentionally). We almost gutted our starboard bow on a very jagged reef while trying to find anchorage on a little-visited island (hmmm... maybe there is a reason why no one goes there?). We attended a party for the net-controllers at LA Bay. We've seen multiple whales, snorkeled for hours over fascinating reefs stocked full of fish. And generally have had a blast.

More later,