Hello!

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, December 27, 2011

A Very Good Christmas

All pictures are courtesy of Nancy on Eyoni, our favorite photographer

At the beach with my hero

Ethan from Eyoni exhibiting a perfect Bocce Ball tossing form, while Rich from 3rd Day watches


Lori from 3rd Day and me, sharing a shot of Christmas Cheer



Running with Rudy across the sand flats




Picnic at the wreck. Somebody's dream died here years ago when they dragged, but the remains make a convenient meeting spot and picnic table.


********




It's hard to get the Christmas spirit when you live on a boat in the sub-tropics. All of the cues I used to have that would put me in the Christmas mood are gone. There's no school Christmas pageant, no school Christmas break, no weeks of shopping for the perfect present for loads of people, no watching endless commercial reminders on the TV in case you had missed the fact it was Christmas, no going to the tree farm to chop down a Christmas tree, no frantic preparations for hosting a dinner for 30 of your closest relatives and friends (okay that one I don't really miss). Anyway, you get the point.


However, you can't beat waking up on your boat, opening a couple nice little presents found under your 1 foot high plastic tree, and then meeting up with good friends on a nearby beach for a picnic and a Bocce Ball game, with kids running around on the sand flats, and Rudy racing around everyone, fishing, playing fetch, and trying to steal the Bocce balls.


After the picnic, we headed over to 3rd Day for a potluck dinner and movie.


It was a perfect day.

Monday, December 26, 2011

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished



We’ve hung around La Paz longer than anticipated, first because there was no wind and then because there was too much wind. Unfortunately, any time you get high winds and lots of boats together, there is usually drama. This time around, Just a Minute’s captain took a starring role.
Our story starts a few days ago when a Norther blew into town. As Norther’s go, it was a pretty good one with a Gale Warning posted for the entire Sea of Cortez, and winds forecasted in the 30’s to 40’s.. Here in the La Paz harbor, we have some wave protection from a low lying spit of land, but no wind abatement. The first day, Thursday, we saw winds in the teens. Around 2 a.m. Friday morning, the wind started mounting and as dawn broke, the winds kept growing.
As I came up the stairs at dawn on Friday, I noticed a new boat anchored close to us with a dog running around on deck. As my sleep-numbed brain started to function I realized that the boat wasn’t anchored, it was dragging - right over the sand bar and moving past us. I knew we weren’t in danger, but there were several other boats in the downwind direction that it was moving toward. I put a hale out on the radio, to the fleet, warning of the danger. Then I woke up Patrick. I was very worried about this boat since the dog on its deck was obviously scared and there was no sign of the crew.
The seas were up about two feet and the winds were blowing about 20-25 knots so lowering the dinghy was a chore, but Patrick was soon on his way. He went to a nearby boat and asked that captain to jump in and help him. Christian, his fellow volunteer, was an excellent person to have along. He already had a spare anchor and rode lined up ready to use on the dragging boat. Together, they headed off to the dragger, a large ketch named Callisto.
Callisto was an obvious live-aboard with sun tarps up, lots of junk on deck, and the dog running around. At first Patrick and Christian just tried banging on the boat, trying to wake up the crew they assumed was on board. No one answered and the dog seemed friendly, so they tied up alongside and climbed on board. The boat was moving quickly now that it had passed over the sandbar. They found out that the dog was the only one on board. The boat had broken loose from its mooring ball, and so its anchor was on deck and ready to deploy. Christian threw the anchor over and started paying out chain.
Like most permanent live-aboard boats, this one had lots of junk scattered on deck. Patrick came up to the bow to help and when a wooden pole fell over and landed on the anchor chain, Patrick bent over to pick it up. As he leaned forward, Patrick put his head right into the spinning blades of a wind generator that was screaming along in the wind. The boat-owner had mounted the blades right over the anchor windlass at about 5 feet. It was sideways to Patrick and with the speed of the blades, he never even saw it.
All Patrick could do was sit down and try to cover the wound that was instantly pouring out blood. You know how head wounds are - it looked like a scene from a slasher movie. Of course it was an old wind generator with metal blades, so thankfully Patrick was not scarred for life, and did not lose an eye. It’s a miracle that he only has one, deep, 1” long gash, right at his hair line.
The anchor quickly grabbed and the boat (and dog) was saved just a few hundred yards from shore. With that rescue complete, it was time to rescue the rescuer. Thankfully we have lots of good friends in La Paz. Rich on 3rd Day reached Callisto just after Patrick hit his head. Once Callisto was secured, Rich took Patrick over to Hotel California. Rick on Hotel has a car and he drove Patrick off to the hospital for stitches and wound cleaning. And so another day comes to end with another good lesson learned - not every boat owner has a boat that’s safe to board. Who would put spinning metal blades 5 feet above an area that you have to access?????

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Care to Dance?

Pushed up over our anchor during the La Paz Waltz


The La Paz Waltz is the one thing that spoils the joy of anchoring out in this great city. La Paz is situated at the mouth of an enormous estuary. As the tide comes in and out of the narrow channel where everyone anchors, it creates a terrific current. If the tidal swings aren’t big, or if the wind isn‘t blowing, the effect is not that bothersome. However, when the tidal swings are greatest the current is amazingly powerful and if the wind is blowing, then The Waltz begins.
The current over the different keels of the boats, combined with the push of the wind above (which is usually in the opposite direction of the tide) makes the boats twist and turn over their anchors, sawing back and forth. All the boats move at their own speeds and soon, boats will be moving towards each other, and then swinging away. Sometimes the boats move around like egg beaters. At one moment two boats will be close enough to toss water balloons at each other, and then the next moment will see the boats moving in opposite directions, away from each other. When The Waltz is on, the 70+ boats at anchor will be pointing in about 50 different directions.
Unfortunately for us, there’s a high wind storm right now that is coinciding with some very big tidal movements. Despite wind speeds up to 30 knots in this storm, the boats are being held perpendicular to the winds by the flow of the water on their keels. At the same time, the wind is pushing the boats up over their anchors, and so the boats move awkwardly in the waves and wind.
The tough part of The Waltz is that all the boats respond differently to the conditions based on how deep their keels are, what type of chain or rode they use, and how much windage they have. Incredibly, this afternoon, I watched a boat named Arabella drag UP wind because it has a 9 foot keel and a low-profile, flush deck. Our boat has lots of windage and shallow keels so JaM responds to the wind more than the water - which is exactly opposite of the mono-hulls around us. It can make for an unkind surprise. Suddenly, two boats that would be anchored safely apart from each other in a normal anchorage, will be uncomfortably close during the La Paz Waltz. To make sure our boat is safe in the conditions, someone (basically me) has been on board constantly since the winds started.
So, to while away the time on anchor watch, I’ve been working on new lyrics more appropriate for this Christmas in La Paz, set to the Christmas tune of “Let is Snow“.

“Oh, the weather outside is frightening,
But the anchor chain is tightening,
And there’s really no place to go,
So let it blow, let it blow, let it blow.”

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Our Plans for the Future

* Move to an oil boomtown in North Dakota and jump in on the excitement.
* Open a restaurant.
* Call up the old contacts and try to jump back into the corporate world we left in the Pacific NW.
* Run a sailing charter business in Alaska.
* Contact a corporate head hunter and put the search out for Anything in Anywhere, USA.
* Put the boat for sale, buy a cheap camper van and tour America while we wait for a buyer
* Sell JaM, buy a much cheaper boat suitable for the Inland Passage, move to Alaska, live on the new boat and get some funky low-wage jobs that allow lots of time for cruising the Inland Passage.
* Take JaM to Panama and keep cruising until the world ends or the economy improves, whichever comes first.

We've discussed all these possibilities and more on JaM in the last six months. None of them is quite the right fit. We've already stayed on our boat one year longer than originally planned. Though our lifestyle is getting cheaper and cheaper in Mexico as we learn more and more tricks, we are still spending money. We are not retired and we know we will have to return to work someday, but when? One thing for sure is that life in Mexico is much, much cheaper than life in America. Our dwindling dinero can either last us for months in America, or years in Central America.

We just have these circular conversations, trying to divine what the best move is for our family. The truth of the matter is - it was a lot easier to make the decision to come out here. Even though it was so scary to pull the plug on everything we knew and move onto a boat, the reverse decision of how to jump back into American life is even scarier. It’s like jumping off and on a fast-moving merry-go-round. Every kid on the playground can tell you that jumping off is easier than getting back on. If you don’t time the re-entry just right you are going to get trampled. The decision to move back is almost impossible to know what to do, especially since the economy still sucks. There are two big unknowns we face because of the economy - “Can we find a buyer for our boat?” and “Can we find viable employment?” Anyone with a crystal ball is very welcome to jump in with the answers for us. In the meantime, we’re just enjoying life, and having lots of conversations.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Having 2 Engines Means Twice the Repairs

Patrick in the Penalty Box


Our engines have been working great all summer. However, cruising on a boat means that all your systems are being used constantly and things wear out, break down or just need a little tweaking. Approaching Escondido two days ago, our starboard engine decided to sputter and die. Turned out to be bad gas. It happens. Despite the fact that Patrick always filters the fuel that is poured into the engines, stuff gets through and can build up. That's life in the north Sea of Cortez.

Patrick worked that day cleaning out the fuel system and replacing the filters, and voila! it's working again. Who knew I had married such a great deisel mechanic? Thank God, because if you are going to be cruising, you are going to be finding yourself broken down in crazy places with no mechanic around.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Flying the Spinnaker



We‘re very happy with ourselves on Just a Minute these days, and it‘s all because we learned a new trick - how to sail with a spinnaker.
We bought our boat with only two sails on it, the main and the jib, and we were very contented in the beginning, just learning how to work those to the best advantage. After time, we wanted a spinnaker and even researched buying one, but the cost didn’t seem to warrant the need.
Then we went home last July and our good friend (and our personal Patron Saint of Sailing) Mark Schrader gave us two spinnakers to use as we would. His generosity was overwhelming and very appreciated. Who could argue with that price? Mark has lots of bits and pieces of sailing equipment left over from his many sailing adventures (solo circumnavigating twice, and the expedition/circumnavigation of the North and South Americas). It is good quality stuff. He gave us two, since he is not familiar with catamarans and we weren’t sure of the size we needed.
Spinnakers are huge sails and are intended to make the most of light winds coming from behind you. They are flown from the front of the boat. They do not have one edge on a fixed attachment, like a jib or a mainsail does. They have a halyard at the top to raise and lower it, and a line off each bottom corner. They fly in front of the boat like a big kite pulling you along. The stronger the wind, the harder they are to control. They can get you into trouble if the wind becomes to strong, and the general rule is that if there is enough wind to sail your boat with your regular sails, then don‘t raise a spinnaker.
Back on the boat with our spinnakers, we consulted several sailor friends and got lots of advice but the best advice came from Ethan on Eyoni. He graciously came over one day at Isla Angel de la Guarda and looked over the gear. Ethan walked us through the whole process of how to raise and lower it safely. He told us a couple tricks like using the main sail as a wind block. He also had us put rubber bands every five feet up the length of the spinnaker so the first time we raised it, it didn’t immediately fill with wind too quickly and fall into the water before we had it raised. That trick worked great, so we had the whole sail raised to the top before the winds started breaking the rubber bands apart and expanding the sail.
Finally the right conditions presented themselves on our sail from Conception Bay down to San Juanico. We had a light wind on our stern of about 8 knots and it was not forecasted to strengthen until hours later that afternoon. We followed Ethan’s instructions, and everything went according to plan. It’s so fun to learn a new trick. The spinnaker is awesomely huge and colorful. We were very tickled with the whole experience. When the wind started picking up in the afternoon, we used the mainsail to blanket the wind to the spinnaker, and it quickly was dropped and secured.

A Brief Recap of the Last Few Weeks



Hiking the hills of San Juanico


Our stay in Conception Bay was much longer than anticipated for two reasons. First the winds this winter in the Baja have been coming fast and furious, with lots of strong blows and just a few days off in between. Santispac Beach in Conception Bay offers fantastic protection for north winds and so we were very comfortable during many days of high winds. The other pull of Santispac is Lupe’s Paradise Resort Bar and Restaurant (formerly known as Ana‘s). We’ve been stopping in at that restaurant lots of times over the last three years and have always had great meals and lots of fun. The owners, Russ and Lupe, serve up good food and it’s a popular hangout for local ex-pats and vacationers. On Saturday nights, Russ throws a Dinner and a Dance that is a lot of fun. We went to two of those and felt like kids again, dancing up a storm. At 44, I was one of the youngest women in the bar and so I had lots of willing dance partners and Patrick didn’t have to dance as much. A win-win for both of us. There are so many retirees in the Conception Bay area, that the place was packed with them. I highly recommend Russ’s Saturday night dinner if you are down that way!
Finally another weather break came and we traveled down to San Juanico to rendevous with Hotspur. We hadn’t seen those good folks for about a year, so we were all looking forward to catching up. Tim is the first teenager that Jack has even seen in the last eight months, so he was very happy to meet up with them. We only had one day together before Hotspur left the anchorage headed north, but we fit in two games of Scrabble (she beat me horribly the first and I redeemed myself the second), hours of skurfing, and a potluck dinner with Hotspur and Lady Bug that night, which lasted until Cruiser’s Midnight (9 pm) when I kicked everyone off the boat. I would have gladly let the evening go on longer, but I had to get up in the morning and run the Amigo Radio Net at 7 a.m. and I knew I wouldn’t be able to if everyone stayed longer!

After two nights at San Juanico, we moved on down to the Puerto Escondido area, which is where we are now. We had wanted to spend just one day here, but our engine began acting up as we approached the harbor and now we will be here for a couple days while Patrick affects a repair.


Tomorrow happens to be the beginning of another strong blow. This coming Norther is expected to last four days with winds up to the high 30’s, so it looks like we will be watching a lot of movies, playing marathon games of Parcheesi, baking lots of goodies to heat the boat, and maybe do some hiking in the next few days. It’s getting really chilly down here with morning temps in the low to mid 60’s, and we’ve broken out our long pants, jackets and furry slippers. There have been several rain storms this winter (!) and we have seen more rain in the last month than all three years combined. Not having heat on the boat means we do lots of baking just to stay warm.
There are just a few anchorages we want to visit on our way south to La Paz, which means we should be entering that good city around the 10th of December, which will be the next time we get internet. 22 more days to Christmas!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Conception Bay

Coyote Island in Conception Bay. It's just a tiny little island with room for one (maybe two boats) to anchor. And it's all yours for the taking.



We picked up our car we had left in Santa Rosalia, so we have been able to do some sightseeing around the Bay. We drove down to the end of the bay for a bit of beach-combing on this miles long, sandy shore. Since it's the lee shore for the prevalent winter winds, there were lots of good finds.


Just a few of the islands that dot Conception Bay

*****

We love this place, and we have ever since we honeymooned here almost 18 years ago. Back then we were traveling down the Baja, camping out of our car, so our lot in life has definitely improved. Any way you see it though, Conception Bay is a wonderful place. There are white sand beaches, and turquoise waters. Many homes dot the coast line and there are lots of campgrounds for RV's and tents along the shores. The bay is 22 miles long and five miles across. The land surrounding it is mostly high mountains. Most of the water is less than 100 feet deep, and large areas are much less, so between the shallow water and the sheltering mountains, it stays warmer than the rest of the Sea. It can be unbearably hot in the summer, but in the fall, winter and spring it is lovely.

Sometimes the Weatherman gets it Wrong


Moonrise at Bahia Catalina near Guaymas

*****

We hung around in Guaymas a couple extra days waiting for a strong northerly to blow through the area. We did not feel like crossing the Sea when it was too lumpy or breezy since our destination meant that we would be abeam of the wind and the swell - which makes for an uncomfortable experience. Finally the weatherman called for decreasing winds and after waiting one extra day to let the swell lay down, we decided to jump off for the Baja side.
The crossing from Guaymas to Conception Bay is about 78 miles, so it wasn’t going to be an overnighter if we got an early start. We usually figure we will travel at 5 knots of speed - that’s usually a little on the slow side for us, but it just gives you something to be happy about when you best it. So at 5 knots, we would need 16 hours to complete the crossing. With that in mind we left at 4 am. It would mean that we might be anchoring in the dark, something we have done maybe three other times in the three years down here. It’s not a smart thing to do, but we had been to the anchorage before, it has a big open bay with sand bottom, and we had waypoints for it on a night with a full moon. We figured we would be okay.
We got off fine, but from the get-go there was more wind than we figured on, or that was called for by both the weathermen we listen to. We decided to keep going, figuring that it would lay down as the day progressed. Wrong. By mid-afternoon we had about 25 knots of wind on the beam (the side of the boat) with 4 to 6 foot swell coming in fast and steep. For a catamaran, this is as lumpy and uncomfortable as it gets. It was very lumpy. Books and things were leaping off shelves and loud crashes and bangs reverberated through the boat as the waves hit us. We put two reefs in the main sail (which reduces it’s surface to less than half) and we were STILL making 8 knots of speed. We were making good time, but it was a little scary. At one point, one of our bows was lifted up on a wave, the other was deep in a trough and then the front half of the upside pontoon hung out over the air before it caught up to the next wave. You could tell that we were suspended in the air for those few seconds. It was a very unsettling feeling, and one I would not like to experience ever again in our catamaran. We changed our course angle against the wind a little so that we were slightly more into the wind to stop that from happening again.
With the extra speed, we reached the Baja side before the sun set, and we set our anchor down on Santa Domingo which is on the lip of Conception Bay.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

On the move again

We have thoroughly enjoyed our time in Guaymas. However, the time comes to leave because we simply can't fit any more food in our boat. Guaymas is located in a farming area and so we have loaded up on lots of cheap fruits and veggies. Avocados are 13 pesos per kilo which equals over 2 pounds for one dollar!. Limes are 3 pesos per kilo, or in other words over 2 lbs for about 25 cents. We also scored pounds of excellent Sonoran beef steaks and kilos of fresh, beautiful, huge camarones azul (blue shrimp) for 10$ US per kilo. Our larder is stuffed, the freezer is packed and the fridge can barely hold all the fresh veggies. Back on the Baja side, we won't find those cheap prices since most food is trucked into the Baja.
For the last two days we have been sitting out high winds, day and night, but tomorrow things are calming down and looking good for a crossing back to the Baja side. We still have no functioning pactor modem, so we will be unable to make blog posts or email anyone until we are back in internet range on the Baja. We were able to contact the pactor modem company while we were here and they informed us that they would happily fix it when we get it to them in the States. That won't be happening anytime soon, so we will continue on making contact as we can.
We are planning a jump from Guaymas to Conception Bay which is about 80 miles. We will definitely have internet within two weeks.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Guaymas


Entering the busy Guaymas harbor
****


For the last three years, we've stuck to the Baja side of the Sea of Cortez, as many people do. There is so much to see and do over there that there didn't seem a need to come to the mainland side.

However, after three years of ending up in Santa Rosalia both for the last provision kick off before the summer, and then the clean up and reprovision after the summer, we decided we were ready for a break. When you provision for a family of three with a large dog, you end up with hundreds of pounds of food and fuel that you have to get onto your boat. Santa Rosalia (population 12,000) is great but it is a hard place to provision. There is no public transit system. There are no "large" grocery stores so you have to go to several stores to get all your stuff. It's always hot. The taxi bill is always high since you have to ask them to stop at several stores and wait while you shop.

So this year we decided to give Guaymas a try. Man, I wish we had figured this out years ago. Guaymas has so many advantages over Santa Rosalia that it is not even a contest. Like Santa Rosalia, Guaymas is a great, working Mexican town without a lot of tourists (like us) mucking things up. After that, there aren't a lot of similarities. Guaymas is a city of about 130,000 built on an extensive, well-protected, natural harbor. The Singlar marina is just a few blocks away from the downtown with it's bustling Central Market and a very good grocery store. The bus system is frequent and fast and costs 5 1/2 pesos per ride! The town boasts a Walmart, AutoZone, McDonald's, Leys', and much more all conventiently assessible through the transit system. It's easy to anchor out with lots of room and good protection.

The only negative to Guaymas is that the Singlar here has a very popular bar on the top floor that just gets cranking up around 10 pm Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. They book great bands and we have enjoyed quite a few concerts from our boat. Unfortunately they have a karaoke machine that they turn over to the drunks after the band stops playing around 1 am. They entertain themselves until around 3 am. With the volume at the max, the singers warble out Mexican tunes or badly pronounced songs in English. It's painfully funny and the first night I sat up laughing. I thought about vidoetaping it for the blog but decided to spare you. It's not so funny now after several nights missed sleep. Bring ear plugs.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Wild, Fun Ride

Sunset at Bahia Algodones on the mainland.
*****

We had arrived at San Pedro Martir on October 25th in the calm before the storm and by the 27th, I couldn't stand spending another day in the anchorage at San Pedro Martir. The island is incredible, but the winds were seriously impeding my enjoyment. All day on the 26th we rocked and rolled in swell while the winds howled around us. We were protected from the true force of the wind which was blowing about 25 to 30 knots, but it was wrapping around the point and coming into the anchorage around 20 to 25 knots, along with a very worked up swell.

You just don't feel like doing much when it's that nasty out. Dinghy exploring is wet, lumpy and slow. Snorkeling is ruined because the sediment is all worked up and visibility is down. Even the sea lions were staying out of the water! Since there was no beach to walk, and way too many sea lions lining the rocky shore, land was out. So then you are stuck on the boat, watching movies and trying not to be sick.

Unfortunately, I was scared to pick up the hook. We were securely anchored, but less that 50 feet behind us, huge rocks rose up from the water. If our anchor left the sand, the current and winds could easily push us into the rocks before we could get the boat under control. In windy conditions at low speed, JaM is like a big Macy's Day Float, lots of windage and not much steering.

Our solution was to leave in the middle of the night, since the winds were calming down in the dark hours to 10 to 15 knots. So at 2:30 am on the 27th, Patrick and I pulled the hook and starting motoring out of the anchorage. Everything went smoothly and all my worries were for nothing (like worries usually are).

Once free of the island's protection, we settled into our course taking us toward the mainland. Our destination was about 80 miles away, but the wind was in a favorable direction. Slowly as dawn broke, the winds increased and we had quite a ride to the mainland. By the time we were nearing the coast after noon, the winds were 25 to 30 knots directly on our stern. We were flying along, wing on wing, doing a solid 7 to 9 knots! Wing on wing is a lovely way to sail and very comfortable. With the jib to one side, and the mainsail to the other, the boat is very balanced and stays relatively flat. Since you are traveling with the winds, you are tricked into thinking it's a lovely calm day, despite the white caps all around you.

When we reached the entrance to Bahia Algodones though, we suddenly got to feel the force of the wind. We furled the jib and pulled a hard left into the harbor. Suddenly 25 to 30 knots was on our beam and we were really flying, even with the main all the way over, spilling the wind. As we got further into the large bay, the waves were completely blocked, but the wind kept increasing since it was being funneled through the hills around the anchorage. The three of us, working as a team, quickly got the boat facing straight into the winds and had the main dropped in seconds. With that, it was just minutes before the hook was down next to a miles long, sandy beach lined with restaurants, hotels and resorts. Our summer in the north Sea of Cortez was over and we were back in the land of people. Our 80 mile trip took about 11 1/2 hours, which means we averaged almost 7 knots!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Isla San Pedro Martir




View to the north.

View to the south.

That little golden blob at the top of the rock is one of two sea lions about eight feet straight up above the high tide line. How did they get up there?


The glow of sunrise. As the sun starts to rise, the noise level goes up with sea lions calling greetings.


It's hard to feel cozy and comfortable when you are anchored this close to cliffs.


****



Isla San Pedro Martir is a tiny, remote island at the bottom of the Midriff Islands chain in the Sea of Cortez. Not many cruisers visit it primarily because it's out in the middle of nowhere and the island is basically a rock that rises straight up from the Sea into steep cliffs without any beaches. It does not really offer good protection for anchoring overnight. So why did we want to go there? Basically the answer is, "Because it was there."


San Pedro Martir has been designated a fish and bird sanctuary by the Mexican government. The steep cliffs offer home to thousands of boobies, gulls, terns, cormorants, herons, and pelicans. Huge boulders have calved off the cliffs over the years and provide excellent shelter for thousands of fish. (They also line the island and increase the hazards of anchoring.) Being so steep sided out in the middle of the sea, the currents swirl and upwell here, offering up a smorgasbord for fish, whales, dolphins, birds and sea lions. Hundreds of sea lions call this rock home.


We had coordinates on our GPS for an anchorage on the east side, but pulling up to the island, I was convinced they must be wrong. It didn't look like an anchorage to me! Sheer cliffs rose straight from the water and there was just a little indent to tuck into. There wasn't even a strip of beach. As we moved closer toward the anchorage, we found a sand bottom at about 37 feet close to the cliff. We set the hook and backed down hard because strong winds were forecasted to start the next day from the northwest.


Once anchored we had a chance to take a look around. And then another. The place was incredible. It overwhelmed the senses with all the bird and sea lion calls. The noise was constant and loud. The cliffs were so close and so huge, rising white with bird guano, straight up. It's hard to describe how strange and other-wordly this island seemed. It was like taking a left and ending up in Jurassic Park - you half-expected to see a pteradactyl winging around the cliffs.
The first night, sea lions played around our boat outlined in bright phosphorescence. They were so curious of Rudy. One sea lion swam around and around the boat on the surface with Rudy following, walking above him. Another tried to climb up onto our back steps, but got caught up in our swim ladder. We all three sat on the back steps and watched their antics late into the night.

I would never term the anchorage as offering good NW protection, as our guidebook suggested. We bumped, rocked and rolled the entire two days we were there. Sometimes the swirl of the currents was strong enough to hold us sideways to the 20 knot winds that were wrapping around the corner along with the swell. But even when we were nose into the winds, JaM was bobbling around in the confused swell. I got a little seasick at anchor when the high winds starting working up the swell. Sounds awful, huh? But it wasn't. The wonder and awe we felt anchored there outweighed the discomfort, at least for a couple days.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Passage through the Midriff Islands

Often you can see the dolphins turn on their sides like this guy is doing and look at you while they are swimming and jumping and you can hear their calls both when they are above and below the water.



Rudy goes nuts when the dolphins show up. He must be able to hear them talking because he always runs up to the bows just before the pod breaks the surface in front of our boat. Then he races back and forth jumping on the nets. He used to bark and scare them away but he has learned to hold his tongue and just races back and forth whining.





Looking down over the bow at the dolphins swimming in the bow wake. Sometimes you think you're going to hit them since they get so close.








When the north winds started blowing on October 22nd, the anchorage we were sharing with Eyoni on the east side of La Guarda quickly became uncomfortable. We were reluctant to leave, but we knew our time had come. We had decided while in Refugio to change our destination from Santa Rosalia on the Baja side to Guaymas on the mainland, just so we could keep exploring new territories. The change in destination would take us through the Midriff Islands, some of which are very remote.



The first few days of the journey were spent working down the east side of la Guarda, then jumping to Isla Partida Norte, just ten miles south of La Guarda. The winds were very light these first few days, but high winds were forecasted to be building. We wanted wind to sail, but winds stronger than 25 knots can create some lumpy seas. With that in mind we decided to jump off on the 45 mile trip from Isla Partida Norte straight to Isla San Pedro Martir. We had planned to visit some of the other islands of the Midriff, but the descriptions of their anchorages didn't sound too promising on finding good protection for a strong blow, so we went straight to our main goal of Isla San Pedro Martir (St. Peter the Martyr). San Pedro Martir is a fish/bird sanctuary that is off the beaten path of cruisers. We were very excited to see it.



Since we were in the calm before the storm, we had no wind for our trip to San Pedro Martir - it was just one, long (almost ten hours), motorboat ride on flat calm seas. However, it was not a boring trip. Along the way, we saw several sperm whales, and lots of fish boils with feeding birds. We caught three dorado, keeping one 40-incher and letting the other two go free. The thing that was most amazing about our trip was the dolphins. We saw maybe twenty different pods of dolphins (mostly Saddleback dolphins, some Botttlenose) totalling probably 150 dolphins or more. For almost two hours our boat was their playground and they put on quite a show. The water was so calm and the seas so crystal clear, it was a magical show.

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Second Trip to La Guarda

Jack skurfing at Refugio behind Eyoni's super fast dinghy with its new 15 hp engine. We had a lot of fun with Eyoni and when it was time to head south we realized that we might not be seeing them again. They are headed south on a faster track than us and plan to be leaving Mexico headed to Central America by the first of the year.



Yellow tail caught on a fishing pole. In fifteen minutes you could catch more fish than you could eat up in Refugio from your dinghy.



Patrick's "Fish of the Season" spearfishing, nabbed at Pulpito. The fishing this summer has been phenomenal in all venues - spearfising, and pole fishing from the dinghy and the big boat.







Pulpito, the east side of la Guarda. At the base of this cliff, we found some of the best snorkeling we've seen. It was a undersea garden with lots of soft corals, sea turtles, schools of BIG grouper, and even a sweet female sea lion and pup who swam circles around us. What a great experience!


***


So all the way back on October 12th, I was telling you that most of the boats had left to head south, but Eyoni and Just a Minute were headed north for one last trip to Refugio. The north winds finally subsided and the next day the two boats were pulling out of LA Bay village near dawn and headed north. It was a great motorboat ride with the spring tdes pulling us north on strong tidal currents. We were doing 7+ knots on one engine! Along the way we saw a pod of Orcas. Eyoni saw them much closer than we did and even had one "bump" into their boat - something I was glad not to experience. I know from all our dealings with Orcas in the Northwest that they are very aware of their surroundings, that bump wasn't an accident! Eyoni has fantastic pictures of the Orcas on their blog so check it out from my blog list.

I don't know how we got so lucky, but our second trip to La Guarda was also blessed with perfect weather. For days, we saw little wind from any direction. Our two boats enjoyed the deserted playground of Refugio for about a week and then moved around the east side to Pulpito for a couple more days of fun. Then the winds began to pick up and we started our move south, reluctantly

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Jack's 14th Birthday

Jack and his two birthday rapalas


Jack's just a half inch from 6 feet tall and he's growing into a fine young man. Now at the age of fourteen, he has the skills of a real crewman. Over the last three years he has learned most procedures on the boat and is a great help to Patrick and me in many ways. He's a great boat handler and docks our boat in marinas, takes watches on passages, drives the boat for raising and lowering the anchor, and many other duties. He is in charge of the small motors, taking full responsibility for oil changes, fueling, and maintenance of the dinghy motor and the Honda 2000 generator. He's Patrick's grease monkey for the big engines and has learned so much about their maintenance. And yet he is still a great big kid in so many ways. He's at times very responsible, very irresponsible, goofy, mature, emotional, unsure of himself, cocksure, and full of testoterone.

Jack's fourteenth birthday was celebrated several times this summer when we would meet up with different friends, but the real celebration took place at Islotes with Hotel California in attendance. It was a perfect day. We rose early and hit the beaches for a miles long beach combing session. Jack's passion is finding rapala fishing lures on the beach and he found two that day. Then later that afternoon Hotel California sent him on a treasure hunt with clues that took him from our boat, to the beach, to their boat, back to the beach and back to our boat again where he finally received a small present from them and a plate of cookies. It was very sweet of them and they really added to our fun that day. Then we all shared a birthday dinner of lasagna and a cream cheese cherry pie to follow. It was a very low key event but all the more special for being so simple - just a great day spent with loved ones. Patrick and I didn't have one present for Jack and he didn't even seem to notice the lack of one.

That day is one of my fondest memories from our time here. We came out on this adventure, in part, looking to help Jack grow and mature. I like the way our experiences have shaped him. Most notably, he has none of the "gimmees" that so many kids have - no need for new things, electronics or a material present. It's an unconventional childhood, but it's been a good one for Jack.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Back in Civilization

The Dirty Laundry. Over the hurricane season, we end up doing hand wash for two months. Nothing really gets clean, the smell is just knocked down a bit. By the time we get back to a self-serve laundromat, every article of clothing, every sheet, towel and slip cover is stiff from grit, sunscreen, sweat and sand. It's disgusting. Today begins the first of many loads, and this pile doesn't even include all the sheets.


We just dropped the hook in the harbor of Guaymas. Tomorrow we are set to pull into the Singlar marina here and tie up to the dock for a week. Oh, the joys that await us. A hose with running water! Internet on the boat! A self-serve laundromat! Large grocery stores just blocks away! Hot showers! Taco stands! Really, it is just too good to be true.

When you finish up a summer in the far north Sea of Cortez, you tend to need a few of the little luxuries, just to restore the balance. It's like coming home from the best camping trip ever - dirty, bug-bitten, out of food, and kind of tired. All you want is clean clothes, a hot shower and a nice take-out dinner eaten in front of the big screen TV. For the last one, we'll have to settle for a boot-legged movie on the laptop, but the rest we'll get.

We had the best summer yet and over the next few days, I''ll be posting pictures and telling stories.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Still Finding New Favorites

The beach near Islotes is about 2 to 3 miles long, with beautiful sand, and very shoal so at low tide the beach is enormous. It took us days to walk all the sections between the three estuaries.





Blue Crab caught in the Islotes estuary. No one seems to be harvesting these lovelies and so there were many, many large guys running around.

We've spent three years in the Sea of Cortez and some people might wonder if we are bored stiff from seeing the same old same old. I have to tell you that this summer proved to us once again that the Sea of Cortez is worth a long visit. We just returned from a week spent in a new (for us) anchorage that quickly vaulted to my second favorite place in all of the Sea of Cortez. It's amazing to think that even after three years, we are finding even better places to drop our hook.

Everyone's idea of an ideal anchorage is going to be different. The reasons why I loved Punta Islotes in the south end of Animas Bay are numerous. First there is about a two mile long stretch of perfect sand beach that is the lee shore for norther storms - which means that there are tons of interesting items to find on the beaches. Jack found nine rapalas, and we saw many turtle shells, turtle nests, great shells, dolphin skulls and bones, coyote skulls, bird bones and other interesting things. Second, there are three separate, extensive estuaries with lots of bird life, clams and fish. Third is that few people come here. Fourth is that there are just tons of big, blue crabs running around. Rudy became a great crab-catching fiend and it was fun to see him snorkel his head under the water and come back up with a big crab in his mouth. We spent six fun packed days in Islotes and celebrated Jack's birthday there along with our friends on Hotel California. I thought that our circumnavigation around La Guarda was as good as it was going to get this summer, but our time at Islotes will always be a treasured memory.

A seven day northern blow is just subsiding now and we are gearing up for one last trip in the far north SoC before heading south with everyone else. Most of the boats have left already and are miles south. The ten that are left in the area are mostly gearing up to leave today or tomorrow. I know of only two boats (Eyoni and us) that are planning another trip north. We plan to leave tomorrow or the next day and head up to Refugio for one last visit. Then we'll turn our bow south and head for Santa Rosalia without stopping again in LA Bay - which means that you won't be hearing from us again until we are in Santa Rosalia in a couple weeks. Take care everyone. I still can't get any pictures uploaded, so I will have a ton of pictures on the blog when I get to SR.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Summer is Over

Every day at 4 pm this summer, a Swim-In Party was held at any anchorage holding mulitple boats. We hosted the last one of the summer in Don Juan. 26 people swam over for an hour or so to cool down and chat with friends. It was a great group of cruisers up in the Sea this summer.




We had to careen once again to work on our sail drives. Trying to outpace the incoming tide, Patrick took advantage of every second the sail drives were out of the water. I made him wear the rubber boots since he was working with power tools standing in the water.



Today the first few boats in the northern cruising herd began their migration south for the winter season in Mexico. The hurricane season is still active, but coming to a close and these first few boats are starting the trek back down to civilization. It's always a sad day for me each year, but this year I am nearly in tears knowing that this is our last time in the far north Sea of Cortez. In a few weeks we will be joining the herd on the trek south. All of our favorite times over these last three years have been the months we spend north of LA Bay.

Until the day we turn our bow south, we are heading out to enjoy some of the best weeks of cruising in the far north Sea of C. The weather is cooling off, the anchorages are thinning out, and the fishing is still good. We plan another trip up to Refugio and are hoping the weather stays mild enough to round to the East side of La Guarda again. Sometime in the next couple weeks, the wind will switch and suddenly become strong northerlies. When that happens, our time here will be done.

Internet in LA Bay has been worse than usual, so I have not been able to post the great pictures from all our adventures so far. I will probably have to wait until we are back in Santa Rosalia. Not only do we have tons of great pics from our La Guarda adventures, but these last few days have been jam packed with fun. We attended one last party in Puerto Don Juan. We also careened while in Don Juan. Once we had completed our work and floated off again, we hosted a swim-in party for the entire anchorage and had about 26 people attend. So we have lots more great pictures from those adventures, too.

I won't be posting again for several weeks, so everyone take care and look for more posts (and maybe pictures) in another two weeks.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Circumnavigating Isla Angel de la Guarda



The small islands of Hueso Bay that provide protection to the north winds. The beach at Hueso is just loaded with good shells, especially pustulatas.


The East Bay, West Bight - our favorite Refugio anchorage.


We came north our third year with just a couple goals in mind. The main one was to circumnavigate Isla Angel de la Guarda (Guardian Angel Island) which is the second largest island in the Sea of Cortez. It’s a 41 mile long island, just outside of the LA Bay area, which has no permanent residents. There is one anchorage on the island called Puerto Refugio (Refuge Port) on the very northern tip which is often visited by cruisers, but few venture past Puerto Refugio to visit the rest of the island. La Guarda is full of tricks - changeable wind directions, strong winds, extreme tidal movements of up to 12’ on average, sudden storms, hidden reefs, pinnacle rocks and other dangers. The east side of the island is not well charted, and few cruisers visit it, so there is little information to go on.

La Guarda’s remoteness has always called to us. Since the first time we entered Refugio three years ago, we have talked about what we would find if we explored the rest of the island. Puerto Refugio has always been our favorite anchorage in all of the Sea. It is so ruggedly beautiful and full of life. Unfortunately, each year we were blocked by bad weather or bad timing. We’ve visited Puerto Refugio several times each summer, but we could never get a break to see the rest of the island. Twice in the past, we have tried to anchor at Bahia de Hueso (Bay of Bones), just south of Refugio and were bounced out by big swells and wind in the middle of the night. And each time that we even thought about rounding around to the east side of the island, high winds from the north were forecasted and so the trip had to be put off.

But finally we have reached our goal. We just made it back to the village of LA Bay after a wonderful two week cruise around La Guarda. Our weather has been phenomenally calm, with light and variable winds every day, which has made our trip around the island, idyllic, simple and completely out of character! We have walked miles of beaches and found great shells (28 pustulatas on one beach!), 6 rapalas laying in the high tide line (an expensive fishing lure), 1 salmon plug (!), and lots of dolphin, sea lion, whale and turtle bones. We were visited by dolphins at numerous anchorages, and even had them come and play in our dinghy bow wake while we sped along, just inches from us. We’ve swum with numerous sea turtles, seen some very big groupers and schools of good-eating fish. We have eaten so much sea food that we started giving it away and finally just stopped fishing. We experienced perfect wind conditions for every anchorage, so we were able to see even more than we could have hoped for. We can now tell you that there is far more to Isla Angel de La Guarda than Refugio, and it just gets better.

During our circumnavigation we spent 5 nights in Refugio, 2 nights in Bahia de Hueso (eerily beautiful and my favorite place in the world), 2 nights in Caleta Pulpito West, 3 nights in Caleta Pulpito East, and 1 night on the north side of Estanque. I can’t begin to tell you of the beauty and life we saw. It was magical. The only fly in the ointment was No-See-Um’s, but every paradise has to have something to keep you from staying forever. And our experiences were worth the price of a few more scars from scratched bug bites.

Buddy Boating with Hotel California

Just another afternoon spent playing Rummikube with Rick and Pam. What a fun game.


Our time up north has been very fun mostly because of Pam and Rick from Hotel California. They are new to the Sea of Cortez this year and came down on the HaHa in 2010. We first met them in Mazatlan in January 2011 and then again in San Blas in February, but did not really get to know them until we met again in Santa Rosalia in July.

We both left our boats in Santa Rosalia to travel home and we both came back around the same time, so it was natural that we would cross paths as we traveled north into the Sea. But somewhere along the line we just began buddy-boating and have been traveling in tandem with them ever since. And so endless games of Rumikube and Bocce ball have been played, along with lots of shared dinners, sundowners, snorkeling and goofing off. During the recent hurricane scare for Hilary, we had joint war councils, and discussed options. And we all shared a sigh of relief when Hilary decided to head off into the Pacific instead of visiting the Baja.

Our time to separate is coming in a few weeks, as they are headed south faster than us, but that is the life of a cruiser. Friends tend to be made quickly and also quickly separated. But the good friends you make, still manage to stay in touch.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Floaty Party


We made it to the village at LA Bay just in time to attend the last Floaty Party of the Season. Since this is our last season in the Sea of Cortez, we really wanted to make it in time. I am so glad we did. It’s just a silly party for people who obviously have a lot of time of their hands. Almost the entire fleet of boats who are summering here attended, which meant that 26 boats were floating around in La Gringa.

At high tide, everyone assembles in a small lagoon and then as the tide turns and starts to run out, everyone rides the current out of the lagoon and into the bay. As you float out of the lagoon, you pass the judges sitting on a small spit of land, and they decide who gets the prizes for best costume. And that is a Floaty Party. Like I said, it's a silly excuse to get together, dress up in costumes and talk!

My costume of a hammerhead shark did not even get a nod from the judges (probably because it was pretty lame!), but Jack's re-enactment of Cast Away with his bouy "Wilson" got an Honorable Mention and a bag of goodies at that night's Award Assembly and Potluck Dinner.





Pirates Marcia and Dave on Juniata were one of the big winners at the Awards Ceremony, pictured to the left.


Another big winner was Linda on Jacaranda who was Blue Octopussy. Considering that she hand-sewed her elaborate costume and actually bought fabric and goods specifically to build it, I think her win was well deserved. It's no wonder I didn't win since all I did was strap a half-deflated floaty to my head and put some duct-tape teeth on my hat! But it's the thought that counts.

Friday, September 2, 2011

2 Days Out and I Find a Lump...

Dolphins playing in front of our boat underway

Yeah, I know I said you wouldn't be hearing from me for many weeks, but here I am. Just when you think you know where your life is headed, you get handed a surprise.

Finally our summer had started when we left Santa Rosalia on August 28th and headed north for the remainder of the hurricane season. Our first day started out great with a couple different pods of dolphins providing escort and we had amazing fishing. We caught and released several dorado on barbless hooks, had numerous strikes that got off (since the barbless hooks don't dig into their flesh and hold on). We also saw two hammerheads swimming by the boat (an unusual experience) and just had beautiful weather with a slight southern breeze pushing our boat along.

The second day dawned gorgeous also and the fishing remained hot with us bringing in and releasing 5 dorados and again losing many more when they shook off the hook before we got them to the boat. Life was good. Then that night I discovered a lump in my breast. It just didn't seem real, but it was there every time I checked. Being the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, there was no way I could ignore it. I wasn't too worried, but I couldn't wait two months for the hurricane season to end before getting a doctor's opinion. Of course, there was a hurricane brewing and it was hard to turn the boat around and head back closer to the danger, but what's a possible hurricane compared to possible cancer?

So the next day, we turned the boat back south and began our 1,000 mile roundtrip journey to get to a doctor with a mammogram handy. Of course, we kept fishing and caught and released another five dorados and finally took the hook off and just trolled the jig and still had strikes that made the pole sing! We motored into the wind for 8 hours that day and tied the boat at the dock in Santa Rosalia that night. We made several phone calls and found out the closest place to get a mammogram on the Baja was in La Paz. So we lined up a doctor's appointment for the following evening and went to bed. The next morning we began the 8 hour trip to La Paz in our car. Patrick drove like a demon and we made it to La Paz in 6 1/2 hours and in plenty of time for my appointment. The doctor is a sweet woman who pulls out a long needle and sticks it into the lump to see what comes out. Thankfully the lump was filled with a clear liquid and the doctor tells me this is a very good sign. The doctor told me to bring the mammogram films back to her the next evening and she would read them for me.

The following morning's mammogram was an exercise in embarrassment caused by my extremely bad command of the Spanish language which is completely the result of how easily flustered I can get when I am trying to speak, let alone speak in a different language than English, especially when I am anxious. Truly it was embarrassing and involved lots of really bad charade moves. Monte Python should consider it for a possible skit idea. At the end, the doctor who oversees the mammogram clinic handed me the films and said a little speech in which I caught the word "Bueno." I took this as a good sign and left feeling hopeful. Later that evening, my doctor confirmed that the results for all tests had come out perfectly fine. I had a benign cyst and there was no other treatment necessary.

We woke up this morning and started our 8 hour trip back to Santa Rosalia and arrived back at the boat just an hour before dark. And tomorrow morning, weathing permitting, we will begin again our summer in the Sea.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Gracias Amigos!

We've reached a milestone folks, and it's all because of you. I just got a notice that my very first AdSense check for $100 USD is being sent to us. We get paid fractions of a penny for each person who visits our site and a few more if they click on an ad before leaving. Our site has about 60 to 100 people check it per day on average, and we've had the ads on the blog for about a year, so you can see that it is quite an achievement. Thanks a lot! We'll enjoy many great taco cart meals with our bounty.

We didn't get out of Santa Rosalia yesterday because another chubasco hit two nights ago and we got little sleep and were too tired to leave. It was pretty much a repeat of the last one but with slightly less wind, still lots of dust, thunder and lightning that reverberated through the boat, and the biggest rainfall we've seen in three years on the Baja. Of course, I had just washed the boat earlier that evening, so I have vowed not to wash it again while we are in Santa Rosalia.

We are leaving today in just an hour or so and beginning our summer in the sea. We have heard that the internet situation in the LA Bay area is still deplorable. Unfortunately our pactor modem has stopped working and we will not be able to send emails or blog posts through our SSB radio. This means that I'll only be updating the blog when we are in the LA Bay so there will be spotty postings for the next month or two. When we do have internet, I will post several entries at a time. It also means that we will be completely cut off from the outside world with no email or phone service for weeks at a time - it's heaven and hell at the same time.

So take care everyone, and we'll catch up in a few weeks.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Chubasco

Our first day back on the boat after our trip home dawned cool and cloudy, so Patrick and I jumped up early to get some work done. The first thing on the list was to wash five weeks of town dust off of our boat. Santa Rosalia's main employment is a copper mine and so the town has an inordinate amount of grime - even for a Mexican town.

We did a thorough washing job and finished up a few hours later. Then thirty minutes after we had finished washing, a 50+ knot Chubasco hit us. One minute we were looking up to see the brown haze to the south, with not a breath of wind in the air, and the next minute we were enveloped in an instantaneous 50 knot wind that was loaded with dust and grit. The wind had evidently traveled over the mine on its way to us. This Chubasco was masquerading as a Sahara dust storm and it did a really good job of it. Three hours later when the winds stopped our boat was dirtier than when we had started cleaning it.

A Chubasco is a type of wind storm created by the extreme convection in the Sea of Cortez, the cooler sea air and the hot air over land create extreme storm cells that travel quickly and can have winds over 60 knots. I've seen Chubascos more often at night since they are easy to spot with lots of lightning, but they can happen any time. They are very localized and you only experience the effect if it is near you. This type of storm is probably what caused the charter fishing boat to capsize and sink, causing the death of seven Americans, a few months ago up north in the Sea of Cortez.

When the Chubasco hit, suddenly the docks were filled with people checking their boats and the boats that were unattended. One unattended boat had all four of it's fenders pop from the impact of the wind and its bow sprit was getting raked on a piling. Several people worked to retie it and we donated a fender that we weren't using to help hold it off the piling. Another boat was pushed over at about 20 degrees against the dock - just enough to make their fenders useless and to scratch the heck out of their striping and port windows. Seven people pushed like Hercules to get enough space to raise the fenders up and retie them. Our boat was tied up all goofy because we had just repositioned the bow closer to the dock so we could do some work on the anchoring system. Of course, we hadn't retied it very well since we were planning to complete the work within an hour or two and then we would have retied correctly. No problem as long as the weather had cooperated. All of the weight of our boat ended up on one cleat. Not good. I kept expecting it to snap off at any minute. We spent quite a bit of time digging out more lines and even moved an unused cleat from another section of dock over to our side to help hold our boat to the dock.

It was quite a welcome home. Since then, we have continued to put the boat back together and provision up for the summer up north. We just got back from a few days anchored at a nearby island. We wanted to do a quick run-through to make sure everything was working correctly before we left for the wilds of the North Sea of Cortez. We put the headsail back on, re-commissioned the dinghy, un-pickled the water-maker, cleaned the boat bottom, unwrapped the main, and stored away our luggage. It was nicer to get that work done somewhere where you could jump in the water every couple hours to cool off. It takes a lot of work to put your boat back together in working order after an absence.

Our work is done now and this is our last day in Santa Rosalia where we are tying up the last few loose ends. Tomorrow we leave! I'm always excited when we leave dock, but I'm also anxious this time. It's easy to get lulled into a false sense of security. Day after day the weather is hot, it's windy but it nothing you can't handle. Then when you see a storm like the Chubasco hit without warning and with such ferociousness, your false sense of security gets ripped away. And that's a good thing. It's when you let your guard down that things can go very wrong.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Pickles, Cheese, Butter and Nuts

Our last stop in America was.......Costco. Where else? Sure there are Costcos in Mexico but they just do not carry all the same items, and the prices on the imported things are not quite as good. I love Mexican food, but there are some American foods that cannot be translated into Mexican food tastes, I guess. And there are some excellent Mexican foods that are far less good in America (our tortillas are a pale comparison to what you get in Mexico!) It's like the language barrier. There is a difference in the national food tastes. For example, in Mexico you can buy a Chile and Lime flavored Tootsie Pop sucker. (I am not kidding. They are revoltingly grainy from the chile powder.) And Cheetos here are not the Cheetos of your childhood.

Pickles are one of those things that just don't translate well. You can find pickles in Mexico but they tend to be limp and extremely salty. They remind me of salty, green slugs. So we loaded up in Costco on baby dills, bread and butter chips, and big dills. You know those giant Coscto jars? We have pounds and pounds of pickles that should last us a few months, since Jack and I can sit down and just devour pickles with nothing else. They are not a lowly side dish on our boat.

We also now have 8 lbs of sweet cream, salted butter on board. The only reason I didn't buy more is because I anticipate getting back to America in a couple months. Sure, butter is available everywhere in Mexico. The Mexican butter often has a funny vanilla taste and is very oily, and you can easily find imported butter on the shelves of major grocery storey. In this case it was the price that caught my eye. Four pounds of butter were packaged together for the price I pay for one pound of imported butter in Mexico. Score!

The Cheese Section was where I spent the most time. I reverently walked the aisles with lust in my eyes. I didn't buy half what I wanted, but I came away with the most important ones to me. There are lots of types of Mexican cheese, and some are pretty good. Some imported cheeses are available in many Mexican stores (like bleu or Monterey Jack) but again the price makes it painful to buy. God Bless the American Costco. Our freezer is now loaded with 3 lbs of bleu cheese, a 2 lb block of Romano that cost 5$!, and blocks of Gruyere, regular Swiss, fine aged Swiss, Parmesan, sharp Cheddar, and Monterey Jack. I think I am forgetting some but, you get the picture. Our Engel freezer is to the rim with butter and cheese.

Last but not least were some nuts. How could we leave without a huge container of cashews? You just don't see them down here and certainly not a huge container for 13$. I should have bought two. We'll be eating like kings in the next few months and seeking out secluded anchorages where we won't have to share!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Bryce Canyon, Utah




Our road trip continues to speed along. Today we decided to take in Bryce Canyon in Utah. Wow! It is just fantastic. This weekend is one of the last summer weekends for all those families with kids in schools so the parks are full and the hotels are, too. Since we are doing this on the fly without pre-planning (ie. no reservations) we decided to skip the Grand Canyon and hit a less traveled park. After three years without a lot of people around, large crowds are kind of overwhelming anyway!

















Red Canyon, Utah






Rudy continues to be a great road traveler. However, after sleeping all day he turns into a demon at night!