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

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.