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

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.