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.

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, April 29, 2009

La Paz to Puerto Escondido

Though we left the states six months ago, we finally spent our first two weeks cruising north into the Sea of Cortez. It is as beautiful as anyone could ask. The clean waters, abundant sea life, sparsely inhabited land, miles of beautiful beaches, the austere desert beauty marching right down to the Sea just adds up to a breathtaking experience.

Our first stop was in the islands of Espiritu Santo and Partida which are slightly north of La Paz. They are nature preserves, so few inhabitants and no dogs allowed. It was hard for Rudy, but fantastic for us. We spent nearly a week there at a couple different anchorages. We filled every day with combinations of snorkeling, fishing, swimming, hiking, kayaking and hanging out. We saw sea turtles, sea lions, mantas, and thousands of tropical fish all swimming around our boat. At Ensenada Grande, we anchored in 10 feet of water over sand. Just a Minute looked like a toy boat in a swimming pool. The water was crystal clear and we easily watched manta rays feeding under our boat, and all the curious puffer fish that found shelter under our hull.

Our next stop was Isla San Francisco, a small island with rugged volcanic rock cliffs. We all went for a hike one evening up to the top to see the view. The sheer drop off the other side of the ridge line had all of us a little wary, except for Rudy. Good thing we had a leash on him. We spent two nights there, building rock towers on the beach, snorkeling and hiking.

Somewhere around this time, Patrick and I realized that we really wanted to get back to Bahia Concepcion - one of our favorite places we stayed on our honeymoon fifteen years ago. So we decided to pick up our pace and head north much faster. With that in mind, our next stop was Punta Telmo. On the passage to Telmo, a couple dolphins gave us the show of a life time. They swam right in front of our boat and launched themselves high out of the water. They only did five leaps, but it was spectacular. We caught a little footage of it but please forgive the crazy focusing -between my excitement, the moving boat and trying to keep the camera from getting splashed by the dolphins, I only got one good leap on film. We will try to figure out how to post video on the blog.

We were only going to spend one night at Telmo, but it was sooooo beautiful we stayed two nights. This point of land has fantastic red rocks that look like piles of slightly melted soft ice cream, with swirls and rounded contours. The beaches were some of the most beautiful I have seen yet. The second night a local fisherman came to our boat, asked if we wanted lobster and when we said yes, he moved his boat about 100 yards from ours, stripped off his shirt, dove in and brought us up three. All for about 10$. Yummy!

We pulled ourselves away the next morning and made it to Agua Verde. Another absolutely stunning anchorage. We will definitely return another time, but the pull for Conception Bay kept us moving. We left the following morning (which is today) and ended up in Puerto Escondido. This is the first port we've been to with Internet and we will stay here one night and leave tomorrow.

Since pictures are worth a thousand words, I will just forgo any more descriptions of the beauty around us and load the pages with pictures. Enjoy!


Thursday, April 16, 2009

A response to Kirk

This posting is more of a response to a very nice comment sent in from a man in Toronto (you can see it in the comments section under the last posting.) We love writing this blog and it makes me really happy to hear from people who enjoy reading it. Thank you. This posting is going to answer some of his questions,. If you have questions, write them in. We will try to respond to them in the blog.

In our last posting, I said we would be leaving that day to head out into the islands. Well we didn't. The last thing we did that morning before casting off the lines was to listen to the weather forecast on our single side band radio which is like a ham radio which covers long distances. Six days a week at 8:15 am on the Amigo Net (a radio forum for cruisers) a man named Don Anderson in Oxnard, CA does a weather forecast for mariners on the west coast of Mexico from CA to Guatemala. We listen to him every day and base our decisions on his predictions.

Yesterday morning, Don predicted a wind storm starting on Thursday and dying on Saturday that would produce winds up to 30 knots right in the area where we wanted to travel. So we decided to stay put. Our number one priority is safety and watching the weather is top of the list. Since we have no time frame and no schedule, it is very easy for us to base our travels on the weather. There is no reason to stress yourself, your crew, or your boat out in foul weather if you can avoid it. People can get in trouble when they have a schedule (like guests coming). We have heard several stories of cruisers getting in trouble when they are pushing themselves to make it to a particular area on a time frame.

So all of our passages are made first with an eye on the weather. We don't leave unless it sounds optimum. Because of this, every passage has been pretty mild and enjoyable. The passages we have made - La Paz to Mazatlan is 240 nautical miles, Mazatlan to Isla Isabel was 80 nautical miles, San Blas to Teacapan and Teacapan to Mazatlan are each 60 nm - have mostly been by motoring. They are all day, or overnighters and so speed is of the essence. We never turn off the engines since we are trying to make it as quickly as possible. We do about 6 to 8 knots per hour with our engines at a comfortable RPM. There usually isn't enough wind to even bother putting up the sails. Now that we are on the Baja side of the Sea, there are a ton more anchorages and we won't be making any more long passages.

Despite our caution about weather, Jack and I both still get sea sick when we are first out in the swells. Thankfully the feeling passes after a couple hours. Jack is one tough kid and does not complain. But because of this, our cruising style is different from most others. When we find a place to lay anchor, we tend to stay longer than other cruisers. Lots of cruisers will stop for one night at an anchorage and then leave the next day. We tend to stay at least three to five days. Our plan up north is to find a good spot and settle down for a couple weeks. We plan to be more anchorers than sailors.

Regarding Patrick's handiness, I am passing this over to him.

First, I would like to elaborate on Jack being a tough kid. Usually our passages begin at first light so by the time Jack wakes up we have been underway a couple of hours. Normally he puts his life jacket on. comes out on deck, announces he does not feel well, asks why we ever bought a boat and then proceeds to throw up on deck (usually near the bucket). After which his li'l brother Rudy gleefully cleans it up. After a couple of puking sessions he generally feels better and wants to get the meatlines in for fishing and have some M&Ms. That's it - about one complaint per passage.

The question was raised "if I was handy" Those of you who know me should stop laughing. I would not say I was so much "handy" but more capable. Capable of taking something that works fine and making it not work at all. However, generally I have time to tackle projects at my own leisure, unless of course they fail underway (which happens). It took me three days last week to change one fuel filter. I hate grease under my finger nails and I hate most tools more complicated than a screw driver.

However, in the cruising community we are always surrounded by many experts and a few of them even know what they are talking about. I just choose carefully on who I consult. My most leaned-on sources have been Ken on Summerwings, Colin on MamaBird and most of all by far, Bill on Sunbaby. After meeting someone I decide has a great deal of knowledge and experience I generally throw any pride I have to the wind and with great humility, or at least as close to great humility that I can muster, begin asking the dumbest questions possible. Bill has a lifetime of sailing experience, comes from a family of sailors, and also owns a Lagoon Cat. He claims that he is new at this but generally I know I am getting really good advice when he says "I have no idea about that, but if it were me...", or "My brother once told me...", - then I know it's pure gold.

Occasionally I or Laura has tripped up and begun this process with someone we shouldn't. This happened quite a bit in our early days. The result sometimes cost us a whole day with some man spending lots of time on our boat creating projects that were not on our list. Another source I lean on is good ol' Duane Desrosier from Cemex. Duane and I worked together for many years and I have never met a more mechanical individual. I called Duane the other day when I was struggling with bleeding the fuel lines after changing the fuel filter. Duane does not own a boat yet was still able to describe my filter and where to find the prime pump on my Yanmar as if he were on the boat with me.

Lastly I rely on Jack. Whenever I begin a project Jack becomes quite the skeptic. He usually sits quietly behind me and supervises in near silence. He holds the proper amount of faith in my mechanical abilities (not much). Then I hear "I see a problem" and he patiently explains to me that what I am doing won't work and why. And I have to say he is almost always right. I have come to rely on him when shopping for boat supplies and parts. He has an ability to think through the project in steps and see the potential pitfalls. I generally see the pitfalls once I am in them.

So no, I am not that handy but I am willing to try. We don't know how to sail but we are learning. Since we started this adventure I have torn down the carburetor on our dinghy, changed oil and fuel filters, built a water filtration system for dock water, wired solar panels, battery monitor, stereo, two new breaker panels, gps, etc. Lots of wiring. Yesterday I tore apart all of our winches and serviced them. That was scarier than hell, about 63,479 moving parts all wanting to jump into the sea. But, Bill came over a couple times to supervise and I had a book, so I was able to tear down, service and reinstall all three winches. I have not worked up the courage to tackle the other fuel filter yet. Sitting inside a cramped engine room, lathered in diesel, in the blazing sun is not my idea of a good time.

Systems, systems, systems... the boat is full of them and they all need attention. So I am afraid that this life requires a little discipline. Whenever we are on the hook, Jack and I spend some time with spatulas, snorkeling around the boat cleaning and scraping the hull. Barnacles grow so fast in warm water. The first of each month, I have a check list of things to inspect. One of the things are thru-hull fittings. A thru hull fitting is a pipe with a valve that goes through the hull of the boat to either let water in (fridge coolant, engine coolant, or water maker supply) or let water out (bilge, sinks and heads). They are great for breaking and sinking boats. The day before we left California, Ralph our captain was looking at one, said "This one looks good to me" and gave it a tug. It broke off in his hand. I stood mouth agape, while water came shooting into the boat. Good thing Ralph has a big thumb. We had to be hauled out that day and had 9 of 12 thru hull fittings replaced. I also inspect and clean every water filter, strainer and pump. And every month, as we get more experienced the list gets longer. It sounds like a lot and there is always something that stops working but we have lots of time in this new life. So, if it isn't affecting safety, or Laura's comfort, it can wait until I feel like doing it.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

La Paz Again, but just for a little while

We traveled with Sunbaby from Mazatlan to Bahia de los Muertos in the first ever Just A Minute Invitational Fishing Derby. After listening to all sorts of big talk from Patrick and Jack for days before we left, Bill smoked their hinies. Just a Minute landed four fish, all little skipjacks that aren't even good to eat. Meanwhile Bill pulled in his first dorado ever, and it was definitely a keeper. All 55" of it! Once at Muertos, Sue whipped up some ceviche and we all got to enjoy it.

On our trip over we saw our first sea turtle! He was an Olive Ridley, about as round as a car tire. He popped up right in front of our boat as we were motoring along and I had to swerve to miss him. We passed him about twenty feet off the side of our boat and got a good long look at him as we went by. It was thrilling to see a sea turtle in the wild. We also saw lots of flying fish. When we first saw them, we mistook them for birds because they really do fly, and for long ways. However, when they are done flying they just dive back into the water and disappear. They are really neat to watch.

Since arriving in La Paz, we have secured berth at the Singlar marina on the edge of town in company with Summerwings and Sunbaby. It's great to see Summerwings again. Kim and Ken are finishing up their time in Baja and have their catamaran for sale. Here's a link for those interested in joining us down here http://home.mindspring.com/~kkcordes/id22.html Summerwings is ready to go, all you need to start are bed sheets and some food, all for under $175K. If we had seen this boat when we were looking, we would have jumped on it - well maintained, outfitted for cruising and ready to go. We almost missed seeing Kim and Ken. However, when they heard Sunbaby and Just a Minute were returning to La Paz, they postponed their departure by four or five days, so we could all get together. We've spent the last couple of days hanging out together. It's been a lot of fun - maybe a little too much fun.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Back to La Paz

Well, we've changed our plans a little in the last week. Originally we were going to head north from Mazatlan and travel into the Sea on the mainland side, just to try something new. It is not the common thing to do - the anchorages are further apart and you are usually traveling straight into the wind. The advantage is that few others do it, so you have the place to yourself. The vast majority of cruisers jump to La Paz from Mazatlan and then head north on the Baja side of the Sea. So, the advantage of traveling north on the Baja side is that everyone else is doing it and you will get to be with your friends and make new ones. After a lot of debate, we've decided to follow the herd. We will cross over to the Baja side and go north from there. We are leaving Mazatlan in an hour and will be traveling with Sunbaby. The crossing will take around 40 hours to get to Bahia de los Muertos (the Bay of the Dead). Despite its name, it's a lovely place. It is a little south of La Paz. We will then spend a short time provisioning in La Paz and then head off into the Sea. I am so excited to finally be on the journey heading into the Sea of Cortez. It has been our goal since March of 2008 when we decided to pull the plug on the old life. What a year!


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Dolphins and Whales and Shallow water, Oh My

Hello Everyone!
I just cannot believe all that has happened since I last wrote you. We left San Blas around 5:30 am on March 27th, since we had a long way to go. At one point on the way, we had to alter our course about 10 degrees so we could avoid a couple humpbacks that were having a grand time hurling themselves out of the water and splashing by slapping their flukes. We watched them for about 15 minutes, before our boat noise became enough to disturb them.

Our ultimate destination was Mazatlan, but there was this neat looking inlet about halfway up that we wanted to go look at. There is a little town there called Teacapan. Unfortunately neither of the cruiser guide books we had even mentioned it, so we didn’t have anything to go on except Google Earth images and the stories of one cruiser. The bay had a big fan-like approach, a very small bottleneck and then a very large bay, and even from space, you could see large breakers around the opening indicating very shallow water. There were no channel markers. But hey, isn’t that what’s so great about cats? They only draw 3 ½ feet.

So it’s 5:00 pm, the sun is setting, the wind is 10 to 15 knots, pretty good swell crashing through and we are looking at solid breakers in front of us. We start nosing in and get to 8 feet depth when suddenly the water explodes at our boat on the land side. Bottle nose dolphins! Jumping out of the water, five feet from the boat, some sort of hitting it. Were they warning us? Jack had already gone to his room saying to Patrick , “I am going to huddle up in to a ball on my bed.” And he left to do it! Just minutes earlier he had said to Patrick, "I wish I was your wife so I could yell at you!" Things were dicey looking. but the dolphins were my last straw. I was just saying to turn around when a fisher panga was nearing us and Patrick flagged it down. Patrick asked them if we could get in the bay, and then if they could show us the way. They said yes to both and promptly led us back out and around about ¼ mile to the real entrance. When we were safely in the harbor past the bottleneck, they pulled alongside and we gave them gifts of a couple Cemex T shirts and 300 pesos (about 20 bucks.) Judging from the look on their faces, we gave them a little too much of a tip, but Hey! We were happy with them!

We talked to a man in Teacapan who told us that about 2 cruiser boats show up in this harbor every year The town is very small, with loads of small fisher pangas and traditional fishing boats with paddles for the boatmen. We were a major curiosity in the town. In the morning, some fishermen called out to us (while we were sleeping) and they were heading off the work! Many drove very close to our boat to get a good look. The town is on an estuary and used to be very full of large fish and shrimp, but is a little fished out now. However, it is still a major source of seafood for surrounding towns. The estuary is very large and shallow. We anchored in about 9 feet, right on the town’s edge.

The next day we went wandering around town and lazing about. Then just at sunset, Jack and I were sitting together in the master bedroom, just hanging out and chatting. We became aware that we were hearing a high pitched squeal. It took me a moment and then I realized, “Those are dolphins we are hearing.” Jack didn’t believe me at first, but the noises continued. He ran out to the deck to try to catch sight of them, and found the whole pod circling our boat! Maybe twenty or thirty in the pod. I ran and got my camera but just seconds after starting the video the battery died. Isn’t that classic? But it let me just enjoy the show. They stayed for about 45 minutes, circling the boat, calling, and circling some more. When we were standing on deck, the dolphins started sending sonar clicks at the boat. When the sonar hit the boat it sounded like crackling and popping electricity and we could feel the vibrations through our feet. We could see them through the water, turning on their side to get a better look at the boat. They were just like the villagers, very interested in us and our boat! They were smaller than other dolphins we have seen, very dark with lighter colored bellies. We think they were Spinner dolphins. It was so amazing. They showed up when Patrick was gone to the store on the dinghy, but he returned shortly into their visit. The escorted him in to the boat and then played around his dinghy while he sat in it. There was at least one baby who was about 2 to 3 feet long. So cute!

If getting in to the estuary had been tense, getting out was a real nail biter. There was a new moon that was making extreme tides and when we woke up the next morning, we had never seen the tide that low. The trip to Mazatlan was going to be about 10 hours and we were hoping to make it to anchor by dark so we wanted to get going as soon as possible. By 8:30 the tide had risen 1 foot and water was rushing in, so we decided to make a break for it. Our draft is 3.5 and at one point, the depth meter read 3.6. I was sounding like the announcer from Wimbledon, calmly reading out the numbers - 4.2, 3.9. 3.6 - right behind Patrick. It was driving him nuts because he could read the numbers for himself, but it was better than me screaming. However, in the end, and with a little pointing from the panga fishermen, we were headed in the right direction and out the channel.

Almost as soon as we were out of the estuary we were treated to quite a performance by a little baby humpback and his mommy. He was practicing his breaching and he was good at it. He was about 12 feet long, and a perfect miniature humpback whale. It is so funny to see a tiny version. He would hurl himself almost completely out of the water and then slam down next to him mom. She would come up and breathe and then he would do it again. He lept about 15 or twenty times while we watched. They came very close to the boat, maybe within 300 feet.

On our trip back to Mazatlan we picked up a hitchhiker. A boobie landed on our solar panel while we were underway. He was very funny to watch while he learned how to cope with the motion of the boat through the waves, but once he was comfortable, he started preening and eventually settled down for a nice nap. He stayed with us for about four hours before he flew off, refreshed. We made it to Mazatlan just after twilight and anchored next to Sunbaby at Stone Island, just outside the Mazatlan harbor. It was so calm and such beautiful weather we stayed the next day at Stone Island before heading in to Marina El Cid yesterday. It was great to be back. As we were moving in to the channel some of the dock workers were calling out greetings and welcoming us back. As we were moving through to the fuel dock, we spotted Mama Bird at dock.

Last night, we threw a Marina Palmira get together with Sunbaby and Mama Bird. It was really fun to get together five months later after our first meeting. We were all so fresh and shiny new when we met, and now we all had some stories to tell. Everyone is doing great, having fun and making plans to head into the Sea. Can't wait.