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

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Medical Care in Mexico

First I want to say that if America was lucky enough to have a medical system like Mexico, then there would not be the legions of American families drowning under insurance premiums, deductibles, co-pays, and medical bills that the insurance refuses to cover. You may think I am joking, but I am not.

Since we have lived in Mexico for one year, it is now time for us to start seeking the routine check-ups that we all need to keep healthy. Since my mother is a breast cancer survivor, my first priority was a mammogram. I had a recommendation from a fellow cruiser for a mammogram clinic and I walked there to set up an appointment. The clinic was very clean and well cared for, with marble tile floors. It was a little small by American standards, and there were no live plants or aquariums. OK - I can live with that.

Imagine my surprise when the receptionist tells me they have time for me right then! What? I don't have to wait three weeks for an appointment? Wow. My name was taken, my age and nothing else. No forms to fill out, no Social Security number to provide. Wow. I was ushered back to the room shortly. The mammogram was taken. Then the x-ray technician walked the mammogram films to the doctor who looked them over. If the doctor found anything concerning like a cyst, he would perform an ultrasound RIGHT THEN to get a better picture of the cyst. The ultrasound was FREE OF CHARGE - just part of the service they provide! When I was all finished in about 30 minutes, they told me that my films would be ready to be picked up the following morning. What? I get to keep my own films so I can bring them to any doctor I want for a second opinion? Amazing. No filing system, no billing office, no records department = little overhead.

Are you ready to hear how much this amazing service cost? It's hard to believe. This entire service cost me $650 pesos, at an exchange rate of 12 to 1, that is about $60 US. Total.

I was very impressed by my experience. Next the dentist!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

La Paz

We arrived back in La Paz yesterday after a fast and furious motor/sail down. Traveling down past all the amazing places on the Baja peninsula, it became clear that we still had so much left to see. We could spend another entire season in the Sea and not revisit one anchorage!

La Paz is a main cruiser's hub of Mexico and it is full to the brim with the cruiser's who have been here forever living on boats, the Baja HaHa 09 participants who are mostly newcomers and who just got down here from the States in early November, and the people like us who are moving south after spending the summer up in the Sea. It is quite a circus. The five marinas in town are all pretty full and the anchorage in the bay is filled with about another 60 to 80 boats. We could not find a spot in a marina since out 22 foot wide boat only fits in a few spots in each marina and they were all taken. That is one disadvantage of a catamaran. We are anchored in the bay of La Paz next to Third Day and Windfall. Our reservations are set to attend the upcoming Thanksgiving dinner put on by the Club Cruceros Cruiser's association. And we are working to secure reservations to haul the boat out on Tuesday.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone,

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Saga of the Boat Engines, cont.

First, I would like to state for the record that both engines are running beautifully right now. But this is one of the first times in a long time that statement can be made!

Mentioned in earlier posts, we began having a leak in our salt water intake pump for the starboard engine months ago. The salt water keeps the engine cool while it is running. The first time it showed up was when we were running from Hurricane Jimena and our engine stopped running and the heat sensor alarm went off. At the time, we did not know what was wrong, and we had our hands full trying to get the heck out of Jimena's way, so Patrick started tearing apart the engine while we were underway to Willard Bay. He figured at the time it was a faulty impellor, so he tore the water pump apart, replaced the impeller, put it back together, primed it, and got the engine started. He is amazing, considering that he has not ever been much of a "motorhead". But the next morning, the engine would not work again, so he did the whole same trick underway while we raced on to Willard. Once again he got it started during the trip, but it failed again the next day.

After that, Patrick figured he had a leak in the pump housing that was causing the system to lose it's prime when it sat idle. Easy enough to work around. Either leave the salt water intake valve open all the time with a leak of salt water coming into the engine compartment (not good) or shut the intake, and only open it when the engine was needed, and then start the engine. The second option is what we used to eek our way through the summer. We were miles from any boat part store and there was no way to get any replacements to us in LA Bay, so we just made it work. Patrick ordered pump rebuild parts online, had them sent to a friend (Gary in Mulege) who was home in WA for the summer, but coming down in the fall. Trying to be economical, Patrick ordered the rebuild kit at $180 instead of just buying a new pump for $500. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

By the end of the summer, the leak was getting worse and worse, whenever we had to turn on the engine. We were very excited to get to Mulege and get those new parts so this game would end. Gary was returning to Mulege in November, which coincidentally happened to be when Tom decided to fly into Loreto to visit us, which is only 100 miles from Mulege.

We wanted the boat working perfectly when Tom was here so we went to Mulege, picked up the parts, and the day before Tom was supposed to show up, Patrick began rebuilding the pump. Only to quickly find that the Yanmar parts we received were not compatible with our engine's Yanmar parts. Because they were the same model number made in two different countries! Our engines were made in Europe (which is rare) and the parts we received were made in Japan (which is more common). Oh the Panic! We now had a non-functioning engine and were HUNDREDS of MILES from any boat parts store. Our boat cannot manuever with one engine. It would have been a nightmare to go hundreds of miles.

Many of you have realized that we are the luckiest people alive, when it comes to things that count. Sometimes you have to squint and turn your head to see the luck, but generally it is pretty clear that Patrick's Irish heritage has blessed him with luck. And this day proved it beyond belief. First we were lucky that we happened to be parked in an anchorage in Conception Bay that had pretty good internet which we had permission to use. We did not have cell phone service, and there was no way to get ahold of anyone except through internet. So we began frantically emailing everyone we knew trying to get a message to someone to A) go to Seattle and buy the right pump; and B) have Tom bring it down.

Our second lucky break was that our sister-in-law Pam was on line and willing to help. Which began a frantic email exchange. Over the following hours Pam called the parts store numerous times to make sure they had the right pump, and she got ahold of Tom. Our third lucky break is that Tom is one in a million, and he happened to have time to fight rush hour Seattle traffic and pick up a whole new pump before the store closed. He arrived at the store at 4:40 and the store closed at 5:00! Tom was leaving to catch his plane to Mexico the next morning at 3am. Which added to part of our concern when Tom did not show up at the appointed pick up time - "Where is our water pump?"

Now it can be argued that we would have been truly lucky if the rebuild kit we had ordered had been the right one to begin with, or that the pump would never have leaked in the first place., or if only we had ordered a whole pump instead of a rebuild kit. But after all, we do live in the real world, sometimes. And this makes for a better story.


Friday, November 20, 2009

Tom's Visit

Our week with Tom went so quickly! It takes an adventurous traveler to meet up with us the way Tom did. He flew into Loreto, took a bus about 70 miles and then got off on the side of the road at a certain beach in Conception Bay. Then he had to walk about 300 yards down the beach to Ana's Restaurant which is a small house-looking structure without any outdoor signs. Now our friend Ben made this exact same journey in May, so we were pretty confident that a seasoned traveler like Tom would have no problems. Imagine our concern, when Tom does not arrive on the 5 o'clock bus, the 8 o'clock bus, or the 10 pm bus on the appointed day. We held a "Tom Watch" all that evening, but no Tom! We decided to hold our panic down until 6 pm the following day. If he didn't show up then, we were going to notify his family!

Thankfully the next day, the 2 pm bus pulled over and one lone traveler with lots of baggage began huffing it down the dirt road toward the beach. Jack and I jumped in the dinghy and got to the beach before Tom had to fumble through too much bad Spanish asking the campground attendant confused questions. All the attendant did was point to the beach and Tom saw us waving from our dinghy. (We had put the word out to the denizens of the beach to be on the lookout for a confused looking gringo with luggage!) From that time on, we had a blast.

Our first few days were spent in Conception Bay visiting some of our favorite spots. We were sad to go to Coyote Island and see the devestation that Hurricane Jimena wreaked. The tiny beach where all the scallops lived was wiped off the face of the earth, along with the scallops and chocolate clams. Every partical of sand from that beautiful beach was gone, and only the large rocks remained. The bottom of the bay was littered with thousands of shells of dead scallops, chocolate clams, butter clams, and pen scallops. Some pen scallop shells were a monsterous two feet long! It was so sad. Our entire trip down the coast has been a sad tour of Jimena damage from Santa Rosalia to Mulege, but the loss of the beach we loved was more personal to us. The damage in Mulege was incredible. People are still working so hard to clean up and repair. Many, many homes were lost there.

From Conception Bay, we sailed to San Juanico with Tom. A Norther was coming and we knew that San Juanico would be a good place to sit out a wind storm from that direction. The next morning, the winds hit and continued for three days. We were pinned, but it was a beautiful place to be stuck. We snorkeled, visited the cruiser's shrine where Jack immortalized Tom's visit, and we hiked for miles. By the time the storm was over, we had enough time left to spend one night at a beautiful little island near Loreto and then we dropped Tom off in the Loreto marina the next day in time to catch a taxi to the airport. Hopefully he is safe at home.

After dropping Tom at Loreto, we hustled to Puerto Escondido where we reunited with Third Day. We planned to stay long enough to get laundry done, refuel, and clean the boat. Oh, and hike the Steinbeck Canyon. I am so glad we took the time, but this morning when we were walking the 45 minutes just to get to the trail head, I was wondering why we were bothering to do this. About 10 minutes into the hike from the trail head, I stopped wondering. I have never been on such a beautiful hike. We had Third Day's Amy and Jason along as guides to show us where to go. We had such a great day together. The scenery was breathtaking, as was the plunge in one of the canyon's pools. Tomorrow we leave on our epic dash to La Paz. We hope to be there in three days, so there will be no lolly-gagging done.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Re-stocked, Repaired and Ready to go

Our week in Santa Rosalia has been very productive. Yesterday, Windfall's Meri, Third Day's Lori and I hit the grocery stores in Meri's car. We were struggling to find room for the bags by the end of the day. All provisions are now neatly stored. While I was provisioning food, Patrick and Jack made several trips to the gas station to provision fuel. Patrick has successfully repaired the propane system, so we are able to cook again. Yeah! And our engines' fuel and oil lines have been purged and cleaned, filters and oil changed. All in all a very successful week. We pick up the parts to repair the leaking engine water pump further south.

Our immediate future is becoming clearer through December. Our friend Tom has decided to come visit us. We will be picking Tom up at Conception Bay next week and sailing around with him for a week and a half before leaving him in Puerto Escondido. From there we are heading down to La Paz to be there in time for the Cruiser's Thanksgiving Feast. We will be meeting back up with Third Day and Windfall there, since they are also planning to attend. We have gotten information about hauling out in La Paz to get our keel and sail drives painted, so we will need to be in La Paz at least two weeks. Then over to Mazatlan's Marina El Cid for OUR vacation. Yes, it's true, you even need a vacation from paradise -just a little change up from anchoring out on beautiful, isolated islands. We are all looking forward to tying to the dock at El Cid and being a tourist in Mazatlan over the Christmas Holidays.

And that is as far into the future was we care to look. We know we will be heading south from Mazatlan in January, but we have no idea where we will end up. We'll know when we get there!