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

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A "Wind Event?" - Oh, Let's Just Call it a Gale

I've noticed somewhere along the way that the hip phrase to use in cruising circles when talking about an upcoming wind storm is to call it a "wind event". It does sound so hip and unconcerned - and isn't that what sailors are all about? We don't worry about the weather - we use hurricanes to dry our clothes!

Meanwhile, we've been sitting out the last "wind event" on a mooring ball at Puerto Escondido. Yesterday we had mid-30's pretty consistent with gusts up to the 40's - some boats saying they have recorded up to 50 knots of wind. The"event" is continuing on today since there is an 18 millibar gradient difference encompassing the 900 miles of the Baja Peninsula from tip to tip. Don Anderson of Summer Passage Radio (the weatherman for the Amigo and Southbound nets) is calling for winds from 50 to 60 knots today - even higher than yesterday.

Am I worried? Truthfully, no. More grumpy than anything else. It's no danger, as long as the system anchoring you in place remains true. It's just lumpy, and loud and it makes it hard to sleep. Puerto Escondido is a large bay nearly perfectly enclosed by surrounding hills. It is supposed to be the perfect hidey hole for all big blows and boaters come here during the hurricane months to sit them out in safety. Unfortunately the problem I am having is that since the bay is so big, you still get a lot of fetch. The bay has white caps with the tops being blown off. The waves are only about 1 foot, but they are very closely spaced. And I do not like relying on the marina's anchoring system. How do I know what their line looks like that is attaching me to the mooring ball? Or what about the one attaching my next door neighbor to his?

I know a lot of people would disagree, but I would much rather be anchored in some tiny cove all by ourselves with good NW protection for this "wind event." We've been anchored in 88 knots (for those of you new to the blog check out the Feb 4, 2010 blog - scary stuff) and the only thing I was really worried about were all the boats with failing anchors that were trying to hit us. My advice for any new cruiser - get a good anchor, have lots of big chain, supersize your ground tackle and always take the time to really set your anchor well. Then the next time there's a "Wind Event" coming, set yourself up in a good little cove, close to the sheltering shore and get your movies and popcorn ready. I'll be sure to follow my own advice next time around, too.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Making Ricotta Cheese

Living in a country that has a very different culinary culture from your own for over two years can cause some pretty extreme taste cravings. Thankfully, Patrick and I both enjoy cooking and we manage to keep body and soul together with some very good meals out here. But there are some grocery items that are just not available here, or are only available for a very high price (Can you believe I once paid $8 US for a box of Fig Newtons?). But since we are trying to stay out longer than we originally intended, we are now on a budget. For some time I have been craving a good pan of lasagna, but I have not even seen ricotta cheese for sale for almost a year, I think. Lasagna noodles are a little easier to find, and I had picked up some last time I saw them almost six months ago.
So imagine my joy when my good friend Meri on Hotspur told me that you could make ricotta cheese. I was desperate, so I tried it. Wow! It was like magic and I was so jazzed about it (and the resultant pan of yummy lasagna) that I had to share it with you.
The entire process takes about fifteen minutes. The ingredients are simple - 3 cups of dried whole (must be whole) milk, 6 cups of cold water, and 3/4 cup white vinegar. In a large saucepan mix the dried milk and water until dissolved. Heat over medium heat until the liquid is hot to touch but not boiling. Do not let it boil, but keep it hot. Then dump in the vinegar and start stirring. Almost immediately the curds will begin forming. Keep stirring for about ten to fifteen more minutes until the curds (the cheese) and the whey (the yellowish leftover liquid) seperate completely. Then pour this into a strainer lined with cheese cloth. I don't have cheesecloth so I used a clean tank top. Gently squeeze out the whey, then rinse with cold water and squeeze out the liquid again. Then empty the cheese ball out onto a plate lined with some paper toweling, just to get a little more water out. If you squeeze out too much water, the ricotta is a little dry, but you can just add some cream when you are mixing it up for the lasagna, later to compensate. And Voila! you have perfect ricotta cheese. The recipe makes about 2 1/2 to 3 cups ricotta cheese. I don't have access to store bought ricotta so I can't do a side-by-side comparison, but I am pretty sure that it IS ricotta cheese. It sure makes a great tasting lasagna.
Our lasagna was so good that we made two pans of lasagna in two days! Still recovering from the overload.
Meri has started a very cool website with lots of great lasagna recipes on it. She is working on adding the ricotta cheese recipe too, so you should see it on there soon. There are more recipes for different lasagnas than I have ever seen, so it is already a great site to visit. You can find it at http://lasagnarecipehq.com/
Check it out!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Team Budget and the Baja 1000

Today was just one of those magical days. You set off on one adventure and then you find out that something even better is in store for you. Since both Steff and her kids (Adios 3) and Jack and I are hanging out in Puerto Escondido waiting for our Captains to return, we decided to have some fun. Well truthfully, Steff decided to have some fun and she invited us along for the ride. Glad she did. We set out in a small rental car for the San Javier Mission which is about 32 kilometers out of Loreto, up into the Sierra de la Gigantes mountains.
It was 32 kilometers off the main road , and only half of it was paved. We were a little worried starting out since the Budget Rental representative was a little hesitant when we told him our plans. But Steff is a woman not to be deterred, and off we went.
Honestly, the road was not that bad, but when we hit the 20 miles of dirt roads, things started to get interesting. Up, up, up we wound through the canyons, past a couple of remote ranches, and through some spectacularly beautiful countryside. We saw caballeros (cowboys) on horseback, free ranging cows and goats, and lots of cactus, rocks and empty land. But our first indication of something special going on was the tricked out motorcycle that blew by us with driver decked out in fancy protective clothing. The next clue was when we passed two men standing by a fancy truck in the middle of nowhere who started laughing when they spied us and told us that they were a check point for the Baja 1000 race. I didn't really believe them. The final clue was when we reached the San Javier Mission and met the driving team of contestants #601 with the driver J.T. Taylor, his back-up driver and one of his road crew. (J. T. is the one with the mustache.) For those of you not in the know, the Baja 1000 is one of those crazy off-road races that started back in the late 60's. It has morphed into something entirely different since then, but basically teams of drivers in different vehicles (motorbikes, dune buggies, big trucks) race off-road through the Baja Peninsula with the help of big money sponsors.

After that, the afternoon became sort of funny. On our way back down the mountain we passed a couple different Baja 1000 contestants who were practicing on the road. I can't imagine what they thought, contestants in one of the roughest motorized off-road land races in the Americas when they were passing two Moms and 3 teens in a small sized Budget Rental car. Go Team Budget!!!!

Captainless in Escondido

Hey Everyone!
Currently Jack, Rudy and I are in charge of the boat. Though we have thought about voting Patrick off of the boat at times in the past, that is not why he is absent now. One of Patrick's best friends from home came down for a visit. Within two days of Tom being down here, they had rented a car and headed for the states. Supposedly they are picking up all of the replacement parts, supplies, and upgrades that we need after this Summer of Breakdowns. They aren't fooling me though - they are just off on a Boys Only Road Trip. If they find their way back "on schedule," I will be surprised.
Meanwhile, Jack, Rudy and I are having a very nice time. Our good friends on Adios 3 are also in Puerto Escondido without their captain. Charlie is off on a business trip, leaving Steff and the kids to manage without him. So we have been having a lovely time together. Today we have rented a car to go exploring the San Javier Mission which is nearby, and are hoping to take in some pictographs (cave paintings) left from the indigenous inhabitants. So over the next couple of days, look for more pictures of our experiences.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Life with a Salty Dog

This post is in response to some comments and questions about life with a dog, cruising on a boat.
Nothing is better than waking up in the morning and seeing the goofy, happy face of Rudy, excited to see me after a WHOLE night spent apart. It is just a great way to start the day. Anyone who has been following our blog for long knows that we have gone to extraordinary lengths to keep Rudy healthy, safe and happy while we cruise around Mexico. It is not an easy task. But Rudy makes the effort worthwhile for us. He has put his mark (so to speak) on our time cruising from deciding what boat to buy to where we go.
Bathroom breaks - We are very fortunate since Rudy quickly learned how to use a 2' x 3' piece of astro turf as his personal potty. It only took him 2 days to figure it out, which is pretty good for him. I know many dogs who require daily trips to the beach to relieve themselves and will hold it for days if they are at sea. I don't know why he picked it up so quickly, but these are the steps we took. We poured some of our pee onto the mat and had it in place before he ever even set foot on the boat. We placed him on the boat and did not let him off until he peed. It took just over 24 hours. He went right to the mat and peed. We gave him a big chunk of raw bacon (first time in his life). About 30 minutes later he had a bowel movement on the mat and we gave him more bacon. And then after that he started running into the galley whenever he used the mat, so we figured he had it down and stopped giving him bacon. He has never had an accident. We keep his mat up on the bow of our boat and when it is dirty, we simply drop it overboard on a line and let it soak.
Food - Rudy eats a 40 lb bag of dog food in about a month. Back home in America we fed Rudy an imported dog food that was 70% protein, 100% hype, cost $80 per 50 lb bag and was only sold in high-end pet stores. They don't even sell that down here. The best brand dog food we can find is Royal Canin and it costs $120 for 40 lb bag. We have only found it for sale in Mazatlan or La Paz. So guess what? Rudy has actually continued to survive just fine eating Purina Dog Food! It costs about $35 for a 50lb bag and it is sold anywhere that is big enough to have a real store. Since it is probably not the most nutritious food, we heavily suplement Rudy's diet with potato peelings, apple cores, tomato ends, homemade dried fish treats and chicken broth. Rudy is a regular compost heap. We often travel with 150 lbs of dog food on board since the food bought in large grocery stores in large cities is less likely to be infested with bugs.
Excercise - Rudy is a big, young dog and he needs a lot of excercise in order to be well behaved. His main form of excercise is swimming. If we are in anchorages, he swims at least once, but usually several times a day. We are very lucky that Rudy quickly learned how to haul himself up onto the boat all on his own by climbing the swim ladder. If we are in a marina or anchorage, we try to bring him onto land at least once a day for a walk/play. In a marina he gets lots of little walks every day. If we are on passage, he just puts up with not having any excercise. Like any dog, the more excercise he gets, the better behaved he is - so we are highly motivated.
Where to sail - Having a dog has really shaped our cruise in one huge way. It severely restricts where we can go and what we can do. One of the joys of cruising is putting your boat in a marina and getting off of it for a couple weeks of inland travel. Big dogs like Rudy are not allowed on public transportation usually (you can find a nice driver, but it's not a certainty.) So if we want to go traveling with Rudy, we have to spend a lot of money getting a rental car, which takes a lot of fun out of the trip since you don't get to experience the fun of public transportation. We don't feel comfortable leaving Rudy behind and paying someone to take care of him on our boat, and would only do it if we really knew the people and liked them.
Having Rudy on board is also a big part of why we are not interested in going to the South Pacific, or even Central America. There are very strict quarantine laws for animals in most of the island countries of the Pacific. And Central American cruising involves long stints in marinas and lots of inland travel. Both of those destinations involve ocean passages where Rudy would get no excercise. Therefore neither of those destinations can be on our list.
Safety - Sometimes it seems that Rudy is intent on killing himself and taking one of us with him. He has often picked up dead pufferfish and gleefully run around the beach, refusing to drop (the poison in their innards can kill a dog in less than a day.) He has raced off into the hills of desolate anchorages and refused to come back (rattlesnakes). He has been attacked by a pack of dogs (stray dogs are everywhere in Mexico) which we had to beat off with a chair. He has had mange, hot spots, skin infections, been stung by a stingray, infected with anaplasmosis by a tick bite, and been swarmed by bees when he was drying off from a bath. Once he almost knocked me off the boat during a passage when no one else was on deck. Life with Rudy is exciting. He has required more medical care here in Mexico than all three of us combined.
So in conclusion - We decided to get a dog three years ago because life seemed so hum drum and we felt like we were missing something. Some people get pregnant when they have that feeling but that wasn't an option for us. So we got a dog and realized after the puppy glow wore off that it wasn't the fix we were looking for. So a few months later, the idea struck us that we should sell everything and leave that life behind. We were very fortunate and managed to be casting off dock lines 6 months later. Now that was the right answer and we have never regretted it. But we still had a dog - a very big, very young dog who had completely wormed his way into our hearts. If I could go back in time, I would never have gotten a dog and would have jumped straight into selling everything. Our life would be much, much easier. But it would not be quite as much fun, I think.