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

Friday, July 22, 2011

Redwoods Road Trip Pictures

We took Highway 1 up along the coast of California through the Redwood Forests and then cut over on small highways through Oregon before joining I-5 south of Eugene, Oregon on our way up to the Great Pacific Northwest. We saw elk herds, elephant seals, acres and acres of huge trees, and miles of beautiful vistas, vineyards and small-town America.

Rudy was a very good Road Tripper and slept most of the way

The Drive Thru Tree was just a goofy hoot. I couldn't believe it when I saw the line-up! At $5 per car, it's doing good business. The tree is about 2400 years old and still looks pretty healthy. We were so grateful to see beautiful forests again. Most of our pictures are of trees and we kept pulling over to take little hikes in the woods.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Often, the Best Thing to Do is Laugh - Pt 2

Break Down #1 So, there we sat in the parkng lot with a car straight from the mechanic, with a dead battery. We have battery cables on board but since we use them in lightning storms to create a circuit from mast to water (we attach one end to a stay and throw the other end over the side into the water) they had stopped being able to jump our car. Patrick went into a nearby auto store, purchased new cables and got a jump start. With the car loaded, we piled in and started off.
Break Down #2 We didn't even get past the place we were stopped the first time we tried to leave Santa Rosalia. The "Low Coolant" warning light came on. Patrick was ready for that one - the mechanic had told him to buy some antifreeze since he had to take the radiator system apart to reach the alternator. Patrick had already added coolant several times in his trip from the mechanic's to the marina, but the light was still coming on as we headed toward the city limits. We pulled over and added some more water and antifreeze. We started up again and the sign was gone.
Break Down #3 Then the warning light came back about 1 mile later outside the city limits. So Patrick pulled over to add more antifreeze and water. And more water. And more antifreeze. The car's engine temp just kept climbing. But we can't shut the car off because the battery is not strong enough to start us up again. Then the radiator hose just pops off and water and coolant gushes out. Panic! Frantically, Patrick reattaches the hose and tightens down the hose clamp. Thankfully, I had insisted on loading up 5 gallons of water before we left (we're traveling through a desert!). We hastily pull that out and dump about 3 gallons in, and the rest of the coolant, yet the car's temp keeps climbing. It gets up to the red death line and holds for a minute. We were just reaching to turn off the engine when the needle stops, then slowly lowers. Fiasco averted. After our hearts slow down, we load up and start off again. It seems that the mechanic had not tightened down the radiator hose clamp when he put the car back together.
We keep going to San Ignacio and find a lovely campground for the night.
Breakdown #4 The next morning, we start off and it seems to be going well. I fell asleep. Only to wake up to a sort of panicked sounding, "What happened?" from Jack. The car was sputtering to a stop and we were totally encased in a thick cloud of dust. The car won't start. Patrick tells Jack to jump out and wave off anyone coming up from behind because the dust is so thick we could get hit by an unsuspecting driver. Patrick tries the car several times with no result as the dust clears. I get the scoop from Patrick - there was road work going on and we were traveling on a stretch of gravel road that was several miles long. Everything was fine until a huge semi passed and threw up a thick cloud of dust. When the car was enveloped in the dust, it just died.
Then the dust cleared off enough and the car starts up again. Jack jumps in and off we go. We are a little wary since we are still traveling on a long stretch of gravel road and dust is flying from every car passing. We kept going until the road went back to paved. Then we found the first shady spot and stopped to shake out the air filter. Thick dust comes out. After that, the car is just not running right. It won't idle well and often sputters to a stop if we are going slow. We keep going to El Rosario to a lovely hotel we know there to spend the night.
In the parking lot, Patrick figures out that the 3" air hose that runs to the turbo charger is hanging loose. No hose clamp to be seen. Evidently the mechanic also did not reattach that hose and tighten it when he put the car back together. Patrick calls a friend with a lot of mechanical knowledge and finds out that the loose air hose would cause the stuttering and idling problems. Since the car had kept running for hours despite the loose hose, Patrick decides to press on to San Quentin (a large town two hours away) before looking for a hose clamp to firmly attach the hose.
Breakdown #5 So bright and early that morning, we start out of town, headed up a large mountain. The car just sputtters to a stop on a steep incline. Except this time, it won't budge an inch uphill. Patrick can start it up but when he puts the gas on, it just dies. Jack and I jump out to wave off any other motorists as Patrick lifts the hood and reattaches the hose. Once it is on, it pops off again, almost as soon as he puts the gas on. So after reattaching it a couple more times, we get it to the side of the road and turned around to coast down the hill back into El Rosario. Thankfully, there is a ferreteria in town so we park the car and find the hose clamp we need. Once the hose is clamped on good and tight, we start off again headed to the border.
For the rest of that day, and the next two that follow, everything is working great. The car is running like a champ.
Breakdown #6 After several more days of travel, we are camping in the redwoods of California, traveling up the coast along Highway 1. One afternoon, we pull into a store parking lot and pick up a nail in our tire. We don't find out until we stop the car a few miles further on in a campground. Thankfully, we stopped while the tire was still deflating, and no further damage was done to it. We decide to just camp for the night and get the tire fixed in the morning. We were lucky because our good friend Ethan on Eyoni had loaned us a little 12 volt air compressor for just such an emergency! We fill up the tire so we can cruise the campground to pick our spot. Then we get a big log to prop up the car and let the tire go flat. The next morning, we inflate the tire and drive into town to get it fixed. Ten dollars and 15 minutes later we were good to go.
And that was our last breakdown. We are currently in Everett enjoying cloudy skies, drizzling rain and cool temps. It is heaven.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sometimes all you can do is laugh or cry - Part 1

It's hard to even know where to begin this post. So much has gone wrong that it's hard to remember what happened when and what came next. When last we left off, we had packed up the car, left Santa Rosalia and even before the city limits were reached, we turned around with a broken car. We drove straight back to the marina and moved back on the boat for the night. We thought we would be leaving the next day.
The next morning, Patrick started playing with the car to diagnose the problem. It was definitely the alternator gone bad. He went to two auto body shops and asked them if they could fix our alternator. Both said "Yes" at first and then said "No" when they found out our car was a Volvo. Volvo cars are not common down here on the Baja. We knew before we started that we could run into problems having an unusual car, but we thought it wouldn't be that bad. We thought wrong.
The next step was getting on the internet to find out if the alternator was going to be specific to Volvo or a more common brand. Turns out it was a Bosch from Germany, but several other brands could be used instead. With that info we went walking into town to a ferreteria (hardware store) that had lots of alternators in stock. No Bosch's in stock or the other kinds that could be used. We asked if they knew of anyone who could rebuild the alternator and just as they were writing down the guy's name for us, the very man walked in the store. He agreed to meet us at the marina to see the car in one hour. We were excited, everything was going so well. The man showed up, we jump-started the car and drove it to his shop.
And there it sat. Day One. Day Two. Every day that went by, Patrick was calling the mechanic asking what was going on. Communication was a real problem. Patrick had some of the marina officials helping him by calling and asking questions. We just got a lot of run around. Day Three. Patrick is told that the regulator is shot on the alternator and it has to be ordered from the USA since no parts are available down here in Mexico. That afternoon, Patrick takes the broken regulator around to 1007 ferreterias and is directed to a different mechanic. This mechanic takes one look at the regulator and goes over to his pile of goods. He pulls out a regulator that is almost a perfect match, but has just one connection that is different. No Problem for him. He takes out a soldering gun and adds a couple wires to it and VOILA! it's a perfect match. We pay him about $50 USD for his 10 minutes of time and the part and take that to our first mechanic. If we could have just retrieved our car and given it to the second mechanic, we would have. But how? We didn't have anyway to move the car. So instead we delivered the jerry-rigged regulator to the first mechanic for him to install. We left it with him that afternoon.
The next day, nothing is done when Patrick calls in the morning. He goes there with a cruiser who speaks fluent Spanish. The car is just sitting with no-one working on it. They leave. Then at 3 pm they go back and get the car. The mechanic has installed the jerry-rigged regulator given to him. Patrick and the mechanic look through the engine that he has put back together. The mechanic pulls on the hoses. Patrick pays him the $50 USD that he charges and drives the car away and brings it back to the marina.
We all cheer and start loading up the car. After two hours of intense work, we all pile into the car to start our journey again. Patrick turns the key in the car and......Nothing. The car is dead.
The next installment - The Journey - and it goes downhill from there!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Well, we tried to leave,,,,

Nancy has been taking lots of great pictures up at the marina pool

There is something funky happening to keep us in Santa Rosalia. Yesterday morning, we were set to leave and then Jack said "I don't feel well." As a mother, I was attuned to that message, and said, "We aren't leaving today." About an hour later, he started heaving into a bowl. So goes that day.

Then today dawned bright and beautiful and we were worked hard to finish up the last details to get out the door. We did one last load of sweat-stained laundry, took down the bimini cover and the last duties were unplugging the air-conditioner, cleaning out the fridge, putting the last bits of tin-foil on the windows to insulate from the sun, cleaning the heads and closing the seacocks.

Then we headed out to the car and loaded up. The first stop was to a hardware store, but it was not opened so we didn't stop the car. The next stop was the bank where Patrick left me off to get money while he drove around the block. The next stop was the gas station, where Patrick did not remember to turn off the engine while the attendant was fueling.

Then we drove out of town. Just at the edge of town, the warning light came on "Battery not Charging" Patrick read off the warning light to me and after nearly twenty years I knew better then to question him about it. I waited a few minutes and then said, "What does that mean?" He said that there was probably a problem with the alternator but he wouldn't know until he looked at it. Another ten minutes went by and I said, "I think we should turn around and go back to the Singlar marina before we turn the car off." Patrick thought that was a good idea and we turned around. Once back parked in the Singlar marina, Patrick turned the car off and then tried to turn it on again.... Nothing. The alternator is dead. It was a very good thing that we never stopped the car while we were running all of our errands or we would have been stuck out in the middle of nowhere!

So here we sit back at the marina, on a boat that is decommissioned - no toilet, no water, no fridge, no food, no cold beer....... It's a nightmare. But we have air conditioning, friends, beds, a nearby mechanic,,,,,so a nightmare with a happy ending. We are still headed to the States, just a few days later.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ruminations on Catamarans

We just received the following comment on our blog and I thought it would be fun to turn it into a posting.

".....By the way, I would be interested in your thoughts on your Lagoon38 in so
far as compared to other multihulls you've seen up close. Is your boat too this,
too that, just right? Ahh heck, let's include lead mines too. How things
compared to them. Also, any anchorages down there where you've been especially
happy to have shallow draft?"

Since I've been living on this boat for three years, this is a topic that I have thought a lot about. I have a love/hate relationship with my boat. I think most people living on a boat for several years would understand what I mean. I have spent hours pondering the ways I wish I could change it, and I have spent hours pondering how much I love it the way it is.

Here are the positives I see with our Lagoon. The 2001 380 model is very well built for a production boat. We have beefy winches, solid construction, and lots of wood paneling. Our friend who is a delivery captain compares the 2001 380 model to a "bull." He raves about how strongly it is built. He has done numerous Atlantic Ocean crossings on this model and still marvels at its construction. One time he had 40+ knots on the nose for days and had to pour fresh water over the helm station to get the salt crust off, just to be able to read the instruments, and the boat took it no problem.

I don't know how much has changed for the Lagoon 380, since I have not been on a new one, but I have been on new Fountaine Pajots and I was not impressed. We were on a new Mahi model and everything was just kind of wimpy from the winches down to the decking. The winch torqued on the fiberglass when it had a load on, and the deck dipped when you walked on it - it was just not very sturdy feeling. On the positive side, it was absolutely gorgeous inside with great design. I've been on similar sized, older Fountaines and they were sturdily built, but their interior design was not much different than an older Lagoon except that our staterooms are bigger and their cockpit was bigger.

Another positive is the Lagoon has a high bridge deck (the area between the hulls) which is a must in a my opinion. The lower your bridge deck is to the water, the more often it gets slapped by waves. Some catamarans like the Seawind and the Gemini have pretty low bridge decks and they must be really loud on the rougher passages. Sometimes when we are crossing from La Paz to Mazatlan we have been in bigger seas that are hitting us at just the right angle to make the waves slam our hulls like a giant banging on bongos. It reverberates through the boat. It is loud. I can't imagine what those conditions would be like in a boat that is lower to the water. We usually never hear that.

Also a positive, the Lagoon 380 is a pretty simple boat to sail. It's not intimidating with lots of line, rigging or sails. We have only two sails - the main and a genoa. All lines lead to the cockpit and it could easily be sailed by a single-hander. It's a piece of cake to handle for a couple. The main is pretty big so a power winch is nice to get it raised. The helm is raised so you can see over the top of the cabin to view anything coming at you (something you can't do on the 38 Seawind) on both sides. The twin engines make handling in tight quarters or strong winds very easy. You can do a 360 degree turn in place.

Here's what I don't like about our boat. In my opinion the designers of the 2001 interior space put too much emphasis on looks and not enough on function, practicality or good use of space. When you take the wood paneling off in every stateroom you find large areas of dead space not used for anything. They could have utilized this space for tons more practical storage of all the small things you have when you live on a boat - book shelves, storage compartments, clothing cubbies - you name it. There is wasted dead space all over the boat and that is frustrating when you are living on it.

The curved settee of the dining area of our boat is a travesty and should be abolished. You can't sleep on it during rough watches. There are times when I wish that the off-watch person could be closer to the helm to keep an eye on the on-watch person. You just can't do it because the only place to sleep is in your bedroom. The curved settee is also a pain in the ass because there is no place to "flop" and read a book with your legs up except in your bedroom. There is no seating with a straight back in the entire boat and it is impossible to get comfortable for lounging, reading or movie watching unless you are in your bedroom. You get the picture - the only comfortable seating is propped up on your bed with pillows. The dining table should be able to be reduced with fold down leaves or be able to be lowered or rotated. The outside table should be the same way. The seating outside around the cockpit is also formed by curved fiberglass and it too, is very uncomfortable to sit at for long.

For comparisons, I have been on newer Seawinds, newer and older Fountaines, older Catanas and a new Leopard. The newer boats of those makers have absolutely lovely interior design and use of space. The older catamarans of all the companies were very similar in design, and did not have all the thoughtful finishing touches like the newer ones did.

The Leopard was the one catamaran that I thought was impressive for several reason. It was lovely on the inside with lots of thoughtful touches. Like a lot of new models, it had a very nice kitchen down in a pontoon which leaves much more room in the main area for comfortable seating and entertaining. It is an interesting idea to me, but I am not sure it would be good underway in rougher weather since I get seasick. Being able to pop easily into and out of the kitchen when it's rough is nice for me.

My favorite thing about the Leopard was in the forward pontoons in the bow. Our bows are two "watertight" areas that are supposed to keep the boat afloat if it's taking on water. They are cavernous spaces that we throw lots of junk into (floaties, extra fishing poles, storm sail, etc.) It all ends up in a heap on the curved floor. I wonder if it will still keep us afloat because we have so much stuff crammed in there willy-nilly. What if there was a hole in the bow? How would we get to it through all our junk? The Leopard has the same watertight bow areas but on the Leopard the bottom third is taken up with a fiber-glassed in flotation foam. This provides a very nice flat floor for putting your stuff down on and cuts down the amount of room you get to stuff things into. Also common sense tells me that the most likely place you are going to get a hole would be in the lower forward section of your bow from running into a rock. The fact that the smaller glassed in flotation foam area would cut down on the amount of boat that could flood seems like a good idea to me, even though you would only be able to patch the hole from the outside of the boat.

Obviously, I am not a boat builder and have no real knowledge about boat design. I only know what I have learned from three years of observation and living on one. I really appreciate the sturdiness of our boat and the ease of use. It sails pretty good in my opinion (though that is something I don't know much about.) All of my real complaints are about cosmetic things which affect my comfort and if we wanted to spend some money, we could fix. So, all in all, I would have to say this Lagoon has been a great boat for us.

Regarding anchorages - there are few anchorages in the Sea of Cortez that we have found which are only accessible to shallow draft boats. The only one that comes to mind is Teacapan. There are some anchorages that deep draft boats have to pay attention to tides like the pond at Estanque. In most anchorages, we anchor close in to shore in 6 - 15 feet of water and that affords us more protection and less wind, but the deeper draft boats are there with us, just anchored out at 20 feet.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Change of Plans

Nearly every one of my posts could be titled "A Change of Plans" it seems. Me and the rest of the cruisers. You have to flexible between weather, breakdowns, immigration busts, injuries, and the like. Sometimes it seems like just when you make a decision, something happens and you have to come up with Plan B, or C, or D.

Plan "A" was to boogie up to Puerto Penasco and leave the boat there for a month or more while we drove home to the States. There were several advantages to that - Puerto Penasco is WAY out of the hurricane area, we got to be ahead of the herd of cruisers who are on their way up, we would get to enjoy the N. Sea of C when it was a little cooler (July) and miss some of the hottest times in the N. Sea of C (August/Sept), and very few cruisers get up there so it seemed like we would have the place to ourselves.

While we were here in Santa Rosalia, we asked the marina manager to call ahead to the Singlar in Penasco and make a reservation. The word came back that they were full. No openings. Even the Santa Rosalia manager was surprised! It's usually empty. There are other marinas in Peurto Penasco but since we had never been there, we were leary to make a reservation at one and then find out when we got there that it was a dump. The Singlar chain of marinas are all pretty nice, but there is no guarantee for other marinas. We've occasionally seen marinas in Mexico that we would not dream of using, let alone leave our HOME at unattended for a month and a half. It was too big of a risk for us to take. So we went with Plan B.

We're leaving the boat here in Santa Rosalia and we are going home from here. We've been working through all of our chores that we need to do before we can leave the boat. The list is long, but the work is going well. Plan B has some disadvantages - we'll be behind the herd now, we won't miss any of the really hot time, and our trip has to be shorter since Santa Rosalia's potential of being hit by hurricanes increases significantly in early August. But there are two advantages, the car is here and we have a slip in the marina. That's good enough for us. We hope to be leaving by Saturday. USA here we come!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Santa Rosalia Silliness

Tres Amigos - Patrick, Rich (Third Day) and Ethan (Eyoni)

Just Enjoying a Mexican Evening like the Mexicans do - hanging out in the town plaza, chatting with friends, having a great meal at one of the dozens of street side stands.

We have been having the best time here at Santa Rosalia. There's a great group of cruisers tied to the dock. We are surrounded by friends we've known for years (Airborne, Eyoni, Wavesweeper), friends we are just getting to know (Hotel California and Adirondack) and friends we've just met like Gypsy and Firefly.

The marina is small and it is packed (not one slip left!). Best of all, everyone is just very nice. We all have been having a lot of fun together - dinners on board, dinners in town, cocktails, impromptu gab sessions on the dock, shopping trips together, dinghy fishing trips and all sorts of interactions. Fishing has been really good too, and Patrick and Jack landed a 32" dorado in the dinghy right off the harbor. All in all, it's been a hoot.

Even with all this fun, I think the highlight so far was when Rich on Third Day swung into town on his car drive down the Baja. Most of the boats on the dock hadn't met Rich, but when they heard that Eyoni and JaM crews were heading into George's Burgers with Rich (a little street side stand that makes fabulous burgers) everyone was in for the fun. So after everyone gathered on JaM for a few cocktails, all 18 of us hiked into town at dusk.

It was going to be a fun night any way you sliced it, but then Nancy and her camera added a whole new element of fun. Nancy is just one those special people who is open and friendly and generous with just about everyone. I could not believe it when she befriended a 5 year old Mexican boy who was fascinated with her camera - her big, expensive, delicate and complicated camera. Nancy took her beloved camera off from around her neck and put it around Alejandro's neck. After teaching him a few things about aiming and pushing the button, she let him roam the plaza taking photos of whatever caught his fancy for about an hour. Whenever he came our way, we struck poses for him. His delight was infectious. It's hard to describe what a hysterically funny evening it was, but Nancy does a great job explaining it better on her blog eyoni.blogspot.com

Jack and Nancy in an avante guarde pose

Zada, Patrick and Laura