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, December 27, 2011

A Very Good Christmas

All pictures are courtesy of Nancy on Eyoni, our favorite photographer

At the beach with my hero

Ethan from Eyoni exhibiting a perfect Bocce Ball tossing form, while Rich from 3rd Day watches

Lori from 3rd Day and me, sharing a shot of Christmas Cheer

Running with Rudy across the sand flats

Picnic at the wreck. Somebody's dream died here years ago when they dragged, but the remains make a convenient meeting spot and picnic table.


It's hard to get the Christmas spirit when you live on a boat in the sub-tropics. All of the cues I used to have that would put me in the Christmas mood are gone. There's no school Christmas pageant, no school Christmas break, no weeks of shopping for the perfect present for loads of people, no watching endless commercial reminders on the TV in case you had missed the fact it was Christmas, no going to the tree farm to chop down a Christmas tree, no frantic preparations for hosting a dinner for 30 of your closest relatives and friends (okay that one I don't really miss). Anyway, you get the point.

However, you can't beat waking up on your boat, opening a couple nice little presents found under your 1 foot high plastic tree, and then meeting up with good friends on a nearby beach for a picnic and a Bocce Ball game, with kids running around on the sand flats, and Rudy racing around everyone, fishing, playing fetch, and trying to steal the Bocce balls.

After the picnic, we headed over to 3rd Day for a potluck dinner and movie.

It was a perfect day.

Monday, December 26, 2011

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

We’ve hung around La Paz longer than anticipated, first because there was no wind and then because there was too much wind. Unfortunately, any time you get high winds and lots of boats together, there is usually drama. This time around, Just a Minute’s captain took a starring role.
Our story starts a few days ago when a Norther blew into town. As Norther’s go, it was a pretty good one with a Gale Warning posted for the entire Sea of Cortez, and winds forecasted in the 30’s to 40’s.. Here in the La Paz harbor, we have some wave protection from a low lying spit of land, but no wind abatement. The first day, Thursday, we saw winds in the teens. Around 2 a.m. Friday morning, the wind started mounting and as dawn broke, the winds kept growing.
As I came up the stairs at dawn on Friday, I noticed a new boat anchored close to us with a dog running around on deck. As my sleep-numbed brain started to function I realized that the boat wasn’t anchored, it was dragging - right over the sand bar and moving past us. I knew we weren’t in danger, but there were several other boats in the downwind direction that it was moving toward. I put a hale out on the radio, to the fleet, warning of the danger. Then I woke up Patrick. I was very worried about this boat since the dog on its deck was obviously scared and there was no sign of the crew.
The seas were up about two feet and the winds were blowing about 20-25 knots so lowering the dinghy was a chore, but Patrick was soon on his way. He went to a nearby boat and asked that captain to jump in and help him. Christian, his fellow volunteer, was an excellent person to have along. He already had a spare anchor and rode lined up ready to use on the dragging boat. Together, they headed off to the dragger, a large ketch named Callisto.
Callisto was an obvious live-aboard with sun tarps up, lots of junk on deck, and the dog running around. At first Patrick and Christian just tried banging on the boat, trying to wake up the crew they assumed was on board. No one answered and the dog seemed friendly, so they tied up alongside and climbed on board. The boat was moving quickly now that it had passed over the sandbar. They found out that the dog was the only one on board. The boat had broken loose from its mooring ball, and so its anchor was on deck and ready to deploy. Christian threw the anchor over and started paying out chain.
Like most permanent live-aboard boats, this one had lots of junk scattered on deck. Patrick came up to the bow to help and when a wooden pole fell over and landed on the anchor chain, Patrick bent over to pick it up. As he leaned forward, Patrick put his head right into the spinning blades of a wind generator that was screaming along in the wind. The boat-owner had mounted the blades right over the anchor windlass at about 5 feet. It was sideways to Patrick and with the speed of the blades, he never even saw it.
All Patrick could do was sit down and try to cover the wound that was instantly pouring out blood. You know how head wounds are - it looked like a scene from a slasher movie. Of course it was an old wind generator with metal blades, so thankfully Patrick was not scarred for life, and did not lose an eye. It’s a miracle that he only has one, deep, 1” long gash, right at his hair line.
The anchor quickly grabbed and the boat (and dog) was saved just a few hundred yards from shore. With that rescue complete, it was time to rescue the rescuer. Thankfully we have lots of good friends in La Paz. Rich on 3rd Day reached Callisto just after Patrick hit his head. Once Callisto was secured, Rich took Patrick over to Hotel California. Rick on Hotel has a car and he drove Patrick off to the hospital for stitches and wound cleaning. And so another day comes to end with another good lesson learned - not every boat owner has a boat that’s safe to board. Who would put spinning metal blades 5 feet above an area that you have to access?????

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Care to Dance?

Pushed up over our anchor during the La Paz Waltz

The La Paz Waltz is the one thing that spoils the joy of anchoring out in this great city. La Paz is situated at the mouth of an enormous estuary. As the tide comes in and out of the narrow channel where everyone anchors, it creates a terrific current. If the tidal swings aren’t big, or if the wind isn‘t blowing, the effect is not that bothersome. However, when the tidal swings are greatest the current is amazingly powerful and if the wind is blowing, then The Waltz begins.
The current over the different keels of the boats, combined with the push of the wind above (which is usually in the opposite direction of the tide) makes the boats twist and turn over their anchors, sawing back and forth. All the boats move at their own speeds and soon, boats will be moving towards each other, and then swinging away. Sometimes the boats move around like egg beaters. At one moment two boats will be close enough to toss water balloons at each other, and then the next moment will see the boats moving in opposite directions, away from each other. When The Waltz is on, the 70+ boats at anchor will be pointing in about 50 different directions.
Unfortunately for us, there’s a high wind storm right now that is coinciding with some very big tidal movements. Despite wind speeds up to 30 knots in this storm, the boats are being held perpendicular to the winds by the flow of the water on their keels. At the same time, the wind is pushing the boats up over their anchors, and so the boats move awkwardly in the waves and wind.
The tough part of The Waltz is that all the boats respond differently to the conditions based on how deep their keels are, what type of chain or rode they use, and how much windage they have. Incredibly, this afternoon, I watched a boat named Arabella drag UP wind because it has a 9 foot keel and a low-profile, flush deck. Our boat has lots of windage and shallow keels so JaM responds to the wind more than the water - which is exactly opposite of the mono-hulls around us. It can make for an unkind surprise. Suddenly, two boats that would be anchored safely apart from each other in a normal anchorage, will be uncomfortably close during the La Paz Waltz. To make sure our boat is safe in the conditions, someone (basically me) has been on board constantly since the winds started.
So, to while away the time on anchor watch, I’ve been working on new lyrics more appropriate for this Christmas in La Paz, set to the Christmas tune of “Let is Snow“.

“Oh, the weather outside is frightening,
But the anchor chain is tightening,
And there’s really no place to go,
So let it blow, let it blow, let it blow.”

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Our Plans for the Future

* Move to an oil boomtown in North Dakota and jump in on the excitement.
* Open a restaurant.
* Call up the old contacts and try to jump back into the corporate world we left in the Pacific NW.
* Run a sailing charter business in Alaska.
* Contact a corporate head hunter and put the search out for Anything in Anywhere, USA.
* Put the boat for sale, buy a cheap camper van and tour America while we wait for a buyer
* Sell JaM, buy a much cheaper boat suitable for the Inland Passage, move to Alaska, live on the new boat and get some funky low-wage jobs that allow lots of time for cruising the Inland Passage.
* Take JaM to Panama and keep cruising until the world ends or the economy improves, whichever comes first.

We've discussed all these possibilities and more on JaM in the last six months. None of them is quite the right fit. We've already stayed on our boat one year longer than originally planned. Though our lifestyle is getting cheaper and cheaper in Mexico as we learn more and more tricks, we are still spending money. We are not retired and we know we will have to return to work someday, but when? One thing for sure is that life in Mexico is much, much cheaper than life in America. Our dwindling dinero can either last us for months in America, or years in Central America.

We just have these circular conversations, trying to divine what the best move is for our family. The truth of the matter is - it was a lot easier to make the decision to come out here. Even though it was so scary to pull the plug on everything we knew and move onto a boat, the reverse decision of how to jump back into American life is even scarier. It’s like jumping off and on a fast-moving merry-go-round. Every kid on the playground can tell you that jumping off is easier than getting back on. If you don’t time the re-entry just right you are going to get trampled. The decision to move back is almost impossible to know what to do, especially since the economy still sucks. There are two big unknowns we face because of the economy - “Can we find a buyer for our boat?” and “Can we find viable employment?” Anyone with a crystal ball is very welcome to jump in with the answers for us. In the meantime, we’re just enjoying life, and having lots of conversations.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Having 2 Engines Means Twice the Repairs

Patrick in the Penalty Box

Our engines have been working great all summer. However, cruising on a boat means that all your systems are being used constantly and things wear out, break down or just need a little tweaking. Approaching Escondido two days ago, our starboard engine decided to sputter and die. Turned out to be bad gas. It happens. Despite the fact that Patrick always filters the fuel that is poured into the engines, stuff gets through and can build up. That's life in the north Sea of Cortez.

Patrick worked that day cleaning out the fuel system and replacing the filters, and voila! it's working again. Who knew I had married such a great deisel mechanic? Thank God, because if you are going to be cruising, you are going to be finding yourself broken down in crazy places with no mechanic around.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Flying the Spinnaker

We‘re very happy with ourselves on Just a Minute these days, and it‘s all because we learned a new trick - how to sail with a spinnaker.
We bought our boat with only two sails on it, the main and the jib, and we were very contented in the beginning, just learning how to work those to the best advantage. After time, we wanted a spinnaker and even researched buying one, but the cost didn’t seem to warrant the need.
Then we went home last July and our good friend (and our personal Patron Saint of Sailing) Mark Schrader gave us two spinnakers to use as we would. His generosity was overwhelming and very appreciated. Who could argue with that price? Mark has lots of bits and pieces of sailing equipment left over from his many sailing adventures (solo circumnavigating twice, and the expedition/circumnavigation of the North and South Americas). It is good quality stuff. He gave us two, since he is not familiar with catamarans and we weren’t sure of the size we needed.
Spinnakers are huge sails and are intended to make the most of light winds coming from behind you. They are flown from the front of the boat. They do not have one edge on a fixed attachment, like a jib or a mainsail does. They have a halyard at the top to raise and lower it, and a line off each bottom corner. They fly in front of the boat like a big kite pulling you along. The stronger the wind, the harder they are to control. They can get you into trouble if the wind becomes to strong, and the general rule is that if there is enough wind to sail your boat with your regular sails, then don‘t raise a spinnaker.
Back on the boat with our spinnakers, we consulted several sailor friends and got lots of advice but the best advice came from Ethan on Eyoni. He graciously came over one day at Isla Angel de la Guarda and looked over the gear. Ethan walked us through the whole process of how to raise and lower it safely. He told us a couple tricks like using the main sail as a wind block. He also had us put rubber bands every five feet up the length of the spinnaker so the first time we raised it, it didn’t immediately fill with wind too quickly and fall into the water before we had it raised. That trick worked great, so we had the whole sail raised to the top before the winds started breaking the rubber bands apart and expanding the sail.
Finally the right conditions presented themselves on our sail from Conception Bay down to San Juanico. We had a light wind on our stern of about 8 knots and it was not forecasted to strengthen until hours later that afternoon. We followed Ethan’s instructions, and everything went according to plan. It’s so fun to learn a new trick. The spinnaker is awesomely huge and colorful. We were very tickled with the whole experience. When the wind started picking up in the afternoon, we used the mainsail to blanket the wind to the spinnaker, and it quickly was dropped and secured.

A Brief Recap of the Last Few Weeks

Hiking the hills of San Juanico

Our stay in Conception Bay was much longer than anticipated for two reasons. First the winds this winter in the Baja have been coming fast and furious, with lots of strong blows and just a few days off in between. Santispac Beach in Conception Bay offers fantastic protection for north winds and so we were very comfortable during many days of high winds. The other pull of Santispac is Lupe’s Paradise Resort Bar and Restaurant (formerly known as Ana‘s). We’ve been stopping in at that restaurant lots of times over the last three years and have always had great meals and lots of fun. The owners, Russ and Lupe, serve up good food and it’s a popular hangout for local ex-pats and vacationers. On Saturday nights, Russ throws a Dinner and a Dance that is a lot of fun. We went to two of those and felt like kids again, dancing up a storm. At 44, I was one of the youngest women in the bar and so I had lots of willing dance partners and Patrick didn’t have to dance as much. A win-win for both of us. There are so many retirees in the Conception Bay area, that the place was packed with them. I highly recommend Russ’s Saturday night dinner if you are down that way!
Finally another weather break came and we traveled down to San Juanico to rendevous with Hotspur. We hadn’t seen those good folks for about a year, so we were all looking forward to catching up. Tim is the first teenager that Jack has even seen in the last eight months, so he was very happy to meet up with them. We only had one day together before Hotspur left the anchorage headed north, but we fit in two games of Scrabble (she beat me horribly the first and I redeemed myself the second), hours of skurfing, and a potluck dinner with Hotspur and Lady Bug that night, which lasted until Cruiser’s Midnight (9 pm) when I kicked everyone off the boat. I would have gladly let the evening go on longer, but I had to get up in the morning and run the Amigo Radio Net at 7 a.m. and I knew I wouldn’t be able to if everyone stayed longer!

After two nights at San Juanico, we moved on down to the Puerto Escondido area, which is where we are now. We had wanted to spend just one day here, but our engine began acting up as we approached the harbor and now we will be here for a couple days while Patrick affects a repair.

Tomorrow happens to be the beginning of another strong blow. This coming Norther is expected to last four days with winds up to the high 30’s, so it looks like we will be watching a lot of movies, playing marathon games of Parcheesi, baking lots of goodies to heat the boat, and maybe do some hiking in the next few days. It’s getting really chilly down here with morning temps in the low to mid 60’s, and we’ve broken out our long pants, jackets and furry slippers. There have been several rain storms this winter (!) and we have seen more rain in the last month than all three years combined. Not having heat on the boat means we do lots of baking just to stay warm.
There are just a few anchorages we want to visit on our way south to La Paz, which means we should be entering that good city around the 10th of December, which will be the next time we get internet. 22 more days to Christmas!