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

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Barnacles on My Toes

I've been having a recurring dream the last few weeks.  It wakes me up with a feeling of confused concern.  In my dream, I'm trying to dress for the day, but when I get to putting my socks on, I realize that there are barnacles growing on my toe nails.  Big healthy barnacles, with living creatures in them!  In my dream, I can't figure out what to do.  If I put my socks on, the socks will be torn to shreds.  Worse yet, the shoes I am going to put on are beautiful leather boots with heels.  If I put my boots on, then it will really hurt, my boots will get ruined and the barnacles will die.   I keep waking up confused and concerned.

Obviously the dream sums up my confused feelings about coming home.  After all, you only get barnacles if you spend a lot of time in salt water.  In Mexico, I never wore socks and hardly ever wore shoes unless I was going into town.  Now home in the chilly NW, I can't imagine going a whole day without putting shoes on (whole bunches of different shoes, not just flip flops!) multiple times as I go in and out, and wearing toasty, thick, wool socks constantly, thank you very much!    I have to put shoes on, but if I do, it means I'm not a cruiser anymore.  Is that so bad???   Truthfully  - no.

All three of us absolutely love being home after being gone for so long.  Many times in the last three months, we have spontaneously had conversations about how nice it is to be home.   We enjoy everything including frequent visits with family and friends, the supermarkets stuffed with excellent organic and ethnic foods, a warm house, the chilly rainy weather, the people we meet, the beautiful clean town we live in chock full of  dog parks, giant trees, a gorgeous library, festivals and kind neighbors.  Now back in cold weather, Rudy has been free of the endless health concerns of the last four years.  He can race around for hours in the dog park or out on wooded trails without getting too hot.  The new opportunities for Jack are boundless and he's energetically thrown himself into working, being with family, and new adventures.  Jack loves the NW forests and is gone for hours biking the trails.  It's just nice to be on land in a cool climate.  It's also a joy to snuggle up under a thick down comforter and listen to the wind howl outside the house late at night.  There's no fear of dragging, and no need to jump up to make sure everything is lashed down.  There's no battle with breakdowns or finding parts - order anything you need from Amazon and it comes right to your door!  It's also just nice to be back where I understand what everyone around me is saying.  Hot water, convenience machines, electricity, heat on a cold day, a real kitchen, a giant bath tub - there is a lot to enjoy about being home on land.

However, it's not all fun.  This is a time of major transition for us.  It's exciting, it's challenging and it's exhausting.  In the last three months, we've gotten a lot accomplished, but we still have so much to do.  We randomly chose a town to settle in that looked nice.  It took almost a month to find a suitable  home to rent.  Then we had to gather up our scattered belongings as best we could, including emptying our storage unit.  Then we had to start settling in to a new town.  It's not easy.  You don't know where the post office is, you don't know the best stores to visit, you don't even know when garbage day is.  You know no-one.  Add to that we also had to get Jack settled in school - the first real school he's been in for the last four years.  Now that is a task!  Not to mention getting phones, internet, insurance, power, heat, registered to vote, etc.  Thankfully we were able to come home still in control of our situation.  We have a cushion and did not need to start making money right away.  With all that accomplished we are now getting ready to work on the next phase - employment.  How that goes, we will find out in the coming months.  After employment comes finding a home to buy, getting involved in our community with volunteer work, picking up old hobbies, and finding new ones.

In the meantime, I still have barnacles on my toes, grown while I was in Mexico. So if we are all so happy to be home, why am I having disturbing dreams about giving up being a cruiser?  I think it's because I love the person I became after four years out cruising.  That's what the barnacles represent - growth.  Usually you aren't happy about barnacle growth on your boat, but in the case of my toes, I'm tickled.  I'm worried that now home in the Land of Bigger, Better, More I will forget the lessons I learned in Mexico about a simple Life of Less.  It's something that I will need to keep an eye on, but I think those barnacles are here to stay.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Tha-tha-tha That's All, Folks!

Yesterday, we pulled into our old home town north of Seattle 2,448 miles from La Paz, completing the giant circle of our travels and bringing the end to our Mexican adventure.

Which makes this the last post -  nearly four years worth of experiences summed up in 246 posts from beginning to end.  Writing this blog has given me much joy.  I really appreciate all the people who took time out of their lives to read about ours.   We've had over 60,000 views from places including, but not limited to, Serbia, India, Russia, the Philippines, Japan, Ethiopia, France, South Africa, Brazil, Switzerland, and China!  Simply amazing.

For those of  you who helped get this dream afloat, a heartfelt thanks - namely Mark Schrader and Herb McCormick.  Both of you played major roles in starting this thing off right.  And Herb, your advice to buy a catamaran was invaluable!  I don't think we would have been able to sell a mono hull, in this market, for $10,000 less than what we paid for it, in three months.  Wow!  Not to mention, it's the only reason we stayed out for four years - we were very comfortable.

Our adventure couldn't have happened without a lot of help from our friends.  First, an enormous thank you to all the people who helped us troubleshoot breakdowns or improvements  - namely Dave on s/v Juniata, Total Yacht Works of Mazatlan - Rafa and Bob) and Rick of s/v Hotel California.   You Guys (and quite of few others) Rock.  God bless the cruiser mentality of happily lending a hand, without expecting anything in return.  It's getting harder to find it seems, but it is still there.

A huge thank you to our very patient and loving extended family  Our absence has meant all of our sibs have done extra duty.  An extra big kudos goes to my parents.  It would have been so much harder to do this without your help.  Mom and Dad acted as our mail drop, appointed banking representative, and yearly hotel, all while being deprived of access to their grandson.

A  heartfelt thank you to Ben for spending every Tuesday night for several years with Patrick's dad.
A very big thanks to Tom for taking excellent care of our rental/renters in our absence.

A big apology to every Mexican whom I made suffer through my horrendous "Spanish". It was too embarrassing.   I'll do better next time, I promise.

And last, an enormous hug to all the amazing cruisers out there that we have met and befriended along the way, some still cruising, and others now dirt dwellers like us.  You made our trip so special.  To name a few - Hotel California, Third Day, Juniata, Eyoni, Hotspur, Summerwings, Mamabird, Sunbaby, Jacaranda, Adios 3, Evergreen, Jake, Overheated, Masquerade, V'ger, Frances Lee,  Full Shell, Dealmaker....there's just too many to name.  We are so happy to have spent time with you.

For those of you now looking for new Sea of Cortez blogs to follow, check out a couple from this year's fresh crop of cruisers headed into the far north for their first hurricane season -  two we've enjoyed meeting are Trisha and Derek on  Interabang and Tom and Jeanne on Eagle.

As we head in to the arms of America to be lost in the anonymous shuffle, I have just one request.  Go have your own adventure, and I'll read about yours!  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Border Crossing Bust

Welcome Home!!!Our border crossing was from someplace close to hell, but not all the way there. (no one was arrested.).
Within seconds of pulling up to talk with the border agent, we were asked to pull over to the special inspection area.  We weren't worried, we weren't doing anything wrong.  We had already thrown out all of Rudy's dog food (we got in trouble for that last time), and the bag of almonds we were snacking on. Then the total car unload began  Let me repeat - Total Car Unload.  Did you see the picture of our car?  Every box, bag and storage container opened and gone through.  Engine combed through, car doors tapped and banged.  Things fine until.......the beach combing box is opened.  
Oh ma'am.  No..,...NO, NO, NO, NO and NO!
Hours later.....
Car considerably lighter. 
All bones (44 total) from any and every fish, land or sea mammal, including birds gone.  All feathers gone.  All soft coral gone,  All shells were about to go, but they relented.  I was given a pretty bad time about that, but he let me keep them. Star fish,,, ok.  Paper Nautilus...ok.  Sea urchin shell, ok.  Rocks...okay.  Some driftwood ok.  Absolutely no parts of cactus allowed (any wood with a weave).  Basically they had the right to take everything except the non-cactus wood and the rocks, but they were being nice and let me keep the shells.
The border agents were all very kind.  They crowded around to see all the cool things that they were taking away.  They very politely explained that by allowing animal parts/cactus wood parts in the country, we might be giving the Mexicans ideas that these things had value and then living specimens would be in danger of being harvested for profit.  I totally understand the reasoning - I just had no idea that these things would be illegal to find on a beach and keep.  I would never want to take part in anything that would cause the pointless destruction or harm to any living animal or plant, simply for a trophy.  I was wrong and so are a lot of other cruisers I know.  Consider yourself warned.
Possible fine to be determined later, when the boss gets there and catalogues my confiscated  loot.  Name, address, SS#, car registration,  passport number all written down and recorded.  I realized later that I got my SS # wrong since I haven't used it for so long!  OOps! probably gave them the SS number of some Guantanamo escapee.  Ouch.
Fingers crossed.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Road Trip So Far

Loaded and ready to go from our casita in La Paz.  Even though we were lucky enough to ship hundreds of pounds of stuff home with 3rd Day, we were still a little over loaded.

Just before the start.

Our first night was spent in Santa Rosalia at this lovely hotel.  Here is a our balcony view that looks out over the harbor and towards Isla San Marcos.  It was a lovely clean room with saltillo tiles and some of the healthiest cockroaches I've ever seen! 

This is Rudy's fifth road trip from the Baja to the  States (or back) and he is a pro at it by now.

Guerro Negro flats outside of town., heading out to the dunes and Scammon's Lagoon that is famous for the grey whales birthing place.

We felt it was safe for Jack to get some more driving practice in since it was flat enough, had no obstructions and no traffic for miles.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sold and the Sushi Celebration

The final step of selling our boat was a quick trip down to American Consulate in San Jose del Cabo so we could sign the sale papers in front of a notary public. Then we dropped the notarized paperwork off at the UPS store for overnight delivery to the marine documentation company we were working with in the States. And with that, we were done. Once the paperwork reached their office, the funds transferred into our bank account. It couldn't have been easier.

To celebrate, we went to an amazing restaurant here in La Paz - Jiro Sushi. You don't think of EXCELLENT sushi when you think of Mexico, but it does exist here in La Paz. Jiro Sushi was started by a Mexican man who studied in Japan for seven years and then worked there to spend about twenty years total in Japan. Within the last few years he returned to La Paz and started Jiro Sushi. His sushi is amazing. The Sea of Cortez is so abundant in excellent sea food that he has no problem getting the best quality ingredients.   Outside the door was the day's latest delivery of a couple huge yellowtail, just dropped off by the fisherman.

Jiro Sushi is on M. Abasolo across from the Chedraui in the Banamex complex.  It is well worth a visit.  Our lunch included their delicious home brewed iced tea, four different rolls (the Norma roll is to die for) and a plate of shrimp rice all for about $40.00 USD.  It's very expensive for lunch by Mexican standards, but by American standards where a lunch at McDonald's for a family is about $30, it's a steal.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Surfin' Safari

The street in front of our apartment.  The owner loves gardening and so she has filled the sidewalk and the inside courtyard with flowering plants.  It's lovely.
While our boat sale is pending final paperwork, we are living "La Vida Landlubber".  We've rented a sweet, little, one bedroom casita (little house) for $300/month USD in La Paz.  It's clean, shiny and new, with Internet, air conditioning, covered secure parking, and a lovely little garden/courtyard with outside seating.  It's cheaper than having a boat in a slip!  Two nights ago we hosted the good crew of 3rd Day at our place for a "Last night together in Mexico" delivery pizza feed at our place.  That's when you know you are a landlubber - you order in and they can find you!  Yesterday 3rd Day pulled chalks and headed out of La Paz on their way up the coast to America.  It's pretty cool that we started together and ended together.  3rd Day is one of the first cruisers we met in La Paz in Oct 2008 when we were both squeaky clean and wet behind the ears. Now nearly four years later we are both heading to the States.  It may have a lot to do with the fact that we each have a nearly-fifteen year old ready for a little more room and freedom from parents.

Anyway, our last weeks in Mexico are a celebration and so we've come out to Cerritos 1 1/2 hours south of La Paz for some surfing fun.  We brought along our new paddle board and Jack is using it quite effectively as a surfboard.  That kid amazes me!
Loading the car for our surfin' safari.  Here our car sits in the inside courtyard at our place, behind the iron gates shown above.  Nothing says you used to have money like wood 2x4's strapped to the roof of a Volvo!

Jack crashing through the waves to get past the breakers.

The waves were short spaced and worked up because of Hurricane Fabio which is just off the coast, but Jack made it work.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Ups and Downs of Cruising - It's Not Just the Tide

In the beginning of our cruise, we were overwhelmed with the positives.  The weight of the world had slid from our shoulders and every day we would marvel at our good luck.  All of the usual stresses that the average American relates to were suddenly gone.   Patrick and Jack saw  the biggest changes. Jack was no longer moved to tears almost five days a week by the frustration a dyslexic faces at school.   For Patrick the change was remarkable - suddenly no Blackberry glued to his hand morning and night, seven days a week filled with work calls. Today's technology means you are ALWAYS at work. The biggest change for me was losing the hassle of Jack's school and all the hours it took getting him there on time, dressed, with homework in hand and  a lunch. (If you have a kid who hates the school experience, you know what I mean!)   Let alone all the time spent on extra school activities like sports groups, field trips, helping in the classroom, and fund raisers. Suddenly all those hundreds of hours were free since the demands of homeschooling were negligible in return. 

Other things that caused stress that I hadn't even noticed were gone, too.  Suddenly I didn't have a huge house to clean, maintain and improve - no huge kitchen with tons of appliances to keep clean, no huge closets waiting for "fashionable" clothes, no daily pile of laundry since we all changed clothes several times every day, no house-cleaner to hire, no enormous fridge and freezer to be filled with food from Costco trips, no servicing the car, no shopping for stuff to fill all that space.  Let me repeat that - NO SHOPPING for clothes, furniture, linens, towels, home theatres, decorating doo-dads, the latest "must-have" item, electronics, toys for the Jack, computers - you name it.  We didn't need it anymore, didn't want it, and didn't have room for it anyway.

No TV sucking up dozens of hours of "down time",  no newspapers, and very infrequent internet made a big change, too.  Suddenly, without all that awful "news" of  break-ins, violence, murder and rape constantly bombarding us, we lost  that underlying sense of fear and distrust that haunts so many people.  And more importantly, without all that non-stop marketing ramming down our throats, two big changes happened.  First, since we were no longer stressed out and unhappy, we didn't need to buy ourselves some new advertised "treat" because we "deserved it".  Second, we didn't need to impress anyone, any more.  Sadly, I didn't even realize that we had gotten into the trap of competing with the Jones's.  We had to leave the trap, to see we were in it.  We were giddy like school girls.

Suddenly our life was filled with something we had kept at bay - nature.  The American life does a lot to keep nature from interfering with our lives - air conditioning, lights, heat, snug homes and buildings,  and cars all insulate us.  You rarely have to even get wet if it's raining.  Living on the boat, we became attuned to nature and it was a gift.  We rose with the sun, and went to bed with it, too.  If it was cold we put on clothes, if it was hot we went swimming.  If it rained we got wet.  We paid attention to the wind patterns and clouds, analyzed wave/swell directions, and knew the changes of the moon and the tides.  We floated on a tiny oasis in the middle of the vast sea and we marveled at the life around us.  We caught our own food, went on long hikes, snorkeled for hours every day, slept outside under the stars.  We lived in nature, hour after hour, year after year.  It is an amazing experience to be so connected.

I don't think we can ever be the same, and we are grateful for it. Our cruise solidified our family into a very tight knit unit. It gave our son a wonderful education in the world, opportunites for great responsibility and the idea that dreams are goals that can be achieved with work. It taught all of us that "things" aren't important. We learned how to repurpose, recycle, make-do or go without on a whole new level. Jack was allowed to grow up and become his own person without the pressures of a relentless peer group forcing him to "fit in".  For Patrick and I, it gave us time to discover ourselves, and strengthen our marriage. Every minute of every day we worked side by side on our common goals whether it was anchoring, sailing, provisioning, repairing items, trouble shooting, cooking, or parenting. It was a very fun marriage-encounter weekend that lasted four years. Patrick is my best friend, and this experience cemented the bond, permanently.  Another amazing lesson we've learned is to just let things happen and stop worrying about future events.  Never having a schedule and being ruled by weather and breakdowns has completely taken away the feeling that we have control over our lives.  We don't - so stop worrying and planning.  (This lesson would be impossible to live in society, but  is still a valuable thing I will try to remember.)

So what could possibly be the down-side of cruising?  The negative of cruising is that it is a very indulgent lifestyle.   It's self-absorbed and based on pleasure.  Get up when you want.  Go where you want.  See who you want.   Move over there.  Move over here.   Have a potluck.   Meet some people, make some friends.  Go sightseeing.  Have cocktails.   Swimming?   Read a book?   Fishing?  Hiking?  Whatever feels good, dear.  You rarely have appointments to keep, or obligations to fulfill.  It's very social, very fun, and with few worries other than keeping your boat working, your crew fed, and the homeschooling accomplished.   It's bliss.

What's the negative, you ask again?   Honestly, it can be kind of boring.  Oh, you're busy all day long out cruising.  Your day is filled to the brim with mundane tasks, homeschooling and pleasure.  It's just not very challenging mentally, anymore.  After several years of this life, we've figured out most of the conundrums and challenges and the newness of life on a boat has worn off.  It's boring because it's so perfect, so free of stress, so effortless.  It's the boredom of ennui - a feeling of listlessness and general dissatisfaction resulting from lack of activity or excitement.  It's a feeling that only a very privileged person (read spoiled) could feel.   We still enjoy finding new anchorages, meeting new people, seeing new sights, but.... (I cringe to say it), "The thrill is gone, for now."

Even if we had won the Lotto and money was no object, our time cruising would be ending for now.  I think the biggest challenge we'll face as we move back onto land will be to keep what we've learned about living a simple, non-materialistic life, and take it back into America with us.  We'll feel bombarded and overwhelmed at first, of that I am sure.   However, I have a feeling we won't be feeling bored for quite some time. 

And after we've lived on land, restocked our money pile, gotten Jack started on his own road, then.....you better believe we'll be back out cruising again.  We love boating, we love the water, we love cruising.  Where?  Who knows.  Mexico is always going to be a love of ours, but we'd love to cruise in the Inland Passage  of Alaska/Canada, or maybe the Mediterranean, too.  It's all good and it's a big ocean. 

Sunday, July 1, 2012

I'm So Glad We Had This Time Together

Jack, Patrick, and Rick from s/v Hotel California enjoying the fire pit at the new resort in Bahia Candeleros.
I've found myself humming the theme from The Carol Burnett Show quite often lately.  Every week in my childhood home, my family would gather around and watch Carol Burnett and her friends.  After a hilarious show with lots of laughs she would always end the show with the same song.  Remember?  "I'm so glad we had this time together, just to have a laugh and sing a song.  Seems we just get started and before you know it... comes the time we have to say, "So long.""  Then she'd tug her ear.  That ending is etched in my memory - along with her Tarzan yell.

Party on JaM.  With 18 guests,, there were hardly enough cleats for the dinghies.  In attendance were the crews of Eagle, Kasasa, Hotel California, Interabang, Eyoni, Third Day and ourselves..

These last weeks have been a lot like that for us.  We've been hanging out with old friends, having hilarious fun and then the  day comes and we look at each other and have to say "So Long."  They are heading north and we are heading south.  Then we run into more friends and start the process again.  Each meeting is so fun, and then each parting gets incrementally harder.  One thing is for sure, we have lots of friends out here.  Really good friends.  The kind of friends you always dreamed of having.  I am so glad we had this time together.

Walking, talking and beach-combing with Lori from s/v Third Day near Bahia Agua Verde.  Picture by Nancy
Puka Shell Party on Isla Montserrat with the crews of Hotel California, Eyoni, Brandywine and JaM.  This was the best beach party I've ever been to.  Just sitting on a beautiful beach, sharing appetizers, drinks, conversation and everyone sifting  through the sand, intently looking for pukas.  Picture by Nancy on Eyoni
There's always time to sing and do the dance moves to "Let's Do the Time Warp Again" (remember The Rocky Horror Picture Show?) with Nancy from Eyoni - even when you are standing on a rock in the water and if you really did the pelvic thrust you might possibly  knock yourself off your perch!  At Candeleros, picture by Nancy 
Patrick and Ethan on Eyoni, sharing a little manly talk over the windlass gypsy.  There aren't words to describe Ethan and we all three love and admire him greatly.  Nancy's picture again.
WWF Smack Down Water Fight on Eyoni.  Only the moms stayed dry.  We were too busy laughing and saying, "Oh Watch Out!  Be Careful!  Oh No!"  And Again - that girl loves her camera
Jack and Ethan being men.  Belly rubbing.  Not sure why, just nod and smile, folks.  On a hike at Candeleros to check out some caves and middens they spied on the hills.  Nancy, again.

Nancy and I, at the end of the night
We were lucky enough to run into Jesse from Frances Lee in Loreto.  Jesse's boat is in Guaymas, and he's living in the States right now,  but he came down by car to Loreto and we happened to meet.  He's always a hoot and we were so happy to see him.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

More Discoveries

Light weather opens up marginal anchorages.  However, our spot offered some protection from the SW and West, which were the two sources of wind that 24 hour period.  Perfect.  We couldn't even find a name for this little indent in our guidebooks.  It's about two miles north of Punta Telmo on the Baja peninsula.
Just in the last few weeks, we've added five new anchorages to our list.  One of the anchorages  (Punta Colorado on Isla San Jose) quickly jumped to clain first place in "The Most Beautiful Anchorage" and is in the top five for "Best Snorkeling" for any anchorage we  have ever visited.

There are plenty of different categories in our personal little rating system for anchorages - Best Snorkeling, Best Town to Anchor In, Most Bullet-Proof, Best Beach-Combing, Earliest Sunset - you get the idea.  We visited two new anchorages in the last week that were spectacularly beautiful, rarely visited, and completely deserted.  Add to that the incredible rock formations, mounds of fossils, good beach combing and some of the best snorkeling we have seen.  I still can't believe there is more to see after four years of constantly covering this same area, but we are still anchoring in new places.  It's so fun to check out new places and be completely blown away by them.  How did we miss this earlier?  And more importantly, What have we missed??? 

Jack spotted these forssilized fern impressions on this huge boulder on the beach north of Telmo.  If it would have fit in my backpack.....  However, I did find a cool skull of a coyote/dog so I wasn't empty handed. 

Crazy colored rock layers add to the beauty at this anchorage north of Telmo..

Punta Colorado, Isla San Jose.  I couldn't capture the beauty of this spot in one picture. Take my word for it - it was remarkable.  The point is lined in tiny little beaches, with dramatic clffs of varying colors and excellent reefs for snorkeling.  Though this island is close fairly close to Loreto, few cruisers venture over to the east side for a visit, which means you get the place to yourself. 

Layers of creamy white rock, laden with fossilized shells grace Punta Colorado on the east side of  Isla San Jose.  This anchorage is the most beautiful I have ever visited.  It has amazing rock structures in white, yellow and red rock.  It offers pretty good protection from the SW and W.  It would not be very good protection in winds stronger than 15 knots.

Rock formations on one of many tiny pocket beaches that line the Punta Colorado anchorage.  The beaches all had mounds of fine white sand, but had very few shells.  However, the rock formations surrounding the beaches were breath-taking so I probably walked right over some amazing shells but didn't see them because I was too busy looking at the surrounding cliffs!  The snorkeling here was also very, very good.  Large boulders have calved off the cliffs in various places and created amazing reef structures for the fish.  Since it is seldom visited, the fish are not wary and we saw lots of big, beautiful fish.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Water games and more fun

After leaving San Marte with Hotel California, we moved up around the corner to Agua Verde in anticipation of the arrival of our friends on 3rd Day and Eyoni.  It was the largest congregation of cruising kids I've seen in some time.  Jack of course had a blast.   There were lots of other boats there too, and a large reunion ensued with 3rd Day, Eyoni, us, and many more.  After a few days in Agua Verde, we moved up to Candeleros which has a large new resort gracing the bay.   Even more boats were there, including s/v Eagle with two professional photographers (Jeannie and Tom) on board.  They were gracious enough to take several photos of Jack and his friends out and about in the bay.

Usually Jack skurfs on a regular old foam boogie board, not intended to be pulled behind a boat.  There are no straps and it does not have a smooth glass bottom and is not  rigid.  Jack has to stay on his knees while he slaloms around.   Jason on 3rd Day has an honest to goodness real knee board and a dinghy with powerful motor, so the action was better and faster.  Jack was having a great time.  Note the beautiful big new resort in Candeleros,behind Jack.   Photo by Eagle
Of course it didn't take long for Jack to stand on the knee board.  Still no straps to attach him to the board which makes jumping waves hard, but Jack managed just fine.  I'd love to have a bigger engine and a real board to see what Jack could do.  He obviously loves it.
Photo by Eagle

Jack and Rudy on our new paddle board.   We have a new toy to play with and it's a lot of fun.  Even Rudy likes it - hough I think he prefers to zoom around in the dinghy.  Photo by Eagle

Monday, June 4, 2012

More Photos of our "Vacation"

Visibility has been excellent allowing us to indulge Rudy in one of his favorite past times - driving over reefs in the dinghy and watching the fish.
Though we've been living the life for almost four years, this little trip does feel like a vacation.  We've had a lot of fun the last two weeks - spearfishing, snorkeling, hiking, exploring new places, reuniting with old friends, making new ones, and we even threw a party with 18 people on the boat.  All in all, I would say it's one of the best vacations we've ever had.

A pod of about fifty saddleback dolphins roiling the water.  We were underway and they came up for a quick visit but didn't stay long.

The sea cave at Ensenada La Ballena.  We went dinghy exploring with Hotel California and found one of the best snorkeling places I've ever enjoyed.   The sea cave was very large, the water was extremely calm and the visibility was excellent.  First we dinghied in, then after anchoring our dinghies outside, we snorkeled in.  It was amazing.  The walls of the cave were steep sided and lined with fan corals of all colors (purple, red, orange, yellow, white, and indigo blue) with lots of fish.  Outside of the cave, the snorkeling was also excellent with a steep sided underwater cliff to snorkel along and lots of huge boulders, interesting rock structures and lots of fish.  (Photo by Pam, sv Hotel California)
Approaching the cave.  (Photo by Pam)

Inside the cave.  (Photo by Pam)
On our dinghy trip we met up with some pangeros (the fishermen in the ubiquitous panga) and checked out their catch.  Like the vast majority of Mexicans we meet, they were very friendly and even offered to share some of their catch with us, for free.  (Photo by Pam)

Sunday, June 3, 2012

On the Lam

To say we are feeling ambivalent right now, would be understating the problem.  When we woke up on May 22nd and had three new emails from people who were interested in seeing our boat, we couldn't wait to get out of La Paz!  There was no way we were going to sell Just a Minute before we even had a chance for one last Sea of Cortez blast.  We fired off three emails, sending along the info they requested and told them we were leaving!  We've been up in the Sea without internet ever since.   It seems that selling our boat maybe isn't the priority it should be!  It felt illicit to be leaving - so irresponsible - so FUN.  Like everyone knows, there's no fruit like forbidden fruit and even though we own the boat, it still felt like we were hot-wiring her and taking her "for a ride!"

Being on the lam has been a lot of fun.  The weather is getting hotter (80 - 90's), the water is warming up (about 72 degrees), the visibility is about 20-25 feet.  Life is good.  We've added a couple new anchorages to our list of ones we visited.  It's amazing that after four years of seeking out new places, we still  haven't seen it all.  Shortly after heading out, we hooked up with friends Hotel California and Full Shell in Bahia Marte.  Then just days ago we rendezvous-ed with Third Day and Eyoni in Agua Verde.  Today we stopped in Candeleros to pick up Internet at the new resort here and tomorrow with business taken care of, we head out to Isla Montserrat.  Below are pictures of some of our adventures in the last couple weeks.

 Ancient Cave Paitings near Agua Verde
My little hooligan getting ready to add his hand prints to the ancient cave painting.- he loves to tease.

View from the cave
First fish of 2012 - Jack nailed a 10 pound barred pargo in Bahia San Marte on the first spear fishing expedition of the year  Patrick landed about the same size leopard grouper the following day.
Our very first, complete and perfect paper nautilus!  Jack's eagle eye spotted it on one of our beach combing walks.  These elusive "shells" are the very thin, fragile egg cases for a species of octopus. When the eggs hatch, the octopus releases the egg case.  Few make it to shore whole, since they are quicklybattered to pieces by the surf. 

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Dog Spa

Rudy's treatment
Rudy is on a luxury cruise these days.  He's receiving doctor-ordered hot, herbal compresses lasting at least 20 minutes five times daily, followed immediately by a massage using herbal unguents.  Now if only we could get him to stop eating the cold cucumber slices covering his eyes!

It all started a few days ago when we noticed a lump on Rudy's neck.  It was very strange, about the size of a golf ball, and had just appeared in one day.  We brought him in to the veterinarian that evening who checked him out.  His analysis was simply a "fatty deposit" which we had not noticed before. He obviously had no idea of the amount of time we spend petting Rudy every day, or he would have known there was no way that growth could have sneaked up on us.  However, he was the expert, so we acquiesced.  Benign fatty deposits in Labs are pretty common.  So the vet sent us on our way, free of charge, telling us to return if it got noticeably bigger.

The following day by the afternoon, the lump on his neck grew to the size of a banana and got very hard.  While we were waiting for Patrick to get back from ferrying people around in our car, we watched Rudy sprout "moobs" (man-boobs) on his chest. His new breasts grew at an alarming rate.  Within about an hour, he had "B cup" breasts hanging on his chest.  I could only watch in envy.  They felt like water-balloons.

Jack, Rudy and I went in to shore so we could get Rudy in to the vet as soon as Patrick got back to the marina.  Finally at the vet's, Dr. Tomas instantly saw the difference (who couldn't notice the lush new look) and drained some fluid from both growths to analyze.  It was clear liquid and his diagnosis was that Rudy had been bitten by some poisonous insect (A spider?  Was it on the boat???) and had developed an allergy to it.

The doctor's recommended treatment was very interesting.  We were sent all over La Paz gathering up the ingredients we needed.  First we went to a beautiful, local nursery to buy a specific plant called Ruda.  Then, we went off to a specific pharmacy that carried a hard-to-find medication.

For Rudy's treatment, I was told to boil up water, put some of the plant leaves in the water to steep for 30 minutes, and then apply hot compresses with this special liquid for no less than 20 minutes, constantly re-warming the compresses.  Directly following the hot compresses, I was to massage his growths with a pungent, deep-green unguent that smells like Vick's Vapor Rub.  I'm to continue the spa treatment FIVE times a day for eight days!  In addition, Rudy will be taking prescribed  medications, 3 times daily for the following 16 days.

After the late afternoon vet visit and gathering up the necessary items, we finally got back to the boat at 8:30 at night.  I decided to start the treatment right away and got the compress ready.  The amazing thing was, after the first hot compress application, his "moobs" had completely disappeared.  It was truly incredible.  Though I was skeptical at first, I am a believer now.  I think it is so cool that the vet prescribes herbal medicines - how cutting edge is that?

Continuing the discussion about how life in Mexico is a more affordable, the following are the costs of treatment.  First vet visit - no charge.  Second vet visit - 300 pesos.  Plants - 60 pesos.  Diuretic medicine was 280 pesos for two bottles.  Antibiotic Cephalixina  - 50 pesos.  The green unguent was 150 pesos.  The grand total is 840 pesos, or $60.82 USD  at today's exchange rate! 

The bummer is we were all ready to leave for the islands the following morning (Saturday) but instead we are hanging around until the doctor can give us a pass to leave.  Rudy has a follow-up visit scheduled for Monday afternoon, and if he passes, we get to leave Tuesday morning bright and early for the islands.  Let the "vacation" begin!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Hot-Dipped and Delivered

We just got our 200 feet of 3/8" anchor chain back from Mexicali and we couldn't be happier.  It's bright, shiny, and a perfect heavy coating.  The entire process cost far less than replacing our rusty, heavily used chain, and it's better than new.  The cost of shipping our chain to Mexicali from La Paz round trip, using Castores shipping company was a total of $1,000 pesos (about $80 USD).  The re-galvainizing cost was $115 USD.  

Grupo Fetasa Galvanisadora is the only company that we know of in Mexico that re-galvanizes.  The contact person Patrick worked with was Jose Carlos Villavicencio Liera and his email is  josecarlos_fetasa@live.com.mx  The phone number for Fetasa is 01 (686) 555.9196.   Jose Carlos speaks very good English and quickly responds to email.  When our chain took a detour on its trip up with Castores, Jose Carlos was very helpful and contacted Castores to help us track it down.  Then when the chain was finished, he arranged its ride back to La Paz and dropped it off at Castores.  Paying the bill for the galvanizing was as simple as going to any Banamex (a big chain bank in Mex) and depositing the money in Fetasa's account.  It took about five minutes.

Castores shipping was a very good company, too.  Considering that the alternative is renting a car and driving your chain up to Mexicali yourself (we know several cruisers who have chosen this route), the $80 we spent on shipping was a steal, even though the trip took a little longer than Castores told us.  They also were very professional and they track your shipment with a tracking number. 

A very happy Patrick with his shiny chain.

We've heard of several other cruisers using Fetasa and eveyone we have talked to has been happy with the results.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Your money goes a long way in Mexico

There was so much food in our dinghy it was hard to find room to sit!

There are so many different ways that life in Mexico is more affordable than life in America.  We won't even go into the whole debacle of America's health insurance system and cost of medical care - I've covered that before.  Today, we'll focus on just that basic staple of life - food.  We just came back from a shopping trip  to Mega - a grocery store that is indistinguishable from your typical upscale Safeway in America.  Mega has all the amenities you would expect in a nice grocery store in America - an on-site bakery, deli, butchers on staff to help with any special meat order, a huge veggie/fruit section, pharmacy, and aisle after aisle of goods for sale, all set in a very clean, new, brightly lit facility with soft music piped in and well oiled, brand new carts without wobbly wheels.

The only difference you notice is when you step up to the register to pay.  Today, we were provisioning for the next month we plan to be out cruising, so we were stocking up on all the things that are either hard to find in the little tiendas up north, or are just too expensive off the beaten path.  Our pile of goodies filled two shopping carts to the brim.  We bought lots of expensive items including 3 fifths of alcohol, 5 1/2 pounds of boneless chicken breast, 4 lbs of beef roast, 2 lbs of pork roast,  2 lbs of hamburger,  2 lbs of bacon, bags of potato chips and snacks, 24 big boxes of good quality juice (pomegranate, cranberry and pineapple-coconut), about a case of pop, and lots more.    The grand total, you ask?  Hold on to your hats, folks.  At today's exchange rate we spent $292.95 USD.  At those prices, it's really no wonder how we stretched our budget out so we could be out cruising nearly four years instead of the two we planned on.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A Mother's Day Present

Jack just amazes me nearly every day.  Usually the amazement centers on things like "How many times do I have to ask you to do your reading?" or "Have I honestly never told you to sit up straight and stop shoveling your food?" or even "Did you think that was a good idea?".  And then that beautiful kid does something that is really helpful, wonderful, and unexpected and gives us a glimpse of the fact that maybe we are successful parents (at least in the areas that matter!).

Jack loves engines, all kinds and for every purpose.  He loves power tools from the generator to the handheld vacuum and he uses them at every chance he gets (yes, he loves to vacuum!).  He doesn't just love using them though, he loves caring for them and keeping them in perfect working order.  His latest pet project centers on our car, the Volvo.

Volvo's are not common down in Mexico.  Often when we are out tooling around, people will point at our car.  When we pull over for gas, they stand around to see under the hood when we check the oil.  They point at the little wipers on the headlights and laugh when they are turned on.  They just have not seen a lot of Volvo XCV70's and even though our car is ten years old, it's a novelty.  It's kind of funny.  The bad thing is, as we found out in Santa Rosalia last year when it broke down - there are no parts and many mechanics don't want to touch it.  Which all comes down to the fact that we haven't had our oil changed in quite some time.  No Jiffy Lube, no Volvo dealership.  Sure, Patrick will change the oil in an old Chevy pickup, but that Volvo seems to be built complicated just so you have to bring it in to the dealership.

The more we used the car, the more concerned Jack was becoming about the oil.  Jack strongly advocated we change the oil ourselves.  Patrick had brought an oil filter down from the States last time we were there, just in case, but had no intention of using it unless absolutely necessary.  Finally, to stop Jack from talking about it, Patrick told him HE could change the oil if he wanted.  And so Jack, my very intelligent but very dyslexic child who hates school, started researching on the Internet.  After several day's search, he found all the information he needed to complete the project.  He had learned the tools he would need, the layout of the engine, the steps to follow and the parts it would require.   He showed the info to Patrick who looked it over and said, "OK."  Then Patrick helped Jack move the car to a level spot over the gravel.  Then Patrick came back into the house and sat down.  I was amazed.  I couldn't believe Patrick was not going to supervise.  Patrick told me he was supervising - he was available for questions!  

Well, Jack did come into the house with a few questions, but Patrick never did get up to check on the project.  And then Jack was done.  The whole thing took about two hours.  I am so impressed.  I can't tell you how proud I am of Jack for researching the problem, finding solutions, and acting all on his own.  I think that's pretty damn good for a fourteen year old.  And the car runs great.  There is no better present for a mother than to see her child's accomplishments.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Poor Man's Sandblasting

House-sitting gets a bit boring after a few days.  Especially if you are a teenager.  So what did Jack and I do to pass the time and liven things up?  We went chain draggin'!  In Texas they have truck pulls, Iowa has cow tipping, and here in the Baja we go chain dragging.
The rusty chain getting unloaded.
Actually it all started because we desperately needed to do something about our anchor chain getting rustier and rustier.   Going on four years of nearly constant anchoring, the chain was getting bad.  The solution is to either buy new chain or get the old chain re-galvanized.  A new chain in the States would run over $1000.00 dollars and then we would have to get it here. Here in Mexico, you would be hard pressed to find the right type of chain and the quality would be suspect. Anchor chain comes in specific sizes that fit the gypsy on the windlass, which hoist the chain and anchor off the bottom. For all those reasons, re-galvanizing was the right thing to do. Anyway, to ship it with a local trucking company, have it acid-bathed and dipped should cost about $250.00, so it seemed a no-brainer.  There is a galvanization plant in Mexicali, Mexico up near the border that can "dip" our chain in a vat of hot molten galvanization and make it like new. 

Since we were land-locked for a couple of weeks and not using the anchor, it seemed the perfect time to get this taken care of.  However, the chain was really rusty and it ideally should be sand blasted first.   Paying for sand-blasting is expensive, but leave it to cheap cruisers to come up with an alternative.  I do not know where I first heard of the idea but I know I didn't come up with it on my own.  Somewhere, some cruiser did it first and told another.  I think I heard about it from Hal on Airborne.  Anyway, chain dragging is an inexpensive,  innovative poor man's approach to sand blasting. 

Hotel California's Rick enjoying "male time."

Jack and I grabbed our friend Ricky on Hotel California and the three of us hauled the 200' of rusty 3/8" chain off the boat, tossed it in the back of the Volvo wagon and headed for the desert.  We drove way out, because we figured we needed to get out of populated areas due to the violent dust storm we were anticipating creating.  We selected a power line road, unloaded the chain, and strapped it to the rear bumper.  Killing two birds with one stone, we let Jack drive so he could get some driving time in.  With Jack at the helm we took off in to the desert Chain Dragging. 

It was quite impressive!  The chain was heavy enough to bog the car down in some of the sandier spots.   When we got going 30 mph or so it would dig into the surface and disappear three or more inches under the sand.  Corners were tough towing 200' of chain but Jack managed well and we only took out a few acres of brush, but no cactus were damaged.  And the results were beautiful.  The chain was shiny when we were done and it was tempting just to toss it back on the boat.  But off we went to Castores, the local trucking company and they put it on a pallet and whisked it away promising it would be in Mexicali (almost a thousand miles away) in two days.  Well nine days later I was getting worried but last night we had confirmation that our chain had just arrived in Mexicali at the Galvanization plant.  Now lets hope it makes it back.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Things You Give Up

We've been getting a lot of sympathy for the end of our cruise - like it's some sort of death in the family.  It's almost like we have cancer.  To our peers, the unspeakable has happened - we are ending our cruise. Like it's a failure, or a tragedy, or an unimagineable hardship.  

Well, I have news for those people feeling sad for us.  It's not what you think. We aren't going back simply because we ran out of money.  It's mostly because of the things you give up to go cruising.

Every single cruiser out here has given up some pretty important things to be cruising.  The list is long and different for each one.  For us, the main thing we've given up is being with family.  I miss spending time with my parents.  More importantlly, I want my child to spend as much time with his Grammy, Grandpa, Poppa, Aunt Pat  and his aunties, uncles and cousins as possible.  There are no guarantees in life, and time is limited.  I want them to know him as the fine young man he is becoming.  Family is a gift that we have been ignoring for too long.  So many of our friends down here are grandparents who are giving up time with their grandkids and I see the pain it causes.  It's sad in either direction.

We have given up being part of a steadfast community.  Yes, I know that cruiser's have their own community, and I love participating in it.  But let's face it.  We are all water gypsies.  We come and go, move here and there.  You often don't even know when the last time you will see someone is.  One minute they're in the next anchorage over, and the next minute they're off to Timbuktu.  Or vice versa.  It's a very transient life and if you are truly cruising around yourself, you never have coffee with the same friend two weeks in a row.  That's cruising.  I miss having friends that you see every week and know what's going on, and have over for dinner every Thursday, month after month.

Jack has given up puttering in a garage, having friends who are available for a bike ride or a face to face chat.  He's given up mountain biking, and spending time with his grandparents.  For the most part, Jack has given up time away from his parents.  That's pretty important for a teen searching for independence.  There's not a lot of places to go to be truly away from your parents in a boat.  Sure, you can take the dinghy to the beach, or go for a hike alone, but there's not a lot to do.  We have gone months without even seeing another teenager.  It can be a pretty lonely existence for a young teen.

Patrick and I miss donating time to charities that are important to us.  Yes, you can give money to thousands of good causes down here.  However, as a cruiser you never get a chance to teach English at the orphanage every week and build up a relationship with the kids, or spend months helping to build houses, or even muck out the cages at the local dog pound once a week.   If you are truly cruising, you are moving every few weeks.  People who are living on a boat, staying in one place can do those things, but they aren't cruising.  We miss making a meaningful committment to a good cause.

I miss having a home with a garden.  I miss working in the Earth and seeing the beautiful flowers after months of work starting them from seed.  I miss picking the apples from the tree I planted, the blueberries from my bushes, the strawberries from my plants.  I miss pouring over seed catalogues planning next year's plantings.  I miss making a mess in the garage knocking together a birdhouse from broken bits of old things.  I miss painting new colors on my walls every couple years.  I miss creating art.  There just isn't enough room on a boat to have a place to store all the things you need to be creative.  I never could get excited about beading (a very popular art form for lots of cruiser ladies since it doesn't take much room.)  I wanted my 4'x6' canvases, my oil paints, gold leaf, gesso, my stash of brushes and the mess of creation.  There just wasn't room, or time on a boat while cruising.

The funny thing is, I totally understand why people are feeling sorry for us. Over the last few years, when I heard that some family was going to quit cruising, I felt deep sadness for them. Even if I knew nothing about their circumstances or their plans.   I just felt sad for them.   I must have annoyed at least a few of them with misplaced sympathy. I'm sorry. Now I get it. When it's time to go home, it's not a sad thing. Sure, it's a challenge, it can be hard. But it is not a death or a failure. It's a rebirth. A new beginning. I love those.  That's why I love spring, and the new flowers just coming up.  The sky is the limit.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Crazy Ivan

I wrote a month ago all about the "Final Leg" of our  3 1/2 year adventure.   I explained very rationally why it was time to go home  We were headed to La Paz like it was the barn at the end of a long day.  We have lots of reasons to go home - a growing teen and lessening money being two of the chief ones, but there are a few others.   I jokingly mentioned the possibility of pulling a Crazy Ivan and asked for any bettors.  I did.  You should have taken the bet.

I don't know how it all came about.  We pulled into La Paz as planned.  We tied to the dock and started polishing, waxing and cleaning.  Just a Minute is looking SO GOOD!.  And then we simply decided we weren't done with the Sea just yet.  Maybe it was the beautiful anchorage at Bonanza.  Maybe it was the dread of returning to "real" life.   Maybe it's the fact that we actually don't have a "real life" to return to.   Then it hit us.  We have the perfect boat, the perfect cruising location, the  perfect season, lots of time, no where to be,  (a little) money and no buyer in sight yet - WHAT were we thinking?  We just couldn't leave without one more quick tour into the Sea.

The boat is still for sale.  She's perfect, clean, shiny and ready to go.  But while we are waiting for the perfect buyer to take over the reins, we'll just keep making sure that Just a Minute is in perfect working order.  You know the saying, "Use it or lose it!"  We'll stay within Internet range and if anyone wants to come and see the boat we can be back in La Paz in just a few days.  In the mean time, the Sea is waiting. 

We are still house sitting for another two weeks and will keep working on JaM, polishing, cleaning, and waxing.  Once our house-sitting gig is done, we will load up and head out.  Oh! I can't wait.  I have a list of anchorages I want to hit.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A House Sitting Gig

The gorgeous entry
We had a major break of luck and got a house-sitting gig here in La Paz for a week or so.  It gives us a chance to work on the boat, but live somewhere else.  It's great to get a taste of what real square footage feels like again!  It's a lovely home with a modern kitchen, beautiful colors and art work on the walls, and a powerful showerhead!   And best of all for us, we have been reunited with our car here, so we are back living an almost-American existence in Mexico - house, car, dog, and kid.  No jobs still though, but hey - what's the rush?

I think the one enjoying it most is Rudy.  Not only does he get to pee on terra firma (instead of plastic astroturf) whenever he wants, but he has a real yard that he can roam at will and best of all, a playmate.  The house comes with a sweet little terrier/schnauzer mix (I think?) and they are becoming very good friends.
House Dog at last!
Rudy's playmate, Molly.