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

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What Happened to Finesse?

A picture of Finesse taken by Brett Schreckengost, found on the internet.

We've been out here floating around in Mexico for 3 1/2 years now. We've heard of quite a few boats being lost in that time. Usually it's a simple mistake, not bad weather, that costs a sailboat. Last summer, the sailboat Aunt Sur was up in the northern Sea of Cortez when the single-handing owner fell asleep during a long passage and ended up on the rocks. He survived, but his boat was a total loss. I heard about another boat last year that was lost due to overconfidence. Two absolute newby sailors bought a sailboat and took it on a passage from Puerto Escondido to Mazatlan. Except, they ended up on the beach a hundred or so miles north of Mazatlan. They bought and lost their boat in a two week period, but they survived. Accidents/bad luck/bad charts/lack of sleep/bad decisions - all sorts of things can and do happen to cruisers down here in Mexico. Usually the highest price paid is that the boat is lost, the people are fine.
And then there's the story of the sail boat Finesse. Finesse was a 27 foot sailboat with a single-handing owner, named Donn Pinkney. Finesse left Manzanillo here on the Mexican mainland on February 20th, on her way to Zihuatanejo. The boat was found about a week later washed up on a beach, stripped of anything portable at a place called Ticla. The owner was never found. Later, it was reported on the radio nets that the boat had been seen at anchor in Ticla, a surfing beach but not known as an anchorage. Donn was relatively young, fit, active and in good health. By all accounts he was a surfer, a swimmer and a sailor. There were no adverse weather conditions anytime that week. And he is gone, at anchor, in mild conditions, boat lost. It's a scary story that doesn't make any sense.
The crew of Just a Minute had a reason to care for the story of Finesse. While I was in Iowa, Patrick and Jack took JaM north from Zihuatanejo to meet me in Manzanillo. JaM left Zihuatanejo on February 22nd - following the exact opposite course of Finesse in the same time period. On February 24th, JaM anchored in Maruata. Within minutes of anchoring, a beautiful woman on a surfboard swam out to JaM and asked if they had seen a sailboat named Finesse. When they said "no" and told her that they had come from Zihuatanejo, she began to cry. Her name was Berenice and she was a good friend of Donn's. Finesse was overdue and Berenice had started from Manzanillo working her way down the coast to find Donn. With Patrick's answer, she knew that something had happened to her friend. She was bereft. Seeing the grief of a loved one made the story personal to us.
That night, February 24th, Patrick put out a "Health and Welfare" call for Finesse on the SSB radio Southbound Net. A Health and Welfare call is simply a way to let the cruising community know to be on the lookout for a vessel since someone is concerned for them. Often, a Health and Welfare call will be met with immediate information from someone who is anchored nearby or who has seen them recently. No one had any information that night. No one seemed to have even heard of the boat or met the owner. Over the following days, the Health and Welfare calls were repeated on the Southbound, Amigo and Sonrisa nets, reaching well over a hundred boats, but no one had any real information to give regarding Finesse. No one knew his planned stops on his trip to Zihuatanejo, or if he was going to do a straight shot. It was several more days until his boat was reported found at Ticla. By then it had been stripped of everything, further obscuring what had happened.
The story really concerns me for a couple reasons. We've been doing the exact same thing, in the same place, in the same time period and at no time have I ever felt threatened or at danger from anything. I would have thought the dangers of cruising the Pacific Coast of mainland Mexico were dealing with big ocean swell, lots of container ship traffic, and a greater danger of theft since there are so many people living here.
One of the reasons I've always felt comfortable cruising the coast is because there are hundreds of other cruisers here. There are fewer anchorages over a greater stretch of land and so there are usually other boats nearby. Rarely will you ever find yourself alone in an anchorage. There's safety in numbers and the other cruisers act like a safety net. Over this season, we've heard of several cruisers using the cruiser net of "friends" to get help with a tow into an anchorage when their engine died. The net of cruisers was also there in Zihua during the thefts that happened; cruisers knew about and actively took part in the situation. In Barra this season, a group of cruisers stopped a dragging boat and reanchored it, even though no one was on board. It gives me a little ease knowing that when I leave my boat to go to shore, there are other cruisers in the anchorage kind of "keeping an eye" on things. It's not a sure-fire deterrent for theft on this busy, crowded coast, but it helps.
Regardless of whether Finesse and her captain were brought down by foul play or just bad anchoring, the story reaffirmed one lesson for me. You're safer if you are part of the net. After hearing this story, we will continue to only use known anchorages on the coast. If you are sharing anchorages, the safety net of your fellow cruisers is around you. Can being part of the net stop bad things from happening? - No. But it's nice to know you aren't alone, and that people will know of your troubles more quickly, and that they might be able to help.
And more importantly, we will keep checking in on the SSB and VHF radio nets. The more cruisers who know who you are, where you've been, and where you are going, even if they've never personally met you, I think the safer you are down here on the coast, or anywhere. Every check-in on an SSB net is written down and recorded, for your safety. If you go missing, they at least have a record of when and where you last were, which is invaluable for someone trying to find you.
My heart goes out to Donn's family and friends. How I wish that Donn's experience on the coast was like mine. For me it's been beautiful, lively, full of people and fun and no worries. It's hard for me to comprehend how dangerous this place can be, too.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Amibas y Lombrices

Well, it's a topic that you won't hear a lot about in blogs - amoebas and worms. But hey! we live in Mexico, folks. They happen. The longer you live here, the more likely you are to be affected. You can get amoebas and/or worms from bad water, under-washed fruits and veggies, undercooked meat, bad hygiene, touching something that someone with bad hygine has touched, touching someone else who is infected, or even just from the street dust that covers everything that might have the eggs of the parasites attached (remember all those stray dogs and cats I've talked about?).
About a week ago, I "went off my feed." The first day, I was nauseous and very tired. The second day, I felt hungry but whenever I ate anything I doubled over with terrible cramps. On the 3rd day, the Big D entered my life and I had to stay very close to a bathroom. The entire time, I was very lethargic and tired, but had no fever. I knew I had gotten into something. I've had the same experience once before while we were on the Baja. I learned about Vermox Plus then. So I knew just what to try first. Long live Vermox Plus!
Vermox Plus is an over the counter medication sold here in Mexico. There are several different brands of medication available here that do the same thing. Some are stronger than others. I like Vermox Plus since it is very simple to use. With just two pills, it kills amoebas and worms. Within three days of taking the dose, I was pretty much back to normal - no nausea, no pain after eating, no cramps, no diarrhea. Yeah!
In fact, I've heard that many Mexicans and people who live in Mexico take a medication like Vermox every six months, just to de-parasite, even without symptoms. While we haven't started that regime on Just a Minute, it is the first thing I try when I get a long-lasting stomach issue going on. Some stomach issues strike and clear up quickly. Some start up and stay until you get treatment. Both times I had stomach issues that lasted more than a day, Vermox Plus worked to cure me, but I know it doesn't work for everyone.
Of course, once you kill all the bad things in your tummy, you've have also killed a lot of the good bacteria. So then you take Yakult. I love these little things. Yakult is sold everywhere in Mexico in grocery stores. They are tasty little shots of all the good bacteria that your stomach needs to function well. They are just big enough to be a swallow or two. They taste like little orange-creamsicles.
An obvious disclaimer: I am not a doctor and have no medical training. Please consult your physician before taking Vermox Plus to make sure it safe and necessary for you.

Friday, March 16, 2012

In Heartfelt Appreciation of my Honda Generator

Every cruiser has their own list of "Must-Have" items that they are happy to share with all the people out there who are researching and planning their own adventures. Generally, I think people's lists should stop with the word "Boat". After that, it is just too dependent on where they are cruising, what they like to do, how long they will stay off a dock and how much money they have.

I've met cruisers in Mexico perfectly happy and loving life without a watermaker, an SSB, a dinghy motor, a refrigerator, or a freezer - all items I have on my "Must Have" List. They aren't missing them, but I sure would. Of course I am traveling without a Kindle, washing machine, air-conditioning, a boat-wide inverter, or a built in genset - all items that others have on their "Must Have" List.

With that said, I will now tell you about something that you should consider having - a Honda generator. It has changed our cruising life in many positive ways. In the beginning, we never even considered having a generator, and our boat did not have a genset. It started to be a problem as we spent longer and longer off the dock. We would find a great anchorage, be loving life, and then be forced to leave since our batteries were very low and we needed to charge them - which meant that we had to fire up the engines and move to another anchorage. We couldn't sail even if there was the perfect wind because we needed to have our engines on and under a load to pour as much power as possible back into the battery banks.

During our first hurricane season in the LA Bay area, we had to motor between anchorages at least 8 hours away every three to five days just to charge our 660 AH battery bank. We had solar power, but it wasn't enough to keep up with the power drain of our refrigerator in such a hot environment. We realized we needed to change something. We decided to swap out the stock 55 amp alternators on our engines with higher input alternators (two 110 amp alternators that run in tandem to deliver 220 amps). This was an expensive and complicated improvement. It helped, but not enough. We still had to fire up the engines and move around to charge the batteries, we just didn't have to move as far.

Then we bought a Honda 2000 generator about a year ago and all our old annoyances are gone. On our last hurricane season, we spent weeks floating around in our favorite anchorages and never had to move. When the batteries got low, we just fired up the Honda and let it run for 8 hours. A chief benefit of this was that we no longer were putting hours on the boat's engines - a plus for resale value. We also saved on fuel costs since the Honda takes 1 gallon of gas per 8 hours use, which tops off our battery bank. Yeah! Movie night? No worries. Blender party? Come on over. And best of all - that generator is ours and we are free to sell it or take it with us when we sell the boat. No more money sunk into the bottomless pit of a boat. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!!!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Surfer Dudes

Patrick and Jack have learned a new trick - surfing. They took lessons a couple days ago and have been hitting the waves ever since. In the way of kids, Jack immediately took to it and was soon riding all the way into shore. Being an old(er) dog, Patrick was a little slower to get it all down and stay up, but he's managed a couple rides into shore.

Patrick checking out the waves
Our Base Camp was a comfortable spot up on the sea wall with a good view of the surfers.
An exultant Jack on his first ride into the shore.

Jack riding the waves.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012


The day after I flew into Santiago, our good friends Tom and Dodie flew into the same airport and had their cab take them to the same small, beachside restaurant in Santiago. Ever since then, we've been on the run. We've toured through Manzanillo, traveled up to Melaque, and taken a tour out to Colima.

Below are a few pictures of our adventures so far.

At the Bar Social in Manzanillo - a great bar that serves you free appetizers as long as you are drinking - everything from excellent ceviche to guacamole, chips, potato salad, jicama slices and more.

Tom and Dodie in Manzanillo
Walking down a street headed toward the giant sailfish sculpture near the water in Manzanillo
The Colima Archeological Zone covers about 120 acres in the heart of Colima. Only about 1/10th of the site has been excavated so far. The ancient city was in its heyday about 800 AD but dates even further back.
Patrick beckoning for his human sacrifice to be brought to him on top the tallest pyramid in the Archeological Zone in Colima
Jack taking a break and soaking in the history of the archeological complex in Colima
The beautiful Jardin de Libertad in Colima