Punta de Mita to Mazatlan…and Across the Sea

I think I last left you languishing in Punta de Mita. Somehow we spent a week there – although not entirely by choice.

After Naoma left us (sniff, sniff) we moved over to the other side of the anchorage where it was (we thought) going to be a little less rolly and it was closer to Lunasea (friends we met in San Blas) and we were looking forward to hanging out with them and Mike and Nia from Azul (who we’d just met in Yelapa – and are also friends with Naomi and Alex on Lunasea! It’s a small ocean). We had an early dinner and headed over to Lunasea for a fun night of socializing and Cards Against Humanity.

Our plan was to head out to the Marietas in the afternoon and spend the night on one of the moorings, so that we’d have the place to ourselves before the tour boats showed up in the morning. Seemed like a brilliant plan and I was looking forward to finally swimming under the rock arch into the cave-beach. It was only about an hour to get out there. Unfortunately there was a weird current or something going on – because when we attached to the mooring (which was a giant metal tank) we did not spin into the wind. Normally the boat will always spin nose first into the wind when at anchor or a mooring. At a mooring this is critical so that you are always pulling back from the mooring ball. In this case we were smacking up into the mooring ball (which, as I said, was a giant metal tank…smacking the boat into a giant metal tank is no bueno). There was nothing we could really do but abandon the plan and head back to Punta Mita. Very disappointing on many levels.

Neither the town, nor the anchorage is at all appealing to me there. It’s always rough and rolly, so swimming is no fun. We scoured the town for chicken or meat and had no luck at that, either. We stocked up on a few things and were doing OK for food. Since we had a whole day to kill before we could leave again, we decided to check on what that bothersome squeak was in the steering wheel. There are 2 metal cables that go from the wheel down to pulleys and back to the rudder – to control steering in either direction. As it turns out, the metal pin through one of the pulleys was missing cotter pins and was hanging half out! Had this pin fallen out we would’ve lost the ability to turn to port and underway this could’ve been disastrous. Sticking some cotter pins in the ends seemed a simple enough thing to do, right? We tried to brush off the nagging question of “where did they go in the first place?!” and even more troublesome “what if they were never there in the first place?”. The two pulleys are set in a sort of V shape to each other right on top of the metal fuel tank, with the wide part of the V being aft – meaning to get to the inside of the pin you have to reach above the fuel tank, around to the back of the pulleys and turn your hand back 180 degrees (while laying down in the quarter berth with your head stuck inside the little opening of the engine compartment, careful not to rip out any hoses and hoping the headlamp doesn’t fall down. This task was a complete impossibility for Jonny, with his giant hands. So I crawled in there and gave it a go. I got very close, but the angle was very hard. I almost had it by using pliers to hold the pin – in fact I’m pretty sure I could’ve done it. But Jonny got impatient and said we just needed to loosen the wire to release the pulley and do it that way. So he went into the aft lazarette to loosen the cable. When he was taking the pulley down, he accidentally dropped it. It rolled back along the top of the fuel tank and fell down behind it. Loud and angry swearing ensued. There was no way we could initially find to retrieve the pulley. Emptying the starboard lazarette (which is large and contains many, many items, including our 70 lb. life raft) and removing the wall panels to see if we could get behind the fuel tank somehow seemed to be our only option. It was getting dark, so we had to call it a night to return our garage back into our home so we could have some dinner and resume this fun and exciting project in the morning. We did pull up old pictures of Summer and were able to see the possibility of getting under the fuel tank (there were 3 baffles to go over and it was too long of a distance for my arm and possible too small of a distance for Jonny’s arm. It was a fretful night.

Cockpit mess pulley

 

I thought perhaps I could squeeze myself into the aft lazarette (which was already emptied) and try to reach through a circular hole in the wall that separated the lazarette from the fuel tank area. There was simply no way for me to squeeze in there without potentially destroying the disks and cables of the back of the steering system. So empty the starboard lazarette we did. When Jonny removed the vertical wood panels he discovered that there was just enough room to reach around the backside of the fuel tank (not having to go under) and he retrieved that pesky pulley.

Oh! There is is!

Oh! There is is!

Jonny gets pulleyWe spent the rest of the day putting the boat back together and preparing to make our escape from Banderas Bay once and for all. I gave up on the swimming through the cave fantasy – the Curse of the Marietas won. Maybe next season??

 

It felt good to get moving back out to the open ocean again. We’d made plenty of tracks all around Banderas Bay and were ready for something new. It was a calm and slow sail north. So calm that I was able to bake a chocolate almond bread and defrost the ice box. I was feeling motivated! Our destination was Jaltemba – a big beach destination for local tourists. It was Semana Santa, “Holy Week” for Mexico – which as we later discovered should’ve been called Dos Semanas Santa (it went on for 2 holy weeks!). There were islands and 2 different anchorage spots near shore, we weren’t sure where we were going to end up. As we got closer we saw that the beaches on shore were simply packed with people and umbrellas. We decided to do a ‘drive by’ and check out the entire shoreline. Banana boats zipped around us and the festive vibe emanated from the shores.Jaltemba beach2 People were having a blast. Thousands of them. It was fun to see, but we decided that maybe heading out to Isla La Peña, just off shore, might be more our style. The water at the island was gorgeous and there was a small beach filled with holiday cheer. We knew everyone would be taking pangas back to mainland at dark, so we enjoyed the loud music and the people watching on the beautiful island for the afternoon.

The swimming was excellent and I couldn’t wait to go snorkeling near shore in the morning. We had a beautiful night and next morning. I took the dinghy out by myself and snorkeled off of it (holding the line so as not to lose it – Peugeot followed me around like a giant loyal dog). Jonny joined me and we covered quite a lot of ground. Lots of fishes and I even saw a small-ish sea turtle! The shore started filling up with vacationers and the music started in earnest. We’ve discovered that loud music is acceptable at any time, day or night and starting to blast it at 7 or 8 in the morning is the norm in many places. Summer Isla PenitaWe were ready to move on the short distance up to Chacala – not new, but well loved. We realized it might be crowded there, too, but we didn’t fully comprehend just how crowded it could possibly be until we pulled in to the bay. The umbrellas and people packed on the beach and in the water was mind-boggling. It was a pretty tiny beach – maybe ½ mile long? There was not a single sailboat in the anchorage, though, so we took our pick of spots. I estimated there were at least 1500 people on the beach when we arrived. We figured we wouldn’t be staying long – just to re-provision and wait for a good weather window to head out to Isla Isabella.

 

Francisco and Juan Diego swam out to chat with us. We exhausted our Spanish and they remembered how to ask "do you have any candy" in English.

Francisco and Juan Diego swam out to chat with us. We exhausted our Spanish and they remembered how to ask “do you have any candy” in English.

Well, you know how that goes. Another week in Chacala! After a few days we had to swim ashore and throw ourselves into the fray, just to see what was really going on there. The crowds were cheerful and everyone was having a great time. We were only 2 of about 6 gringos I saw the whole time. People here are not afraid of sand. People were rolling, sitting, burying themselves, walking around completely covered in sand. It was almost universal. Some people didn’t even bring chairs, but sculpted comfy sand holes to sit in.   We walked the length of the beach just taking in the scene. There were at least 3 bands playing at all time. When on the beach, as you walked you heard one band at a time. Some were really great! Out in the anchorage we were lucky enough to be able to hear all three of them AT ONCE. Grateful for my large jar of earplugs!

 

There were so many people everywhere that we didn’t feel it would be safe to leave the dinghy ashore. We were not afraid of theft so much, but more just how attractive our little Peugeot is to children. Such a temptation for climbing, bouncing and jumping…and the teeny beach at the dinghy landing area was always packed with kids. So Jonny dropped me off and I made a solo trip to Las Varas for re-provisioning. It was Saturday and I was afraid everything might be shut down for the holidays. But it was business as usual, and I was able to load up on chicken, meat and veggies (and TelCel). Everyone in Las Varas is so friendly and I kind of like that no one speaks any English. I went to the same carniceria we went to last time and the same woman selling chickens was also there. I got the feeling she remembered me. She was very sweet and helped me remember the correct Spanish for all the chicken parts. I told her I didn’t want the feet and she was quite certain I would like to make a delicious soup with them. I explained I lived on a small boat and cooking soup in this heat was not going to happen. That was much easier for me to say in Spanish than “chicken feet soup sounds totally gross to this gringa”.   It was hot and carrying all the stuff myself was hard, but it was overall quite an enjoyable outing. I managed to catch a collectivo that was just about to leave. It was full up but they managed to squeeze me and all my bags onto the corner of a seat.

More boats started showing up in the anchorage and we met some really great folks. One afternoon I dropped Jonny off on shore and rowed around in the dinghy to wait for him. That’s when I met Lynne and Rob on Aldebaran. They invited me aboard to hang out while I waited for Jonny. They are retired and have been out for 2 seasons already – they have things figured out and are enjoying livin’ the dream. I saw them again on shore when I was using internet at Chac Mool (the uber gringo restaurant that has bad food, loud music and high prices…but they don’t care if I sit there for hours and have just one drink). They were with another couple from one of the other boats. This is when I met Rob and Becky from Manatee- who are just a little bit older than us (always fun to find people our age to play with!). We had a great chat and they invited us over for drinks with Rob and Lynne that evening. (yeah I know, 2 Robs). Rob and Becky had never set foot on a sailboat until January of this year – when they took Manatee out for a sea trial!! To buy a sailboat and take off with no experience is pretty brave and ballsy. And a little bit crazy. Rob and Becky are all of the above. We had so much fun hanging out with them! A dinghy went by as we were all hanging out in their cockpit and Becky called to them and insisted they stop by. They came up for a short visit – and we got to meet three Polish people who live in Germany. I wish I could guess at how to spell their names – a man named Machek (? )And two women – one was Machek’s (?) wife and the other was named Maria. They were wonderful and I even got to learn a little Polish. We kept them from getting their dinner long enough to have a drink with us and then they went on their way.

ManateeParty

 

Rob and Becky have exactly the right attitude to make this life work. They sold their house and all their stuff, made sure their 19 year old son was ok on his own (a little bewildered, but ok) and they bailed! Rob retired from the military, which was a huge part of both their lives. Quite a different set of stories than we’re used to hearing–fascinating.

Rob&Becky Card

I love this! Best part is when Jonny read it and said “Blondes verified? Maybe we can get you verified?”. He had NO idea…

They had been planning to boogie down the coast, go through the Panama Canal and head out to the Caribbean. We kind of convinced them to scrap that plan. They realized they were in no hurry, why rush and miss so much good stuff? They decided to continue down to Banderas Bay and take care of some projects, and then head up to spend the summer in the Sea of Cortez. Then work their way down to Panama next season, at a more leisurely pace. We are looking forward to catching up with them again somewhere in the Sea- they are good people and a whole lot of fun!

While online I learned that we got yet another donation!!!! THANKS goes out to Peggy in Aptos – a wonderful woman that both Jonny and I have worked with. We are so grateful that the people we know and love haven’t forgotten about us and are supportive of this out-of-the-ordinary life we’ve chosen.

We finally got our weather window to head out to Isla Isabela. Or so we thought. It’s a tricky island to anchor at and unless conditions are just so, it’s not really safe or comfortable. We headed out at night, so to arrive in the morning. In the event it wasn’t favorable we’d just continue on to Mazatlan. We had an epic sail that night. Summer was pushing beyond her top speeds and it was comfortable and warm. Fun and fast! It was a little gloomy and the wind was still too south when we arrived at Isabela. It looked gorgeous and we very much wanted to stay and explore. But there was not another boat in sight, the south swell was no good for the south facing anchorage and the winds seemed to be favoring “keep going”.

The Monas

The Monas next to Isabela

We had a good long look as we sailed around the island and sadly tacked away towards Mazatlan. Not far away, the wind died. It was so hot, rolly and slow that we decided to heave-to and go for a swim. I threw a line over for us to hold on to so that Summer couldn’t get away from us. There’s nothing like swimming in 500 feet of the most gorgeous color blue water without a bit of land in sight. The swell was pretty crazy though, so we had to be careful when trying to catch the swim ladder –which bobbed 4-5 feet up and down over our heads.

Isla Isabela

Isla Isabela

 

Refreshed, we motor-sailed along for the next 24 hours. In the afternoon, a bird landed on the foredeck. It was a pigeon. It looked very tired and maybe a little bit lost. It was at least 50 miles from land. He walked around cautiously, watching us and looking for a place to relax. He ended up in our cockpit. I gave him some. He would not drink on his own when I left it out for him, but everytime I held it up, he’d thirstily swallow it down.   He had bands on both legs and we guessed he was some sort of carrier pigeon. He ended up roosting on top of our solar panels and was gone by morning. Not sure where he went, but assuming he’s OK and where he belongs now!

 

I was not seasick, but the night watches and disjointed and lack of sleep kind of kicked my butt. I was SO tired during this 2 day trip. I was bleary-eyed as we approached Mazatlan at dawn. We entered the old harbor and anchored in the crowded, protected anchorage. It was SO calm. We hadn’t felt that calm since being at the dock in La Cruz. We slept most of the first day. We noticed Aldebaran nearby and were looking forward to catching up with Lynne and Rob again.   We also anchored near Tacman – a catamaran we remembered seeing way back in San Simeon – our first ‘new’ anchorage. I remembered the name and boat, as that was when I thought it would be clever to keep track of all the boats we saw and where they were from. I still think it’s a great idea. Maybe someday I’ll start doing that. 😉

Sunrise in Mazatlan old harbor

Sunrise in Mazatlan old harbor

 

The old harbor and only anchorage in Mazatlan is near the ferry and cruise ship port, and on shore is “Club Nautico”, a place that was at one time very nice and happening, so I’ve been told. Now it’s run down and neglected – but there is wifi and showers and a floating dock to tie the dinghy to – as well as 24 hour security and a gate. It’s directly across from the sewage treatment plant for all 500,000 people in Mazatlan. Most days, the wind was often just right to afford us the luxury of enjoying the fragrances wafting from the plant. Sewage PlantOne night it was so awful it actually woke me up. I ended up spraying a handkerchief with jasmine water and tying it around my face. I woke up looking like a disheveled bandito.   But other than that one thing, we had a lovely week in the free anchorage!

MazatlanHill Mazatlan roca islas

We visited with Rob and Lynne a few times, I chatted with John on Tacman and got his story and we met Alain on Blue Lagoon whose wife had just returned to their home in Tucson, Arizona.

Our first day exploring we decided to walk into Old Town Mazatlan. We went up over the rock hill and down into the Malecon and off into the town. MaleconpianolessonsWe saw the old church and Machado Square. Maz Cathedral Maz Cathedral inside     Jonny in cathedral Maz Church square Maz Machado square Maz Lot art Maz DoorThere’s a lot of history there – and cultural arts abound. There’s even an opera house/theater. It is a very clean and friendly city. We went into the Central Mercado – a huge market that sells anything and everything in individual stalls. We scoped everything out for a future food shopping trip (and no, I would not be buying an entire pig head – not that I couldn’t if I wanted to). We walked back home around the backside of the hill. It was a LOT of walking on hard city streets. We vowed to take the bus, and maybe even splurge on a pulmonia in the future. The pulmonias are ‘open air’ taxis (actual translation is pneumonia) that were invented by a guy here in the 60’s when he transformed a golf cart. They are everywhere now –cheaper than a taxi, more expensive than a bus and a fun and exciting way to take your life in your hands.

 

 

Jonny decided to figure out what was wrong with our motor mount – he had noticed that one of them looked a little loose when we arrived and he wanted to get in there and figure out what needed to be done. I went ashore for a bit while he tore about the boat and got into it. When I went back to the boat he said it looked ok, it had just come loose and he wanted to put another lock washer on it to tighten it down really well. We went ashore and asked at the office if there was a ferreteria nearby (hardware store). We got directions to walk to one not too far away. So we were set for a little adventure. We ran into Alain as we were coming in and got talking to him about what we needed – he said he thought he might have one. He also introduced us to Jesus (aka Chuy) who was very helpful and said he’d look, too. We decided to hang out for a bit on the cement benches under the dilapidated palapa and see what was going to happen. We learned a bit more Spanish with Chuy and then he went off to look for a lock washer. As we were sitting there, a small power boat came in and tied up at the dinghy dock. A few tourists came off and 2 guys hauled a big cooler up to the palapa. We got to chatting with them – they spoke excellent English and run the little tour boat. They offered us beer leftover in their cooler. They told us about Moto Week – which we just missed (darnit!) the week earlier – thousands of motorcycles descend upon Mazatlan. He said he rode a bike down from Arizona to La Paz and then took the ferry over with the bike. Sounds like a good time, but really, not sorry to have missed it. We enjoyed our beers and Alain came back with a lock washer just the right size for us. Chuy came back and said unfortunately he couldn’t find one. But we were all set. Jonny went back to put the boat back together and I stayed ashore to nurse the rest of my beer and have a shower. Not the adventure out we had expected, but all in all a pretty great afternoon.

Maz beer anchorage

Free beer!

Rob and Lynne raved about La Tramoya – a restaurant on the square. We decided that this would be the place we finally got to enjoy our fancy night out on Van and Susan. We were not disappointed! I had a delicious fresh mango margarita (Jonny had a regular one). The queso fundido appetizer was so huge that I could’ve stopped there and been fine. What’s not to love about a huge skillet of broiled cheese and peppers? I had a chicken with Oaxacan mole, stuffed with these delicate black mushrooms that apparently grow on corn, and a little whipped mountain of squash. Jonny had a delicious mahi-mahi covered in a bunch of shrimp and other sea treasures. I was enjoying it all so much that it was too late when I realized I was way too full to consider dessert. I even had to take a small bit of my chicken home with me (it was too good to leave it!).

TramoyaDrinks Tramoya Dinner

 

We had considered leaving from the anchorage, or perhaps one of the islands just to the west of the city. We figured we really didn’t need to go into a marina. But after a while we changed our minds. We decided to take the bus up to the Zona Dorada (Gold Zone) about 7 miles from old town – where all the hotels, marinas and touristy crap is – and have a look-see. Armed with a lot of inside info from Rob and Lynne we set off. We somehow managed to get on a bus that went right up the Malecon – along the ocean the entire way. We got to pass right through all the hotels and stuff – and seeing it quickly on a comfortable, air conditioned bus was exactly the way I wanted to see that. I had no need to wander on food through all that garbage! The marinas are kind of up and away from everything. We got off the bus and hoofed it back down and over a bridge to the Fonatur marina – the one we hoped would be cheapest. Fonatur is the Mexican tourism board, and they build a number if identical marinas through out Mexico. We stayed in one in San Blas – it was super inexpensive and good enough for our needs. The Fonatur in Mazatlan was a tiny bit more expensive than San Blas – but it was far superior in most every way. It was cleaner, the showers actually had hot water, and the walls separating the shower stalls were actually bolted down, so there was no danger of collapsing the entire shower area if you accidentally bumped one. The laundry room had working washers AND dryers. There was also a lounge area with desks, couch and books and a decent wifi signal. The docks were made of some plastic squares that appear to snap together – solid enough, but the dock fingers were extremely narrow. It ended up not being as terrifying as I thought it would be though, to jump off the boat onto them. We were going to reserve one night, but then we ended up reserving 2. It just made more sense for all the work we had to do before an early morning jump across back to Baja.

MazFonatur

We enjoyed our visits in and around Mazatlan, but even with the buses and pulmonias, we still did a lot more walking than my crooked old back likes. My feet were pretty much throbbing the whole time. We had a few days of overcast/cooler weather, which was not unwelcome. But when the sun finally came out it was really beautiful. On Saturday I insisted on hunting down the organic farmer’s market. At the bus stop we ran into Alain, who was also heading to the market and knew just where to go. It was great to have a guide – he even brought us to a great shop near the market that makes home-made yogurt. The market itself was a bit of a disappointment – it was only about a dozen tables barely filling the square. But I got some great scores – basil, honey, kale, arugula, steak, tapioca and yucca, yucca chips, green beans, eggplant and more. Not bad. Alain took us to another part of town where there was a great bakery and Jonny loaded up on some great bolillos (and I found another organic market in the same building and got a few more goodies).

Maz salt pool

Really cool salt water pool with water slide – unfortunately it was under repairs so not open. We snuck behind the scaffolding to take this pic.

Maz OperaHouse

Opera House

MazFreemanView mazatlan flowers Maz Old ruins

 

After one last stinky night at the free anchorage and said good bye to Lynne and Rob (maybe we’ll see them in La Paz?).Maz Sunset It was an easy motor up around the islands and into the marina – just a couple of hours. It was fun to see Mazatlan from the boat and recognize all the buildings and places we’d visited by land. We were a bit far out when we passed the Valentino – the night club that used to be a church. Now that’s what I call progress!

MazIsland MazZonaDorada

Fonatur only had 30 foot slips available, so we squeezed Summer in and immediately got to work. She was a pretty filthy girl, so it was good to give her a nice bath. Basically, everything on the entire boat – including us and all our clothes and bedding got a thorough washing. Jonny got the dinghy washed and broken down/deflated – we did not want it strapped to the deck for our 200 mile crossing and we certainly wouldn’t tow it all that way. Jonny went up the mast and fixed the spreader boots and untangled the lazy jacks (the lines that keep the sail in place when we drop it). I did four loads of laundry and used the wait time in between to utilize the couch and wifi in the breezy lounge room. It had been over 3 weeks since I had a real shower, too (yes, there were showers at the anchorage, but they were the kind where you don’t let yourself or any of your belongings touch anything – I hung my soap and shampoo in a bag over the water handle and there was no place to hang or set anything else. Not the most pleasant experience, but you come out feeling pretty clean. These showers were nice tile, clean wooden benches, privacy door, hooks and lots of pressurized hot water. I was in heaven.

Fonatur docks are like a balance beam...

Fonatur docks are like a balance beam…

 

I prepped a bunch of food for our crossing so I wouldn’t have to cook as much. I pre-cooked some chicken breasts, made pesto with basil from the organic farmer’s market, cooked a whole pot of black beans, chopped up pineapple, kale, cabbage, etc. Our fridge was packed to the gills. It’s a great feeling to be fully provisioned, but it is a pain in the ass to get anything in and out of the top-down fridge set up – you have to take 10 things out to get to one and then put it all back, then you remember something else and have to take 9 things out…but it’s a price I’m willing to pay for the security of abundant eats! I also know where everything is – Jonny doesn’t ever dare go deep in there and I always make sure his coffee creamer is right on top.

We got everything done in enough time to take a field trip to Mega. We didn’t need that much, but we saw one on shore behind the big white church/disco –so we knew it was there and there were a few things we wanted (ok, it was pretty much just granola and pinguinos – chocolate cupcakes that look like hostess cupcakes, only “bakery fresh”). We caught the right bus – along with 5,000 other people…it was packed. We barely got on. Jonny had to stand in the doorway and I was right next to the driver. I squatted down as that seemed safer than standing right in front of the windshield. Although I’m sure the driver was plenty skilled to send all the texts he was sending and fussing with the coin tray while also driving the bus, I was a bit nervous. [Side note about busses: It finally occurred to me that a huge difference in the busses here compared to the states – you always have to have exact change for US busses (right?) here, they have a big open tray full of coins in rows and will give you change, no problem. I realized I always had a bit of anxiety when boarding a bus, not being sure exactly how much it cost and always trying to have a handful of coins to be able to pay the exact amount. It finally hit me, it didn’t matter – they make change! What a concept. They are trusted, as well as everyone on the bus, with a big, open tray of money just sitting right there].

It kept getting more and more packed and we ended up standing in the middle, unsure of where we were or when to get off. Luckily I spotted the Valentino and we turned left at it and next thing we knew we were at Mega.

It was all just a big mistake

It was all just a big mistake

Somehow our basket started filling up, but not too bad! OK maybe we overdid it a little on the pastries (they aren’t always as good as they look, but boy are they cheap. Many ended up as offerings to Neptune). When we were almost finished we ran into John from Synergy. He is from Moss Landing and had his boat just up from us for years – but we never actually met him until San Blas. We got to chatting with him. He had hurt his back and was stuck as Isla Isabela for a while, but finally managed to get himself to a marina the same day we came to Mazatlan. His back was still recovering, so he had rented a car to easily get around. He offered to give us a lift back to the marina. What a guy! He was done before us and even waited while we checked out. We were beyond grateful with the door to door service. He is planning to bash back home to his worried wife as soon as his back will oblige – we wished him well and hope to hear news that he made it (Larry and Amber – keep an eye out for him, will you?).

It was a beautiful sunny morning when we said ‘adios’ to mainland. Palm trees, lush greenery, bountiful fruits and vegetables. I really liked it there and was feeling a little sad about the goodbye. But I knew we’d be back next season, so it wasn’t too bad. We made our way out of the narrow channel, past the marinas that cost twice as much as Fonatur and into the open ocean. I was actually really looking forward to not walking for a couple of days. My feet needed a rest from that big, hard city!

Jonny stud

Sometimes there’s even a good view from down below…

The sun was the most brutal part of the crossing!

The sun was the most brutal part of the crossing!  Well placed sarongs are invaluable.

 

The wind did exactly as it was predicted to do – which was turn Southwest by the evening of our first night. Seas were flat and calm and we had a great passage. It did start to get chillier in the evenings. Unfortunately the first night I was feeling pretty gross – sort of on the verge of seasick-ish. I was bummed not to be able to enjoy the chicken pesto gnocci and the kale blue cheese salad I‘d made It was not long after I had to put on sweatpants and a fleece. This was the first time I had to put on long pants since ?? Mag Bay? Our last 2 day passage was warm day and night and I felt just fine. So I’ve come to the conclusion that seasickness is directly proportional to the amount of clothing I’m wearing. Foul weather gear is guaranteed to make me barf. Sweatpants? I felt just a little gross. After a few hours nap I was fine.

We took turns sleeping in 3-4 hour shifts and had to motor in the night when the wind died.   I plowed through a few books on watch. A good book will really keep me awake. I had to give up on Flaubert – puts me right to sleep. David Sedaris on the other hand, got me through a 12-4am watch like it was nothing (as did the leftover pesto gnocchi I was finally starving for). I think this was our best passage so far – we ate well, we slept well, got some good sailing and motored when we had to.

We arrived at Bahia de los Muertos (Bay of the Dead) as the sun was rising. We chose to anchor in front of the white sand dunes. I immediately noticed the lack of palm trees and the abundance of cactus. Being in Baja is kind of like “coming home” but after all the time on mainland I definitely know what I’m missing now.   The trade off with Baja/Sea of Cortez to Mainland is the water vs. land/food We will enjoy gorgeous, crystal clear waters, abundant fishing and very few people during our summer here, but we will miss out on lush landscapes and vegetable variety. Mainland doesn’t have the greatest of waters (from what we’ve seen so far) but land scenery is spectacular and the abundance of food to buy is great. Given how hot it’s going to be all summer, I’m looking forward to being someplace where we will be happy to spend most of every day in the water!

It’s windy and grey as I write this from the anchorage. We’ve spent most of the day napping after a big breakfast of French toast with blueberries, strawberries and pineapple. There are several other boats here. We can see, even in the gloomy weather, that the water here is amazing. Gorgeous green color all the way to the white sand beach. Our anchor chain is visible all the way to the bottom. This blustery north wind was also what was predicted – we arrived just in time and hopefully this will blow out soon and another south will come along to blow us up to La Paz.

Muertos Beach

Even more gorgeous this day when it’s not overcast

 

Chacala to Banderas Bay

I know, I know, it’s been a while.  Get comfy.  This isn’t even going to get you totally current, but should hold you over for a bit longer.

We stayed on for a while longer in Chacala (surprise)– as we had plenty of time and not far to go to meet up with my family. We had some great days there. Jonny got to surf a lot more and we really liked the anchorage. We had a couple more rain storms but it never got really rolly again. We put out a stern anchor which helped a lot with the rolling.

I got the brilliant idea to start rowing the dinghy around for exercise. As usual I overdid it a little on my first go. It was fun, and it felt pretty good! So I kept going. And got pretty far away and had a tough row against the swell back. Two days later I woke up with major back pain.  My weird and twisted lower back (not to be confused with my sense of humor) did not appreciate the rowing motion. I could walk and I could lie down, but anything in between was agony (getting up? Sitting? Not so much). Kind of a bummer because there is a lot of that in between stuff you need to do when living on a boat.

In the afternoon our neighbors stopped by to meet us on their way into shore. Ryan and Nicole on Naoma are our age and turned out to be AWESOME. We all talked so long that it got dark and they abandoned their trip ashore.   Definitely people we wanted to hang out with again. Ryan was anxious to check out the surf with Jonny. The next day they were rarin’ to go and I ended up going ashore with Nicole. Probably a mistake given my back situation, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity for a ‘girls day’. Such a rarity and it was great to get to know Nicole. The four of us had a really fun dinner together on their Erikson 38 that night. (check them out- blog and website)

NicoleRyan Naoma

Ryan and Nicole on Naoma

The next day I pretty much had to stay boatbound and heal up – I definitely overdid it going out and about. I started to get some inkling of how scary it would be to be REALLY hurt or sick and out at anchor. Not fun – so many added layers of challenge to deal with. But you can’t go on worrying yourself too much I guess…

It was time for us to pull up anchor and head into a new adventure. We had thought we were getting to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle a few days before my sister and kids showed up, but we dilly dallied and suddenly arriving the day they arrived seemed fine, too. We had a lively sail from Chacala to Punta de Mita – gorgeous, warm and plenty of wind. Jonny fished and lost a lure – no big fish dinner for us. We had planned to go out for a nice dinner in Punta Mita anyway. Thanks to our friends Van and Susan (Van, being our first informal sailing instructor oh so many years ago in Santa Cruz) – Van found our ‘secret’ DONATION link on the site and made a generous donation so we could enjoy a nice dinner out with a special toast to them [THANK YOU!!! SO GRATEFUL TO YOU!].

It was windy and a little rough when we arrived and anchored, and we were both a little cranky that I hadn’t been up to par (due to my back). We quickly realized that deploying the dinghy off the deck for a rough ride into shore and an unknown dinghy landing area to hunt for a restaurant and have to make our way back in the dark only to get up early and finish the trip to La Cruz the next day…..yeah. No. We made pasta on board and holed up with a movie for the night. A romantic dinner out was put off to a better occasion – and very much looked forward to!!!

We had a lovely sail from Punta Mita to La Cruz. The wind was good, but a little weird and fluky around a few corners. Jonny caught a huge sierra after a good fight (and losing some progress, but we weren’t in a hurry). It was big enough to feed all of us, so we were excited to be bringing that in. Hung it by the tail and dragged it behind the boat as we normally do.

We made it to La Cruz with enough time to get the boat situated and get ashore to meet up with Sandra (my sister), Kiyomi (niece) and Adin (nephew) at the house they had rented. As we were anchoring I heard the engine make a funny noise. I stopped and called Jonny back and tried to describe the weird chunking noise I’d heard. We started back up again and didn’t hear anything. I must be going crazy? We got anchored and were putting stuff away and cleaning up. It was HOT! We were tired and gross and would’ve loved to have a swim, but we’d cut our time a little too tight. Jonny went to get the fish cleaned and filleted. He pulled up the line and…NO FISH! It didn’t take long for us to realize what that chunking noise was when I was in reverse, anchoring… Yep. We backed over dinner. Our propeller chopped it up into a million pieces to feed the all the little fish down there. No fish for us. Again.

LaCruzAnchorage

La Cruz Anchorage

We found our way ashore and located the dinghy dock (not at all where our guidebook had said it was). We did some walking around to try and locate the streets to take us to the house – made a few wrong moves, but eventually found the right street. As we arrived we saw everyone inside the gates – they had just arrived as well. Good timing.

LaCruzlandscape LaCruzHouse porch

We met the owners of the compound and learned there were 4 units in the one house and their apartment was a tidy little place in the back on the ground floor. We had it in our head that it would be a sort of ‘home base’ for us as well – showers, laundry, hang out etc. I was very much looking forward to a shower!   We had our ‘hellos’ , showers and hung out a bit before going out for tacos. We were pretty tuckered out from 2 days of sailing and all the associated tasks – so we headed back to the dinghy dock with everyone tagging along. We managed to find Summer out in the dark sailboat parking lot that is La Cruz anchorage.

The next day we discovered that use of the laundry at the apartment was off limits to us. Bummer. We’d been saving up for over a month! We would discover other options, but it took a while and we eventually had 7 wks of laundry to do.

We did a shopping trip to Mega and stocked up for the first week – trying to figure out how we’d coordinate food and cooking etc. We certainly weren’t going to starve!

We had planned to go out for a sail the next day. Unfortunately Kiyomi had recently had her wisdom teeth out and woke up all puffy and infected that morning. Poor kid had to rest and take antibiotics. We just hung out and had a mellow day. We left Kiyomi to rest and went to check out Bucerias. It was a very large beach, but not the cleanest – but Jonny and Adin got some good body surfing in and Sandra and I cooled off a bit.   Most of the rest of the beachside town just stall after stall of kitschy tourist goods and persuasive hawkers.AdinBucerias

The next day we went for a late afternoon sail for a couple of hours. Big wind and lots of fun. We raced a few boats and got to swim at anchor afterwards. I dinghied everyone back to shore for the evening and Jonny and I made dinner on board.

Adin on Boat Kiyomi onboat

chicktacos

Sandra’s friend Tracy was supposed to come out for a day or 2 visit –but unfortunately she got sick and delayed for a day.   But she did arrive and we had a fun couple of days – we went to check out Punta Mita- beautiful white sand beaches and pretty waters. Tracy’s boyfriend Mike was supposed to come out and they were going to stay in Sayulita for a few days—well, he missed his flight and came a day later, too – so we got to have a bonus day with Tracy! We had another beach day at a gorgeous nearby beach with lots of shade umbrellas. Sandra negotiated a discount (for late arrival) and we got to enjoy the table and shade for the afternoon.

Beachumbrella PuntaMitaPalapa drinks

After a week in the anchorage we got a slip in the marina. Much more convenient for daily shore visits and after-dark returns home. La Cruz Marina is criminally pricey and Sandra and I pooled our Christmas monies to make it happen.

SummerLaCruzMarina

After Tracy left, we all piled in the car to go and check out Sayulita. I had heard so much about it – being an artsy community, very cool, interesting people etc. etc. etc. Definitely a “Must See” everyone said. I have to say my first pass around the town (as we were looking for parking) did not excite me…apart from the greater abundance of fruits and veggies I noticed in markets. Very crowded and busy and full of shops, stores, touristy kinds of things. The beach was completely packed and full of people wanting to sell you things. It was a bit of an overload for me after the peaceful, quiet life we’ve been leading. But Sandra and the kids really took to it immediately. Kiyomi met some local surfer guys who were anxious to teach her to surf. We ran into Tracy and Mike and had a little beach visit with them, too.Kiyomisurferbros Adin Sandman Kiyiomisurfer San JenJon Sayulita Sauylita church

TracyMike

We had planned to go out to the Tres Marietas islands for some swimming, snorkeling, etc. It’s at least a 3 hour sail one way so we had to leave really early. Unfortunately Sandra had hurt her back and it didn’t seem like a good idea to head off into the unknown and have her possibly make it worse –and/ or get stuck on board while we were all off having fun. We rescheduled for later – since we had a 3 week window – we could certainly fit it in another time.   We had the boat all ready to go – and the weather was predicting a big swell (i.e. Surf!) coming in for a few days, so Jonny and I decided to take off on our own and go to Punta Mita so Jonny could surf . Sandra and the kids could do their thing, too – and they decided to do an overnight trip to check out San Blas.

Punta Mita was a bit of a bust. Not only didn’t the surf pick up, but it was overcast and blah. Jonny surfed a bit and got some fishing in. He caught the biggest sierra EVER and for some reason decided to give it away to a local guy who was hanging around in his boat watching. I guess he figured he’d caught that one so fast he’d be sure to catch another one soon. We ended up with only a tiny one, but it was still good! We relaxed for a few days and got ourselves back to La Cruz. Luckily the marina had kindly agreed to give us a 3 day break and allow us to come back to our same slip, which was really convenient.

Sayulita was a big draw for our guests and as there are buses coming and going all the time – Kiyomi and often Adin got to enjoy their own kind of vacation with far more interesting people than boring ol’ Jonny and I.   I realized that our extremely simplified life really isn’t interesting for many people – especially teenagers! We’re just not late night partiers anymore…

We enjoyed going to the Sunday Farmer’s market in La Cruz. Such an amazing array of stuff I never thought I’d see again (Veggies galore! Arugula! Strawberries! Blueberries! Yogurt!) I was very excited about all that. Yes, my life basically revolves around hunting and gathering these days – the only thing I buy is food. As a fellow cruiser we met on the docks said “If ya can’t eat it, ya don’t need it!”.

SandraIceCreamFM

Jonny knocked out a good list of boat projects while we were at the docks and we tried to balance dock life and land life. We eventually did find a place to bring our laundry – there are no coin-op type places here –the closest being a bus ride away. There was a service at the marina where you could leave your stuff and someone would bring it back, but I’m pretty particular about my laundry soap and wanted to be sure mine would be used. We found a service and gave it a test run with a couple loads. It came back that afternoon, all folded and bagged and (mostly) smelling like my laundry soap. Yay! It was cheaper than laundromats and we didn’t have to do a darn thing besides drop it off and pick it up. We proceeded to bring ALL of it in over a few days. Clean laundry is a wonderful thing.

LaundryDone!

 

One day we made use of Sandra’s rental car to do a big provisioning run to Mega, while Sandra and Adin checked out the stalls in Bucerias (Kiyiomi was of course livin’ the dream in Sayulita). We loaded up on all the non-perishable type stuff that is much cheaper there than the local markets. Now we don’t have to worry about getting that stuff until after May. We can just get fresh fruit and veg locally and meat/chicken at the carnicerias.

We had saved our trip to the islands for the end of their visit. We were all excited to finally get out there. The night before we were set to go bright and early – I woke up around 2am and had a lovely few hours of diarrhea and vomiting. I thought I felt a bit bitter in the morning and figured it was just something I had eaten at the farmer’s market, and I was going to just power through the day (afterall, I have plenty of experience sailing while sick, right?) . I texted my sister to see how they were doing – unfortunately she had experienced the same kind of night I had and wasn’t feeling better at all. Turns out I wasn’t either. The trip was called off and I spend the entire day and night in bed running a high fever, moaning deliriously.   I felt quite a lot better in the morning (as did my sister). Unfortunately my nephew was hit in the night. Clearly we had a virus, not food poisoning. Turns out it was the norovirus. Even Jonny, who never gets sick, held out for 3 days and it finally hit him as well. It was rather convenient for us all to get sick on a staggered schedule, as it made taking care of each other much easier. That was pretty much the only bright spot – as we missed our opportunity to get out to the islands and the visit came to a hazy, feverish/post-feverish end.

I had several hours after saying goodbye before welcoming my friend Erika for her week’s vacation. I used that time wisely to do a little customizing on Peugeot. I had quite a bit of the short life-span liquid patch kit left from fixing our cockpit cushions and thought it might be fun to jazz up the dinghy.

DinghyCustomized

Erika and I had a mellow night catching up –her vacation goals were to relax and chill out and visit. I can do that! I managed to get my taxes done (ouch) on the first day, as we were planning to leave the marina (and easy wifi access). On the 2nd day we took the much-anticipated trip out to the Marietas. We left right at 8am and it was a gorgeous 3 hour sail out there. We grabbed a mooring buoy (a.k.a. large, floating propane tank) and explored on the dinghy. Magical and beautiful!! Headed back to La Cruz in the afternoon and had a lively sail back. Poor Erika had a migraine all day, but still managed to see a bit of the islands (bad day to try to give up caffeine!). I am definitely looking forward to an extended visit back there on our way out.

MarietaHoles MarietaCaveBeach2 ErikaNaps Erikamarietabeach ErikaatHelm

 

 

We ended up extending the marina time a little longer – it just made sense when trying to live a land life. Blanca at the marina office had been telling me about the “day pass” to an all-inclusive resort not far away. It sounded like just the thing for Erika and I. Erika treated me to the most relaxing day ever! We arrived just after 9:00am to take advantage of the full day. We went right to the beautiful restaurant overlooking a gorgeous white sand beach and ordered whatever we wanted off the extensive menu (all included!). When we had eaten our fill we went to lounge on chairs IN a pool by a waterfall. There were also 2 waterslides! We soon realized that “all inclusive” also meant drinks. And that the waiters would bring you drinks TO YOUR LOUNGE CHAIR. Oh yes. I had a mango margarita. I was not able to fully relax immediately – I think I was too excited about the prospect of so much CHILL! I went and wandered on the beach a bit – absolutely beautiful! We got peckish again and went back up to the restaurant for a nice lunch (did I mention it was also included?). Erika got the tortilla soup she had been craving. We decided to switch it up and sit in the lounge chairs under umbrellas down on the beach. And I switched it up with a lime margarita. I could barely wait to order a brownie sundae. To be delivered to my lounge chair. On the beach. Under an umbrella.   That lime margarita made me have to run up to the restroom. It might have also made me go down the waterslides several times. It was a pretty fun waterslide – long, dark, winding tunnel kind (although, truth be told, I had also done it several times earlier on, stone cold sober). I finally convinced Erika to give it a go – I don’t know why she was so reluctant! But after her first run she insisted on a second. She can only pretend to be an adult for just so long. And that’s why we’re friends. 😉

ResortErikaPool ResortErikaSoup ResortDrink2 ResortDessert ResortfromBeach

Our day of pampering came to an end and we rode the ply-wood floored bus back to La Cruz with relaxed smiles.   We got to enjoy the farmer’s market yet again (all that fresh fruit and veg never gets old!). The rains came – we had some dark and stormy days but luckily cleared up for our departure from the marina. We had a little bit more and got to see some gorgeous rainbows–and got to get soaked riding the dinghy ashore for dinner on Erika’s final night. I got a picture of a rainbow coming out of the top of Windward Star. We went over and met them to get an email address to share that picture. I certainly would want one like that of Summer had someone taken it. MaryLou and Evan are really nice folks from San Francisco and they were thrilled to have the picture. They also gave us a spare Latitude38 they had from March (featuring stories on a couple people we have met out here!). For Erika’s last night we had some delicious wood fired oven pizzas – it can’t be Mexican food EVERY night!

RainbowAnchorage1 ErikaJennPizza

Our friends Ryan and Nicole on Naoma had arrived in the marina and we were looking forward to catching up with them. They were there provisioning and preparing their boat for the Pacific Puddle Jump – heading across the great ocean on a 3-4 week passage. We are very excited for them and look forward to the day we feel ready for the same trip. We waved as Erika’s plane flew overhead and then invaded Naoma for dinner. We had a load of shrimp that had been in the freezer at the house – we were supposed have a big dinner with my sister and the kids but norovirus had other plans for us. So we were glad to be able to share the shrimps with Naoma (and in case you’re wondering why we didn’t share them with Erika – she doesn’t like seafood!). We just love those guys and it was fun to hang out with “our own kind” again. They soon joined us out in the anchorage and all kinds of shenanigans ensued.

RyanDonrowing

NaomaBowmed

Jonny and I decided to take a bus into Puerto Vallarta – just to see it and also stop by the Zaragoza – a big chandlery there. We got as far as Neptuno Square, had a quick walk around the marina there and then across to the boat part store.Neptuno

It was pretty much just like any other big store that sells boat stuff. We didn’t really need anything so it was kind of boring for me. I realized that the ‘old town’ part of PV would require another bus ride. We were both getting hungry and not all that interested in seeing it anyway. As we were leaving, we ran into some people we’d met at the marina and as is always the way with cruisers, we stood and yapped for quite some time. We were really hungry by the time we left, but had no interest in going back across to the marina area, since it seemed a little upscale and overpriced for us. Getting a bus back proved to be far more difficult that we thought. It seemed none of them went as far as we wanted to go. We ended up going into a large grocery store in a shopping center for a quick ‘meal’ (mistake) and eventually discovered if we went to the airport we could get a bus back to La Cruz. We stopped at the Wal-Mart (I know, I know…but it was our last hope for finding the large beach umbrella we so coveted). Everyone kept saying how great Wal-Mart in Mexico is and how you can get so many things you can’t otherwise find. My experience was it was no better than Mega. I went down every aisle and didn’t find anything special (aside from the umbrella). So. Meh. My first and last trip to Wal-Mart. On the bus back to La Cruz we were treated with live music. I can’t imagine playing an instrument while staying upright on that bumpy bus! That’s real talent.

LaCruzSunset  We stayed for one more farmer’s market and we were ready to take off for new adventures.   They day we were set to leave, it seemed there was going to be heavy wind and Ryan convinced Jonny to stay one more day so they could go kiteboarding. Unfortunately that did not materialize, but we had one last day hanging out with them in the anchorage.  Finally we were ready to make our move. As we were leaving, Evan on Windward Star gave us a call on the VHF. He said they had a movie they wanted to share with us – so thoughtful (and it was just wonderful – check out “Zaca” fascinating history of a beautiful sailboat that was once owned by Errol Flynn among others). WindwardStarWe had already loaded up our dinghy and had the motor running to go – and their dinghy wasn’t yet launched. So it was suggested we cruise on by them and stick out our fishing net so they could toss the DVD in it. Worked like a charm! We waved goodbye to them and then did a couple laps around Naoma – we hoped to see them again in Punta Mita before a REAL goodbye. We were heading to discover Yelapa – across the bay.  We played with the GoPro a bit on the sail and got this video:

 

Yelapa is a unique kind of place – it’s accessible only by boat or mule. There are no roads going there and no cars or streets in the town. It has very steep hillsides covered in palm trees and lush green tropical foliage. Back in 1581 the land itself was deeded to the indigenous people who have lived there for hundreds of years. All the land is owned collectively and no one owns their property privately. It looked like paradise as we entered the little bay. The buildings are built up on the sides with cement walkways winding up and through everything. We had heard there were 2 waterfall hikes – one very easy to get to and one 1-2 hours hike away.

We only planned to stay a night or 2. Before we got to the bay, a guy in a panga came out to meet us. We were prepared for this – as we’d heard that anchoring here due to the severe steepness/depth of the shore and you need to take one of the moorings owned by several different people. Edgar was kind enough to ask us if we planned to moor or anchor – and when we said we’d prefer to anchor, he told us the best spot. We negotiated a good rate (100 pesos) for a mooring in case we didn’t like the anchoring. We attempted to anchor – but weren’t comfortable with the steepness—when we put out enough scope for the depth we were in, we ended up in shallow water with our rudder in the sand. We ended up taking the mooring afterall. When we’d paid for 2 nights and Edgar was pulling away, he noticed we were from Santa Cruz – he’d been there and loved the boardwalk! He came back to talk about it. I can’t tell you how many locals we’ve met down here who have been to Santa Cruz. I guess that might explain the Mystery Spot sticker I noticed at the La Cruz marina.

We had a really pleasant night and it was so exciting to wake up in this tropical paradise. We got a bit of a late start and took a water taxi ashore (Edgar said our mooring included one free taxi ride). We decided to see the nearby waterfall and give the far one a miss – as it was too far and we were planning to leave the next day. Crossing the river that runs through the beach was necessary to get to the stairs that take you up to the path that winds through the village. It was like a magical fairlyand! We were like kids, marveling at things every 10 steps. The views, the doorways, the improbable shops and houses at every turn.

YelapaClean YelapaBouganvilla YelapaHeart YelapaChurch  YelapaTienda YelapaSteps We were impressed with the array of veggies available at the first little tienda we came across. We saw the signs to the cascada (waterfall) and decided to go a different way, just to see what’s around the corners. We went up and up a little winding path and at the top we found… a billard hall! YelapaBillarWe looked through the door – 3 tables and a large screen TV. Not what we expected! Back down to the waterfall path- we happened upon a couple of tour groups, winding their way up past tables full of souvenirs and stopping to get educated about the guava trees leaves (if you eat too many, you will get constipated). We politely pushed our way past and hurried on up to the falls, hoping to catch a glimpse before it was mobbed with loud white folk.   We got our wish – the falls was beautiful, the small pool at the bottom was a little murky and slick with what appeared to be sheaths of sunscreen washed off the mobs of tourists. We made our way to the back edge to at least get in and under the falls. I think we were both mostly excited about getting washed down with fresh water. I figured it would’ve been inappropriate to bring a bar of soap, but it was nice to get cooled off and waterfalls are always fun! The mobs arrived and threw themselves in with great abandon. A tour guide posed with his arms around bikini clad women and yelled “I love my job!” while the tour photographer got pictures of each of them.   YelapaJonnyFallsWe wandered up what appeared to be a trail that might take us to the top of the falls. It was a dead end – the rocks and trees going straight up. We stayed in the periphery, watching everyone have their fun. They eventually left and we had a peaceful hike back down through the village.   We decided to have a late lunch at the restaurant that Edgar said belonged to his father. It was a little overpriced and so-so but we got to sit under palapas watching Summer float around in the bay and I finally got my giant coconut with a straw in it. There’s like 3 cups of liquid in one of those!

YelapaCoco

It seemed like we’d seen it all and we were ready to call it a day. We started wandering along the beach in front of all the palapa restaurants and souvenir stands. In the back between some restaurants, I saw a sign for a small grocery – thinking they might have ice creams, we went back in there. No ice creams but I got a nice looking papaya for later. Never being able to resist seeing “what’s around the corner” we went a little bit farther on this behind-the-scenes path that ended up taking us farther inland through the REAL Yelapa – where the people lived. It turns out Yelapa was MUCH bigger than we imagined from the face of it. It was beautiful and lush and intriguing walking along the path by the river. We noticed power lines (Yelapa got power in 2001), trash cans hung on the fences and even sewer drain covers. It is an extremely clean place. We talked with a few people we met on the way and learned about getting to the far waterfall. Well, we were sold. We planned to get in early the next morning and go to the far waterfall for a quick look and then still make it to Punta Mita to meet up with Ryan and Nicole by evening.   That night we met Nia and Mike – a young couple from a boat named Azul – next to us in the anchorage. They gave us some good tips on finding the waterfall and regaled us with stories of summer in the Sea of Cortez. We are looking forward to seeing them up there!

YelapaBurroBlocksDog

YelapaParkedmule YelapaJobSite YelapaRiver YelapaReturnhikeview YelapaFlower

We packed a lunch and got our early start. It was a fun and challenging hike. We heeded Mike’s advice about “taking the high road” and “keeping the faith” – that we would eventually find the hole in the fence and the waterfall sign. It was quite a ways and we had about 2 more river crossings than necessary…(people on both sides of the river had told us you cross the river twice to get to the falls – but they couldn’t BOTH be right, right? It was like a bad riddle). Luckily we stopped at one restaurant and the nice owner suggested we snap a photo of the map on his wall. Very handy. YelapaHikeMapWe started to take one ‘high road’ that seemed downright wrong- and it was – so we followed our instincts, kept the faith and soon we were on the correct path, to the right high road. The falls were amazing, gorgeous and deserted.

YelapaWaterfallFence

YelapaUpperfallsJenn YelapaUpperFalls YelapaRiverGreenView

We swam and played and laughed. Definitely paradise. I was pretty sure we were going to be the only ones there the whole time. In fact, at one point, I pulled my bathing suit bottoms down a little to show Jonny how much sand I had lodged in there and turned around to try and get clean. Jonny said “you know there are 4 people over there, right?” OOPS. Nope, hadn’t seen them. Pretty sure they saw me. Soon more and more folks arrived. We took our stuff a little bit down river and found a nice smooth rock to have our lunch. The sound of the rushing water was so loud that it was like we were all alone – you couldn’t hear a thing from the other people playing just around the bend. After lunch we headed out to get back and sail off. As we passed ‘the low road’ trail we were both a bit curious. Maybe we should just go down to the first bend and see where it goes? It was clearly the path less traveled- narrower and overgrown in spots. It eventually got down to the river and we found an opening in the barbed wire fence. It was gorgeous in there! And truly deserted.

Yelapa3Falls

Scaling a few large rocks and wading across a few spots and we came to a pool with three waterfalls and a sandy beach. We played in the falls and swam around a bit. After a nice massage from a powerful falls with perfect rock footholds underneath, I found a large boulder to lie on – hot from the sun. Massage and hot stones? Best spa ever! We checked the time – if we wanted to make it to Punta Mita before too late at night we were going to have to go. Neither of us wanted to leave this magical place. So…what the heck, let’s spend one more night in Yelapa! With that decision overwith we proceeded to lounge, nap, swim and play in the falls until late afternoon. It was the best day ever! We finally hiked back down the other side of the river and saw new things along the way.   Even though my feet/ankles were killing me, we opted to go up and through the hilly village one last time and end up at the panga mooring spot to try to get a water taxi home.

Stroll with me through Yelapa:

I happened to find a ice cream place, right next to the tienda where Jonny happened to find a beer. A little cone of delicious caramel ice cream helped me make it that last stretch to the panga dock. No taxis running. It was after 6pm and folks in this town are serious about stopping all work at 5pm. We saw the panga called El Buly coming in to call it a day. We convinced him to bring us out to Summer. He was really angry at us because we had taken Edgar’s mooring instead of his when we arrived. But he took us anyway and we paid him more than we thought fair. We see why he’s called El Buly, tho!

We had another magical night in the mooring – 3 nights of peaceful sleep in a place people say is ridiculously rolly. I guess we got lucky! The next morning we met Katherine off a large Catalina next to us – she was paddling around on a SUP. She and her husband are retired and sold everything to live on their boat. They’ve spent the summer in the Sea of Cortez and she had so much great information to share and she got really excited for us getting to see it for the first time. That got ME even more excited for Summer’s summer in the sea.

Edgar came over, as we were sure he would –since we had stayed another night, yet not paid for it. We had another 100 pesos ready for him and said our goodbyes. We had a great sail to Punta Mita – we pointed high on the wind and went straight across. Jonny caught a huge toro (the super un-tasty fish that dominate these waters) it was a tough fight but we were finally able to let him go. We had really been hoping for fish for dinner so we made several passes around before anchoring – but still caught nothing. We anchored with Naoma and Jonny went to check surf with Ryan, but it was late and we were ready for a quiet night. I realized too late it was to be our last night to hang out with those guys! They came over to visit in the morning and later all surfed with The Vortex until afternoon.

PuntaMitaSurfCrew

Me? I painted my toenails, baked chocolate chip cookies and worked on this never-ending blog!

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It was a REALLY rolly spot we were in and my craving for the thin and chewy type of cookies was not compatible with the rolly-ness. I did manage to get vaguely cookie-shaped cookies by using parchment instead of silicone mat on the next go ‘round.

Slidycookies

 

After surfing Ryan and Nicole stopped over for a ‘quick’ goodbye. Two hours later they were heading off back to La Cruz to provision and wait for a window to open that they could jump out of. No, they aren’t suicidal – (per se) – the weather window seemed to be coming up for a reasonable “jump” across the Pacific to the Marquesas etc. The Pacific Puddle Jump, as it’s known, is a loose ‘rally’ of cruisers wishing to cross. They don’t all leave at the same time, it’s more of a season to go and camaraderie and safety. Banderas Bay (with La Cruz anchorage, Neuvo Vallarta/Puerto Vallara etc.) is kind of the hub from which many people jump. We’ve had fun listening to the evening SSB radio net where those who have already jumped check in and give their positions and relay info about their trip. It’s exciting and inspiring to hear people we’ve met or seen around who are suddenly 900 miles away in the middle of the Pacific Ocean! I believe someday that will be us, but this season we are not quite ready for such an undertaking. I’m too excited for our time in the Cortez and then coming back down to all the spots south of here that we haven’t yet seen –and of course all the countries below Mexico, too… We may jump someday from much farther south.

 

 

 

Six Months On a Boat – A Wordy Supplemental

So it has been roughly 6 months since we began this new live-aboard life. We are far from being very salty. But my compare/contrast abilities between both lives are still quite fresh. I also realize a lot of people may have misconceptions or confusion about what exactly we are DOING out here anyway. Sometimes I wonder myself 😉

First of all, contrary to popular belief – we are NOT on vacation. It’s true we have closed our businesses and for the time being we are not generating income of any sort. But we did not enter into this life expecting it to be all hammocks, umbrella drinks and endless happy hour. While there are opportunities for the kind of enjoyment and adventure that most people try to find temporarily in their annual vacations, I’m starting to realize that we will probably get about as much of that “relaxing” vacation time as most anyone else who tries for it.

This is not a break from our previous life, with a plan to “go home” at some future point, nor are we temporarily ‘getting away from it all’ or running away from anything in particular (as we know full well, “you bring your problems with you” or, as my Dad has always said “Wherever you go, There you are”).

So, what ARE we doing?? I am only speaking for myself here, but nothing destroys my soul like routine.

One of my favorite quotes has always been -“I travel a lot, I hate having my life disrupted by routine” (-Caskie Stinnet). That is not to stay I don’t appreciate – and need- safety, security, a home to nest in, etc. But day to day routines have long been something that pain me greatly. Having to get up at the same time every day and go to the same place and do the same thing is simply not for me. I understand that it is a great comfort to many people, but to me it is what kryptonite is to Superman. When I quit my corporate job and sold everything to travel back in 1998 – that was the best year of my life. For the first time ever I felt ‘at home’ –and at peace – even though I was homeless and alone out in the world. Becoming aware of how happy a life of ‘the unknown’ and lacking routine makes me is what led me to start my own business – and I absolutely enjoyed having every day be different and never knowing what I was going to walk into when I showed up at each client’s home or business. But then there’s the routine of living in a house that never moves (save from the occasional earthquake). I think that’s partly why I’ve always been so organized – having systems in place to manage the routine (aka: boring to me) with as little time/maintenance as possible – means I can function successfully in a world that requires routine while freeing my brain up to think about anything but routine.

Buying food and necessities week in and week out, paying the same bills over and over again, makes me almost insane. I used to order a year’s supply of toilet paper online just because I couldn’t stand having to go buy it over and over again (plus it was economical…). In the last 25 years I’ve lived in over 20 places. I get restless. I like change. I need change.

There’s also a very strong possibility I have gypsy blood in my not too distant ancestry.

Slowly the trappings of my recent, overly busy landlife are falling away. “Trappings” is a good word for them, too.   It was quite a process to extricate ourselves from the albeit comfortable (at times) trap we were stuck in.   I realize the vast majority of my time was spent simply maintaining that life – not really LIVING it. The constant errands, the multitude of bills needing to be paid and the many hours spent earning money to pay them, was not my idea of a fulfilling life. As much as I enjoyed the work I did – and it’s probably the one thing I truly loved about that life. I was always amazed that people gave me money for helping them out (and I often resented the fact that I NEEDED that money just to keep doing it).

But the things that seemed so complex and time consuming are completely gone and the things that I used to take for granted are the things that are complex and time consuming now. Finding water to fill our water tank–and if we can’t get the boat close enough to the source, filling our jerry cans and ferrying them back to the boat, often more than once, locating food and lugging it back to the boat, trying to get places on land (navigating buses and taxis and walking and biking), figuring out how and where to do laundry, finding a source to fill our propane tanks so we can cook food, bathing (usually salt water with fresh water rinse), building our bed every night, setting the anchor to make sure our home will not end up crashing onto rocks in the middle of the night, putting the motor on and off our ‘car’ every day, so it will be secure and not get stolen in the night, and often times pulling the ‘car’ (dinghy) on deck to insure it will be there in the morning. Even using my computer involves a number of steps that weren’t previously required- and if you want to add internet usage to that, you add more steps still—packing it up in a waterproof case and lugging it ashore and finding someplace with wifi at a reasonable cost and power (my battery is nearly done for) – and then hoping the wifi as actually fast enough and consistent enough to upload a blog entry…

These ‘difficulties’ are fairly laughable. I prefer spending most of my time on meeting these most basic needs and being mostly free from other more complex time-sucks. It’s like living closer to the basic needs of LIFE rather than insulating myself from it in a complex fabricated world. This kind of living-centered life is something that has always interested me – but I usually pictured myself as a hermit growing my own food on a farm or something like that…

But instead – here we are on a sailboat. A home with 360 degree ocean view and no mortgage. Powered by sun and wind. We no longer have to pay PG&E, Comcast, Rent, Car insurance, gas (over and over), etc. etc. etc. Leaving life in California afforded us an 80% drop in living expenses. That means 80% of the work I was doing was just to pay bills for stuff I don’t actually NEED to be paying for. Now of course, income dropped 100%, and I don’t need my astute bookkeeping skills to know this is not a forever-sustainable life. It’s more of an experiment, a dream realized, a new way of seeing the world and the possibilities for living in it.  My version of Thoreau’s “Simplify, Simplify, Simplify”.

Speaking of sustainability, let’s look at the big picture. I’ve always been interested in my impact on the earth (going way back to canvassing for environmental organizations in college and writing a thesis on “Green Marketing” and being generally obsessed with what I bought and the energy and resources I used (not having children was a big factor in that equation – once learning that American children use over 70% more resources than 3rd world children—although I’ve now heard its more like 200%). This is a longstanding passion of mine. When the term “Carbon Footprint” became popular, I realized that was the name for what I did a lot of thinking about, and I struggled with “how to reduce mine?”. I think I can safely say I’ve finally hit the jackpot in this department.

I would say about 95% of the energy I use now comes from the sun. The rest comes from burning diesel fuel when we run our motor to go places (dual purpose – on the occasions we need to motor, it also charges our batteries) and gasoline in our dinghy.   My dream as we were preparing for this life was that the sun would keep my food cold. It is happening! Our 2-140 watt solar panels provide us more than enough energy to run our refrigerator, the computer I am using now, the lights that are on and the radio that is playing and more. Even in the rain we are sometimes able to produce a little energy!

I have calculated our non-food consumable resource use estimates as we’ve been living so far :

Propane – 2.4 gallons / month = 28.8 gallons per year

Gasoline (for dinghy) – 3.75 gallons/month = 45 gallons/ year

Diesel Fuel – 14.5 gallons/month = 174 gallons/year

Fresh Water * – 200 gallons/month = 2400 gallons/year

*This does not include the occasions when we do laundry in a machine or use showers on land – which is far less frequent than when we lived on land.

We have a 2 gallon trash can and we can go around 2 weeks without needing to empty it.  Our bathroom trash (1 gallon) can go about two weeks- that’s our toilet paper – nothing gets simply flushed ‘away’ any more! You literally cannot ignore your own shit living on a boat).

I have not been able to calculate the vast amount of stuff we purchased in preparing for this life – it was quite a lot – maybe not as much as some who choose this life, and still more than others. I imagine there will be occasional bouts of consumer purchases when opportunities arise – for example my sister came to visit and I placed a number of orders for parts and other desirable goods we can’t get here (most of which is edible). I’m sure I could calculate the jet fuel used to transport that suitcase full of stuff and maybe even the calories my sister burned in lugging it down here…but I’ll save that for another time.

I hope I am unwinding enough to begin tapping more creative energy. It’s a part that has seemed long since missing in me and I hope to find IT again, whatever it is. It seems like it is taking forever, but then I remind myself we’ve truly only been ‘free’ for 3 months. The 5 weeks spent coming from Santa Cruz to San Diego was our ‘shakedown’ to get a feel for the boat and sort of ‘vacation-y’ and the 2 months spend in Chula Vista was sort of a transition – getting used to living on the boat and working nonstop on the last ‘US-based’ work projects on Summer. That’s not long when trying to shift away from 30 years of ingrained habits and beliefs. But still, as fast as the last 3 years have flown by, the last 3 months seem to have begun a grinding slow-down. While at the end of every day I can’t believe how quickly the day passed, I am still amazed it has only been 3 months – when I think back to all we’ve done (and all the supplies burned through…) it seems like far longer. Time is shifting in a big way and it’s a little disorienting. I’m sure we’ll adjust, but right now we’re in that weird zone like when currents are shifting and the wind keeps switching and it’s hard to know what’s going to happen next.

I can definitively say that I DO like this life very much. Getting in tune with the rhythms of sunrise and sunset, tides, and weather. It doesn’t get much more real than that. I have discovered that being indoors in daylight makes me feel claustrophobic and antsy. Being in a marina and being on land is useful and necessary and often convenient, but every time we get back out to anchor, I sigh a breath of relief. You never know what’s going to happen out there! I still have a lot of adjusting and ‘getting my head around’ things and of course so very much to learn about this lifestyle – but it all feels right. I’m happy to say all the fears about ‘will we get as far as Cabo and decide we hate cruising and have to sell the boat?” are unfounded at this juncture. I’m looking forward to becoming as salty and savvy as some of the friends we’ve met so far. I’ll try to do another reality check in another six months – that should be somewhere deep in the middle of hurricane season. Stay tuned J

[After writing all this, I just saw a new study about a ‘wanderlust gene’ Hmmmm ]

San Blas to Chacala

I last left you when we were at the marina in San Blas. We only intended to stay 3 nights. That turned into five, which then turned into seven.   We’re like those annoying people who stay way after it’s obvious the party is over, but they just WON’T LEAVE…

San Blas is a great little place and it had everything we needed. It was fun to bike around and check it all out. Although biking on cobblestone streets is pretty tough (note to self: remember to wear a bra next time) but we managed to scope out the routes on the smoother paved and dirt roads. I biked out to the bridge over the south estuary and had a look. Kind of the same as the estuary we were in – lots of green and lots of jejenes. The bridge was interesting – big gaps where you could look straight down into the water – tread carefully!

Don't fall through the crack or you'll break your own back.

Don’t fall through the crack or you’ll break your own back.

We ate a lot of banana bread! The chocolate chip was the best – just enough to distract me from the fact it had a discernible banana flavor (did I mention I‘m not a fan of bananas?). I got the markets figured out and knew where to get everything we needed. I love watching whole chickens hacked up and ready for several meals – you do not want to mess with a Mexican woman and her meat cleaver!

Juan Bananas famous banana bread! Since 1973

Juan Bananas famous banana bread! Since 1973

We got the jejenes under control – but it was too late I was already covered in bites! They weren’t quite as bad at the marina and we got the mosquito coils to burn outside in the cockpit. Mosquito coils smell like some nice incense but probably contain serious toxic chemicals (I tried not to inhale).

"Fumakilla" says it all...

“Fumakilla” says it all…

But the scent made me all dreamy and nostalgic for my time in Indonesia. Then I discovered the coils I’d bought were actually MADE in Indonesia. Go figure.

Another boat showed up at the marina – Serenity with Captain Dave. Turns out Dave was port captain in Oceanside and is the guy who gave me all the info for our overnight stopover there back in September. We’d had a long phone conversation but I’d never met him in person! So it was fun to get to know him and his well-kept and well-run Catalina 42. He had a lot of great advice and stories for us.   But alas, he also took off while we remained.

Bye Cap't Dave!

Bye Cap’t Dave!

When we are at a marina we feel obligated to make good use of the paid time and resources. Summer got REALLY clean, inside and out. I even washed our wool rug, which I thought all along was a huge mistake…of course the day I saturated it with water, the skies clouded up and even rained on and off for the next couple days. I thought it would NEVER dry (and it weighed 800 lbs).

This is the guy who told me I was an idiot for bringing a bike. He has since recanted his testimony.

This is the guy who told me I was an idiot for bringing a bike. He has since recanted his testimony.

We did lots of laundry, ran errands all over town. We were dangerously low on propane – having passed up the $20 cab ride to get propane in Cabo. There was NO propane in San Blas – the Global Gas company is located in a different town – Villa Hidalgo.   We pieced this together –and it finally all made sense when we flagged down a Global Gas truck and attempted to talk with the driver. These trucks go all over town with a loudspeaker – and for a long time we had NO idea what that noise was – but it was always the same singsong deep voice – which turned out to be saying “Gloooooballl Gaaaaaaas” and then there’s a recorded horn that goes “honk honk”. We discovered there was no way the truck could fill our small tank (they deliver large tanks only) and really good to finally know what that “Wahhhhhwah Wahhhh honk honk” was that we kept hearing off in the distance, many times a day.   We thought we might try to take a bus to Villa Hidalgo, but some people told us there wasn’t one. I finally asked the marina to call a taxi for us and find out what it would cost to take us there and back. Turns out it was 200 p round trip (about $13) – and they would pick us up and bring us back to the marina – which saved us a LOT of walking with 2 propane tanks. The taxi arrived almost before they had hung up the phone. We hustled out with our tanks. The cab was immaculate inside and the driver was very pleasant. We conversed at much as our rough Spanish allowed. It was a bit disorienting to be hurtling down the road at 40-50 mph. It had been a long time since we were in a car – instead we had gotten used to traveling at a top speed of about 7 mph on the water. It felt like we were going at warp speed – it was very exciting! Also the scenery was a treat – so much agriculture along the way – bananas, green beans, mangoes, tomato hot houses, etc. It was so lush and green and gorgeous. I took a lot of ridiculous photos while zooming past it all.

VH Fieldtrip

Once arrived at Global Gas, it became clear they might not be able to fill our tanks. We have trouble every time we try to get these tanks filled – but the manufacturer assured me they are ‘standard’ and there was no converter we could buy. They nearly gave up but then tried at another nozzle. Jonny had to go and explain to them how to use the bleeder valve. Apparently tanks down here don’t have those. Not sure how they keep from blowing things up? They were eventually both filled and our sweet taxi driver carried them back to the car for us and we were on our way. Back to the marina in an hour and a half round trip and done with a task that had been looming over us for so long. We had actually expected to devote the better part of a day to this errand.

VH field trip propane

Now that's service!

Now that’s service!

The Fonatur marina is a strange place – it mostly is like a ghost town – someone had big plans for it, but there is a large concrete building with many empty ‘cells’. They could be full of shops and the rooftop bar and restaurant area was also deserted and unfinished – as well the swimming pool was devoid of water. It was like someone had big plans and hit some sort of a road block. I used the wifi quite a bit – sitting in a plastic chair in one of the empty shop cells. Not the most comfortable place, but better than sitting outside with all the jejenes! The wifi was slow and inconsistent, but I managed to place orders for all the spares and things we are running out of. My sister made the mistake of offering to bring down anything we might need when she comes to visit in Feb. She’s going to have a mighty big suitcase of stuff just for us. It will be like Christmas for us – that is if you consider things like joker valves for the toilet and shear pins for the outboard fun presents… Very grateful to be able to get these things we either ran out of or forgot to stock!

This guy was walking his horse along the estuary, with dogs in his panga...

This guy was making his horse swim the estuary, with dogs in his panga…

 

While our estuary tour funds were spent on the GlobalGas tour, we did eventually take ourselves up the estuary.  It was pretty, peaceful and fairly monochrome.  We didn’t spot any crocodiles,  but if you listen carefully, you can hear the ghost of Steve Irwin…

 

When we finally decided to tear ourselves away from San Blas, another boat showed up in the anchorage area. The couple came over in their dinghy, curiously rubber necking at us as they pulled in. Turns out they had spotted us and thought, but weren’t sure, that we might be YOUNG! Alex and Naomi are in their mid 30s and have found – as we have – that most cruisers are much older than us. While many are lovely folks, we don’t feel like we quite fit in exactly. Many seem to want to ‘stick with their own kind’ and have potlucks and whatnot. These guys are from Monterey and have been cruising for 2 years – all in, just as we are. We were mutually excited to hang out with each other! Unfortunately we had our minds set on taking off–but we were sure we’d connect with them in Chacala and beyond.

We loaded up on food and banana bread. And unfortunately I found the Princessa Bakery on the last day. It doesn’t look like a store from the outside, just a place where they bake stuff- kind of factory like. But inside, there are racks of delicious treats!

La Princesa Bakery.  YUM!

La Princesa Bakery. YUM!

The marina is set off the side of the estuary and has this crazy sand bar right behind all the slips. At low tide it becomes an island and it’s pretty much impossible to leave. So we had to time our departure at the height of high tide. This was later in the day – which meant an early start was out of the question. We decided to just go back out to Mantachen anchorage around the corner, and then get an early start for Chacala the following morning. Since it was just around the corner (5 miles?) I think we just motored – didn’t bother taking the sail cover off. We may have pulled out the jib for a bit. It was nice to be back out in the open and at anchor again. We still had to fight off the jejenes a bit, but we were treated to the most gorgeous sunset of all!

Mant Sunset

The next morning we set off early for Chacala. It was a gorgeous day and we even had some good wind for a while.   Jonny fished a bit and got a couple big ones – but no keepers. The last big one made off with his lure and that was it for fishing that day. Lures are expensive! So it’s a bummer when the fish wins and makes off with one. I think it was around a 5 hour trip. Chacala looked like paradise! Gorgeous beach with palapas along one end and rows of palm trees along the other. Some interesting (and might I add, completely finished) homes in the hillsides. On our first look around Jonny asked me, “how long do you think we’ll stay HERE?”. I said, without hesitation – “Two weeks!”. He laughed heartily. We are on our 16th night with no clear departure date at this writing…

Chacala Beach

Chacala Beach

Chacala village

Chacala village

As we were anchoring (for the first time), a woman came paddling out on a SUP and chatted with us. Bonnie and her husband and friends were renting a house on the beach and she invited us to come by. Very nice to have a welcoming committee at our new home! We ended up anchoring 3 more times until we were in the spot we thought we liked best… Oh and we were the only boat in the whole bay, so we really had our pick.   We didn’t end up getting ashore until the next morning, to check in with the port Captain.   We ran into Bonnie and Jeff as we were leaving the dinghy landing by the port captain (we didn’t bother to check out town yet). They invited us to come for dinner that night at their beach house. It was a little scary to have a commitment, but it seemed like one we could handle! They were such nice folks, besides. They had cruised on several boats (including their own) before their daughter was born nearly 40 years ago and chartered boats with Jim – so they were keen to reminisce and we loved hearing their stories.

We spent the day lounging and taking in the view and swimming. Oh and we also moved the boat one more time…tucked up closer to shore and rock jetty, which seemed like it would be OK (?).

Chac Summer bayWe made it ashore in time to have dinner and found Bonnie and Jeff and their friends Mary and Jim, at the very awesome (and only) rental house right on the beach. Great spot! Also, Bonnie really pressured us into taking showers in their wonderful tiled bathroom, and by pressured, I mean, she said “Would you like to take a shower?”. I think I was stripping down before she finished the “wer”. It was WONDERFUL!!! Warm water coming down from above is the most amazing luxury on the planet.

Enjoying sunset from the beach house patio

Enjoying sunset from the beach house patio

Jim, Mary, Jonny, Bonnie and Jeff

Jim, Mary, Jonny, Bonnie and Jeff

The beach house was sandwiched in between 2 of the palapa restaurants, and somehow they worked it out that the waiters would serve food at the table on the patio of the beach house. What a treat!! We placed our orders and had a wonderful time eating good food with our new friends.

 

The next morning Bonnie and Jeff SWAM out to visit us on Summer. Very exciting to have swim up guests! We offered to dinghy them back when they were ready to go, but they are hard core and insisted on swimming all the way back again.

We were really slow in getting to check out Chacala. Days lounging on the boat and swimming were just wonderful, too. We found that a storm was coming – rains and all. We ended up moving the boat again, farther out away from the rocks and putting out all 250 of our chain. We wanted to be as stable as possible in this already rolly anchorage. It got horribly rolly and big black clouds were forming on the horizon. We could just watch it moving towards us. Raindrops started drumming and we started rocking. Finally we were full on in the midst of our first Chubasco. It was really coming down HARD!   It was kind of exciting. There was a slight break in it after a couple hours and in that time our friends Alex and Naomi on Lunasea arrived in the anchorage. They got secured just in time for the next barrage of rain, thunder and lightening. We talked on the radio and hoped to catch up with them the next day.

There was a bit of a break the next day and we went ashore, while our friends went off in search of fish. We planned to meet up with them in the evening. We took our trusty dinghy over in the evening to hang out and play what is now my new favorite game ever – “Cards Against Humanity”. We were having a grand ol’ time and lots of laughs. It started raining again. And thunder and lightening. We weren’t TOO concerned, but I know Jonny was getting a little nervous. But we knew Summer was OK, so we just kept having fun. At one point Alex went out to check on things and noticed that our dinghy was GONE!!! The painter line was still there, and still attached to the D-ring and a round pvc patch…but the rest of the dinghy beyond that was AWOL. Given the swell and wind, we knew it went ashore, and it’s a small shore, so we knew we’d find her. What we didn’t know what condition she’d be in. There’s a heavy shore break here and we were pretty certain at the very least she’s be rolled and the motor would be destroyed. At the worst, a total loss. For some reason I felt oddly calm as we sorted out ‘what to do now’.   Since their dinghy is fairly small and it was very rough out, it was decided that Alex would take me back to Summer and then he’d get Jonny and they would go ashore and hunt for Peugeot.   As we looked toward the shore, people were signaling out to the anchorage with flashlights. It seems she’s landed somewhere. I had to wait alone in the rain and rollies, wondering what the fate of our little dinghy was. After maybe less than an hour, I heard a hoot and holler and TWO dinghy motors. REALLY? Is it even possible that our motor survived AND still worked?!?! Sure enough! Jonny and Peugeot arrived in tact. Jonny and Alex had found her in the care of several locals who had pulled her up onto the beach (they even managed to get her wheels down, although backwards…). Jonny and Alex dragged and carried her along the (longish) path from the beach to the dinghy landing spot (the waves were too big to attempt launching from the beach). We were SO lucky on so many levels here. For instance, had this happened when we were on Summer and all alone?!?! We tied her up as best we could and gave up for the night. Lesson learned – have a back up line!

Early the next morning, Lunasea was pulling up anchor and heading out. They couldn’t stand the rolling for one more night and were seeking shelter in the next anchorage down, about 8 miles south. I’m sure we’ll run into them again one of these days!

The biggest obvious casualty was one of our oars was broken and the paddle missing. We bailed out gallons of water and went ashore in the morning to hunt for the paddle and take Peugeot apart and cleaned up. I found a piece of wood that belonged to our boat – part of a floorboard, but we never found the paddle. We stopped to tell our tale of woe to our beach house friends. They invited us to come for breakfast after we walked the beach looking for the paddle. It was awfully sweet to have a home-cooked breakfast after our rough and rolly night of little to no sleep.   Bonnie made delicious eggs with peppers and cheese and rice and they even had my favorite Piña juice. They had watched us bobbing around through the storm and decided we were now to be considered “Hard Rockers” 😉

We went back to the dinghy landing and proceeded to take Peugeot apart. It had also started down pouring again… There were about 20 lbs of sand in the bottom of the dinghy and it took us a while to dismantle, clean and reassemble. By the time we were finished we were soaked to the bone and I was shivering. The last thing I wanted to do was go back onto that ridiculously rolly boat!! For some reason Jonny wanted to hang out on the boat. So I had him drop me ashore with a bag full of dry clothes. Before I even got to the beach house I ran into Bonnie who immediately asked me “Would you like to take a hot shower?” (I love that woman!).     Is the Pope catholic? Does a bear shit in the woods? That hot shower was so good I almost cried.   The down pouring didn’t let up all afternoon. I spent the time hanging out at the beach house, sharing gluten free recipes with Bonnie, playing a little pigs game, watching the rain, and Skyping with my parents, and NOT rocking back and forth. It was wonderful. When the rain finally let up it was time for our friends to head off and watch the Superbowl, and time for me to call Jonny on the VHF radio and ask for a ride home.

It rained almost nonstop the whole next day and we just stayed on the boat, warm and dry. Luckily it wasn’t very rolly, it was downright pleasant! I baked brownies, which really cozied up the cabin and did a few past due cleaning projects. As we had dinner and watched a movie we noticed the town had gone dark – power outage! Too bad for them. It was a bummer that the storms and lost power happened over a long 4 day holiday weekend. I think the locals lost a lot of business. The vacationers seemed to be in high spirits and many people were enjoying the beach even in the rain.

Another resort view.  We were just passersby.

Another resort view. We were just passersby.

Chacala has many great looking places to stay

Chacala has many great looking places to stay

Chacala alley

Chacala alley

The next morning was when our beach friends were departing. I didn’t know what time, so we hurried ashore early to make sure to catch them. I brought them some brownies for their trip. They were still there and we ended up having breakfast at the next-door restaurant with Bonnie and Jeff. Jeff drew us a map to get to the top of the ‘mountain’ and see the volcanic caldera. We said our farewells and hope to run into them again someday. Maybe we will be heading back south from the Sea of Cortez next year when they are here?

Our hike up to the crater was lovely. Summer was again the only boat in the bay and we got some great shots from on high. There were a lot of neat butterflies I spotted along the way. I seem to be obsessed with trying to get pictures of them all.

Looking down into the crater

Looking down into the crater

Chac red butterfly

Looking South from the crater top

Looking South from the crater top

chac brownbutterflyChac greenbutterfly

Summer's all alone out there, for now.

Summer’s all alone out there, for now.

The town of Chacala doesn’t have much in the way of groceries (kind of on par with most of Baja!) but we learned the town of Las Varas was closeby and had everything we could want. The collectivo was just 15 pesos and it was a quick trip from town. We got out on a busy street not knowing where anything was. We just looked around and started walking where there seemed to be the most stuff. We stayed on what appeared to be a main street and sure enough, there was everything we needed! Groceries with fruits and veggies, carnicerias (butchers) on every corner, women hacking up chickens, hardware stores, shoe shops galore, you name it. Not another gringo in sight. We decided to walk a big loop to not get lost and see as much as we could to make sure we chose the best places before loading up with groceries. At the far end of town we came to the main town square. It was surrounded with carnival rides and shuttered concession stands. It wasn’t clear if it was temporary or if it’s always like that. Some of the concessions were pretty entertaining. My favorite was the upside down bottles stuck in boards that you throw rocks at to break. The floor inside was covered in broken glass. Very ‘home made’ and safety was clearly not a factor.

Bumper Cars...Yeah, this looks safe.

Bumper Cars…Yeah, this looks safe.

The bottle break game! Fun for the whole family!

The bottle break game! Fun for the whole family!

I'm know what I'm having!

I’m know what I’m having!

Las Varas Main Square

Las Varas Main Square

Everyone we encountered in Las Varas was super friendly and helpful. We got most of a chicken hacked up and the butcher cut me some steaks the thickness I wanted (it’s hard to find thick steaks like we are used to – I usually just get aracherra – which is thin like what you make fajitas with). There were lots of large cow parts hanging around – I didn’t get the sense these came from a factory feedlot (and maybe I’m just kidding myself, but I can hope). We did have a bit of a wild goose chase (after fully loaded down with stuff) searching for the one thing we didn’t come across…a Panaderia (bakery). Several people gave us various directions that we may or may not have understood correctly. We ended up in the far outskirts of town, which was very residential. Interesting to see, but I was hot and my shoulders and feet were hurting. I just wanted to get a lime popsicle and go home… Luckily I knew right where we were and how to get back to the collectivo stop, passing the ice cream shop on the way. Poor Jonny was completely turned around. He’s amazing in the country/wilderness/ocean, but put that boy in the city and all is lost. I’m much better in cities (although I’ve had my share of getting lost) and I’m far more hopeless out in the ‘wilds’.   We had a quick ride back and I was content to have a full fridge once again.

Days come and go. I have been trying not to become a boat potato. I decided I wanted to swim ashore (we are much farther out than when Bonnie and Jeff came to see us) – but I didn’t want to swim back into the swell. Jonny brought the dinghy and anchored it outside the break and we had a beach day, complete with lunch in a palapa restaurant. What a treat! I rowed the dinghy back, so it was a good day for exercise. I’m starting to row around just for fun – not as cushy as a real rowing machine, but works great and it’s fun to meet people on other boats and take in the views as I go.

It seemed we might have been making plans to take off, head to Jaltemba, but our plans to move on seem to wax and wane like the moon. We just haven’t gotten sick enough of this place I guess. Jonny finally went off for a surf again – around the corner to Caletta’s surf break. After that it seemed we might just stay here for ever….or at least a few more days of surfing. It’s a left break – which is good for goofy footers – which is what Jonny is. It’s also a cobblestone point, which means it never changes or shifts with sand – a good consistent break. So the days roll along, swimming, surfing, reading, eating through our food supply… It’s about time for another trip to Las Varas.

I think we decided to skip Jaltemba/Guayaba and stop off at Punta de Mita (if there’s time) before getting to La Cruz by the 18th when my sister, niece and nephew arrive for a three week visit. Right on there heels we will have a 1 week visit with my friend from a million years ago –Erika.

I finally decided I was ready to check out the surf break and watch Jonny surf for once. I was curious what was around the corner, and I’d had a few days of alone time on the boat while he was off surfing and/or fishing. It was beautiful around the point – lots of huge houses and plenty more green. The surf break was HUGE –the day I went was apparently the biggest yet and breaking farther out (which was good, because I don’t like the stories of Jonny hitting rocks and saying “It’s OK, I know how to fall on rocks”).

He gets SO excited! when he sees waves!

He gets SO excited when he sees waves!

You can only get to this break by boat or by an hour-long truck ride down a rocky path. It’s 600 for panga ride (about $45) – so we were pretty lucky to be able to take Peugeot and anchor just off to the side of the break. I was armed with my GoPro and iPhone. I suddenly felt that I was about to become an expert surf videographer. I got the idea to play some music on my iphone while filming Jonny surfing. It was going to be SO cool. I don’t have a lot of music on my phone, but there was some Soundgarden, Pixies and Sublime that were probably going to make me famous when I posted the supercool videos. There was some experimental stuff, as well. I got nearly every run Jonny had and wore out the battery on the GoPro. Couldn’t WAIT to see my footage!!! Weeellll…unfortunately it was way too far away and I still pretty much suck at aiming the GoPro. I didn’t have anything to wear to an awards ceremony anyway.   After about 20 waves my surfer boy finally swam back to the dingy. Somehow he never loses his hat – which we found many years ago on a beach up near Fort Bragg. It’s his surf hat – and he claims not one other surfer has ever commented on it. I guess they think he DOES heart Monster Trucks!

Who is this kook??

Who is this kook?? And why is my phone suddenly taking black and white photos?

Trust me, it's Jonny

Trust me, it’s Jonny

Boats come and go from Chacala. Some we meet, some we don’t. Nearly all of them say they are going to La Cruz. I’m starting to feel like La Cruz is some sort of heaven- type place where all cruising souls eventually end up. They say it’s a huge anchorage. I say it had better be.

Chac square

 

 

Cabo San Lucas to San Blas

 

No blog entry since last year?!? Time is flying, and yet somehow also slowing way down. Somehow we spent 2 weeks (or more?) in Cabo San Lucas (or as dear Perry called it “Cabo San Ludicrous”. Very fitting).

We spent the last night of the year in the IGY Marina slip, nestled inside a ring of restaurants, bars the Luxury Avenue Mall and lots and lots of expensive power boats. Our time docked was mostly about ‘taking care of business’. Lots of running around and getting things done. And appreciating the unlimited supply of water available to us.

New Year’s Eve has always been my favorite holiday. I love the finality of the year and the prospect of starting afresh. It wasn’t feeling like NYE. I wasn’t all that excited, we didn’t have solid plans and I wasn’t sure what was going to transpire. We had planned to get dinner with Jon, Shannon and Sean. They arrived early evening and we went out to a simple not overpriced restaurant. We had thought it might be something fancier, but I was just as glad not to spend a lot of money and we were in good company. After dinner we wandered around looking at all the bars preparing for big, crazy parties. Cabo has some really bizarre places! None of us seemed inclined to settle in anyplace and spend a fortune on drinks. We ended up stopping in a corner store and buying some ‘walking around’ drinks. Which is a nice thing you can do when you are no longer in “the land of the free”– can walk around in public and enjoy a drink. We were hoping to run across some live music. We didn’t find any. Our wanderings eventually brought us to the beach (where else would we want to be?). We walked along and watched all the parties underway at the fancy hotels beachfront areas. They were all roped off to keep out the riff-raff (namely, us).   There were some strange and interesting parties going on. If there was any party I wanted to be at, it was this one that was like a surreal, confusing dream (I’m funny like that). All the help were dressed in elaborate costumes of no apparent theme and a pianist was blasting out some intense music that Jonny later identified as “Master of Puppets” by Metallica.

MasterofPuppetsBizarreParty  <—-VIDEO (can anyone get these to play?)

We saw set ups for massive fireworks displays and we were getting excited to see the show.

Fireworks ready to blast in 2015We eventually found a way to sneak off the beach, between hotelas and onto the street – rather than trudge back the long way on the beach. We weren’t sure where we were, but we adventurously forged ahead in what seemed the right direction. We came across a beer store at an opportune moment. I was dismayed with the beer selection, being a fan of the darker stuff. There was one brand called “Indio” and Jon assured me it was far better and closer to a darker beer and I might like it. There was only one, and it proudly advertised “37% Mas!”. It was the biggest beer I’ve ever seen. My arm got tired holding it. But it WAS tastier than the other options.   Somehow I bore the extra weight as we wended our way through back streets and eventually made it to the marina area again. The bars by the marina were heating up and getting crowded. I got a lot of stares and laughs at my beer. Did I mention it was huge? It was starting to feel like New Year’s Eve after all. I think the Indio helped.

BigIndio  <—VIDEO

Since Prism was anchored out, it was a perfect venue to watch fireworks– and also they wanted to be on board to be sure no stray fireworks set their boat on fire. We took Pugeout and towed Prism’s little dinghy. It was nice to be out in the anchorage and it really made me look forward to moving out there the next day. Dock life gets old fast.

Sean and Shannon in awe of the fireworks

Midnight came up really fast. We were right under the most amazing fireworks show ever. Very exciting – I love fireworks on NYE even more than 4th of July. Bring the new year in with a bang. 2015. Holy Moly.

VIDEOS!

2015Fireworks1

2015Fireworks2

I’m not used to staying up late anymore, and I was nearly crossed-eyed when we dinghied back to Summer around 3:00am. The bars around the marina were still raging. Ear plugs, eye shades and a big bottle of water, I was ready for some serious sleeping.

By the time we were moving in the morning, we wanted a real breakfast. We went out to one of the fancier gringo restaurants and had overpriced gringo food. It was pretty good! We eventually got ourselves organized to get out of our slip and out to the anchorage later in the afternoon. The anchorage is limited to a very narrow strip by shore and drops off to super deep water very quickly. We ended up quite a ways out beyond Prism.

 

Welcome CSL <—-VIDEO

or is this better?

While the scenery and water were beautiful, the bay was filled with jet skis, party boats, parasailors and panga/taxis. Non stop entertainment. And wakes.

The next –10 days somehow dragged on with lightening speed. We were waiting for a good window to make the southern crossing from Cabo to the mainland. After our hellish trip down, we were feeling a little trepidatious, and hoping for perfect conditions, I think.   There was a northwest wind and south swell that wouldn’t quit. It was the big northeast wind and the wind waves and the west swell bashing together that made the trip down so bad.

We did get to enjoy the things that make Cabo such a big destination for so many people. We did a dinghy trip with Prism over to the arch and Neptune’s Finger and Lover’s Beach. It’s just gorgeous sand and water and giant rock formations. It was a little too rough for us to actually go through the arch, but it was fun to get up close.   We also did some snorkeling and saw a few cool fish. There was a roped off area with a lot of people snorkeling, we went a bit out of the ropes and along the edges. The sea floor drops off steeply into a black abyss in many areas. I guess this is why all the cruise ships can come into the bay.

Come on in! Plenty of room for everyone.

Come on in! Plenty of room for everyone.

There are SO many pharmacies here that cater to tourists. And it seems Viagra is the main drug they push. The advertisements are just ridiculous. I started collecting pictures.

Another gross Viagra adAnd now, I'm terrified of Viagra.Probably the worst of the Viagra ads

We also got off the main drag a bit and explored further inland. We took a local colectivo (mini bus) out to where the big department stores were. We did a big re-stock at Mega. I was surprised to see they even had an aisle with some ‘organic’ foods and one of international foods.

 

We like Mega.  There's lots inside.

We like Mega. There’s lots inside.

On our second trip to Mega at the end of the week, we were treated to impromptu live music on the colectivo. I had slyly taken my phone out to get a picture of the woman with her guitar, and when they suddenly started to play, I just as slyly recorded.

Yes, the colectivos are quite bumpy rides!

 

On Lover's Beach

On Lover’s Beach

Beach snacks!  Avocado cheese and crackers

Beach snacks! Avocado cheese and crackers

A few times we just went over to the main beach which is huge and long with hotel after hotel which soon dissolve into time share condos. It was fun to relax and people watch. Quite a lot of good people watching, good, very, very white people watching. You could almost tell which part of the frigid and snowy US people were from by how glaringly white they were. I attempted to snorkel off this main beach. I thought it was some kind of fake, Disneyland thing—the water was perfectly crystal clear, the very white sand was uniformly sculpted in ridges the shore came up very steeply, like a white wall. It looked like I was snorkeling in a swimming pool. No fish, no shells. But strangely gorgeous and relaxing.

The anchorage was horribly rolly and not very comfortable otherwise. Sometimes I just wanted to get off the boat and be on solid ground. Cooking was unpleasant with the occasional knives sliding towards you as you tried to keep the pots from sloshing over. Many nights were nearly impossible to sleep. It wasn’t the worst rolly we’ve experienced, but it just went on and on and we kept not seeing a good time to make a break for it. We felt like we were going to be stuck there forever, surrounded by people who’ve never been on a jetski before, going way too fast, panga taxis zipping by us, huge party boats, enticing their passengers to drink more and be louder. One “Eco-Cat” loved to get the drunk Americans to dance on the trampoline in their bathing suits to “YMCA”. Every. Day.

YMCACabo  <—-VIDEO

One hotel on the beach had big, loud parties almost every night. It often sounded like wet t-shirt contests. The announcer frequently yelled into his microphone things like “Let’s maaaaake some NOOOOIIIIIISSSSEEE!” and “Take it off!” Did I mention I have a whole jar of ear plugs?

Jonny and Sean finally went to explore the eastern point and found some surf. It was good to see them get out there. It also happened to be a not-so-rolly day and I opted to stay on the boat and putz around, make brownies and have some quiet domestic time.

Jonny and Sean taking off to SURF!

Jonny and Sean taking off to SURF!

Finally we saw a window to make our move. Winds were not too strong, not too light and the south swell wasn’t quitting, but at least looked to be smaller.   The guys on Prism took off the day before us – heading up to La Paz (brrrr!). We had a quick good bye – I’m sure we’ll run into them in the Sea of Cortez this spring or summer—and I’m definitely looking forward to it – good peoples!! Shannon so kindly gave me their recipe for ginger beer as we said our goodbyes. We have our first batch brewing now in a 2 liter plastic bottle, should be interesting!

We did our final food shopping and cleaned up the boat and got things prepared for our journey into the unknown. I was so ready to leave Cabo, but also apprehensive about the trip. My gut had been a little off to begin with…

We had hoped to stop at Isla Isabela, which is about 50 miles from Mainland Mexico, sounds like an amazing environment/ecosystem with a crater lake and blue-footed boobies (Let’s make some noooiiiiissse! Oops, sorry. Wrong boobies). But the weather looked like it might get a lot windier the day after we arrived and it’s not the most stable of anchorages (and all the books and folks we talked to said you’d better put a trip line on your anchor or you might lose it). So we decided to give it a miss and catch it on our way north later. We were headed for Mantachen anchorage, just south of San Blas.

In order to be sure we arrived in day light hours, we calculated we should leave around 3:00 or 4:00 am. I made some of our usual ‘road food’ but not as much as usual – I figured either I’d been cooking or not wanting to eat at all! It was hard to get up so early, but I put on my warm clothes (Uggs, again!) and we got Summer moving. As we were motoring out of the bay, I was marveling at all the stars. Wait – was that the Southern Cross low on the horizon?!?! My first siting this trip. I was very excited, for some reason. And then of course I had that Crosby, Stills and Nash song stuck in my head…”When you see the Southern Cross for the first time, You understand now why you came this way. And the truth you may be running from is so small, but it’s as big as the promise, the promise of a coming day…” There. Now you have it stuck in your head.

After the excitement of getting underway, I needed a bit of a nap.

Waking up after my post- getting-underway-nap

Waking up after my post- getting-underway-nap

 

The wind was supposed to be Northwest, but it was Northeast nearly the entire trip. But the swell, although south (and some also north) was negligible – making it one of the most perfect trips ever! We sailed nearly the entire way – only having to fire up the motor a couple of times when the wind got really light and the sails were slogging to noisily. It was warm and, as they say “smooth sailing”. I felt a little off the first day – not exactly Montezuma’s Revenge, but just off. Raw garlic, ginger tea and bentonite fixed me right up and I felt great the second day of our trip (and ever since!).

The stars! The phosphorescence! The not-freezing-my-ass-off! It was just beautiful. I got a little more confidence trimming the sails by myself at night on watch. Now, we have not done a passage longer than 3 days and everyone says that after 3 days it all gets a lot better, the first 3 days are the hardest. So, I can’t speak to anything beyond 3 days, but I have to say that being underway is not exactly the vast expanse of leisure time I had expected. You are either desperately trying to get your 3-4 hours of sleep when it’s your turn, preparing food, doing dishes, or being on watch. Being on watch actually requires you to look up occasionally to make sure you are still on course and/or not about to run into another boat, and/or trim the sails as needed. You can’t exactly get involved in other projects requiring full attention and you have to try your darndest to stay awake. So, I get some reading in, or play this annoying word game on my Kindle (it’s like it’s like scrabble solitaire with a time limit and fast moving letters. It keeps me awake!). The time, however, goes by incredibly fast. Our makeshift “4 hour alarm” seems to be going off all the time. Already?

We passed by Isla Isabela in the wee hours of the morning – and through the binoculars there appeared to be many anchor lights there. The weather seemed grey and gloomy as the sun came up. I thought maybe we were in a Twilight Zone and at any second see the entrance to Moss Landing harbor… But, before long, it was “Land Ho!” Layers of pointy green mountains! We realized how starved for green we had been in the desert. As we got closer I saw things sticking up from the shore. Palm trees! The approach was taking forever and it was hard to maintain the excitement. We finally dropped the sailed and motored the last hour or so into Mantanchen bay.   Clearly, we were SOMEWHERE. It looks just gorgeous –so lush, green and tropical. The sun was coming out and the water temperature was nearly 88 degrees! I could hardly wait for a swim. Although had I had a Magic 8 Ball, it would have told me “Outlook not so good”. Mantanchen is a huge and very shallow bay. Several miles out we were in 25 ft of water. By the time we anchored, we were in 12 feet of murky, muddy water, teeming with life. It wasn’t that it was ‘dirty’ in the polluted sense – not at all. This is an incredible ecosystem around here. The fish, the sting rays, the jellyfish, all made the waters around us a thick soup.   I heaved up a bucket of water and it didn’t look so bad, so I had a bucket bath and a freshwater rinse. Felt great, anyway.

We are in the tropics now!

We are in the tropics now!

First (and only good) sunset in Mantachen Bay

First (and only good) sunset in Mantachen Bay

First Mainland Landing Punta Camarrones (I think)

First Mainland Landing Punta Camarrones (I think)

We anchored out there for 3 nights (or was it 4?). We did a dinghy tour of the bay one day. We dinghied the 5 miles around and into the estuary to visit San Blas. The marina there will let you tie up for 10 pesos per person (? It’s just one dinghy) and shower, do laundry, etc. (each with a price of course). We met Moses (not to be confused with our CPT Autopilot) -a very friendly guy who works at the marina and speaks perfect English. He gave us some directions to find the town area and we set off to have a look around. Very cute and clean town! So much history here. We were keen to explore a lot more. We met some people anchored in the estuary and we thought we might like to do that as well. We wanted to see a lot more of San Blas an the 30 minute dinghy ride each way was not so great. We spent one more day at anchor and I finally sewed up our screen door. I had purchased some stretchy mesh fabric and a box of small-ish gauge galvanized chain. I sewed the chain around the mesh fabric so it could lay around the edges of our companionway, giving us a simple, inexpensive screen door. I then sewed some suede patches into the part where it bends so it won’t tear the fabric. We were expecting it to be buggy up in the estuary.

 

Summer's new screen door

Summer’s new screen door

After one more relaxing morning we were ready to head into our new spot. It was hot, sunny and we were underway (for a very short trip) to a new adventure.

photo-2We found an indent outside the channel markers where we thought we could fit. The first spot we tried was way too shallow and we very nearly ran aground. You know what they say, “There are 2 kinds of sailors, those who have run aground and those who haven’t yet” (they say that about seasickness, too).   Well, this time wasn’t our turn.   We settled in just across the way from the marina docks and very near to the lush green shore. And noseeums (or jejenes, in Spanish). We started getting bitten immediately. How is it those teeny tiny things can bite so hard?? We were very grateful for our screen because it was also far too hot to put the hatchboards in at night.

IMG_0406

We still have much to explore here in San Blas. We also are about to run out of propane and discovered there is none in San Blas, so it looks like we are going to get to explore somewhere else by bus, as well…

We spend most of our first day wandering around. We came across a place that said it had the Original Pan de Platano. Banana bread is a big deal in these parts, due to the banana plantations in the hills.   Well, we HAD to try that, skeptical it was in fact the original. But the owner came to the walk up window (there’s also a restaurant) and told us he was the first person to make banana bread here over 40 years ago. We got a couple of muffins and they were delicious! I don’t even like bananas! We plan to go back there for a whole loaf and probably breakfast. He has a sign about yogurt and I got the feeling he makes it himself. I don’t eat a lot yogurt, but when I do… I like it to be JUST yogurt. No additions, no sugar, no sucralose, etc. That is all but impossible to find in Mexico. I went back yesterday and found out they do make their own yogurt, so I got a big to-go cup of it and had it for breakfast this morning. Delicious!

I got my REAL yogurt here.  And the banana bread is outstanding --fresh every hour.

I got my REAL yogurt here. And the banana bread is outstanding –fresh every hour.

We did make it up to the old church and Spanish fort at the top of a hill overlooking EVERYTHING. The church ruins are from the 1700s. While we were wandering around taking in the view, an old man with a bucket came up to us and told us he was an historian and apparently a docent at the park. He began telling us the whole history of the fort – and we were even able to understand most of it! The Spanish lived up there and the Mexicans lived down in the town below. Apparently it was mostly ocean down there a long time ago and the land has filled in leaving just the estuaries. San Blas is the port where Junipero Serra set off from to build all the missions in California. Although there were people living in San Blas over 2000 years ago. This has been a pretty happening spot for quite some time! After the history lesson, we discovered that our historian had published a few booklets and if you bought all three you got the best deal… We got one that was also translated into English so we could bone up on the history of the area – and we had really enjoyed Juan’s presentation for us. He was clearly very passionate about San Blas – in fact he was born here, right on the beach.

Juan, the historian who sold us his booklet, liked to flex his muscles while telling tales of the Spanish/Mexican history in San Blas.  Not entirely sure why, but it sort of fit the stories.

Juan, the historian who sold us his booklet, liked to flex his muscles while telling tales of the Spanish/Mexican history in San Blas. Not entirely sure why, but it sort of fit the stories.

 

Palm forest, San Blas and the Pacific Ocean beyond

Palm forest, San Blas and the Pacific Ocean beyond

Jonny and Don José María Mercado de Luna - who started the independence movement in Mexico.  Jonny was not involved.View from the Spanish fort on the hillChurch from 1700s- on the main squareSpanish church from 1781 on the hill over San BlasInside the church from 1781. It was huge!

Everywhere around here are cobblestone streets and cute markets and shops. It’s not without it’s trash, but everything is SO much cleaner than places we’ve been in Baja. There is clearly a lot of pride in homes and town here. Everyone we’ve encountered has been very friendly and many interesting to chat with. We went into a pharmacy to see if we could buy some rubber bands – we had a grand plan to put some of our stretchy mesh over our port windows, because we discovered the jejenes can get in through our screens (no we haven’t gotten much sleep and we itch a lot!). Anyway the woman taught us how to say rubber bands in Spanish (in Mexico it’s ligans?) and she gave us a handful for free. It’s not often anyone gives a Gringo anything for free in Mexico! There’s no big supermarket in this town of 11,000 people – you have to go from place to place finding what you need. We managed to cobble together some groceries yesterday to keep us for a couple of days.  I got a pound of shrimp for under $4 – I made scampi (but Jonny had to take their heads off!). At least now we know a few places to go to. At the tortilleria we got a huge stack of fresh, warm corn tortillas for 8.50 – that’s 8 pesos and fifty cents – that’s about 60 cents US.   I was really confused when the woman told me “ocho cinquenta” – I was thinking 85? No, eight and fifty? That’s not a number…WOW. So cheap! At another shop I got cauliflower, limes and green beans for just over a dollar.  Warmer AND cheaper? I’m IN!

I still have yet to eat a lobster (langosta) in Mexico!  Soon??

I still have yet to eat a lobster (langosta) in Mexico! Soon??

View of San Blas from the Spanish fort/church at the top of the hill

View of San Blas from the Spanish fort/church at the top of the hill

I did some laundry at the marina—no dryers, so I had to call Jonny to come get me and a bag of wet laundry. I hung it all around the lifelines. Jonny was changing the oil, Summer is overdue. He noticed a lot of coolant everywhere…turns out Summer’s last original hose finally bit the dust. We searched all over town and found a possibly suitable replacement (with some creative adjustments…). Jonny also took this opportunity to get the heat exchanger bracket off and fixed once again (for the 3rd and possibly last time? We’re not holding our breath). But with the help of Moses (marina not autopilot) we found a soldador who re-welded the bracket and with Jonny’s design is welding a triangulated support bracket on the bottom that should go up against the transmission. This may help stop the vibration issues. We shall see…

 

The last remaining original hose on Summer's Motor.  May it rest in peace.

The last remaining original hose on Summer’s Motor. May it rest in peace.

We decided to come in to the marina and get slip to make it easier to work on these things. And get unlimited water. And showers. And laundry. Yeah! And the slips here are so inexpensive – this is the best place we could have this happen. Around $14/night! And the place is a ghost town – and on the outskirts of town. Very quiet and seems very safe and friendly.

Summer and all her friends at the San Blas Marina.  We had previously been anchored just across the way by the palms and all the noseeums.

Summer and all her friends at the San Blas Marina. We had previously been anchored just across the way by the palms and all the noseeums.

There were a few boats here that all left the morning we came in (we tried not to take it personally). Actually they were all heading south and going to catch up with the Pacific Puddle Jump – a gang that crosses the Pacific together every year to French Polynesia. There was one more boat – a gorgeous catamaran anchored out near us. We met her owner’s Chris and Katie from Massachusetts – really nice folks who have a lot of years cruising experience from the Caribbean through the Panama Canal and up to here. We really enjoyed talking with them and ended up going out to dinner with them last night. It’s great to hear other people’s stories and learn from those who’ve been at it far longer than we have.

When they headed back out to their boat last night, we got to see the blue phosphorescent algae in the harbor. Just amazing!!!

blue algae <——VIDEO

Jonny took my bike out today to look for parts, etc. I’m hoping to get to explore town on my bike (manana?) but today I’ve been marina-bound doing laundry and trying to get the wifi to cooperate to finally get this post up! If parts don’t make sense, I apologize – I thought I was going to post it 2 days ago and had to add on, so maybe I said today somewhere and it was really 2 days ago… sorry.

 

Laundry day!  Washing king sized sheets in a bin = not the most fun ever.

Laundry day! Washing king sized sheets in a bin = not the most fun ever.

Not sure how long we’ll stay here in San Blas, it’s a really wonderful place so far, and the food is ridiculously inexpensive and people are very pleasant and clearly proud of their town.  We still haven’t gotten the propane sorted out and we actually can’t leave here until we do – we are dangerously close to running out. At least we can go out to eat here and not spend a fortune, but once we leave it will be a few weeks or so until we have this luxury again.

[ONE OF THESE DAYS… I promise I’ll get the video and images “right” in these blogs…really. I will. Wifi is always so bad I can’t even test this out…]

Santa Maria Bay to Magdalena Bay to Cabo San Lucas

We spent one more day anchored in Santa Maria – a windy one, not good for going ashore. We had planned to leave the day after next, but we both woke up the next morning thinking it was the day to go. The weather from the net seemed to say there’d be wind that day but not so much the next. So we got the dinghy onboard and pulled up anchor. Our destination was about 8 miles away, as the crow flies – but it was going to be about a 30 mile trip to get around Isla Magdalena and back up into the bay. Here’s a good visual from our chart plotter after we arrived (pay no attention to the gangsta in the background).

MB Charttrip

Turns out there really wasn’t any wind – just 14 foot seas at 18 second intervals. Not the most comfortable trip and we had to motor the entire way. But it wasn’t awful, it was warm and sunny. Jonny caught a very nice bonita (kind of tuna) that would feed us for 3 days.   The mouth of the bay is 3 miles wide and the bay itself is just huge. You can’t see land across it. We anchored in Puerto Magdalena – just off the tiny fishing village. I had high hopes—groceries? Wifi? Shrimp for our traditional Christmas eve dinner? The Capitania de Puerto came out in a panga full of giant plastic containers – fuel. We arranged for him to come back first thing in the morning to check us in and sell us some diesel.

He arrived as scheduled and we filled up 2 of our jerry cans with diesel. He didn’t require us to show him our papers, but we filled out and signed his ledger. I asked him if the arborrotes had verduras (grocery store / vegetables). He laughed heartily and then shrugged a very discouraging “maybe”. He and his son then headed off for San Carlos – a much larger town on the main peninsula. It’s only 11 miles from here, but it’s a narrow channel to get there and apparently there’s a fee for using it and no real facilities or anchorage for yachts up in there. I know it has everything we need, but I think we are not going to make it up there by dinghy or hiring a panga (?). We are hoping he returns in a few days – because we discovered the diesel we bought is black. It’s supposed to be more on the clear side, and not smell the way it smells (perhaps there’s some 2-stroke fuel mixed in?). At any rate we are afraid to put it in our tank – so a little worried about this $50 worth of who-know-what we just got. And we may not have enough fuel to get to Cabo if we have to motor most of the way (which is likely, winds are super light).

 

When I first asked about a grocery store he misheard abborrotes and thought I said camarrones (shrimp) and I said “no, abborrotes” and then thought better….Y camarrones!!!”. Gomez was the link to shrimp. We were not sure if that was a boat or a man. Every year for my entire life I’ve had my Italian Grandmother’s traditional Christmas dinner of fried shrimp with a special spaghetti sauce and spaghetti. It’s one of the best dinners ever. The first part is cleaning and frying the shrimp, which takes a lot of time and requires you drink a lot of red wine while doing so. I have managed to save a couple bottles of Sante Archangeli Family Wines Pinots for the occasion (thanks, JB!!).

There are shrimp boats everywhere around here. This is shrimp county. How hard could it be to get us some shrimp? We decided to be bold and take the dinghy right out to a shrimp boat and see what we could do. We went pretty far out to a boat that appeared not to be moving. They were working hard pulling up their outriggers. We called out “camarrones?” and they told us not to get to close. It was more of a – ‘move back and we’ll let you know when it’s OK to come get some shrimp’ kind of gesture. We sat a ways off watching them work – it was pretty fascinating, really. But, when they were done, it appeared the crew was not able to persuade the captain to stick around for us. Off they went with their load of shrimp to San Carlos. No shrimp for the birds or us.

MB Shrimp Boat NOgo

Optimistically we headed ashore to check out this little village. I had my grocery bags and everything. The village seemed kind of deserted, except for a group of fisherman gathered under a large lean-to. It appeared they were having a meeting of sorts (it was probably a co-op – Fishing Co-ops are very important and set all the rules and regulations that the fishermen are supposed to follow). Jonny boldly approached to ask about camarrones and Gomez. We were told Gomez would be around early the next day. Also the grocery store was not open until the next day, either. I guess Monday’s aren’t ‘business’ days.

Looking up toward the Port Captain’s building in Puerto Magdalena:

MB Port Captain Office

The Rebar Stick Figure Jesus on the church in Puerto Magdalena was my favorite:

MB WR Jesus

We gave up our shrimp hunt for the day and went off to explore the dunes and see if we could hike across the ½ mile stretch of the island to come out on the beach at Santa Maria Cove (where we had just been – you remember, heavenly beach?). We decided to bring our soap, in hopes of a nice ocean bath. The dunes reminded me a lot of Cape Cod. We hiked up and down and through wiry vines grabbing at our toes – all in all I’m pretty sure that ½ mile was more like a mile with all the up and downs of the dunes! I could hear the roar of the surf, driving me steadily onward. When I finally saw the surf, I was a little dismayed. It looked reddish-brown. As I got closer to the beach, I saw all kinds of debris. Ah yes…the far end of the bay is where all the crap collects. Not sure what was in the surf – red tide? Some sort of plant stuff? At any rate, not very inviting. We decided to walk the beach a little and ‘treasure hunt’ – who knows what exciting things had washed up there?? Turns out it was just mesh bags, plastic bags, Clorox bottle bailers, rusty oil drums, giant pieces of Styrofoam. Nope. No treasures. It was a HUGE beach with an amazing, expansive view, though. And not a soul around.

We hiked back over the dunes to the huge and also deserted beach on the Mag Bay side. I spotted a coyote in the dunes.

We had a bath in the bay, which was actually quite nice (and I was 3 days without a shower, so it was a necessity).

Tuesday morning Jonny slipped away before it was light. He was on a mission to find Gomez – man or boat, we weren’t sure. He came back and apparently everyone in the village knew the gringoes were looking for Gomez. They said he’d be back in an hour or so. Jonny went back and I was feeling skeptical. What or who was Gomez and how was he going to get us shrimp? There were no huge shrimp boats that moored here. Maybe he knew someone on a shrimp boat and could arrange to go get some? After quite sometime I heard the dinghy coming back. I poked my head out to see what had transpired. Jonny held a huge bag of shrimp up. No way!!! I was very excited. It was at least a kilo, maybe more (well over 2 lbs). He said Gomez was a local / small time shrimper who caught them from his panga. He had just come in with a load of shrimp and Jonny helped him pull the heads off the ones in our bag. Freshest shrimp EVER! We had to go back and pay him – 100 pesos (I had set my max at 350 pesos for a kilo). I got dressed quickly because I had to meet this Gomez for myself. We gave him a few extra pesos and a t-shirt (one of our Minney’s Yacht Surplus shirts – try explaining what “Schooner or Later, We’ll Get our Ship Together” means in Spanish… I think I at least conveyed it was a very funny joke…)

Rafael Gomez and his wife (Amarela ?? I didn’t quite get it) offered us chairs and coffee. We sat out and chatted with them as best we could, for some time. Rafael has lived in this tiny village for 32 years. They will have turkey for their traditional Christmas dinner. Also, last year some cruisers brought them cookies at Christmas. I’m not sure if that was a hint. I’m also not sure they’d want my chocolate avocado cookies, which I have nicknamed “rubber dog shit cookies” – more due to look and texture than taste. Although I’m not sure they taste all that much better (hey, all my cooking experiments can’t be winners).

Rafael walked us over to the grocery hut. I was pleasantly surprised to see tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, limes, potatoes and avocados. I need all that stuff. Also got some eggs. Aside from that they had some canned goods and cleaners. Nothing else – no refrigerator, no junk food (and yes, we were kind of hoping for some chips and ‘sweets’! but we’ll be better off without. Besides, there’s always rubber dog shit cookies).

Satisfied with our great accomplishments for the morning, we proceeded to siesta for the rest of the day. It’s a rough life.

At the end of the day we spotted a sailboat entering the bay. Did I mention we were the ONLY boat here? As they got closer we realized it was a Hans Christian 33 (named Prism)– we’d met them in Turtle Bay. A husband and wife with the wife’s brother. I guess we’re not the slowest ones afterall!!

MB Prism

The next morning, Jon rowed over from Prism to say hi. They’d been stopping at a lot of places and having a great time. We told them we were thinking of moving about a mile farther up the bay – it was supposed to be nice and we were kind of getting over ‘town’ and all the fishing pangas going by all the time.

They pulled anchor and headed over there. That got us motivated to up and move, too. Not sure why we’d been so lazy for so long! We went a few miles past to check out the bay, but it wasn’t good anchoring so we went back nearby to Prism. We swam and hung out on Chrismas eve. Then it was time to cook shrimp. I opened some wine and got to cooking. We had a LOT of shrimp! It was the BEST shrimp EVER, I think. And of course the wine. Somehow we put away a lot of that, too.   All in all a very nice Christmas eve – I always like thinking about all my other family members all over the place who are having the exact same dinner. Even though we are far away and don’t even have phone or internet, we are connected by shrimp-nets that night.

MB JCFryin Shrimp

MB dinner Shrimp

Needless to say we were feeling a little sluggish on Christmas Day. I decided to row over to Prism and bring them a bottle of champagne and finally take them up on their hospitality to visit. Prism is GORGEOUS. I have to say it’s the first boat I’ve been on that actually made me a little jealous. Usually I come off of most every other boat thinking to myself “I still love Summer best of all”. I came off of Prism thinking “DAMN…” it’s 3 feet smaller but seems twice as big inside. Amazing seaworthy little boat it is, too. But it was great to get to know Jon, Shannon and Shawn a bit. Shannon and Jon did what we did—sold everything and took off – they’re all in and going cheap. So, you could say we’re all in the same boat 😉   Shawn is Shannon’s older brother and is along for the surf until Cabo.

I hung out with them for a few hours and then rowed back to Summer to have dinner (leftover shrimp! Yes, there was that much).   We were invited to come back for ‘game night’ in the evening. Jonny wasn’t up to it, so I rowed back over. We place cards and dice and Jon was kind enough to share his movie collection with us. It was fun to socialize – I realized how long it has been! The row home in the dark was fun- the stars were incredible.

The next morning Jonny went off fishing and caught us dinner. I had a relaxing morning getting a spa pedicure. NOT. I have to do my own pedicures now and I’m terrible at it, but not as bad as it was starting to look. In the afternoon we went ashore and hiked out on a ‘road’ to the other side of the island to see if there was surf at the point. It was probably a 2 mile hike. Lots of desert like flora and fauna, and we got to go along part of the estuary with mangroves and all sorts of birds. There was also a great abundance of trash. Everywhere. Real trash, too. In Mexico, the trash is very pure. There is nothing even remotely salvageable in what is thrown away here.

The tide in the bayside was still full of whatever it was that was making it all red. The whole bay looked like blood! But around the corner it wasn’t so bad. We found a pretty and remote beach and not much surf.

MB Red tide

The wind picked up quite a bit when we were heading back. We stopped to see how Prism was doing and they were liking the wind and decided to take off for Cabo right then and there. We went back to Summer to radio them some weather from our SSB grib files (which was occasionally sort of accurate…). We watched them sail off and decided that tomorrow would probably be a good day for us to head out, too. The wind looked to be picking up, a nice fast sail would be fun, and it didn’t look like too much swell.

MB Secluded beach

Well the wind picked up a lot in the bay and there was considerable chop. It was the roughest night we experienced there and not that comfortable. The next morning was extremely windy and Summer was hobby-horsing up and down. Getting our dinghy aboard was a bit of a challenge, but we managed to do so with out getting hurt or falling overboard.

I made some breakfast jars, some chocolate almond bread and black beans to hold us for our trip. We had everything ready to go and it was still early. We did not want to arrive in Cabo before daylight, so we had to plan to leave a little later in the afternoon. The wind died down and it got hot, so we decided to have one last swim/wash before the trip.

Out near shore we spotted what appeared to be a kayak. Kayak? From where? There were no other boats in the harbor any more and if they had come from San Carlos, that was like a 12 mile paddle. Sure enough it was a tandem kayak! They came over our way and said Hi. Debbie and Dave are from British Columbia and have a place in Pescadero. They like to kayak and camp all over. They were going around all of Mag Bay. They had camped on the beach the night before and had used up all their water. Dave thought he was shooting a noise-maker in the air to scare off an aggressive coyote, but it turnd out to be a flare. They set fire to the foliage! They used all the their water to put out the fire.   I think Dave would’ve been just as happy if Debbie hadn’t told us that story, but she enjoyed it very much. They asked if they could get water in town. Given our experience we didn’t think it would be a likely possibility. Since we were going to be in full-on civilization in 2 days, we thought we could easily spare some of our water. We gave them a few gallons of drinking water from our Water Fixer. It was fun to chat with them and think about life camping and kayaking – it really looked like fun! I can’t believe we haven’t done that…

MB KayakersDaveDebbie

We finally got underway, expecting a very pleasant, 36 hour or less journey. (Cue up Gilligan’s Island theme song…”the weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed”). Anyway, as we were exiting the mouth of the bay (a 3 mile wide area between 2 islands) it was rough and weird, and all of a sudden, within 10 seconds the wind switched 180 degrees and backwinded our main and stopped the boat dead in her tracks. We couldn’t turn in either direction and because of the force of the backwind, we couldn’t undo any of the lines to move the boom. We were kind of freaking out and not sure what to do, and then, just as fast as it happened, it switched again and we shot off really fast. We were doing 7 – 8 knots with just the reefed main up. We went with it to get well outside the mouth and hoped things calmed down a bit.   The winds were really strong and the seas were coming at us from either side. We were doing a beam reach at the fastest speeds I’ve ever gone on Summer. It was kind of fun. At first. It got darker and rougher. I made us some dinner and we ate. I started feeling really sick, so I went to lie down for a bit and hopefully sleep it off as I often do. Things got really bad and it was necessary for us to reef the main again. Jonny came down and told me I needed to get out there and take the wheel. I had no idea how I was going to get my foul weather gear on without throwing up. I thought if I just eased it on as I lied there, it might work. All of a sudden there was a terrifying noise outside, shuddering and whipping of sheets. I knew that we had to do something FAST or we were in big trouble. This is when I learned that there is a hierarchy of bodily functions and apparently sheer terror will override the need to vomit.   I don’t even remember how I got my gear on, but I was suddenly behind the wheel, trying to hold us steady, ready to turn us into the wind if need be. Huge waves were washing over our beam, often hitting me in the face. I kept my head up, trying to see the windex to keep us on a beam reach while Jonny tried to take down more sail.

Jonny finally came to take the wheel from me and let me go throw up…but I didn’t just then. I sat for awhile watching us plunge up and down through the waves, still going at top speeds. I ended up sitting on the cockpit floor, kind of scrunched up with my head down. This was by far the roughest weather I’d ever experienced. Even Jonny started to feel seasick. He lost his clean record of never having gotten seasick on Summer as he lost his dinner. I somehow held it together for a while longer, slumped on the cockpit floor. I had my head on the seat and my arm up and a huge wave sloshed over the side and went down my sleeve. The jolt and scare of that propelled me to the edge of the boat where I also lost my dinner. Those black beans were actually almost as good the second time. Almost. Unfortunately for me, getting sick doesn’t make me feel better afterwards, as it seemed to for Jonny. I went down below and tried to hide under the covers for a while. There was nothing remotely approaching sleep possible. The waves were hitting Summer so hard that sometimes it sounded and felt like we were hitting something solid. If it weren’t for our CPT Autopilot, I’m sure we never would have survived. That thing is simply awesome. Jonny tweaked things as much as he could and eventually he started coming down below to rest for spells as well. It was cold and miserable out there. And it Did. Not. Stop. Morning came and there was a spell of it being less than horrible. I thought I might be feeling better and poked my head out like a groundhog. That was as much as I could handle, I ran back into my cave. Good thing for the breakfast jars, I was in no way going to cook breakfast. I really don’t remember much more of the day. Jonny was optimistic that we were done, but I remembered the forecast looking like it was going to blow for one more day. Sure enough, it came on strong again for the second night. I managed to make some sort of soup, but I was unable to eat any of it.

I couldn’t believe we were in for another night of hell. Several times this thought crossed my mind: “People in their right minds do not do this sort of thing”. But, I guess we knew that, no? At one point we completely dropped the main and we did 6-7 knots with bare poles for almost an hour.  At the speeds we were traveling, we were going to get to Cabo way too early. We decided to heave-to (make the boat stop, basically, sort of…) for a few hours and both try to sleep. As we were heaving-to, things got more violent and somehow the dishes in the cupboard slid up and hit the latch and opened the doors – dishes started flying out. Somehow we both managed to catch everything and nothing broke. But Jonny had to go out and finish up with the sails, and I tried to gather everything in the dark. I didn’t know what to do with any of it and I was afraid I was going to get sick again (into a bowl I was holding seemed like a good option?). I sat on the floor in the dark holding onto a pile of dishes and whatnot (and trying to pick up the trash that has spilled out when the trash can came crashing down on top of me). I just wrapped it all in some towels and soft stuff and pushed it under the settee. Then I got really sick again – this time in the bathroom, which was far more luxurious than overboard (tp and running water and a safe place to wedge myself in). Jonny held my hair (which was quite a brave thing to do – who knows what was in it from before and salt, oh the salt! I thought it had gone white from fright, but turns out it was just salt). Anyway we finally tried to lie down for a while, but sleep didn’t quite happen – but some rest anyway. The motion and sounds were just relentless and scary. We drifted out to sea and a little backwards during this time. When we finally started going again we had maybe 6 hours to go. Somewhere around 3 am I started to feel myself coming through to a more normal state. I was starving – my body had been completely purged of every last shred of anything inside it for more than 24 hours (do you think I could market this as some sort of ‘cleanse’??). I found my travel mug full of soup I had made the previous afternoon – I ate it cold, it wasn’t half bad. That’s when I knew I was going to survive. The sun came up and things had calmed down a bit. We were suddenly near land and surrounded by big, fancy sport fishing boats. We were almost to Cabo! It got warmer and sunnier and scenery got more interesting.

We saw the hotels, condos and beaches near Cabo Falso and the arches and pinnacles of Cabo. As we came into the bay area we slowed down and radioed the marina. We did not have internet access for weeks, so we were not able to make a reservation. But it was our hope to get a slip for 3 nights to be able to enjoy the luxuries of a marina – such as showers and laundry and a boat that wasn’t moving much if at all. The marina said they had a slip for us and told us the dock and number. We were SO relieved. As we approached I thought I saw Prism anchored out down the way. I was hoping we’d run into those guys again.   We made our way through the narrow, crowded marinas area and found our dock. A guy was waiting to help catch our lines and I somehow made a perfect docking. As we were entering the slip I heard people behind us yelling “Summer!! Summer!!” I knew it was Jon from Prism – they were on shore and spotted us coming in. I was glad they were seeing where we’d be.

Cabo Arch Cabo Lovers beach

We did what we had to in the marina office. It’s ridiculously expensive – more than 2x the cost of a slip in Santa Barbara!!! And no wifi – the hurricane knocked it out and they hadn’t had it repaired yet (and still, no discount?). We had high hopes of showering, getting food and doing some errands. Oh luxurious, clean, hot shower!! How wonderful. We managed to find food (at a Jonny Rockets? Really? Just not in the mood for fish tacos that day). After lunch we realized we were both zombies and the only thing we would accomplish that day was going straight back to the boat to sleep. We did for a few hours and then managed to find a store to get some food to cook for dinner, and found the Starbucks, which is very close and has wifi.

Next day I spent 4 hours in the morning doing laundry and Jonny de-salinated Summer. She was a mess, along with our foul weather gear. I talked to the guys in the office about our Black Diesel situation. They thought it sounded bad and we shouldn’t try to use it. They said they could help us dispose of it. Turns out it was going to cost us 480 pesos to dispose of it. I kind of threw a fit and refused. Which made Jonny really mad at me, because he wanted the whole situation to just be overwith and we find some clean diesel (I left out a lot of trying to return it in Mag Bay…but it’s been a thorn in our side). Anyway we managed to find a guy who was extremely happy to take it from us for free. As this was going down, a little dinghy showed up – Jon, Shannon and Shawn had found us! Cabo GuestsWe all hung out and caught up on our most recent journeys. Theirs was rough, but not as bad as ours – they were smart to leave when they did and missed the worst of it. Finally the boys went off to find a fishing store, Shannon come to Starbucks to work on their blog (www.svprism.com) and I went off to find a TelCel office to see if I could get my cell phone working in some sort of fashion. We then hung out on Summer some more before they had to take off to get back to Prism before dark. They have quite the cute little motor and dinghy….

CaboPrism Dinghy

Tomorrow night is New Year’s Eve. We are going to have a nice dinner out somewhere with our Prism friends and then probably do what most Americans do in Cabo. On the 1st we are going to head out to the anchorage area –our cushy, expensive slip days are over. We will anchor out there for a few days or however long it takes to get a good weather window to cross over to Mazatlan. We are hoping to do some snorkeling and other fun stuff around here before then, too.

 

 

Turtle Bay to Asuncion Bay to Santa Maria Bay

I believe I last posted the day before we were to leave Turtle Bay. After 3 days recovering there, we decided to check the motor before our departure. This is when we learned to check the motor upon *arrivals* from then on… Turns out our heat exchanger bracket broke off. The unit was now wedged down against the engine. Too much vibration over our 3 days of travel? We were uncertain if the unit itself had been damaged. It appeared that maybe there was more fluid in our exhaust manifold? We were a little freaked out, because this heat exchanger was fairly new –our old one busted after our first big trip from Half Moon Bay (was that 2012?). At that time we had ended up with salt water running through everything and it was a big ugly process to flush it all out and get it all working again. We thought we needed a new exhaust manifold then, too, but it ended up being OK.

So, here we are in Turtle Bay, a town of very limited resources. If our heat exchanger was really broken, our only option would be to hitchhike or find a bus (?) out to a more main town and try to get a bus to Ensenada, rent a car and drive to San Diego to get a new part. Not a very exciting or affordable prospect. Our first order of business was to remove the heat exchanger and try to test it. We also went to search for an auto parts store and/ welder to see if we could get a new bracket made. The old bracket was not fixable – as it was already welded once after the last time it broke… Ideally we should move the heat exchanger to a different location, but that would take extra lengths of hoses that we will definitely not find for purchase anytime soon.

We ventured back to Turtle Bay town for a little recon to see what might possibly be available to us.

TB Beer StoreWe discovered it was much bigger than we initially thought, although still quite limited. It was ALL dusty and dirty, though. And the wheelchar accessible sidewalks left something to be desired (check out the pole in the middle…) TB Handicap sidewalk

We learned a lot of new Spanish words! The auto parts store owner didn’t carry any anti-freeze (anticongelante) but he did know a welder (soldador) he recommended to us. He took great pains to write down everything and teach us a few new words. Very nice guy.

Meanwhile, back on Summer we checked out the heat exchanger and ran water through it and blew through the ends.TB Heat X broke It appeared that the salt water and fresh water lines remained in tact and were not mixing with each other. This was quite a relief! Now all we had to do was to get a new bracket welded. Luckily Jonny had save a couple pieces of leftover heavy stainless steel bars that would be much beefier than the previous bracket, if we could get them fabricated into a new bracket.

TB Soldador

The next day we hunted for the soldador. He was not at his shop. We stopped back by the auto parts store to ask Juan if he knew where we might find Manuel the welder. He ended up loading us into his giant Toyota truck and driving us around town until we ended up at Manuel’s house. He called from the truck “Manuel! Manuel! Clientes! Clientes!”. Manuel came out and Juan translated for us (although Juan spoke not a word of English). Somehow we managed to convey we needed a new bracket the exact dimensions of the old bracket and he said he could do it and use our stainless. It would cost 200 pesos (around $15). We left everything with him and said we’d come back in the morning.

We met some really nice folks also anchored in the bay, Sugar, Jake and Alyce, who were aboard a gorgeous yawl. Sugar is a very accomplished sailor/captain who has a much larger boat up in Port Townsend, but was on this trip aboard his father’s boat. Alyce, his daughter was also quite a sailor who has worked aboard sailing/teaching boats, Jake was a college friend of Alyce and also a sailing instructor. They had some extra mahi that they thought they couldn’t finish- so they invited us to be their dinner guests that night. We were very excited about the prospect of our first ‘boat visit’ in the anchorage! I decided to make a batch of brownies to take over. I have to say this batch was the BEST I ever made!

TB Best Brownies

We rowed our dinghy over to their boat and had a wonderful evening cooking and chatting. Sugar had some amazing stories – including a tale of being first mate aboard a tall ship that sank off the east coast. Four people died and he spent 5 days in 6 person life raft with 8 people. He had a lot of happy stories, too…

TB Sugar Dinner

The next morning we went to Manuel’s house and he had the bracket. It seemed as if it needed a little bit of tweaking, so he drove us to his shop and made some adjustments for us. Once we had it just right, we asked the price (assuming it would be more for all the extra work). It was still 200 pesos!   We stopped back by Juan’s shop to bring him some brownies to thank him for all his help (we never even bought anything from him). I learned how to say brownies : bizcocho de chocolate.

Jonny also gave Manuel a sanding disk for his sander – as a propina (tip).

Jonny spent an entire day working on further tweaking the bracket so it would all fit back together. There wasn’t much to do in Turtle Bay except sit at the restaurant and use wifi and wander to all the tiny markets trying to piece together a decent food supply. Greens are not something very abundant around here. Baja is a desert, so there’s not much local produce to begin with, and these little towns are so remote and deliveries infrequent. There’s just not much variety or availability of anything. I need to learn more cabbage recipes.

TB Summer Moon

I think we spent 4 more days in Turtle Bay after we had wanted to leave. But finally the day came for us to depart. We were really anxious to get more south, still wearing fleece and uggs every night…no bueno!

TB JC Internet

We left Turtle Bay just before dawn. The sunrise was incredible (and gave Jonny a scare, thinking about the “Red Sky at morning, sailors take warning” saying – but it was really more of an orange, not red…

TB Sunrise leave

We had a lovely sail – plenty of wind and everything going in the right direction. It did get a little hairy at one point – huge seas and fishing buoys everywhere, but we got through it and on to more smooth sailing.

We anchored in Bahia Asuncion. There was only one other boat there aside from the local fishing pangas. We saw a lot of people come and go from Turtle Bay – and we were the only ones left when we finally departed. Kind of felt like we ‘missed the boat’ or something… But Asuncion seemed pleasant enough from the boat and I was anxious to check it out. The bay was full of hundreds of baby sea lions, who were VERY curious. They swarmed our boat the entire first night. I wasn’t entirely sure what they were, but there was definitely “something out there” making noises all night. In the morning we discovered they liked to swim around and through our anchor chain – often stopping to bite at it (later in the week they actually loosened our bridle).

Asun Sealions – VIDEO*******

Asuncion has cliffs that vaguely reminded me of Santa Cruz.

Asun Cliffs

There was a main ‘beach’ that panga fisherman landed on and seemed to have the least amount of swell. Jonny was not interested in going ashore the first day, he’d been working on the motor and after the long sail, he just wanted a day to chill on the boat. So he kindly dropped me off so I could explore town. It pretty much blew Turtle Bay away, making me think “Wow, Turtle Bay was a real dump!”. The main drag was clean and tidy and had well kept bougainvillea plants down the center.Asun Flowers I went into the first tienda I saw and bought a Jumex pina (the best pineapple juice around) and asked the woman where the internet café was (first things, first, right?). She told me and I understood, sort of. I headed off in the right direction and figured I’d find someone else to ask if I didn’t see it. I saw it, but the lure of what was up ahead had me pass it by. I figured I’d just walk to the end of town so I could see it all and then come back to it. Just before the end of town I noticed Campo Sirena – which I had read about in one of our cruising guides. Apparently the owner is an ex-cruiser who settled here to run this camp. It was rumored they had a shower and other facilities. I wandered over that way and noticed a nice view overlooking the water. I went down to take some picture of Summer at anchor (how many of these pictures do we need? Why can’t I stop taking them?). As I was admiring the view, a bearded man driving a red quad with a puppy in a shopping basket on the front came out my way. The tiny puppy was ferociously barking at me. Of course I went over to say hi. This is when I met Perry and Bonz. I had a short chat with Perry (which later I realized turned out to be over an hour). Perry was caretaking a house next to the camp. He used to work at the camp and filled me in on all the details. There was a washing machine, shower, fresh water hose, and wifi that could all be obtained at this magic little hut in the midst of the campground. I was ecstatic! We needed ALL those things.

Perry Bonz1

Perry is from Shasta CA and looking for a less stressful retirement situation here in Baja. He recently found Bonz, a 3 month old mutt who was abandoned at the dump – which is what often happens to litters of pups down here. She was apparently the only one of her litter not eaten by coyotes. She was desperately in need of a good home –and as it turns out, Perry came to realize he was desperately in need of a good puppy. Both of them are quite lucky.  Bonz was giving me flashbacks to Flaco, the puppy I rescued one year down at 9 Palms (where we used to go camping every December). Flaco was taken in by a Canadian family and (I hope) is romping in Vancouver to this very day.

Asun Mermaid

The next day I did a load of laundry over at the camp, while Jonny took a load of water back to the boat in our jerry cans. This is when I met Ricardo, a plump guy who was doing work at the camp. He was taking a break to check his phone at the little wifi/shower/laundry hut. We chatted for quite a while. He was a pretty friendly guy, young and speaking almost no English (at least to me…maybe he spoke more?). Most of what he wanted to talk to me about was if I had a lot of boyfriends and sex…and if I wore a bikini or thong. He tried to show me some porn on his phone, claiming it was a friend of his. I said I wasn’t interested and he laughed at how rojo (red) I got. Most of you who know me, know that sort of thing wouldn’t normally freak me out, but I was suddenly very aware that it has been a long time since I had to be mindful of my safety – and I was “not in Kansas anymore”… I decided that I would wait till Jonny came back before taking a shower in the bathroom with no lock on the door. I left the comfort of the magic hut to sit outside and wait for the washing machine (which was outside the hut) to finish up – and leave Ricardo and his phone in peace. When Jonny returned, Ricardo kindly offered to watch our dinghy – for a tip. We were not worried about the dinghy at all, but when someone offers you protection, for a price, it’s not wise to turn them down. I‘ve seen enough mafia movies.

Jonny and I had a brief walkabout to the end of town after our showers and found the ‘big’ grocery store. There was also a store that looked like it might carry hose clamps. Oh yeah, on the trip to Asuncion, although there was very little motoring, the 2 hose clamps holding our heat exchanger to the new bracket – sheared right off. More work needed to do something about the apparently extreme vibrations.

The following day we went ashore for more laundry (we had SO much) and I brought some leftovers in the event we ran into Perry – to help fatten up Bonz. Luckily we did run into Perry and Bonz right when we got to the magic hut. He suggested it might be nicer if we did our laundry in the machine at his place. What a sweet guy! We went over to the house/compound where he was staying – nice and secure with a great clothes line! Jonny and Perry got to talking about our heat exchanger situation and they got to rummaging through Perry’s stuff looking for parts to help with our vibration issues. I realized that Perry reminded me of Cliff (see Chula Vista Time post) – which endeared him even more. I ended up getting 2 loads of laundry washed and hung while we visited with Perry. He is full of fascinating stories and the day just melts by when you are with him. We all went to lunch at a great restaurant at the end of town. I loved the bathroom there…

Asun toilets

We spent the rest of the afternoon hanging out with Perry and finally made our way back to Summer.

The days went on and on with a number of fun visits with Perry and unfortunately several days of a bad headache (in which I did not get to visit with Perry! He was certainly a highlight of Asuncion Bay). Anyway I’m not sure entirely what happened, but 9 days went by… We kept saying we were going to leave, but the weather kept being off – either the wind was coming from the wrong direction, or the waves were huge. I think in the end I said at least 4 “goodbyes” to Perry.

Jonny had caught a tiny nondescript fish and a small mahi. We brought some to Perry (along with more leftovers for Bonz) and it turns out he was just on his way to have tacos at the best taco place in town. We went along and met Spike (from Hawaii) and ran into another gang at the taco shop. I finally met Shari who owns the camp at which we’d been so grateful to shower several times, and a nice couple from Canada traveling around Baja in their Subaru.

Asun Jonny FIsh

One last shower, using wifi to Skype with Mom and Dad, chatting with Spike, yet one more goodbye to Perry, and a final grocery shop and we were READY to depart. We were cleaning up, putting the dinghy onboard and I was cooking up a storm (beans, breakfast jars, all sorts of passage eats) until well after dark. We had planned to get a few hours sleep and then take off so that we could arrive roughly 38 hours later at our next destination in the daylight. By the time we’d finished, it was kind of too late to get any sleep, so we decided to just take off then and give ourselves a little extra leeway on the arrival end. It was kind of smart, but also kind of dumb (we were pretty exhausted already). Neither of us slept the first night, really. It was REALLY rough, big seas. I was glad it was dark because I was pretty sure I didn’t want to see how big the waves were. And cold. It was cold. We were bundled up. Still not far enough south!! This trip would help quite a bit with that, though.   A huge disappointment was that with our dinghy on deck we cannot use our whisker pole. This was a perfect trip for the whisker pole, too. We have yet to come up with a solution – dismantling the dinghy is such a hassle. We may try to find a different storage solution for the parts to make dismantling it easier. Right now it involves taking everything out of our aft lazarette and wedging in the 6 floorboard pieces, 2 rails and seat, and then putting everything else back in on top of that. Putting the dinghy together is that in reverse.

Mahi letgo

The next full day was a little calmer. But I found myself wondering how we were going to make it through another night – we were both completely exhausted. We contemplated just heaving to and both going down to sleep. We were 50 miles off shore, hadn’t seen land all day and not another boat in sight, it seemed like a safe thing to do. I went down to sleep and Jonny was going to hold out as long as he could before shutting it all down and coming to sleep, too. But after almost 4 hours I felt kind of OK – so I stood watch and Jonny got about 4 hours of good sleep. The 4 hours watch is a common amount of time when underway and luckily our VHF radio sounds an alarm every 4 hours. No, it’s not supposed to do that, but when it can’t find satellites to maintain lat/long position, it sounds an alarm – and when we use our chart plotter, the GPS doesn’t work on the VHF (someday we’ll fix that, it’s a wiring thing). So, we have a handy dandy watch alarm. It was quiet and the air was getting warmer and I did OK staying awake 11pm – 3am. I did wish Perry were there to regale me with some of his great stories, though. I missed him already!

We arrived in Bahia Santa Maria early afternoon on the 16th – only a few hours later than projected. There was only a powerboat anchored in the giant bay. There’s a tiny collection of lean-tos and pangas on the beach. There are mangroves and a giant long beach. The surf was pounding and we did not go ashore for 3 days. We watched the family from the powerboat try to take their dinghy ashore. They went back and forth behind the surf and finally gave up trying to land. Boats came and went and suddenly there were 5 other sailboats in the anchorage. It’s fun seeing other boats come in – when you’re down here, every boat is a cruising boat – there are no daysailors in this neck o the woods. So I nosily watch everyone come in and see what kind of ‘stuff’ they have on their boats, how they anchor, etc. Hey, it’s my only entertainment!

Today we finally (after much cajoling from me) went ashore. We had been watching the fisherman for days to see how they approached and got by the surf. But the distance makes things look quite a bit different than they are. We ended up going too far and too close to the rocks/ shallows and beached quite far from where we’d expected. We love our dinghy wheels! We dragged Peugeot down to the estuary. [OH, did I ever tell you how our dinghy got it’s name? It got this weird rust stain from being in the rafters of our garage – it looks like a lion – you know, the Peugeot logo? So yeah, that’s that, it stuck].

Puegeot towing

Anyway, at the mouth of the estuary, it all started making sense. We got the dinghy in and were able to motor up a ways. There were a couple of fish camps set in among the mangroves. It got really shallow a few times and we had to row – it was really low tide and we probably should do that when the tide is higher. Finally we gave up and just floated back down stream. I really wanted to go ashore and hike up a hill to see the other side– apparently this is a narrow strip of land and the ocean is just on the other side of the mountain. I tried to get out of the dinghy and drag it ashore in a really shallow spot. The shore turned to deep and suction-y mud. Jonny refused to get out and said we had to wait till the tide was higher and it wasn’t so shallow. So I pried my feet out of the muck and pulled the dinghy back out into the deeper water. I had packed some snacks so we ate and floated along slowly. We were both laughing at how we decided to get off our big boat, which we’d been on for 5 days straight, going really slow and are now spending hours in our little boat, going much slower. But it was kind of nice floating down among the mangroves and watching crabs on the bottom and all kinds of neat birds in the shallows.

SM JC Beach

We decided to check out the beach when we got to the mouth. We beached and started walking. There’s like 14 miles of pristine, untouched, completely deserted beach here. And if that wasn’t enough, the most AMAZING sand dollars I’ve ever seen. Hundreds and hundreds of them. The ocean was gorgeous, the shells amazing, the weather perfect, no one around anywhere. If there is a heaven and I was allowed to go there, that’s what it would be like for me.   Another dinghy did come ashore and I briefly crossed paths with a woman from Seattle on one of the big boats anchored out with us (yeah, they’re ALL big boats compared to us! Get used to it). SM Shark

SM Shells jh

SM beach windy — VIDEO******

So we were going to leave here 2 days ago and we don’t have a new departure date yet. I don’t know why I’m bothering to write that, because we also don’t have wifi yet and by the time we do, that sentence will be meaningless. I guess I’ll have to end here and start a new post for whatever is to come before we find wifi again.

 

 

Adios Chula Vista, Buenos Dias Mexico!

I’ve been hearing rumors of restlessness and potential mutiny in the Summer blog reader’s ranks. I have to apologize for taking so long to get another entry done. I don’t even remember how long it’s been. Now that we’re “underway” again, hopefully this will get more regular. You’d better get comfortable, this is going to be a long one.

What on earth have we been doing all this time?!? Go back to the last entry and read that paragraph of all the boat projects we had to do. That’s what we were doing, and then some!

Some highlights of our last weeks in Chula Vista (or, at least things I’m able to remember and have some photos for 😉 ):

We got our new rigging done – the job morphed from something huge and expensive to something far less involved and way cheaper. In the end we just beefed up our upper shrouds and replaced them with Sta-Lok hardware (easier to maintain & ourselves – although we had a great rigger who helped us do this and even taught us how – he was awesome, even if we did have to drive him around because he had no car…).

New Turnbuckles

Corroded BoomWe got our shade solution for the cockpit – that also morphed from hiring someone to design and make something that fit in with our existing dodger and sunbrella color and was extremely expensive – it turned in to “hey we found this manky, moldy canvas-y piece of stuff at Minney’s for $35 – let’s clean it up and put grommets in it and make it a boom-tent.

SunShade

We celebrated Jonny’s 40th birthday (with a flourless chocolate cake he requested, but I think I liked it more than he did). JC Makes JH CakeHalloween was potentially going to be a bust, but we pulled it off in the last hours. I had a penguin hat that Sandra, Kiyomi and Adin had given me and some black and white clothes, so I had a no-frills costume.

JC Halloween Penguin But what about the birthday boy?? We racked our brains and looked at costume ideas online. What goes with a penguin? A leopard seal was too complicated. I know! The JOKER!! Thanks to the many fine thrift stores in Chula Vista, we pulled it off. Some of my best makeup work to date.   We went out to The Galley restaurant and bar at the Marina. We were by far some of the youngest folks there. But the band was lively and we had a good night. I snuck Jonny into the women’s bathroom just after midnight to supervise the clean up.

JH Joker

I sold my car to a really nice fireman – who may even take her to Baja! I think Hondas know when you are going to sell them though – I remember my Accord’s sunroof and alarm system both stopped working the day after I put a for sale sign on it. Well, the CRV developed a cracked radiator for no reason at all, after a perfect track record for 3+ years. I couldn’t sell it as-is (given I was planning to ask above blue book, since it WAS such a great vehicle) – and I couldn’t not disclose the problem (I need all the good karma I can get!). So the day before it sold, I had it in the shop and got a new $300 radiator put in it. Ouch.

We did all our provisioning (I think I single-handedly responsible for some sales records at both Amazon.com and Vitacost.com) and re-organized all our stuff.  Somehow the boxes kept arriving, but yet we still seem to have plenty of space. All this stuff fits away and disappears somehow!! StuffReOrgWe secured a policy to cover Summer all the way to the tip of South America – it even covers hurricane damage or lightening strikes – the most probable things that could destroy stuff – and of course those things are covered at double the deductible. Insurance. Gah.

I managed to get 3 bookkeeping sessions in with a client in San Diego (who apparently didn’t replace me after I left, so we had some catch up to do). Not only did I love working for those guys, anyway – it was really nice to do some work that I not only knew how to do, but was actually good at (this boat stuff often seems bewildering).

I got a hair cut (thanks to a Groupon) and one last pedicure (thanks to Mom).

We had our final Thursday dinner with our Vietnamese friends at Pho Vinh. After thoroughly enjoying 9? 10? Thursdays in a row there, the Vietnamese woman giving me my pedicure informed me that place was “terrible”. She couldn’t believe I liked it (I didn’t bother to tell her how many times we’d been there – I didn’t get past “we went there last night”). Oh well, what do we gringos know??

FinalPhoVin

My on-going and quite baffling search for ice cream in Chula Vista finally ended at the nearby mall. I could barely contain my excitement as we made our way into the shop I had discovered on the internet. Unfortunately, the ice cream was terrible! CV Ice creamHow is that even possible?? I think no one ever goes there and the ice cream was stale. The ‘crunch’ in my whatever-it-was crunch, was merely a squish. Defeated for the last time, I finally broke down and bought a box of ice cream sandwiches that I knew I loved. Unfortunately, not having a freezer meant that we had to devour all 6 bars in one sitting. I have no regrets.6IceCreamBars

I got to have another visit with Mindy (my dear friend of, what? 20 years??), Paolo, Jake and Sammy. They generously shared their San Diego Zoo passes with us and we got to spend the day catching up and marveling at exotic animals. It was almost a tearful farewell, but then adorable 4 year old Sammy wrapped his arms around my legs, looked up and said, quite earnestly “I hope someday I can sleep with you!”. Apparently he’s big into snuggling. I hope he’s not emotionally scarred by how hard I laughed at that.

Norm and Barbara made the trek down to see us from Vista. They were our ‘bosses’ when we managed Surfside Apartments a few years back and we’ve always adored them. We had been hoping to get together with them since we arrived. Norm is 98 and Barbara 92, and they were both battling some health issues –but that didn’t stop them from coming to meet Summer and taking us to a wonderful lunch. We were so grateful we got to spend the afternoon with them the day before we planned to set sail!NormBarbSummerJC NormBarbDolphins

We planned to take off on Friday and sail out just outside San Diego Bay and anchor for the night, so I could get my ‘sea legs’ (or, stomach, as the case may be) before the long trip to Ensenada. I had a bunch of last minute running around to do (including getting an ATM card at our mailbox, and then shutting it down -talk about cutting it close!) and it just got too late to comfortably get out of the bay and be anchored before dark. So we decided to leave Saturday morning instead. We were READY, though! So there wasn’t much to do for the afternoon – this was a first! We actually chatted with our neighbors Gary and Hugh. It felt so leisurely! And I realized how bummed I was not to have had more time to shoot the breeze with all the great folks we’d met in Chula Vista. We were always running from one project to the next. Gary was our next-slip neighbor from AZ, so we only got to meet a couple times – super friendly guy and so excited about our trip that it reminded me to get excited about it. Hugh was a few boats up and was often there enjoying his music and cigars. I’m thinking of taking up cigars again, apparently they can create interesting opportunities. Due to a cigar-smoking friendship, Hugh had the opportunity to teach on a Coast Guard training vessel for 4 months – and making some stopovers in Australia and Antarctica. He was leaving Saturday as well. I asked him to get me a penguin. I was sad I didn’t get to say goodbye to Buffalo Bill (he’s from Buffalo, his name is Bill, how could I not?). He bought a big powerboat down our dock and it took him several weeks before he shared the news with his wife.   He’s such a nice, guy and we really enjoyed it every time he stopped to chat on the way to his boat. We even met his wife (who didn’t divorce him after she learned of the boat – but she is ordering some new home improvements without feeling the need for his permission!) and 2 of the 3 sons. And I just realized he was going to bring us citrus from his yard – now I guess we are going to die of scurvy. Damn. Anyway, now that the go-go-go / work-work-work is over, I think we shall have very fond memories of our time in Chula Vista.CV Rainbow

Since we were now leaving on a Saturday, I gave Erika [my friend of 32 years – wait after 32 years of friendship, you’re really just family at that point, right?] a heads up in the event she wanted to drive all the way down there to see us off. She’s a good sport – and she showed up bright and early. We had a little time to chat and then we shoved off. Of course she made me cry… but we pulled it together and away we went! I’m sure she’ll visit us in Mexico or some other country soon.

ErikaJc LeavingCV

One last sail through San Diego Bay and one last time past the warships, the Coronado Bridge, the ferry boats and all the folks going back and forth in their rental sailboats. To be honest, I think that was probably all I needed of San Diego Bay. It’s a lovely city, as cities go, but bay sailing makes me feel a little claustrophobic. There’s no place to GO. I was ready for the real ocean again.

At the end of the bay we stopped for a final fueling (and told this fuel attendant guy he was going to be famous).FinalFueling

We had some good wind and headed out for some real sailing. SO many boat out! Such a big change from Moss Landing in Monterey bay, where you seldom see many boats out, even on the most gorgeous of weekends (and when you do, it’s always the same 4). There was a regatta or something going on. There were a million sailboats out. We wanted to get a bit of a sail in, get the feel for it again, before dropping anchor in Zunigas, just outside the bay. People were zipping all around us – in their fancy sailboats with Kevlar sails and matching shirts. We tried waving at them all, but many of them literally turned their noses up at us. I guess cruisers (which we clearly are, with our solar panels, jerry cans, slow boat and non-matching shirts…) are just scum of the earth to the “real” sailors out there. It was really funny by the end, we were cracking up as we waved more and more enthusiastically at each boat as they passed by closely as possible in an obvious effort to be super efficient. I guess I’m glad all those hundreds of boats weren’t cruisers all headed in the same direction as us!! They all made a run for the mouth of the bay to squeeze back in there and tie up safely as the sun started waning.

Outside SD Bay LeavingCoronadoBridge

We finally anchored just before dark. It took some doing, as it was our first time with all-chain rode and a new snubber system. We made some final phone calls – since once we were in Mexico our phone plans were getting axed. It started to get cold, dark and realllly rolly. We purposely anchored way outside and I think it was even rollier there. I had been feeling great all day, thinking maybe the whole seasick thing just wasn’t going to happen this time, maybe I was ‘cured’ ? But as the cold set in I started feeling worse and worse. The thought of getting up at 2:00am to sail off to Mexico seemed an impossibility. All I wanted to do was crawl under a blanket and sleep forever. Hugh told me that one earplug was the answer to alleviating seasickness. I tried it. Now I was seasick AND annoyed that I could only hear out of one ear – so I took it out after about ½ hour. On the upside, I didn’t actually lose my lunch. I made split pea soup for dinner (with carrots and bacon) and it stayed where it belonged. I was more than ready to sleep shortly after that. We set our alarms for 2:00am – since I realized the only thing worse than getting up and leaving while feeling sick was spending another entire day feeling sick at that rolly anchorage.

***[This is probably a good time to go make yourself a sandwich]***

At 2:00 am I actually felt pretty good when I got up. It was cold and (surprise) very dark. We pulled anchor and motored off in the direction our chartplotter told us to. We skirted by a huge fishing boat and an even huger warship. Did I mention it was cold? I started feeling gross again. Shortly after we crossed the border (such a non-event when going by boat!) I cocooned myself under blankets and had a snooze.

I started to feel pretty good as the day warmed up and we were getting some sailing in. The wind and waves were all going in the right direction and we actually got to shut off the motor for a while.

It took us just about 12 hours to reach our destination. We approached Ensenada and found our marina (I had booked a slip in advance at Baja Naval marina) and docked Summer without incident. Well, OK, there was this container ship that wanted to enter the harbor at the same time as us. We learned this one in Long Beach – container ship wins. We backed off and followed them in. A nice Canadian fellow helped us as we were docking. Very strange slips with this crazy tidal action – the boats were all moving in and out quite a lot. It actually looked as if everyone was backing out of their slips as we entered the docks. We put 6 fenders on the dockside of Summer as she constantly was moving back and forth a great distance (I think some of them got a little crushed- but they sure look nice, thanks to the fender covers Mom made us!). You had to time your exits from the boat onto the dock so you could actually reach it.

SummerEnsenada

I went up to the gates, which required magnetic key cards to enter and exit. I called to a security guard and then panicked…I don’t speak Spanish! Or do I? A little. I was maybe a little delirious. I pointed down to Summer and said, in French, “Arriver” and then I remembered how to say “keys” in Spanish – llaves? Por favor? He got it, and trotted off to bring me an envelope with my name and a key card. We secured Summer and relaxed a little bit. We were too tired to do much, but we had a little walk around the immediate area and after sufficiently convinced it was too touristy for us, we settled on a very nice, touristy restaurant for dinner. It was a wonderful meal, although my margarita cost more than my entrée (but it was real mango!).   We had crepes with dulce de leche and ice cream for dessert. That was our celebration for making it to Mexico! We went back to crash early.

This was my view upon waking the next morning.  That is the biggest flag I’ve ever seen!

Ensenada Morning

The next morning was to be our “Check In” process. Everything we heard and read about checking into Mexico with a boat seemed arduous, confusing and very time consuming. We were apprehensive about the whole thing. I had collected as much information as possible, along with many multiple copies of forms we may need, our passports, engine serial numbers, boat documentation, etc. The nice folks at Baja Naval helped us put all those papers in order, making separate piles for each of the offices we’d need to visit: Immigration, Port Captain, Customs, etc. All in all the whole process took only 2 ½ hours and cost $126 – it wasn’t nearly as bad as all the hype. The nice thing about Ensenada is that all the offices are in the same building, actually the same room. You just go from window to window – and with each fee we had to pay you have to go to the bank window, pay it, get a receipt and go back to the other window to complete that process. We heard some stories of other countries where each of the offices and the place to make payments can be miles apart, close for lunch, etc. etc. I’m sure we’ll run into that someday, but this time we lucked out.

This was outside one of the many farmacias we saw, catering to poor Americans who can’t afford drugs (primarily Viagra, I guess!):

FarmaciaStick

We spent the next few hours trying to talk to someone at a TelCel office to see if a phone plan was feasible (it wasn’t, so far) and trying to change some dollars into pesos. I then spent the afternoon preparing for our upcoming 3 day journey to Turtle Bay. I baked a lasagna which would provide 3 meals, I made us some ‘breakfast jars’ (Thanks to the FoodBabe) – which are great to grab on the go – oat groats, oats, raisins, cinnamon, strawberries, blueberries, pineapple, goji berries, hemp seeds, all soaked overnight in pistachio milk (can’t be bothered with dairy milk these days- so glad I brought my blender). Really hearty!BreakfastJars I also baked some yummy chocolate chip almond flour muffins and hard boiled some eggs. Not knowing what the conditions would be, I wanted to have plenty of easy-access foods to keep us going.

Tuesday morning we leisurely prepared for our 72+ hour trek down to Turtle Bay. I had my last shower until who-knows-when in the lovely pink marble showers at Baja Naval.

Ensenada Shower

Leaving our slip proved as near-disastrous as Jonny thought it might be. I saw a very easy way to get out and I wasn’t worried – there was a huge, wide open pair of slips diagonally behind us. I was sure I could easily back into that (prop walk would drag us right there) and then just go forward and out. Easy peasy! But Jonny thought backing up down the entire fairway to the harbor made more sense. Although I was quite confident my way was better, I started to worry about the consequences if I was wrong. I was terrified to back all the way out, as Summer does not back up well. But I tried it. Instead of the wind keeping the bow straight, as suggested, prop walk kept pulling the boat to port and in no time we were backing in sideways to an empty slip three down and on the same side we started. Not sure how many of the other boats heard me swearing, but it was probably all of them. I ended up having to do a back-and-fill in the middle of the fairway (for non boaters – this is like a 3 point turn in a tight spot with a car, only with wind, current and no brakes to spin around an 18,000 lb. tub containing everything you own…). Somehow I pulled it off without hitting any other boats but we do have a little new scrape from one of the docks. And I have a renewed vow to try to trust myself more and not be afraid of being wrong. I’d rather learn from my own mistakes – seems like a better way to build experience and confidence, no? (and why has it taken me so long to get this?!).

So, we set off in a rush of adrenaline. There was a giant cruise ship in port – biggest thing I ever saw. I think we were about 50 ft from it as I noticed the sign on it that said “Keep 50 yards away”. Oops. We headed around the cruise ship to the next marina up which supposedly had a fuel dock. I basically parallel parked between a ginormous power boat and a huge catarmaran, and that went well. But alas, it was not actually the fuel dock, as this marina had no fuel dock. We were misinformed. The only fuel in all of Ensenada was clear across the far end of the harbor – back past where we came from.   We’d used about 1/8 of a tank on the trip down and we still had 2 jerry cans…so we decided to just hit the big blue watery road and hope for wind. Neither of us is much for backtracking.

Cruise Ship

As we left Ensenada and kept looking back, all we could see was the cruise ship. I am pretty sure cruise ships are visible from outer space.LeavingEnsenada

I was feeling a bit iffy, and it was chilly, but I was trying to pretend I felt fine. I got a craving for popcorn, so I made a batch with butter and nutritional yeast and ate way too much. I learned that you do not want to tighten the lid on the pressure cooker –it won’t pop!

JCPopcorn

We watched sunset and made our turn south-er. So. Many. Stars. Really gorgeous. But still, waaaay too cold. Night watch required all our foul weather gear. It took me a full 4 hours under blankets until I warmed up after my first watch. We did a combination of sailing and motoring. We daringly set up our whisker pole (for like, the 3rd time ever) in the dark on the first night. Kind of crazy, but we were dead downwind and the wind was way too light. Eventually we had to take it down and just motor. I started to get plenty of reading in again. I started “Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean” – and no, there isn’t a punch line.   Turns out a number of Jews escaped the Spanish Inquisition by pretending to be Christian and making it big in the New World. I had no idea that Jamaica was actually pretty much owned by the Jews. Still, no punch line.   I got a couple of other books going as well. I love my Kindle!

It warmed up in the day and everything was calm and pleasant. A little too calm. We had to motor some. 2nd night was also very cold, but not as. We did our shifts, kind of however made sense rather than sticking to a real schedule. It seemed to work out. Jonny tried out some of his new fishing gear. The strangest looking lure caught us a small yellow fin tuna within 5 minutes!

Yellowfintuna Jonny managed to bonk it to death with a baseball bat – something that was a bit traumatic for me to watch. I apologized to the fish several times. He tied it by the tail and we dragged it for a bit to let it bleed out. Then came the filleting. The freshest ahi I’ve ever seen! Holding a piece of freshly cut fillet in your hand, you can feel it twitching still. That was pretty creepy. TunaFilletsWe both noted how happy we were to have our fish cleaning table in lieu of the BBQ we started off with. No blood in the cockpit! I seared the ahi in sesame oil with garlic and ginger for dinner that night – and for lunch the next day – it was delicious.

Thursday was Thanksgiving. It was a very nice day and not a drop of wind. After watching the knotmeter register 0.0 far too many times, we decided to just drop the sails and drift for a couple of hours – just to give ourselves a break. The water temp was 70 degrees and we decided to jump in for a little clean refreshment. I’d never swam in water over a mile deep before!! It seemed much colder than 70, so it was a really quick dip.   Our new swim ladder worked great – so glad to have that now.

TDayFeast

I made sauce from cranberries I had stashed in the fridge – but since I had no orange to put in it, I threw in a couple pieces of dried pineapple – yummy! I roasted a pumpkin to make pie. Or custard I guess, since I didn’t make a crust – I just baked it in a pie plate.  I was a little worried it would slop over the pie plate, since it was a bit rolly and our stove doesn’t gimbal well. But it solidified in time – it was just a bit thicker on one side. It was gorgeous weather and the wind picked up for a nice, quiet sail. I prepared the rest of our holiday feast before dark. I had some sliced turkey that I steam heated in the oven so we could pretend it was just sliced, made mashed potatoes, green beans and a box o’ gravy. Aside from the glaring and heartbreaking absence of stuffing, it ended up looking like a real Thanksgiving dinner! We didn’t get disgustingly stuffed though, which was good because there was no place for a walk.   We enjoyed our custard right out of the pie plate and managed to stop ourselves at eating half of it.

TdayCustard

One more night of stilted sleep and fighting to stay awake at all the wrong hours. It was warmer still, though and I was grateful for that. I got my StarWalk app working and started learning my constellations again. The Southern Cross is still not visible yet. We had great wind for most of the night, and didn’t need to motor. It was very slow going, but at least it was consistent for a long time and quite comfortable and pleasant.

Friday, as we were passing Isla Cedros the wind finally pooped out. We motor sailed again as we made our approach to Turtle Bay. Lots of fishing boats and buoys to look out for. It definitely felt like we were about to be somewhere.

We watched the water temperature slowly rise to 80 degrees as we got closer and closer. I had to put shorts on. Things were really looking up!

Turtle Bay is a huge bay and a small village. From the land-based perspective, Turtle Bay is really hard to get out to – it’s pretty remote.   We saw 5 other sailboats anchored as we made our way in. We anchored far out from everyone. I was nearly blinded by exhaustion as we were coming in, but somehow once we anchored, I got a second wind. We covered up the mainsail and then I cleaned the entire boat inside. I couldn’t put the foul weather gear away fast enough! We had a ridiculous amount of dishes – from thanksgiving, a breakfast and a lunch. I cleaned the bathroom, vacuumed and I even cleaned the inside of my oven. The best part about living on a boat is you can do such a thorough cleaning in well under an hour. Everything was tidy and ready for whatever it was we were doing next.

TurtleBayLandView

We jumped in the water and had a wash. It was refreshing, just this side of being too cold.   We watched other boats coming and going and had a nice steak dinner. We were fast asleep before 8pm. It’s a really pleasant anchorage – not very rolly, but you don’t forget you’re on a boat.

We had a very lazy morning yesterday. Poor Jonny is struggling to catch up (he may have gotten less sleep than me on this trip, then again I’m pretty experienced at functioning on sleep deprivation). He napped in the morning and I got everything out to put our dinghy together. I was feeling pretty good! We got the dinghy launched and ready for a trip ashore.

We landed the dinghy and pulled it up on shore with our new dinghy wheels. dinghylanded wheelsOn the beach we met a gringa lounging with her dogs. She came just to visit for a few months and learn Spanish. That was over a year ago and she still can’t speak any Spanish. Although it appears she learned how to purchase ballenas easily enough (giant beers) and she had a couple of fine looking dogs (golden retriever-ish- I ‘ve always had a soft spot for them). She shared a little local knowledge with us before we headed off to explore.

TBGrafitti  TB Beachbay

We had a walkabout in the ‘town’. It’s just a lot of dusty, dirt roads, random little arbarrotes (groceries) shops, among homes, trash and scraggly dogs. We found what is supposed to be the biggest grocery store, it seemed to have some essentials. But we are still well stocked for the most part, so I didn’t get anything. TurtleBayView fromTownTB TownAt the other end of town we visited the church and then up to check out a restaurant that had wifi. There we met Adrian – born and raised in Turtle Bay, and the brother of the restaurant owner. He had been working in La Paz taking tourists diving – so his English is excellent. We learned a lot about Turtle Bay and it’s history. The woman and her dogs wandered up and after meeting Adrian it appears they may have a plan to help each other with Spanish/English. It was getting late in the day and we wanted a swim before it got too cold. So we said our adios’ and agreed to come back in the morning for breakfast. I’m hoping I can get this blog posted with the wifi there, as well… {wasn’t opened for breakfast as hoped – but made it here for lunch and got to chat with a lovely Australian couple who have been cruising for 8 years. Great stories!}

It’s still too cold for us here. We need to forge ahead South. I’m wearing sweatshirts and uggs at night still. Our rough plans from now are to leave here tomorrow for Asuncion Bay – which is rumored to have surf. There are a couple more spots we will stop before Magdelena Bay. From Mag Bay? Who knows, probably make a quick stop in Cabo for supplies (and possibly a very expensive night in a marina?) and head over to mainland. Stay tuned!!!

Chula Vista Time

Somehow we’ve been here in Chula Vista for quite some time. 3 weeks? 4 weeks? It’s just over 4. The only way I can gauge is that we’ve eaten at our new favorite, cheap and delicious Vietnamese noodle house every Thursday since we got here and it’s been 5 times. It’s not a plan, it just happened to work out that way (OK, well it is a plan NOW).

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So much of what has been going on here, after getting our bearings and adjusting somewhat, involves working on the boat or visiting with family and friends.

There’s a big list of projects which includes, but is not limited to: replacing and reconfiguring rigging – installing rope clutches, cleats, LED lights on mast, new way to secure jib halyard (we’ve nixed internal halyards, thereby removing the need to pull the mast and saving us lots of $), fix the gooseneck, get the mainsail modified so we can actually reef properly (they didn’t make it right on our new ‘bargain’ sail…) check/fix spreaders,

remove/inspect and possibly replace chainplates, ChainPlatesrepair/fix issue causing galvanic corrosion at foot of mast, getting a bimini (shade structure), put a coat of cetol on the teak, install some kind of fish cleaning station, stocking up on spare parts and supplies, fixing the leaky bow water tank, getting more chain for the anchor, getting another propane tank and install mounting for it, tweak some of our systems based on shakedown lessons, finding a boarding ladder that works, fixing the galvanic corrosion between the solar panels and the arch frame, getting an anchor bail, rewiring our radios so the VHF and Chartplotter both have AIS at the same time (they can’t now, and we’re not sure why), see if we can get our PC program to talk to the chartplotter, Getting screens for hatches, getting fans, wiring power into the pedestal (right now the CPT autopilot is kind of hokily wired up), rebuild saltwater pump, devise quick disconnect system for Monitor Windvane, paint corroded parts of engine, install some sort of heat shields around stove (the wood is getting increasingly black and is bound to catch fire one of these days. Whose design was that?), get insurance for out of the country, figure out what to do with Verizon plans, stock up the first aid kit, learn how to use the sextant, clean up and sell my car….

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That’s the bulk of it, mostly. I’ve been trying to write this blog for some time now, and we’ve actually crossed a number of these things off the list. But the guy we hired to do our shade/bimini and screens seems to be AWOL. We were warned he was sloooooow, but we really wanted to believe he could finish by Nov 10 like he said he could. We hounded him for a bit, but he last promised to come at a certain time last week and he didn’t. No call. No show. And I thought people in Santa Cruz were flaky!!! We gave up on him (he never even charged our deposit). We did find a large finished piece of canvas-y plastic stuff at Minney’s Yacht Surplus (used boat parts mecca) that I was able to get the majority of the mold stains off of – and we have ordered a grommet punch tool, so we can make holes in it to tie it down. It will drape over our boom like a big tent and shade the cockpit. It will do for now until maybe we find someone to make us something more fitted in Mexico? But, as we learn again and again, “There’s nothing more permanent than a temporary fix”, right?!?

RiggerWe do have a rigger helping us out. Unfortunately between the time we found him and were ready to work with him, he took a “real” job and doesn’t have as much time for us. But he’s a super nice guy who’s happy to share his knowledge with us and give Jonny that boost of confidence he needs to do most of the work himself. He will be helping us replace our upper and back stays. His review of our rig is that we are in great shape (except for the gooseneck – the part that holds the boom onto the mast. That’s a mess/long story) – and that we seem to know more about what we are doing than most people he meets who go cruising. That is nice to hear!

We realized that our departure date of November 10 is highly unlikely at best. Just too much to do and the amount of stress we are feeling at this somewhat arbitrary date is unhealthy! We are supposed to be having fun, right?!?! Not so much. So we are going to give ourselves to the end of November. We will probably leave a bit before then. Can’t complain about having to be here longer, the marina is just wonderful and we’ve met so many great people. We could spend all day chatting with nice folks walking by.

So what else have we been doing in the last 4+ weeks?! The idea of having a gathering with our immediate families became a reality. What started out as a vague idea of an afternoon party, turned into 11 days of reunions, fun, visiting, eating and being merry. It started with the arrival of Becky – BeckyJenn Dolphinsmy cousin and best friend since before we were born. Somehow it’s been 7 years since we were together. Emailing nearly every day is nice, but nothing beats face time. We had a great trip up the coast / beach day ending with Korean food and amazing gelato in La Jolla. JonnyBecky LaJollaI spent a few nights in her hotel so we could make the most of the few days. Weird to be sleeping in a building on land! We also spent some time running around preparing for the upcoming festivities and visitors.

My parents rented a house in Chula Vista – it was very large and more than a little bizarre. The décor was interesting in a cartoon-meets-Ikea-meets the San Diego Zoo meets a fun house sort of way, with sloppy paint jobs and weird paintings thrown in. Also they forgot to clean up the yard – it was full of debris, broken mirrors, strange furniture and what not. Lots of what not. BUT, it was clean and roomy and had a great kitchen and living area for all of us to gather and eat and visit. It also had a washer and dryer. Yes- we did about 5 loads of laundry. No quarters required!

Jonny Cliff 998

Dee Diane

Aside from my Mom and Dad, many of our other favorite people came to town for extended visits: My sister with my niece, Kiyomi and nephew Adin, my Aunt Rosie (Becky’s Mom) came out from Pittsburgh, Uncle Art and Aunt Lisa from Utah (or Arizona, depending), Jonny’s dear friends (surrogate parents) Cliff and Dee came down from Fort Bragg, Jonny’s sister Laraina, brother-in-law Jerry and niece Bella came in from Long Beach area.

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Monki Jenn and Kiyomi

 

Sandra on Summer

We had planned to have our gathering in the park right next to the Marina. It worked out to be a great spot. On party day we also got to see Jonny’s Mom, his brother Zac, sister-in-law Renee and niece Paulyne and nephew Cole trekked down from Long Beach, my dear friends – Erika (and Einstein, the dog), and Mindy, Paolo and their boys, Jake and Sammy. Mindy Jenn on summer

Jake Sammy

It was quite a party!! I don’t think I’ve had that many people I loved in one place at one time, ever! And humbling to think they all came just because we asked. At first I was a little overwhelmed- wondering how on earth I was going to keep track of everyone all day… But it worked out and I felt like we got to visit with everyone – during and after the day. My Mom did a great job of listening to what I wanted to see happen as far as food and set up – we had a huge spread we picked up from Whole Foods catering (no they did not pay me to say that) and a tent and tables/chairs, real plates and napkins (not as much waste!). I think this is pretty much the closest thing to a wedding my parents will ever get to give me…it was wonderful and I’m SO grateful we got to have it.

JJ and kids

Cliff managed to get everyone’s attention at one time and made a really beautiful toast for us. Everyone gathered around and it was amazing to be surrounded by so much love and support! Especially when I suspect a lot of people think we might be a little bit crazy for what we are doing… but hey, it’s our family and friends, they all know we’ve always been crazy, so I guess they aren’t so surprised by this latest manifestation.

Adin Kiyomi on dock

Art on boat

The day after the party, Jonny got to take Laraina, Jerry and Bella out for a sail Bella at Helmand I spent a day tramping around San Diego with Mom & Dad, Sandra and kids and Rosie and Becky. Kiyomi Adin TrolleyI got to spend some good beach time with Sandra and the kids (Adin’s first time body surfing! And Kiyomi and I in our skivvies…). There were also way too many trips to In and Out Burger – a novelty for many out-of-towners.

In n Out family

 

Rosie Jenn INOM&D InnOutMy parents stayed on a bit longer still and we got to take them out for a sail one day. We went into San Diego and got a guest slip for a few hours so we could go out to lunch. We had a gorgeous sail home, arriving just after sunset. Dad Arafat  Jonny got to scare the hell out of my parents in a CVS – I was clear across the store when I heard my Dad scream…  Rest assured, someday, there will be revenge.Jonny maskWe also got to poke around Old Town San Diego and downtown Chula Vista. It was nice to spend some time just relaxing with them!M&D old Town

Mom Jonny OT postcard

Jonny napping 998

M&D J&J Summer2

The biggest bummer is that everyone left at different times, different days. That’s a LOT of good-byes. By the time my parents were the last to leave, I kind of fell apart. It took us a couple of days to come down. Actually, I think we came down hard immediately and it took a couple of days to recover from the crash! It was so wonderful to have everyone around for a happy occasion – and then suddenly we’re all alone again, in a place that doesn’t feel like home (except for when we’re on Summer) with an overwhelming list of projects to figure out and accomplish. We may have become a little bit cranky.

But this past week we got ourselves back on track and dove back into all these projects. I have my fantasy routine that I would like to see happen every day while we’re here – I get up, go to the gym and work out, shower, make a nice healthy breakfast, accomplish great amounts of work in time to have a swim in the pool, soak in the hot tub and then make dinner (Unless it’s Thursday, in which case I go to Pho Vinh and have a #22 with egg rolls and lemonade) and have a relaxing evening . I may possibly have had one or 2 of those days, and many of those things happen in some fashion each day. I may not always get to work out. Or shower. Or make a good breakfast. Or swim/soak. But it’s nice to have goals!

At the end of this week we will celebrate Jonny’s big 4-0 on Halloween. Costumes to be determined. Nothing better to make me homesick for Santa Cruz than Halloween! I don’t imagine the costume party at The Galley at the Marina is going to come close to Pacific Ave. in Santa Cruz. Someone send me pictures, please?!?!

In other news, The Baja Ha Ha is about to take off this week. That is a sailing rally where about 200 boats all zoom down the coast of Baja to Cabo San Lucas. Partying and living it up the whole way. We’ve met lots of great people who are joining in those festivities and gearing up to take off soon. I can’t tell you how many times other cruisers or sailing folks NOT doing the Ha Ha (in stores or other places) ask us, with a big, excited smile “So, are you doing the Ha Ha?” and we say “No, we want to go at our own pace and just relax and do our own thing” and they look at us with relief and say “It’s better that way… The Ha Ha is just so crowded and they don’t take time to stop for very long at places on the way down”.

Jonny at work

I must admit to being a little trepidatious about leaving the country (for good-ish) and relinquishing the ease of communications and ability to almost instantly get whatever we need in the way of parts or food or whatever. I hope it’s like when we left Santa Cruz –wherein it turned out to be far less scary than I imagined it could be. I’m also hoping we can remember how to have fun and learn how to switch off this GO mode where we drive ourselves crazy with pressure and stress. That’s not what this is supposed to be! Right?! You guys would rather read about interesting adventures, right? Don’t worry, it’s on my To Do list.

 

Schooner or Later

Channel Islands to San Diego

OK I’m a little behind, so I will try to get caught up. I don’t want to spoil the ending of this entry, but I’m writing from the comfort of our new slip in Chula Vista…

I last left you at Santa Cruz Island, no? We got up at 3:30am and prepared the boat for a long day trip to Catalina Island. The wind had calmed down and it was, well, dark. We headed off and I got to see the dark mass of Anacapa Island as we approached. I had really wanted to see it in the daylight, but, you can’t have everything. I wasn’t feeling the greatest (not seasick, thankfully – more misery of feminine persuasion) so I had a lie down after we’d gotten on track and were on our way. It was pretty rough and when I finally got up and looked up into the cockpit, it looked kind of scary out there. REALLY big waves following and passing us. I had a split second of “I’m not going out there! Can I just go back and lie down until we get there??” But I put on my shoes (it was pretty wet in the cockpit) and came out. We had a nice strong tailwind pushing us along, but nothing overpowering. I took the helm as we decided whether to reef or not. It took me a little while to get used to the giant waves picking us up – and I had a little reminder that I’m vaguely afraid of heights. We decided not to reef and ended up just rolling up the jib and sailing with the main. We were making 6+ knots (sometimes 9 going down the face of a wave!) and were able to stay on course better without the jib noisily begging for more wind. Unfortunately we were not quite downwind enough to use our new whisker pole. Someday!

There was not much to see on most of this trip, just a lot of waves, a weather buoy and a dead bird. This would be a good time to fill you in on all the stuff we kept hearing on the VHF. Ever since passing Point Conception, and the farther south we’ve gone, there have been more and more radio transmissions such as this:

“Attention white hulled power vessel to our starboard side. This is the US warship 3715. You are in an area of live fire. You must turn to starboard immediately and go 13 knots away”

OR

General Securité announcement from a warship giving coordinates of an area to be avoided as there would be “live fire”. Kind of unsettling. Never heard anything like that up in our little bubble world of Monterey Bay!

The day got nicer and nicer and the waves got less and less scary. We ended up using Betty (the Monitor Windvane – aka “Steady Betty”) for a good part of the journey. Up until then we’ve been so enamoured with Moses – our CPT Autopilot -that we hadn’t hooked up Betty. It’s a bit of a process to get her hooked up (getting a quick connect set up is on the list for San Diego projects) – but in big seas and wind, her tracking and movement is very nice and gentle. Moses is all about keeping us on course and getting us to the Promised Anchorage – and SO easy to use – turn him on, pop the wheel in and flip the ‘hold course’ switch. Go about your business doing something other than steering. He requires almost no power. LOVE him. But Betty uses no power and actually does an excellent job keeping us on course as well. LOVE her! I guess we are lucky to have 2 such great crew members. They never complain, either. We do have to remember to look up now and then to make sure we aren’t going to hit another boat or something. Not sure how we’d do without autopilots though – I got about 2 hours in me and I start to get distracted and wander off course. Jonny’s got about 5 minutes in him before he turns on Moses to go do something else (as you might guess, I’m usually the one at the helm).

Cherry Cove

It was just beautiful as we approached Catalina Island. It is a beautiful island. It is also populated and there were a lot more boats than we’d seen in a while. And cell phone signals and such. Yes, we were getting back to civilization. Kind of exciting, and a little sad, too. My iphone got so over-excited after a few weeks of no signals- that I thought it was going to catch fire. I finally just stuck it in the fridge and ignored it.

Summerat Catalina

As we approached the anchorages at Two Harbors, Jonny said “Was that someone calling us on the radio?”. Of course not, I thought! But sure enough, Ken and Michelle – who we’d met at Johnsons Lee on Santa Rosa Island were hailing us. They were anchored at Cherry Cove and saw us sailing by. They said we should call the harbor and request a mooring at Cherry Cove near them. It looked nice enough so we did just that. The harbor assured us that we would get some assistance with the mooring. After doing loops in the wrong mooring field wondering where our help was, we discovered we were not in fact in Cherry Cove. We zipped over to the next cove and saw our guy in a little powerboat waiting for us. We following him through what is basically a parking lot for boats. Catalina MooringlotWe found our mooring ball, C8 labeled “Destiny”. The kid in the boat who was supposed to be helping us was clearly already clocked out. I got us up to the mooring ball and he told Jonny to grab this buoy with a tall stake coming out of the top. It had all kinds of lines attached to it. Jonny tried to affix one of them to our bow cleat. The guy said nothing, until finally: “Drop everything and circle around while I fix all these lines”. Apparently something wasn’t done right –and we missed the tutorial on “How to Get a Mooring At Catalina Island”. We did a loop around and tried again, Jonny felt sure he knew what to do this time. He fumbled with it again, and secured the bow line. But then we discovered there is another line that you are supposed to walk aft and secure to the back of the boat. By the time unhelpful punk told us this, we were in danger of hitting the giant power boat next to us – so he bumped us with his boat and secured a line to our aft to pull us out of danger. We finally got all secured and the kid zipped off without another word. I went up to the bow to look at what-all was going on up there. I heard someone yelling “Don’t worry! I got the whole thing on video!”. It was Ken, we were just a row behind and a few boats back from them.

Ken swam over with a ziplock bag containing a booklet about Catalina Island. There were the missing instructions on how to pick up a mooring… Who knew?!? He invited us to come over for a drink after we’d settled in. They were going to make a big trip to San Diego leaving at 4:00am the next morning.

The water was so clear we could easily see the bottom 10 ft below us. And it was SO warm. We had to jump in. We snorkeled around the boat and looked at this mooring situation and tried to go to the bottom. I cannot go to the bottom EVER. Apparently MY bottom is a PFD. Just call me Titanic Butt. It is unsinkable. No matter how hard I try to dive, my butt pulls me straight to the surface. I demonstrated this for Jonny, who was watching underwater. He started laughing so hard I thought he was going to drown.

After our swim, Jonny decided he was too beat to get back in the water and swim over to Ken and Michelle’s boat (our dinghy was not inflated) and didn’t want to swim back in the dark. I did want to at least bring them some muffins for their trip. I had baked some chocolate chip cherry muffins the day before and they came out darn tasty, if I do say so myself.muffins I put them in the ziplock and in a dry bag, which I strapped to my bathing suit top. I had a nice swim/snorkel over to Ken and Michelle’s boat. And what a gorgeous boat it is – Hylas 49. The back is all steps and as I climbed up, Ken offered me the shower handle with a nice warm water rinse off. He said to use as much as I wanted – they had just made 150 gallons of water that day! I just wanted to wish them a safe journey and offer up the muffins, but Ken was so hospitable (boatbitable?) that I was lured in with a towel and seat in the cockpit and offers of beverages. Michelle came up and we all chatted for a while and then they invited me down for a boat tour. This is their 4th boat over the years and clearly they put their hearts into the design and subsequent care. It was simply gorgeous – like what you’d see at a boat show. They showed me some pictures of their early days of sailing back on their Ranger 33 – they’ve had some wild adventures down in the Channel Islands over the years. They insisted on giving me a lovely bottle of pinot grigio to take back. It just fit in the dry bag. It was starting to get dark as I donned my snorkel and dry bag and jumped off the back of their boat.   I heard the folks who’d just moored next to them asking “What IS she doing?!”.

It was a little on the chilly side when Jonny was helping drag me back up into the boat (boarding ladder solution – on the list!). I rinsed off and put some warm comfy clothes on and made our lasagna and salad. It was nice and stable being moored, something we very much appreciated after 4 nights of being anchored in gale force winds. We slept well and woke up ready for our next big adventure – right into the mouth of the second busiest seaport in the United States – Long Beach. We had to cross shipping lanes and an area marked “Caution Zone” on the chart. It was a beautiful day and the seas were peaceful. But we did have to motorsail. I took advantage of civilization’s luxuries and had a nice long talk with my sister on the way over.

Jonny homecoming

As we started getting close, we noticed we were on a collision course with a giant container ship. Altering our course seemed like a good idea. We zig-zagged back and forth to avoid this container ship and a giant oil tanker after that. We finally fell in behind both of them to enter into the harbor. It was hard to get my head around the fact that every little box on that container ship was actually going to be a truck on the highway. Tanker and ContainerWe passed a huge Princess cruise ship and the Queen Mary on the way in to Shoreline Marina. We docked at the office and went in to get a slip. They wanted all kinds of information and paperwork, blood samples, fingerprints (ok, not really). And it was expensive! Close to $40/night. We got stuck in the back with a bunch of derelict boats. We were right near a huge beach and the bathrooms/showers were really nice there (realized it had been 9 days since a real shower). But we were excited to be at a dock again and get to visit with Jonny’s family.   Unfortunately, I had a bit of a migraine (too much sun? too much container-tanker excitement? Not enough water?) and 2 days on the water had worn me out a bit. I was in no shape for visiting – wanted to shower, do laundry and sleep. So that’s what I did. Jonny went out with his sister-in-law Renee and the kids –and visited with his brother –and spent the night at their house. I was doing laundry until almost 11pm, so I didn’t get that early sleep I’d hoped for – but we had 4 loads of clean clothes. It was my first time staying on the boat alone. I became acutely aware of the fact there was no way to lock myself in (yes, it’s on the list for San Diego!).

Summer in the City

The next morning Jonny got my car, which had been darkening the driveway at Zac and Renee’s house for several weeks now. He picked me and then his Mom up and headed over to Ma n’ Pa’s Grocery – Zac and Renee’s awesome store. Zac made us all whatever we wanted for breakfast. I thing migraines make me hungry – I ate an entire 4 egg omelet. We then caravanned over to the park to watch 5 year old Paulyne score the only goal in her first-ever soccer game! Paulyne Post GameWe had several hours before Cole was to have a soccer game – so we convinced everyone to come hang out on Summer. It had been a couple weeks since we bought groceries, but I scrounged up some snack and we hung out on Summer. I forget which one of us had the brilliant idea to keep the kids from getting bored…but we hoisted Cole up to the top of the mast and let him hang out there for a while.Cole Up Mast Paulyne got hoisted just above the boom and that was far enough for her! Back to the park we watched the 10 year old boys pounding the field in a victorious game for Cole’s team. Renee had to work all day and missed out on the fun, but that didn’t stop her from whipping up an amazing short rib and pasta feast for us for dinner. Jonny had some ‘quality time’ rough-housing with Cole and Paulyne until I finally dragged him away, half asleep.

Zac

Sunday was work day – get the boat ready for the last 2 legs of this shakedown cruise. I don’t know why, but boat time seems to go by faster than normal time. Somehow it took us all day to get done what we needed to. But we got to have one last evening with Zac, Renee, Cole and Paulyne out for dinner.  When we returned to the boat, I almost stepped on something on the deck.  It turned out to be 2 Snickers bars rolled up in plastic wrap – with 2 napkins.  One said “Have a Snicker’s trip. Curtiss”  Curtiss is a guy who lives at the end of the dock we were on.  Jonny talked with him for quite a while, I guess he’s been living there for 45 years.  He wears a face mask as he’s very sensitive to scents – but I’m pretty sure he smiled at me a couple times…  It was a very sweet gesture, or, possibly a little creepy – I mean, what exactly IS a “snicker’s trip”.  We checked the wrappings carefully before ingesting and I’m pretty sure Jonny didn’t hallucinate (I didn’t eat any – not because I was afraid!).

SnickersnoteSnickers

Jonny snickers

We were up before dawn on Monday ready to head out on a long day to Oceanside. Got to see a nice sunrise over the beach before we left.  LongBeach sunrise Leaving Long Beach was decidedly more calm and peaceful than the tanker and containership filled entrance. We did see a few big ships at anchor as we passed out the jaws. We passed closely by a couple oil platforms and there was lots more warships on the VHF and weird helicopters around. Oil platformJonny had fun naming all the places we were passing – all the surf spots he went to when he was younger. It was a pretty uneventful passage – we even got to sail a little! It was the calm and sunny sailing I imagined So. Cal to be all along.

Jenn leaving LB

 

As complicated as it was to rent a slip in Long Beach, our stay in Oceanside was the exact opposite. I made a call down to the Port Captain and we had a very nice chat. He gave me instructions on what dock we could tie up to and where we could find a clipboard to sign in and a key we could borrow for showers and bathrooms. No charge. He even invited us to a pot luck for Monday night football at the yacht club. We got in after 5pm and just had a relaxing evening – chatting with others on the dock and enjoying our dinner on board (not football fans…). Oceanside (the harbor anyway) had a sweet, smalltown feel to it – if you could ignore the distant thunderous booms coming from over the hill at Camp Pendleton (war games?).

We got a later start than we wanted on Tuesday – no real excuse for that – except that it was kind of fogged in and I guess it made us lazy. It was clearing by the time we left and we had a nice motor – sail. We saw a number of pods of dolphins – smaller and pudgier than the ones we’re used to. And the jumped REALLY high out of the water. These must have been show dolphins trying to get scouted for the movies or Sea World…

Biggest fish caught so far - we let it go. Probably a Bonito?

Biggest fish caught so far – we let it go. Probably a Bonito?

As we passed Point Loma and were about to enter San Diego Bay, we decided to stray from our charted course and cut the corner a little. I guess we were anxious to get in there. Unfortunately our path took us through a minefield of kelp. I ended up on the bow pointing frantically in one direction or the other as we wove our way through it all. We managed not to get our prop tangled up.

It was exciting to be entering the bay and seeing things we recognized from our past visits.San Diego Skyline I called over to Chula Vista Marina and got explicit instructions for getting there. We even had our slip number so we could go straight ‘home’, since it would be after-hours.   The bay was an overwhelming circus of sailboats, power boats, ferry boats, military boats, SO many helicopters buzzing around. We sailed as much as we could until the bay took a turn and the wind was too behind us. We pulled in the jib and kept the main tight as we motored. We tried to stay in the fairway, going from buoy to buoy. At one point, while trying to get lined up right to go under the Coronado Bridge, we looked behind us – something we apparently had been forgetting to do… There was a huge tour boat right off my aft quarter. I’m pretty sure I’d just cut them off. Oops.Cut off boat

I knew we were going to fit under the Coronado Bridge, but still, there was that moment as we approached when it just didn’t LOOK like we’d make it. It’s not the prettiest bridge out there- super tall and way too skinny. Somebody give that bridge a burger!

Made it under the Coronado Bridge

Made it under the Coronado Bridge

Once on the other side things got a little less busy and a whole lot more military. There was a huge tour boat coming straight at me and I had to veer off to the left to avoid a head on – I think that was the same boat I probably cut off – trying to get back at me. As we counted our buoys to make sure we turned at the right spot so as not to run aground, we passed by a huge row of warships. Gigantic, grey hulks looming ominously to our left. It just felt creepy going by them. I could almost feel death wafting off of them. Warships

We later learned the huge number of helicopters was due to this being the largest Naval base in the US. This is where all the Navy Seals come to train. Interesting way to learn about what’s going on in the world…I guess we’re gearing up for more war! The helicopters went on loudly, in great numbers into the evening.

We arrived in Chula Vista and I squeezed Summer into her new slip without incident. It was too late to take care of any business, but the dockmaster had left us keys and info (and wifi passwords!) to get us through the night. We went on a walkabout, seeing what our keys could open. We have access to everything in the RV park right next to the marina. There’s a pool, hot tub, gym, little store, propane refills and super clean and nice bathrooms and showers everywhere. hot tubEverything is manicured and well kept and very secure. It was too late to get our propane filled and we were pretty sure it wouldn’t last through another dinner. We had no choice but to eat out at The Galley at the Marina restaurant. We celebrated “making it”. To be honest, I think we were both a little surprised to actually be at this destination we’d talked about for so long. It kind of didn’t seem real. We had a soak in the hot tub and the best night sleep ever.

Summer new home

We’ve been here almost a week now. Monday and Tuesday must be helicopter training nights – after our first night it’s been quiet until tonight. We’ve just been trying to get oriented to our new surroundings and get our project lists together and get to work. We have a huge list of things to accomplish to be ready for our REAL cruising life outside the US. We plan to leave here after the hurricane season subsides – which seems like it might be later than usual this year ? We shall see. For now, the adventures will be few and far between. I’m sure you don’t want to hear about our exciting trip to pump out our holding tank this morning or how I am now scarred for life thanks to a heat gun…so posts may be a little less frequent.CV sunset